Monday, December 12, 2011

Busy, Busy

(Even though life is busy right now, we are still trying to get out and explore more of Asheville.  This picture was on the double decker bus that serves coffee and dessert.  It was super cute on the inside!)

As always, life is moving so fast these days!  To add to the already busy holiday season, we are moving this weekend!  This is very exciting because ever since we moved to Asheville, we have been living in a place we are not happy with.  Things will be quite a bit tighter financially but we decided that it was worth it for our quality of life.  So I am sure next weekend will be filled with packing and moving boxes!  The next few weeks might be filled with easy dinners like this:

(Mexi Pizza topped with fresh diced tomatoes and Follow Your Heart Vegan Sour Cream)

I decided to join the gym that I am taking classes at.  I guess they were successful with their Groupon coupon….at least with me.  I really like taking classes to mix things up.  The gym membership is pretty inexpensive as far as memberships go (about $20/month) but I did have to commit to 3 years.  Oh well….I am cheap so that will probably keep me motivated because I won’t want to lose money.  My weekly class schedule looks like this:

Monday: Rip & Ride (Cycling class mixed with cardio and strength training)
Tuesday: Boot Camp
Wednesday:  Rip & Ride
Thursday: Spinning
Saturday: Kickboxing
Sunday: Spinning

Just taking these classes alone is definitely worth the membership.  One of the instructors who is also the owner of the gym teaches most of these classes and she is TOUGH but in such a good way.  She pushes her classes really hard.  She always wants to know what your heart rate is and how many calories you have burned to make sure you are working hard!  I love it!  Sometimes I feel like I am on the Biggest Loser! 

(Ali Vincent-Season 5 Biggest Loser   Photo Source)

Speaking of Biggest Loser, Netflix recently added a lot of the seasons to watch instantly.  Yay!  We just couldn't get into season One, so we decided to skip ahead to season 5 when Ali Vincent wins.  How inspirational!  It's very interesting to watch her and many of the comments she made.  She was just so sure she was going to be the first female Biggest Loser and she was right!  She just knew.  I highly recommend watching this season.  I found it to be very motivating!

Recently, I have had a weird obsession with buying huge amounts of groceries.  I bought this basket of broccoli at the farmers market and it completely filled 2 plastic grocery bags.  Also, in the background is 6 boxes of Kashi Go Lean cereal ordered from Amazon Subscribe and Save.  It’s not in the picture, but I recently bought 10 cans of pumpkin, 6 boxes of Rapunzel vegan bouillon  and multiple cans of tomato sauce.  It’s actually not that weird because I have been scoring some awesome deals on things, but it just looks funny in the teeny tiny place we are living in right now.  Oh well…..I am all about bargains. 

Also, Weight Watchers is still going well--my weight is slowly coming back down.  My goal is to be back at the weight I was this summer right after moving to Asheville by Christmas.  We will see.  I am just going to keep working hard and see what happens. 

Anyway, I know my blog has taken the backburner right now and I am sorry for that.  Hopefully when we get settled into our new place, I will be able to start making some new recipes and posting on some things other than life being hectic! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Healthy Thankgiving & a New Obsession!

(It's starting to get a lot colder and the days are a lot shorter-Corny and I decided to go out on a chilly jog/walk even though it was pretty cold!)

I think it runs in my family to become obsessed and fixated on things.  I think I get it from my mom.  My brother has it too.  Several years ago, he became obsessed with health and fitness and I thought he was crazy.  When he started going to Cross Fit gym, I thought he had joined a cult.  When he and his wife were expecting a baby, I told my mom that they would have to sacrifice it to Cross Fit.  Mostly joking, but kind of serious.  Cross Fit is no joke.  However, I don't really give him a hard time about it anymore, because now I understand it a little  better. 

Over the past month, I have been attending a local gym on a Groupon coupon that I purchased this summer.  I don't really use the equipment at the gym, but I go to a lot of the classes.  I mentioned a few weeks ago that I chose the "boot camp" class as my very first class. 

