Wednesday, December 10, 2014

25 Books of Christmas

We have a wonderful free-cycle group in my local community where members of the community give away items that they no longer need and sometimes even hold giveaways for some great products. It's a great way to get rid of items that you no longer want or need and give to someone that could use it. I've been lucky enough to have given and received many great items on this site. It's always heartwarming to see others helps those in need and the kindness on the site makes me so happy to live in such a great and caring community.

Several weeks ago, a kind woman posted a giveaway on the site for a 25 Books of Christmas gift that included 25 children's books, basket, wrapping paper and tape to be used the 25 days preceding Christmas. The premise is to unwrap and read one book a day leading up to Christmas. It's a great way to promote reading with your children, grow your child's library and a great bonding experience daily. There were many, many people interested in offer so she picked a name from the long list of those interested. I WON! :) To say that I was excited is an understatement. Anyone that knows me well, knows that I'm a bookworm and I can only hope that our son follows the same path.

All the books and goodies to wrap it up!
Wrapped and ready to read! 
We've had a great time picking out a book each day and reading a new book. There have been some great ones, but so far Little Blue Truck is definitely a favorite. This is definitely a new tradition that I think that we'll be doing each year while our child(ren) are still young. I plan on making sure to pass along the random act of kindness next year and offering a similar gift to the group.

Do you have any holiday traditions that your family participates in or traditions that you're hoping to continue/start? 



Sunday, December 7, 2014

Clarkston Back Roads Half Marathon and 10k Race Recap

A couple weeks ago, Ryan and I ran the Clarkston Back Roads Half Marathon & 10k and I'm so glad that we decided to do this race. It was a really chilly morning, but the gorgeous sites during the run were well worth the initial chill.

I had been looking forward to this race for awhile, but as the date approached I was reluctant since just the week before I took a really hard fall while running. The sidewalks where I run are in terrible shape and I caught my toe while running and super-manned right near a busy intersection. I jacked up my knee, hip and hands in the process, but I think my ego was hurt more than my body, as motorists stopped to see if I was ok. LOL. Anyways, I was definitely feeling the fall a few days later and it made me a bit nervous about running the 10k.
Thank goodness for running gloves! My hands would
have been destroyed without them!
The morning of the run was a chilly one, but it was a nice because this race has a later start (9:30), so it was beginning to warm up a bit and sun peeked out now and then as the race was beginning. I was shocked at how many half marathon runners there were. The start was a little confusing at first because it was difficult to hear what was going on, but after a few minutes everything was cleared up. I started in between the 9:00 and 10:00 pace, but wished that I had jumped up to a quicker corral. I think that I've been taking it too slow from the start during some races lately and it's hurting my time. I'm always afraid I'll push too hard and burn out before the end, but I think I need to push harder.

Staying warm pre-race!
Hubby pre-race! He sped ahead of me (he's faster than I)


The course was super hilly and gorgeous. We looped around the lake and at one point passed a bunch of horses that were galloping around and right near the runners. It was really a cool thing to see mid-race. As difficult as hills are, I love them during races and the challenge they provide. The course was a mix of cement path, dirt road and small trails. The runners were all great about getting over and letting runners pass and there were fabulous volunteers throughout! I was really impressed at how seriously they took runners safety and how well marked the race path was.

I felt pretty good until about the 3 mile marker and my knee started bugging me. I kept pushing through it and eventually the pain subsided some and then went away completely! I felt like the last few miles of the race passed pretty quickly, I was really happy with my time, especially battling a mild injury and for not train all that much (I got a little relaxed on the training after the Free Press Marathon). There was a fun after party with the Clarkston Union Mac n Cheese (the best in Southeast Michigan), MIP beer (which tasted great!), live music and small fires to warm up.  This is definitely a race that I'll be doing again and next time I'll likely try to do the half marathon. I really loved that it was a trail run and all the great and friendly runners that participated. I think that I'm starting to prefer trail races a bit more than road races now.

I was pretty happy with my pace and place for not being 100%. My husband, Ryan, finished 2nd in his age group! Mr. Speedy!

