Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Stitch Fix Review!

Have you heard of Stitch Fix?  It's a new fashion and style service.  Their website describes it as: "Stitch Fix is a personal styling service. We get your style and size preferences, then send you a package of stylish goodies to try on at home. No two Fixes are alike. Each one is hand–picked just for you."

I first heard about it from Lauren at Traded Dreams.  Since I'm losing weight, I'm starting to experiment with some different styles of clothing and I thought this would be a fun way to try things that I might not ordinarily grab off the rack at the store. 

You head to the Stitch Fix website and fill out a style profile to sign up.  There is a $20 "Styling Fee" up front, but that is credited towards your purchase.  Once you schedule your first fix, you stalk the FedEx tracking code wait patiently for it to arrive.  Then, try on your new clothes.  You choose what items you'd like to keep.  The rest get placed into a prepaid envelope and mailed back to Stitch Fix!  Easy!

My first "fix" arrived yesterday, and I was positively giddy with excitement!

Your "Fix" arrives in a pretty box, all wrapped in tissue paper, with a card. 

Each item comes with a card attached that shows some different ways to wear it.  I love this idea!
Item #1 -  a blue wrap dress. 
I didn't even take a picture of it.  It was really low cut, which I could've solved by wearing something under it.  However, it was a little shorter and swingier than I like.  Plus, the material felt similar to a wrap dress I have from Target that I paid about $15 for on clearance, and this dress was $50.  I was sad.
Verdict: sending it back

Item #2 - a black scarf with little stars all over it
I LOVED this.  I love scarves and this one was fun and would go with a lot of things.  However, it was $38 and I just can't bring myself to spend that much money on a scarf.
Verdict: sending it back

Item #3 - navy peasant blouse
I liked this.  If it was on the clearance rack, I'd have bought it.  It was around $50 though, and for something that I just "liked" but didn't LOVE, it didn't seem worth it.
Verdict: sending back

Item #4 - black blouse
I loved this.  I really struggled with the decision for this one.  I liked the cut and the fit a lot.  I ended up deciding not to keep it.  Why?  Because I'm still losing weight and this piece wouldn't look the same in another 30 pounds.  If I was at my goal weight, I'd definitely have kept this one.
Verdict: (reluctantly) sending back

Item #5: color block cardigan
When I pulled this out of the box I actually gasped and went "I LOVE IT!"  I never would've picked this up in a store, but when I put it on, I knew it was a winner!  I love that it has the brown tone that will go with both brown and black.  Plus, the edges are sparkly thread (hard to see in the picture)!  The cardi is $68.  That's pretty pricey by my standards, but I love it.  Plus, because it's a boxier shape, as I lose more weight it will still fit but be more "boyfriend" style. 
Verdict: keeping and wearing immediately!
Overall, I LOVED my first fix! It was so fun to try on different things.  Plus, I didn't have to leave my house and I had all of my other clothes there.  Don't you hate it when you're in a store trying something on and wondering how it would look with a piece you have at home? 
I'll definitely be trying Stitch Fix again, and you should try too!  Plus, if you use the links I provided and sign up, I get a credit.  Then, share it with your friends and get your credits!

Monday, February 25, 2013

3 years and 3 miles

3 years past "the day".  3 years of marking a day that will never leave my heart or my mind.  3 years of grief, recovery, and redemption. 3 years since I last saw Isaac's face on earth.

Now that I've become a runner, I think that I have the perfect analogy for these years.  For me, these 3 years since Isaac died have been like the first 3 miles in a long run.  They're the toughest miles to get through, but once you get through them - you know you can keep going.

Like that first mile, the first year after Isaac died was a test of my own strength.  I started out much like  I start out a new run - with a strange sort of energy.  In the first few months after Isaac died, there were constant check ins by friends, texts, messages, cards, gifts, etc.  Like the first half mile of a run, I felt mildly "prepared" for the first few months after Isaac died.  It wasn't until about 6 months after that it really all hit me.  And that's how it is with a run.  About 1/2 mile into it, it's as if my legs realize what is happening and start to object.  This happened in my mind.  6 months in, though I knew I was strong enough to keep going, I also fought with just not wanting to.

