Update and Oat Bran

Oh boy it's been a while.  Once I let a period of time go by without posting, then I feel that I need to have this incredible post to make up for the time gone by.  Well, that's not really going to happen.  I think now I'm just needing to post something to get back in the game. 

We had a very busy summer.  We were go go going almost every day.  From driving 24+ hours (each way) to the upper peninsula of Michigan to learning to take the public transportation to Target we were constantly exploring and discovering all kinds of fun things.  In between our explorations Munchkie's Daddy and I trained to run a 10k, something I never ever would have imagined doing.  See my brother is the runner, not me.  But I went from barely making it one minute running to running every step of the 6.2 miles we ran this past Sunday. 

Oat Bran with apples, cinnamon, almond butter
I also found a new blog that I am loving.  I am in the process of reading every post she has posted, but am still only on 2009.  I think that blogs are the new books for me.  The thing that bothers me about reading is that I want to finish the whole book.  I sometimes sit reading a book cover to cover and neglect all else.  But with blogs, each post has a wrap up so you feel that you can walk away and aren't constantly wondering what you're missing by not reading.  It sometimes it still a continuous story, but you can take breaks without feeling like you need to read "just one more sentence" so you are in a good stopping point.  Anyway, in this new blog Heather Eats Almond Butter she talks about the importance of eating healthy fats, something I have agreed with.  I think that I did increase my healthy fats, but not on a daily basis.  I also was eating unbelievable amounts of fruit because I love it so much.  Now I am trying to substitute veggies for the fruits I was eating, because sugar is sugar. 

Oat bran with pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, unsweetened carob chips
I also have found a love of oat bran.  I work 12-13 hour days, eating breakfast around 6am, maybe a snack mid morning and sometimes not having time to eat lunch until after 4pm.  It's absolutely essential for me to find something very sustaining to last me that many hours.  I am amazed by how well this oat bran fills me up.  The key is all of the things that you can add into your oat bran.  I think tomorrow morning I am going to venture into spinach.  We'll see how this goes.

Munchkie had maple syrup and milk added to her pumpkin oat bran.
Oat Bran

1/2 cup oat bran
2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (can use water or any other kind of milk)
2-4 packets of stevia (or your sweetener of choice)
1-2 tablespoons almond/nut butter (get in those healthy fats!)
1-2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
add ins of your choosing, pumpkin, apples, butternut squash, spinach, carob chips, more seasonings, raisins, all kinds of fruit, nuts, whatever sounds good

To make, on the stove-top bring to a boil the oat bran, milk, sweetener, cinnamon, and pumpkin/apples.  Turn the heat down a little bit and continue boiling until the milk and oat bran are completely combined and it has thickened, only another minute or two.  Turn the heat off, add in the vanilla and almond butter and stir until combined.  You can eat right away, adding more yummy things into your bowl or you can put it in the refrigerator overnight, even up to a couple of days. I think that it is delicious both warm and cold, it depends on my mood.  It's also very portable, I eat it on the bus on the way to work.  This amount usually is too much for me to eat, I usually separate this into two containers and eat over two days, or I "snack" on it throughout the morning at work, eating a few bites when I get the chance.



I thought that I would also include some pictures highlighting our summer of fun!
Rode on her first horse with Grandpa at Old McDonald's Farm

Lots and lots of swimming, she graduated swim classes and enjoyed every minute of it.

We went to a water park where Munchkie loved the thrill of sliding down the slides.

Munchkie found out that she likes lobsters.  A lot.  Between lobsters and her love of good cheeses, she's an expensive date!

We ran our first 5K, running around our city to various historical points of interest, learning more about where we live.

Went to a Food Truck Festival, enjoying all kinds of good eats.

Spent an afternoon in a rowboat on a pond in the city, so relaxing!

Munchkie loved tubing on the lake in the UP of MI, wanting to go faster and faster!

Couldn't get this girl off of the Sea-Doo, she wanted to do "tricks" all day long.

Plenty of time spent on the beaches, finding all kinds of treasures.

Traveled to some water falls with friends, nothing like splashing your feet in cool water.

