Thursday, October 31, 2013

October Foodie Pen Pals Reveal!

Happy Halloween!

It's the last day of the month, which also means that today is Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day!  (Check out last month's post for the full details on the Foodie Pen Pal program, or just click on my badge to the right.)

Super short and sweet today - I'm teaching PiYo Strength this morning, and then I've got 2 very excited kiddos to get ready for a full afternoon and evening of Halloween fun.  But, I wanted to show my pen pal some love.  Also...... the brevity of this post may or may not have anything to do with the fact that most of my box is already gone......

This month I was paired with Chris from A Kitchen Hoor.  This girl has an amazing recipe collection.  Chris sent me a box FULL of goodies, including a candy corn granola mix, which may have mostly disappeared one evening after I got home from teaching a few classes.... because of course I had to sample it right then at ten o'clock at night!  Also in the box - chocolate, tea (love chai anything!), a couple of homemade spice mixes, two little jars of jelly and caramel... I might be missing one or two things.

Thanks for everything, Chris!

Make sure you head over to A Kitchen Hoor - you're bound to find something that suits your taste!  You can also find Chris on twitter @flowerfroggirl.

I hope you enjoy your Halloween!  What are your plans?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Official Launch of the SweatGuru!

Over the summer, I applied to be part of an amazing network of inspiring women seeking the fit life, the #sweatpink community.  I was thrilled to become part of a group that believes "real women sweat, and sweat hard."  We are a group of women from all over the country who connect in our corner of the blogosphere, rocking our pink shoelaces, and building each other up through blog connections and real-life meetups.  We all have different goals, we're in different legs of our fitness journeys, but our common denominator is that we are seeking that fit life.

The founders of this awesome community, Jamie and Alyse, wanted also "to create a place where people could discover, book, and pay for fitness classes online and where fitness professionals could grow and manage their business."  And so, SweatGuru was born.  Both women had been fitness consumers, and were becoming fitness professionals.  Having seen both sides of the spectrum, they wanted to make it a little easier on both to manage classes, memberships, payments, etc.  As a fitness professional myself, I can definitely appreciate this!

SweatGuru is launching first in San Francisco (where the company's headquartered), as well as New York and Los Angeles, before launching into other markets.  I'll definitely be looking into using the company!

As a #sweatpink ambassador, I've seen the beta site.  I have to tell you, it looks pretty cool!  (And side note, any bloggers you see talking about this today, including myself, haven't received compensation to say these things.  It's just that cool!)  Take a look at some of the screen shots:

The awesome ladies at FitApproach and SweatGuru have also earned some cred - they took first place at the UC Berkeley Bplan competition, were voted San Francisco's hottest startup, and were the winners of the VatorSplash SF People's Choice Award.

So whether you're a fitness pro, consumer, or both, head over to the SweatGuru and check it all out.

Congratulations on this big day, ladies!  I love being part of the community that you created.
that real women sweat, and sweat hard.
that real women sweat, and sweat hard.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Let's Talk About Pushups!

Just me and my pushups/planks buddy

Last week on Thursday at the start of my express sculpt class, I informed my participants that we were starting our strength work with pushups for the night.  After a few groans and probably an eye roll or two, a lady near me asked me if I "got my arms" from pushups.

Yep.  Sure did.  "And you can, too" I told her.

Prior to getting pregnant with my son, I had started to get into strength training, but never really followed a program or had any goals.  After having James, I started Insanity, which does all strength training with body weight.  I couldn't even do a pushup on my knees!  Fast forward about a year later (yes, a year, it took that long...or short, however you consider that amount of time), and I could rock those pushups not from my knees (the alleged "girl pushup"), but from my toes!

And you know?  I own that.  I am strong, much stronger than I have ever been, and I embrace it.

Pushups are pretty awesome because they work just about everything if you're using proper form - biceps, triceps, shoulders, upper back, chest, core muscles.... that's a long list for one exercise move!

If you were in my class, here's how I would cue you - whether you're doing pushups on your knees or your toes... hands out wider than your shoulders, belly button pulled in, butt DOWN (biggest mistake, don't let that booty rise!!), hips up, straight line from the top of your head down to your rear (or your toes, if that's your position)... now, when you are lowing, you lead with your chest, NOT your head, and you're aiming to lower that chest to your elbow line.  As you lower, imagine pulling your shoulder blades together.  Then, as you push up, imagine squeezing your chest closed.... sound too hard?  Lower as deep as you can with PERFECT form.  That's your base.  Trust me, after a while, you WILL get stronger.  You will.  I did, and so can you.

