Garden Furniture Helps You Enjoy The Summer

There is a fantastic way to enjoy your outdoor space, and it’s called garden landscaping.

This process adds plants and flowers into your outdoor area, including yard structures and trellis to make it very pretty.

The paving slabs, shrubs, trees, and bird boxes can finalise this to make it perfect.

However the perfect cherry on the top for this is garden furniture, whether that’s a garden sofa, a high backed garden chair, a reclining rattan chair, or a rocking arm chair.

These can be purchased online at a variety of places, and in the United Kingdom these are very popular in the period between April and September, where people have BBQs outside on the patio area with family and friends over the bank holiday weekend.

Cheesy” Pizza Crust

I think that if I had to choose my absolute favorite food that I could eat every single day, I’d have to say pizza. Now, that’s a really broad statement, because the possibilities are endless when it comes to pizza. We make pizza every single Friday night at my house, and I very rarely make the same type twice. Sometimes I make my own crust, and other times I’ll use a store-bought flat bread or naan. I’ve also made beer crust and cauliflower crust several times, and both are delicious.

But really, my favorite pizza crust is thin, using a few “normal” ingredients like flour, salt, olive oil, water and yeast. This recipe is my favorite. However, I generally don’t have the time or patience to wait for the dough to rise, so I often find myself throwing a few ingredients together to make the fastest pizza crust possible.

Heather’s ingredient of the week is yeast, which instantly made my think of nutritional yeast, so I thought I’d try putting that in my pizza crust this past Friday night.
Better With Veggies

Are you a fan of nutritional yeast? I certainly am! I love its cheesy, nutty flavor and how it can make almost anything taste better.

nooch1

I buy my nooch in bulk from my local organic food store, and it goes pretty quickly in our house! A little bit goes a long way, and I only needed to add a small amount to my pizza dough mix to give it a “cheesy” flavor. It definitely complimented the other ingredients, and I will be making this pizza crust recipe again!

“Cheesy” Pizza Crust

1/2 c cauliflower “rice”

1/4 c barley flour

1 T ground flax seed

1 T nutritional yeast

1/8 tsp baking powder

herbs/spices of choice

salt/pepper to taste

1-2 T beer

Pre-heat oven to 400˚. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or use a silicon baking mat. Place cauliflower rice into a medium sized bowl and heat in the microwave for 60 seconds. Drain any excess water, if necessary. Add the flour, flax seed, nutrional yeast, baking powder and herbs/spices (I like to use garlic, basil and a pinch of salt and pepper). Stir together with a spoon and slowly add beer, 1 T at a time. The mixture should be moist but not overly saturated or sticky. If it’s too sticky, add a little bit more flour. Remove the pizza dough from the bowl and place onto the cookie sheet. Gently press the dough to make a flat crust, adding flour to the top if necessary (if it’s sticky). (Crust should be about 1/4″ thick.) Place in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until it starts to get golden brown. Remove and top with your favorite pizza toppings and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

I topped my pizza with roasted zucchini, mushrooms and red onion and “Teese” vegan cheese. I like to place my pizza under the broil so it gets a little bit charred and bubbly.

nooch crust pizza

Sometimes I use mozzarella or goat cheese, but most of the time I like experimenting with various dairy free “cheeses.” Daiya and Vegan-Rella are probably my favorite, and Teese is definitely not. I threw the rest of the pack out. Ew.

And of course, my favorite pizza topping is this….

mustard

Trust me. It’s delicious. 🙂

What’s your favorite type of pizza? Thin/thick crust? Cheese? Meat? Veggies?

Pumpkin Pie Steamer

Want to hear something that you probably already know?

I love pumpkin.

I know that pumpkin is something that most people associate with the fall, but for me, it’s something that I use year-round (and generally have at least 3 cans of it in my pantry at all times). And I’ve been known to be somewhat of a canned pumpkin hoarder and stock up whenever I can find a good deal on it…

How my cart typically looks when I shop at Wegman’s, where my favorite brand of pumpkin puree is always $1.99!

When September rolled around, everyone was suddenly excited about the return of pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks.

They’re good… but I’ve got something that (to me) tastes even better.

This little cup of deliciousness right here: the pumpkin pie steamer.

It’s SO good, and makes for the perfect after-dinner drink (but could certainly be enjoyed at any time of day!) It’s also incredibly easy to make, and just requires a few ingredients that you probably already have on hand.

And in less than five minutes, you can turn this

Into this.

I’ve been drinking this every single day… and have no plans of stopping any time soon.

Here’s how to make it:

Pumpkin Pie Steamer
(serves 1)

1/4 c. pumpkin puree

2-3 T water

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

sweetener, to taste (I used one packet of NuNaturals stevia)

8-10 oz. milk (I use Silk unsweetened vanilla almond milk)

Place the pumpkin puree and water into a mug and stir well. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir in pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract and sweetener. Pour the milk into the mug and stir well. Heat for an additional 60-90 seconds, depending on hot you want your drink to be. Stir and enjoy. Optional: top off with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

I’m pretty sure that a little bit of rum or whiskey would pair really well with this drink, but unfortunately, don’t have any on hand to experiment with. If you do, please try it out and let me know how it is!