Hanging out by the waterfalls.

The first day of school, so hard to believe!

We went to our first tea party, so much fun!

We did it!  We ran a 10k!  Munchkie ran across the finish line with us.
And there you have it.  We have been busy, enjoying time spent together.  Although it's sad to be back to the grind of things, school, work, etc. it's nice to be back in a rhythm. 


How We Do Healthy While Taking Time Away

Re-hydrating with some sparkling water

This past weekend I had a long weekend and so we decided to do something fun.  Our initial thought was to go away for the whole time I had off, but then different things came up and our time away turned into a two day one night trip.  It was a wonderful and much needed two days and one night.  Munchkie loved every single minute of it and can't wait to go back.
Plum and tail mix snack break

One thing that I dread about vacations and holidays are all of the changes and unhealthy decisions that are made during those times.  This time I was determined to not make the financial and healthy eating sacrifices just because we were away from our normal routine.  I used our weekly grocery budget to get all kinds of snacks, foods and sparkling water for us to eat while hanging out on the beach or in between rides down water slides.  It worked out so well, no one went hungry, we didn't stray from our weekly budget and we didn't have that ugh feeling of fried and processed foods. 
Our healthy spread of foods for lunch at the water park

What I packed in our cooler:
Greek yogurt
Cheese sticks
Sparkling water
Cut up red bell peppers

In another bag:
Trail mix mixed together from various bulk nuts, seeds and dried fruits from bulk bins
Dried apple chips
More Sparkling water

We also made sure to stay in a hotel that had a breakfast available
Yummy apples!

We had a wonderful time and there was not a single ounce of guilt over what we were eating.  Munchkie was able to go without a nap both days and I think that her lack of complete breakdowns were largely due to the fact that she didn't have an afternoon sugar crash and was packed full of healthy sources of fats, carbs and proteins to keep her going.

We had a wonderful time away as a family, enjoying playing together splashing in water and soaking up some great rays.  The little bit of planning that I did ahead of time, in between shifts at the hospital, made all of the difference in the quality of our time together.  
Trail mix
 Sunflower seeds
Raw pumpkin seeds
Raw whole almonds
Dried tart cherries
Banana chips
Goji berries
Raw cacao nibs
Dried pineapple
Skipped the salty chips and instead snacking on apple chips


Healthy Ice Cream with a Little Less Mess

It's been a while since I've had this much trouble falling asleep while it's dark out.  I thought that only sleeping five hours today would be ok and I would be able to sleep tonight, but that apparently is not the case.  I guess I was just so tired that those five hours were plenty.  After laying in bed for a very long time I decided to just get out and waste some time online.  It's so infuriating because now all the plans I had for tomorrow will be blown, unless a few hours sleep tonight will be enough to get me through tomorrow.  So I'm up in the middle of the night blogging.

Anyway, it's July and thanks to President Reagen, it's National Ice Cream Month.  Munchkie and I have a real love for ice cream, we could eat it daily.  Probably multiple times a day.  Since that obviously would not be the smartest parenting decision we don't eat it daily and we have been making our own "healthy ice cream."  Munchkie's Mimi gave us two hand churn ice cream makers that we used in my childhood and we've been cranking out our own "Fro Yo" on a regular basis.  It is so easy.  You can do a quick search online for all kinds of ice cream recipes with tons of steps and ingredients.  We go for easy, quick, healthy and delicious here. Two ingredients.  Three steps.  That's it.

Puree the fruit of your choice. Mix with plain lowfat yogurt (or flavored if the plain is too tangy).  Follow instructions for ice cream maker.  Ta Da!

The only problem with this is that the resulting frozen yogurt is quite soft and messy at first, then the leftovers freeze solid and are difficult to scoop out.  I figured that there had to be a happy medium.  Putting together some ideas that I had seen on Pinterest, I made some mess free kid friendly ice cream treats. 

Let me tell you that it takes me a lot longer to wipe down sticky fingers and face than it did to put these together.

1.  Mix together the ice cream or regular old ice cream from the grocery store.  You could also use yogurt and avoid the ice cream maker altogether.