That's my $.02 for the day.  Do your pushups!

So tell me, what's your favorite workout move? - the one that you KNOW you rock and you look forward to doing?  The one you love and your friends think you're sick for it?  I can't wait to hear!

Hope you're having a great week!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Review - Green Mountain Coffee

Oh, coffee.... one of my other true loves in life.

You know the saying "beer is proof that God loves us"?  No, people.  You have it wrong.  COFFEE is the proof.  And I'm not just saying that because I detest beer.

Coffee is there for you on that early morning wake-up.  It's there for you when you need that afternoon pick-me-up.  It's there for you when you meet your girlfriends every Thursday night to hang out.  Sure, you could say the same of beer, I suppose.... though you might get the side-eye if you apply it to that early morning... just sayin'....

A couple of years ago, we took a family trip to Burlington, Vermont and stopped by the Green Mountain Coffee Visitor Center.  It's so cute and operates in conjunction with a train station!  (Of course our son was loving that even at that young age - he loves all things trains!)  I remember what I had that day - a chai tea latte with maple syrup.... it was heavenly!  Already being a fan of Green Mountain, I was super excited when BzzAgent sent me three 2-count K-cup packages of Green Mountain Coffee's Three Continent Blend.

Before getting to the taste, let's just start with the fact that this is Fair Trade Certified coffee.  Up until a couple of years ago, I had no idea what "fair trade" meant.  I'm not necessarily one to hop onto any random bandwagon platforms, but this is actually really good!  (You probably already know this, unless you lived under a rock like I apparently did.)  But, just in case you don't know,  fair trade means that " receive a fair price for their beans, resulting in great coffee for you and a better quality of life for famers."-from the Fair Trade people themselves.  So by choosing Fair Trade coffee, you're already doing a good thing.

Now, onto the taste.  I'll be honest, I'm no coffee connoisseur, but I definitely know when I like something and when I dislike something.  Nothing worse than weak coffee.  The Three Continent Blend is a "medium roast coffee, extra bold."  Usually I prefer a dark roast, but I really enjoyed this roast!  It was smooth, strong enough, and all around just good coffee.  And you know I had to have a cup before running in this.

If you've never tried Green Mountain Coffee, I would encourage you to do so.  You're supporting a good cause in the Fair Trade movement, plus Green Mountain just tastes good.

So, I ask you, are you a Green Mountain fan?  Do you seek specifically seek out Fair Trade Certified Coffee?

**Full disclosure - BzzAgent provided me with the coffee samples only.  I received no other compensation and all thoughts/opinions are my own.**

Friday, October 25, 2013

Five For Friday!

Hello, Friday.  I'd by lying if I said I wasn't ecstatic for you to be here.

Let's recap the week.

1. On Tuesday, I went to spin class.  You may have read about that briefly here.  It.  Was.  Awesome.  I thought I might be sore the next day from such a tough workout, but I just had that heavy "I-worked-really-hard" feeling.  Awesome.  Just awesome.

2. Tuesday just got better and better.  That night, as I finished teaching my express classes at a local Y (think high intensity interval training - hiit - my fave way to workout), one of my regular attendees stopped to tell me how much she loved the class.... made my whole day!  When you become an instructor, you also become extremely aware when people like and dislike you.  I've definitely been liked.  But I've definitely been VERY disliked.... and when people dislike you as an instructor, it's so hard (if you're me, anyway) not to take it personally.  So for her to take the time to tell me that she loves my classes..... priceless.  It completely made up for the classes I subbed on Saturday where those ladies were not pleased with me.

3. On Wednesday, we had our first really "good" day with the kids.  Makenzie likes to check in and see if I'll tell Chris that she and James were "thumbs-up good."  That day, they were thumbs-up good.  Now of course, the same children decided that I shouldn't bask in that for too long, and made sure to put me back in my place yesterday..... but I'll take that good day.  I at least know they are possible now.

4. Last night was our regular ladies' night coffee, so as soon as my last class of the evening was done, I headed across the street to Starbucks for my weekly therapy session girls' time.  Sometimes you just need to connect on a scheduled basis, like any relationship, and as women, I think we need that extra.

5. Yesterday, before I left the madness our house to teach my 3 Thursday evening classes, my Foodie PenPals box came!  I'm really excited about it, but as the rules go, I won't be sharing until the last day of the month, but it was great fun opening that box last night!

