Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Family Summer Reading Challenge

Do your kids love to read like mine do?  Do your kids love a challenge?  Pottery Barn Kids is doing a summer reading challenge for young kids.  Just go to their website, go their summer reading challenge page, download the summer reading lists, print the certificate of completion when your child is done, and bring it to your local PBK store.  Your child will get a special gift just for reading this summer!  Some of my family's favorite books are on the list, including Llama llama, Fancy Nancy, and Olivia! 

If you have an older child,or if there isnt a PBK near you, make a list of your own.  Check out your local library and see if they have an age appropriate reading list, or check out your town's website for the next grades summer reading list.  I bet you'll find atleast a few books that your child will like to read this summer.  Give them a challenge!  Don't make reading a chore, make it fun.  Make it a family thing!  Do a family reading time, where you all lay on a blanket with some snacks (page friendly.... you dont want orange cheesy fingerprints all over your books!) and read for 20-30 minutes under a tree.  Read a chapter or two each night to your kiddos, and make it fun!  Do it with a flashlight, under the covers.  Your kids will look forward to it each night and they'll remember these moments for years to come. 

The search for running shoes

I have to start off by saying I am not a runner.  Let me repeat, I AM NOT A RUNNER.  But I try to run. I had lost over 100 lbs over the course of 3 years, then got pregnant again, had the baby, and now I'm battling with 30 lbs that I gained back.  Im trying to lose it in a healthy way, but in a way that will be easy enough for me to continue with for a long time.  I don't want a quick fix where I'll gain it all back the second I eat a crumb of bread or a spoon of ice cream.  So I have started healthier eating, cutting back on calories, carbs, sugar and fat, and exercising slowly.  Like super slow. Ssssssslllloooooooowwwwwllllyyyyyy.  In fact, I keep starting back at the beginning of couch to 5k because I cannot get my ass to run long enough to keep up with week 2.  But, Im trying!  Remember, Im not a runner!  That being said, I am walking/jogging about 3-4 times a week.  I do between 1 and 3 miles each time.  I do as much as I can, in the time that I have, usually with my kids.  I feel that they slow me down right now, but thats okay because I love spending time with them and showing them that Mom is trying to get healthier! 

So I run outside, in a cul de sac by my house.  The Couch to 5k app on my phone has me do a 5 minute warm up, then the first week you run for 60 seconds, walk for 90 seconds and then switch back and forth for 20 minutes.  Then you cool down with a 5 minute walk.  I've been fine with it for a few weeks, but then my trouble started.   Last week I was outside and as my first run started, my knees instantly felt like someone was kicking me in them.  I stopped running, gave myself another minute and a half of walking and tried again.  I couldnt get 10 seconds of running in before my knees would start screaming out in pain again.  I had no idea what was wrong. 

So I checked online with my running friends on Facebook and each one said I probably needed a good stretch and new sneakers.  This was a total bummer for me.  My Dad bought me nice running sneakers only about a month ago.  And then, because they were so comfortable, I went out and bought another pair in a different color.  Two pairs of brand new sneakers and now I need to get ANOTHER pair? 

This week I was lucky enough to have a company send me some Dr Scholl's massaging gel inserts.  So my next step is to try these in my sneakers, and then I'll try the new Dr Scholl's orthotic inserts.  (I'm trying to get comfortable the most inexpensive way possible!) I guess if those don't work, my next step is to try new sneakers. 

So my question to you, my readers and followers is which sneakers should I try?  I have wide feet, so I need something comfortable.  Brand isnt important to me, comfort and support is.  I have a high arch, too.   I need something that will fit me wide foot, yet support my high arch and keep my knees happy.  Is that too tall of an order?  Do any of you have any other suggestions for me?  Should I try something completely different?  Or are my friends on the right track by telling me I need new sneakers?  Let me know, dear readers..... I need some help getting this ass in shape!! 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day

To those who have fought for our freedom, for those who are still fighting for us.  We thank you, we pray for you.  May God bless you. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

These are a few of my favorite things

Did I get that song stuck in your head?? 

My favorite salsa EVER.  Tastefully Simple sweet pineapple chipotle.  So delicious!