2. Put cupcake liners into a muffin pan.  Of course every kid needs sprinkles on their ice cream, so those go in the bottom of the cupcake liners.

3. Fill the cupcake liners with frozen yogurt or ice cream to however much you want your child to have.

4. Press a cone down into every cupcake liner until it's secure in the muffin pan.

5. Freeze for several hours.

6. Remove each ice cream cone from the muffin tin.  I put them all into a gallon ziplock bag and back into the freezer they went.

7.  Peel off the cupcake liner.

8. Of course there needs to be a cherry on top.

9. See some happy kiddos that don't have ice cream everywhere.  This kiddo didn't want to stop eating long enough to give me a real smile.

This is a great way to control portions and eliminate dishes to clean.  Since we don't have a dishwasher, not having to wash a scooper, spoon or bowl makes me just as happy as Munchkie.  For myself I froze scoops of ice cream into the cupcake liners without the ice cream cones and hold onto the liner while I eat the ice cream.


I Wish I Was a Runner

No part of me likes running.  I wish that I could be a runner, but those genes were obviously given to my brother and not me.  As I've said before, I don't really like to exercise at all.  I kind of thought about it for a little while and tried to figure out why exactly is is that I despise it so much.  Once I'm finished or almost finished, I start to feel good, but somehow I just can't remember that feeling when I'm starting out. 

I remember reading this post about running a while ago and it really kind of opened up my eyes.  In my mind I thought that people who ran loved it.  I thought that they wanted to go running and felt good while they were doing it.  Therefore, I could never run because I felt like I was going to die every time I tried.  Since I read this post I have been thinking about it.  Her honesty was so inspiring to me, and I wanted to be a runner too.  After reading that anyone can be a runner, that is is ok to be slow and red faced made me realize I really had no more excuses.  The only thing holding me back from running was myself.  And just as she said, running is 95% mental. 

Once summer came, Munchkie's Daddy is off school, we have the option for full time childcare and I only work three days a week.  There were even less excuses to not exercise.  I know that I need an end goal to motivate me.  It has to be a realistic goal and something that is challenging enough that I don't get complacent with myself.  Munchkie's Daddy and I decided to run a 10K (even if we are the last to cross the finish line) in the fall, giving us 20 weeks to get ready for it.  I had also heard good things about the Couch to 5K program and since we are literally starting off from the couch, I thought that it would work well for us. 

I found a C25K app for Munchkie's Daddy's iPod and a few weeks ago Target had a huge selection of exercise music on sale, each CD was $2.99.  So we got a few different kinds of fast tempo music and off we went.  The Couch to 5K program has been great for us, in the beginning you start by walking a couple minutes then running a minute, walking, running.  That very first "run" I could not believe what I had gotten myself into.  I thought I was going to die.  I couldn't breathe, I couldn't pick my feet up and I felt like I was going to keel over.  I said so many times that I thought I was going to die that Munchkie started saying it as well.  I could not even run the full minute. I seriously doubted the fact that anyone of any size can run.  I had to keep reminding myself that the contestants on the Biggest Loser were hundreds of pounds heavier than me and they were running for a lot longer than a minute.  If they can do it, than so can I.

Now, we are running 8 minutes straight with a walking break in the middle.  The program eases you into running and you don't even realize that you are running 8 minutes.  Not only running, but feeling good while you run.  I'm not saying that it is easy, because I often still feel like I'm going to die, like this morning, when I couldn't do the entire last 8 minutes (waking up after little sleep, throwing on some work out clothes and walking out the door was not the best idea) but overall, it's amazing to me how I feel. 

I read this funny post on Sunday and thought about how mind clearing running can be.  While I'm running I have to focus on so many different things that I can not think about anything else.  There is no room in my head to think about anything else except breathing, picking my feet up, keeping my stride short, and not falling on my face.  I can't think about work, I can't think about Munchkie, I can't think about food or the future.  There is no room for worry, and that is what is so freeing about running.  I also really love how great I am starting to feel afterword.  I am starting to notice my energy and my mood lifting.  My clothes are starting to get a little bit looser and I get to spend time with my husband.  I want to become a runner, because running seems to be something great.