I'm linking up with Courtney from Eat, Pray, Run DC, Mar from Mar On the Run, and Cynthia from You Signed Up For What?! for Five For Friday.  Go check out these lovely ladies, and tell me what's on your list for Friday!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Butternut Squash Soup and Giving Spin a Second Chance

After the craziness that has been life for the past week, we are slowly finding our new normal.  Tough?  You bet.  Worth it in the end?  Well, that's what I hold on to.

I don't know about your parts of the world, but it is getting quite chilly here in the midwest!  We broke down and turned the heat on  last night.  My youngest refuses to wear socks, and our (new) oldest likes to wear her cute little-girl nightgowns, which aren't very warm.  Pretty soon, we'll be putting the flannel sheets on the beds - burrrr!

I am your typical lover of all things fall - pumpkin spice everything, chili, apple cider, you get the idea.  I found this recipe some time ago and knew I had to try it once the temps started tanking.  I love soup, and I love butternut squash, so perfect!  And it couldn't have been any easier to throw together.... well, outside of peeling the squash.  I hate that part.  But I will totally go through peeling another squash for this tasty soup!  Here's the recipe:

Butternut Squash Soup

2 teaspoons unsalted butter
garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped (the original recipe called for 2... not enough for me, if you love garlic, throw in a few more!)
1 small yellow onion
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and diced
5 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cumin
3/4 cup milk 
1/4 cup maple syrup (optional, if you like a little extra sweetness)
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium to large stockpot, melt the butter and add the garlic and onion, and saute for about 5 minutes over medium heat.  Add the squash and stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, and add cinnamon, nutmeg, and cumin.  Cover and let simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender (one of my all-time favorite kitchen gadgets!).  Add the milk, blend again, then taste.  I like a little sweetness to my squash, so I added the maple syrup, along with some salt and pepper for a sweet-and-savory take.

I love this soup!  It made almost exactly 10 cups, and the best part?  This is a very low-calorie, low-fat soup!  We're talking 130-ish calories for each cup.  It's perfect when I need a nice warm pick-me-up, or paired with your favorite crusty bread for dinner.  Even my 2-year-old likes this and wants a few bites.

So, this brings me to our second topic, mixing things up in the gym.  I used to be so guilty of being a one-sport athlete.  Running was my one-and-only true love for working up a sweat.  Fast forward through injury and exercise ruts, and now I love to mix up cardio, strength training, combine them.... My favorites?  TurboKick, Insanity, PiYo Strength, BodyPump, and this just in..... maybe spin!

Have you every tried a spin class?  I have done it before, but yesterday was the first day I loved it.  If any of my spin-loving friends are reading this, they know that the reason I'm not as in love with spin is because I dislike being stationary when I'm working out.  I need to move, to jump, to run, do burpees.... until yesterday.  Yesterday's spin class was like doing Insanity on a bike.  We did 18 sprint intervals for almost 30 seconds each.  For those last 3 intervals, I thought I might throw up.

In case you're wondering, that's a good thing.  I love being pushed to my limits.

I had a conversation with my spin-loving friends after Friday's BodyPump class about the benefits of releasing aggression into the bike.  I really hadn't thought of that for a bike.  Usually I would liken that to punching or kicking, but yesterday, I warned that bike, and we had the best ride.  We poured buckets of sweat, screamed, wanted to puke, and it was awesome.

That's my two cents on giving something a chance in the gym that you may previously have written off.  I can't wait for next week!

What's a workout that you have tried that you previously didn't enjoy or didn't want to try that now you're into?

Recipe slightly adapted from On Fire Fitness

Friday, October 18, 2013

Five for Friday!

It's Friday!  And I missed my usual Thankful Thursday post.  So, in the spirit of always wanting to remember to count my blessings, I decided to do my first Five for Friday post.  So here goes, short and sweet, because that's about all I have time for, at least for now:

1. We are now a family of 4.  Unless we're Facebook friends, or we know each other in real life, that will come as a shock to you.  I will explain in more detail later, but related to my most recent Thankful Thursday, we have added my 6-year-old niece Makenzie to our family.  There's no point in spending time telling you how difficult life can be right now - I'd rather be thankful!  Yes, it is hard, but I have not 1, but 2 children to love on and take care of now - 2 little sweethearts who need so much love and we're ready to give it.

2. I got chosen to be an IDEA Inspired Blogger!  I'm super excited!  Again, more details later.

3. I ran the Run For Your Lives Zombie Run 5K this past Saturday, and it was one of the greatest thrills!  I almost made it out a survivor.  They got me right at the end.  Great fun, and worth every penny!  Plus, I only got electrocuted once.  I might do a recap soon.