(Photo Source:

It was very hard, but the feeling I got afterward was so rewarding.  I accomplished something that I didn't know I could do and I don't think the instructor thought I could do at first either.  When I went into the gym that day,  I said I was there for the boot camp class.  She said, "Have you ever taken this class before?"  I said, "No."  I didn't really know what else to say.  I said I had recently done a 5K and she asked me what my time was.  When I said I did it in 32 minutes, she backed off a little bit but all she said was, "Well, you can give it a try."  In my mind I thought, she doesn't think I can do this and I am going to prove her wrong.  That kept me motivated over the course of the next hour when the exercises got really tough.  I kept thinking, I have to prove her wrong.  I will show her I am capable of this.  After the class she complimented me and said the only reason why she said any of that was because a lot of people come for the class and they really can't handle it because they don't realize what it is.  I decided I would be coming back for more.  I also decided to give kickboxing a try a few days later. 

(Photo source:

Kickboxing starts off my Saturday mornings now.  Rather than being lazy, sitting around drinking coffee (I'm still caffeine free!) and not getting out of the house until noon, I have started going to the class that starts at 8:45.  It's a great way to start off the day.  I will usually go to the farmers market and grocery shopping after the class too.  I love that kickboxing is a great upper body workout....yes, I know that sounds crazy that  I am saying upper body workout when it's kickboxing but we do a lot more punches than kicks.  My upper body is one of the areas of my body that I feel really self conscious about.  I really want to tone my arms but I am just not crazy about lifting weights.  This is a great way to get an upper body workout and cardio at the same time.  I also feel really tough and powerful when I am punching the bag. 

(Photo Source:

Last but certainly not least, I decided to give spinning a try.  In my mind, I always thought that spinning would be easy and kind of boring. Haha....I was SOOO proven wrong!  Spinning is no joke.  Last night, I burned almost 800 calories in less than 75 minutes!  That's a workout!  The instructor (same as boot camp) pushes us so hard and I really think I respond to it.  I love the challenge and I love the feeling of accomplishment when the class is finished. 

My Groupon runs out in less than a month but I have pretty much decided to stick with this gym for the classes.  The gym is pretty basic but the classes are well worth the membership fee.  I feel like when a drug dealer gives free drugs to people to get them hooked.  This Groupon coupon got me hooked on these classes and now I crave going to them.  I love how I feel and how hard it pushes me.  It's hard but exhilirating at the same time.  When I go out walking and jogging, it just doesn't feel the same anymore! 

Along with going to the gym, I had a great Thanksgiving break.  I got to go to Plant, my favorite vegan restaurant in Asheville, for a benefit Thanksgiving dinner.  The food was amazing and so much better than cooking a big Thanksgiving feast!  I worked my ass off for several days earning activity points so I could enjoy the dinner without even thinking about points.  I got on the scale the next day and showed a loss!  Yeah! 

(Excited about going to Plant!)

Another fun picture I thought I would include is of some "Red Giant Mustard" greens from the school garden.  The high school  I work at has a garden that we can go and pick greens from.  It's awesome!  I have been picking collards, kale, turnip greens and mustard greens. 

I haven't tried these yet, but I am very curious about how they taste.  I have never even seen these greens before!  I hope you had a great Thanksgiving holiday filled with lots of great things!  Happy holiday season!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Back To My Weight Loss Roots

(Above the clouds-heading back home to see my mom)

It's been awhile since I last made a post!  It feels like life is just moving so fast  right now.  In the past couple of weeks, I found out my mom had the beginning stages of uterine cancer, she had surgery, and I went home to be with her for a few days.  It was a completely unexpected trip home.  It had been less than a month since I was last home but I was so happy I was able to be there with her. 

