Friday, September 30, 2011

Strawberries Please, Hold the Pesticide!

Thinking of Growing My Own!
My family LOVES strawberries. This summer, we consumed flats and flats of organic strawberries. We eat them plain, in smoothies, or in desserts with whipped cream when we are feeling decadent. Organic strawberries aren't always easy to find, so at our Farmer's Market on Saturdays I always try to stock up. If we run out, fortunately our local Trader Joe's has them, but of course I prefer mine locally grown.

Naturally sweet!

They might be smaller, not the 'roided out strawberries that you might see in some grocery stores. But they are sweet and I don't have to worry about methyl bromide. I have been following news stories about this pesticide for the last year. The little of the area around where I live, and mostly south of here, is agriculturally intensive. I see workers in the fields wearing what look like space-man hazmat suits to deal with strawberries. I am glad to see their employers are taking precautions for their employees but wonder what happens to the methyl bromide in the air around the fields and in our neighborhoods. This chemical has been known to cause reproductive harm, and was supposed to be phased out but it is still heavily in use. Apparently, strawberry growers can apply for an exemption if there is no alternative. I will see some well meaning strawberry vendors at my Farmers Market with signs that say "no pesticides". But I'm not messing around, I will only buy from the vendors that have the "certified organic" signage.

First of all, it makes me sick that there can be an exemption for something like this! But of course, it's business, which we knows trumps everything in the modern world. Even health. I will just continue to do my part and boycott these berries, for the sake of my community. As this season comes to a close, I am considering growing my own strawberries for next summer. Hope that works out better than our vegetable garden this summer...

Have you heard of methyl bromide? If you read my blog, you probably lean a bit toward organic produce anyway. But even I "slip" from time to time for convenience, but I never will for strawberries. Will you?

Monday, September 26, 2011

So, I Guess This Makes Me a "Pumpkinhead"

Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
 So the Deadheads have the Grateful Dead and the Parrotheads have Jimmy Buffet. This weekend, I had my pumpkin! As much as I'm trying to hang on, it's time to admit that summer is on its way out and Fall is taking over. I had my first pumpkin spice latte last week, and that just gave me the taste for it and I have not been able to stop thinking about the flavor all week long.

Made for sharing!
 So this weekend, I decided to play around in the kitchen and bake a little. Just last week it had been in the high '90's and there was no way I was going to turn the oven on and heat up my house. With our recent temperature drop and gray morning skies, I decided it was time to crank that baby up. It was an impromptu decision, so I went with whatever ingredients I had on hand. Whole wheat flour, eggs, canned pumpkin, chocolate chips, vanilla, check. Plus a few more pantry staples. These pumpkin chocolate chip cookies were inspired by this recipe at Skinnytaste. Next time I will definitely make them with nuts in them...walnuts perhaps? They were soft and chewy, and yummy. But of course.

Chock full of pumpkin
I could not be stopped. I made the cookies and they were good, but I was still craving more pumpkin. If was on the verge of making a pie when I saw a recipe for pumpkin banana bread, which sounded great...but then I thought, "Wouldn't pumpkin muffins be better?" I was on the hunt for a recipe did not require buttermilk, which I did not have at home. I found this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It was hilarious to read, but I was actually afraid to follow this recipe. She made mistakes along the way and wasn't sure how the actual recipe would turn out. I am the SAME WAY. And I got to thinking, if I make mistakes on top of that (which I always do...I'm always "winging it" in some way) what if these turn out totally effed up? I definitely want to try these another day now that I have tried making pumpkin muffins and somewhat know what I am doing. To be honest I consulted a few recipes and winged it once again. All I know is they ended up turning out SO good.

Sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar on top before baking

Moist and delicious, the right amount of pumpkin!
What flavors make you think of fall? I've been seeing a lot of apple recipes lately. But nothing does it for me like pumpkin. And I'm still going to make that pie.

