Summer Fun at the County Fair

Friday, August 31, 2012

County Fair Rides, Ferris Wheel

Two weekends ago, we bought tickets for the local county fair.

We didn't realize we'd be riding 90% of the rides with a 4-year-old. But oh, how fun that was!

His favorite ride? The Starship 3000 (aka the Gravitron). You know the one, where the little spaceship-like thing spins really fast and you're pinned against the wall. This just cracks me up.

He seemed way too small to be riding those fast-whipping rides, but he loooooved them. And because we could all go together, Hubster and I loved it too! We'll be back next year.

County Fair Rides, Kayne's fave ride, Gravitron (Starship)

County Fair Rides
All the pretty lights

County Fair Rides, Fun House
Fun House

County Fair Rides, Swings

County Fair FFA, Petting huge-eared bunny
He loved the FFA stables, especially huge-eared bunnies.

Zucchini Pizza

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Garden Vegetables, Garden Bounty
How our countertop has looked all month

Last year, we had way too much zucchini. This year, we only had one plant, and we still have more zucchini than we quite know what to do with. So, we're experimenting.

Besides slicing them up and putting them in eggs and making 11 batches zucchini brownies, we wanted to try some different ways of preparing the vitamin-loaded vegetable while we can, before they rot. Enter, mini pizzas:

Mini Zucchini Pizzas

Large zucchini, cut into discs
Pizza sauce (or tomato sauce)
Shredded cheese of choice
Toppings of choice <--we chose spinach and mushrooms
Oregano and garlic to season, if desired

Spread a small spoonful of pizza sauce over each zucchini slice. Then, sprinkle a pinch of cheese on each. Finally, add your toppings. Cook in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until cheese melts. You can't quite eat them like a slice of pizza as they're still moist. Use a fork.

Next time I might try cooking them on a baking rack so they're a little less floppy. So healthy! Enjoy!

Zucchini Pizzas, Leftover zucchini tomato sauce spinach cheese=pizza

Summer Book Club

Monday, August 27, 2012

We're trying to soak up the last bits of sun that this year affords us. We're not ready to talk about fall and apple cider and cable knits quite yet, even though we love those things too.

We're still talking about pitching a tent out in the backyard for the night and eating as much watermelon as our bellies can comply with.

We're also still pitching our "reading tent" in an effort to read more books, limit screen time and enjoy the warm air.

I mean, why would you read on the couch, when you can read inside a special book nook?

Reading Tent

If you can't find us in the house, you might try checking in the backyard. My feet will be sticking out the doors and our library books will be littering the grass. We love starting new traditions.

Summertime Secret

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Our family has a secret place we like to go in the summer. We only go at night, after it rains, if it's a weekend. That's when all the activity happens.

We visited this nearby park by accident one night. We go there a lot, but never at night. What we saw by chance that night was truly amazing! There were frogs jumping around EVERYwhere. They were all over the roadway, the ditches, the parking lots. Not in a gross, biblical-plague kind of way. But in a cool, "let's get out of the car and check them out" kind of way.

The park right next to the water, so there are meadows to hang out in and plenty of bugs to eat, if you're a frog. Perfect place! Now, it's become sort of a summer tradition. If it's raining on a Friday night, we're out the door with our MagLites.

These kinds of traditions, arbitrary as they might seem, are so special to my family and me. They're spontaneous, unconventional and yet oddly thrilling.

"Jump him momma!" The little boy cracks up whenever I make them jump. And our dog doesn't know what to do with them. He stuck his nose close to one and it jumped, scaring him away. (You'd never guess he's a pitbull). We cherish these little stories and moments when we're out investigating well past everyone's bedtime.

Ribbit Park, Froggies come out after it rains

Do you have any sort of random, silly family traditions you can share?

Running Mantras

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mantra Post, Sidewalk Chalk Mantra

I love me a good mantra. That's why I've been studying them lately and testing some to experience their effect.

Mantras can be a powerful motivational tool if used in the correct way. They give the mind a clear focus for a workout, a performance, or a run. They keep you clearly focused on your goals and intentions. They can be used as an important reminder or as intrinsic motivation. They help keep you mentally prepared. For example, if you're doing a workout to show yourself you can after years of being sedentary, repeating "I can do it" to yourself over and over again can be the difference between failing and finishing. Focusing on the "I cans" is  a strong motivator to do just that.

Source: via amanda on Pinterest

Mantras also cloud out negative thoughts that could easily mess up our concentration and progress. If you're completely focused on "I can do it," negative thoughts about your body, endurance, or appearance are not given any consideration. Drown out those distractions! Instead of focusing on what you can't do, you're concentrating on what you can do. Simple, right?

