Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Humane Society "Woof Walk"

(An overcast day for the Woof Walk but the mountains are still beautiful with the clouds covering them.)

It was a dreary and overcast day for the Humane Society's Woof Walk, but that was okay.  Unfortunately, I guess it wasn't okay for a lot of people.  The turnout was terrible and because the Humane Society didn't do online and early registration, I bet a lot of people backed out at the last minute.  I think there were less than 20 people at the walk.  I think if they had people register online or even just locations that people could register at, I think a lot of people would have still participated even though the weather was yucky.  Anyway, the walk was still fun.  Actually it was more of a hike than a walk.  

(Rhododendruns in bloom)

Before the official walk got started, I got there early to register because I thought a lot of people would be there.  Registration started about an hour before the walk so I got there when registration started thinking I would have to wait in a line for a long time.  But that wasn't the case.  I got there right away and registered with about 45 minutes to an hour to spare.  To make use of my time, I started walking early.  I walked around and took some pictures of the park.  This is my local community park.  It's such a beautiful park with the mountains in the background, a pond with ducks and frisbee golf.  The rhododendruns were in bloom so I took some pictures of them while I walked around.  

(Before the walk got started)

Earlier in the morning, I got up and walked to the farmers market.  But as you can see in my self portrait, I was clearly spending more time on things other than my appearance!  I am not even sure if I brushed my hair.  It looks terrible.  Plus, the humid, rainy weather wasn't doing me any favors.  

I have walked at the community park several of times before the Woof Walk but I have always stuck with the path that circles the park.  I figured that would be what we would do for the Woof Walk too.  But the walk had 2 paths that you could take.  One of the paths was to circle the park like I have done before but the other route was to hike up into the woods and then come back into the park on the other side.  I decided to go up into the woods since I had never done that before.  I really wasn't expecting to get much of workout on this walk but I was pleasantly surprised once we started climbing up into the woods.  It was a hike!  It was also very beautiful back in the woods.  Everything is green again so the woods looked like an enchanted forest.  For about 5-10 minutes of the woods hike, you are climbing straight up at a pretty steep incline.  Then once you get to the top, you start the descent back down to the other side of the park.  

(Lovely sweat after the Woof Walk/Hike-you just thought I looked great in the before picture!)

As you can see, I worked up quite a sweat during the hike into the woods.  I burned quite a few calories in a pretty short amount of time.  I was so happy to discover this hike.  I have been back 2 times since because it's such a calorie burner and because it feels like I am hiking without having to drive out to a hiking trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  

Below are two recent pictures of me.  They don't have anything to do with the Woof Walk, but I wanted to include them maybe to show that I do occasionally wear something other than workout clothes and I do occasionally brush my hair!  :)  I am starting to feel good about the way I look.  This is a foreign concept to me so it's taking a lot of time to get used to.  But it's a very good feeling to feel comfortable in my own skin.  That's one of the the best kinds of non-scale victories I could ever ask for.  

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Foods and an Oil Sprayer

Every so often, I like to do a blog post on new food finds.  I like to switch things up, try new things and I am constantly on the prowl for new foods.  This keeps things lively.  I think when you are eating healthy and trying to be very mindful of food and nutrition, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut.  Sometimes we gravitate towards foods that we know are easy, will keep us full, or for other reasons.  I am starting to feel this way about peanut flour.  I eat it everyday because it’s high in protein, it’s fast and I really like it.  I am not sick of it yet, but it still wouldn’t hurt me to switch it up a bit.  I have plans to make the peanut butter spread from the Happy Herbivore cookbook next week and see what I think about that.  I love regular peanut butter, but I just find it’s not as filling as what I would like.  1-2 TBSP of peanut butter is kind of a joke to me.  Anyway, the point of this blog post is about new food finds and a new oil sprayer that I am using. 