I love moustaches. 
Salads with feta cheese.  Authentic feta, from a little italian deli down the street.  I put some seasoning, some cucumbers, sometimes some lettuce, some dried cranberries (usually the cherry infused kind) and sometimes I even toss it all in a pita pocket and make it a salad sandwich.  Mmm Mmm good! 

Adam Levine.  Could he be any hotter?  Enough said!

This saying is my favorite.  You can't expect your life, or the people in it, to be perfect.  But if it is perfect for you, that is all that matters. 

Paleo pancakes

I don't normally follow the Paleo diet, but I do try to eat healthy.  I have a cousin who is doing Paleo and so when I find a recipe I think she'd like, I pass it on to her.  I was reading a health magazine a few weeks ago and came across a recipe that was so super easy, that even though I don't follow the Paleo lifestyle, I knew I had to try it.  I try to do high protein, low fat, low sugar, low carb foods as much as possible, so this was perfect for me.  (The fruit is an all natural sugar, so I don't feel too bad about a little sugar splurge!)   So here is the recipe.... you ready?  Get a pen and paper......

2 eggs
1 banana
cook on cooktop or wherever you make your regular pancakes. 

Yep, that's it!  Super easy, I promised and I deliver.  I used my Ninja blender and I used my flat top non stick griddle. 
And I did double the recipe because there were 5 of us eating breakfast this morning.  4 eggs, two bananas.  One was really ripe, one was pretty hard and bright yellow.  They both blended well though, and tasted great when cooked.  The consistency is more like a thick crepe, but they looked like pancakes and my kids (and I!) all gobbled them!!  For the syrup, all I did was slice an apple, put half of the apples in the blender, then cubed the rest up.  I tossed them all into a saucepan on med heat with a TINY bit of water and some cinnamon and cooked them down.  I do this with blueberries a lot, too.  Its delicious and healthy!  

FREE BOOKS (okay, almost free)

I know, a lot of my posts have the word "free" in them.  This one is a sort of free promotion.  I am part of a website called Paperbackswap that has millions of books in it's database.  Basically, when you join, you post 9 books that you have sitting on your bookshelf that you'd like to get rid of.  You enter the ISBN number, and the book is already in the site, so all of the information comes up and gets added to your list.  The website gives you three credits for a free book after all 9 books are posted.  You get to choose any 3 books you want, and they have something for EVERYONE!  The person who owns the book you want, wraps the book, pays the postage, and ships it to you.  When you receive the book, you log onto your account, marked the book received and that person gets a credit for a new book.  When someone wants one of your books you posted, they request it, and you get an email saying your book is requested for mailing.  You log into your account, print the mailer provided, wrap the book in the mailer, pay the postage (I usually head to the post office, but you can just put the correst postage on.... usually around $3) and mail it out to that person.  When they receive the book, they mark it received and you get a credit for another free book.  Super easy!  You can pay through paypal to add more credits to your account, or to pay for postage automatically, but other than paying to mail out your books, there is no fee to get books.  And you never have to add your credit card info to the site.  I have been a member for many years, have traded a ton of books, and have saved a TON of money!  I love the fact that you can actually make a wishlist on the website, and when those books become available, they email you right away so you can request them.  I rarely buy books anywhere else now.  Do you want to join?  I can refer anyone to the site, just click on the link above, or here.... Paperbackswap referral  Now, enjoy your new summer reading!!! 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Shopping for free!

This week I took my friend Chris shopping for free workout clothes.  Sounds weird, right?  I know.  And Im constantly explaining to people what I do for "work".  I do work for a few companies that send me free things, or coupons for free items, for simply reviewing the items and sharing the information with my friends and family.  Most of the time it is new products, just coming out in stores, and they are hoping to get customers to try them out.  So I get to try the item out for free, I pass coupons out to friends, family, strangers in stores, and let them know what I think of the item, then they buy the item with the coupon and tell their friends/families/strangers, etc.  The companies may give an item for free, but they get lots of new customers by word of mouth.  And word of mouth could make or break a new company or product! 