As soon as I got back home from my trip, I decided to go back to my weight loss roots.  I decided to go back to Weight WatchersWeight Watchers is what I lost the majority of my weight with and I was been struggling so much recently that I really felt like I just needed to go back to the beginning.  Unfortunately, I have gained about 10 pounds since moving to Asheville and I am not happy about it.  Little by little, the weight has been creeping back up and I am not okay with that and it's time for me to do something about it.  So, that's what I am doing. 

(I did my own version of the WW Food Journal to save some $)

Currently, I am not really at a place where I can afford the $40 a month for WW Monthly Pass so I am pretty much doing it on my own.  I printed off my own version of the food journal and I can still access the message boards which was the only thing I really used from the e-tools when I paid every month.  Plus, I am going to a local gym right now and taking quite a few classes.  I feel like that gives me some accountability.  I purchased a Groupon this summer and decided to save it until it got cold outside.  It will last until the end of December and then I will have to decide if I will continue with the gym or try out some specials at other gyms around the area.  I really do love taking the class though and I think I might want to stay with this gym.  I am currently taking Kickboxing, Spinning and Boot Camp.  I love how I get pushed to work harder in classes.  It's a great sense of accomplishment! 

My first week back on Weight Watchers felt successful.  I used all of the activity points I earned and only 3 of the extra weekly points.  I feel like that's a success.  I haven't weighed myself yet though.  I plan to do that either tonight or tomorrow.  I think Tuesday will be my WW weigh in day. 

I did a lot of food prep this weekend along with taking a spinning and kickboxing class.  I tried out two new recipes that you can find online!  Here they are:

Zucchini Quinoa Lasagna from the Peas and Thank You Blog

Black Bean Quinoa Burgers from Vegetarian Times Magazine

I loved both of these recipes.  I doubled up on the recipe for the burgers so I could freeze a lot of them.  I love doing this because it's so much cheaper and so much less processed than frozen vegan burgers at the store.  I also loved the idea of the zucchini as lasagna noodles.  It worked perfectly and it tasted delicious.  I didn't even miss the pasta especially since there's quinoa in the lasagna.  I would definitely recommend both of these recipes. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Random Post: the Weekend, Eat to Live Thoughts, a New Recipe and More

(Hooker Falls-Dupont State Forest, NC)

I feel like I should start off with the positives of this weekend.  I got a lot of great activity in!  On Saturday, I went to my second kickboxing class.  I still loved it and it was a great workout!  I burned even more calories this week because I pushed myself harder.  I love that I am getting a great upper body and cardio workout at the same time.  When I was finished, I had burned 700 calories!  

Then on Sunday, we drove out to Dupont State Forest and hiked out to many of the waterfalls within the area.  The hiking is pretty easy out there with some inclines but we hiked for almost 3 hours.  I burned over 600 calories when we were finished hiking.  

R is way more adventurous than me....when she found out that you could "walk" behind Bridal Veil Falls, she had to go back.  I knew when we went out to Dupont State Forest yesterday, that she would be doing this.  I decided not to hike behind it but I still enjoyed hiking to the top of this waterfall. 

(The only reason why I included this picture is because there's a heart shaped water puddle if you look closely...I just thought that was cool.)
I also had 2 recipe successes this weekend.  I made gluten free pancakes that were a success and I made the Lotsa Veggies Lentil Soup from Appetite for Reduction.  The gluten free pancakes were exciting because I have tried this before with no success.  This time, I used the Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour with a little bit of Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Oat Flour is it was a great success.  The consistency was fine and they didn't fall apart.  I know R was excited because she eats gluten free all of the time and I think this was the first success for gluten free pancakes. 

(Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour--Photo source:

The picture below is of the Lotsa Veggies Lentil Soup from AFR.  Have you checked out this blog before?  She is working her way through Isa's entire cookbook and taking pictures of everything she makes.  I love it!

