Wonder

I’ve been in a bit of a reading rut (as tends to happen), but while on a recent getaway had a chance to finish not just one, but two books. Here are my thoughts on the first:

wonder

Summary (from Goodreads):
I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

My Thoughts:
Having a brother with Aspergers gave me a unique perspective on this book. However, I think I would have thoroughly enjoyed it regardless. The characters express the awkwardness of fifth grade life, and it transported me back to that time in my own life. Being able to view the story through the eyes of different characters mad the story all the more comprehensive and authentic. I’m also not much of a crier, but this book had me tearing up at the end. I believe it showcases the resilience of the human spirit and the awkward pre-teen stage while driving home the point that you can’t judge a book by its cover, and if you do, you might be missing out on something spectacular.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Psst, if you liked this review, check out my thoughts on other books by visiting my Reviews page. Want to see what I’m reading next? Let’s be friends on Goodreads!

 

Mission: Accomplished

I did it. My first half marathon is complete. I’m still in a bit of shock, so forgive me if this post gets lengthy and emotional. I can’t help myself!

fred half 2014

With all that happened last week, in addition to my foot problem and a tight hamstring, a burned our running brain, and a nonexistent last long pre-race run, I was a bit worried toeing the starting line at the Frederick Half Marathon yesterday. I didn’t know where my mind or body would take me, but I knew I was determined to finish.

Whoa, I’m getting ahead of myself here. To do the race justice, let’s start from the beginning: packet pick up. I picked up my bib (and bib only) from my local Sports Authority store. I was a bit surprised that we didn’t even receive our shirts at pick-up – you either had to gather them before the race at the expo or after the race. Additionally, the race had an iGift bag in replacement of a traditional bag filled with swag. While I think it’s a good idea, I thought there would be more stuff in it – I quickly browsed through and it served more as an advertising opportunity than a way to reward racers or draw their business with coupons/promotions.

Race day morning, the JA and I were up bright and early to meet our friends and carpool to the race. Frederick is a little under an hour from where we live, so we found it a bit silly to spend money on a hotel room when we could drive there and back in the same day. Adrenaline kept me from sleeping well, anyway! We arrived at the Fairgrounds with plenty of time to spare and the ladies split from the men. We had an impending date with the start line.

fred half 2014 start

At 7a on the dot, the race began. I paced myself ahead of where I thought I needed to be, and held strong for the first 5 or so miles. My hamstrings were getting tight and I decided to slow down and do intervals. Half mile of running, 2 minutes walking. The last thing I wanted to do was burn out with miles to go.

This served me pretty well until mile 8, when my knee started acting up. MY KNEE! The one thing that had never bothered me in any run or race prior, was now searing with pain. Running actually helped, but I changed my intervals to a minimum 3 minute run and a 1 minute walk. I have to say, the Frederick course was great for a beginner like me. It was fairly flat, with lots of shade. We ran through neighborhoods which allowed for lots of crowd support, and one hellacious hill at the end gave it some spice. I saw the boys early, midway through, and right at the aforementioned hill at the end. It was so great to hear them cheering me on and always gave me the push I needed to continue through.

I finished with an official time of 2:16:40. My conservative race estimate was 2:15:00, but all things considered, I’m really happy.  I conquered the distance, kept my head in check, and listened to my body. My time placed me in the top 50% of both my age group and of women overall and in the top 60% of finishers male and female. Not too shabby!

I quickly hobbled over to collect my medal, grab some fuel and a photo, and snag my race shirt. I ran into some coworkers who also ran and also took a picture with Hil, who was a great and constant support during this journey. (You might remember her from a run we did together earlier in my training.) The celebratory beer wasn’t available until 11a (and we were finished by 9:30a), so we left and came home.

A knee brace, a 2hr nap, and treats from the husband rounded out the day. I took today off in anticipation of more aches and pains but mostly I’m going to relish the fact that I am now a half-marathoner 🙂

What was the most exciting part of your weekend? Mine was not only crossing the finish line, but finishing and being happy with my performance.

