Healthy Swaps for 2014

The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Designer Whey.

I am definitely a proponent for people partaking in the indulgences that surround the holidays, I don’t believe the holidays should be all about abstaining and calorie counting. I personally love to have the deserts that are only around during the holiday season, and I don’t feel guilty about that.

However, it can be very hard to get back on track after the holiday season. One of the easiest and tastiest ways for me to keep on track is by using Designer Whey in smoothies and different snacks. I had mentioned that I had fallen off the healthy eating path a little bit lately, and I know that getting back on is necessary, I feel like garbage when I eat garbage. For 2014 I will make strides to get my eating back in check. How am I going to do that? By making sure I have plenty of items in my fridge and pantry that are healthy, instead of reaching for some toast or a cookie, I can reach for a bar, smoothie or another protein packed treat!

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Designer Whey has a plethora of protein powder flavors, I haven’t met one that I didn’t like! Most recipes will use the protein powder. My favorite smoothie is my Chocolate Peanut Butter & Jelly smoothie, which uses the Chocolate Velvet Sustained Energy powder. It really tastes like a pb&j, but it is all healthy, it also has some spinach to ensure I get a lot of veggies during the day. Linz also has a ton of wonderful smoothie ideas for every flavor pallet!

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My favorite bites to make are Lindsay’s Tropical Orange healthy bites, for these I used the French Vanilla powder. I love these because they are easy to make, and I can grab a couple and stash them in the car so that I have something to eat immediately after I leave the gym, because let’s be honest when I get home and B is awake my first priorities are his breakfast and I end up waiting way to long to eat something.

One of the most common ways I use the powder is in my oatmeal, my favorite is to use 1 scoop of the White Chocolate powder and a tablespoon of peanut butter, it tastes like a cookie to me. Linz also has a great sunflower seed vanilla oatmeal that I love making on the weekends as a special treat!

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I have to say, I am really great at making sure I have a bag full of snacks for B whenever we go anywhere. Lots of veggies and fruits and snacks that will keep him full, and ones that aren’t packed with sugar is a must. I used to be terrible at doing the same for myself. I finally realized that if I don’t want to become a bear, either due to hunger or the fact that I am sugar crashing, then I need to keep something for myself in that snack bag. I love having a bar because they are easiest to eat. I love the designer whey bars are perfect for this. They have a few different flavors and you don’t get that cardboard taste that some bars have. There are also recipes on the Designer Whey website where you can make your own bars!

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The last product that I use a lot are the shakes. They come in two flavors, gourmet chocolate and french vanilla. They are 100 calories, 18g of protein, and only 2g of sugar. I prefer to drink them cold, so I bring them to the gym and stash them in the gym fridge, or I leave it at home and drink it as soon as I get in the house while I am getting B’s breakfast ready. My favorite is the chocolate because it tastes just like chocolate milk, which is one of my favorite post-workout drinks!

What all these things have in common is being prepared, when I first started on my eating healthy and weight loss journey, planning was something I didn’t really do, and it was a slow start. Once I started planning, by keeping bars in my bag or putting my shakes in the fridge. Even just portioning out my smoothie components the night before, that way I could just put all the items in my blender and mix.

If you aren’t sure about Designer Whey products, you can also try out a sampler pack. For $20.13 you receive 1 can of powder, three protein bars, three drink mixes, and a water bottle!

Prepped and Ready for 2014, are you!?

Prepped and Ready for 2014, are you!?

What are some of your favorite healthy habits? Share with us so we can all start 2014 on the right foot!

What It’s Like

I feel like I HAVE to preface this with I know that some people struggle much more than we have with getting pregnant, and I am not saying any of this to make it seem like I have it worse. BUT I need an outlet for my feelings and honestly, NO ONE talks about this, hopefully this outlet will help someone.

It has been almost 4 months since the miscarriage. It feels like it was yesterday, and it feels like years ago. What no one tells you that trying to get pregnant post-miscarriage is emotionally one of the hardest things you will go through. I wish I could end this post right here and say ta-da I am pregnant, but I can’t.

It’s a hard thing to explain, but I am going to try my best. Every month that you try is exhausting. You track cycles and temperatures, days that you have tried, days that you haven’t. You pee on a stick every evening to track your body’s ovulation cycles. Then you enter the 2 week wait. The wait between when you ovulate and when you can test to see if your pregnant. You analyze every cramp and twinge. You try to not build up hope that you are pregnant, but it happens, and then you get your period. Not only do you have your normal hormone craziness, add in the disappointment of feeling like a failure because once again, you couldn’t get pregnant, and every month I get my period I feel like I cry myself to sleep, over the loss of our child and over the feelings of failure . Then you start the whole cycle over again.

