Chronic Stress and What We Can Do About It

What Can We Do About Chronic Stress?

I watched a documentary by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the plane to Northern CA on my way to an outdoor/wellness/life design retreat/festival las weekend. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to go to this event because I am hopeful it will help me get clarity around some life goals and crafting the life I want to live.

But I digress…the documentary, One Nation Under Stress, details the struggles many Americans are facing today related to chronic stress and the epidemic of “deaths of despair.” Deaths of despair are classified as: cirrhosis of the liver (related to alcohol use), drug overdose, and suicide. Prime causes of these types of death in the U.S. are: social isolation, the depersonalization of society, and the increased stress and pressure middle-class Americans are feeling to just make a living.

Let’s talk about different types of stress. Acute stress, as a result of an adverse event, is not the problem – it’s the chronic, constant, toxic stress that kills. This type of chronic stress results from:

  • lack of predictability, uncertainty, lack of control
  • lack of social support
  • wondering – “Am I valued?” “Do I have a meaningful place in community?” “Do I have a community to rely on?” and “Why am I here?”

Chronic stress changes the brain and impacts the ability to make rational decisions related to thought regulation, action, empathy, and impulse and craving control – making it more difficult to deal with more and more stress. These stress biomarkers affect health outcomes. Some ways we can combat this change in the brain are through mindfulness/meditation and exercise. Try spending time in nature, the box breathing method, or taking a walk outside. These simple actions practiced over time can bring some of your brain chemistry back to where it was before the chronic stress altered it.

Stress Reduction Challenge:

  • Find your community, your tribe – people who support you and know your value, people who allow you to feel your place in the world
  • Reach out to someone who seems isolated – this will most likely be good for both of you! If you feel isolated, don’t perpetuate that – reach out even though it’s hard – don’t let the hurt and isolation turn to despair
  • Cultivate quality social relationships – with your significant other, family, friends, co-workers – strangers who might become a new friend. Having quality social relationships is one of the greatest predictors of health, happiness and longevity.
  • Re-evaluate how you’re spending your time and money – do they reinforce your values and bring you meaning?
  • Focus on what you DO have, not what you don’t – cultivate an abundance mindset and you will long less and less for what you don’t have, and appreciate more and more what you do have. And remember that wealth doesn’t necessarily equal health.
  • Look for opportunities to cultivate compassion and empathy – radiate loving kindness near and far.

Photo credits: Noah Bradow

Is Balance a Myth?

I wrote this post a few weeks ago when I had to make a choice between going to a family event and working on some professional activities. This issue comes up again and again for me – which tells me that either balance really is a myth and we are in a futile cycle to keep striving for it or I’m just not doing a great job at balancing…(?)

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Work-Life Balance. Family-Work Balance. Work-Relationship Balance. Health-Work Balance. Take your pick…

Life balance is like multi-tasking – it doesn’t work. There is no way to be balanced with all the things we are doing in life. Whether it’s 50-50, 33-33-33, etc. We cannot be doing multiple things at once. We cannot truly focus on multiple things at once. At least not while being present and mindful with what we are doing.

This week I worked out a lot, had a nutrition coaching session, and went to a social event (Flex Happy Hour! – way out of my comfort zone but worth it!), but I didn’t do any laundry throughout the week, and Noah did all of the meal prep – planning, grocery shopping, and cooking. This week was a great example of balance not actually being a “thing.”  I also notice the reverse being true – when I get stuff done around the house, I am usually working out less and not socializing.

Chris Burkard has a 4-burner metaphor for life that I really like. He talked about it on The Stokecast podcast. His 4 burners are: career, family, friends, health. He says that in order to be successful in life you have to turn off 2 of these burners; in order to be wildly successful, you have to turn off 3 of the burners. He said for a long time he had neglected his health and social time with his friends in favor of more work on his career aspirations. Turning off a burner doesn’t necessarily mean that you stop doing the thing entirely – for instance stop going to work because you are mainly focused on getting healthy. It may just mean that maybe you’re not spending extra hours at the office or on professional development in favor of going to the gym, or maybe you’re skipping happy hour with friends in favor of meal planning and grocery shopping. Maybe sometimes some of the burners are just on low so that others can be on medium or high.

A lot of this comes down to values and prioritizing time – and these things can change day to day, week to week, month to month. I do think it’s important to be very clear about what you value and how you want to spend your time in order to get your life to align with your values.

