Relentless Self Improvment

Around June of last year, I hit a low point. It wasn’t tied to any particular event. There was just a slow degradation over time where more and more dissatisfaction crept into my life until I was incredibly unhappy and burnt out. I knew that I needed to make changes, but they seemed to be too hard to do. 

Taking the first step towards self-improvment is always the hardest. I think of it in terms of inertia: when you’re stuck in a place it takes a huge amount of energy to start moving. Think of how hard it is to push a huge rock that is sitting in the dirt. (Or even better how hard is it to start flipping that tractor tire over at the gym?) But the thing about inertia is that once you get going, the law makes it just as difficult to STOP the object you just had trouble moving. If you do manage to get that huge rock rolling, you definitely don’t want to be at the bottom of the hill to stop it! (Or using the gym example, have you ever tried to catch a weight before it hits the ground?)

In July last year, I (unknowingly) took the first step to overcome my “stuck and miserable” inertia by signing up for a nutrition coaching course. I thought I’d be learning about macronutrients and serving sizes, but this course had so much more to it. They really dug into the lifestyle reasons for poor eating, as well as the emotional components that lead people to cyclically diet and regain weight. This course showed me how interrelated nutrition and the rest of your life were. You can eat all the kale in the world, but if you are miserable in other areas, you still won’t be healthy. Suddenly, I was confronted with admitting that I was unhappy and had the power to change that. And like they say “You can’t unlearn this stuff.” 

Flash forward to January of this year and the inertia behind all of my self-improvment actions was really beginning to build up. I began to see all of the areas in my life that I wanted to change and fix. There were so many things I wanted to do: change jobs to something that I enjoyed, change my relationship with my kids to be better, work on relationships with friends, work on my health and fitness, make our house more organized and functional, let go of things that were no longer helping in our lives… the list goes on and on and on. I was suddenly beginning to feel overwhelmed with it all. I began to wonder, “is there such a thing as self-improvment burnout? Cause I’m totally there.” I wanted a break, and a small part of me wished I could just go back to not knowing that things could be better, because “ignorance is bliss.” HA!

Everything can’t be fixed instantly. It’s often a slow process, but we tend to see the end goal clearly and then get impatient when we can’t get there immediately. Then we get to the point where I was in January and our self-doubt kicks in. We see the long road ahead of us and decide that it’s just too hard. We quit. And then we are doubly dissatisfied because not only do we know that we aren’t where we want to be, we’re down on ourselves for quitting. And the cycle continues.

So I began to measure progress differently. I committed myself to taking as least one SMALL step each day towards any of the goals I had. Here’s why it’s working: It made making progress sustainable, since I gave myself permission to not have to do everything all at once, it keeps the inertia going, so I won’t get to a place where it is a considerable effort to start again, AND by having so many areas that I know need work, it made finding a small step to take relatively easy and dynamic. If I ever don’t really know what the next step under the “Change Careers” goal is, that’s ok because I can take a small step towards another goal that day (like declutter a junk drawer for the “Functional House” goal). I’ve still progressed while giving myself time to figure out the next best step for the career change goal.

The important thing is to just keep moving forward. It doesn’t matter if it’s slow or fast. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fraction of an inch or a huge leap. Just be relentless with your movement. One action per day is progress, and progress is the new measure of success. 

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Crushing Goals and Taking Names

I did it. I completed my first Half-Marathon. I’m also not dead and proud to say that I met every goal that I set for myself along the way. And honestly, I’m pretty shocked that I did meet every goal, but so grateful that I did.

This was not an easy route for me since I began this as a “non runner” or a “bad runner” or “slow runner” – part of me deep down thought that I had no business trying to hang with the runners. Training for this race was as much of a mental exercise as it was a physical one. I’ve learned that my mind really does hold me back, and it was no small thing to keep getting out there and doing what I needed to do to finish my training plan and make it to race day. The last month of training was especially hard for some reason (notice there were no blog posts in April). The combination of ramping up the time needed to complete the heavy volume weeks with both my job and Hubby’s job getting insanely busy wasn’t good. There were plenty of times over the last month where time was short and mom-guilt took over because long work ours + long training hours means less time with Ari and Cassi. I skipped and shortened more workouts than I want to admit as a result.