On top of all of this I feel like I am expected to be my “before miscarriage” self. I’ve found that most people give you an allotted amount of time, and for every person this is different, to grieve until they expect you to be back at 100%. Now I don’t expect people to cater to me or ask about my feelings, but there are definitely things I never want to hear again, pregnant or not.

1. You must not be pregnant, you are eating or drinking xyz. TRUST ME, I would gladly give up sushi, wine, runny eggs, etc… to be pregnant.
2. Well at least you can go out for New Year’s Eve. Ditto
3. It will happen when it is supposed to/ Everything happens for a reason. Is this really supposed to make me feel better? Because it makes me feel like I am setting myself up for failure
4. You don’t know other people’s struggles, don’t get angry if they are pregnant. You’re right, sometimes I don’t, but a lot of the time, when I say these things, I do. The person who wasn’t even trying, the person who got drunk and got pregnant. I am allowed to be upset.
5. Don’t stress. Please show me someone who isn’t at all stressed around the holidays, and telling me not to stress, easier said than done.

Edit: I am adding this video because a friend shared it with me on FB after reading my post, and I think it truly explains empathy vs. sympathy in a way everyone can understand.

This sums up what I am trying to say above, I know that people aren’t, for the most part, saying these things to hurt me, but the truth is, THEY HURT. Please watch this video.

 

I know the last four months I haven’t been happy & fun Kelly, I know that a lot of people don’t want to be around me for that very reason, but I already feel very alienated when I am home with B all day, and it’s a catch-22 this time of year because the parties and events are all happy and celebratory and I feel like I have nothing to celebrate.

I have let my eating slide, extra desert, sure. I have let my gym sessions slide. It’s dark out, maybe I’m pregnant right now I should take it easy. These are all thoughts I’ve had. I don’t feel as comfortable in the gym anymore, I feel like an outsider or beginner, I feel like I don’t belong. None of this is going to make me feel better in the end, and I know that, I just can’t pull myself out of it.

My friends, where do I even start, I have a few friends that have stuck by me through all this emotion, and for you I am eternally grateful. I am sad that the friends I thought would be there have disappeared, and not for lack of trying on my part.

I am trying to be the best mom for B. Lots of time out of the house, fun and inexpensive new things to do. Mom & Son dates, playdates, but I am sad for him too. He asks for a baby brother and sister. He does so well with other kids that I know he would be an amazing older brother. I grieve for the sibling he didn’t get.

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for now they are best friends

I am forever grateful for B and Nick, they are absolutely my rocks in this situation, I would be lost without them.

Stocking Stuffer Guide for the Host!

This year I put together a gift guide for the fitness enthusiast and last year I put together a list of gifts under $100 for the new runner. The last guide I am going to share with you is stocking stuffer ideas for the host. That person that loves to host parties, or even just spend lots of time in the kitchen and put together lovely elaborate meals for his or her family and friends.

I know that gift guides seem materialistic and silly, but I do honestly love sharing products that, for the most part, have either been purchased by me or gifted. I am grateful for many things in my life and I know that life is more than gifts. For me this is a fun and light-hearted post.

Now, on to the fun stuff. I picked items that I love in my kitchen or that I think I would love. Sometimes, the little items that seem frivolous are the ones we never buy ourselves. These gifts are what I would definitely call frivolous, but they are all under $20 and I am sure would be appreciated.

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1. The Olive Stuffer $17.95. This would seem perfect for someone who loves to throw parties with lots of cute apps, and I can imagine, would save a lot of time.

2. The Apple Corer $10. I don’t have this brand, but I love my apple corer, it makes Fall baking so much easier!

3. Zester $9.99. I just bought my first one a few weeks ago, and oh my gosh it was a life saver when I needed a ton of orange zest for the Koulourakia.

4. Grater $7.99. I don’t grate a ton of cheese, but I have a few recipes that need small amounts of grated cheese, and to be honest my current method is just asking for a bloody finger.

5. Juicester $7.95. I use a lot of lemon juice for everyday cooking and I have a handheld juicer, but I love this because it catches the juice for you, and you can juice the lemon or limes while you have down time in-between steps.