YUM! My favorite!
Finish line is in sight! I totally thought I was going
 to wipe out here since it was downhill!
Do you prefer trail run or road races? 
What type of races or running do you do more often?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Do you love trying new, fabulous products? Check out Influenster!!

I've always loved staying on top of trends and new products and thankfully there are so many great sites out there now that help connect you with growing products and companies. One of my favorite sites for this is Influenster!


Influenster is a large community of trendsetting consumers that share their opinions and thoughts in new products, power hitting social media users, and influential consumers. The site offers lots of interaction between other users and brands via Twitter chats, opportunities to try full-size products, contests and giveaways, and even discounts on items and services that you use. Basically, Influenster rewards you for your social media presence by giving you some really great opportunities to try and review new products.

Influenster calculates your Social Impact Score using different modes of social media, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Google+, blogs and by inviting friends and family to the program. The higher your score, the higher your social impact. Connecting your accounts boosts your score and increases your chances for being included in programs.
Through Influenster I have received numerous VoxBoxes, which are one of my favorite things to get in the mail. I've had items from many large companies, ranging from health items, soap, hair care, baby items, makeup and nails items, foods, candy, drinks and so on. If you're into free,  new products I highly recommend checking out and signing up for Influenster. Sign up is quick and easy, along with participating in campaigns. They make it even easier to participate by having a simple to use app too (search for InfluensterApp)

Below are just a few of the VoxBoxes that I've received complimentary to test and/or review:



If you're interested in this program, follow the link below and sign up!

Sign up HERE!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Simple and Savory BBQ Chicken Sandwich with Arla Dofino Cheese - #HavartiParty

I was lucky enough to be able to try Arla Dofino cheese through BzzAgent and I'm hooked. I will admit that initially I had a really hard time tracking down this cheese, but eventually did find it at Walmart (we rarely shop there anymore and stick to Meijer, Sam's Club or VG's).



Arla Dofino offers a delicious range of family-friendly cheeses in varieties like Havarti, Gouda, Edam and Fontina. An added bonus is that they’re made with only a few natural ingredients and no added hormones. I used my coupon to sample the creamy havarti. The creamy havarti is a creamy, buttery, gentle and semi soft cheese with a mellow aroma. This cheese is perfect on burgers, tacos, by itself, and my favorite...on a BBQ chicken sandwich with coleslaw!



Simple and Savory BBQ Chicken Sandwich

Ingredients:
French bread (we like the everything variety, but regular or wheat works too)
Rotisserie chicken (or baked/grilled) - shredded into bite size pieces. 
Coleslaw (packaged or homemade - recipe below)
BBQ sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's is my favorite)
Arla Dofino Creamy Havarti cheese - sliced
Red onion - thin slices
Butter
Garlic seasoning

  1. Turn oven broiler on.
  2. Cut french bread into 1 inch slices. Butter each side with butter and garlic seasoning and place under broiler until golden brown. Flip, and repeat on opposite side.
  3. Layer one slice of bread with BBQ sauce, shredded chicken, sliced red onion, and havarti cheese.
  4. Place under broiler to melt cheese.
  5. Top with generous portion of coleslaw and top with slice of toasted bread.
  6. ENJOY! 
Seriously easy and quick. Looks, and taste gourmet without a ton of work.


For a quick homemade slaw, mix the following ingredients together, chill and serve:

1 bag (16 ounce) coleslaw mix 
2/3 cup Miracle Whip 
1/8 cup sugar
3 tablespoons milk 
2 tablespoons vinegar (I like apple cider vinegar)
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

How would you use this cheese? 
Have you tried this brand before or any of their other varieties? 

Disclosure: I received this product for free through BzzAgent, however all opinions are my own. 




Saturday, November 8, 2014

10 month Aiden update!