**

And hey- if you want some entertainment today, I’ve got a video of my favorite yoga pose over at Lindsay’s blog for my very first ever Tuesday Trainer! Please try not to laugh… let’s just say I’m a little awkward in front of the camera…

If nothing else, you can hear how I talk (and I don’t know why, but I’m always fascinated to hear how bloggers’ voices match up to how I expected them to sound!).

Have a great Tuesday!

What’s your favorite “fall beverage?” (Mine are various pumpkin and Octoberfest beers. Hands down.)

The Feingold Diet [How It Changed Our Lives For The Better]

I didn’t plan on having a guest post today- heck, I didn’t even plan on POSTING today.

But then I read this post on my friend Kelly’s blog (yes, the same Kelly who did a guest post for me two days ago!). Though I don’t have children of my own, I can imagine that those of you with kids will definitely be interested in reading about Kelly’s struggles with raising her young son, and finding out the key to solving his behavioral issues.

I’ve listened to Kelly tell me details about the positive changes that have occurred with Max’s behavior over the last six months- and it definitely hasn’t been easy, and has taken a lot of faith and dedication. Here is Kelly’s story about how changing her son’s diet changed his behavior, and ultimately the lives of her family.

**

I’m compelled to write about something non-writing related; today I’m going to talk about food. More specifically, about my son, Max, and how changing his eating changed our life.

Throughout his first year, Max struggled first with unending, painful acid reflux. He would scream and cry and be completely inconsolable. Once we introduced solid foods, Max immediately became constipated. None of the natural, homeopathic, or medical interventions we tried worked. He was miserable once again and my husband and I felt helpless. There is nothing, nothing worse than knowing your child is in pain and not being able to stop it. He was on three prescriptions before he turned one.

Through all of this, we never suspected his food or dairy or anything he was ingesting. We didn’t have many friends with kids, but we saw what they ate and we figured Max should just eat what every kid eats.

About a year or so after Max was born, Matt and I watched Food Inc. and really started to understand how important it is to know what you’re putting in your body. We were careful to make all dairy and meat organic and we tried to choose natural alternatives for junk food. Still, Max dealt with varied illnesses and a lot of them. Matt and I missed a lot of work those first two years. Max got sick monthly, if not more.

As Max got older, we started noticing mood swings and aggressive behavior. It was the kind of thing, up until he turned four, that we were able to pass off as typical for a toddler. However, as he got closer and closer to four, his tantrums got progressively worse and more violent. He spent hours screaming and banging on walls. He tore down his bedroom curtains. He threw things. He destroyed a toy box. He tore things up. He was also constantly chewing on his clothes — mostly his socks and his collar. He’d pick at things until they fell apart or had holes.

Matt and I both have a family history of neurological disorders — Autism on his side and Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder on mine. Max was growing into a boy who showed a lot of the typical signs of a kid suffering from one of these disorders. We went to the doctor several times from the ages of 2-4; every time, we were told that we needed to have more consistent discipline.

I tried to rationalize his behavior. I tried to define it. I tried to excuse it. I never accepted it. Finally, the month Max turned four (February of this year) we switched his daycare. We believed (or made ourselves believe) that his issues were stemming from how unhappy he was at the in-home situation we’d had him in.

Max had three perfect weeks at his new daycare. Then the honeymoon was over. He threw tantrums. He cried hysterically for no reason. Worst of all, he’d become even more violent. He threw wooden blocks at his teachers. He hit the other kids. To my absolute horror, a pregnant teacher had to be removed from his class because they thought she would be in danger. In DANGER. From my four year old little boy.

To say I was devastated or depressed would be an understatement. We signed up for behavioral therapy. We tried every possible behavioral modification, reward chart, or punishment that we could think of. Nothing made a difference. Feeling helpless, I turned to the pediatrician one last time. It was February 28, 2012 when this doctor, a different doctor, told me about the Feingold Diet.

The Feingold Diet is a diet that removes all artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives from foods. On top of that, it limits and/or eliminates certain natural foods that are high in salicylates, a key component in aspirin.

When you are a parent who is out of options and tired of alternating between almost hating your own child and feeling desperate to help him, you will literally try anything, even if it’s ground rhinoceros horn or some kind of black magic. That wasn’t what got me to try Feingold (FG) though. What got me was reading the first chapter of Jane Hersey’s book, “Why Can’t My Child Behave?” that is published on the FG website. It was like reading a book about my life. Then I looked at the FG behavior checklist and watched in wonder as I checked off symptom after symptom.

When we started Feingold, we did so many things wrong at first. There is a very specific list of approved products on the Feingold diet. I didn’t think it was necessary to follow things word for word. Max didn’t get any better. Once we’d figured out that we needed to be more strict, it took maybe three or four more weeks to figure out that for four years, Max had an intolerance to dairy. Once we removed it, along with corn syrup and chocolate, we held our breath and waited.

The result is what many parents might consider a dream life. I have a little boy who went from throwing 2-3 violent tantrums a day to a boy whose last tantrum was…honestly, I don’t remember. He never gets sick. He is a good, healthy eater who has lots of whole grains and vegetables. He is compassionate and empathetic. He wakes up and goes to bed happy. He has lots of friends.