I discovered these while at my brother’s house over spring break.  My brother is pretty obsessive about not eating carbs.  We really couldn’t be any more different from each other.  He eats tons of meat, cheese and eggs and I am a vegan.  Anyway, he had these cocoa almonds that caught me off guard while I was there.  I thought these were like most chocolate almonds and full of sugar and I that threw me off because my brother doesn’t eat any extra sugar.  So I looked at the label and not only are they very low in sugar, but they are also vegan!  He buys them in the jar but I discovered that they also sell them in 100 calorie packs.  This is what I buy for portion control.  The individual packages are a much better choice for me because it could get out of hand quick for me if I just ate them out of the jar.  They sell these on Amazon if you are into buying larger quantities of things for a better price but they also sell them at most regular grocery stores. 

I purchased a deal on the Daily Gourmet website for 6 Lulu’s raw chocolate bars for $13.  It was a sampler pack that included some very different flavors.  I will have to be honest and say that the ones with Maca and Spirulina didn’t really do it for me.  But the plain raw chocolate and the raw chocolate with coconut were AMAZING!!  I probably won’t purchase these online unless I find another great deal, but I will definitely keep my eyes open for these chocolate bars at health food stores.  The nutritional information for these bars are great too!  The chocolate bars are pretty small, but they are substantial.  You can eat the entire chocolate bar for only 118 calories and it’s very satisfying!  If you know of a store that carries these, definitely give them a try!

Trader Joe’s Semi-Sweet Mini Chocolate Bars
Small, portion-controlled chocolate bars.  Perfect.  What makes them even better is that they are CHEAP!  You get 12 of these little chocolate bars in a package for 99 cents!  It’s hard to stop at just one but if you do, that’s less than 70 calories!  Make sure to buy the semi-sweet variety because the other kind is not vegan.  It’s good to have one of these when I want just a taste of chocolate. 

Trader Joe’s Sprouted Organic Tofu
I have heard that this is actually Wildwood brand tofu with the Trader Joe’s private label packaging.  If that’s the case, no wonder I like it.  I love Wildwood brand anything!  They are a great company.  The sprouted tofu comes in two small containers attached to each other rather than one tub of tofu.  This works great when you only want to use ½ the container of tofu.  The other half will stay fresh and you don’t have to worry about it going bad as quickly.  Also, the protein is higher in the sprouted tofu than with the other tofu options available.  Give it a try…I love it!

Chia Seeds
(Photo Source: Christina Cooks)

I have been reading about chia seeds for awhile now on different blogs.  At first, I would just skip over recipes that called for chia seeds but eventually I got curious enough to buy some.  I have been adding them to my oatmeal and it’s great because they thicken my oatmeal up and makes it healthier.  There a few blogs that use chia seeds quite a bit:

I have actually had these sweetener packets for awhile and I forgot about them.  I mostly use Truvia, organic stevia from Trader Joe’s and Organic Zero.  But it takes so much of the Organic Zero to sweeten my coffee and I ran out of Truvia and the organic stevia from Trader Joe’s.  So I started digging around my cupboards and found the Stevita that I bought awhile back.  It’s absolutely PERFECT for my coffee!  It’s very, very sweet so it just takes one packet to sweeten a very big cup of coffee.  I also like the taste of it in my coffee.  I recently bought another package on Amazon the other day.  That’s all I bought-one package of it for just under $2.50 and I still got free shipping.  Because you don’t have to pay shipping charges, it’s definitely worth giving a try if you like to sweeten your coffee a bit.  NOTE***I was just looking at the Stevita on Amazon and I did not see the same free shipping deal I got.  However, if you spend over $25, you get free shipping. 

Plant Fusion Protein Powder and Trader Joe’s Soy Protein Powder
(Photo Source:
I don’t use protein powder a whole lot, but I love to add it to my smoothies to make them a more substantial breakfast.  I typically eat a smoothie on the mornings that I work out.  I need something that will fuel me for a workout.  Usually what I will do is add ½ of a serving of protein powder to my kale smoothie and I am in business.  That gives me enough energy to push through my workout and then get ready for work.  I try to keep the calories of my smoothies fairly low (around 200 calories) so I can have another small breakfast after I shower and get ready for work.  There are a lot of brands of vegan protein powder out on the market, but these are the two I have tried.  I like both of them and will continue to use them for my smoothies. 

