Friday Favorites

Happy Friday! Let’s mix it up and do some fun Friday Favorites, shall we? Here are some of my recent favorites:

Watching…Top Chef

I’m definitely getting more inspiration in the kitchen by watching this show. Only one more episode left! I like them all so I’ll be pretty happy with whoever wins. Plus, the fact that it takes place in Boston this season is icing on the cake!

Top Chef Boston

Source

Listening…to sports radio, trying to figure out what the heck is going on with #deflategate. I can’t believe my beloved Patriots, especially Tom, would cheat. I wonder if you tested all balls at every single NFL game if they end up getting deflated by the second half.

98.5 The Sports Hub

Source

Eating…this delicious roasted carrot soup. The recipe is from the January/February 2015 issue of Women’s Health Magazine in which they talk about soups as the juices for cold weather. Couldn’t agree more! We haven’t broken out our juicer since late fall and all I’ve been craving is some nice, warm soup! Don’t have time to make your own? Check out a family friend, The Splendid Spoon, where you can buy delicious soup online.

Roasted carrot soup

Drinking…Emergen-C and Echinacea tea. :-( Was a bit sick midweek, so I’ve been having it 1-2x a day since my symptoms came on. I swear they made me better within a day!

Echinacea tea Emergen-C

Wearing…my bunny slippers under my desk at work. My feet get so, so cold all the time, especially in the winter. I recently learned that it’s something WH bro and I share, so there’s got to be some genetic component to it.

Bunny slippers

Reducing…my chemical exposure. We asked for stainless steel cookware for Christmas to replace our nicked-up non-stick cookware that creeped me out every time I used it. There’s a bit of a learning curve (e.g., don’t soak in water, don’t use abrasive cleaners, don’t add butter/oil until after the pan has heated up-which is the opposite of non-stick, etc.), but I am happy with how evenly it cooks our food. Plus, it should last us a lifetime! Talk about a win for reducing consumer consumption and being healthier!

Stainless steel cookware

Re-purposing a salad from Portland Pie

Questions: What are some of your favorites lately? Do you watch Top Chef? Made any good soups lately? Have perpetually cold (or hot) feet? Are you concerned with reducing your chemical exposure?

Last Week’s Workouts

Hi all! How many of you have today off? Not so for me, but WHH does. #jealous

I wanted to mix things up a bit and share my workouts from last week and the plan for this week. If you seem to like this format, perhaps it will become a weekly post. Here’s what last week looked like (compared to what was planned):

workout log

I was so happy I was able to get in a couple of walks during lunch last week. I’ve been trying to balance schoolwork during lunch with wanting to get in some movement. I’ve also been trying to balance fashion with function when it gets really cold. Just kidding. When it gets wicked cold I don’t care how ridiculous I look during my lunch walk.

winter layers

Under the coat: tights, pants, dress, cardigan, fleece

Given how warm yesterday was (forties!), I’m hoping that trend continues this week so I can get in a few more walks. Here’s the tentative plan for this week:

workout log

I had one of my best treadmill runs yesterday! I’ve had to move most of my runs indoors given the cold weather and icy roads. Within one run, my old glute issues started coming back. I knew Chi Running would have a good answer on how to adjust your form for treadmill running. Per their suggestion, I was sure to keep the incline at 1.5% or higher and keep my speed only a little above what I normally do outside.

I also used a metronome for the first half of the run and when I felt comfortable with my stride (and bored of hearing, “beep beep beep beep”), I moved over to a 180 BPM playlist on Spotify. And you know what? No pain! I was so happy that I didn’t have to give up on treadmill running completely this winter.

Questions: How were your workouts last week? Have any fun ones planned for this week? If you’re predominantly an outdoor runner, do you have a hard time transitioning to the treadmill?

5 Easy Ways to Stick to Your New Year’s Resolutions

Happy 2015! We’re officially two weeks into the new year and you know what that means? The gyms start to look back to normal. Yes, only two weeks in and many will give up on their New Year’s resolutions. You may have seen my tweet last week about the stats for only one week in…

So if you’re struggling with your resolutions for the new year, here are some easy ways to help you stay on track:

  1. Make it easier to say no.

Trying to give up cigarettes, eat fewer sweets, or drink less? Get yourself out of situations where you’re likely to cave, at least for the short-term.

Ice cream is my kryptonite so I exercise the majority of my willpower at the grocery store by rarely buying it. That way it isn’t calling to me from the freezer after dinner. What if WHH wants ice cream? We get a flavor I don’t like. When we do get ice cream, I like to get the higher quality kind and those usually come in smaller containers which mean it doesn’t last as long! Or try going for a healthier substitute and having a small dish of plain yogurt with peanut butter mixed in or puréed frozen bananas.

I’ve also been known to “ruin” ice cream so I won’t be tempted to eat it. What about the guilt of wasting food? I’m not wasting it because it goes down the pipes one way or another: either your body processes it or it doesn’t, but it all ends up in the same place. I feel much worse about throwing rotten fruits or veggies I didn’t get to into our compost.