We’ve certainly had some setbacks. In June, Max had a candy necklace that sent him in an emotional, tantrum-filled tailspin. Sometimes if he has too many berries or cucumbers, he gets moody. A dairy slip makes him very sad and emotional, quick to cry about things. Over the last seven months, we’ve learned to read our son’s body and reactions like a book. We know by his behavior if something is bothering his stomach. Every day, he takes probiotics, Vitamin D drops, and a digestive enzyme. We are on the path of healing his gut, as it’s called in FG-speak.

I decided to write this post for a couple of reasons. The first is because people are really skeptical of the Feingold Diet. They think it’s a silly, earthy-crunchy alternative. Here’s what you need to realize — your child might not need the FG diet. Your child might not have the troubles my child did. Your child might be able to handle foods that contain dye or flavor that is made from petroleum (the same kind in gasoline.) That’s fine for you. Seriously. You are very lucky. My commitment to my family and this diet has nothing to do with anyone else’s eating. Feingold has changed our life for the better. For the best. We are indebted. The chemicals in processed food interact with my son’s body like drugs — they cause him to act in ways that are not driven by his brain, but by a drug induced state.

The other reason I’m posting this is because I know, I’m absolutely sure, that there are other parents who are sitting where I was in February, tears streaming down their cheeks, searching for some kind of miracle to save their child. FG was our miracle. It saved all of us and I am a true believer.

And I am the single most cynical, skeptical person on earth.

If you are dealing with a child who has tons of allergies, negative behaviors, a compromised immune system, skin rashes, sensory issues (Max had this too — its the chewing on the clothes thing), or dozens of other developmental concerns, the Feingold diet really is worth checking out. It’s not easy, trust me, but it is life changing.

[Super Thick] Shamrock Smoothie

I don’t know what it is, but I can’t get enough peppermint lately. I think it started with the stash of Candy Cane Lane tea that I hoarded over the holidays (I still have some left!) and the love grew even stronger when NuNaturals sent me some of their Peppermint liquid stevia to try. I’ve been adding to tea, plain Greek yogurt, unsweetened almond milk… you name it! But, my favorite way to enjoy it has been in my recovery smoothie.

shamrock1

This is the time of year where I usually see ads for McDonald’s Shamrock Shake pop up all over the place. Strangely enough, I haven’t seen a single one! I’ve actually never tried one before, and I’m sure they taste delicious (really, it’s pretty hard to screw up a milkshake!). But, Greg has had a real Shamrock Shake before and actually said that my version tastes even better… and I don’t think he was just being nice.

A 16 oz. McDonald’s Shamrock Shake clocks in at 680 calories and has 20g of fat (12 g saturated!). My version comes in just a little bit lower at 130 calories and 1g of fat*. 🙂

*This will vary depending on the protein powder you use. I used Wegman’s Natural Vanilla Whey Protein.

I posted a Shamrock-ish Shake recipe last year that was a little more decadent, but for this version, I simply tweaked the recipe for my recovery smoothie. Using frozen spinach over fresh adds thickness to the smoothie, along with the frozen banana xanthan gum. I’ve been alternating between using vanilla and chocolate protein powder- both are equally delicious! However, if you really want to achieve a bright shade of green, I’d go with vanilla.

The ingredients:

ingredients

All set to go!

vitamix

Super Thick Shamrock Smoothie

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

2 cups of ice

1/2 of a small frozen banana

1/2 c frozen spinach

1/4 c unsweetened almond milk

1/2 c water

1/8 tsp xanthan gum

6 (ish) drops NuNaturals peppermint liquid stevia – can sub with peppermint extract

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Add all ingredients into a high speed blender. Blend for about 1 minute, or until mixture reaches desired consistency.

To me, that looks like this:

vitamixflower

When your smoothie is this thick, it’s best to eat it with a spoon. 🙂

I’m pretty sure I’ll be continuing to enjoy these long after St. Patrick’s day!

shamrock2

Cheers!

Are you a peppermint fan? What’s your favorite flavor combination (using peppermint)?

Lemon-Blueberry Protein Muffins + Pancakes

Ever since I discovered the wonderful world of healthy living blogs a little over a year ago, I’ve been hearing about how great Sun Warrior protein is. But, since I have never been able to find it in stores, I didn’t purchase any. (Obviously) I’m not vegan, but I like to have both plant-based and whey protein powders on hand for making smoothies and baking. I have a few vegan protein powders that I really like, namely Vega and Plant Fusion (and of course, peanut flour!). I really love Vega, but it has a pretty strong flavor that doesn’t lend itself to baking very well (unless you’re just looking for that Vanilla Chai flavor). I wanted a really good-tasting Vanilla plant-based powder, so I bit the bullet and recently ordered a big bag of Sun Warrior from Amazon. I sampled it immediately upon arrival, and it tasted great! I definitely get the hype.