6. Cherry & Olive Pitter $13. Again, an item for the entertainer, it may take a lot of effort up front, but at least you won’t be finding pits everywhere the day after a party.

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1. Cupcake Corer $6.99. Hands Down one of my favorite frivolous items. I could never get my coring to be perfectly circular, nor could I get each cupcake to match, this solved all of those problems.

2. Rubber Spatula Set $11.99. I have these and use them all the time, in baking and cooking. I love the different sizes, and definitely did not realize how much I would utilize the smallest one. This is a must have!

3. Mini Metal Cookie Cutter Set $3.29. In my mind you can never have enough cookie cutters for any holiday. Christmas, Halloween, Valentines Day, I even have a football one for superbowl parties. This is also fun for kids when they get to help with the holiday baking.

4. Medium Cookie Scoop $13.99. Actually, I have the medium and small one, I use them both. There are just certain cookies that are meant to be a bit smaller (snickerdoodles) and ones that should be larger (pumpkin chocolate chip) so I appreciate having options. There is also a large scoop, but I do not have that one yet.

5. Cake Tester $2.99. This is an item I could use. I am always scrambling to find a toothpick and then they always roll onto the floor creating a bigger mess, it is extremely frustrating.

Other items I think are wonderful in the kitchen are Silpats and an Egg Timer that you put in the pot with your eggs to hardboil! What are some items you would want in your stocking?

Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey

This post was inspired by Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey written by The Countess of Carnarvon. Learn more about the family who lived in Highclere Castle, where the popular British series Downton Abbey is filmed. Join From Left to Write on December 17 we discuss Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

The winter time is my absolute favorite time to read books. A fire in the fireplace, the lights on the Christmas Tree twinkling, a blanket and a good book. Sounds pretty perfect to me. December’s book for From Left to Write is one that I am sure many of you would love to read, history buff or not.

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I’ll be the first to admit, I haven’t seen a single episode or moment of Downton Abbey, I would love to, but honestly I just don’t have time to watch any other shows. I do love history and will jump at any chance to read a book with some sort of historical significance. Since I can’t relate the book and the show I decided to pull from a part of the book I can relate too. Catherine was by no means poor or anti-social, but the changes to her life once she married Porchey were incredible.

I grew up in what I call a very “American” life. My parents backgrounds were pretty normal, spanish, italian and irish. We had a modest house and cars. I grew up in Vermont, but my relatives were all pretty much in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and California.

Then I met Nick, who is very Greek with many relatives still in Greece. Many of his family members speak only Greek, and the have many different traditions that I never even knew about.

I am still learning, even after 5+ years of marriage, on etiquette, the different food specialities, and I can barely speak the language, let alone understand it. But I wouldn’t change a thing.

There are some traditions in his family that I love. For Christmas, all the stocking items are from Santa, this includes some small and large items. All the presents under the tree are from friends and family. Santa was something I have struggled with since having B. This is the first year that he really understands what is going on. I want him to believe in the magic, but I also want him to know that Santa isn’t the be all end all magical man who gives you what you ask for no matter what. I also want him to know that family and friends love him and care about him enough to pick out a gift that he will love.

In my family almost all presents were from Santa, and I will say it was confusing when even the gifts at my grandmother’s house were also from Santa.

In my family, two Christmas traditions I love are Christmas Pj’s opened and worn on Christmas eve. And every year we would all get ornaments that were all similar but individualized. I love these special touches, and who doesn’t love new comfy pi’s?

I love the way we have blended our families traditions, and I am sure as B gets older other things will have to be blended and changed, but Nick and I respect each other’s traditions and we will always make it work.

What are your family holiday traditions? How did they change when you got married?

Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap: Koulourakia

I was so excited to finally participate in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! This is the third year of this event, but the first year I have been able to participate. First I need to mention that Lindsay and Julie were amazing, they always responded fast to any questions, and they sent emails along the way to make sure everyone was on track. The idea is that you make 3 dozen cookies and send 1 dozen to 3 different bloggers, and you receive 1 dozen cookies from 3 other bloggers. If you want to participate next year sign up here to get on the mailing list! Side note: that is what I did after I realized I missed the 2012 deadline because I didn’t want to miss it again!

Second, when you registered you donated $4 to Cookies for Kid’s Cancer with those fees, extra contributions, and the contributions from the brand sponsors who generously matched the donations the Food Blogger Cookie Swap raised over $13,000. What a wonderful thing! The amazing sponsors are: Oxo, Dixie Crystals, Gold Medal Flour, and Grandma Molasses.