The week before the race, I began to get really nervous. Both my 9 and 10 mile long runs were not as good as I wanted them to be and if I maintained the pace of my 10 mile run I would definitely NOT meet my 2:30:00 goal for the half. The 9 mile run was also super boarder line. So I was feeling pretty down and discouraged. But at the same time, there were so many victories over the last week! The 10 mile run that I did was along the same loop that I use for bike training rides. Let that sink in – I RAN, with my FEET, the same route that used to be difficult for me to do on a BIKE. The other huge victory came during taper week: I ran a 5k. It was a 5k at a very easy pace and I even walked for 6 minutes because Hubby called me while I was out (yeah, I answered my cellphone while running…) The victory is that this last 5k “easy run” was FASTER than my previous race pace. It was a 6 – 10 minute improvement overall, and I wasn’t even pushing hard! Realizing that I already achieved the main goal of half-marathon training (get much better at 5k distances to support sprint triathlon goals) carried me through the rest of the week on a mostly night note.

Race day arrived and I was so nervous I couldn’t even finish my breakfast. The weather was throwing me for a loop because it was 39F when I left the house, but would be warming up to about 50F by 9am. I spent most of the morning agonizing over if I would be too cold in this or too hot in that. Finally I decided to wear clothes for 50F and add my gloves and ear warmers since they are easy to take off and keep in my FlipBelt (I’m not a disposable clothes kind of girl). I got to the race and went to check my watch as I was approaching the start line to realize I FORGOT MY GARMIN in the car. So a sprint back to the car and then back to the race was my warmup.

The race started and I stood in the coral by the 2:30:00 pacer. We chatted and I just tried to stop thinking about needed splits and all that. Once we were off, I was able to go at a much slower pace than usual for the first 0.75 miles. Since I was in such a large group, you sort of didn’t have much of a choice about your speed OR about stopping to walk. That ended up being a great thing for me since I usually get psyched-out about it being “hard” and start my walk breaks right away. By the time we got to mile 1, I was running with the 2:20:00 pacer! How did that happen?

By mile 3, I was feeling great! There was a large hill and I let gravity do it’s thing so I ran a sub 10 minute mile. Mile 4 was uphill then, but I still kept it under 11 minutes (my goal for the race). By this time, I was in front of the 2:20 pacer! This ended up working really well for me for the rest of the race, since he was running with a very large group of women and they were all chatting. I would stay in front and have room to complete my run/walk intervals, but I could still hear the chatting and know when they were catching up. My plan had me fueling at mile 5 and 10, so I took my first Huma Gel at 5 and was feeling good. Mile 7 was another hill and another sub 10 minute mile! I was feeling really good at this point and like maybe I would actually finish in less than 2:30:00.

At mile 9, I began to feel my energy dip but I forced myself to wait until mile 10 to take my last Gel. That was a mistake. I let my energy drop too low and didn’t recover for a mile and a half. All of my miles were under 11 minutes to this point, but mile 11 and 12 were closer to 11:15/mile. At the 10.5 mile point, the 2:20 pacer and his crowd passed me. I stuck with them for another mile before one of the biggest uphill sections made me lose them completely. Still, my goal was 2:30:00 and I knew that I was on track for that.

When I finally got in sight of the finish line, I had all the feels. I even began crying while still running (OMG that makes it impossible to breathe – not recommended). When I crossed the finish line, the race clock said 2:25 so I knew I made my goal! It felt impossible to do last week, but it was done! Hubby, Ari, and Casssi were all there waiting for me and it turned into a perfect moment. 

So now, the important things: the best and worst cheering signs for the race. My favorite sign that day said “You are a badass.” Simple but it really lifted my spirits at the time. The worst said “Run like Trump pooped a jelly bean” WTF DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? Overall the crowd was great and the people who got out to cheer for us really did a lot for my spirit when things felt tough. I have a whole new appreciation for race cheerleaders now.

If you’ve been thinking about a huge and scary goal for a while (like I had been), do yourself a favor and GO FOR IT. I don’t know if serious running will ever be in my future, but what I have learned about myself along this journey made every step worth it. 