Fruit Pizza

Things have been a little busy around here. My pause started and then I felt that I needed to make up for the pause and just kept putting it off.  So I just need to get to it.  I'll start back into it with a recipe from last night.

I signed up to bring a dessert last night for our small group. I have been trying to stay away from grains and all forms of sugars and artificial non calorie sweeteners.  This makes things pretty difficult when eating with other people, which I really enjoy doing.  So I am finding other ways to create things that I can eat and bring to gatherings.  Last night I made a gluten free and completely sugar free fruit pizza.

 My new secret ingredient is something very unsuspecting.  Dates.  I have been getting dates from the Lebanese store down the street, but it says that they are packaged in glucose.  So I boil a pot of water and soak about a cup of whole pitted dates in around 3-4 cups of boiling water for a while (sometimes a few minutes, sometimes a few hours if I forget).  Then I drain the water, rinse them again in hot water and put them in my food processor and process until smooth and paste like.  And then you have date paste.

For the crust: (double this for a 9x13 pan)
1 1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 tsp salt
4 teaspoons date paste
1/3 cup melted butter or coconut oil
2 teaspoons ice water

Mix together flour and salt in a mixing bowl.  Melt butter, add to flour mixture, mixing in date paste as well.  Once combined, add in ice water and mix until a "gooey" dough forms. Press into pie plate and bake at 350 degrees for 10-20 minutes until golden brown on edges and top. Allow to cool

For the spread: (this is for a 9x13 pan)
1 8oz brick of cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or whatever milk) plus more if needed
1/3 cup date paste

Mix together with an electric hand mixer all of the ingredients, adding more milk as needed to the desired consistency. Spread over cooled crust. 

Top with desired fruit (we used blueberries and cut up strawberries).

I recently discovered Larabars and decided that they would be really easy to make.  I just take about a cup of date paste and mix together with  a cup or so of pureed nuts.  Some of my favorites are pecans and almonds for a pecan pie taste, and unsweetened shredded coconut with almonds and a tablespoon of cocoa for an almond joy.  I put a piece of foil inside of a loaf pan and press the mixture of dates and nuts into the loaf pan.  I freeze for a few hours, take out and cut into bars then put into ziploc bags and refrigerate.  They are great to toss into my purse or bag for work. 


Summer Goals

Tonight I went on my first ever voluntary run.  I do not like to run.  Well, I guess I don't like to sweat, pant, hurt, turn red or feel like I'm going to die.  So I don't really like exercise, but I especially don't like to run.  I've really wanted to enjoy running, people who run are happier people, have a stress relief outlet, time to think and come home all full of happy endorphins released while running.  I decided that I need to just force myself to like running and the only way to do this is to have a goal at the end.  Munchkie's Daddy and I are going to do a 10K (I think) in September.  The few people that I have told this to are all shocked, which makes me think that we might be a little too ambitious, but we don't care how long it takes us to finish, we only plan to finish.  Now that Munchkie's Daddy is finished with school for the summer we have made several goals that we are going to accomplish before school starts up again, which also happens to be right around his birthday.
Right when we first moved, we got Chinese take out in a moment of exhaustion and frustration.  When it came time to open the fortune cookies, the "fortunes" were shockingly right on target.  Usually they just stir up a laugh, and then get tossed into the bag of trash.  These fortunes however, made it onto the fridge.  When I get down, frustrated or procrastinate something, I think of these.  The one "Begin...the rest is easy" is the one that really hits me.  I put so many things off because there's not a deadline that I have to meet, and I'm just scared to start things.  Things such as exercising, that I know I should do, I want to do, I just don't want to start.  Because starting is the scariest and worst part.
We (by we I mean me and I say we, forcing Munchkie's Daddy to be a part of this) made a giant piece of foam board into a list of what we want to do this summer, our end goals (like running the 10K in September - giving us a deadline), and a sticker chart to keep us accountable.  Yes, that's right, we're parents of a three year old, so we made a sticker chart.  We are calling it Our Family's Holistically Healthy Summer Plan.  Some our goals include, reading for fun, getting more sleep, decreasing our car use, increasing our time outside, and various goals for eating healthy.  Our sticker chart is a weekly checklist and some of the things that we need to check off each week are running, reading our bible, loosing weight and exploring a new place.  This was our first week, and for the first week, I think we did pretty well. 