Pouring water over ice cream

Homemade ice cream, ruined on purpose

  1. Be specific.

You vow to “get healthier.” What does that mean to you? Losing weight, eating better, reducing your stress? Pick a very specific goal, such as, “I will work out at least 3 times a week,” instead. It’s easier to stick to something more specific.

  1. Don’t make too many resolutions

This was a problem I had with my goals for last year. Though I ended up being able to stick to most of them, I found doing my monthly posts overwhelming. That’s because making too many changes at once is overwhelming, which means we’re more likely to give up on all of them.  I made a lot fewer resolutions this year.

New Years Resolutions lis

Try focusing on making one goal this year or, if you really want to make more changes, limit it to one goal in each area of your life (such as home, work, health). You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to achieve your goal when you’re able to focus on just one. Not only that, but being able to achieve one goal will lead to other good changes in your life. If you accomplish your first goal, you may end up accomplishing more than you anticipated!

  1. Find a way to measure your progress

If you’re trying to lose weight, track your weight, your measurements, or your clothing size. If you’re trying to sleep more, track how much you sleep every night and what kept you for sleeping as much as you wanted. Seeing a visual of your progress is highly motivating and can help you make changes as you come across setbacks. There are lots of tools out there to help you measure your progress, from a good ‘ole paper and pen to inexpensive apps to more expensive gadgets.

  1. Plan

We all know the saying, “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” This couldn’t be more true than with achieving goals. How will you incorporate your resolution into your life? How will you keep it going when the going gets tough? If your goal is to drink more water, for example, maybe you plan to bring a water bottle to work, keep a water bottle in your car, have a special cup for you at home, and add one to your gym bag. That way, you have no excuse not to drink water!

A simple tool I use to plan my workouts (and also as a kind of measurement of my progress) is a spreadsheet! You may remember me talking about this in my post on keeping an exercise log. I still use this approach nearly a year later because it works so well for me. I’m a spreadsheet dork, but you could use it for a variety of goals! The possibilities are endless (and free if you use Google docs!).

Workout spreadsheet

 (Conditional formatting for anything over 30 minutes-more on that in another post!)

Questions: Are you struggling with your New Year’s resolutions or goals? What have you done to stay or bring yourself back on track? Do you have any tips or tricks to share?

2015 New Year’s Goals

Hi there! I know it may seem a bit late to be posting my goals only now, but I wanted to review last year’s and have time to really think about what I wanted to accomplish this year following the craziness of the holidays. As you know, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with New Year’s resolutions. From the name to the concept, I have mixed feelings. You can read more about my thoughts on the subject in last year’s New Year’s Goals post.

2015 goals list

I actually have very few brand-spanking new goals this year. Most of my goals are continuations from last year. I think I did good work on them last year, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement and growth. The sky really is the limit sometimes.

I also scaled back on the number. I had a few too many last year, which I felt left me unable to truly focus on each of them, and given goal #1 below, you’ll see why I scaled back a bit.

Personal Goals

NEW:

  • Be present

This is my “theme” of the year, if you will. Last year I started the year’s theme on my birthday and carried it through the year. While I will continue to live out that theme as well, I want to shift my focus a bit.

As you may have noticed in my last few New Year’s update posts, I griped a lot about how time seemed to be going by too quickly. At the beginning of December, knowing the rush that the next few weeks would be, I vowed take at least one moment each day, even if only for less than a minute, to be present. I plan to continue to focus on this in the new year until it becomes a habit.

Here & Now sign

c/o blog.whileyouwereaway.org/

  • Volunteer

I went to orientation for our local animal shelter back in early December as I wanted to volunteer to work in the barn. They required a certain amount of hours per week I am unable to commit to while I’m still taking class, so I hope to get back to that once I’m done with class.

OLD:

  • Continue to try new foods and incorporate them into our weekly meals

bourbon mixed drinksDoes having a bourbon mixed drink for the first time count?

  • Travel
    • NYC this spring?
    • Big trip this summer: We’re starting to brainstorm and my first choice is Ireland! Husband is thinking National Parks in the west.  Any other suggestions for affordable (<$3000) trips from the East coast?
  • Continue to read more, especially once my class is over late winter

Game of Thrones books

These dense books took up most of 2014 (+ the fourth one)

Professional Goals

NEW:

  • Start nursing school in the fall! I am so excited to finally be on my way!

OLD:

  • Continue to work on the blog, learn more about blogging, and network with other bloggers
  • As time allows, get personal training and/or nutritionist certification. Maybe I’m crazy for still having this up here…

Health and Wellness Goals

NEW:

  • Be able to do an unassisted pull-up

An unassisted pull-up is one of those exercises that, to me, exemplifies great upper body strength. I want to go after that.

Iron Gym Total Upper Body Workout Bar

We have one of these door frame pull-up gadgets at home, so I can get on that one easily enough, adding in the assisted machine at the gym. Anyone have any tips for attacking this one?