Early last week, I decided to switch up my breakfast routine a bit. It’s much easier to make the same thing for breakfast every morning during the work week, since I have to pack both breakfast and lunch to bring to work. I had some Chobani yogurt with fruit, granola and either part of a bagel or muffin for breakfast both days at Blend, and it really filled me up. Since I’ve been in an oatmeal rut lately, it was a good time to switch it up. So last week, I started making a big fat protein muffin for breakfast) along with some yogurt, fruit and peanut flour “butter.” I had gotten some amazing lemon-blueberry granola at Blend made by Nature’s Indulgence. The granola was delicious- and reminded me of just how much I love that flavor combination. So, I thought: why not take that flavor combo and put it into a protein muffin? And this past weekend, I used the same recipe to make lemon-blueberry protein pancakes! I got some NuNaturals Stevia in both lemon and orange flavors and have alternated between the two for this recipe (both versions are awesome!)

I’ve been eating this for breakfast every morning since I got back from Colorado. 🙂

This breakfast is especially good on mornings like today when I don’t really get to eat until after I’ve taught a super intense spin class at 5:30 in the morning! The muffin is topped with some 0% plain Chobani that is mixed with a little bit of NuNaturals Lemon Stevia. The peanut flour butter is just 2 T peanut flour, a pinch of salt, stevia, chia seeds and some water mixed together. Keeps me full for hours!

I really can’t get enough of these muffins- they have so much flavor and are incredibly filling (for such a low calorie count), high in protein and low in carbohydrates. The secret is the “flour”- which is made of from these two guys:

I used one full scoop of Sun Warrior plus one tablespoon of coconut flour (which is my favorite flour to bake with and makes everything super fluffy!).

**

Last weekend I decided to take this recipe and turn it into pancakes (because weekend mornings just scream “pancakes!!” to me)- and it worked out beautifully! I mixed up the batter and let it sizzle away in a nonstick pan with a little bit of coconut oil.

I love when you flip a blueberry pancake over and you can see the berries just ready to burst!

And a few minutes later… perfection.

I heated up some fresh blueberries with a little bit of Xagave and nuked it for 30 seconds to make a quick blueberry syrup. A little sunflower butter also made its way onto my plate. 🙂

Lemon Blueberry (Mega) Protein Pancakes

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

1 T coconut flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

1/4 – 1/3 c almond milk

1/4 c liquid egg whites (or 1 egg)

about 1/4 dropper full of NuNaturals Lemon Stevia (if you don’t have this, you can use lemon extract and sweetener of your choice)

handful of fresh blueberries

In a small bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together. Stir in the wet ingredients until well -incorporated (and make sure there are no lumps!). Fold in the blueberries. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and divide the batter into two pancakes. Cook for approximately four minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Flip over and cook for three additional minutes.

The whole recipe has approximately 180 calories, 3 g fat, 9.5 g carbs, 4 g fiber and 25 g protein!

**For the muffins- use the exact same ingredients listed above, but also add 2 pumpkin puree and 1/2 T chia seeds. Place in a medium-sized microwave safe bowl and nuke for 3-4 minutes, until fully baked. (You can also bake it in the oven.)

**

I also experimented with a chocolate flavor last night, which was almost just as good. I think I’ll stick with the lemon blueberry (or strawberry!) combination for now. 🙂

How do you get your protein for breakfast?

Fitbloggin’ 2013

It’s been over for almost a week, and I’m finally getting around to writing a post about this year’s Fitbloggin’ conference! I’m also going to be very ambitious here and try to capture it all in just one post- so bear with me if it gets a little lengthy.

This year’s conference was definitely different from last year’s – in many ways. For starters, last year’s Fitbloggin’ was in Baltimore, which was a mere 45-minute drive away from where I lived in Maryland. This year it was held in Portland, so flying was a much better choice. I also had Greg with me- not really at the conference (though he did join me for the Saturday night reception) and we made a whole vacation out of it. I had already been in Oregon for a few days before the conference started and was in full-on vacation mode. Last year I didn’t know what to expect or have any idea how much of an impact these people would have on me, and how many of them would truly touch my heart.

Fitbloggin-Group1

(Photo from Fitbloggin.com)

Also, going into the conference last year I only knew TWO people that would be attending (Ashley and Lindsay- neither could make it this year 🙁 ). This year, I knew quite a few people- friends I had made from last year’s conference and others that I hadn’t met (in person) yet, but “knew” from blogging and Instagram. *Side note: I think it’s funny how many friends I have made from following each other on Instagram- seeing photos daily definitely makes you feel like you know someone!

The conference was at the Nines Hotel in Portland- which is pretty darn swanky. Just look at the bed in our hotel room!

bed

Not to mention the view from the rooftop bar on top of the hotel:

rooftop

The first night included a badge decorating party and welcome mixer, of which I attended for a little while before getting dinner downtown with Kelly (who was my partner-in-crime the whole weekend).

Both Friday and Saturday started with workouts and were followed by various sessions. I knew that ONE thing I had to do (because I missed out on it last year) was the Zumba class taught by the fabulous Sam and Mrs. Fatass.

zumba

Man, I love (and really admire) these ladies. The pair also recently opened their own GYM! If you’re in the Wilson, NC area- check out Trio Fitness!

One of the sessions that I went to Friday was led by Dani and Kelly, and was called “Dealing with your Before when you reach your After.”

dani

It was really powerful to hear everyone’s stories about weight loss and how hard it is to suddenly identify yourself as a “thin” person once the weight is gone. I could definitely relate!