Lately, for me, this has meant turning the family burner lower in favor of the health and career burners. It doesn’t mean I love my family any less, it just means that in order to take care of myself right now my main focus has to be on other things. After finishing my Masters in Public Health and starting a job back in the insurance industry I have been at a real crossroads professionally and experiencing a sort of mid-life career crisis. I thought that working a job I was good at, that spoke to my skillset, would be fulfilling, but it’s not. I’ve done some real soul-searching to try and figure out what my next step is professionally. I’ve got student loans, a car, a house, and other debts to pay off so I can’t just not work in favor of leisurely soul-searching. This has meant lots of listening to personal development podcasts featuring people doing cool things – The Adventurepreneur Playbook and The Stokecast mainly. Over the last few months, I have re-discovered that I really do love wellness coaching and want to continue that. I also really love training and development in the professional setting. The trick for me will be to find a job that could combine these activities or allow me to pursue wellness coaching as a side hustle. This is going to mean more sacrifice in other areas in order to achieve the things I am dreaming about that will make my soul happy.

All this is my long-winded way of saying that work-life-health balance is a fallacy. In order to achieve great things in one of these areas, something has to give in another area. Trying to juggle it all: family, friends, work, leisure, self-care, or healthy living practices is not easy. But spending the time to check in with yourself and be honest about what you value and trying to get your life to align with those values can result in fulfilling work, satisfying relationships, and positive health outcomes that will make your soul happy. And wouldn’t the world be a much better place if people’s souls were happier and we shared that happiness with others?

Weekend Recap: 36 Hours in Northern Michigan

It’s hard to have a bad Monday when you’ve just had a weekend filled with so many of your favorite things. Work was just fine today – no medical malpractice insurance emergencies – and Noah and I had a great weekend camping in Interlochen Friday and Saturday night and spending the day on Saturday in Leland and Leelanau State Park at the Trail to Table event benefiting Michigan’s State Parks and celebrating the 100th anniversary of Michigan State Parks.

We left quickly after work on Friday on our way to the Traverse City area. We delayed making camping reservations for the weekend and as such there were no reservable spots available at any state parks so we had a few state forest campgrounds on our list to check out for some first-come, first-served campsites.  Our first stop was Scheck’s Trail Camp – there were many open sites, but it’s a horse trail campground and the sites were kind of out in the open, so we figured we’d be able to find something better.  We headed on to Arbutus Lake State Forest Campground – it was completely full, but looked like a cool campground that we might want to check out in the future. At this point it was around 8 pm and Noah and I were both getting a little worried we end up having to sleep in the car, but onward we went.

Next stop was Lake Dubonnet State Forest Campground near Interlochen, MI – this one was not on our list, but there were several different areas in the campground and lots of sites – we lucked out and found a site not on the lake but towards the back of the campground.  The sites were a nice size and not super close together in a wooded area.

We did have some neighbors who were nice and gave us their picnic table and even helped Noah move it to our site. However, they had some visitors come to their site around 11 pm and didn’t leave until they got rained out at around 2am. Needless to say, I did not sleep very well the first part of the night due to all the hootin’ and hollerin’ and then the 2nd half of the night I had to pee, but didn’t want to get out of the tent in the rain. Ah, livin’ that camp life – not always and tranquil and certainly not glamorous the way we do it.

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Saturday morning, we got up, had coffee and oatmeal at camp before heading to Leland to stop at Fishtown and The Village Cheese Shanty to pick up sandwiches for lunch.

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We also stopped at a cute store (I don’t remember the name now) in Fishtown where I got a new hoodie, I am OBSESSED with! So soft, campfires and MI – can’t wait for some cool summer and fall nights to where the heck out of that thing!

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Those sandwiches from The Village Cheese Shanty were tasty! I had the Fishtown  – all veggies with avocado spread and olive spread, delicious herbed Havarti cheese, on a fresh made pretzel roll.

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Noah got the Northshore – turkey and bacon with herbed mayo and Havarti – also tasty! We ate the sandwiches while fending off biting flies (!) near the lighthouse at Leelanau State Park. From there we headed to the trail head for the Trail to Table event put on by MI DNR, New Holland Brewing Co., REI, and Merrell.

We opted for the 4-mile hike, led by a representative from the DNR, Nate. I tried out the Merrell ChopRocks – a water hiker. They were pretty comfortable and light, but some of the structure on the heel kind of hurt when I would hike up an incline. They definitely were not as cushy as my Brooks Cascadias. I do think they would be fine for some short beach hiking, or short hikes with lots of water/stream crossings.