Bison Stroganoff 

I invented a recipe! Last week, it was cold and miserable out and I just wanted some comfort food. Now we all know that comfort food is generally not that great for us: not nutrient dense and usually made with crappy ingredients. But the weather had me thinking about beef stroganoff for some reason and so I decided that I would make that for us for dinner anyway.

One tiny problem: I don’t know how to make stroganoff and I’ve never made it before. Ha!

By the time dinner rolled around, I had been thinking about this dish all day. I started to google stroganoff recipes and compare the basic ingredients. “Yup! I think we have all this. It’s going to be soooo good… I can even make some swaps to make this healthier!” So in typical me fashion, I jump into cooking immediately without double checking that we actually have the ingredients in the house. 

In typical “me” fashion, I suddenly have to improvise. A lot. 

Things I’m missing? Oh, just the beef, onions, sour cream and/or shredded cheese, beef stock, NOODLES… crap. Now what? Improv to the rescue!

I swapped out the beef for ground bison that we had on hand in the fridge. First step was to brown the meat. The last onion we had in the house was no longer good, but luckily I had my favorite onion substitute on hand: Tastefully Simple’s Onion Onion seasoning. We also didn’t have any black pepper, but we did have Penzys Shallot Pepper seasoning so that’s an upgrade. After cooking the meat with the spices, I added in the mushrooms (the one thing we DID have) and I decided to add a bag of frozen peas (mostly for color, but also to get a pseudo vegetable in there). 


Now it’s time to make the sauce! From what? All the recipes I found called for butter, flour, beef stock, sour cream and various other ingredients like white wine or sherry. Yeah… no. Originally I thought I would use a full fat greek yogurt and beefstock for the sauce, but no yogurt. All we had that was dairy was a block of cream cheese. Luckily, it was high quality cream cheese (organic, full fat, and minimal ingredients). So our sauce was chicken stock (cause we didn’t have beef) and the cream cheese whipped together. This made a super easy and smooth sauce, but it was a tad watery so I added a bit of organic corn starch to thicken it up. 


Now what can we do for the missing noodles? Well, since the noodles we usually use are quinoa noodles I thought “Why not try it over quinoa?” 

I’m happy to report that the meal came out great! My family scarfed it down, which is especially awesome because Ari is in her I’m-three-and-therefore-hate-all-things-served-for-dinner phase. It was also pretty fun to improvise at every step. It was great to flex the creativity muscle while cooking. 

The full recipe and instructions are below. If you try it out, leave a comment and tell me what you think!


BISON STROGANOFF (serves 4)

INGREDIENTS

1 package of ground bison meat

2 TBSP Onion Onion seasoning

1/2 TBSP Shallot Pepper seasoning

12 oz sliced mushrooms

1 16 oz package of frozen peas

2 cups of stock (you can use beef, chicken, or veggie stock)

1 8 oz package of cream cheese (find a high quality, organic and full fat brand)

1 TBSP corn starch

2 cups quinoa (or substitute noodles if you prefer those)

INSTRUCTIONS

Using a large skillet, brown the bison meat. Add the Onion Onion and the Shallot Pepper seasonings to the meat and mix well. Stir in the mushrooms and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Add the package of frozen peas and cook covered for an additional 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a separate sauce pan, bring the 2 cups of stock to a boil. Add the cream cheese and over low heat, whisk the cheese and stock together until the moisture is smooth. Add the corn starch and whisk thoroughly so no clumps remain. Allow to simmer on low heat for 2-3 minutes to thicken. Add this sauce to the skillet mixture and mix well. Serve in a bowl over the cooked quinoa or noodles.

Plan the Work, Work the Plan

This is a phrase that I hear all the time: “Plan the work then work the plan” and I generally didn’t think much about it. Until I was going out for my 4.5 mile run yesterday, that is. I was tired, I was sore (thanks to too many squats the day before), and I had a million To-Do items that needed attention. I was thinking about bailing…

But then the phrase came into my head. Plan the work, work the plan. WORK THE PLAN. I am actually good about creating awesome training plans for myself. I can select a goal or race, easily determine specific metrics that I want to achieve, and then create a great road map to get from point A to point B. Here’s a snapshot of my current plan for my half-marathon training:


…guys, it’s freekin’ COLOR CODED to show exactly where, when, and with what support every single workout will occur. Because I am damn good at planning the work.