This is more of a product than a food, but I am going to add it because I think it’s great!  I was tired of buying spray cans of oil that have all kinds of chemicals added to them.  It felt gross and unhealthy.  I knew that oil spray bottles existed, but I didn’t know they were like this.  I did a search on Amazon and the Misto oil sprayer is what came up.  There’s even a little video on Amazon when you check out the product.  You just add your oil to the bottle.  You give it several pumps and then you spray.  You can use it over and over again.  You don’t have the crazy chemicals in the spray bottle and you don’t have to keep throwing away bottle of Pam or whatever brand you buy.  I recently bought a second bottle so I can have one for olive oil and one for canola oil.  They are fairly cheap too.  One bottle is less than $10 on Amazon (that’s not too expensive considering you can use it over and over again). 

Have you discovered anything new lately?!  Let me know!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blog Giveaway Over at "Leah: The Kind Weight Watcher!"

This is Leah!  She is doing a giveaway on her blog!  She is also a vegan on a weight loss journey.  I love reading her blog and I know you will too!  She is a Weight Watcher who was inspired by Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet.  She now has 100 followers and is doing a book giveaway!

She's offering 4 different books for you to choose from!  Who doesn't want a free, awesome book???  Check it out!

Leah: The Kind Weight Watcher

Maybe you will win!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Natural "Diet" Soda

For the most part, I have given up artificial sweeteners.  I do not use Splenda, aspartame, and some of the other ones that I cannot pronounce or spell.  However, I don't like to eat much sugar either.  I think it makes me hungrier and it's a waste of a lot of calories.  Sometimes I will use agave nectar and maple syrup, but once again, I feel like it's a waste of my calories.  I made pancakes this weekend and put plain soy yogurt and strawberries on top of them with some Truvia instead of maple syrup.  1 TBSP of maple syrup is about 50 calories and 1/2 cup of the soy yogurt is 70 calories.  The yogurt kept me feeling full a lot longer than 1 TBSP of maple syrup.  Anyway, the point is that I typically use stevia and stevia products such as Truvia, Stevita, Wholesome Organics Organic Zero, etc.  These are the no calorie sweeteners I feel comfortable with. 

Most sodas on the market that are zero calories are sweetened with the artificial stuff.  Giving up Diet Dr. Pepper was a sad, sad moment in my life!  :)  I got over it though.  When I found Zevia soda for the first time, I got really excited.  It's sweetened with stevia and has natural ingredients.  When I tried it, I really liked it.  R and I occasionally started buying Zevia when we could catch it on sale at Earth Fare and Whole Foods.  But the truth is, it's still pretty expensive in comparison to mainstream artificially sweetened diet soda.  I know I can't support a habit of drinking it on a regular basis. 

(Photo source:

After buying Zevia for awhile, then I noticed Blue Sky Free.  Also sweetened with stevia and also delicious.  I was never one of those people who had to drink Pepsi or Coke.  I could always drink either one.  So what I am saying is that I am not that particular about the taste.  If it tastes like soda and it tastes good, I am on board.  Both Zevia and Blue Sky Free taste really good to me. 

(Photo source:

Not too long ago, we discovered Virgil's Diet Root Beer sweetened with Stevia.  This might be favorite of all the natural calorie free sodas I have tried.  Virgil's is in a bottle instead of a can so it feels even more special when I have one with dinner.  :)  I have noticed that most health food stores are now carrying Virgil's Diet Root Beer. 

(Photo Source:

When I was doing a little research on natural diet sodas online, I found another company that I have not tried.  It's called SANS soda.  However, under their FAQ section, it says that their soda is not vegan.  I looked at the ingredients list and I did not see any ingredients that would not be vegan.  I sent them an inquiry about this and if they get back to me, I will update this section of the blog for anyone else who might be curious.  I have also not seen this soda anywhere near me.  But I did feel like I should list it since it's also sweetened with Stevia.  But if it's not vegan, that's lame!

****UPDATE****The kind people at SANS Soda got back with me very quickly and said that their product is actually vegan and they are correcting their website.  Here is the message:  Yay!  I want to give this a try!

Thank you for contacting us! I apologize for the confusion, but SANS is actually a vegan product. We are changing the website to reflect that fact. If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Yay for it being vegan!  I want to give this a try!