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The 4-mile hike was pretty easy with just a few uphill areas near the dunes. Most of it was shaded in the beautifully wooded trails of the state park. It did start to warm up and was a bit humid but almost perfect weather for an afternoon hike.

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Just before the end of the hike we stopped on Lake Michigan at the dunes to put our feet in and rest for a couple minutes.

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Noah and I then hiked the remaining half mile back to our car and decompressed for a few minutes before heading back to the park for the beer dinner. As an introvert, so much socializing and time in a large group leaves me feeling like a need a few minutes to quiet my mind and sit in solitude (with Noah 😉) for a few minutes.

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We got back to the park and had a few minutes before the remaining activities started so we headed back down to the water to walk around a bit. The turquoise blue waters of Lake Michigan are always stunning and never cease to amaze me.

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We went to the pavilion and park area to start the dinner festivities. I grabbed a new beer from New Holland, the Cerveza con Limon, which was very tasty! This is an easy-drinking lager with natural lemon and lime oils that give it a light refreshing citrus flavor, but not the artificial flavor like so many other citrus flavored beers.

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We sat as a group to listen to a talk by REI staff members about the 10 Essentials to carry on any hike or backpacking trip and outdoor ethics and Leave No Trace principles. These were largely review for me as I had done a fair amount of research before we started backpacking earlier this year (I love to be prepared!) and Noah and I went to a LNT workshop here in Lansing last year when their Traveling Trainers came as part of their Hot Spots program last June.

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The Daily Blend from Traverse City put together a delicious 3-course dinner starting with a spring mix salad made of Michigan produce, infused olive oil and vinegar from Fustini’s.

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This was paired with New Holland’s Cerveza Con Limon. The 2nd course/entrée was chicken paella and veggie paella paired with New Holland’s new Lake & Trail Copper Lager.

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This is a tasty amber lager new this year with proceeds benefiting Michigan State Parks. The can is cool too, designed by Erika Lange/Woosah Outfitters in Grand Rapids.

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Dessert, the 3rd course, was Kilwin’s vanilla ice cream, with fresh Michigan strawberry sauce, fresh whopped cream, and sprinkles! So yummy! And the Dragon’s Milk White Stout paired with the ice cream sundae was delicious. I actually liked the Dragon’s Milk White Stout better with the ice cream than on its own.

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This Trail to Table event was absolutely awesome! It was like it was made for me 😉 Hiking, time outside, outdoor talk, beer, food – so many of my favorite things!

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On our way back to the campground – which does not have showers (only pit toilets!) – we stopped at public park/beach with swimming access in the Grand Traverse Bay to rinse off the sweat, bug spray, and sunscreen. That water was SO cold – leg-numbing cold! But very refreshing!

Back to the campground, Noah started a fire and we chilled.

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I had another Lake & Trail copper lager by the campfire before we turned in for an early bedtime. We were tired from all the day’s fun activities! We both slept much better Saturday night – it didn’t hurt that our neighbors were quiet too.

Sunday morning, we packed up right away to head home so we could make the 3-hour drive back to Lansing to pick up Jerome from Doggy Day Care before noon.  The early departure and packing up was fine, but lesson learned: always have coffee and a snack ready before you leave camp in case you can’t get breakfast right away. We had planned to stop in Interlochen for coffee and breakfast on our way home, but due to some navigational issues ended up not stopping until we got to Cadillac an hour away! Needless to say, I was a little hangry and coffee-deprived. But some tasty Kona coffee from Cadillac Java – a neat little drive-thru coffee shack in Cadillac cured me.

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We spent the rest of Sunday grocery shopping, meal prepping, and picking up around the house in preparation for the week ahead. And basking in the awesomeness of an awesome, awesome weekend!

Tell me: how was your weekend? Spend time outside? Recharge your batteries? Do you get “a case of the Mondays?”

 

Eating Well – What It Means to Me

I recently posted a photo of an afternoon snack of Nutella on toast in Instagram Stories and received a comment that Nutella is “so bad for you.” And that I should “make my own – there are a lot of really good recipes out there.” Would I like to make my own Nutella? Maybe. Do I think the store bought stuff it’s SO bad for me? Not necessarily (I *try* to eat it in moderation 😊). I’ve made homemade almond butter – pretty easy and tasty, but some store bought versions are better. The point is, I was pretty riled up about this comment. Judgment around food choices (or anything else – we’re not God, we’re human and don’t have that right) is not helpful and I try not to label foods as “good” or “bad.” My approach is to live and eat well so that I can be healthy.