(Photo Source: The Reduction Project)

I guess I should just go ahead and talk about my Eat to Live-Week 3 results.  I still lost a little bit of weight.  I lost 0.4.  It's better than nothing.  I will be honest, I am struggling with Eat to Live and I just have myself to blame for this.  I have become too relaxed and eating things that Dr. Fuhrman would probably not approve of (Starbucks Decaf Soy Misto).  Starbucks soy milk has quite a bit of sugar in it and I know that's why I like the drink so much.  Also, I have started using some stevia again to sweeten things.  Part of this is because I don't really think stevia is bad for me and part of it is because we were using way too many dates to sweeten things.  Not only do the calories add up, but it's expensive.  (I will talk about budgeting in a minute.)  So, I am going to do my best with Eat to Live for the final 2 weeks of the program, but then I am seriously considering going back to my weight loss roots....Weight Watchers.  I have taken a break from Weight Watchers for about 9-10 months and have been struggling to lose weight for about the past 6-7 months.  It's just something I am thinking about right now.  Now that I have a better grasp of calories, I might be able to be more successful with Weight Watchers and not abuse the whole "free fruits and veggies" thing.  We will see. 

I said I would talk about budgeting in a minute.  I was pretty shocked when I did the math for last month's grocery spending.  For two people, we spent over $700 in groceries.  Yikes.  I have set a goal for us this month to spend $500 or less and that will include going out to dinner if we choose to do that.  That way, if we decide to go out to dinner, we know that we might be struggling a little bit more with our grocery budget and we might have to work more on making due with what we already have.  We want to move out of our current rental place and get a better place that has more space and is nicer.  But in order to do that, we know we will be spending more money.  Money can be so frustrating! 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween and Eat to Live (Week 2)

(Photo source:

Happy Halloween, everyone!  I had kind of a laid back weekend but I also have some things to report as far as trying new workouts and recipes.  Since I activated my Groupon coupon for a 2 month gym membership last Saturday, I have tried 2 classes.  Last Tuesday, I went to a Boot Camp class.  I quickly realized why it was called Boot was HARD!!  But I felt really great after I was finished with the workout.  Plus, when I told the instructor I had never taken the class before, or any class for that matter, she acted like it might be too difficult for me.  I decided I would prove her wrong and I think I successfully did that by the end of the workout...yay!  A quick way to motivate me is to tell me I might not be capable!  I plan on going back tomorrow.  On Saturday, I took a Kickboxing class with the same instructor.  I think it should have been more appropriately named "arm boxing."  We did way more punches than kicks and I was fine with that.  My arms are one of my trouble zones and my goal is to tone them.  I loved Kickboxing and also plan to go back to it next week.  Plus, it got me up and around on Saturday and I was able to go to the farmers market (where it started snowing on me) right after my workout.  I still have yet to try Zumba and spinning.  They are on my list and hopefully I will get to try those soon. 

I made two new recipes this weekend:

Black Bean and Butternut Squash Burritos from Oh She Glows--the verdict.....EXCELLENT!  I loved the taste and the flavors.  I love butternut squash just about anyway you can make it. 

Impossible Vegan Pumpkin Pie from the Fat Free Vegan--the verdict....definitely tastier the next day after it was refrigerated.  I also made a few adjustments to this recipe because I didn't have Ener-G Egg Replacer and I didn't want to use sugar.  Instead, I used 1 TBSP of ground flax seed and about 7-8 dates (food processed with the other ingredients).  It turned out great and set up just fine. 

Eat to Live Week 2 Recap
-I didn't really lose any more weight....bummer!
-I decided I will have to not buy cashew butter anymore b/c it has become a trigger food.
-My blood pressure went back up again but it is still within a very healthy range.  (110/78 this week)
-I will need to limit myself to 2 bananas per day.....just like when I did Weight Watchers Points Plus, the amount of bananas I am eating would be considered "fruit abuse!" 
-I kind of had a snack attack binge last night after! 
-I am still hungry between breakfast and lunch but my hunger is still at a minimum between lunch and dinner.  For the most part, I am still keeping the mindless snacking to a minimum. 
-I have started allowing myself to drink a decaf soy Misto when I go by Starbucks.....could this have anything to do with my crazy snack attack last night?!  Something for me to think about......
-I guess that's about it for Week 2

Monday, October 24, 2011

Eat to Live Week 1 Recap and Enjoying the Fall

(I've been trying to get outside as much as possible lately to enjoy the beautiful fall scenery-above is a picture of trail that I go walking and jogging on.)