Year 2 was tough.  Year 2 is the year of "so this is my life now".  And mile 2 is the mile of "ok I guess we really ARE running today".  I spend most of mile 2 in a run talking myself into just putting one foot in front of the other.  That's how year 2 went - just keep going.  Keep stepping.

The third year is like that 3rd mile.  Somewhere along the way between the time when RunKeeper announces "Distance: 2.00 miles" and "Distance: 3.00 miles", my legs get into a rhythm.  Somewhere in there I find my cadence and I realize that not only "can" I keep running, but I actually WANT to keep running.

That's what year 3 was like.  I feel like I really, truly turned the corner of grief.  Of course there are still days when I cry or I miss him.  There hasn't been a day that I haven't thought of him.  But now, at the start of year 4, I know I can keep going.  I know Isaac would be proud of how strong I've become, both physically and mentally.  I know I can keep running.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Worth It All

When I'm there in Your glorious presence
Every knee is bowed before You
Hear the sound of heaven singing
You are worth it all
All the saints cry holy holy
Angels singing worthy worthy
Forever I will shout Your praises
You are worth it all

I let go of all I have just to have all of You
And no matter what the cost I will follow You
Jesus everything I've lost I have found in You
When I finally reach the end I'll say
You are worth it all
(Meredith Andrews "Worth It All")

Read more about Isaac here.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Vegas, Baby!

I've been away from the blog for a few days because I was off visiting fabulous Las Vegas!  Though it is difficult having my parents all the way across the country in their motor home, I do get the benefit of visiting lots of fun new places!

I landed in Vegas at around 10:00am on Saturday morning.  Leaving behind the cold, snowy weather of the East was not difficult!  Especially when we were greeted with sunshine and blue skies upon landing!
We spent Saturday exploring the famous "Strip" - checking out the glitz and glam of the fancy hotels along the way.  It was fun to see such a unique city!  Plus, with all of the walking we did, I rung up over 16,000 steps!  (I played $1.00 in the penny slots too, but I didn't win!)

Banana Nutella Crepe at Paris! Yum!
My favorite day of the trip came on Sunday.  My dad pulled a muscle in his back, so my mom and I (being the kind souls we are), left him lying on a heating pad with some water and ibuprofen within reach.  We, meanwhile, headed off to the Valley of Fire to hike!  This place is BEAUTIFUL.  If you're ever in Vegas, I highly recommend renting a car for the day and doing some hiking out there.  I kept thinking about how this place just could not be real.  The sky was so blue and the colors of the rocks were so bright!  Step tally for the day? 14, 669 - including 5 miles of hiking trails!

I even squeezed in a little upper body strength work on the way - haha!
Monday was another blue sky day in the high 60's, so mom and I headed out again!  Dad was feeling a little better this day, but decided another day of rest was best.  Mom and I parked at the Lake Mead Visitor's Center and checked out the gorgeous views of Lake Mead.

From there, we walked to the Hoover Dam.  The trail was through several tunnels, and was a gravel trail similar to the "Rail Trail" here in York County, PA. 
We took a few pictures from the parking lot of the Hoover Dam up to the newly opened Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. 
Then we headed up the hill and took some shots from the bridge looking down at the Hoover Dam. 
That whole trip was a little over 9 miles.  Step count for the day?  21,802!

That evening, mom and I headed back to the Strip for some dinner and to check out the Mirage Volcano and Bellagio fountains, 2 "must see" attractions in Vegas!

Tuesday we went out for a good breakfast, and then spent about an hour in Urgent Care where my dad got some meds for his back (which is now better!).  Mom and I visited the organic grocery store, Sprouts, which we don't have here on the East coast.  I could've spent hours in there, but ended up with just a few "treasures" that were air travel friendly!

