Blasted birthday

The Toxic Cleansing NutriBlast - before

The Toxic Cleansing NutriBlast – before

Last week, I mourned celebrated my 34th birthday with friends and my husband, B, who completely spoiled me. Among my birthday bounty was a NutriBullet. B had noticed me dragging out the blender every morning to mix up my smoothies and thought this smaller blender would be easier to use and clean.

As I read up on this amazing contraption, I quickly realized it’s much more than a blender. This mighty little mixer breaks down nuts, fruits and veggies, extracting vital nutrients. The NutriBullet folks recommend replacing one meal with a NutriBlast (what NutriBullet calls its concoctions), then having another later in the day. That’s a lot of fruit and veggies, so I decided to start with one per day and go from there.

I took it for its first spin (pun intended) this weekend, starting with the Toxic Cleansing NutriBlast. I loaded the six servings of fruit and veggies – a mix of spinach, pear, apple, pineapple, banana and water – into the cup NutriBullet provides, attached the blade top, flipped it upside down set it into the power base, watching as it turned the fruit chunks and leaves into a thick, green frothy smoothie.

Doing its thing

Doing its thing

One it was done doing its magic, I took a closer look at bright green blend, which smelled faintly of spinach. Not exactly my usual delicious almond milk, coconut yogurt, banana smoothie. But I took a sip and tasted pears, apples and a bit of pineapple.

What I like
After finishing the two-cup mixture, I was surprisingly full. In fact, I had to take a break halfway through to let it settle in my stomach before continuing on.

Five hours and a 30-minute power walk later, I started feeling a little hungry. Not bad! My typical smoothies hold me over for three, four hours tops.

Today, I whipped up the Energy Elixir Smoothie, which consists of mixed greens, pear, red grapes, walnuts, apple and banana. While I didn’t experience a noticeable jolt, I spent the rest of the afternoon doing a Pure Barre workout, putting away laundry, dusting the blinds, crafting and blogging. So it seems it gave me steady, sustained pep.

The finished NutriBlast

The finished NutriBlast

What I don’t like
My only issue with the NutriBullet? All those organic fruits and veggies add up at the grocery store checkout. Buying enough for five to six NutriBlasts set me back about $70. Next week, I’m going to check out some local farm stands, where produce tends to be cheaper, to see what I can find.

In the meantime, if you’ve used the NutriBullet, let me know what you think. Which are your favorite recipes?

Easy (and healthy!) homemade dog treats

My dogs, losing their sh*t after I pulled out the peanut butter treats

My dogs, losing their minds after I pulled out the peanut butter treats

Let me preface this post by saying I’m not a crazy dog person. I don’t dress my dogs up daily (only on special occasions) or walk them around the neighborhood in baby strollers. I don’t take them everywhere with me or have hundreds of photos plastered around my desk (they live discretely on my phone).

So maybe I’m a little crazy about my dogs.

But that craziness is not what led to my latest baking endeavor: homemade dog treats. The real impetus was my love for baking and non-love for having delicious, tempting treats around the house that I will likely eat with abandon. So rather than risk increasing my waistline, I decided to bake for my two pups and, as a bonus, know that I was giving them healthy treats sans fillers and artificial ingredients.

Frozen Peanut Butter Yogurt Dog Treats

Frozen Peanut Butter Yogurt Dog Treats

I found two great recipes on CaesarsWay.com, renowned dog trainer Cesar Millan’s website. The first, Frozen Peanut Butter Yogurt Dog Treats, are apparently a dog’s dream – at least based on how my dogs reacted. After tasting their first one, they clawed at the freezer door, hoping it would open and dispense more frozen, creamy goodness.

The great thing about these treats is that they consist of two ingredients – peanut butter and vanilla yogurt – and take all of 15 minutes to make. Definitely worth trying, especially as the mercury starts to rise.

Basic Dog Biscuits

Basic Dog Biscuits

The second recipe, Basic Dog Biscuits, was a little more involved, but still simple. It requires rolling out dough and cutting them into shapes (if you’re so inclined, as I was) before baking. Making these requires a little more time and muscle power (my arms got a nice workout), but was worth it when I watched my dogs chomp away, licking every last crumb off the floor.