In this same way, you can completely re-wire your own thoughts. If you're not intentionally focused on anything and you're working out on autopilot, your thoughts are likely to stray to how much time you have left, how much cuter the girl on the elliptical in front of you is, how hot it is at the gym, how much your leg aches, etc. Taking control of your thoughts with a mantra puts the focus back on your abilities, squeezing out more of your potential than autopilot ever could!

Finding a workout mantra that fits is another thing that shouldn't be done without some consideration. Mantras should actually have an effect on you, so follow these steps to find a mantra that moves you!

1. Make it meaningful: Your running mantra should have personal meaning to you. Your mantra should really push you to do your best. Say, you’ve been finding lately that the only difference between dreamers and doers is action, you might try a mantra to remind you of that important lesson such as “take action” or “do it, do it.” My personal mantra for almost everything is: “Make it happen.” It has a lot of meaning to me. Whatever changes I want in any aspect of my life, I have the power to make them happen.

2. Make your mantra activity-specific: Your running mantra might not be the same as your weight-lifting mantra. For example, "little steps, big strides" might keep your focus on lowering your stride length, but it has little to do with ekeing out one last rep. Something like "power up" would be perfect for lifting.

3. Make sure it moves you: You might come up with the perfect mantra and then realize that it's just not resonating with you. Try again! Mantras aren't static. If you get bored with one, move on. Hey, "move on" would even be a good mantra!

4. Base it on a goal: What are your health goals? If you haven't already listed them, do so now. Goals take you forward. Now, figure out what mantra would remind you of those goals each time you work out. Say you want to be able to run a 5K by next month, you might choose a mantra such as "Go farther" to serve as a reminder of your goal. Say you want to tone up for a wedding. Chant something related so you keep your eye on the prize. Something like “here comes the bride” or “love and beauty.” Make sure you’re focusing more on the mental/health rewards vs the superficial ones.

5. Revisit Poetry 101: Ok, this rule is optional, but rhythmic mantras are a great way to incorporate your mantras into your breathing pattern, weight-lifting motion, or running stride. I recently took a run and repeated "faster, farther, stronger." I repeated the first syllable on one foot strike and the second syllable on the second foot strike. The effect was cool. If the words rhyme, even better. Rhyming words roll off the tongue easier.

6. Make it short: It's much easier to repeat one to three words to yourself than 15. You probably don't want to quote your favorite Walt Whitman-ism. Focus on something very concise. When you're breathing heavy, you don't want to be reciting long phrases in your head. You'll lose that focus that we were talking about.

7. Make it positive: "Keep going" is 1,000 times more effective than "don't stop." You're focused on moving forward, progress, being a trooper. When you say "don't stop," you're more focused on that word tough "stop." It's the opposite of motivating. Re-word your mantra until it says something positive.

8. Use powerful action words: Strong words are more impactful than wishy-washy ones, but that goes without saying. Inject extra energy into your workout mantra and it might just inject more energy into you!

Here are a few mantra ideas to get you started:

Burn it up
All in!
Pound it down
Worn to new strength
Thank you legs!
Guide your bliss
Forward motion
Move ahead
Move on
Fast and furious
Believe in it
Propel forward
Own it
Push it
Power up
It's all in you! <--I love this powerful mantra from Lucy Danziger of Self Magazine.

Source: via Rachael on Pinterest

Other ideas:

Hypnotics: In the book Born to Run, Jenn Shelton is said to have used a quote from a Kerouac novel to guide her runs. It said to let the ground passing underneath you hypnotize you. It is interesting to try this. When you're focused on the sidewalk, you lose your train of thought. Interesting concept.

Bible verses: Depending on your faith, you might use scripture or other proverbs to piece together your mantra. Something like "run to You" could have double significance for a Christian runner. Take 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 for example. Basing your mantra on that passage could leave you repeating "run for THE prize."

Mantra Project, Make it happen

Make it Happen is my personal slogan. I favor it so much so that, in the next few weeks, I will be showing you a few DIY projects that incorporate your mantra into the design. I can't wait to share them with you.

Some Healthy Living Obsessions Lately

Friday, August 24, 2012

Lately, I've stumbled over some minefields of health and fitness information in my always-insatiable hunger for knowledge. I really will be a student for life, no doubt. Let me share some fun resources for all you other folks who love to learn baby learn:

1. OpenCourseware: The Psychology, Biology and Politics of Food course will have to have a whole dedicated blog post, but I've been fascinatingly listening in to Professor Brownell's class about food. It's really interesting to see how we're influenced by keen marketing strategies and social constructs. I mean, we already know we are, but it's interesting to hear about it more in depth and pinpoint it. This knowledge is really an invaluable tool. If we know when we're being influenced, we have the capacity to disregard it.