I started about 9 years ago when I was a pregnant first time Mom to be.  I was looking for a way to save my family money, and stumbled across this opportunity.  It was a local (Boston) company that specialized on word of mouth advertising.  I submitted my application, got accepted, and started submitting surveys for them.  About 6 months later I got my first campaign, an envelope of coupons for free cheese spread for me to use, and a bunch of coupons to pass out to others.  Since then, I have branched out to about 10 companies.  Some are food companies, some are word of mouth advertising companies, one is a big baby store.  Most send me free items to try, one has me come in and do round table discussions or videotape me putting together their products to see how easy it is for customers to build their items, some pay me cash for submitting my ideas and reviews, one pays me in high dollar gift cards to stores like Target and Babies R Us.  Its a pretty decent "gig" to have.  Im not making millions here, but I can pretty much cover all of my family's Christmas gifts with my perks and pay.  Not a bad deal! 

So about 2 weeks ago, one of these companies sends me notice that I'll be sampling Old Navy's workout wear.  AWESOME!  I did this last year, too, and fell in love with the items I chose.  I was pretty excited.  But the HUGE bonus was that I could choose a friend to go with me and that she and I both would get to pick a free workout top AND free pair of workout bottoms!  I grabbed Chris, who like me, has been losing a lot of weight lately, and also like me, has just started to workout on a regular basis.  We headed to Old Navy on Tuesday morning, raided their workout wear section and each grabbed about 10 items to take into the dressing room with us.  The stuff is super cute, and there is something for everyone.  Dont like shorts to run in?  There are plenty of capris or leggings.  Dont like tight tanks?  There are plenty of loose running shirts or jackets!  The sizes generally ran from XS to XXL, depending on the style, and each style came in a plethora (I love when I can use that word in a sentence!) of cute colors!  Neons, brights, darks, basics..... Old Navy workout wear has something for everyone! 

So we get into the dressing rooms and start trying things on.  Sometimes it was comical, especially when a too tight sports bra would get stuck over our heads, but for the most part everything fit and looked super cute.  Chris ended up getting a free pair of black capris and a grey running shirt that keeps you dry when you sweat.  I ended up getting a free pair of grey and neon yellow compression leggings and a grey moisture wicking running jacket.  We also both bought other workout wear and clothes for our daughters, so Old Navy actually made quite a big sale by sending us to pick out free items.  I made a point to wear my new running clothes that night and they worked perfectly for me.  The moisture wicking tank that I got, as well as the capris, let me move freely but didnt let my jiggle (ladies, you know what Im talking about) get out of control.  The sports bra held me in and made it comfortable for me to run, which is a HUGE deal for me.  And the clothes didnt make me sweat, either.  The jacket was awesome for the cool morning jog that I took the next day.  Its cold in the early mornings here on Cape Cod, so I needed that extra layer that morning.  And when I took the jacket off mid run and wrapped it around my waist, it didnt weigh me down at all and was comfortable to have hanging off of me.  I was impressed!  And another test of the quality was when I put all of my new clothes in the washer.  Cold water, Tide detergent, and I had absolutely no color runs.  The clothes came out the exact colors as they went in.  No loss of stretch, no holes, no ripped seams, no issues whatsoever.  Again.... totally impressed!  I am very happy with my purchases, both free and paid for, and I will gladly recommend Old Navy's workout wear to anyone. 

This week I received a box full of Nerf Super Soakers and another box of Cheetos new white cheddar all natural puffs to try and pass out, and I also received some L'oreal hair products to try out and share. Its a pretty cool "job" to have, and anyone can do it.  Do you want to try?  Let me know and I can add you to a few of the companies I go through! 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Birthday Freebies!!!

Did you know that you can get a TON of free stuff from companies for your birthday?  It's really easy to do, too.  All you do is sign up on their website.  You might get the occasional random emails from them about a sale or a special, but for the most part, there is no spam involved.  And Ive never had an issue with anyone selling my information when I do sign up.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Food Allergies

This morning I was talking to a friend who has a daughter with a food allergy.  We were discussing the fact that we both have to bring Epi-pens and Benadryl everywhere and that we can't just head out to restaurants or food festivals without a lot of planning first.  I know a lot of parents can do this.  I know most of you out there hear of a new restaurant, decide to try it, make a reservation and go enjoy the meal.  But with parents of kids with allergies, or parents with allergies themselves, it is a lot harder. 