Where I am NOT good is working the plan. I often let “life” get in the way of this or that. By this point in training, I’m usually skipping one workout per week and shortening a couple others. I’ll muddle through to the end. I’ll do the race. I’ll enjoy the race. But the result is always “Wow! I did pretty good considering how little training I was able to finish.” Always pretty good considering.

This January, I realized that missed and shortened workouts ran way deeper than “life” getting in the way. It was a form of self-sabotage rearing its ugly head in disguise. Once I really started thinking about why I was not sticking to my (totally amazing and awesome) training plans, I realized I was hiding behind the words “pretty good considering.” I realized I was setting big goals (big for me at least). These were scary goals and deep down there was a part of me that was afraid of not achieving them. So I didn’t go all-in with training for the big scary goal. Because if I wasn’t really all-in, if I hadn’t been perfect with my training, then I wasn’t really a failure if I didn’t reach my goal. That’s some messed up thinking once you realize it.

This time around, I need to keep focused on working the plan. That means that I will do the work when I need to do the work. I will not let the cold, the wind, the weather, the dreadmill etc. stop me from doing the workout that I am scheduled to do. I will not snooze my alarm clock and lie to myself that “I’ll get it done after work instead” anymore. (Hello! I’m a bad-ass planner of the work. And if this workout is scheduled in the early morning, that’s because IT WON’T FIT IN LATER IN THE DAY!)

So I got my tired, sore booty out the door. I started putting one foot in front of the other. I didn’t turn around when the wind was making my ears painfully cold. I didn’t turn around when my inner-mean-girl started her shit talking. I refused to turn around until I reached the EXACT half way point. Before I got out the door, I thought to myself “this is going to be a shitty run. But sometimes conditions aren’t perfect.”

Turns out, the run wasn’t that bad at all. I wasn’t comfortable by any measure, but my pace stayed solid, my cadence stayed high (and that’s one thing I’ve been working on), and my overall time was great. I learned that my ears are way more sensitive to the cold/wind than any other part of me (helpful for future runs), I learned that I can still do it even when conditions aren’t perfect (and who can guarantee perfect conditions on race day anyway?), and I gave a giant FU to the pretty good considering limit I’ve been living.

Here’s to working the plan.

Cleanup Cleanup Everybody Everywhere

How many of you are now humming the “Cleanup Song” in your heads? And maybe looking around at whatever room you’re sitting in thinking “yeah, I should get to it at some point…” Keeping your space clean when you’re also working full time and trying to keep two tiny humans alive seems like an impossible task sometimes. It’s like I blink and suddenly 3 weeks have gone by and I’m not exactly sure what that spot of sticky stuff under Cassi’s high chair is or when it even got there, but it seems to be growing fuzz.

There are very few things that stress me out more than sitting in a dirty house, so you would think that I had figured out how to keep up with the tiny human tornados by now. I haven’t. Instead, I come home after a long day at work and walk into the mess we left from the morning rush (and yesterday’s evening rush, and yesterday’s morning rush, and the evening rush from the day before… you get the idea). It immediately sets me on edge at a low level. But I have to start the marathon of unpacking work bags and lunch boxes, washing bottles and diapers, doing something with the art that Ari made at school that day, dumping the mail on the counter, starting dinner, washing the dishes we left from breakfast, putting away dishes on the drying rack to make room for dinner’s dishes when we are done eating, trying to keep cranky overtired kids from melting down, feeding them dinner (and hopefully scarfing down my own), then baths, jammies, bedtimes… THEN coming back to wash bottles and the dishes from dinner, pack lunches for tomorrow, repack school and work bags, etc. It’s seems like it doesn’t end until I crash on my pillow. So that low level mess of papers, kids toys, random shoes, toys, crumbs on the counter and the floor, etc. is just never done. Then we come downstairs in the morning to the mess and the low-level-back-of-my-mind stress starts all over again.