Another session I attended hit even more close to home and was called “Getting Back from Gaining Back.” As someone who has lost a large amount of weight and gained some of it back, I can say that it sucks. Again, it was great to hear from others and know that I’m not alone and I haven’t failed because I’ve put on a few pounds. I had a lot to say- in both sessions- but I chose to keep my mouth shut. Why? I’m not really sure. Last year I talked openly about my struggles with weight loss, body image and self-acceptance, and I let the waterworks flow. This year I just didn’t feel open to sharing. I don’t know if that’s “good” or not, but I definitely benefitted just as much from hearing from everyone else.

During lunch that day, I took myself WAY OUTSIDE of my comfort zone and participated in the first annual Fitbloggin’ fashion show. Skinny Emmie had reached out to me and asked me to participate a while ago, and I hesitantly said yes. She said that the show would be full of people of all sizes modeling athletic wear. I modeled an outfit for Nux, which you can see here (kind of) in this photo with one of my favorite bloggers, Kristina (aka SpaBettie)!

pose

I was really, really uncomfortable in this outfit and walking on a stage in front of a big group of people was tough. The outfit (especially the pants, which are strategically cropped out) did not flatter me at all, did nothing for my figure and highlighted the areas that I’m most self-conscious of. I just felt (and looked) fat. I was happy to put my carefully selected clothing (to hide all of my not-so-flattering features) back on after the show, but I don’t know- for some reason the whole thing just really got to me and made me think a lot about getting back on track with this weight loss thing. I didn’t go out of my way to get pictures with many people during the entire weekend, because I wasn’t really feeling like “being seen” any more than I had to. (I know this all sounds like Debbie Downer, but don’t worry- there’s a happy ending! And I’ll talk about that more next week. 🙂 )

I took a break for a little while in the afternoon to walk around Portland for a bit and get dinner, and felt a bit better after that. I got back later than I had wanted to- but managed to catch the last few speakers for the Keynote Speech of the evening: Ignite Fitness. It’s a really cool concept. Each speaker gets 5 minutes and 20 slides to share their story- and it’s a whole lot of fun!

ignite

That’s Martinus, doing his thing. 🙂

The rest of the night was spent mingling with friends- including these two girls that I could pretty talk to forever.

ladies

(Dani and Brooke- both have gone through some huge transformations from losing weight!!)

**

Saturday’s workout was another event that I had really been looking forward to: JumpSport Trampoline class!! I took this class last year and totally fell in love with it (so much so that I got my OWN trampoline to use at home!).

Just like I remembered, it was super fun and a crazy workout!

blur

I also think the instructor, Jeff is the greatest thing since sliced bread (and I wish we had gotten a better picture together!)!

jeff

Holy crap I love him.

After the class, I made my way around the sponsor’s tables to check out the swag. One of which included some oatmeal from Special K.

specialK

Normally, I would stay away from anything pre-packaged like this, but the ingredients actually looked pretty good (and not scary or hard to pronounce!). If I like it after I try it, I’ll tell you guys. 🙂

I attended a three (or more? I can’t remember…) sessions on Saturday- one of which included a discussion on how to utlize SEO to drive traffic to your blog. This session was held by my dear friend Brandi (who I had met last year), along with her husband Shelton.

brandi

The two of them really know their stuff, and I took tons of notes! I also spent a bit of time giggling with Kristina and trying to figure out how to use things on my new computer (and feeling really stupid!).

kale

As you can see, I did figure out PhotoBooth. And yes, her shirt says KALE. (Awesome.)

There was a big reception that night that included a speech from Chef Jason Roberts and some great giveaways. And guess who won her very own mini iPad?

ipad

I wish I could say it was me, but it was the next best person: Kelly!

I had a lot of fun catching up and laughing with friends old and new. There was also dancing and karaoke that continued all night long, but we left in search of food after a while.

The conference ended Sunday with the annual Fitbloggin’ 5k run, but I chose to sleep in because I was tired (and because I don’t really like to run unless it’s on a trail). I did get a super kick-butt leg workout in for Livefit – the hotel gym was impressive and had almost everything I needed!

hotel gym

I said my goodbyes that morning, and definitely missed out a few hugs from people that weren’t around or left early. As it seems to always go with conferences, I’m really happy about the time that I did get to spend with different people, but really regret not being able to spend enough time with others.

Some special shout-outs:

Kelly- There are no words. You know how I feel. 🙂

Nicole- we’ve followed each other’s blogs forever, and FINALLY got to meet. You’re even MORE beautiful in person!!

Alicia- it was great to see you again, but I say we bring the dogs next time.

Brooke- We’ve been “Instagram friends” for a while now, and getting to hang out with you was one of the highlighs of my weekend. You are amazing!

Sammie and Sue- You ROCK. I love your energy. I need to make it to NC to take a class (or five!) with you. And hopefully Matt will be there too- because he cracks me up!!

Emmie, Alan, Dani and Steve: I met each of you (briefly) at last year’s conference, but have gotten to know you much better over the last year, thanks to the magic of Instagram. You inspire me and make me smile every day!!