Rex, happily indulging in his homemade treat

Rex, happily indulging in his homemade treat

If you give these recipes a try, let me know what you – and your pup – think, or share your favorites below.

 

Related post: When Rex met Penelope

DIY-ing it

Our new (dream) home

Our new (dream) home

Hello all! A very belated happy New Year. I’ve had quite the kick-off to 2014, moving into a new home (our first non-condo!) and passing the Series 6 – a majorly tough FINRA exam covering pretty much every topic I deftly avoided in college. Passing was a prerequisite for keeping my new financial marketing gig, so, yeah, I’m relieved – both to no longer have to hit the books after working all day and to still be gainfully employed.

Now that that nightmare very important exam is over, I’ve been able to focus on unpacking and settling into our new home. And rediscovering my love for DIY. Disclaimer: I like the quick and easy projects; I sadly have no patience for long, involved ones, though admire the heck out of true, crafty DIYers.

Here are a few I plan to try soon:

Photo: Tatertots and Jello

White and Gold Herringbone Pots
Krista from The Happy Housie introduced these pretty little pots on Tatertots and Jello last week. I love the color, herringbone pattern and, above all, the idea of being able to display spring blooms after a loooong, cold winter.

I’m going to create pots of all different sizes and scatter them throughout our screened-in room, yard and house.

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Photo: Refinery 29

Polka Dot Jewelry Dish
I’m a big fan of pretty little boxes, trays, dishes, bowls… you name it. So when I saw the photo to the right, combined with the headline, “DIY Illiterate? This One’s For You,” I knew I’d love this project. Jeanne Chan, curator of ShopSweetThings, created these eye-catching jewelry dishes/trays in minutes, using just a ruler and stickers.

I’m going to make a nightstand catch-all tray with gold polka dots for my bedroom and a larger one with gray polka dots for toothpaste, soap, etc. in our main guest bathroom.

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Photo: DIY on the Cheap

Dresser Refinish
The previous owners of our home left a beautiful antique desk for us. But the wood is worn and light, which doesn’t fit with our décor. So I’m going to put on a brave face and attempt to sand, paint and seal until it’s a bright, modern white.

I typically wouldn’t entertain doing this, except I found this great step-by-step tutorial on DIY on the Cheap that made me think, “I can TOTALLY do this.” As soon as it warms up a bit more and the weather steadies (i.e. doesn’t rain every other day), I’ll be giving this a try in my backyard (to avoid home damage from inevitable paint mishaps). Stay tuned for before and after photos.

In the meantime, share your favorite DIY projects. I’m always looking for inspiration!

My holiday sanity toolbox

toolboxHappy holiday season, all! What a few weeks it’s been. I’m in the midst of transitioning from my current job to a new one, studying for a big financial licensing test that I must pass in order to keep said new job and taking a writing class while blogging, working out, holiday shopping and trying to get in quality time with my husband and dogs. Add in recovering from an emergency gallbladder surgery.

I’m exhausted just writing it all.

Thankfully, I have compiled what I call a sanity toolbox, items that help me stay on track mentally, physically and spiritually. Take a look – I hope you’ll discover something new that helps you navigate this wonderful, but crazy, season.

Weekly planner printable
While I depend on my iPad and iPhone for daily scheduling, I love using this free printable (thanks, Defrump Me for sharing it) on Sundays to visually lay out my week. There are spots for calendar items, your weekly goals, notes, even meal planning. I pin it on my fridge Sunday night and am ready to go.

Weekly Planner

Pure Barre
This low-impact workout is huge right now – for good reason. In just 55 minutes, you get a full-body toning workout (the Jello-y limbs and major muscle aches after your first few workouts are proof) that puts your arms, legs, butt and entire core to the test. I’m a new devotee. It’s fun, challenging and yields major results with a minor time investment.

Mini notebooks
I have a slight (okay, huge) obsession with pretty notebooks, and when I saw these at Target, I snatched them right up. They’re super cute, with great quotes and some sparkle, and their small size makes them perfect for tossing into my purse, nightstand, glove box… everywhere. And you can’t beat the $3.99 price tag for three. I jot notes in them, ideas for blog posts or stories, my food logs and basically anything else that’s floating around in my head. Then I can go back to them later, when I have time, and quickly find information.