Questions: Did you make any New Year’s resolutions or goals? If so, would like to share them? Do you have mixed feelings about resolutions?

2014 New Year’s Goals Check-In

Happy New Year all! Can you believe we’re already more than a week into the new year? Last year went by so quickly!

2015 winterscape

I know many of you followed along with my monthly goal updates for 2014, which abruptly ended in June thanks to my crazy summer schedule. I didn’t want to just let it slide, though, so here’s one last check-in. And as for this year’s goals? Stay tuned for those in my next post!

One big, overarching theme? I didn’t take into account how much time I would need to devote to class and thus not be able to devote to everything else. This means I didn’t get as much done as hoped, but am happy with how much I did get done given my limited time.

Anatomy & Physiology book

Personal Goals

  • Try a new trend/clothing item I wouldn’t normally: A?

Believe it or not, towards the second half of the year, my approach to my wardrobe took a completely new approach. I started minimizing big time, donating items I didn’t love, keeping things that I did love but that were too big (for potential maternity clothes some day), and selling other items on ThreadUp. Some of this minimizing was inspired by Caroline at Un-Fancy, Jennifer of The Daily Connoisseur/Madame Chic, and Anuschka of Into Mind. I was trying to be someone I really wasn’t by going for the trends, and in developing more of a minimalist wardrobe, I feel I’m being more true to myself. I love being able to know exactly what I have to wear for certain occasions and having some great go-to pieces. I still have a few gaps to fill, but I’ll get there slowly. I’m all about quality, not quantity.

Into Mind Minimalist Wardrobe

c/o Into Mind

  • Take more pictures: B

I’ve been decent about taking pictures, and made more of an effort over the holidays. I’ve found that if I tag team it with the husband, we get some great pics. I would love to make a 2014 “yearbook” of sorts in the coming months, inspired by Young House’s Love annual albums (who else misses them?!). Something of slightly better quality than our (mostly free) Shutterfly album. We finally picked a wedding picture to be framed, too! Woohoo! Only took an entire year!

  •  Make a new menu item weekly: B

While we didn’t make a new item every week, we certainly expanded our horizons food-wise. I credit a lot of this to watching Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern and continuing our open-mindedness following our trip to Europe. I’ve even developed a higher tolerance to spicy foods, which the husband is very happy about!

Korean side dishes

Side dishes from a recent trip to a Korean restaurant

  • Travel: B+

We had a quick weekend away in Maine for a family wedding, made it out to Colorado to visit my brother, and went away to western Massachusetts for our five-year anniversary. Add in some random weekends at my parents’ lake house and another at their new ski condo, and I’d say that’s pretty successful given my schoolwork schedule.

  • Read more, especially instead of watching TV: A-

I definitely went through phases of making a conscious effort with this. Instead of eating weekend meals in front of a screen (whether the TV, my phone, or my computer), I make myself sit down and read a magazine or a book. Though I enjoy less screen time, I also look forward to sitting down to eat dinner and watching an episode of one of our new favorite shows, Chopped, with WHH. It may sound silly, but we have learned a lot from this show, becoming more adventurous in the kitchen and looking forward to trying even more new foods. The way the chefs have to make do with the ingredients has definitely inspired me to try different concoctions at home.

Chopped tv show logo

I do so much reading with my current class (microbiology) and now that I’m onto the last published Game of Thrones book, A Dance with Dragons, that I look forward to watching a bit of the show and discussing with WHH what we’d do in their situation. But overall, TV consumption is down!

A Dance with Dragons, A Feast for Crows

Four down, one to go! 

Haha. I think this one was a bit ambitious given everything that was going on. The newly renamed TRY / In 2015 board got very little love last year aside from our homemade kitchen shelves, refinishing our new kitchen island, and adding some mixer attachment hooks on the inside.

Refinished kitchen island

There are definitely some items on my radar to do for this year, such as organizing my gift wrap that currently resides in the basement (I’ve always loved wrapping gifts!), creating vacation boxes to hold those random papers from our trips, and getting new items on the blank walls in our bedroom and living room in addition to the photo book already mentioned. I think these will be manageable given my class is over in March.

  • Simplify house further: A

I have to give myself a pat on the back–I seriously rocked this one this year, especially towards the second half of the year. In addition to minimizing my wardrobe, I took a good, hard look at some stuff and had no problem getting rid of it. I’ve gotten better with separating the emotional attachment of items. My mom’s been giving me a bunch of stuff lately as she’s been cleaning out their house, such as my old ski jacket (below) that still kind of fit me.

One quick trick for getting through the emotional part? Take a picture to remember it! A picture takes up a lot less room, physically and mentally.

Old coat

(This was actually cool back in the early ’90s…I think…)

I have loved the effects of minimizing our house and hope to continue this trend into the new year.

  • Meet with financial advisor: A

We got this done in the fall and were actually so relieved that we’re on track with retirement! What a weight off of our shoulders! We’re going to meet with him a few more times to figure out how to best plan for future expenses (travel, next house, next cars, etc.) to put us in the best place financially. The better off we are, the more choices we have!