Linking up with Katie at Healthy Diva Life for Marvelous in My Monday!

Linking up with Katie at Healthy Diva Life for Marvelous in My Monday!

 

Not Your Average Protein Bar

I’m always excited to receive mail, but last week a package arrived that I immediately busted open.

vega bars

The Vega Bar team was kind enough to send eight of their plant-based, gluten-free, non GMO protein bars. Sweet! Here’s the breakdown of my loot:

Vega One Meal Bars in Chocolate Cherry Almond and Chocolate Peanut Butter

Vega Snack Bars in Dark Chocolate Mixed Nuts & Sea Salt and Cranberry Almond

Vega Sport Protein Bars in Chocolate Coconut and Chocolate Mint

Vega Sport Energy Bars in Cherry Almond and Chocolate Coconut Almond

Let’s start with the Sports bars. I tried the Cherry Almond flavor for some pre-run fuel and was initially surprised by the texture. It was chewy and moist, but not sticky like some bars. The non-artificial flavoring was good, but I preferred the Chocolate Coconut Almond. That one? So good. I ate a whole bar before my run yesterday and I definitely feel that it helped me get my running mojo back. I felt full but not stuffed, and knowing that I’m putting clean fuel in my body makes it easier to concentrate on my workout.

Vega Sport Energy Bar

Later in the week, I used a Meal bars as snacks. What can I say? I’m a hungry gal. I love the fact that the wrapper has all these cool stats in easy to digest form (Hahah, get it? So punny.) While it wouldn’t suffice for an actual meal replacement for me, both the Chocolate Cherry Almond and the Chocolate Peanut Butter flavors were spot on. It was a bit weird seeing a chocolate pb bar without either discernible peanuts or that light brown coloring inside. I quickly got over it and scarfed the whole thing down 🙂

vega choc pb

As for the Snack bars? They’re delicious, too. I would have more in-depth notes on these flavors, but I tend to wait until the last minute when I’m snacking on the go or in the office. I can tell you that these bars are easily portable – I carried them around in multiple purses and are probably strong enough to sustain a tour or two in a stuffed gym bag.

Look at all those berries!

Look at all those berries!

I haven’t used the Vega Sport Energy Recovery bars yet, as I’m saving them for after my half marathon on Sunday. If they are anything like the other bars I’ve tried, I know that they’ll be tasty and effective. They’ll help my body recover in a natural way through the use of whole grain brown rice and pea protein. I can’t wait to try them out!

Vega Sport Bar

All in all, I’d highly recommend the Vega bar product line. The packaging is informative and interesting and you can’t complain about the flavoring and quality of the products!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary shipment of Vega bars as a Sweat Pink Ambassador. All thoughts and opinions of the product are my own.

Badge_Vega200

 

This post is part of my Try It Tuesday series. I review a variety of products/services and use this series to recommend only the best to you. Enjoy 🙂

Wine Me Up

Did you know that tomorrow is National Picnic Day? (Don’t worry, neither did I.) But when Beso Del Sol Sangria wanted to send me a box of wine to help us celebrate the occasion, who was I to turn them down? I was a bit skeptical at first but don’t be fooled, this isn’t your stereotypical boxed wine.

Created from a combination of red wine with Mediterranean fruit extracts and sugar, Beso Del Sol Sangria is the first premium 100% natural sangria with a bag-in-a-box on the market. In addition to a great taste, Beso Del Sol is a fantastic value – each 3L box is the equivalent of four bottles of 750ml bottles! (That’s a lot of wine…even for me :P) The packaging is light and easily portable – easily fitting in a backpack or picnic basket. Additionally, the technology used ensures that each sip stays fresh for up to six weeks after opening…just in case you’re not ready to drink all 3L in one sitting. But the best part? Each box of Beso Del Sol retails for about $20! Where can you get 4 bottles of wine for $20? (Um, if you do know a place like this, send the info my way!)

beso-del-sol-sangria

We shared the box with our neighbors during a game night. We added in pear, orange, and green apple, but the taste still was a bit too tame for me. However, our neighbor had a differing opinion, saying it had an astringient aftertaste. Neither the JA nor I picked up on that, but it could also be that the wine wasn’t fully chilled or that the fruit was affecting her glass differently than ours. In the end, while the wine was great on it’s own, for me, it would also be good with a little added extra kick of brandy or other liquor.