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Fitbit
There are a lot of wearable technology options out there that track health data, but the Fitbit Flex is just right for me. I wear the waterproof armband around the clock, tracking my steps, activity levels and even sleep patterns. On the online dashboard, I can add notes and track my weight and calorie intake. At the end of each week, Fitbit emails me a progress report summarizing my data. Having this information at my fingertips encourages me to take more steps throughout the day and allows me to keep an eye on my overall health so that I can nip those out-of-whack habits – known to rear their ugly heads when I’m stressed – in the bud.

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Q&A A Day Five Year Journal
I love to journal, but don’t have the time to devote to it most days. I don’t have this journal yet, but am hoping, ahem, Santa sees this and slips it under the tree. It seems like a fantastic alternative, posing one fun question each day that you can answer in just a couple sentences. It’s a great way to record your thoughts, opinions and priorities without taking the time to write long journal entries.

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Evernote
I’m a huge lists person, which makes Evernote invaluable. It allows me to create, access, edit and/or share to-do lists, lists of books I want to read or songs I want to download, notes to myself, recipes, training plans and interesting articles I’ve found, as well as record voice reminders – and it can all be tagged and searched so I can find it quickly when I’m on the go.

What are your go-to tools? Share below!

(Image via)

4 ways writing is like working out (and the best writing tips I’ve heard/read/seen)

writing-exerciseAlong with working out, writing is one my biggest de-stressors and one of my chief sources of happiness. And like exercising, when I haven’t done it in a while, I start to feel twitchy. I often have to force myself to do it. Then, once I have, I’m happy as a clam and wondering why I don’t do it more often.

Last month, I started attending a bi-weekly memoir writing class. I love it. The class is small (only six people), so there is a lot of one-on-one attention and opportunities for sharing my work and receiving valuable feedback. Most importantly, the class has re-ignited my writing spark and filled my head with story ideas.

In class last week, my teacher shared some writing tips, and I realized they weren’t all that different from advice I’ve received around starting – and sticking to – an exercise regimen.

1. You just have to do it
My writing teacher kicks off each class with a free writing exercise. She provides a passage for us to read, then we write for 10 minutes about whatever comes to mind. There are two rules: you can’t stop writing and no editing. What results appears to be a stream-of-consciousness mess at first, but if you take a closer look, you can usually find a gem – a great idea, the germ of a longer story, or something you want to explore more.

The same goes with establishing an exercise habit. You just have to start. You may not know what types of movement you enjoy most, or what will yield the best results for reaching your goals, but starting will get you on the path to finding out.

2. The first draft will be crappy
In Bird by Bird, author Anne Lamott writes (and I love her even more for it), “Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts… There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go – but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.”

Likewise, your first workout will likely straight up suck. Your muscles will ache. You may have to cut it short because your lungs feel like they’re on fire. You might find that your running speed isn’t anywhere in the vicinity of what it used to be, or that you can’t lift half the weight you once could. Don’t banish your workout gear to the back of your closet. The second workout will be better, and the third, even better than that.

3. You have to switch things up
To become a stronger writer, you have to step out of your comfort zone. Try writing in a different voice or on a different platform, read a book outside of your typical genre, or do a writing exercise that challenges you to think in a new way.

On the exercise front, you have to do the same. If you do the same workout over and over, your body will get used to it and will consume less energy. Challenging your muscles and stamina in new ways will allow you to continually achieve new PRs – and see major results.

4. It’s quality, not quantity, that matters
One of my favorite bloggers, Jeff Goins, writes, “History remembers our words not for how much we said, but for the weight of what we said. Take the Gettysburg Address, for example. One of the most famous speeches in American history, this brief oration delivered by the sixteenth president clocks in at just under five minutes… Great communicators present their points in the most concise and challenging way possible.” One powerful sentence goes a much longer way than a paragraph of sentences that skip around the point.