So what does living and eating well mean? We all have different health needs, dietary restrictions, values and backgrounds that affect what we eat, and have lifestyles that impact our food choices. Making “healthy” (for me) food choices 80-90% of the time, and treating myself with “less healthy” foods the other 10-20% is part of what eating well means to me.

For me, healthy foods are whole grains, fruits and veggies, lean protein, and minimally processed foods. This does not mean that I never eat refined grains or processed sugars or fatty meats. Some of my favorite treats are: Nutella, marshmallows, bacon, pizza, ice cream. On the flip side I also really LOVE salads, brown rice/quinoa and veggie bowls, roasted veggies, ground turkey, and fish.

 The essentials... Photo Credit:  Bradow Photography
The essentials… Photo Credit: Bradow Photography

What else do I love? Tacos. Chips and Salsa. Sparkling Wine. Hard Cider. Going to breweries with my husband and friends. Indulging in soft pretzels with cheese sauce and mustard. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. Macaroni and Cheese. None of these are particularly “healthy” if consumed every day or in large quantities, but enjoying these things in moderation lets me live well and enjoy life.

 Taco Pub. Photo Credit:  Bradow Photography
Taco Pub. Photo Credit: Bradow Photography

This balance is important to me, but it’s not easy. Would I love to eat pizza every week (or every day)? Sure. Would I love to have ice cream after dinner every night? Of course. But I know for me that thinking about my long-term health is also important so I make conscious choices that I think (with the help of research and evidence) will help me be healthy when I am 60, 70, 80+ years old. I want to make choices today that will help me live a full life now and also in the years to come. I want to age well and reduce my risk for chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer.

I work every day to make choices to eat mindfully and intuitively. This helps me eat well so I can live well now and in the future. This also means that I want to have a healthy relationship with food and help others do the same. It means I try not to label foods as “bad” or “good” or even “healthy” or “unhealthy” – because this will be different for everyone. I also don’t want to perpetuate negativity around food or in life! – because positivity outranks negativity any day of the week! We all pretty much know what we “should” and “shouldn’t” eat – this is different for different people. So instead of focusing on what foods are “bad” or what we’re doing wrong, I prefer to focus on the positive and provide information that will help people make the best food choices for their lives and their health. Listen, our relationship with food is a very dynamic and complex thing that cannot simply be reduced to good or bad. It takes much more time and thought to untangle and sort through.

 Positivity... Photo Credit:  Bradow Photography
Positivity… Photo Credit: Bradow Photography

Stay tuned for more of my thoughts on healthy eating, living well, eating well, and being the healthiest you can be! Have a great weekend and go ahead eat the Nutella…just not too much and not too often 🙂

Keep Working on Those New Year’s Resolutions!

Get back on track to achieving your goals…

Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Are you still working on it now, 2 months later? If not, you’re not alone! Only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them and 80% stop working on them by February. But now’s a great time to re-start your resolution!

The resolution is the “what,” for example, to lose weight. But the more important piece is the “how.” This is the specific action you will take to get to the “what.” However, the more important question is how are you going to lose the weight? You have to be specific – are you going to go to the gym 3 days per week? Are you going to eat healthier? That’s also very broad. Maybe the “what” of eating healthier is to try one new fruit or vegetable each week or include a fruit or vegetable in every meal or snack.

Knowing your “why” is also important. Why do you want to lose weight? What will that bring you? Better health? More happiness because you can play with your kids more easily or participate in activities you had previously given up? Know your “why” and make sure it’s big enough to keep you going. Your “why” needs to be a strong enough driver to keep you working toward your goals.

If you worked on your resolution but gave up or didn’t see the results you expected, next is problem solving what went wrong. Are your goals realistic? If you made a goal of working out every day, how realistic is that actually? Try starting smaller – plan to work out just 2 days a week for a month, then increase to 3 or 4 days per week. Think about striving for progress not perfection. All you really need is to be better than you were the day before, even if it’s just 1% better.

Starting out with huge goals can sometimes set you up to be less than successful. If you set a goal of exercising 5 days per week, but find yourself only making it to the gym 2 days per week – what happened? What were the challenges or barriers you faced in getting there? Did you forget about your kids’ activities 2 or 3 times per week that prevent you from going to the gym after work? What is a solution to overcome that challenge? Maybe you plan to exercise before work if possible on those days.