4. It isn't happening until tonight, but one of my dearest besties Kaitlin is coming over and bringing us dinner as if we just had a new baby.  I'm so excited!  It is always such a treat to have a meal made for me.... which isn't a dig at my husband - I love to make our meals!  But, it IS nice to have someone treat you occasionally.  I so heart you Kaitlin.

5. This past week, when we were in Texas picking up the newest member of our family, I got to see an old friend from our time in Canada - she's since had a second baby, and I hadn't seen her since April 2012.  Amber, you're such a strong, beautiful mommy, and even though we had about 3 minutes together, I loved getting to see you.

So there are the highlights!  I have so many posts in the works, I'm just playing catch-up from the craziness (but awesomeness) that has been our life lately.  I DID get to attend BodyPump today and have my you-know-what handed to me and it. felt. amazing.  I have learned that if I channel a lot of .... let's just say pent-up emotion.... I can do tricep pushups on my toes.  Beast mode, baby!

I'm linking up for the first time with Courtney over at Eat, Pray, Run DC.  Make sure and go check out her blog - she makes me miss DC so much, plus she's just a cool girl.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thankful Thursday.... Just Thankful...You Know Who You Are

You know, I had not intended to be away from the blogosphere for an entire week.  I was all set to go back to regular blogging, but then some Life happened.  In a big way.

However, this post is not about throwing a poor-Elizabeth party.  It's about celebrating the fact that although this past week has been nothing short of an emotional roller-coaster with more lows than highs, it has also been a reminder to remember how blessed we are.  For starters, Chris got to go back to work this week and we get to look forward to full back-pay for the time he was off.  Our pay will be a little off-balance for a month or so, but we will be paid, so that was fantastic news.

Not to be super-secretive, but we have only discussed this big Life Happening with a few people, and I'm going to wait until next week to share the full spectrum (to clear most initial thoughts, I am not pregnant, we are not getting divorced, we are not moving, no one's having surgery, and no one's dying).  Sharing tends to go one of two ways.  This post is about the first way it goes, and involves being thankful for some very specific people.

To the woman who is my St. Louis mother, mentor, and confidant, I am so thankful for you.  When I need spiritual wisdom, inspiration, or a reality check to take it easy on myself, you are there for me.  You aren't afraid to tell me something I might not want to hear.  You speak the Truth.  You have a heart and soul that I can only hope to emulate.  You know who you are.

To my dear friend who only needed me to say a few words to know what I was calling to tell her, I am so thankful for you.  How we ended up in each others' lives would seem like quite a coincidence to some, but we know better.  God sure works in interesting ways.  I might even eventually love this city because of your love for it.  You know who you are.

To the friend who sat by my side last night, hugged me, held my hand, and assured me that you will be there for us as we work through everything, I am so thankful for you.  You have become one of my best friends and I don't know what I would do without you.  You know who you are... and if you're unsure for some crazy reason, the hint is "oreos".

And finally, to the friend who just got all of my crazy details today, looked at me with love, and assured me that we can do this, I am so thankful for you.  You are one of the most real people I know, so selfless and loving, and I am beyond blessed to call you my friend.  You know who you are.

And just to give them an extra shout out without actually writing names, these fantastic ladies (with the exception of my "St. Louis mom") just might have participated in a certain muddy event with me this summer.... Just saying.

I love you, ladies.  I truly, truly, truly don't know how I would get through this time without you, and I tear up every time I say that, because that's a huge area of vulnerability for me!  As I told one of you last night, I don't like needing people.  This goes back to a lot of things in my past life, but I just don't.  I don't want to need anyone - because if I need you, then I'm only setting myself up for hurt when/if you're not there!  But what kind of way is that to live?  I don't even like needing Chris, but I can tell you that I have really needed him this week, along with the rest of my closest friends.  And it has been kind of nice to just break down that wall and allow myself to accept the givings of others as I have needed them.

Chris is one person who deserves to be mentioned by name.  His heart is so big.  In only a week's time, I have watched that heart grow as he acknowledged many emotions, stood up to opposition, and just held it together in general while I was falling apart.  Through this crazy week, we have probably grown in ways that it takes most people months or years to get to.  And for that, I am thankful.