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The Perpetual State of Our House

Lent started on Wednesday and every year I give something up for the 40 days. I love this practice, because it can do so many things to change you and your life for the better. You can give up something big to help with empathy, like spending money or your car (and using public transportation). You can give up something to help grow your relationships, like TV or social media (and spend the time with family and friends instead). You can give up something small for your health, like caffeine or soda. I saw the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge circling around social media this year (give up your clutter!) and generally liked the idea BUT I didn’t feel like we were prepared to tackle an undertaking like this at this point (but I’m looking at you 2018 for this!). Eliminating clutter and cleaning are two sides of the same coin though, so that got me thinking about our never ending mess. I thought about modifying the challenge to “give up” the mess and therefore, get rid of this constant, low-level stress that I’ve been living with. But how do you accomplish such a monumental task??? I’ve be trying (and failing) at keeping the house cleaned since Ari was born. Now with two girls, it seemed even more impossible.

I started with listing out all of the tasks I though were needed to have the house at the level of “clean” that I wanted. Then I laughed and lowered my expectations a tad. I ended up creating a list that seemed manageable, only adding about 2 hours of total cleaning per week to our plates. At first glance, 2h seems like a lot of time, but when you break it down to daily amounts, thats 15 minutes each weekday and 45 minutes on one weekend day. Then I showed the plan to the Hubs and got him on board with it. He picked half of the items that he would do and I’ll do the other half. After that, I made a little chart to help keep us on track.

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The chart! I laminated a copy and stuck it to the fridge. It’s pretty satisfying to check off the boxes as things get done.

It’s day 3 right now, but we’ve managed to complete all the daily tasks each night so far (and it’s taken less than 15 minutes). For the rest of lent, we are “giving up”  the 15 minutes each day to complete the daily tasks. The weekly and monthly tasks will get worked into the schedule after the daily tasks become routine. Already the last two days, I’ve noticed a difference in the mornings and evening with the girls. I get downstairs in the morning (or walk in in the evening) and immediately feel better about being here. The girls must have been sensing my grouchiness before, because they have both been calmer and happier so far (added WIN for us! Hopefully it keeps up). I’ll check in at the end of this experiment to let you know how it went overall. Here’s to new habits and reduced stress!

Do you have a cleaning schedule laid out? What are your favorite tips and tricks? Or are you like we were and laughing at the thought of cleaning anything?

Many the Miles

In the quest to become a better runner, I’m training for my first half marathon. My logic is that if I can complete a 13 mile race, then I’ll finally be able to RUN a 5k (since I have always walked a portion of every 5k I’ve done). One of the things I really like about this training is adding up all the miles I’ve run since I’ve started. For some reason, that makes me feel pretty badass.

Spending a significant amount of time running really does give you time to think. I’ve heard runners explain how this happens before (you know, those people who say “if I don’t run I’ll go crazy! It’s where I get all my ideas/solve all my problems/think about all the things”) but this is really the first time where I’ve experienced this. Usually, all I can think about when I’m running is how much it hurts – haha! Anyway, since I’ve found that I can now think beyond the immediate physical discomfort, what do I think about? Running mechanics. Hey baby steps, right?

I’ve been focusing on proper form and cadence while I’m on my outdoor runs. For me, I need to feel like I’m leaning forward to have the right running stride and form (I naturally slouch backward when running, so this correction keeps me upright). I also am working on higher running cadence. I tend to over-stride, so focusing on a higher cadence keeps my steps shorter and reduced muscle fatigue (and I’ll be less prone to injury this way). Cadence is a tough one to master though, because who has the ability to count how many steps per minute they are taking DURING the activity? I don’t have that level of focus, that’s for sure.

Some people use a metronome for this purpose, but when I heard that, all I could think about was the clunky analog thing we used for piano lessons when I was a kid.

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Instead I found a way to use music! I’ve made playlists with songs where the beat of the song matches the cadence you should be setting while running. Now you just run to the beat and don’t have to count. (Added bonus, you can pretend you’re dancing instead of running when it gets hard.) I’m not a huge fan of running with headphones and music (because I think it’s dangerous to not be able to hear the world around you), but I keep the volume low enough that I can still be aware of my surroundings.