  • Write reviews, such as for products and travel: B-

I have been good about this moving forward, but still think about the great places we went and haven’t done yet. I’ll hope to get to this once class is done.

Walkabout Florence Riomaggiore

One of the highlights of our trip: this tour of Cinque Terre (this is at the last stop in Riomaggiore)

Professional:

  • Take co-requisite courses for nursing school: A+

A&P I & II are all done and I’m about halfway through my last class, microbiology!

  • Start nursing school: TBD

I’m officially in to start this fall! Woohoo!!!

  • Get better at WordPress and blogging in general: B

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the blog has been put on the back-burner due to classwork. Since I wasn’t doing much with it the second half of the year, I’m not going to worry too much about this one. I seriously don’t know how I managed to write three times a week last winter and spring without losing my mind!

blog banner

This could use some jazzing up

  • As time allows, get personal training and/or nutritionist certification: TBD

I obviously didn’t have the time to do this last year. Classwork was my first priority

Health and Wellness:

  • Try a new physical endeavor as my body continues to heal from all of the injuries last year: B+

I didn’t get as far as I hoped given my never-ending tennis elbow saga (which, knock on wood, is still going well!) combined with the nagging plantar fasciitis (again, knock on wood, going well!). However, I did branch out from my regular Jillian Michaels love affair to include barre3 and more yoga than I had previously. I even felt confident enough in my elbow to get back to some kettlebell workouts last month! More on this subject in another post.

Stadium running

First time working out at a local stadium this year

  • Work on reducing exposure to pesticides, hormones, chemicals, and other toxins: A

Though we already had a low-chemical lifestyle, I wanted to do more. I tried hard this past year to find affordable, yet effective replacements for our everyday items. The majority of my beauty routine, which is minimal anyway, is now “green” or chemical free (I use EWG’s “Skin Deep” database to double-check all beauty/hair/body items). We concentrated on buying more of our regular items organic, meat being the biggest, and most expensive change. We also frequented more farmers’ markets.

Finally, the end! A recap of January through May:
January: C
February: B-
March: B+
April: B+
May: B+

And the final for this review: B+

Yay! I will take that! I bit off a bit more than I could chew given everything going on and trying to maintain my sanity at the same time, so I am very happy with that!

Questions: Did you make any resolutions or goals last year? How did you do with them? Did you hold yourself accountable at the end of the year?

Quick Tip: Freeze Extra Bananas

Happy New Year’s Eve! Can you believe another year has come and gone? Seems like just yesterday that I was coming up with my New Year’s goals (updates in a later post!) and starting Anatomy and Physiology 1. Then again, this seems like a long time ago.

Anatomy and Physiology skeleton

I wanted to share a quick little tip that I have used thoroughly this past year: freezing bananas. Now, I know this isn’t a novel idea in the least (who doesn’t have these in the freezer door?), but I wanted to show you a slightly different way of doing it.

Frozen bananas

 

First, you’ll want to unpeel each banana. This will make defrosting them should you need them for banana-something or as sweetener substitute so much easier. Second, break them roughly in half and place in a container. Then, put on the top or seal the container and place in the freezer.

Bananas in container

The next time you want to add some banana to your smoothie or overnight oats, they’re ready to go. Just take them out of the freezer, chop up some small bits, and add them to your desired item.

Frozen banana

Bananas in smoothie

If you do plan on using them for a banana-bread type recipe (as I did for these muffins), I would suggest defrosting them on the counter or in the microwave whole as you’ll most likely need to mash them. Another idea is to simply blend the frozen banana with a little bit of milk for a faux soft serve!

I know this isn’t an Earth-shattering tip at all, but I’m telling you, it has made my smoothies, oats, and other baking more flavorful and easier to make.

Questions: Are you a banana-freezer? Any other freezing tips? Speaking of freezing (as it will be here tonight), any New Year’s Eve plans?

December Send Me Gluten Free Box Review

Hi all! I wanted to check in a couple of times before the end of the year. First up is a look at the December Send Me Gluten Free box.

Send Me Gluten Free box logo

I had such a fun time with last month’s box, that I was really excited to see what was up for this month. The box opening was similar to the first one, in all its lovely orange and blue glory:

December Send Me Gluten Free box opening

Of course, I was mostly interested in the goodies underneath:

December Send Me Gluten Free box

Just like last time, I spied the chocolate chip cookie and snapped a bad pic in my hurry to gobble that thing down. Too bad the Lucy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies weren’t as good as the WOW chocolate chip cookies from the last box. I choked down the first one, trying to give it a chance, then threw away the second. It was really dry and didn’t have very good flavor. It’s a vegan cookie, so that may have had partially to do with it, but I’m not buying it. I’ve made vegan baked goods before and they can still be moist and taste good. I wouldn’t recommend these at all unless you like tasteless, dry cookies (no offense, Lucy’s).