Just like last year, Fitbloggin’ has left me with a whole lot to think about, and has brought nothing but positivity back into my life. And once again, it’s given me a good kick in the butt to focus on what’s important. I love my Fitbloggin’ family- and can’t wait to see you all next year (hopefully in Austin!!).

A HUGE thanks to Roni and all of the sponsors for making this event happen (but especially to Roni, who puts her heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into Fitbloggin’ each year!). I’m so grateful for you!

****P.S.- I’ve got two great giveaways going on right now- be sure to check them out!

$1,000 SpaFinder Gift Card

White-Water Rafting Trip For Two

Have a fantastic weekend!!

How do you find inspiration?

I Like To Hike

Happy Monday! I know that a few of you probably rolled your eyes at the title of this post and are thinking “Yes, Lauren, we get it. You like to hike.” I apologize in advance if it’s little redudant, but I’m still thoroughly enjoying my love affair with the mountains. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed a nice, long holiday weekend (especially if you were lucky enough to have last Thursday and Friday off!). I’ve been running all over the place for the last four days and have spent a grand total of about five minutes at home, so I”m going to make this short and sweet today.

With this being the first July 4th that Greg and I have spent in Colorado, we really didn’t have an idea of what we wanted to do and see. We did know that the day would include some type of hiking and seeing fireworks at night. We braved the crowds and headed over to Chautauqua Park to hike between Flat Irons 1 & 2. It was HOT out (as you may be able to see by my lovely patch of sweat).

flatiron

There were a ton of other people hiking that morning, and two of my favorites joined us!

group

(Paige and Shane)

There’s such a beautiful view at the summit of this hike- if you look close, you can see some snow-capped peaks!

peaks

We grabbed lunch at Fate Brewery (which is quickly becoming one of my favorite post-hike spots in Boulder) after the hike. By the time we were done eating, we were all exhausted. Greg and I rounded out the night by seeing fireworks, which were luckily just a 1/2 mile walk from our house.

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On Friday, my friend Terri came to town! She has been driving across the country for the last few weeks, stopping for a few days in several different cities along the way. I was so happy that her trip included a stay in Denver- I love seeing my friends from Maryland out here in Colorado! Terri is a lover of anything athletic and outdoors, so I knew that she would be up for some hiking.

hiking girls

I had planned on taking her to El Dorado Canyon, but decided to go to Mt. Sanitas instead. Either hike would’ve been fine, but the views from Mt. Sanitas may be just a bit more breathtaking.

My hiking bestie also joined us (and those two tall chicks made me feel very short!)

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Paige also talked me into sitting on this rock for a picture.

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I can be a little bit of a wuss when it comes to getting close to the edge of things…

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Saturday’s main activity also kept with the theme of the title of this post. I got to have another great hike with Terri! I think that everyone that visits this area should visit Chautauqua Park, because the Flat Irons are such an iconic part of Boulder. Plus, there’s so many great trails there for all different skill levels and each one is so gorgeous! Since I knew she’d be up for it, I chose one of the more butt-kicking trails: Royal Arch.

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The hike to the Royal Arch has over 1,000′ elevation gain in a short amount of time- and lots of very steep sections. It’s a fantastic glute workout for sure! The views from the top are also very rewarding and include a clear view of the Denver skyline.

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After three days of hikes that worked my quads and glutes overtime, I decided to take it a little easy on Sunday. My LiveFit workout called for Leg Day, but I made the executive decision to stay in bed for an extra hour instead. It was definitely a good choice! Greg and I enjoyed a lazy morning and then drove out west to do an easy hike in Silverthorne at the Lilypad trail. We hadn’t ever been there before, and it’s always great to find new trails (no matter how easy or strenuous they may be!).

The hike was short, but so pretty!

mountains

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The trail led us to two different lakes, one with lilypads (hence the name of the trail) and another right behind it.

lilypads

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Dillon is about an hour and a half from our house, which may seem like a long way to drive for a 50-minute hike. We had a very good reason to drive out that far- to meet up with Heidi and Natalie (and their husbands) for a late lunch!

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Luckily, I can hang out with Heidi often because she lives right outside of Denver (she was in the area to camp out and hike a 14er the next day). This was the very first time that I met Natalie, who is leaving for a 10-day 100+ mile backpacking trip along the Colorado Trail with her husband tomorrow! We’d been reading each other’s blogs for a while now, and I love her passion for Colorado (and she needs to move here!).

After a great lunch, Greg and I battled the holiday traffic and eventually made it back home. It was such a great, fun (and exhausting!) long weekend and once again, I realize how lucky I am to live here.

What are some fun things that you did over the weekend?