Finally, it's not always easy to think of it this way, but I am thankful to be chosen for this.  I have to believe that things do not "just happen."  We are all chosen for every detail of this life.  So surely, if we were chosen for this, surely the reward is great.  Surely, as I have said before during tough times, He who promised is faithful.

To put two verses together, when my heart is overwhelmed, I will hold unswervingly.

What are you thankful for today?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thankful Thursday - Furlough Addition

Hello friends!
It is indeed Thursday, and even with the government shutdown, we all know that life keeps going.  For once, I am the busier one in the house, and so I asked Chris to contribute to today's post.  No matter, there is always something we can stop to count as a blessing.  So, I give you to Chris....

....As many of you already know the government has been closed for the past 2 ¾ days and I have been forced to take an unexpected, unpaid vacation. Instead of doing all of the usual government bashing that many others have been doing, I have been asked to contribute to Elizabeth’s blog on this Thankful Thursday to discuss some good things that have occurred during my brief hiatus from the working world.

This is the first time I have ever been told not to go to work, and while I know things will eventually get settled, it has been a strange change that I never expected, and am thankful for Elizabeth and the support she has provided during this unusual time, and thankful that God has blessed our family and put us in a position that we will be alright during this time of upheaval, though hopefully it will end shortly and everyone can go back to work and back to their normal lives.

During the past few days I have been very thankful for family time. Over the past three days, I have been able to spend more time with Elizabeth and James and that is something that I have missed with our busy schedules. I feel like I have been able to spend more quality time with James over the past few days than I have in quite a while. As those of you who know us well, James is a mom-first kind of guy, so time involving just the two of us is always something I look forward to, to help us bond.

I am thankful that we have been able to get a lot of work done with the house. So far we have been able to clean up a lot of clutter and place a lot of odds and ends into storage. A lot of these things were things we always said we would do over the weekend; however, when you are trying to squeeze family time, errands, and other things into Saturdays and Sundays, something usually gets left out, and these past few days have definitely seen our house get a lot more organized, which allows for more family time over the weekend.

I hope everyone has been having a good week, and remember, even when things are not going the way we expect them to go, there are still some good things that can come of it if we look close enough.
What are you thankful for this week?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Oral I.V. Review

Have you ever heard of Oral I.V.?

I had not heard of this product, but given that the nature of my job as a fitness instructor is fairly dependent on adequate hydration, I jumped at the opportunity to try it out.  You're probably wondering, what is Oral I.V.?  From their website:

"ORAL I.V. is a revolutionary hydration aid product based on a proprietary formula of crystalloid electrolytes and purified water. ORAL I.V. does not contain any sugars, caffeine or stimulants, additives, preservatives or artificial ingredients. It can be consumed directly or added to water. Individuals can use ORAL I.V. as an addition to their existing hydration methods and to support dehydration prevention.  ORAL I.V. is produced to the highest standards of quality under rigorous manufacturing controls. ORAL I.V. is manufactured in a facility that follows current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) requirements according to ISO 9001 standards."

Oral I.V. is meant to aid in hydration and recovery, especially during and after very intense exercise.  The timing of receiving my samples was perfect - I was about to begin my craziest week of teaching yet, 14 classes to be exact.  To me, that's a lot for anyone, but was a lot especially for me, still a newbie.  On days that involved more than one class, I would add a vial to my water bottle, either before class or after.

The pros?  Oral I.V. is tasteless, odorless, colorless.... I tried a few drops on their own, and they just tasted like water.  Adding a vial to my water couldn't have been easier.  I loved that their was no weird smell or taste.  Another major pro?  No dehydration headaches during that insane week.  And I love that there's no sugar, caffeine, or preservatives in each tube.

The cons?  One small one, and one big one.  The small one is that  I don't know beyond a shadow of a doubt if Oral I.V. is what kept me going that week.  My thirst was unquenchable and I was downing water like it might dry up!  I also tried to get as much extra rest as possible, even napping when my 2-year-old napped, something I rarely take the time to do.

The big con?  Aside from the price ($11.99 for a 4-pack), I feel like the information on the website is not crystal clear about what Oral I.V. actually does.  I said that the tube was like drinking water.... that makes me question if there is much more than water in there.

The bottom line?  I feel that I would need to use Oral I.V. over a very extended time period to know for sure if it is necessary in my recovery routine.  However, I can tell you that it certainly didn't hurt anything!

What are your go-to hydration and/or recovery methods?  If you have used Oral I.V., what are your thoughts?

*Full disclosure - I received two 4-packs of Oral I.V. to review.  I received no other compensation, and all reviews and opinions are my own.*