Friday, September 23, 2011

iMapMyRun is Keeping Me Honest

Since school has started for my kids I have had a heck of a time getting into a solid fitness routine but I am slowly but surely working on it. Thanks to my iPhone, I have been able to help make the little things count. I started using iMapMyRun to track my runs, and I love how the GPS tracker shows me where I'm going because I have been known to just start running if I have some time and don't have a route mapped out. The program tracks your time, your pace, and you can save your workouts. You can even share them on Twitter and Facebook.

The first time I used it I was squeezing in a run between dropping my son off at school at 7:45, and volunteering in his class at 8:30. I had a finite period of time to run, and had never spent a lot of time around his school to know what it was like to run around there. I started tracking my route, and thanks to the GPS I could see ahead of time potential streets to turn down, as well as the distance back to my starting point and how much time I had left. Now I have several different routes I have saved and rotate through them on Fridays when I volunteer at school.

You don't have to be running to use iMapMyRun. You can use it when cycling or walking or other workouts too. You can even see the elevation during your workout. This program has been a lifesaver for me. With increased demands on my time, I've had to start fitting in little things like walking at lunch and have calculated that a direct walk to Whole Foods  from my office is 1/4 mile, but if I go the long way I can stretch it to 1/2 mile. The Target going the opposite direction is even just a tad further, and I feel awesome knowing that I got off my butt and also spared the air and saved money on gas. I have also calculated avoiding the clusterf*ck drop-off loop at my son's school and parking far away gets me another 1/4 mile in while walking to his classroom. So now I am approaching exercise from the opposite direction, to track small walks and see how much distance I can get. Yeah, I'm a dork like that but this is pretty awesome. 

Have you tried iMapMyRun or a similar program? How do you track your workouts? 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Sickies

Watching TV and taking it easy :(
 Wow. Not even one month into school and the kids are sick. An annoying, 2+ week lingering sick that is not so bad that they are still home, but bad enough that they are not 100%.

The Buddhameister went to preschool twice, and then missed 2 days, which is really a week since he only goes 2x per week. He was diagnosed with an ear infection, and prescribed antibiotics. He also had a really gnarly, disgusting potty accident at school...I swear I felt like we should have tipped his teachers for having to clean him up when I saw the plastic ziploc bag that contained his clothes when he came home that day. That became a a week long problem and there was NO WAY we were taking him back until that was cleared up.

The Monkey-man was diagnosed with a sinus infection, which he seems to get EVERY single time he gets a cold. He was prescribed the same antibiotics as Buddha, and unlike his brother is awesome about taking his medicine. That unfortunate thing is that this is the second time this particular medicine has failed to make him well before the prescription is finished. Now, he's got a cough to boot. So we'll probably have to take him back to the dr. or just get another prescription called in like we did last time.

Is there such a thing as a tolerance to antibiotics, like alcohol? I think Monkey has developed some kind of tolerance to this medicine. He's 5 and has been getting prescribed the same antibiotic since he was a toddler. I can't figure out why it's not working!

I hope Buddha overcomes his illness without incident. We have to take him back to get his ears checked. But considering the fact he spat out about half of his medicine each time we gave it to him, I'm not confident it's all cleared up. Our pediatrician is always quick to prescribe, which, when my kids are sick I am happy to get anything that I think might make them better. But I wonder if that's not always the best approach. I hope health is around the corner for my family!

What is your stance on prescriptions? Have your kids already picked up back-to-school bugs or have they managed to escape classroom germs?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Feeling Fancy: Nutty Kale Surprise - Smoothie

My breakfast in a stemless martini glass!
It wasn't so bad adjusting back to being home after my glorious weekend in Seattle with my oldest and dearest friends. Sure, I miss the spa, the great meals, the company of course, and not having to wipe anyone else's butt. I did come home to a spotless house because like a smart woman I scheduled house cleaners to come in and do a DEEP (and I do mean DEEP) clean right before I left. I was not overwhelmed when I returned. I did all my household laundry before my trip so when I returned I mostly had only my vacay laundry to do. I was right on schedule.

I drool over this type of selection, am I crazy?

While I got to enjoy visiting Pikes Place Market last weekend, I did miss out shopping at our local Farmer's Market. I got to go yesterday with both of my sons before baseball practice and stocked up on kale! It's been over a week since my last green smoothie and I was having a craving!! Apparently Monkey was too, as he asked for one also. I love it!!!