I am now halfway through week 2 of the Eat to Live program and I am still feeling great!  Here are my stats from week one:

-I lost 4.8 pounds (Note: You will not see this weight loss reflected in my ticker off to the side because I recently got back from a family trip where I gained quite a bit of weight.)
-My blood pressure dropped from 110/76 to 110/68

These are the only 2 measurable stats that I am keeping track of for the student's senior project.  I have compiled a list of other positives that I have noticed/experienced over the course of the first week and a half:

-Kicked my coffee/caffeine habit
-Stopped using stevia (I was using an insane amount of it)
-Started to get less hungry in between meals
-Pretty successful with eating dinner and a dessert then being finished for the day (I am able to stop eating rather than continuing to eat more food even though I’m not hungry)
-Discovered my pumpkin banana smoothie!
-Many of the recipes we cook are already appropriate for Eat to Live.

Here are some of the negatives that I have for the program:

-The first couple of days without coffee and snacking was ROUGH!
-I discovered cashew butter (this might end up being a food I cannot have in the house b/c it’s a little too indulgent and maybe a trigger food for me).
-I need to come up with more breakfast and dessert ideas.
-I am still struggling with not snacking at all-I have modified this a bit to snacking on just fruit when I feel hungry (even though Dr. Fuhrman says this is “toxic hunger”).
-The first week I took salads in my lunch everyday and it started getting old quick!  I made some hummus over the weekend to eat with raw veggies in hopes that it will mix things up a bit. 
-There's a lot of food prep involved in order to be satisfied with my meals.

Overall, the positive definitely outweigh the negative.  I am still just finding a groove and figuring things out.  Another positive for the week is that I activated my Groupon coupon for a 2 month gym membership.  I had been holding on to it for awhile to wait until my 5K was finished.  I did the 5K last weekend so now I am excited to take some classes and do some different types of exercise.  Also, the weather has been very pretty lately and I have been getting out and enjoying the fall leaves while they are still on the trees.  Here are a couple more pictures that I have taken with my phone camera:

I am going to try and enjoy this fall weather as much as I can before winter rolls in! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pumpkin Banana Smoothie

(Please excuse the camera phone picture-I was too lazy to use my nice camera!)

I have almost completed one full week of Dr. Fuhrman's Eat to Live Program.  I have been trying to follow the plan as closely as possible which has included giving up coffee, stevia, almost all processed foods and in between meal snacking.  Now that the caffeine is mostly (if not all) out of my system, I am starting to feel much better.  One thing that I have been trying to think about are creative dessert ideas.  When you can't use most sweeteners including stevia, that makes making desserts a little more difficult.  I have been making a lot of after dinner smoothies with frozen banana, cocoa and almond milk.  This is sweet enough that I don't need to sweeten it with any additional sweeteners.  However, I have found that when I do need to sweeten things a little bit, I can use dates.  I date has about 25 calories so they add up fast, but sometimes it takes just a couple of dates to sweeten something up just enough.  That's what I did with this pumpkin banana smoothie.  I made this last night and I thought it turned out great! 