Today we explored a new place, we went to a nearby town to visit Munchkie's Aunt who was at a conference at a nearby college.  When we got to the town we realized that it was right on the water, so we got out and walked up and down the beach for a little bit.  I didn't realize how much I missed living right by the water until we parked our car, got out, and the ocean smell breeze blew into my face.  

Our next accomplished goal this week was running as a family for the first time.  We worked our way up by power walking a few times before starting the couch to 5K running program and ran through a beautiful arboretum nearby.  For me this is a huge accomplishment.  Munchkie was absolutely loving this running time.  We used an app that kept track of time for us, beeping and saying when it was time to walk and when it was time to run again.  She would make sure that we heard it and were doing the appropriate activity.  I had said several times that I was going to die, and this really concerned her (even though she doesn't really know what dying means) so she kept asking me, "are you dying Mommy?"  Then after we were finished running, and began our walk home she was doing stretches in her stroller, telling us that she was dying and needed to stretch out.  

As a family we have set goals, individual goals and goals for our family.  We have a deadline of mid September and a huge chart in our living room to keep us accountable.  I guess we'll see how this goes.


Safety First

Living in a city with a child has some challenges.  Transportation becomes a little bit trickier than hopping on a bus or subway and walking where you need to go.  Several times when we go somewhere I have decided to ditch the stroller and have Munchkie walk.  I have learned how to have a firm grasp on her for safety.  For when we're getting on and off the subway at rush hour, when she's not paying attention to the uneven brick sidewalk, when we're in the aquarium during field trip day, when she tries to pull away or getting on and off a bus with my other arm full of things.  There are many time when I have been so thankful to be holding on so firmly, we could easily have been separated or she could have fallen.

The trick is in the pinky.  I wrap my pinky around her wrist creating a very secure grip.  This way I can hold on to her hand even if she lets go.  There's no slipping out of my grasp and it makes me feel a lot more comfortable with adventuring out with an active little girl.

I highly recommend getting this grip down and using it in crowded situations.  It can help you have a little piece of mind while you are searching for other dangerous situations your child could get into.


How Does Your Garden Grow?

Today we finally planted our "garden" and Munchkie was thrilled.  I was going to plant seeds, because I sometimes am just not smart.  I thought that my black thumb would suddenly turn green and something would actually grow.  But then the marigolds that we planted from seeds shriveled up and slumped over, and I saw her friends'  marigolds all flourishing.   So forget that seed idea, we're going for plants.  Bypassing seedlings and going straight for the plants.

It was a great idea and a lot of fun to pot the plants.  Very rewarding to see the plants in the pots already, not just pots with plain brown dirt.  Maybe with any luck we might actually be able to eat something from our potted plants.  Hopefully the three year old who seriously never forgets anything will remember to water them.
 Filling up our pots- she was such a good helper!
 She planted her lettuce seeds and got to choose where ever she wanted to put her pot.

Then we had to water all of the plants once they were planted.
 She had a lot of watering to do and gave each plant an equal amount.
 She said "now that all of the plants got water to drink I need some water to drink!  I'm thiiiiirsty!"
And this was her face.
 I told Munchkie that she could pick any flower that she wanted, but when I showed her what the snapdragon could do, she wouldn't look at any other plant. I told her how my Grammy used to call me her snap dragon and would plant them in her garden.  I also told her how Mimi planted them too.

 She picked out what colors she wanted the snap dragons to be.
This was one of my very pretty Easter basket flowers.
Munchkie is going to try to grow some strawberries, I think we may end up dropping some strawberries into the pot and saying that they grew.  I don't have high hopes for this.
 I heart basil.
And cilantro!  My mouth just waters thinking of fresh tomato salsa.
Hopefully this will produce some tomatoes to make that fresh tomato salsa.