My son was 6 days old when he got sick the first time.  The Dr said it was normal for babies to vomit or spit up, and that he was healthy.  By 5 months old, my son had dropped down to the 5th% for weight, after being in the 95th% at birth.  We knew something was wrong, but being a first time Mom, I had no idea what was going on.  I had never dealt with anything like his illness, and I had never dealt with food allergies.  Finally at 11 months old, I gave him a meringue cookie made of egg whites, vinegar and sweetener.  His face swelled and turned bright red.  I called the Dr and got Benadryl into his system immediately.  The swelling and redness was completely gone within two minutes of the Benadryl hitting his lips.  We got his first allergy testing done just a week later.  He was diagnosed with allergies to eggs, beef, shellfish, seafood, peanuts, tree nuts, watermelon, pork. His allergies to nuts, seafood/shellfish, beef and pork were all on the life threatening level.  The others were all on lesser levels.  (Allergies are rated from level 1-5, 1 being a minor allergy 5 being life threatening.)  He has since outgrown his watermelon allergy and egg allergy, and his pork allergy is now down to a level 2.  The others are still at a level 4/5.  Oh, and he has added (and then outgrown) an allergy to dogs, and added allergies to dust mites, grass, many trees and lots of medications, especially antibiotics. 

As a family, we have had to learn how to adjust our lives to keep him safe.  It is a daily thing, and now is second nature for us.  We still eat unsafe foods, but mostly when we are not around him.  We have to make sure we wash our hands and faces and brush our teeth before we go near him after we eat a burger, or peanut butter, or seafood.  If we kiss him on the cheek after having a steak or some almonds, he will get hives there.  If we kiss him on the lips, he could stop breathing.  We make sure we keep all unsafe foods in high cabinets and away from his snacks.  We have to read every label at the grocery store and we cannot get anything that is made with his unsafe foods, or made in a factory that processes those unsafe things.  We have to order safe foods for him, usually from Peanut Free Planet.  Candy and cookies from the grocery store are usually unsafe.  We have only found one type of granola bars in stores that are safe for him.  Quaker granola has a factory in Canada that doesnt use any nuts in their processing, so we order from them.  He tried his very first granola bar soon after his 8th birthday and he said "Mom, now I can be like a normal kid and eat granola bars!"  It breaks my heart to know that he felt anything less than a "normal kid" before, but it makes me very happy that I can do something so small to help him feel "normal".   We have a great App on our smartphones for dining out.  It is called AllergyEats and the restaurants are listed in order of most safe to least safe for allergic customers.  It has reviews from families who have eaten at the restaurants and the reviews are very helpful.  When we go to restaurants we have to first ask them what their policy is like for allergies.  If they don't know, or seem confused, we cannot eat there. There are very few places we feel comfortable eating at.  And if the food is unsafe for my son, as a family, we walk out to support him.  His safety and health are our priority.  So far my older daughter has no allergies.  My younger daughter has shown signs of a minor allergy, and has her first testing this fall. 

There are many resources online, and many books to help families understand food allergies. 

Kids with Food Allergies
The Allergic Child This one has some great kids books for helping kids understand allergies.  We have "Allie the Allergic Elephant" and have brought it to each classroom my son and daughter have been in.  It really helps the other kids understand how to keep kids with a peanut allergy safe. 

Please feel free to contact me HERE if you have any questions. 

Yard Sale time!!

I admit, I do a lot of my kids shopping at yard sales.  I have one friend with a daughter one year older than my 5 yr old daughter, and each summer I look forward to her yard sales because I know I can get my daughter most of her school clothes for a great price.  I love yard sales.  I love re-purposing old stuff like framed art (take off the print, paint the wooden back piece with chalk paint, paint the frame a color that will work with your decor, and you just made a perfect spot for a grocery list or a cute chalk board for the kids room), an old chair can be reupholstered to match your livingroom/kitchen/entry way, an old pack and play can be turned into a cozy reading nook by cutting out the front mesh panel and adding a fitted sheet over the top of it like a canopy, just get a piece of wood that fits under the mat so it will support older kids.  An old crib can be repurposed into a cute garden bench!  Im not very crafty, but I love looking on Pinterest to get some ideas, and then searching yard sales for bargains and ways to bring my ideas to life!