I decided to mix it up a bit this time. Of course, I used some of my favorite ingredients that I typically use in my kale smoothies with a little addition!

Nutty Kale Surprise
2 large kale leaves, hard stems removed and chopped
1 cup blueberries
1 ripe banana
2 tablespoons crunchy almond butter
1 cup crushed ice
1/2 cup water
1 cup non-dairy "milk" of your choice

Whirrrrrrrrr it up and you're done! Voila!

I loved the crunch of the almond butter! It also made crunching the bits of kale, which I really don't mind at all, less noticeable. I find banana makes my smoothies sweet enough, but some of you may want additional sweetener in the form of a non-sugar such as Stevia or even a maple syrup. Enjoy!!!

Have you tried almond butter? I bought it for myself and thought I could sub it out sometimes in my son's sandwiches but he's not having it. He didn't even mention it in his smoothie this morning, so I guess the Deceptively Delicious concept worked in my favor here!

Stay smart and delicous!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Stylish Sunglasses for a Good Cause!

I think the Tom's One for One concept is pretty cool. I first heard of Tom's a few years ago, when I saw on a website that you could buy a cute pair of Tom's shoes and included in your purchase would be a donation of 1 pair of shoes to a child in need. The idea that there are some children that go without owning ANY shoes at all is just unthinkable!

Well, Tom's has branched out, and they have broadened the One for One movement to include eyewear! You buy one pair of seriously cute sunglasses, and they give sight (prescription glasses, medical treatment, surgery) to someone in need.

While I had been eyeing some adorable Tory Burch glasses (which I will probably still buy) I couldn't resist these cool, every day aviator style glasses that would help someone else. They are lightweight, come with a nifty zipper-case, and a cleaning cloth.

They are a hit with the Monkey-man!
I keep them in my purse at all times
I had fun shopping for them and did my good deed for the day! Hope you check out Tom's sunglasses, too!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Packing a Healthy Lunch for School

Typical lunch packed for school

One of the things that made me nervous about my son starting kindergarten was that he would have to bring a lunch. He's not terribly hard to please, but I was worried about being able to keep it exciting. And like every child he gets super crabby when he's hungry, so I wanted to make sure he'd have enough to eat. Without us there to remind him to "keep eating" I was also worried that he'd be too concerned with playing and not eat.

So far things are going ok. My Monkey does not care too much about his lunch being exciting. He is more concerned with playing, so his goal is to get his food down so he can play. Sure takes a lot of pressure off me!

His typical lunch consists of a fruit item (sometimes), some veggies (carrot sticks, tomatoes, maybe celery), a quarter of a sandwich...usually peanut butter, salame or turkey, and some Goldfish crackers for snack time. A juice box is thrown in to keep him hydrated.  He is an active 5 year old, but his school day is from 7:45 to noon, so  they eat lunch at 10:45. It's early for him, and it has taken him some time to adjust. In his previous life, 10:30 was a snack time! I learned early on I cannot put a sweet of any kind in his lunch, or he will eat only that and leave the rest. I figure he can have a cookie or something when he gets home if he's been a good boy and has eaten his whole lunch.

Sometimes I run out of time to make myself a lunch, so I rely on Amy's. YUM.

Or, when I've got a spare $10, I splurge at Whole Foods which is next to my office!

I asked him if the teachers have the class wash their hands before lunch. Afterall, the sink is right in their classroom. Apparently in kindergarten they don't. In preschool the teachers had the kids wash their hands even after they came inside to play!  I got an idea from another mom to put a small bottle of sanitizer in his lunch bag so he can clean his hands before he eats.

Monkey also let me know that the yard duty repeatedly reminds the kids to keep eating...I asked curiously the other night at dinner why he kept saying "Let's keep eating!" I am happy about that. The first week or so he would come home and say he didn't have enough time to eat his sandwich but I think he is starting to understand now that he's got to eat and not dawdle around the way he does at home. He is now eating everything! In due time I'm sure I will have to start coming up with more variety but this is working for us for the time being.