I remember thinking when Aiden was born that I was going to update in him monthly...well, 10 months later and I've failed terribly! >:(

Life's been crazy with an active baby around the house and somehow blogging has been pushed to the back burner. Now that he's becoming a lot more independent I'm hoping to be able to focus a bit more time to blogosphere because I miss it...and all of you! So hold me accountable, ok? :)

Anyways, little man is 10 months old! Holy crap, I can't believe that I need to start planning a first birthday party soon. Sheesh, it makes me kind of sad how quickly this has all went by.  We're so lucky to have the sweetest, most good natured kiddo ever. Like seriously, dream baby (well, everything except for his sleep, but it's getting better).

How He's Grown - We finally had his 9 month well baby visit and little man is long and lean. He's weighing 18lbs, 12 oz and at a height of 29 inches. He's 30% percentile for weight and 75% percentile for height. The weight gain has slowed, as has the height. Being lean and tall, has made it difficult at times to find pants that are long enough, but not too loose around the waist.

How He's Sleeping - This is by far the most inconsistent thing in our life right now. Some nights he sleeps the whole night through, others he's up every two to three hours. Lately (the past week), he's been sleeping through the night more often. The downside, he's been up at 4:30-5:30, but I think Daylight Savings Time also is messing that up. We started having Ryan go in at the middle of the night if Aiden was waking often. He was getting into the habit of having to nurse every.single.time, yet wasn't actually hungry.  Having Ryan go in to soothe him instead of me has made a difference and helped get Aiden into the habit of sleeping longer periods at night. The sleeping through the night has made naps a bit less predictable, and he's for the most part dropped to only one nap a day. I miss that second nap, but won't complain since I'm finally getting sleep at night!
There's his froggy lovey he can't sleep without.
What He's Eating - More like, what isn't he eating! He loves food...he's definitely our child. Haha! He's definitely not interested in eating baby foods anymore and wants more texture and to be able to feed himself. This past month, he's had a large interest in using the spoon and helping us guide it into his mouth. A few favorites: Popeye's pasta (creamed spinach sauce), oatmeal with fruit, tomato soup with rice, ravioli's, black bean burgers, & hash browns.
Spaghetti...another favorite!
What He's Doing - He's speed crawling, pulling up on everything, taking a few steps behind his walkalong toys, cruising along furniture, opening drawers, "reading" his books and really enjoying us reading to him. He's started to really become attached to a few toys and we had a minor blip when I left his lovey at my parents house! Thankfully his Papa came and dropped it off the next night! Phew! His favorite word is still "Mama", but "Baba" (dada) is following closely. Also starting to say "Hiiiiii" and "buh buh" for bye along with waving.

What He Loves - He absolutely adores his frog lovey from Carters. He has to go to bed with it each night. Also, his tiny tiger toy from Garanimals, Kohl's Cares dolphin stuffed toy, soft blocks, ball table and anything with wheels. It's so cute to watch him push the cars and trucks around. He's still digging his Fisher Price rain-forest Jumperoo as always.
video

What Else - Him and Maverick, our shihtzu are starting to become friends. Mav's still a bit reluctant at times, but Aiden's trying his best. Aiden's taken to feeding him from his high chair and always trying to give him toys. It's adorable.

We celebrated a good friends daughters first birthday! I always like to say that this is Aiden's future girlfriend! ;)

He also spent a day in downtown Detroit with his daddy watching me cross the finish line at the Detroit Free Press marathon where I ran in a relay team.


We also had a fun playdate at the beginning of the month at the Pumpkin Patch with a bunch of friends at Spicer Orchards. It was so great to see everyone and get all the babies together. I'm hoping to continue this and hopefully not go so long without seeing everyone.

I can't believe that we are less than 2 months away from a first birthday. I wish we could slow time down because it's flying by in a blur. I'm not ready for my baby to be a little boy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Premier Protein #MixedBerrySmoothie Review

I was recently sent some Mixed Berry Smoothie's to try from Premier Protein. I was excited to receive this product as I'm always looking for fast, quick and affordable protein options. There are many mornings and afternoons where this would be a perfect energy boost, especially with a very active baby running around the house and being limited in time or on-the-go. These smoothies have a great balance of carbs, fats and proteins that provide a long-lasting source of energy.
Let me just say, I was shocked by how great these smoothies tasted.  I rarely, if ever, find protein drinks that I like and I was pleasantly surprised at the flavor and that they didn't taste chalky at all. They tasted awesome and definitely a product that I'll be purchasing!