Wednesday was spent traveling back to the cold here in PA!  My kitties sure were glad to see me!  They were well taken care of while I was away (Thanks Ned and Jodie!), but they're always glad to have Mom come home!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pancake Obsession

Lately, I've been making lots of breakfast foods.  I've made french toast (with egg whites and coconut milk!) a few times, but pancakes are my real favorite.  I recently came across this fabulous recipe for Greek Yogurt Pancakes that is SO GOOD!!  It's easy, and the Greek yogurt packs these guys with protein.  I topped my pancakes this morning some blueberry sauce (recipe below) and a sprinkle of coconut.  YUM!

Honey Balsamic Blueberry Sauce
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 tbsp water
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey
squeeze of lemon juice
Mix all ingredients in a small saucepan and heat!  As they sauce is heating, gently mash some of the berries.  Heat until it thickens a little, then pour over pancakes!

Calories: 116
Fat: 0g
Carbs: 40g
Fiber: 4g
Sugar: 34 g

Friday, February 8, 2013

Secret Weapon #5 - Accountability

This week I shared with you 4 of my "secret weapons" that make staying on track easier.  But, Stevia, powdered peanut butter, coconut milk, and tea can only do so much.
I hit the 70 pound mark this week!

By far, the single biggest thing that has kept me on track and committed has been accountability.  I shared about this last year, and you all know how much I LOVE my gym - Phases Fitness!  Since we began training for the Urbanathlon during the summer, I've gained 2 more priceless accountability assets - Barb and Laura. We were on the same team for the race, and now we're training for a half marathon together!
Getting ready for some COLD miles!

This morning, the 3 of us had the privilege of appearing alongside Mindy on our local news "Get Fit" segment!  Check out our "3 minutes of fame"!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Secret Weapon #4 - Tea!

This week I'm sharing some of my "secret weapons" for eating healthier! Today's weapon of choice: Hot Tea

This is a rather new secret weapon for me.  I've always loved tea, but in the past few months it's become a daily habit! (a healthy one!) Tea is not some new, unusual thing like my previous posts, but it definitely saves me a lot! (I'm drinking a cup right now because I want to eat everything today!)

Confession:  I stopped drinking coffee.

My friends who know me in real life - I'm not kidding.

I didn't quit coffee completely - in fact I had a latte just this weekend!  But, I really, really loved the flavor of coffee with skim milk.  And I don't love it with creamer (makes me gag).  And like I mentioned yesterday, the cow's milk was upsetting my digestive system.  So, I decided to try switching to tea for my caffeine fix instead.

What are the health benefits of tea?
Tea is high in polyphenols and flavonoids, which help protect the body against free radicals that can cause cancer, heart disease, and clogged arteries. 

What kinds of tea do I like?
This is a pic of the tea I currently have in my cupboard.  So, as you can see, I'm not the best at narrowing it down!  What I'm currently loving is a cup of original guayusa tea in the morning, a cup of citrus ginger guayusa tea in the afternoon, and a decaf tea in the evening. 

What is guayusa tea?

I came across this tea in the organic section at Giant.  Since I was looking for a replacement for coffee, I needed something with a little more caffeine content than green or black tea.  This tea has as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.  Plus it has TWICE the antioxidants of green tea!
Guayusa is not technically tea, actually.  "Guayusa is produced from the leaves of a caffeinated Amazonian holly tree (ilex guayusa), and is not related to the tea pant (camelia sinensis) that produces green and black tea. A more accurate description for guayusa would be a “caffeinated herbal tea” or a “tisane,” the French word used to describe herbal infusions that are prepared and enjoyed like tea." (source)
Is tea better than coffee?
I haven't seen anything that points one way or the other for sure.  Both can be caffeinated or decaf, contain antioxidants, and make low calorie craving killers.  For me, I made the switch because of the milk.  Creamer grosses me out and milk upsets my stomach, and I can't do black coffee - so this was the perfect option!