Breaking Into Reality [+ the Weight-Loss

*The full title should say Breaking Into Reality [+ the Weight Loss “Project”]. The end of the title is gone for some reason…

For the last two and a half months, I’ve felt like I was living on vacation. It’s very surreal to live in a place that had only vacationed to before and had dreamt about living in for years. I’m sure everyone has an idea of where their dream home would be if everything lined up perfectly. Ever since 2009, that “dream” location has been Colorado (and Greg has wanted to live here for even longer than that). If you had told me a year ago that I’d be living in Colorado today, I wouldn’t have believed you. It always just seemed like something that was so far-fetched, and there were too many obstacles in the way. Our jobs, family and homes were in Maryland- that was a lot to keep us in one place. But then, things started happening. I quit my job as a teacher and got my personal training certification. Greg’s company opened an office in Denver. We met with a realtor and figured out that we actually could sell our home (which we had just bought two years earlier) and even make enough money to cover moving expenses. As for family and friends, that was tough (and still is tough!). As much as I’d love to live within driving distance to the people I care about the most, I just had to follow this dream and not always wonder what life would be like somewhere else.

I’m thankful every day that things worked out, and that I live in a place where I am truly happy and feel like I belong.

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I can’t describe how great it is to live here and to have so many things that I love nearby. Within 20 minutes, I can leave my front door and go on a hike that takes me above 6,000′ elevation.

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I can drive an hour west and hike to above 14,000′ elevation and surrounded by 360˚ views of some of the most beautiful mountains in the country.

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There’s also the breweries, the food, the people… it’s just so happy and peaceful here.

Unfortunately though, vacation doesn’t last forever. Soon enough it’s time to get on a schedule, get some discipline and bring home a paycheck (which I am finally doing- more on that later). For me, the toughest part about living like I’m on vacation has been the way I’ve been eating and drinking. Before I moved to Colorado, I had a pretty solid schedule of training clients, teaching group exercise classes and working on various partnership opportunities through my blog. After getting my metabolic rate tested, I had a good idea of how much I should be eating and how to lose those stubborn 20 (or so) lbs. that have crept on over the last few years. Once I had that information, I changed some of my eating habits that were sabotaging my weight-loss efforts and I was on a roll!

…And then we moved 1650 miles across the country. During that 4-day adventure, we ate out for every meal and had very little activity due to driving all day long. When we got to Colorado, Greg and I went out to eat often and took every opportunity to hit up the local breweries (and there are a lot of them). Even though I was hiking several times a week and going to the gym almost every day, I started to gain weight. I haven’t actually gotten on a scale in several months- but I can definitely feel the difference in my clothes and my body in general. I made a few half-assed attempts to “get back on track,” but nothing lasted for more than a day. And it wasn’t that I was really eating “bad,” I was just eating too much.

The big issue that’s been standing in the way of me truly re-committing to weight loss and getting back into a body that I’m comfortable in (aka my “happy body”) is that I just haven’t felt inspired enough to do it. In that past something has always come along that makes me gung-ho and super excited to get back on the weight-loss bandwagon, and I just hadn’t found it since moving to Colorado.

And then finally, about a week and a half ago, I finally had that “a-ha” moment. It was at Fitbloggin’! Remember how I wrote in that post that I had felt horrible about my body that week (and just didn’t feel like me) but there was a happy ending? Well, this is it. I finally had a breakthrough and a big ol’ metaphoric slap in the face. I finally felt inspired to get back on track and claim my happy body again.

I don’t know what it was about that week in Oregon, but I just didn’t feel like me. I had a lot of fun and spent some wonderful quality time with Greg prior to the conference and saw a lot of great friends that weekend, but something was just off. For the first time in a while I felt like I wasn’t really in my body. I felt heavy, out-of-shape and just yucky in general. None of my clothes seemed to fit comfortably and I didn’t want anyone to look at me. I cringed while looking at any of the photos of me that were taken.

Before you say anything, I know I’m not unhealthy or morbidly obese, but trust me- I could definitely afford to lose a few pounds and get to a healthier weight. I can’t help but feeling like I’ve failed because of the amount of times I have “started over” with my attempts at losing weight. Can any of you relate? I learned some very useful information about Fibtloggin’ through a few of the sessions I attended. I wish I could remember exactly who it was that said all of these words of wisdom, because I’d love to thank them.

Someone used the term “weight loss project” rather than the term “weight loss journey” like most of us have been using. I like that. Think about the definition of a project: it’s something that you work at to achieve a goal. Weight loss can certainly fit into that category! There was also discussion on the feeling of failure for those of us who have lost weight, re-gained it, lost it, re-gained it… etc. Let’s put this in perspective think about anything in your life that you’ve accomplished. Has it been easy? Has it always been perfect? Have you had obstacles along the way? No matter what, you’ve picked yourself back up and tried again in order to succeed. That’s how I’d like to view my own personal “weight loss project.” No matter how many times I feel like I have “failed,” I keep on trying because I ultimately have a goal that I will achieve.

The morning after I returned from Portland I got myself back on track. For me, that means a few different things:

Tracking calories on My Fitness Pal This isn’t something that I plan to do forever, but it’s a tool that truly keeps me honest and helps me to really see how much I’m eating. I’ll be tracking calories until I get back into the habit of eating the right amount of food each day.

No Grazing I’m a grazer, a grabber, a snacker- whatever you want to call it. I have a bad habit of mindlessly eating a handful of this or that without really being aware of how many extra calories I end up taking in. Tracking my eats on My Fitness Pal definitely helps keep this at bay!