So today I went to two yardsales and got some great buys.  I got a pair of authentic UGG boots from a friends yardsale for my girls.  A will be able to get some wear out of them this coming fall and winter, and then they'll be passed on to H. These boots usually retail for $140 and I got them for $10.  Then at another yardsale, I got two outfits for A to wear to school this fall.  With the way kids grow, its almost pointless to buy stuff brand new.  Plus, you're getting a great deal.  Instead of spending $30-$40 on a new outfit, I spent $4.  With yardsale finds, as long as its in good condition and can be cleaned (Im a stickler about having clean items.) I dont mind buying used.  If it comes from someone you know, thats a bonus! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

100 by Summer

Have any of you heard of this?  100 by summer.  You run/walk/move your butt 100 miles by the beginning of summer.  It's a good goal to have and I think it should be pretty easy to do.  Last week I started Couch to 5K.  The first couple of days I struggled.  And I cheated.  I jogged about 10 feet.  Honestly.  It got a little easier and now I can do the whole 60 seconds of jogging.  (I ended up staying on week 1 for week two.  Im just not ready to move on, and that's okay.  I'll never be a marathon runner!) This morning, while on Instagram, I saw 100 by Summer and decided to combine both workouts.  So I put my baby down for a nap, grabbed the monitor and my pedometer, and got out my older daughters bike out.  We went out to the cul-de-sac and did my couch to 5K while she rode circles around me.  I ended up with 1.58 miles under my belt.  Only 98.42 to go! (yikes!!) Its the first day of doing Couch to 5K where Im not a complete sweaty mess and my legs don't feel like jello.  That's a good thing!! 

5 years ago I found myself at my heaviest and decided to do something about it.  These past 5 years have been a struggle, to say the least, but I am much healthier today.  Now I am over 100 lbs lighter than my heaviest, about 30 lbs from my lightest weight, and about 40 lbs from my goal.  I will never be tiny, I will never be what most people call "thin" but my goal is health, not a bikini body. 

I'm curious what YOUR favorite workouts are.  I'm thinking about spinning and Zumba.  Anyone try them?  I think walking and jogging will be my main workout, since its easy to do with my kids, but I would like to give other workouts a chance when Hubby is home with the kids. 

Who wants to do 100 by Summer with me??  Let's do it! I'm going to post my totals each day here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Todays dinner recipe: baked veggie patties

We are doing a pork loin for dinner.  Probably seasoned and grilled, knowing my husband.  But my job is the side dish.  I'm attempting these....  Broccoli cheese bites, found on Pinterest.  My kids are very choosy.  My son loves veggies of all shapes and sizes, and is really good about trying new veggies or ways too cook them.  My girls wont eat many veggies at all, they are all about the fruit, instead.  Getting my big kids to help in the kitchen (and in the veggie garden!) gets them excited to try foods that they were reluctant to try before.  My big kids love to measure and love to crack the eggs, so this recipe is perfect for them.  Plus, it includes cheese, which is one of their all time favorite foods.  Can't go wrong with a cheesy gooey goodness.  We just planted broccoli in our vegetable garden.  Its our first year growing broccoli, so hopefully this summer/fall, we will be eating these bites with our home grown broccoli instead of getting it from the grocery store.
Here is a picture of my older daughter helping with a recipe.  No matter what it is that we cook, my kids are always willing to atleast try it if they help make it. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Crockpot chicken teriyaki

Im trying a new recipe today.  Crockpot Chicken Teriyaki, which I found on Pinterest.  Its just my kids and I tonight, Hubby is working late, and the kids want hot dogs (barf).  So I took a couple of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, enough for myself and hubby when he gets home, and cubed them up.  I tossed them in the crockpot with a cup of low sodium chicken broth, 1/2 cup of roasted garlic teriyaki sauce, 3 minced cloves of garlic (yep, I love me some garlic!), and 1/3 cup of brown sugar.  I probably will pair it with some broccoli tonight when its done.  So far, my kitchen smells amazing.