December Send Me Gluten Free box contents

The Simply 7 Quinoa Chips (Sea Salt flavor) were just kind of meh as is, but I enjoyed them broken up on top of some soup (I usually like a crunch factor with my soup, especially if has little texture). WHH surprisingly liked them as is! One thing we could both agree on was the Sauce Goddess BBQ Sweet Heat Spice Rub. We used this rub made of brown sugar, salt, spices, garlic, onion, cayenne pepper and paprika on chicken and it was delicious! Just the right amount of heat and sweetness combined. The Blueberry + Flax Toasted Oat Granola was quite chewy as opposed to crunchy like most granola. True to fashion, I added this into some yogurt for an after-dinner treat, but it didn’t mix very well due to its chewy nature. I’m thinking it wouldn’t be great as cereal either, but it did have good flavor overall.

Next up:

December Send Me Gluten Free box contents

I just tried the Chebe Bread Focaccia Flatbread Mix last night as a pizza dough. Owing to the fact that I changed up how I cooked and used it, I’m not sure I can make a fair assessment. I liked the flavor, but I undercooked it so it was a bit chewy and it was too thick as a pizza dough. I’m sure it would be delicious as a bread on its own. I loved the herbs in the mixture.

Where was this French and Italian Cuisine Passport during our trip last year? This would have been fabulous to bring instead of having to print out a bunch of gluten terminology in French, Italian, and German. I will be holding on to this as we plan to go back to places where we would speak French and Italian!

Speaking of our trip, one brand I happened to encounter in a Swiss health food store was Schar, so I was happy to see this Penne included, which I have not yet tried. Seeing how it’s mostly made of corn, I’m going to guess it’s pretty similar to most corn pastas. I also haven’t yet tried the Massel 7’s Vegetable Bouillon Cubes, but I know they will come in handy this winter based on how much soup we’ve made so far!

There was another Massel item included:

December Send Me Gluten Free box contents

The box also included Massel Concentrated Liquid Stock (chicken style), another item that will come in handy. I sometimes like to use stock to cook lentils, rice, quinoa, or other dried items, just to give it a little extra flavor.

Since I dislike gummies in general, I gave WHH the Smarty Pants Gummy Vitamins to try, which he enjoyed for a change. I appreciate that the vitamins include omega 3, as we both have take an omega supplement in addition to our daily multivitamin. The additional vitamin D concentration isn’t enough for me, but I love that for a gummy vitamin, there isn’t any added sugar, HFCS, preservatives, artificial flavors, or artificial colors.

Upon looking at the Mum-Mum Apple Cinnamon Snax, I couldn’t figure out what it was. It was apple cinnamon, but apple cinnamon what? All I could think is that it looked like a McDonald’s hash brown patty. Upon opening the broken snack, I figured out it was some kind of rice cake. A tasteless rice cake. A rice cake that went in the trash after a couple of bites. Disappointment #2.

The Wowbutter, a peanut-free toasted soy butter, was much better than the snax. It definitely tasted like toasted soy nuts and I appreciated the change from my usual peanut, almond, and sunflower butter, but probably wouldn’t buy it in the future as I try to avoid soy in my diet. In addition to most of the soy products in this country being GMO, it’s also a goitrogen, which should be avoided for those of us with hypothyroidism.

Some extra items included in the envelope were:

December Send Me Gluten Free box contents

As well as:

December Send Me Gluten Free box contents

  • Gluten Free label sample and info card from glutenfreelabels.com. These would be great for parties!
  • An additional recipe card from Chebe

And coupons! Who doesn’t love coupons? Included were some for some box items, as well as  for Nona Lim products.

December Send Me Gluten Free box coupons

I have to say that I didn’t enjoy this box as much as last month’s. There just seemed to be some doozies in it (I’m looking at you, cookies and snax!). I do still feel it has a high value for the price and that all items are quality. I’ve loved discovering new and interesting gluten-free foods and companies. Trying the different items in the boxes has gotten me to up my game in the kitchen as well, so that’s been fun.

Questions: Have you tried any of these items before? Are you partial to subscription boxes or think they’re a waste of money? Have you ever gifted one or been gifted one?

Please note: Although I received this box free of charge, all honest opinions are my own. This post also contains an affiliate link.

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances (Friday Favorite)

Have you heard of the book, “The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances“? If you’re a runner and you haven’t, you must go out right now, find it, and read it. And if you have read it, I bet you know a runner who would love this for Christmas, a birthday, or really any occasion.
The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances

I’m guessing you’ve read some running books or articles that are quite similar to some parts of his book, such as inspirational messages:

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances book page

So what makes this book different (and, IMHO, better)? Well, take a look at the page that follows the one above:

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances page

Few books, comics, or movies can make me genuinely laugh out loud, but this page got a huge guffaw from me. This is exactly how I feel this time of year. All I want to do is hibernate and borrow as these cold, dark days go on.

Some of my other LOL moments included the page below. I’m sure we all know someone like this:

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances over-accessorize

It’s not all fun and jokes (though a lot of it is). Some is also a bit more serious. I just love the unapologetic honesty with which he writes and draws, such as when he writes about getting off your butt and going out for a GD run:

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances happy juice

And he perfectly captures some big reasons I run. Seriously, is this guy in my head or something? This is me to a T!