 Olbrich Botanical Gardens - Madison, WI  Photo credit:  Bradow Photography  Olbrich Botanical Gardens – Madison, WI Photo credit: Bradow Photography

Make a plan, be specific in the actions you are going to take to achieve your goals and anticipate any challenges that may trip you up. If you plan ahead and know the big “why” of your goals you’ll set yourself up for success long-term.

This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of Healthy & Fit Magazine.

Eat Your Veggies!

Healthy & Fit Magazine February 2018

Tips to eat healthy (or healthier) with more fruits and veggies

The CDC reports just 13.1% of adults meet the recommendations for fruit intake and only 8.9% meet vegetable intake recommendations. Current recommendations for fruits and vegetable intake vary – either 5 to 9 servings per day or 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day. What does this look like? Again, it varies, but a serving of fruit is 1 cup of fresh (a small apple, banana, or 20 grapes), 8 oz. of juice, or ¼ cup of dried fruit. A serving of vegetables is 1 cup of vegetables (raw or cooked) or 2 cups of leafy greens. So how can you get the “recommended” amounts in your diet and why should you?

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, and some cancers; and help manage body weight when consumed instead of calorie-dense foods. Fruits and vegetables provide nutrients like fiber to help you feel full and improve digestion, and vitamins and minerals to repair cell damage, boost immunity, improve brain function, and aid in metabolism.

The “how” of eating more fruits and vegetables doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some ideas:

  • Make half of everything you eat fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat a vegetable at every meal. For example:

    • Breakfast: Baked sweet potato stuffed with ½ banana, unsweetened coconut, 1-2 Tbs. nut butter, chia seeds
    • Lunch: Big green salad or bowl of veggie soup
    • Dinner: Veggie noodles (zucchini, cucumber or carrot) or veggie rice (broccoli or cauliflower) topped with lean protein or roasted veggies
  • Include a fruit or vegetable in every snack – carrots and hummus or an apple with nut butter.
  • All forms count! Think fresh, frozen, dried, canned, or juice.
    • For frozen or canned vegetables or vegetable juice look for low-sodium or no-salt added or an ingredient list of just “vegetables”
    • For canned veggies, rinse the contents to remove about 40% more sodium
    • For frozen or canned fruit look for no sugar added or packed in its own juice
    • Watch portion sizes of fruit juice – you get all the sugar but none of the fiber found in the whole fruit
  • Buy one new fruit or veggie every time you go grocery shopping and research a tasty recipe to prep and eat it.
  • Shop at your local farmer’s market many even run year-round!
  • Try a local community supported agriculture program to get fresh, local produce each week.
 Photo credit: Noah Bradow |  Bradow Photography
Photo credit: Noah Bradow | Bradow Photography

Originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Healthy & Fit Magazine

Small Changes Can Mean Lasting Results

Small changes in nutrition, physical activity, and daily lifestyle habits can add up to long lasting results in weight loss; reduced risk for chronic diseases like hypertension, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer; and overall well-being.  The key is to focus on small changes that you can incorporate into your current lifestyle.

 Ludington State Park, 2017 | Photo credit:  Bradow Photography
Ludington State Park, 2017 | Photo credit: Bradow Photography

Here are a few ideas for moving more and getting closer to the recommended 150 minutes – that’s just 2 ½ hours! – of physical activity per week:

  • Just 10 minutes of moderate physical activity at a time is enough to see benefits over time!
  • Take a walk around your building on your break from work
  • Take the stairs, not the elevator! Work on the 5th floor? Try taking the stairs for 2 or 3 flights and slowly work your way up to all 5
  • Park farther away at the grocery store or shopping center to get some extra steps in
  • Walk or bike to work, school, the store, or library instead of driving
  • At home, take your laundry or other items up or down stairs at the time you collect it – don’t leave it to just make 1 trip – get as many steps as possible each day

Simple, but effective ways to eat a little bit healthier:

  • Make at least half of all the food you eat vegetables and fruits
  • Include fruits or veggies in at least 1 snack per day
  • Add veggies at breakfast:
    • To your morning smoothie – spinach, cucumber, celery, and grated carrot are easily incorporated
    • To your eggs – broccoli, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes all work well
  • Limit fattier cuts of meat and dairy – look for lean protein like beans, nuts, seeds, chicken, and fish
  • Make at least half of the grains you eat whole grains – think whole wheat, rolled or steel cut oats, and brown rice
  • Set aside 10 or 20 minutes each night to prep items for the next day’s breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner – chop veggies, prep smoothies, pack lunches or snacks. Or set aside 1-2 hours each week to prep meals and snacks for the week ahead.