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Now onto the cookies!

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This is a traditional Greek cookie, Nick’s mom gave me the recipe, and she got the recipe from his Nouna (Godmother). I will warn you, they are addictive, and this recipe makes an obnoxious amount of cookies.
They are great for dipping in your coffee or just eating as a dessert. I have to pat myself on the back this year, even Nick’s mom said they taste just like hers. And that is quite the compliment.

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Packed in cute little Gingerbread House themed boxes!

Before I get to the recipe, I want you to know this really does make a lot of cookies, roughly 7-8 dozen depending on how big you make your cookies. This is great for a large cookie swap, to bring to work, or to put into gift packages. If you are making for a smaller group, I highly suggest halving the recipe.

Ingredients:

8 Eggs + 2 more
1 lb Sweet Butter, softened
2 cups Sugar
3 Tb Crisco
1/2 cup Mazzola (corn) Oil
3 tsp Vanilla
5 tsp Baking Powder
1 Tb Orange Zest (I zested one large orange)
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
8 – 10 cups of Flour

Instructions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat the 8 eggs, butter, sugar, crisco and mazzola oil until well mixed.
3. Add vanilla, baking powder, orange zest*, nutmeg and cinnamon until just mixed.
4. Add 8 – 10 cups of flour*.
5. This is the most tedious step, the braid. Roll into snake and twist twice*.
6. Crack 1-2 eggs and brush the tops of all the cookies*.
7. Decorate with fun and festive sprinkles.
8. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. The cookies should be light brown on the bottom and gold on the top.

Notes:
1. I used one large orange to zest, and that was the perfect amount, last year I only did a half an orange and you couldn’t really taste any of the orange notes.
2. I usually only use 8 cups of flour, use your best judgment. Add the flour one cup at a time until each cup is just mixed.
3. My mother-in-law is a pro at the braids, they all look the exact same. As you can tell, mine are not. Honestly, it is tiring and I am still new at this. It comes with practice, don’t worry if they aren’t all perfect.
4. I forgot the egg wash this time, which is why the sprinkles are lacking, whoops.

I sent these cookies to Lynsey, Jill, and Megan!

I received gingerbread madelines from Jen, Red Velvet Cookies from Alison, and Chocolate Pinwheel Icebox cookies from Catherine. They were all so different, and all so good, I liked that I was able to try so many different flavors. I put them out at my cookie swap and they were all gone before people started leaving! Thank you ladies for sending me such wonderful cookies! Make sure you check out their blog posts for the recipes!

Have you ever had any type of Greek cookies?

Holiday Gift Guide for the Fitness Enthusiast!

This post was sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of Koss. All opinions are my own.

There are a hundred runner’s gift guides out there this year, and I made my own last year, gifts for runners under $100, but what I don’t see a lot (or any) of are gift guides for those who love fitness but aren’t necessarily into running. This is my gift guide for the Fitness Enthusiast featuring the new Koss Fit Series headphones as part of a FitFluential campaign.

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Let’s start with the Koss Headphones.I was sent two different types from the Koss Fit Line, FitClips ($29.99*) and FitBuds ($29.99*).

First, I love that these headphones are made for women by women. Koss teamed up with Dara Torres, an Olympic Gold Medalist, to create these headphones. The FitBuds (on the right) are 33% smaller than any previous Koss created headphones. With the fit buds you get three different sizes of ear cushions, I personally had to use the smallest ones, so that you can get your best fit. The FitClips (on the left) do not fall out, are sweat resistant and also have three different sizes of ear cushions.

I personally prefer the FitClips, since I haven’t been running and most of the classes I take you can’t wear headphones in, because I end up using them a lot around the house. The FitClips don’t completely block out all noise, so I can wear them while B is napping and I am listening to music or a book while cleaning and cooking and I will still hear him if he cries out. I also wear them in bed if I am listening to a book or podcasts, and they are not uncomfortable. I would absolutely recommend these to other women, especially if you have small ears!

*During the Holiday Season the following retailers will promote these headphones for $19.99. (Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Walgreens, Kmart and Sears)

athleta

I love that Athleta has gear for every aspect of your life and fitness. They have yoga, running, studio gear, hiking and many other sporting gear. They also have dresses and jean type clothing. Both with strength training and studio classes I always wear multiple layers. I always have a tank and some sort of long sleeve on until I warm up. The All I Want Sweater ($98) looks perfect for this, lightweight, soft and thumb holes, pretty much all my must haves.