So how do you find out what songs are at the right tempo to hit the pace you want to set? This website jog.fm (there is an app too, but I haven’t used it yet). You enter your target pace and it will list every song that has a beat that will match your pace. I’ve been focusing on achieving a 10 minute mile, so I’ve been choosing songs in the 9:30 to 10:30 minute range. My favorite playlist right now is below:

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If you’re looking to keep a steady pace on your next run, you should definitely check out the website/app. Other benefits besides just controlling or changing your cadence are that you can easily set your pace for a long run, preventing a crash or burnout if you tend to go out too quickly. You can also choose songs and order them so that you achieve negative splits on a run.

Have you used jog.fm before? Have any pace or cadence tricks you’d like to share? What are your favorite running songs? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Perfect Breakfast Muffins

Here is my first (of probably many) food preparation and nutrition blogs. One thing that I have become good at over the years is meal planning and eating 90% or more of our meals at home. We were sort of forced into this situation due to severe food allergies (which makes eating pre-prepared food and fast food nearly impossible). It was an adjustment at first but now, I don’t spend a lot of time during a week cooking and most of the time, I can make dinners in the evenings faster than I could go dive through somewhere.

We all have heard that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” and know that we should be eating breakfast. But what usually happens?  These excuses: I’m not hungry in the morning (you are but your brain is used to shutting the feeling down cause you don’t eat) and I don’t have the time to eat breakfast (but you have the time to drive through Dunkin or McD’s?). I am definitely a victim of the “I don’t have time to make anything” excuse. My solution to this was creating a perfect breakfast muffin.

I wanted to make something that I could grab with one had out of the fridge and eat while I was running around after Ari in the mornings. We have to leave our house by 6:20am on a weekday, which means I’m up by 4:45. So my options were to wake up 30 minutes earlier so I can cook myself breakfast (HA! No.) or find something that I can eat on the go.
This ideal on-the-go-food would be easy to make, nutritious (whole ingredients, high in protein and good fats to stay full, and no added sugars), and something that can be eaten with one hand (and no mess). I tried making egg cups for a while, but they didn’t meet the third criteria. Muffins meet the third wicket, but are usually not that nutritious and can be a PITA to make. Still, I thought that the perfect muffin was the way to go.

I started the experiment with this basic recipe. It had a lot of great things about it already: It was easy to make (I’m a horrible baker and can’t mess these up), easy cleanup, and generally good ingredients. They taste great (especially with the chocolate chips) but they are not very filling so I would be hungry again in an hour if I ate two. They also have more sugar in them than I would like. My goal for the “new and improved” version was to up the protein and good fat content to stay full and lower the sugar. And let’s be real, if I could find a way to sneak veggies in there than it would be a perfect little balanced meal in my hand.

I decided to try four different versions of the muffin: a banana coconut one, banana and flax, blueberry lemon, and a “green” muffin made with some added veggies and avocado. I started each batch with the “muffin base”

  • 2C rolled oats
  • 2 eggs
  • 1.25C FULL FAT plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 scoops Sunwarrior Classic Plus protein powder (side note: this brand is the BEST out there, and the classic plus powder is amazing for adding into baking recipes as a substitute for some of the flour)
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla

    For the first three muffins, I added two bananas. For the veggie muffin, I added 2 smaller avocados.

Then the experimentation began. For the banana coconut muffins, I added in 2/3C of shredded UNSWEETENED coconut and 3TBSP of chia seeds. For the banana flax muffins, I added a little over 1/2C of flax seeds (raw and unsalted). For the blueberry lemon muffins, I added 2/3C frozen blueberries and 2 TBSP lemon peel. Finally, for the veggie ones, I added three scoops of this Ultimate Greenzone Powder and some almond extract [I use the almond extract in my smoothies to cut the “leaf” flavor from the greenzone powder, so I figured it would work in the muffins too].

I set up a bit of an assembly line in the kitchen using two 12 cup muffin pans. While the first dozen muffins cooked, I was able to rinse out the food processor, process the second batch of batter, and load it into the other muffin pan. Then repeat for the next batch while batch 1 cools and batch 2 cooks. This way, I made 4 dozen muffins in one and a half hours [Cassie was taking a great nap that afternoon!].