In the fitness world, we’re hearing more and more about fast workouts – the seven-minute workout and Dr. Oz’s highly publicized 20-minute workout, to name just a couple. Research has found that a short blast of intense exercise can rev up your metabolism for the entire day, more so than a longer, slow and steady workout. I put this theory to the test this week with treadmill workouts featuring major spikes in speed and incline. Ten minutes into my 20-minute workout tonight, I was sweating more than I ever have during my typical 40-minute power walk.

Do you have any great writing and/or exercise tips to share? Did I forget any key similarities? Let me know!

(Image via)

Hanging up my cape

ImageWhat do you do when almost everything about your life changes within a couple months? You live through it.

Some days you feel like a zombie. Others, you feel like an over-emotional lunatic. Sometimes you’re angry all day. And sometimes, you feel clear-headed, grateful for all that you have, serene, despite how crazy things are. But no matter what, you just keep going. Because if you stop, you may never get up again.

This post is me continuing on. It’s been six months since I blogged. But I have a good reason. Or 20. The in-a-nutshell, whirlwind version: my husband was offered a relocation package to Charlotte, N.C., we spent the summer preparing, we moved in August, his grandmother passed away in mid-August, we went back to Connecticut for a few days, we fell into a lot of sudden responsibilities (my husband is the executor of her will), we came back to Charlotte, his mother passed away in early September, we went back to Connecticut for a week, and now we’re back in Charlotte. Throw into that mix my working full-time remotely while trying to find a new job, getting settled in a new place – oh and thinking about trying to get pregnant.

I’m mentally exhausted. Grieving. Shell-shocked. Excited. Freaking overwhelmed. But I’m still going.

Last week, I was beating myself up a little for not being my typical 100 percent self. I struggled to focus on work. I only made it to the gym once. I hadn’t blogged in six months. The refrigerator needed to be cleaned. The to-do list hadn’t been touched in a few days. Blah. Blah. Blah.

Then, on Friday, I went to a local marketing agency for an informational interview. And as I heard myself talking about my many accomplishments, I was reminded of how hard I’ve worked to get where I am today. Talking to a friend later, she commented on how much I’d already settled into Charlotte and how, of everyone she knows, she would be the least concerned about me moving anywhere and finding my place.

They were little, but much-needed, reminders that I’m tough – that, no matter what, I’ll be okay. If that means having an off day or an off week, then that’s what I need.

As of yesterday, I’ve decided to go against my nature. Rather than try to be an overachieving Superwoman, I’m going to listen to myself. If I need a run to clear my head, I’m lacing up my sneakers. If I’m feeling run-down, I’m grabbing a pillow and blanket. If my head is spinning, I’m going to empty it into my journal.

Today, I had an Orange is the New Black mini-marathon (If you haven’t yet, check it out. Seriously awesome). I’m about to pick up my long-forgotten book and dig into it again. Every inch of my body feels confused and twitchy, because it’s not used to this type of relaxation. But my brain is telling me this is what I need. Sorry, refrigerator. You’ll have to wait another day.

No-guilt muffins

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Photo: Sweet Verbena

Happy Easter, everyone! I hope you had as great a day as I did. With my mom out of commission, due to a nasty fall this winter that left her with a torn rotator cuff, the husband and I brought some brunch fixin’s to my parents’ house and whipped up (okay, he whipped up – I’m a horrible cook) a delicious brunch.

The star of the meal? The pumpkin muffins I baked this morning (I can bake). I don’t typically share recipes, but given how easy to make and low-cal they are, I couldn’t resist. But first, I must thank Katy of Sweet Verbena for sharing it on her blog. 

To make these muffins, you need only half an hour and two ingredients: a box of cake mix – I used french vanilla – and one 15-ounce can of pumpkin. The results are delicious muffins with a moist, cake-like consistency and a hint of pumpkin flavor. And because they are egg-, butter- and everything else fattening-free, there’s no guilt (if you’re a Weight Watchers points counter, they are only two points each if you make 18 from the batter). 

One watch-out: The recipe says to bake them for 20 to 25 minutes; however, I found I had to put them back into the oven for an extra 10 minutes to bake them through. Plan for 30 or 35 minutes instead, and keep a close eye on them.

Give them a try and let me know what you think!