Pumpkin Banana Smoothie
-1 very large frozen banana
-1/2 cup canned pumpkin
-2 dates (pitted)--Optional (After making this smoothie several times now, I've decided the dates or other sweetener is optional)
-1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (more or less to taste)
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-1/2 cup unsweetened nondairy milk (I used almond milk)

Put all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.  Serve immediately.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Eat to Live

(Photo source:

I know I have mentioned this several times on the blog, but ever since moving to Asheville, I have been struggling to lose weight.  In fact, I have been struggling not to gain weight.  Typically what happens is that I have a successful week, then I end up eating too much on the weekends.  The weekends in Asheville are usually full of festivals, trips to downtown and other things where I am surrounded by good vegan food.  This has been a struggle since July now.  I have been trying to get it in gear but I just haven’t been successful. 

Where I work, all of the seniors have to do a senior project in order to graduate.  One student is doing her project on the Eat to Live program and she sent out an e-mail asking if any faculty members would participate in the program for 6 weeks so she could keep track of our results.  I knew that Eat to Live was a vegan diet, I knew it was healthy and I had also seen Dr. Fuhrman interviewed in Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and Forks Over Knives.  Because I knew it was vegan and healthy, I decided that this would be the push I needed to get back on track.  Committing to 6 weeks will be a very good thing for me.  Plus, it really came at a perfect time.  I took a trip to see my family last weekend through the beginning part of this week and I knew that I would start Eat to Live as soon as I got back.  I could indulge at the Spiral Diner while I was in Dallas and enjoy some other treats while I was on vacation and then I knew I would have a fresh start with Eat to Live as soon as I got back. 

Also, I knew the plane rides to and from my parents’ house would give me the opportunity to read Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live book.  I wanted to fully understand the program before I jumped in.  I am so glad that I did.  Reading the book from cover to cover gave me such a better understanding of the research and reasoning behind Dr. Fuhrman’s guidelines for the program.  For example, he explains true hunger vs. toxic hunger.  Toxic hunger is often felt due to the body withdrawing from caffeine, other substances, or even nutrient poor food.  He said that many overfed Americans may have never actually experienced true hunger.  I had never heard anything like this before.  Also, Dr. Fuhrman says that even alternative sweeteners such as stevia cause a person to overeat because the sweet taste from sweeteners encourages a person to crave more food.  Coffee and stevia…..two of my main staples.  I knew that starting the Eat to Live program would require some changes to my diet, for sure.  The main areas I knew I would have to work on were:

-Giving up caffeine
-Cutting out stevia
-No in between meal snacking

Other than that, I felt like Eat to Live wasn’t too far off from how I eat already.  But those 3 areas I needed to work on are MAJOR areas.   While I was at my parents’ I started to wean myself off of coffee.  Instead of drinking coffee right when I wake up, I decided to drink a cup later in the day.  I did this for about 3 days.  Yesterday was my first day completely caffeine free.  It was a little rough!  However, I am already feeling better today with just a minor headache.  I know it can take up to a week to completely detox my body off of caffeine so I am trying to be patient with this. 

Also, it was a little rough yesterday not snacking.  But I am trying to remember what Dr. Fuhrman says about toxic hunger and giving myself some time to get used to a different way of eating.  I think this will pass too with time. 

So far, I am feeling pretty optimistic about Eat to Live.  Because not many faculty members are participating, I feel really motivated to stick with it and be successful.  I want to provide reliable data for the student but I also want to work through the 6 weeks of the program and see how I feel.  I think it’s the motivation I need to truly get back on track. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hello, Fall!

Fall leaves on the Blue Ridge Parkway-2007

I have always loved the fall.  It used to be my favorite season.  Now I kind of have mixed emotions about it.  I still love the season, I just don't like that it's a reminder of the winter to come.  I never really thought much about the winters living in Oklahoma.  For the most part, they were very mild.  But after moving to the mountains of North Carolina, I changed my tune about winter.  The first winter we were out here, it was really mild and we couldn't figure out why so many people would say, "Have you made it through a winter yet?"  Now, we know what that means.....and that's why I am not sure if the fall is my favorite season anymore. 