What do you pack in your kids lunch for school? Do you find it challenging to keep things interesting AND healthy?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Girls Weekend = Good Times

Outside of Doc's Marina Grill on Bainbridge
 This past weekend I was fortunate to visit with my good group of girlfriends from high school. We traveled to Seattle, which is close to where one friend of ours lives, mostly from the Bay Area besides one of our friends who came from Santa Fe. We lucked out on the weather, which was sunny and mid 80's! With no kids or husbands along for the ride, we had nothing to do but catch up, relax and take care of ourselves. Much needed!

Space Needle was visible from my hotel room!
The Westin was centrally located, and seemed to be busy with travelers for pleasure and business. There were several conferences held there, and many groups going on cruises departed from our lobby. What I loved immediately is that our rooms were ready when we stopped by at 10:00 a.m. to drop off our luggage at the bell desk so that we could set out on the city on foot. So, straight up to the rooms we went to drop off our stuff and head out.

Our first order of business was food - we had all been up since 4:00 a.m. and traveling takes a lot out of you. The hotel recommended we go to a nearby cafe called Lola, which served up a heavenly breakfast. Our second stop was the Gene Juarez spa which had been recommended to me by a friend. Instantly I noticed it was quite a busy place and not terribly quiet which worked out GREAT for our large group of boisterous ladies. Most of us got massages, while a couple opted for facials and one for reflexology which she was very impressed with. Everyone who got a massage absolutely RAVED about it. My massage therapist was named Hazel, and I'm telling you, if you ever go there ask for her! She's got magic hands.

We had plenty of time to hang out there afterwards and visit. Most of us that are located in the same city manage to see each other about 4 times a year, but I am lucky if I see my two out of state friends once every couple-few years. It is amazing how so much time can go by but we still have so much to talk about. While many of us have grown and changed in many ways, we can still appreciate most of the same things about each other. We laughed so hard, and it was just like high school...a big group of girls having so much fun, not paying attention to anything or anyone else and getting stared at and nearly reprimanded for making too much noise.
Seafood! My friends food - for two!

Besides the fabulous company and beautiful scenery, I ate some delicious meals. I took advantage of all the fresh seafood. Prawns, scallops, ahi tacos, calamari were all consumed over the weekend. Although, I did indulge in a nice 8 oz. filet mignon on our last night there, where we had dinner at the revolving restaurant on top of the Space Needle. We did a LOT of walking around the city, so I didn't feel terribly guilty. Plus, who feels guilty eating great meals on vacay? Ok, so I didn't need the massive ice cream cone after our seafood meal on the waterfront the first night, and I probably was too full for the bread pudding (which I shared) after our meal at the Space Needle. I surely didn't need the apple fritter (which I also shared) that I bought at our hotel on our first morning there. And yes, I did bring my work out clothes and hoped to run or at least use the gym while I was there but I didn't. At least I had good intentions! My 343 Challenge is going to continue to the end of the month to include running miles for all the lives lost on 9/11 so I have plenty of time to make up for a few slacker days.

Avoid innocent looking hotel cafe. $17 for what is not a meal!

Pikes Place Market. Heavenly.
Did someone say fish?

 We loved the few touristy sites we saw. In addition to our night at the Space Needle, which we rode the Monorail to, we saw the first Starbucks, went to Pikes Place Market twice, and ate lunch at the Athenian Inn where Tom Hank's character ate in Sleepless in Seattle. (Great food, mediocre service!) We also rode the ferry, a la Meredith and Derek on Grey's Anatomy. That was a gorgeous day, smooth ride to Bainbridge island where we ate (of course) and shopped (DUH).

Going up....

After two 3-day weekends in a row, I am quite out of sorts. This week may very well feel like the longest week of my life. But I have my memories of my wonderful weekend with my great friends when I need to slip into day-dream mode. The laundry can wait.

Let's BEE Friends

Friday, September 9, 2011

Leaving on a Jet Plane...