Being Kind to Myself It’s extremely important that I keep the negative self-talk at bay. I know that I’m not going to get anywhere if I continuously point out what I don’t like about my body, so I’m trying to hard to spend focus that energy on what I do love about me. Speaking of which – if you haven’t read Cassie’s awesome post about embracing your body – go over there right now!! It’s incredible!!

Cutting Back on the Booze Despite how it may appear, I’m actually not a big drinker. I genuinely LOVE the taste of (good) beer, but having any more than one or two will leave me with a two-day hangover- and that’s just not worth it to me. But, having even a half of a beer every night (or every other night) certainly isn’t helping me lose any weight. I’m not ruling beer out, but am just planning to cut back and try to only indulge on the weekend and “special events.”

As you can see, exercise isn’t on that list. I’m sure you’re well aware that I (luckily) have no problem fitting exercise into my life. I actually really like the muscular gains that I’ve seen from doing LiveFit Trainer for the last few months and plan to keep up my strength-training routine. I would like to fit some more cardio back in, because it’s mostly come in the form of hiking lately. (It will naturally fall into place if I can finally find a job teaching Spinning again!)

I’ve been doing a great job of eating mindfully and sticking to the rules listed above for over a week now and am determined to keep going this time. This certainly isn’t the first time that I’ve “started over” and it probably won’t be the last: it’s all just part of this big project to get to my happy body. In the words of Gretchen, onward and downward!

Do you find yourself “starting over” (with weight loss or anything else) again and again? What motivates you to get back on track?

WIAW 48: Keep It Up, Lauren!

Cute title for today’s post, huh? Truth be told, I copied it from an amazing guy named David that I met (all too briefly!) at Fitbloggin’ this year. Check out his blog- his transformation is pretty incredible. I don’t know about you, but I love a good weight loss story. 🙂

First of all, thanks for your very nice and supportive comments on yesterday’s post. That’s one thing I love about having a blog: when I’m struggling with something in my life, I can share it on here and know that I’m not alone! You all rock.

Speaking of yesterday’s post, I mentioned that I’ve been eating by “the rules” that I set for myself after returning from Portland and I’ve been kicking butt for a solid nine days now! I’ll be honest- tracking food and calories is a big huge pain in the neck and takes too much time. But, it’s a necessary evil that will enable me to establish healthy eating patterns again and eventually I won’t need to track anymore. For now, it’s a big help to make me aware of just how much I eat in a day.

Here’s what I ate on Monday, which was a pretty good day!

Before heading to the gym for a butt-kicking LiveFit back and cardio workout (that ended up taking a freakin’ hour and a half), I grabbed one of Lindsay’s Healthy Bites (along with two huge bottles of water).

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I have restrain myself from just eating the whole bag of these because they are SO darn good. I save them strictly for pre-workout fuel.

*and this reminds me, I desperately need to post about Phase III of LiveFit. It is kicking my BUTT!

After finally finishing up my workout I came home and made a stack of FlapJacked High Protein Pancakes (Buttermilk flavor) layered with cottage cheese (mixed with chopped up cherries and banana).

pancakes

I really like all three flavors of FlapJacked mixes, but the buttermilk is my favorite. I really like being able to add in my own flavors and this particular batch is my current favorite combo: cherry cinnamon.

I’ve been eating the same salad for lunch for over a week now because it’s so darn delicious and easy to make!

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Romaine lettuce, chicken breast, turkey bacon, avocado, tomato and red onion.

I also had some of this funny-named yogurt that’s always on sale at King Soopers for something like fifty cents.

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That’s black forest cake, if you can’t tell. Soooo yummy.

Later on in the afternoon, I whipped up an incredibly delicious and filling smoothie to tide me over until dinner time:

smoothie

It included: 1/2 frozen banana, 1/4 c frozen spinach, a big handful of ice, Silk coconut milk, water, 1/2 scoop Designer Whey Sustained Energy (vanilla), 2 T PB2 and xanthan gum. And, as you can see, I threw a handful of peanuts on top.

Dinner that night included a fish that I never usually eat or buy- mahi mahi. I’m not a huge fan of “steaky” fish (except tuna- and I like it rare), but I know that Greg is. I think mahi-mahi is usually on the list of fish that you should stay away from because it’s “over-fished, right? Anyway, I saw it on sale and wanted to see how it would do on the grill (and it was actually really good!).

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I topped it off with a salsa made of red onion, red bell pepper, white peach, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, salt and pepper. On the side was a white sweet potato (thanks for the recommendation, Paige!) and some local squash that was purchased at the Boulder Farmers Market.

I had my usual dessert, which SUCH a great way in satisfy my sweet tooth with very few calories:

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Man I love me some GoodPops.

This was eaten while watching the Bachelorette, which is my usual Monday night ritual. (Anyone else watching this season still??)

Every other week that ritual includes changing out my Jamberry shields. Here’s this week’s design:

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Mint Chevron! If you want to learn more about Jamberry, go here!

Total calories for the day (not including the spoonful of peanut butter I had before bedtime):

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Based on my metabolic testing, I was advised to stay between 1600-1700 per day to lose a pound or two a week. (And on days when I have a super long hike on top of my workout, I’ll eat a little bit more.)

Now, if I can just keep it up I’ll be back to that “happy body” in no time! I’ve got this. 😉