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After everything was made, I split the muffins into dozens with 3 of each flavor in them. I put three dozen in freezer bags to save for later. I would go through 12 of these in a week (two is a perfect size for breakfast for me). One and a half hours of work meant breakfast was covered for a month!

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None of these combos came out “bad” but the banana coconut ones were definitely my favorite. The green veggie muffins didn’t freeze well and went bad way faster than any of the other ones (I found that out the hard way by saving one until day 5). The blueberry lemon ones were great out of the oven, but very “meh” after being frozen/in the fridge.
But the banana coconut muffins, how do I love thee? They take 30 minutes tops from start to finish (including cleanup) to make. They are nutritional power houses and they are delicious. I’ve made them weekly on Sunday’s to set myself up for great breakfasts to go so many times now. You should definitely try them out!

Half Marathon Training & the Inner Mean Girl

Tomorrow, I start training for my first half marathon. This is a goal that I set for my self over a year ago and I was training last spring for what was supposed to be my first race. Then pregnancy (and life in general) got the better of me, I missed too many runs, and ultimately had to defer until this year.

Why would I want to run a half marathon anyway? I’m “not a runner” you see and running in general for me is HARD. So much harder then it “should” be considering my overall level of fitness. I’m a triathlete first and I’ve been avoiding the elephant in the room. If I ever want to meet my overall triathlon goals, I’m going to have to step up my running game. I have to become a better runner. The only way to do that is to get out there and RUN.

So today, I decided to run a little to test where I am at the beginning of this journey. It didn’t go well. It was an absolutely brutal 3 miles. Brutal. The good thing (or maybe the bad thing) about this workout was that I discovered my inner mean girl. She’s always been there, but subconscious rather than in my face. Today I heard here loud and clear: “omg why do you even try?” “Look at your pace, you are pathetic” “This is pointless, you are never going to improve” “Why are you wasting your time slowpoke. You have other things you should be doing right now. You don’t deserve to waste time trying to do something you’ll never be good at” “oh, yeay you did ONE F&#%ING mile! At this rate you’ll run 13 in 4 hours. Idiot.” “If so-and-so could see you right now they would laugh at you.” “No one is impressed with this bullshit effort. Don’t tell anyone how bad you suck, cause you will lose friends and their respect.”

So why do I say this is a good thing? I felt awful during and after my run. My mean girl actually made me cry. She actually convinced me to stop 2 miles in. But you see, this is the first time that I realized the voice in my head was just a mean girl. NOT me and NOT who I am. I was able to overcome that voice and get back on the treadmill for my last mile (after some core work). The first step in being able to defeat your inner mean girl is to realize she is there.

So here I am, starting my half marathon training tomorrow. Recognizing that I have a long way to go. Preparing to overrule the inner mean girl for the next 12 weeks. Preparing to re-write my inner dialogue. I am grateful for what my body can do. I will work hard so that it can do more. Moving forward at any pace is still moving forward. I am worthy of the time spent on achieving a goal for the sake of achieving it. My reasons are good enough, this race is hard enough, and I don’t need to compete with anyone but myself here.

My inner mean girl can suck it.

Making Your Own Wall Art

When we first moved into our house, we had been living in a tiny apartment for years so we didn’t have many pictures or paintings for the walls. The new place definitely needed something though and so I began to look at art for the first time. Then I ran into a couple of problems: paintings/pictures of any decent size were expensive as hell and the stock stuff that was available through retail stores was… well, let’s just say not our style. (Ok, it was tacky. Like really really tacky.)

So I embarked on the adventure of creating my own pieces. I originally thought it would be way less than the store bought stock stuff. It ended up being marginally less (but still way less than custom pieces). But it had the added benefit of being personal and meaningful for us. These pieces truly “made our house a home” as cliche as that sounds.

First, I selected photographs that I had taken of places that were meaningful to us, or of scenes that always made me feel happy or calm. I then had Kinko’s print these out on engineering paper so they were the large size we needed (one of these is 3 by 3.5 ft and the other is 2 by 4 ft).