Another thing that I really liked about this product is that it has 60% less sugar than the leading refrigerated protein smoothies. I find that most contained WAY too much sugar for my liking. Each serving has 5 grams of fiber, 15 grams of protein and 140 calories, which makes it a healthy, delicious choice for a morning boost. midday snack or post-workout fuel.

Since I'm still breastfeeding and continuously training for various running races (10k trail run this weekend!), I'm constantly trying to add additional protein to my diet to help keep my supply up and keep my body fueled. Nursing women need 20 grams more protein a day than they did before pregnancy to support milk production so having just one smoothie daily helps me to nearly reach that goal. Plus, it's also loaded with many other essential vitamins and minerals.
Check out all those nutritional stats friends!
Mom and baby approved!
If you're interested in trying these awesome smoothies yourself, check out the following links to grab a $4 off coupons from Meijer and/or Kroger (don't forget to #ShareGoodEnergy and these savings with others):
  • Meijer (its their mPerks so no printing necessary!)
  • Kroger (digital coupon to load onto shopping card)

Disclosure: I received this product for free in exchange for writing a blog review. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Jamicure! Jamberry manicure & pedicure nail wraps = awesome beauty find!

A few weeks ago (ok, actually more like a few months ago), my friend Liz sent me some Jamberry nail wraps to try and blog about. I had been seeing more and more post all over social media about these wraps and was really curious about them since I have a horrible track record with nail polish. I LOVE having my nails painted, but I'm lucky if polish lasts more than a day before it starts chipping. I'm extremely hard on my nails. I wash my hands ten million times a day while working at the hospital and changing dirty diapers at home, not to forget all the cooking, cleaning and gardening (without gloves) that I do on a regular basis.

To start, here's a little information on the wraps and application process from the Jamberry website:

About the product:

  • How many wraps are on each sheet of nails? One regular sheet includes 18 Jamberry nail wraps. One sheet of Jamberry Juniors wraps include 42 nail wraps.
  • How many applications does one sheet provide? One regular sheet of nail wraps can be used for two to three applications, depending on the size and length of your nails. One sheet of Jamberry Juniors can be used for up to six applications. 
  • How long will my nail wraps last? Jamberry nail wraps last up to 2 weeks on fingers and 4 weeks on toes.
  • There are so many CUTE varieties! There is definitely something for everyone.
  • Really affordable. Much cheaper than getting a manicure/pedicure regularly, plus you don't have to worry about bacteria/disease from the salon. $15 a sheet which is enough for 2-3 applications or more depending on your use.

Application:


Simple & Easy:

  1. Push back cuticles and clean nails with an alcohol wipe.
  2. Match nail (finger or toe) to the nail wrap that best fits.
  3. Peel off nail wrap and warm the adhesive side with a mini heater or blow dryer (that's what I used) for 3-5 seconds or until soft/flexible.
  4. When warm, press wrap onto the nail. Apply firm pressure around edges to adhere wrap to nail.
  5. Trim the top with scissors and file off remaining wrap using a downward motion (really important to file in that motion!) to remove excess.
  6. Apply heat and pressure to the wrap again until it is bonded to the nail.
My tips for application would be to make sure to have cuticle scissors to cut the wraps. I used regular scissors because I couldn't find my cuticle scissors and it would be much easier with smaller scissors to use. Also, using tweezers to hold the edge of the wrap while warming makes application easier. And finally, have a newer file to use to be more efficient and get a smoother file. I was surprised how easy it was to do once I got the initial hang of it. 

My opinion: 
I honestly really liked this product. I had my reservations since I've had really bad luck with most nail products and their longevity, but these actually stayed on and didn't show wear like normal nail polish does. The application process was simple and didn't take too long (which is great since my free time is very little anymore with a baby in the house). I applied the nail wraps on my hands and they last nearly two weeks before I removed them. At the time of removal I was starting to get a little bit of the wrap coming loose near the tips of my nails. Regardless, I would have been removing them anyway since my nails had grown so much that there was a large gap at the bottom (thanks prenatal vitamins for nails that grow at super speed!). The ones on my toes are still hanging strong at nearly 3 weeks which is pretty amazing since it's sandal season and I walk barefoot most the time and log 15+ miles of running weekly. These babies are durable! 