All in all, I’d definitely recommend it as an on-the-go option this spring/summer. I see Beso Del Sol Sangria being a great option for outdoor concerts, tailgating, a barbecue, or for the beach! Connect with Beso Del Sol on Facebook and Twitter for more information.

Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary box of Beso Del Sol Sangria for review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Find this review helpful? Find others like it on my Reviews & Try It Tuesday page!

Treats Not Tricks

It’s April Fools Day and I have a few confessions to make to you. First, I dislike this ‘holiday.’ I’m not a prankster and just don’t get it. You never know how someone else’s day is going and pulling a prank on them could tip them over the proverbial edge. Be careful out there today, jokesters!

Second confession: yesterday was the first day in my training cycle that I decided to skip a workout without a valid reason. In the past few weeks, I’ve bailed because of snow and sickness. Yesterday, I simply didn’t want to stretch & strengthen. My heated yoga class was cancelled by the instructor, it was gorgeous outside, and it was Opening Day for the Orioles.

Instead of exercising, the JA and I ended up going out to dinner. We ended up driving a bit to chow down at one of our favorite spots when we were living in our townhouse – T Bonz Bar & Grille. Not only do they have a great beer selection, but they are also the place that first served us crabby tots (tater tots covered in crab dip, Old Bay, and cheese). We settled in for the second half of the game and were happy to cheer the O’s on to a win!

crabby tots

We rolled ourselves home to fulfill our puppy parent duties and decided to continue the fun with dessert and a Scandal. We started watching the series on Saint Patrick’s Day and are completely hooked. It’s actually taken over for Breaking Bad, which we have yet to finish. (Anyone else not impressed? We’re just not that into it.)

That was that. No workout. No feeling guilt about not working out. I took advantage of the day and I’m not sorry one bit. (I’m saying this prior to my scheduled run for the day. Check in with me tonight and see how I feel!)

Look at all those Xs!

Look at all those Xs!

Speaking of treating yourself, if you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed I’m on a lipstick kick. Now, I’m not really a lipstick person – it rubs off on everything, it’s got a waxy feel and smell, and I’ve just never been a fan. I’m much more of a lip stain person, as evidenced by my collection of three different Revlon Just Bitten Lipstains. I really like that they’ve got a bit of a peppermint kick, provide long-lasting color, and keep my lips moisturized. (For a full review, click here.)

But when offered the chance to try a new beauty product for free, I couldn’t refuse. I  was sent Rimmel London’s Moisture Renew lipstick in As You Want Victoria as part of a campaign through Influenster.

I mentioned last week that it was one of my Five Things I’m Loving so it should come as no surprise that I wore it multiple times throughout the past few weekends. I wore it most of weekend: Friday at work (and on my run), and Sunday for a work event (and then again at the gym). I think I’m a convert. From the minute I put it on my lips, I was surprised at how smooth it was. The color’s a bit bold, but didn’t transfer onto my glassware too much and lasted through eating, drinking, running and ellipticall-ing. I may just be converted!

lipstick and pearls

This is part of my Try It Tuesday series. I review a variety of products/services and use this series to recommend the best to you! I did receive the product for free, but all opinions are my own 🙂

 

Treat-Yourself-Tuesday-Badge

Nutty Apple Crisp

I’m not that big of an oatmeal fan. I mean, I like it, but the prepackaged stuff doesn’t exactly make me feel healthy. Overnight oats? Such a weird texture. I can’t get over it enough to like them. More often than not, I use oatmeal as an ingredient in my baking. (See: Quinoa Bars and Banana Bread.)