These changes may sound simple and it’s precisely because of their simplicity that they are effective and sustainable.

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Healthy & Fit Magazine.

Three Bean Pasta Salad and Weekend Highlights

Happy Monday, folks!  This past weekend started with a trip to Target after work on Friday – LOVE that store! I know I’m not alone here – what is it anyway?!?  Managed to get out under $30 so I’d call that a win 🙂

Then picked up Noah from work as he returned from traveling for work and we had Jersey Giant (no pic – sorry just couldn’t wait) to split a sub for dinner.  The BEST subs around – so good! Fresh sliced meat and cheese, simple toppings and condiments – doesn’t get any better!

Saturday we got up around 8 and headed out for our long run of the week…I didn’t run much last week – just to and from the gym on Thursday and I think the rest did me good.  The 8.55 miles we ended up with felt pretty darn good.  The temp outside was in the 60s it was a little sunny, I took water with me, and despite some issues with my iPod and GPS watch it was an almost perfect run.  Sub 10 minute pace and even 1 sub-9 minute mile!

Most of the miles were on the Lansing River Trail and towards the end these were the sights:

Lansing River Trail runAfter our run I relaxed at home outside in the sun and caught up on some reading of back issues of magazines while Noah helped his sister move. We then went to run some errands, came home had frozen pizza for dinner (not glamorous or healthy – but easy!) and watched the first episode of The Americans (good show).

Sunday started with an early morning (5:30 am!) so that Noah and I could head out to get some sunrise photos.  We ended up east of where we live now at Lake Lansing in Haslett.  The sunrise was really pretty – the bright red sun coming up just couldn’t be captured on my iPhone, but it was peaceful anyway – only 1 or 2 other people were out at that time in the morning.

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IMG_1963After the photo shoot at the lake we were hungry for a 2nd breakfast (our first was a Clif/Lara bar and coffee) so we headed to downtown East Lansing to go to Brueggers Bagels – my old standby of an everything bagel with veggie cream cheese was delicious! We enjoyed our bagels at the Michigan State University Horticultural Gardens. At 8 am on a Sunday there was no one there and the weather was perfect.  It was also the perfect time of summer to be there – all the flowers were in full bloom! Absolutely amazing!

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IMG_1995Just LOVE sunflowers! They’re just so cheery! They’ve got to be the happiest flowers out there 🙂

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These peach-colored Dahlias were just gorgeous – totally reminded me of my dear, sweet friend, Emily! (I get to see her in just about a week and a half!)

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These photos do not do these roses justice…would love to have something this beautiful at my own house one day.

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More sunflowers!

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So many pretty, pretty sunflowers!

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IMG_2037And a peacock!

Then we met my parents for lunch which was really nice and made for a great afternoon.  We finished out Sunday with some yardwork and house work.  We took a dinner break to have these delicious steaks that Noah grilled up and this light and tasty Three Bean Pasta Salad:

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Three Bean Pasta Salad

Ingredients

6-8 ounces small pasta shells (I used Gluten Free)

3/4 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds

1 15 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1 15 oz can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

4 scallions, thinly sliced

5 stalks celery, thinly sliced

For the dressing:

2 Tbs. Dijon mustard

1/2 C red wine vinegar

1/2 C olive oil

2 Tbs honey

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp basil

salt and pepper

Directions

In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta 3 minutes less than package directions. (If using GF pasta, cook until al dente.) Add green beans and cook 3 minutes mores. (Cook green beans separately for about 4 minutes if using GF pasta.) Drain and rinse pasta and green beans with cold water.

In glass jar, mix dressing ingredients by shaking vigorously until combined.

In a large bowl, mix pasta, beans, celery, and scallions – toss gently.  Add dressing and toss gently to combine. Chill for about an hour and serve. Enjoy!