Next step was to hit up the hardware store for materials to complete the project. I bought some plywood (the SurePly extra thin one), chair railing (for the frames), stain, Easy Tac, spray on Shellac, wood glue, painters tape, and foam paint brushes. You will also need some (or a lot) of Mod Podge from the craft store to complete these.

I cut the plywood to the correct size for the picture and used the Easy Tac to glue the photo to the wood. We had a spatula on hand, and it was helpful in making sure the picture was pressed on without any bubbles.

Once the pictures were glued to the backing, the “hard” part is next: Mod Podging over the entire surface. If you read the instructions on a bottle of this stuff, it tells you to only use it on a small area at once (HA! WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT? I thought…) I went ahead and tried putting a thicker layer of the stuff over the entire paper at first. Much to my dismay, bubbles happened.

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I thought I had ruined all my work to this point (not to mention needing to pay for another print!) and went to bed that night pretty dejected. Luckily for me, once the stuff dried, the bubbles mostly went away. I was able to continue to apply THIN coats after this. For each picture, I applied about 6 coats. I used different textured sponges for different areas of the picture. This way, I was able to give the trees and bushes a rough texture and the water and sky smoother texture. It really made a difference in the total effect after several layers when the light reflects off the “art”

After all the Mod Podging was complete (and that took almost a week – not great for impatient me!) I sealed the entire thing with Shellac to add a nice glossy finish and to protect it.

The final step is to make the frame for the pictures. You can either spend a bijillion dollars buying a custom frame that is the right size, or you can build one out of chair railing for a few bucks. I’m totally a “build-it-for-a-fraction-of-the-cost” kind of girl. This was the easy part. Measure the total length you will need, choose a stain, and your off. I used a miter saw to cut each piece at a 45 degree angle to build a square edge. Then used wood glue to attach it to the backing. Since wood glue takes 24h to dry, I used painter’s tape (and in one spot, a clamp!) to hold everything in place.

When the frames were set, the finishing touch was to seal the back of the new “painting” and add the mounting hardware to it. To do this, I used plain brown paper, the wood glue, and basic picture hangars.

The finished product was well worth the effort. We get compliments all the time on our custom pieces and people always want to know where they can get their own. I also love that our space is filled with prints that have special meaning to us. All for a fraction of the cost of custom artwork. What do you think? Would you make something like these for your home?

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Introducing Us

Here we go, my very first blog post. As I mentioned on the introduction page, I have had a feeling like “I should blog about that” for years, but I never began. I couldn’t decide on a theme. Finally, I have the courage to begin.

I figured the best way to start, like with most things, would be with introductions. So “Hi!” I have a million labels: wife, mom, avid coffee drinker, employee, engineer, triathlete, friend, sister, daughter, fabulous nerd, nature lover, environmentalist, reader, cook… the list could never end if you keep thinking about it.

I’m am mom to two amazing girls, Aramina Jade (3) and Cassiopeia Vash (3 months) and they’ll go by Ari and Cassi on this site. (If you look at the names I picked, you can pick out a few of my hobbies.) Ari is a firecracker and she gives me a run for my money daily. She is so spirited and so determined it amazes me. Cassi is the sweetest and most calm baby and her little smile absolutely melts my heart. She already clearly loves her big sister and I know that it will only be a blink before they are chasing each other around.

My Husband and I have been married for almost 6 years now, and so far so good. I’ll call him The Hubbs. The Hubbs is also an engineer and he can lean towards those typical engineer stereo types (really good with machines, not so great with people). He’s also been “blessed” with the world’s greatest Resting-Bitch-Face (the RBF) so it’s a running joke every time he accidentally scares some poor service industry worker into thinking he is pissed at them.

I’m a habitual emoticon user, which is making it hard for me to type this all out (HOW WILL THEY KNOW WHERE I’M JOKING?) and a habitual procrastinator. I love self-improvement though, so we will see if I can conquer the procrastination sometime. If I’m not learning, improving, and growing I simply stop feeling like myself. I also love teaching friends and family about what I have learned and I hope that this blog will be a great way for me to expose others to new hobbies and ideas.