Alaska Air flying over Seattle!
Things that make me happy besides my family: spending time with friends, and traveling. This weekend I get to combine the two as me and my crew of besties are headed to Seattle to visit one of our oldest friends! We have quite the fun weekend planned, between heading to Gene Juarez for spa treatments, sight-seeing (Space Needle) and dinner, taking a ferry to Bainbridge Island and of course visiting the ever popular Pikes Place Market and more...Getting to stay at the lovely Westin Seattle with my girlies and getting a break from my hubs and the kiddos...sounds heavenly! The weather is supposed to be gorgeous, sunny and high 70's, not a raincloud in sight.

I know we will have fun. But I do have in the back of my mind that I will be returning on an airplane on the 10th anniversary of September 11.  And the first September 11 since Osama bin Laden was killed. I can be a worrier by nature, but it wouldn't be as bad if I weren't separated from my husband and kids. While I will be thinking back to that day where so many lives were senselessly taken in the worst attack on the U.S. ever, I pray that in present time the worst that can happen to me is that I am delayed getting home to my family.

I wish you all a lovely end of summer weekend, hang on to it for another few weeks!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Kinder Success!

Cool first-day duds

Well, here we are, finishing up our 3rd week of kindergarten. What? This is the first time I have mentioned kindergarten? It has been so smooth and so far without incident but I have a lot to report! I am so very proud of my Monkey. He was not nervous about starting kinder in the slightest. He was excited. I guess it was more or less my fears that I was trying to project on him. Here he went from this tiny preschool, where he was fortunate enough to have the same teachers for two years in a row - to a big school that goes all the way to 5th grade. Almost twice as many students in his class, and 2 teachers who share the teaching duties. Additionally, the early birds and late birds overlap for a while in the middle of the day. Sounds like utter chaos to me! This would also be the first time he would need to bring a lunch.What would I pack? Would he eat it? Would he make friends?

Turns out, there are 2 kids in his class he went to preschool with (win!). A neighbor boy from across the court is also in his class. He got the "good" teachers that everyone raves about. And lunch? Its at 10:45 a.m. It's like a freakin' snack. Who eats lunch at 10:45? I keep it pretty basic. Celery, carrots and cherry tomatoes - seriously - my kid likes this stuff. Some baked Goldfish crackers. A Juicy Juice box. And 1/4 of a sandwich...which is really teeny but as it is it nearly goes to waste since he eats the other stuff first and wants to play and again, who wants to eat lunch at 10:45?!

Locating his name tag so everyone can start to learn his name
Lining up to go into his classroom. Not a tear in sight!
I am starting to volunteer in his classroom every other week for an hour. I get to spy on visit with my son, see who these friends are that he is talking about, and see how these teachers are in the class room. And I love seeing him make new friends. The first couple days he told me there was a boy who did not want to play with him. I told him, "Move on and play with other kids. Don't get hung up on someone who doesn't want to play with you." He told me, "No, I am going to keep trying until he plays with me." The next day he was very excited, because this boy DID play with him! And they are now bosom buddies. He's going to be just fine!

I get to drop him off every morning, so I get to spend alone time with him in the car, plus I often run into some of my Mom friends for brief chit-chat before I head off to work. His class starts at 7:45, and I wake him up at 6:15 or so. I am mostly ready by the time I wake him up but occasionally stop home to finish my make up before I head off to work. I can't say I love this new schedule. I am so tired in the morning, and I am not a big fan of mornings or of having to go to bed so early!  Additionally its been a struggle to find time to work out but I am slowly falling into a routine with school and hope soon everything will be settled so I can figure things out. Whew.

Has your school year started yet? How has it been going so far? Any big transitions/hurdles?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day (Unplugged)

We spotted this beach cottage called "Happyland"
 Aaah. I fully relished in the American celebration of the working people. My family spent a weekend away in Capitola, CA.  Being away from home is really the only way I get to relax. During the week, I work full time and prep my two young ones for school in the morning, drive them and come home in time for dinner and baths. Which means, beyond the essential cleaning-up-after-dinner and some laundry I don't really do much housework. I always say I'm going to start doing a little every day so my weekends don't suck. Because right now, they usually suck. I spend a fair chunk of my Saturday cleaning when I should be hanging out with my family and having fun.