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(Adapted from Martha Stewart/Everyday Food)

 

 

Quinoa Salad

Good evening folks! Well it’s been a great week:

I discovered microwave scrambled eggs! Who knew?!? And why didn’t they tell me? After my mom saw the photo of my breakfast she commented that apparently my dad knew…why has he been holding out on me all these years? 🙂 I saw this on a list of easy breakfast ideas last week and finally decided to try it this week.  I just put 2 eggs in a bowl (I would add milk next time) and microwaved for 1 minute then stirred (I would stir after 45 seconds next time) and finished for another 45 seconds.  Stir and then I topped mine with homemade salsa and fresh avocado.  It was a great protein packed breakfast after an early morning 4.4 mile run before work on Thursday.

Microwave Eggs

Thursday after work I needed a snack before we had dinner with friends and opted for a slice of semi-homemade gluten free bread (courtesy of a Bob’s Red Mill mix) toasted and topped with Krema PB and homemade strawberry jam that one of Noah’s co-workers made.  The jam stole the show, but all in all it was a super delicious snack!

GF PB and J ToastFriday night I baked chocolate banana muffins.  I did add a teaspoon of agave nectar for just a little extra sweetness and about a 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips because, let’s be honest, you can never have too much chocolate, right? Thanks to Jen at My Kitchen Addiction for a great recipe.  This one’s definitely a keeper in the rotation and I encourage you to try it for a tasty healthy (no sugar!) breakfast or any time of day treat.  Noah said they tasted like brownie muffins – if he likes them it’s a win!

Today we went mattress shopping.  There are about a dozen mattress stores in the Lansing area, but we found our new mattress at the 2nd store we went to. I commented to Noah in the midst of a laughing fit while we were trying out mattresses how silly the whole thing was and that I felt like I was in a movie or something. In the end we got a good deal and hopefully the new mattress will help with some back issues Noah’s been having and keep us well rested as we continue training for our marathon in October.

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Probably the best part of the week though was having my family over for the first time in the new house and grilling up some delicious kabobs.  We enjoyed chicken, steak, smoked sausage, onions, peppers, and tomatoes skewered on the grill.  My parents brought farm fresh sweet corn and my brother and sister-in-law brought berries to top strawberry frozen yogurt and vanilla ice cream for dessert. It was great having my parents, Aunt Sharon, brother, sister-in-law, 3 nieces, and my grandma come to Lansing to enjoy an afternoon in our new house and the weather was perfect so we got to be outside as well.

I made quinoa salad to go along with the kabobs and corn as well.  I had made this last weekend to take to Joanne and Travis’ summer barbeque and I liked it so I thought my family would like it as well.  And they did! This comes together really easily; it’s also light and perfect for a summer get-together.

Quinoa SaladQuinoa Salad

Ingredients

1 C uncooked quinoa

1 C corn kernels (freshly cut off the cob or frozen – thawed, if necessary)

1 red bell pepper, diced

12 oz edamame (frozen – shelled and thawed)

15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

Homemade Italian Dressing

1/3 C olive oil

3 1/2 Tbs red wine vinegar (white balsamic would work too)

1 lemon, juiced

3 cloves garlic, minced (or use a garlic press)

1/2 tsp basil (dried, more if using fresh)

2 tsp oregano

1 tsp salt

1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Cook quinoa according to package directions. (Though I cook mine in a rice cooker – I just use twice the amount of liquid to quinoa and let the rice cooker do the work!)

Mix cooled quinoa with all veggies and beans in a large bowl.

Combine all dressing ingredients in a mason jar or other container with tight fitting lid and shake until well combined.

Mix salad ingredients with the dressing until combined.  Serve immediately (at room temperature) or chill and serve.

Enjoy!

Quinoa Salad

 

She’s Back!

Hello Friends!

It’s been entirely too long – but there have been awesome and exciting things happening around here.

Where to start? My favorite: we finally moved into our new house!

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Also, I got a promotion at work! Here’s my fancy new head shot I got to take 🙂

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We ran a 10k last weekend.  My first 10k – I like running 6 miles, it’s a great middle distance.  But I missed a turn on the course and ended up running a 1/3 of a mile extra. Oh well! It was still a great course and my time was decent.

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Also we signed up for the Detroit Full Marathon in October! Yikes! So we’ve been running more, which I like, but we have yet to get above 6 miles – which was the 10k last weekend…time to buckle down with training.  Well, maybe after the summer get-together at our good friends’ Joanne and Travis’ this weekend 🙂

Hmmm…those are the biggies that come to mind right now. My hope is that now that we’re getting more settled in our new home, I’ll have more time to cook and blog about it 🙂

Hope all is well with everyone out there!