On the otherhand, the fall is beautiful in the mountains of NC!  The Blue Ridge Parkway is just stunning and there are just so many picturesque scenes during the season.  Here are a few of my favorite fall pictures I have taken over the past few years:

Crabtree Falls-Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

Hiking on a fall day-2008

Blue Ridge Parkway-2007

Valle Crucis, NC

I still love the fall!  I love the colors, the smells, the tastes.  I love getting my jackets and sweaters out and wearing them at night.  I still love all of this!  I also love hiking in the fall.  Most of the pictures above were taken out on fall hikes.  This picture below was also taken on a hike around a lake:

Trout Lake, NC

I also love fall festivals!  The picture below was taken at the Wooly Worm Festival in Banner Elk, NC.  The Wooly Worm is supposed to determine how harsh the winter ahead is supposed to be!  The Wooly Worms race up a string!

I also love pumpkins!  Carving them, eating them, growing them, etc.  My mom carved this cute jack-lantern below:

I love making pumpkin recipes.  I love pumpkin in sweet and savory dishes. 

I also love apples!  I love that they are in season in the fall and I can buy them locally.  The county next to where I live is one of the largest producers of apples in the country.  SCORE!  We make apple sauce and apple butter and it always smells so delicious when we have the crockpot full of apples!

Old red barn and apple tree near Boone, NC

This fall, I want to try some new recipes and also make some of my old classics.  Here's a list of some recipes I want to try:

-Harvest Bread (Happy Herbivore)   I can check this one off the list!  Yay!  I made it this weekend and it turned out great.  I made a few adjustments that I will talk about in a minute. 

***Note about the Harvest Bread recipe--I decided to make it into muffins.  I also didn't want to use maple syrup so I bought some maple extract (imitation) and just used stevia as a sweetener.  They turned out great and were very moist.  I halfed the recipe and it still made 7 muffins.  Oh yeah, and I used oat flour (Bob's Red Mill GF) so they would be gluten free.  I was thinking I might add some raisins or a few walnuts next time too. 

Some of my fall recipes to make again:
-Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal  (No recipe but I just cook the apples with some cinnamon, water and a bit of sweetener and then add them into my oatmeal.)

Things I LOVE about the Fall
-roasted root veggies
-Pumpkin Spice candles
-pumpkin food
-wood burning
-fall decorations

Some of my other favorite fall pictures:

An early fall leaf--I love the contrast of colors!

Blue Ridge Parkway

Bass Lake, NC

What do you love about the fall?  Do you have any fall traditions or recipes? 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Product Review: Sans Soda

Sans Soda free samples package!

This is the first time I have ever done a product review where someone actually sent me free samples of a product to test out!  This was very exciting.  Awhile back, I did a post on natural diet sodas.  I mentioned Sans Soda but I said it wasn't available anywhere close to where I lived.  Well, now it's available on Amazon with free shipping!  Yay!  Also, when I first looked up the website for the product, the FAQ question said the product was not vegan.  When I sent an inquiry about this, a representative of the company promptly sent me an e-mail back saying that it was, in fact, vegan and that they would fix the website. 

About a month ago, the representative contacted me again and said she would send me free samples of their soda to try out.  When I received the package, I opened it up to all of this soda:

Flavors included Root Beer, Cola, Black Cherry, Orange, and Lemon Lime. 

I was definitely most excited about trying root beer!

And the root beer did not disappoint!  It was excellent.  It was right up there with the Virgil's brand natural diet root beer!  I am not sure which one I like better now.  Both of them are top notch! 

My next favorite flavor was the cola.  It had a great taste and did not have any bitterness or bad taste from the stevia sweetener.  Sometimes I worry about the natural sodas having an unusual taste from being sweetened with stevia, but that was not the case with Sans. 

My least favorite flavors were the orange and the lemon lime.  Those are just naturally not my favorite flavors anyway.  Although, I thought it might be delicious to make a lemon lime vanilla float with vegan vanilla ice cream.  That might be something I keep in mind for the future. 