2. Eat-Clean Diet®: Now I know this is no new thing, but I think that this "diet" really has lasting power. This is the only diet that intuitively makes the most sense to me, healthwise. It's not even a "diet" per se, but more of a healthy way of approaching food in its most undiluted, unprocessed form. Sure, you could manage to eat your daily allotment of calories in sugary cereals and Hamburger Helper, but you won't be doing your body any favors and you probably won't even lose weight as easily. I feel like feeding your body the most nutrient-dense food is like feeding it a universal anti-any-illness pill. I think science would agree. Might I add: Tosca Reno is a role model worth emanating!

I've been eating as clean as I can lately, and man can I tell the difference! I ate a small McD's fry one day and it actually made me ill after eating so healthfully. If that isn't motivation enough...

Source: via Krista on Pinterest

3. Healthiest Foods on Earth and Healthiest Meals on Earth: Keeping in the healthy eating vein (the area I admittedly need the most education in), I checked these two books out at the library. These books are just brim-full of food education. I will never look at a piece of broccoli the same again. When you know a food is actively fighting potential cancer cells, you sigh and rejoice a little when you eat it. And hey, whey protein is listed as one of the healthiest foods on Earth. See, it all came around full circle.

Just check out this one snipped from the book: "Recent human studies have indicated that as little as one carrot a day could possibly cut the rate of lung cancer in half" (p. 30). Just reading the section on mushrooms blew me away because of their effects on cancer. Shiitakes could lower blood cholesterol by as much as 45%!!!! Greens have a pharmacy of nutrients. Onions vs. Cancer. I'm all over that!!

Healthiest Foods on Earth, Diet books

4. I've mentioned my quest for an ExerciseTV replacement and I'm really happy to have found some exceptional resources. Livestrong Woman and Tone It Up make the transition oh-so-easy and fulfilling. Even though I miss the full-length workouts and variety on E-TV, these resources more than suffice.  I will gladly follow the cues of Karena and Katrina and all the trainers on Livestrong.

Also, if you haven't stumbled upon it yet, BodyRock is super-amazing when you're feeling hardcore. The workouts are only around 12 minutes long (super do-able) and I imagine they feel a little bit like P90X routines. But they're missing that $100+ price tag. They're completely free! And of course, I've mentioned Cassey's POPilates too. Big fan! Now, I'm all set.

Source: via Laura on Pinterest

Source: via Samara on Pinterest

Garden Veg Risotto Boats

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I really hope this health food kick that I've been on lately really lasts. I always strive to eat healthy, but sometimes I don't have the wherewithal to make it happen. Something about fresh backyard garden ingredients, farmer's market picks, a certain Clean Eating book, and the lightness of summer has been perpetuating good things in my life and body.

I've been trying more new-to-me foods and making good on my pre-summer goals. In addition to all those goodies I tried a few weeks ago, we can now add eggplant, quinoa, bok choy, Swiss chard, and romaine hearts to the list. I have tried those things before, but I have never made a concerted effort to actually source them from the grocery store/farmer's market and cook them myself. However, I'm sure glad I did. Some things just make sense--like eating foods packed with nutrients.

Last week, I made an abbreviated version of a risotto and stuck in some veggies I had on-hand in my kitchen. Here's what I did:

Garden Veg Risotto Boats

2 c minute brown rice
2 c fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 can black beans
1 handful chopped zucchini
1-2 chopped garlic cloves
1 handful of quartered cherry tomatoes
soy sauce for seasoning
12 whole romaine leaves

Prepare the brown rice substituting chicken broth instead of the water indicated on the box. Towards the end of the cooking process, stir in your garden vegetables and rinsed black beans. Cook until the veggies heat through and the zucchini gets soft. Add a tablespoon of chicken broth here and there if it gets too dry.

Pretty scientific, huh? I've never been a good recipe follower and I encourage you to be the same way. Experiment with whatever veggies/legumes you have on-hand. Just use the abbreviated risotto base as a starting point. Basically, risotto is prepared by gradually stirring broth in as your brown rice is cooking, but I don't have the patience for that.

I prepared two cups of rice, which was enough to feed me lunch for four days. Each day, I filled three whole romaine leaves with the risotto for lunch and squirted soy sauce over the top. They really do look like little boats, which makes them much more fun. I haven't been this excited about lunch in a long time. All ingredients are either from my backyard or Aldi's. Yep, I'm having a love affair with Aldi's lately. Don't tell anyone;)

Rissoto Boats, Rissoto in romaine leaf

Make Each Day Lovelier

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why would you walk around empty-handed when you can carry around one of these?

Finger Bouquet, Taking a walk along the trails

Let me introduce you to my new favorite happiness tool: Finger Bouquets. There really is no reason why we shouldn't always carry flowers between our fingers, if we can. If we can make our days brighter by simply snapping off a few stems along the railroad tracks, why not do it? I think making each day a little lovelier makes sense, don't you? It's inspirational. I mean, there really is no substitution for being able to take a whiff of natural fragrance on a whim anyway.