Why should I drink tea?
Because I said so.  Haha!  Actually, I love to drink tea because it kills cravings.  This Celestial Seasonings Berry Sampler is awesome.  I used to dislike fruit teas, but have recently discovered a love for them.  I like to put a few drops of vanilla Stevia with my tea, along with half a cinnamon stick sometimes.  It fills me up, takes awhile to drink, and has enough of a sweetness that I can trick myself into thinking it's dessert.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Secret Weapon #3 - Coconut Milk

This week I'm sharing some of my "secret weapons" for eating healthier! Today's weapon of choice: Coconut Milk
I'm not talking about the kind of coconut milk you get in a can.
I'm talking about this:
How do you milk a coconut?
Haha!  Coconut milk is made from the grated meat of a coconut.  Similarly to other alternative milks (soy, almond, oat, hemp, rice, etc.) you mix the coconut meat with water to get coconut milk.  I've seen people online who've made their own - but I buy mine!
Where can I get this stuff?
My local grocery store sells the SoDelicious brand (my favorite) in the organic dair section.  Target carries some coconut milk, too - I think they carry the Silk brand maybe?  You can also check with the unrefrigerated milk items.  My store carries smaller cartons of this with the almond/rice/oat milk.
What kind should I get?
I use the unsweetened (the green carton in the picture) variety in my smoothie every morning, and in cooking/baking.  I add a few drops of Stevia to the smoothie to make it a little sweeter.  I choose this one because it has less calories - only 50 per cup!  The vanilla and regular are tasty too - and some stores carry chocolate, which is divine!! It makes the best hot chocolate when it's heated and it's only 100 calories for a cup!
They also sell ice cream made with coconut milk that is AWESOME!
This has a lot of fat in it. Isn't 5g of saturated fat bad for me?
Well, it depends on the type.  The saturated fat found in coconut milk is a medium chain fatty acid (MCFA).  The type of saturated fat that is harmful for our health is long chain fatty acid.  MCFAs are absorbed differently by the body.  And, the "no fat" diets of the past were bad for us anyway!  Your body needs some fat to maintain good health!
How do I use this?
I use it just like regular milk - anytime a recipe calls for milk, I use SoDelicious! I've never had any trouble.  I also use the SoDelicious coffee creamer on occasion, too. 
Does it taste like coconuts?
Nope.  I think the original might, but I can't remember.  The unsweetened really doesn't have a lot of flavor, similar to cow's milk.  It definitely doesn't taste like you're drinking a coconut.
Why do you drink this?
I have switched totally to coconut milk.  I started noticing that everytime I had coffee with cow's milk, I found myself  - ahem - rushing to the restroom within the next hour.  I thought it was the coffee.  Then, I tried drinking my coffee with the SoDelicious French Vanilla coffee creamer (made with coconut milk) and noticed the problem went away.  So I stopped drinking milk.  Yogurt doesn't have the same affect on me, which I believe (after a little research) is because of the cultures in yogurt.
Why use coconut milk?  Why not soy or almond?
I prefer the taste and texture of coconut milk.  I don't like the taste of soy or almond milk as much and they're both a little watery.  The unsweeted coconut milk blends with anything, but I notice the flavor of soy and almond milks when I use them.  Also, soy is one of the leading genetically modified and pesticide sprayed crops in our country.  So I'll only drink soy milk if it's organic.  (Luckily, Starbucks uses organic soy milk so I can get my latte!)  Almonds are also heavily sprayed with pesticides, so go with organic almond milk too!  SoDelicious is organic, but non-organic coconuts are also very minimally treated with pesticides so it's a safer bet!