Natural soda is becoming more popular and easier to get....I am very excited about this.  It's still very expensive, but I have noticed that the health food stores are having more sales and more deals on Zevia, Blue Sky Free and other natural soda brands.  In fact, Amazon even has a Subscribe and Save option for some of the brands.  I checked this out and was pleasantly surprised with some of the prices for some of the brands.  However, I still cannot justify spending so much money on soda on a regular basis.  It still has to be an occasional treat for me. 

I want to say thank you to Sans Soda for letting me try your product for free!  I know if they start selling their soda (especially the root beer) in stores near me, I will definitely pick one up from time to time! 

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Great Birthday Weekend!

Look!  My new watch is telling me it's time to eat cake!  Yay!  :)

I had a great birthday weekend!  My birthday celebrating started on Friday night with a trip to Plant in Asheville.  I think it might be the most amazing restaurant I have ever eaten at!  I've been to some great vegan places, but Plant is just outstanding! 

I also got to open one of my birthday presents.....R got me a subscription (kind of as a joke) to Gothic Beauty magazine.  I don't really know much about "Goth culture" and I think that's why I LOVE this magazine.  R and I have this Barnes and Noble competition going.....everytime we go we have to try and find the most unusual/unique/obscure magazine that we can.  R found Gothic Beauty last year when we were in Atlanta and I found "Pole Fitness" this year.  Those are the top two we have found!  I read the issue of Gothic Beauty from cover to cover that night at Barnes and Noble last year.  Now I know how to make black roses on a budget....SCORE!  :) 

My actual birthday day was full of more surprises!  I got to open my "real" present....R got me a new Polar HRM since my last one broke.  We have a membership to REI now so if anything goes wrong with it, we can take the watch back without any problems.  It was great to be able to keep track of my calories burned while hiking this weekend. 

Steps to Mingo Falls....lots and lots of steps!

That leads to the next surprise......waterfall hiking in the Smoky Mountains National Park!  I love the Smokies and now that we are in Asheville, we are just about an hour away from the Cherokee side of the Smokies. 

Mingo Falls

I knew after my 30th birthday last year, that I wanted to incorporate health and fitness into my birthday celebrating.  It's a goal of mine that I try to get healthier each year I get older.  I know I was healthier at 30 than I was at 29 and I am healthier at 31 than I was at 30.  So naturally, I wanted my birthday to be full of hiking and nature. 

Smoky Mountains National Park trail

Indian Creek Falls-Smoky Mountains National Park

We also did some exploring around the town of Cherokee, NC.  My blog isn't really the platform for political and social debates, but I do have to say that I was very frustrated by the conditions that the Native American people of Cherokee live in.  I am from Oklahoma and I am not going to say things are perfect for Native American people there (far from it) but I feel like there's more of respect for Native culture in Oklahoma.  It just felt like the Native people of Cherokee were a spectacle to tourists....not cool, in my opinion. 

Anyway, we did some exploring around the town and I did see this awesome retro hotel sign.  I love old retro signs and I love taking pictures of them with my retro camera app!

Pink Motel-Cherokee, NC

The only thing about my birthday this year that was not cool was getting stung by a yellow jacket yesterday and then having an allergic reaction to it!  It was scary!  We went hiking with friends and we were almost finished hiking and back to the car when a few yellow jackets stung me and one of my friends.  He didn't have an allergic reaction, but I did on the way home.  I got blurred vision, my hearing was weird, I started seeing things that weren't really there, then my skin started itching.  Eventually I was covered in hives all over my body.  Yikes!  R bought me some benadryl and we had an epipen in the car (luckily, we never had to use it).  Today, my arm is still really swollen but luckily all of the hives went away.  It was a pretty scary experience!  I looked like one of those bumpy gourds you see at the pumpkin patch....not a pleasant feeling on my skin.  Even my scalp had the bumps all over it.  Anyway, I guess I will be carrying Benadryl and an epipen with me from now on! 

Overall though, it was an excellent birthday full of great surprises and fun!