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances demons

He has a bit more of the book on his website. But seriously, for just $11 on Amazon, go out and buy the book.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (okay, maybe you won’t cry, but you’ll definitely laugh), and you may have found the perfect gift for someone. Happy reading!

Questions: Have you “read” this book (do you consider comics reading?)? What are some of the weird or hard to explain reasons that you run?

This post contains an affiliate link.

 

 

Recovering from Chronic Tennis Elbow

I know this post won’t be for everyone, but for anyone else out there who’s dealt with chronic tennis elbow and had a hard time finding a way to fix it, this is for you. This is the type of post I wish was out there when I was going through my never-ending search for a way to fix my elbow. It can be a frustrating injury to say the least, and even downright scary at time if it’s your dominant side. Everyday tasks you take for granted, such as driving, writing, holding a mug, or opening a door, are suddenly a challenge.  No matter how long it takes you (it took me over 1.5 years!), you can get better!

Last year will forever be the year of injuries. I ended up going to physical therapy for a total of three different problems. In case you forgot or you’re new to the blog, I’ll give you a visual.

Injury collage

The latest stint at physical therapy was for my seemingly never-ending tennis elbow saga. I was actually discharged back in early September of this year, but have been wary of proclaiming myself officially discharged since it’s been such a relentless injury that didn’t respond to anything. A quick timeline:

  • April 2013: Injured; PCP thinks my blown-up elbow is from an infection since it came out of nowhere so I get 10 days of antibiotics.
  • May 2013: Elbow still bothering me and chiropractor mentions that the inflammation could have been from tennis elbow. Schedule appointment with orthopedist who confirms I have lateral epicondylitis with calcific tendonitis (tennis elbow with a calcium deposit). Receive cortisone injection.

Calcific tendonitis elbow x-ray

  • June 2013: Cortisone didn’t help, but decide to forego all treatment suggestions at the time as dealing with my glute injury
  • September 2013: Seems to be feeling better after resting it through the summer, so I start trying to use it again
  • December 2013: Injury is back with a vengeance
  • January 2014-June 2014: Try multiple modalities (see list below) while on and off resting right arm
  • February 2014: Get MRI, doesn’t show anything new
  • July 2014: Elbow gets even worse, have a freak-out session because I’m hardly able to use my dominant hand and wonder what the future holds after trying so much and it still isn’t better
  • Mid-July 2014-early September 2014: Amazing physical therapists try all kinds of techniques to fix me and it seems to work! I start slowly working out my arm again…

Tennis elbow fixed

All of the modalities I tried in chronological order:

Corner desk set-up

Things I looked into or was suggested to try but didn’t:

  • Second cortisone injection (I was very opposed to this)
  • A second round of occupational therapy
  • Prolotherapy (6 month waitlist to see the doctor PLUS not covered by insurance)
  • Dry needling (not legal in Massachusetts?)
  • Trigger Point Therapy
  • Somatics
  • Feldenkrais Method
  • Platelet rich plasma (also not covered by insurance)
  • Surgery (last resort)

I had a two-week check-in with PT after being discharged and I was really glad because my elbow was starting to bother me again after two weeks. I thought, “Oh, no, here we go again…” But a quick consult and taping and I’ve been pretty good ever since (knock on wood). It hasn’t been a linear improvement, more of an inclined squiggly line, but at least I’m going in the right direction. It may not feel perfect every day, but I try not to panic when it’s feeling less than fansastic and ease off exercise. I was injured for 1.5 years, so I don’t expect it to be as good as new overnight.

So why did physical therapy help when all else failed? I think a big part has to do with my specific therapists. They understood what I was going through in a way that only someone with tennis elbow would know. How is that possible?! They treated both my body and my mind and I think I really needed both to be able to move toward recovery. All of the doubts, the fears, the past failures were haunting me, but they found a way for me to believe in the treatment.

Also, they focused on my entire body, not just my elbow. Turns out that my wonky shoulder had a lot to do with it. I’ve had an issue with my right shoulder (same side as my elbow) ever since I injured it playing a Wii game over five years ago. Yup, you read that correctly. I hurt myself playing a video game. I was acting like a goof wielding a light saber in some Star Wars game. There just so happens to be photographic evidence of that fateful night:

Wii shoulder injury

When I woke up the next morning my shoulder was killing me and I had limited mobility.  It got better over a few days but I continued to have issues with it over the years. I would baby it so that (unbeknownst to me) it progressively became weaker. I would unknowingly use my forearm muscles instead of my shoulder muscles, so that I overloaded my forearm and eventually something had to give. I’m sure doing tons of plank variations also didn’t help.

The taping techniques my physical therapists really helped. The first technique they tried is the one you saw in this post. This one didn’t do as much as we hoped, but I wanted to show you anyway. I found a picture (below) that shows a better angle.