It's nice to have a little splash of color and festivity on my nails without a lot of work, especially being a stay at home mom most the time. This is a great product to add to your beauty routine that's worth the money and time. I'm definitely planning on ordering some more, the hardest part will be picking out of the many designs!

Day of application!
Isn't the design adorable! So many styles for every occasion.
A few days after application and still no signs of wear.

1 & 1/2 week after application : minor wear, but more than anything just nail growth.
Nearly 3 weeks later!
Only signs of wear is one divot from me dropping a toy on my toe (ouch!)
and nail growth.

If you're interested in ordering or learning more, check out or contact Elizabeth Block at: 
http://lizblock.jamberrynails.net
NailsWithLiz@gmail.com

Special note: They have a subscription service called Style Box that seems pretty awesome! You get a  minimum $30 of Jamberry nail products, nail file, orange stick and monthly style guide each month for $25 (including shipping). Might be worth checking out!

Have you used Jamberry before? Is this something you'd try?
Thoughts?





Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tri To Finish Cinco De Mayo Race Review....and Triathlon talk!

A little overdue, but life's been busy with a new infant and changing of jobs! There sure is a new normal of getting things done once you have a baby in the house...still adapting to that change. :) 

Anyways...

This past May, Ryan and I ran the Cinco de Mayo 5k Race at Swartz Creek Golf Course in Flint, Michigan. that was organized by Tri To Finish. Tri To Finish puts on events throughout the whole lower peninsula of Michigan and range from 5k's, 10k's, triathlons and duathlons. We had a great time at the Cinco de Mayo race. It was an awesome course with a few nice elevation climbs throughout and paved conditions. I especially enjoyed it because part of the course is included in the CRIM so it helped give me an idea of what to expect in August when we run that race. The starting line was well organized with the MC getting everyone pumped up for the start and the course well marked (always good!). 

This was a perfect race to get me back into the running game after taking the last year off during pregnancy and Aiden's birth. Ryan and I did really well too, so that's always awesome! Ryan got 2nd place in his age group and I got 3rd (out of 14) with time of 28:58, which I was happy about. I wish I had pushed harder at the end, but was reluctant that I would burn out since I hadn't been running as often as I had hoped and didn't know what expect with the hills. I'm really hoping to work on my pace and carve some off my time and maybe place even better by end of summer. 
Pre-race selfie!
Finish line

Awesome medals!

Age group finisher medals
After race with Aiden (Grandma and Poppa watched him). Sweet sombreros, huh? Race swag at it's best.
Overall, super fun race that was well organized. We really loved the medals, shirts and fun hats too (some runners dressed up and wore them - AWESOME). Also, had a mini-breakfast after race for runners to help re-fuel with food from a local mexican restaurant..bonus!

I'm super excited to say that I'll be racing in my first sprint triathlon EVER with Tri To Finish in September at Holly Recreation Area (which is gorgeous if you have never been there). I have a mixture of feelings of excitement and nervousness, but I'm confident that'll it'll be a great starter triathlon. I've started training for it and I'll be sure to update on that hopefully later this week or next week. :) 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Week in the life...with my Sarah Wells "Maddy" Breast Pump Bag!

I recently started using this bag and I LOVE IT! It seriously has made life so much easier with trying to balance my return to work and continuation of breastfeeding while I'm away from Aiden. I've used this stylish bag not only for carrying my breast pump to and from work, but also girl's days, gym sessions, and while working from home. This stylish, discreet and functional bag is incredibly useful to be used as a diaper bag and there have been several occasions where I've switched to using it instead of my normal diaper bag. The Sarah Wells breast pump bag provides ample space for your pump and accessories, plus the side pockets are so convenient for putting pumped bottles of milk with a ice pack (instead of feeling awkward using the employee fridge to store them).  If used as a diaper bag there is plenty of space for diapers, blanket, cover, toys and change of clothes. There is even a zip pocket to put the smaller items that you want easily accessible (like your wallet, keys, pacifier, etc.).