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Secret Weapon #2 - Powdered Peanut Butter

This week I'm sharing some of my "secret weapons" for eating healthier!  Today's weapon of choice: Powdered Peanut Butter
Powdered Peanut Butter sounds like some kind of food you'd only eat while hiking the Appalachian Trail or on a NASA mission in space, right? 
What is it?
It's not a weird space food like it sounds.  Powdered PB is just peanuts that have had all of the oil (aka fat) squeezed out of them.  It comes in a jar that looks like a regular PB jar.

Where can I buy it?
I but mine at the regular grocery store. There are 2 brands they sell at the store where I shop.  PB2 and Just Great Stuff.  The PB2 is in the "regular" aisle with all of the other PB and jelly products.  They make a regular and a chocolate!  The Just Good Stuff brand is organic, so it's found in the organic section of my store.  (I've read that Trader Joe's has a peanut flour that mixes up like this too and is good, but alas...we have no TJ's around here - so sad!!)

How do I eat it?
You mix the powder with water to reach the consistency you want.  You can also add the powder to smoothies and other recipes!

Does it taste like regular peanut butter?
Not totally.  I do eat the natural peanut butter anyway, with no salt or sugar added, so for me it's not that much different.  If you eat traditional PB, this might take some getting used to. 

So why would I eat this instead?
I love this stuff for 2 reasons:  it's less calories and it's really versatile.  2 tablespoons of PB2 has 45 calories.  ONE tablespoon of regular PB has 100 calories alone!  So I can get a bigger serving of this stuff for less calories! 

It also works in a lot of recipes.   I eat it in my green monster every morning.  One tablespoon adds peanuty flavor and only 22.5 calories!  I've made this Thai Peanut Sauce recipe a few times and used it in stir fry.  It's also good mixed with a tablespoon of powdered sugar and some coconut milk as a "frosting" for One Minute Mug Cake
Go get some - and let me know how you like it!


Monday, February 4, 2013

Secret Weapon #1 - Stevia

This week I'm going to share a post a day that covers my "secret weapons" of making healthier choices!  There several staple products that I use on a daily basis, and are easy to find in the grocery store!

To start off with -

What is Stevia?
Stevia is a natural sweetener that comes from the leaves of the rebaudiana plant.  It has ZERO calories, carbs, fat, etc.  It's just like those pink, blue, and yellow packet sweeteners in that way, but what makes Stevia different is that it is NATURAL.  There are tons of studies out there that show the harmful effects of using artificial sweeteners, and Stevia doesn't have those negative effects.

Where can I buy Stevia?
I buy my Stevia at my local grocery store, Giant.  They have 2 aisles dedicated to natural/organic/vegan/gluten free products, and this is where Stevia is found.  It's with the baking ingredients.  You can also order online if you do a little Googling!

What does it look like?
Stevia comes in several forms: packets, tablets, granuales, and liquid.  My favorite is the liquid.  I use a few drops of it every single day in my Green Monster, in my tea, and even to add sweetness to baked goods and recipes.  I used to use 1-2 packets of artificial sweetener in a cup of coffee, now I use 3-4 drops of Stevia.  I keep the packets at school and a little container of the tablets in my purse.
Is there a specific brand of Stevia?
The brand I use is called Sweet Leaf.  It's packaging is green.  The liquid comes in a little dropper bottle.  It can seem pricey at first, a bottle costs around $11.  However, you really only use a few drops at a time so the bottle lasts a really long time!

What else makes Stevia special?
One of the things I like about Stevia is that it also comes in flavors!  I only have the vanilla right now, but it comes in grape, root beer, chocolate, peppermint, and a bunch more.  My afternoon snack is usually 3-4 drops of vanilla Stevia mixed with plain Greek yogurt and berries. 

Is Truvia the same thing as Stevia?
You may have seen Truvia on the shelves of your grocery store alongside those other colored packet sweeteners.  Truvia is NOT pure Stevia, as the SweetLeaf products are.  Truvia contains both Stevia and the sugar alcohol erythritol, which can cause "digestive disruptions". It's definitely a better bet than the colored packets, but I'm still sticking with regular Stevia!

Check out the Stevia website for more information!