So when I was approached my My Oatmeal to review their product, I got overly excited. Creating a custom blend of healthy oatmeal would be perfect for the morning! I selected the signature smash blend oats in Oatmeal Cookie flavor (I know, right?) and added blueberries, cranberries, dark raisins, walnuts and pecans to the mix. The company recommended adding some brown cane sugar, so I complied. But before trying it as breakfast, I had an idea for a recipe!

nutty apple crisp

Nutty Apple Crisp

Ingredients
2 1/2 Granny Smith apples, sliced into bite-size pieces
1 cup healthy oatmeal blend (including walnuts & pecans)
1/8c. brown sugar (optional)
2 tbsp. margarine, softened

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. Place apple pieces in a 9×9 pan coated with cooking spray.

3. Add oatmeal blend over top of apples. Sprinkle brown sugar for added sweetness.

4. Slice margarine into small slivers and distribute throughout mixture.

5. Bake for 30 minutes.

6. Let cool and serve with ice cream (or yogurt in the morning!)

**If you want to use regular oatmeal, add desired nuts/dried fruit into a small bowl with 1 c oatmeal, adding dashes of cinnamon & nutmeg prior to placing over apples. **

It was so nice to just pour and go instead of measuring out all the ingredients. There’s also the added bonus of extra fruit! The sugar content of the oatmeal seemed a bit high for me, but that was my own fault. Selecting a different flavor or carefully selecting the dried fruit you add would most likely reduce this.

MyOatmeal

Disclaimer: I was provided 1 lb. of customized oatmeal from MyOatmeal.com as part of a campaign run by Fit Approach as a Sweat Pink Ambassador. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Like this recipe? Check out others on my Recipes page!

10-Minute Vegetarian Nachos

The JA and I are big fans of meals that we can whip together in a pinch – especially when they are bursting with flavor. Our favorite go-to nacho recipe, up until this point, was How Sweet’s 20 Minute Turkey Taco Nachos. (Seriously, love them.)

Yet, with training for my upcoming half marathon, nachos aren’t necessarily the best fuel choice. However, when I received a lovely package from Sunshine Burger, a company committed to serving health-conscious consumers with delicious, wholesome, veggie burgers and products made with certified organic, whole-food ingredients, I figured why not give veggie burger nachos a try. I got six different flavors and decided that the Black Bean South West flavor would be perfect to test as a meat substitute.

I think we're set for a while.

I think we’re set for a while.

You guys, it rocked. Like, we ate these off the tray, standing in front of our oven good.

Here’s how we made them:

veggie nachos

10-Minute Vegetarian Nachos

3 Black Bean South West Sunshine Burgers
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 bag tortilla chips (we used blue corn chips)
1 cup shredded cheese
1/2 cup salsa
1 cup shredded lettuce
(avocado & greek yogurt can be used as additional toppings)

1. Heat olive oil & onion over medium heat.
2. Add veggie burgers and cook per package instructions, crumbling to fully mix with onion.
2. While burgers are heating, line baking sheet with foil.
3. Place a layer of chips on baking sheet. Top with cheese.
4. Set oven to broil.
5. Once burger/onion mix is finished, and place it evenly on top of cheese.
6. OPTIONAL: Place another layer of cheese on top of burger/onion mix.
7. Heat nachos under broiler for 1-2 minutes until cheese is melted.
8. Cover with salsa & lettuce, adding any other nacho-like toppings to taste.

As I said, these were phenomenal. They were even better knowing that the burgers themselves were of high quality.

veggie nachos 2

We tried out a few more recipes with the burgers, so stay tuned for more deliciousness! In the meantime, find other recipes of mine on my Recipes page.

To find a store selling Sunshine Burgers near you, click here.

Disclaimer: I was provided six boxes of Sunshine Burgers as an ambassador of the Fit Approach Sweat Pink community. All opinions are my own.