So, this past weekend, we hung out with friends, spent our days at the beach watching our kids play ball, build moats, castles, look for sand crabs and dig endlessly. We ate great meals and had some cocktails. We went to the legendary Margaritaville and of course had dinner one night on the patio at Zelda's. It was fabulous not to cook and clean. The first morning we were there, my husband not only cooked our family breakfast but he did all the dishes too! I was feeling a little groggy from a few too many margaritas from the previous night and fortunately he picked up my slack. Can you say keeper?

My iPhone had spotty service down at the beach, which I noticed the first few times I tried to "check-in" at locations. At least it worked when we the adults were texting each other our locations and ETA's the few times we split up. But I actually found it kind of liberating to not constantly be on my phone, the way I am at home...tweeting, Facebooking, playing Words With Friends.

A showing of "Grease" on the beach our first night there.

I am never a fan of leisure time coming to an end. But it always does. Back to the grind tomorrow, for a nice short week.  Right now I am catching up on the beach laundry which is never fun. I am fortunate to have been able to have an end of summer weekend getaway with my "boys" and spend time with good friends. Until next time!

What did you do over Labor Day weekend? Have a wonderful week!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Going Greek - Yogurt, That Is!


 I wrote this post while participating in a blog tour conducted by Clever Girls on behalf of Dannon. I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program but my opinions are my own. For more information and recipe ideas, visit or I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

 When I received the opportunity to review Dannon's new Oikos® Greek Yogurt, I couldn't have been more excited. Well, first I just love plain Greek Yogurt. It is often my go-to mid-morning snack. On its own...or with granola, nuts, honey or fruit mixed in.I also love how versatile it is. I have used it in place of sour cream - most recently to top a Mexican dish. I have used it in my morning smoothies to make them rich and creamy.  The flavors available for me to try in my local supermarket were fat free plain and vanilla, fat free fruit-on-the-bottom peach and fat free fruit-on-the-bottom blueberry.  I loved the vanilla, and can see myself keeping it on hand for snacks and using it in my smoothies. Both fruit-on-the-bottom flavors were delicious, not too sweet, and I couldn't believe that they were FAT FREE.

Plain Greek Yogurt on Zucchini Enchiladas

You all know I try my hardest to eat healthy whenever possible, but I don't want to suffer with boring taste. This was some pretty yummy stuff. And this yogurt has twice the protein as most regular low fat yogurts! Dannon® Oikos® is created through an authentic Greek straining process which gives it a rich and creamy-thick texture. Hard to believe something so filling was so low-cal! Dannon® Oikos® 0% varieties contain active yogurt cultures and range from only 80 calories (Plain) to 130 calories (Fruit on the Bottom) per 5.3 oz. cup. This snack definitely got me through my morning and I survived until lunch time.

Snack Time at Work

I can't wait to try some of the recipes on the website - Blue Cheese Avocado Dip or Mac n'Cheese, anyone? I froze my peach fruit-on-the-bottom container for a little while, just until it was not quite completely frozen and it was an almost-frozen-yogurt delite! How easy was that??

 Are you interested in giving it a try yourself? Dannon Oikos is offering a coupon for a free cup on

I have partnered with Dannon to help promote the Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt Series.  I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program, which includes writing about the promotion and product.  However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

The Littlest Birdy Has Left The Nest!

Could it be possible - my youngest has headed off to preschool. I know, its only 2 days a week, for 2-1/2 hours. But its still a really big deal.

It's a big deal that on his first day, he ran straight into the classroom with no reservations.

My sweet Buddha baby! All grown up!

It's a big deal that he had the confidence to head over to the Thomas the train toys, which he loves and just dive right in.

It's a big deal that he felt comfortable with his teacher, and followed her around as she blew bubbles.

He loves bubbles!!

It's a big deal that he kept it together when other kids came over and started playing with "his" toys.

Checking each other out
The biggest deal of all is that I left, and he didn't cry. He was excited to be there, in the care of other people and in the company of other kids besides his brother.

At pick up, the teacher said he had a great first day. That was music to this mama's ears.