Tennis elbow KT tape

The taping method that worked like a charm is the one shown below. It’s a bit of an odd method and uses regular old athletic tape because you actually don’t want the stretch; you need the support of the stronger tape.

Tennis elbow rigid tape

And here’s another angle to show where the tape starts and ends on the arm (had to zoom in on an otherwise very pretty picture from our trip to Colorado this summer):

Taping for tennis elbow

What I continue to do now that I’m done with physical therapy:

Below is a picture of the strengthening regimen that I was prescribed in addition to a few other moves for my forearms and shoulders. I do this routine 1-2 times a week.

Physical therapy for tennis elbow

I also do stretches for my forearms, shoulders, chest, and neck, such as:

Forearm stretch for tennis elbow

 From one of my favorite PT resources, PhysioAdvisor.au

I always do the stretches 1-2 times each and hold them for 20 seconds each time. Another great resource for tennis elbow stretches and strengthening is this one and closely mimics what I do.

I’m also sure to keep up with ice massage. I use the same technique as I showed you in this post about icing for plantar fasciitis, but use it along my forearm muscle and up into the elbow joint a little bit. It’s important not to push it in too hard because you could actually end up irritating the tissue as I did early on. I try to do it after any exercising that uses my arms, and though this has been tough to want to do since the weather has gotten colder, I know as long as I keep at it, I will continue to not only feel good, but keep getting better.

Ice massage cup

Finally, I’m sure to take it slow and easy as I build my strength back up. I may not do every single down dog in yoga or every push-up that Jillian wants me to. I’m careful not to workout my arm two days in a row for now (for example, no upper body exercising the day after yoga). I’ve tried to restrict my evening and weekend computer use as this tightens up my neck, shoulders, and forearms, and I believe definitely contributed to my tennis elbow pain lingering. After dealing with this for so long, I’m happy to just not be in any more constant pain, so I’m just fine with taking it slow.

I hope this helped anyone looking for answers. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself! This is your body, after all, and you know it better than anyone else. I finally asked my orthopedist if he could just send me to physical therapy even though he never mentioned it as an option in the year I had been seeing him.

Questions: Have you ever had tennis elbow or another injury? Have you had a chronic injury? How did you deal with it? Have you ever had to really speak up for yourself with a doctor?

Send Me Gluten Free Box Review + Giveaway!

Hi there! It’s been way too long! What have I been up to? Besides work, school, working out, and eating healthy, I’ve been sampling all of the delicious offerings in the Send Me Gluten Free box. I stumbled upon this little treat while on FindMeGlutenFree.com recently, which is a great resource (along with their app!) for finding places to eat that have gluten-free offerings.

Send Me Gluten Free box logo

So what does a Send Me Gluten Free box look like? I couldn’t wait to find out!

Send Me Gluten Free November box

You’ve got to love the presentation. They had me right away with the fun complementary colors–there was definitely a lot of thought put into the presentation, so I had high hopes about the contents.

Here are the goodies that were waiting for me underneath:

Send Me Gluten Free November box opening

I spied that full-size chocolate bar and was immediately excited. I started pulling things out like a kid at Christmas. You can tell how excited I was by the terrible picture I took–I was too eager at the time to eat the cookie. Some of the first foods I pulled out were Boulder Canyon chips (did they know I was just in Boulder, Colorado?!), a Nuun electrolyte tablet, WOW chocolate chip cookie, and a packet of Nature’s Path Sunrise Crunchy Vanilla cereal.

Send Me Gluten Free November box items

It had been a looong day (11 hours at work!), so I gobbled down that WOW cookie, which was so nice and soft. I will admit I was a little shocked to see it had 120 calories (it was a bit smaller than the full-size cookie they sell online). Though I had the “room” for it in my calories that day, it’s still a lot for one little cookie. It was worth it on that day.

Because I’m more of a tortilla chip person than a potato chip one, I asked WHH to help me assess the Boulder Canyon chips. We both agree they were quite tasty. Not too peppery, and almost a bit too salty. It’s a quality chip and if you’re into potato chips, it’s definitely worth checking out.

I haven’t tried the Nuun tablet yet (it came to work with me for days I run during lunch), but I am quite familiar with the Nature’s Path granola as we’ll occasionally get a huge box of it when we’re at BJ’s. I love mixing it into some yogurt for a sweet treat after dinner or adding it to my breakfast “cookie dough” cereal.

The next products I pulled out were two full-size items: Bell Plantation’s PB Thins and Pascha Organic Dark Chocolate.

Send Me Gluten Free November box items

I have to admit that I didn’t know what to think about the PB Thins at first. Would they be sugary sweet, like Teddy Grahams? Junky? Gross? Nope! They taste like a spoonful of Teddie Peanut Butter! I knew what these would be perfect for right away (aside from eating them by the handful):

PB thins chocolate yogurt

You know it! Topping some plain full-fat organic yogurt with the PB Thins and the Pascha chocolate was a perfect little after-dinner dessert. The PB thins would also be good in a mug with milk as for a post-workout cereal. But seriously–these things are good. My favorite thing in the box by far.