This yellow-and-white-themed pinch bouquet was created as my family and I took a walk down a local trail. The flowers grow in droves along the path, so I decided to take advantage of Mother Nature. I was honestly amazed at the varieties of yellow and white that I managed to pick up. There are at least 10 different flowers (weeds?) in my hand. That makes me *sigh*.

Now if you see me carrying around a fistful of flowers on my lunch break, you'll know what I'm doing.

Outdoor Movie Night Theme

Saturday, August 4, 2012


A certain little boy turned four this week, and to commemorate this milestone, we decided to host an outdoor movie night for him and his tiny friends.

With a sprinkling of inspiration from Pinterest (of course!), we designed the party to be as fun but as low-maintenance and budget-conscious as possible. A few trips to the Dollar Store and we had 'er made. On the list:

Red/white tissue paper
Alpha stickers
Theater-style candy (Twizzlers, Milk Duds, etc)
Kid-style party favors
Red cups
Raffle tickets
Bottled water


To build the "concession stand", we used a table and red and white tablecloth that we already owned. Then, we used Dollar Store tissue paper to create the background banners. The "Concessions" banner was as simple as cutting out triangles on a fold in the tissue paper, gluing them to a string, and attaching the appropriate letter stickers. The other banners consist of three sheets of tissue paper, folded in half twice and then cut and fringed along the bottom.



All theater-style treats were served in clear glass dishes decorated with red raffle tickets from the Dollar Store. We also wrapped the bottled water in raffle tickets.

We popped many-a-bag of popcorn. I found classic striped popcorn bags at a local party store. Goody bags for all the little guests were assembled with popcorn bags, playing cards, squirt guns and a few other do-dads. Mom made some puppy chow and we ordered a cupcake cake from Walmart. All set!


The movie played on a flatscreen we took from inside our house. This was in lieu of trying to source pricey projection equipment and erect a big white sheet. It worked out just fine. I recommend watching movies outside like this any time! We put out some blankets and seat cusions for comfy theater seating.



  Not only did Peanut enjoy his birthday, so did the grownups. Even grandpa.


Kayaking: My Favorite Way to Work Out

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Kayaking is my meditation. It is the most peaceful, in-touch-with-nature, thrilling active sport that I know, at least on our calm local waters. I would take a humble kayak over a fancy yacht any day. I would add that it's pretty budget-friendly as well. You only pay the initial cost of the boats (around $300 for ours) and minimal equipment for endless summer entertainment. I sometimes forget to chalk up my time in the boat as fitness minutes, because it never feels like working out. It's blissful, it's family time, it's an adventure, and it's a whole experience as opposed to being just another workout.



I love how you can get into tiny nooks that are inaccessible to other boats. We've been down some extremely shallow channels (like 2 inches deep!) that are completely secluded. You can literally drop a kayak in any waters--and by yourself, I might add. I think my kayak only weighs like 35lbs, so I can carry it alone.


On this particular trip, we got to see a lot of wildlife: frogs, red wing blackbirds, turtles, ducks and of course fish. Our love of the sport has carried over to our Peanut, since he came along this time and loved it too. Can you tell?


We went at dusk. Boat traffic was light, the weather was golden, the sun was starting to set. If that isn't meditative, I don't know what is. Ohm-ing on a cushion is no match for the steady rhythm of the paddles, the caress of the air, the smell of nature and the peaceful surroundings that kayaking offer.

When they tell you to find an exercise you love, this is what they mean. Kayaking is an "exercise" that I truly love love. What's yours?

Gym Hair: Upside-down Braid with Top Knot

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Last week, I tried out another fun gym hair idea. Like I said before, I'm making a concerted effort to not default to a ponytail all the time. I'm bound and determined to pull myself out of a hair rut. However, I'm not keen on dedicating a lot of time to my hair. I'm perpetually running a little late in the morning, trying to get to work on time. I have no time for extra fuss. Also, I'm trying to keep the looks grownup--no Laura Ingalls braids over here.

This style took less time than it would take to blow-dry my hair. And I got tons of compliments on it all day.

This is what it looked like pre-workout. But actually, I had worn it on my bike ride to and from work and to work all day. It really held up.


And this is what it looked like before bed, after an intense gym session. It's really a durable 'do.

Here's the how-to:

All you have to do is form an upside-down French braid halfway down your head. Secure with bobby pins, if you'd like.

Then, gather all your hair into a high ponytail. As you're wrapping your hair tie around the last time, pull your hair only halfway through and play around with it a little. At this point, you can remove the bobby pins, if you have long hair like mine (or leave them in for shorter hair).

Spray to secure.