As a mom, I find that leggings are a big wardrobe staple, especially in the winter. I can throw on a sweater or tunic and a pair of boots and still look pretty together. The Athleta Herringbone Finesse leggings ($44) are also lightweight and have a fun design that can go with pretty much anything.

The sparkle knit leggings ($39) are one of my favorite items, when I go to classes really early in the morning it can be very cold and most of my bottoms are capris. Not only do they keep my legs warm, but they are comfortable and cute!

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I have a lot of friends that are into fitness but also pregnant, working out while pregnant can be a battle enough, but finding clothes that fit your new body and make you feel good in your workout can be hard. For that I recommend For Two Fitness, they have tanks with fun sayings and they also have capris, pants, t-shirts and jackets. My favorite is the sweating for two tank ($49.99).

I have lusted after this Oiselle Runfinity Scarf ($22) for over a year, when I was finally ready to purchase last year it was sold out. I need to pull the trigger on this one ASAP. In a lot of studio classes I noticed that the students and teachers where lightweight scarves, ones meant for activity not your everyday scarf, to keep their upper body warm.

The other Oiselle item I want to try is the Stripey Long Sleeve Scoop Neck ($44). It is lightweight, soft and with thumb holes. I can see myself wearing this to yoga or a strength class to warm up in.

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I love the Runaway Fleece. It is perfect for post-class freezing walk to the car and it has a hood and thumbholes. I also like that it looks fancy enough so that you can wear it with a pair of jeans and boots!

I love the idea of the Namaste Yoga Tote IV, I have contimplated just getting a strap to carry my yoga mat, but I love that this has pockets so I don’t have to carry my mat and another bag. I also desperately need some sort of sweat towel, I used to have ones for my treadmill running and the gym, but those have since bit the dust and I have gotten rid of all but one. The (small) towel would be perfect for all of my classes at Studio Poise and Achieve, and I love that it is super small but also absorbent.

Lastly, I have been looking everywhere for some sort of fashionable but also functional ear warmer, I have extremely thick hair so most ear warmers end up being way to tight and uncomfortable, but this one does not. I also love how wide it is, the Keepin’ It Cozy Ear Warmer is definitely on my wish list this year.

 

 

I added this after my first publish, I actually had mixed feelings about it. I know that lots of people are taking a stand against Lululemon and I respect that. I don’t like the things the CEO said, but I truly believe he is not the first nor the last to say or believe such outlandish things. I haven’t quite sorted out how I believe, but I do know that I love the ambassadors and the employees at the Lulu near me and ultimately, that is why I decided to include these items. 

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Of course I would also recommend a gift certificate to your Fitness Enthusiast’s favorite studio. For me that will obviously be Studio Poise!

What items are on your fitness wish list?

Swanson 30-Day Healthier Holiday Giveaway

It’s kinda crazy to think that one of my first ever reviews was for Swanson Health Products almost 2 years ago!

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Here we are just in time for the holidays with another review and of course a giveaway! I am so honored to be a part of this group, each day for 30 days, well now there are 20 days left, a blogger will be hosting a giveaway and you could win $100 to spend at Swanson Health Products for the Swanson 30-Day Healthier Holiday Giveaway!

Swanson was wonderful and also gave me a $100 to spend. Here are a few of my favorites!

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It’s not holiday time in my house without baking. I am participating in the Food Blogger Cookie Swap, I am hosting my own cookie swap, and of course I bake for my family, friends and neighbors. This means I need A LOT of flour. I am very loyal to two brands, one is King Arthur and the other is Bob’s Red Mill. I love that Swanson carries a variety of Bob’s Red Mill products, including some gluten-free items!

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I got hooked on this stuff when I received it in a Foodie Pen Pals box last year. I drizzle my veggies with olive oil and sprinkle this on top, it is so delicious, and I cannot find it anywhere else!

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The first time I tried Coconut Oil was the first time I ordered from Swanson, and I haven’t used any other brand since. Nick loves to use this when we make popcorn on the stove top!

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A fun treat for the B man and also my sister, ha. I love that Annie’s Organics are available online at Swanson.

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My favorite flavor or kind bar, Swanson actually has quite the variety of bars!

There are a few other items but some of those are going in stockings so you will have to wait until Christmas to see them, but if you would like to enter the giveaway to win $100, enter the widget below! This is only open for 24 hours so make sure you enter now!


What item would you buy first at Swanson?