In terms of the chocolate bar…I’m just kind of “meh” about it. Chocolate is usually gluten-free, so being able to get some isn’t a problem. If it had been something along the lines of a gluten-free version of a Kit Kat, something I definitely miss, I would have been pretty excited. And since I don’t have any other food allergies or intolerances, I don’t fully appreciate the allergen-free aspect of this chocolate bar. While I love that it’s organic and non-GMO, if I’m having dark chocolate, I like it 70%+. But that’s just me. Overall it’s a fine chocolate bar.

But wait, there’s more! Next out of the box were Breeze Bars, Halo Sea Salt Seaweed Chips, Amazing Foods for Life Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (vegan), and Snack Out Loud’s Crunchy Bean Snack in Ranch.

Send Me Gluten Free November box items

I haven’t had the Breeze Bars yet because I stashed them in my car. I love having a healthy snack or meal in the car for when I’m in a pinch. The Halo Seaweed Chips are okay. I’m not a big fan of things masquerading as something else (says the girl who loved the PB Thins). No, but seriously, I’d rather have a few sheets of roasted seaweed from Trader Joe’s than a chip that is seaweed flavored, you know? It messes with my mind and my taste buds!

Speaking of taste buds…I wasn’t loving the crunchy bean snack. The ranch flavor is intense–it definitely has more of a kick to it than you would think–and it didn’t feel like 7g worth of protein satiety-wise. Perhaps because of the flavor explosion going on in my mouth?

I did, however, have a fondness for the banana chocolate chip muffins! I loved the small size of the package. When I make baked goods, I don’t like having a ton of leftovers because guess where they end up?

I also loved that the only two ingredients you add are banana and coconut oil!

Vegan Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin ingredients

Though the coconut oil ended up being a bit problematic in making this recipe. See, now that it’s November in Massachusetts, it’s a bit cold in my house and especially in my cabinets. This means that the coconut oil is solid at room temperature. Though I microwaved the oil to mix it, the oil quickly went back to a more solid form while I was mixing it so that the batter was quite thick.

Vegan banana chocolate chip muffin mix

No worries. I figured they’d still come out delicious anyway. I spooned them into the muffin tray and hoped for the best.

Vegan banana chocolate chip muffins

And since no raw eggs were involved, I may have left myself a little batter to sample.

Almost empty batter bowl

The muffins came out looking quite similarly shaped to how they went in, owing to the coconut oil issues.

Baked vegan banana chocolate chip muffins

Hmm…what goes well with chocolate and bananas? You guessed it!

Banana chocolate chip muffins with peanut butter

A big ol’ glob of peanut butter! The banana chocolate chip muffins were dense and flavorful. They would be a great pre-workout snack (minus the peanut butter) thanks to some good sources of easily digestible carbs from the flours, sugar, and banana. They would also be great post-workout with the addition of peanut butter. Or you could just have it at a random time of day like I did. :-)

As for the rest of the box contents, there are a few items left, including Swerve sweetener and Hodgson Mill Flax Chia blend.

Send Me Gluten Free November box items

The Swerve sweetener is the only other item I haven’t tried yet. I’m not really sure what I’d use it for as I don’t sweeten my coffee and prefer maple syrup, honey, or bee pollen/royal jelly for sweeteners in my food and baked goods (more on the bee pollen/royal jelly in another post). I could try adding a little to my yogurt I suppose?

Something I did add to my yogurt was the chia flax blend. It appeared and tasted mostly like flax; I couldn’t discern the chia in there.

Chia flax blend on yogurt

Still, a solid-tasting flax mix and it’s nice to have both items in there instead of getting out the bag of flax and the bag of chia seeds.

To finish it all off, Send Me Gluten Free included coupons for some of the products that were in the box, which this frugal dork really appreciates.

Send Me Gluten Free November coupons

All in all I really enjoyed this box. Compared to other boxes I’ve tried (such as Greatist’s Parcel Box and the Gluten-Free Conscious Box), it has more full-sized items. Granted, it also costs more so it should have a higher value inside. To get the most value you’d probably want to do the year-long subscription, which cuts the cost of the box down to $20/month. I also liked that it contained only food products, most (all?) of the items were non-GMO and organic, and weren’t full of junky ingredients as many gluten-free items are.  This would make a fabulous gift for the gluten-free dork in your life, whether for the upcoming holidays or a birthday.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s your chance to try it for yourself! Simply leave a comment telling us if you’ve tried a subscription box before (Which one? Did you like it?) and you’ll be entered to win one box for yourself to try! A US-based winner will be randomly chosen next Wednesday, November 19. Even if you don’t win the giveaway, you still win because you can try any subscription length for 20% off with code BLOG20. How awesome is that?!

Update 11/19/14: Giveaway now closed (discount code still valid).

Send Me Gluten Free Giveaway

 Above image for example purposes only. Box contents differ by month.

Please note: Although I received this box free of charge, all honest opinions are my own. This post also contains an affiliate link.