Monday & Tuesday:

It was my first few days back to work after maternity leave and I was definitely having some reservations about leaving Aiden at home. It was nice to have the bag to be able to pack everything up in so I wasn't running around last minute trying to find a bag that could safely hold everything and then be able to store everything I pumped at work.
But first, let me take a selfie!
It was comforting to have a private, accommodating spot to pump at work. I'm so thankful to work at a company that is fully, supportive of breastfeeding and make it easy for their employees to pump while at work. The Sarah Wells Breast Pump Bag had plenty of room to hold my pump, all it's parts, 6 bottles, hands-free bra, baby onesie (for scent to help letdown), magazines, deodorant, makeup, and even a padded pocket to hold my iPad to prevent damage...and there was still plenty of room.
Pumping station at work for all the pumping mamas!

Wednesday:

The morning was spent doing some quick work to help out my husband with his home business before running some errands and going to the gym. I knew that I was going to have to pump before starting my workout so this was perfect for taking my pump discreetly around town (used as purse too) and into the gym. The bag is convenient because it fits my pump and it's accessories in the side pockets when on the go so I can use the large middle compartment for extra clothes. My favorite thing is that I don't have to remove my pump to use it either (which is great when in a locker room to avoid germs). I can just pull out the flanges, attach and pump while keeping the pump inside the bag.
Little desk work to start the day!
Great looking, right?
Isn't it fabulous? The perfect size for breast pump and other essentials.
Thursday:
 Another day of work. :(  It's starting to get easier to be back at work, but I dread the days I have to go in. Working second shift makes it tough because I miss bedtime and the evening bath too. I'm sure that it'll get easier over time though and I'm determined to continue breastfeeding. 

This bag is really convenient for saving time. It's large enough that I can easily put my breast pump and all of it's parts in it already assembled so that when I need to use it at work I can pull it out and starting pumping ASAP, instead of spending time putting everything together. I love that it doesn't scream, "HEY, I have a breast pump in here!!", since I have to walk through the whole hospital going into work and to the pumping rooms. Haha! I had quite a few co-workers compliment me on it and they couldn't believe that it was a breast pump bag because they were used to the frumpy, obvious pump bags that they've seen and used before. 



Friday - Spent the morning catching up on some work and then GIRL'S Day! Spent the day out with friends shopping, dining and catching up! It felt so good to have a day to just relax with the girls since it hasn't happened in forever! Used the bag as purse and pump bag through the day so I wouldn't have to use two separate bags. Less bags = less to lug around and less to lose (sleep deprived mom equals scatter brained). 


Saturday - Spent the day visiting with parents so we were on the go a lot. On days when I have Aiden with me throughout the day I nurse him, so on the weekends I use the bag as a diaper bag. It has plenty of room for all your diaper bag needs with the separate compartments. If we're bringing bottles I just put them in the side pocket with a ice pack to keep them cool for 4+ hours and the water resistant exterior and interior lining is a life-saver when you have leaky bottles - which we did. :( Nothing hurts more than wasted breast milk, but at least clean up was easy with a simple wipe with a towel. The large interior is perfect for extra change of clothes, diapers, wipes and some toys to keep Aiden smiling. The zip pocket is perfect for throwing in my wallet, a pacifier and sanitizer for quick and easy access. 


Packed and ready for a day with family. 
Obligatory baby Aiden pic! ;) 

If you're a working mom or currently pregnant and planning on being a working & pumping mom, I highly recommend this bag! It's high function, discreet and fashionable as well. An added bonus is the versatility because not only is it useful for a breast pump bag, but also as a diaper bag, purse, and overnight bag in the future so it will serve to be useful for a long period of time, not just while breastfeeding and pumping.

For more information check out Sarah Wells Bag website or buy directly on Amazon.

P.S. Don't forget....Mother's Day is right around the corner! ;)