(Photo Source:

Water is cheapest (and healthiest), of course, but sometimes it's nice to have a treat.  I like that more of these zero calorie natural  sodas are hitting the market.  Hopefully that means the demand is going up and the prices will get more competitive.  Right now, even on sale, they are pretty expensive but it's still worth it to me to have one of these sodas as an occasional treat.  

Friday, May 20, 2011

Green Grasshopper Smoothie (Mint Chocolate)

This smoothie is so much like dessert!  I was inspired by Angela at Oh She Glows when she posted her Peppermint Patty smoothie around St. Patrick's Day.  I decided to come up with my own variation of the mint chocolate smoothie.  The protein powder is optional.  If you want your smoothie to be more like a meal, I would recommend using the protein powder to give it more substance.  But if you are just having this smoothie as dessert, I wouldn't worry about it.  Also, if you use less almond milk, you can turn this into amazingly delicious ice cream!  All you have to do is blend the ingredients in a blender and transfer to an ice cream maker.  Don't be afraid of the spinach-you don't even taste it!

Green Grasshopper Smoothie
(Makes 1-2 servings)

-1 or 2 frozen bananas
-2-3 handfuls of spinach (75-100 grams)
-1 cup of almond or other non-dairy milk
-Sweetener to taste (I used 2 packets of Truvia)
-1 serving (30 grams) vegan protein powder (I used Plant Fusion Vanilla)
-2-3 drops of mint extract
-1-2 TBSP chocolate chips

Blend up the spinach with the almond milk in the food processor first.  Once the spinach is a puree and there are no longer any pieces  of spinach, add all other ingredients and blend.  Be careful with the mint extract.  It's very strong and it is easy to over do it!

A Dog Bite and Learning to Run Without Music

(After a jog at the New River-Fall 2010)

Back in the fall, I started incorporating some jogging into my workouts.  I would walk 5 minutes and then jog 2.  Eventually, I increased my jogging so I was able to run a 5K in April.  I am pretty proud of that accomplishment because I have never been a “runner.”  In fact, after I did a half marathon with R back in 2007, I swore off running.  I said that I hated it too much to waste my time on it.  But after I started to lose weight, I started getting curious about running again.  I wondered if it would be easier since I wasn’t carrying around so much weight anymore.  I wondered if it would be more enjoyable.  I knew that it would be a higher intensity workout and I would burn a lot more calories than walking therefore, it would be more efficient as far as time management/maximum calories burned.  So I decided to give it a try again.  That’s when I started with the walking/jogging intervals.  I started very slow but I realized that I could increase the running amounts pretty quickly.  Before I knew it, I was jogging 10 minutes and walking only 2 or 3.  I loved the calorie burning results.  Immediately I was addicted to seeing the calories add up on my HRM! 

One thing that really got me through running was being able to listen to my i-pod.  I love listening to upbeat music that I wouldn’t normally listen to.  I never really listen to Missy Elliott or other hip hop and rap artists unless I am running and working out.  In my day to day life, it’s not really my kind of music.  I am more of an Indie and folk rock type of music listener….much more mellow music.  After reading BitchCake’s blog and hearing her talk about how much she loved to run to the Girl Talk album, I downloaded it off the internet.  (It’s free, by the way!)

However, about a month ago when I was at my parents’ house, I went jogging through their neighborhood and the neighborhoods just outside of it.  I took the route that I always take and I was listening to my workout mix while jogging.  I guess I had the music up so loud that I couldn’t really hear anything else around me.  I turned my head and before I could do anything, a dog came up and bit my leg.  Luckily I had pants on, but it still broke the skin and I had puncture wounds from its teeth.  The dog kept barking at me, but I started stomping my feet and yelling at it and it backed down.  The dog was not a breed that is typically associated with attacking people, it just seemed like a mutt that wouldn’t be too aggressive.  However, that wasn’t the case.  That dog did NOT want me around!  There was a man working in a garage close by where it happened but he wasn’t willing to help me figure out who the dog belonged to.  He just kind of threw up his hands like, “Leave me out of this, lady!”  So I went home, and since I was staying with my parents, my mom freaked out (of course)!  On our way to the urgent care doctor, we drove back through the neighborhood but the dog was nowhere around.  The man in the garage said it was his daughter’s house that he was working on and he did not know who the dog belonged to.  So we headed on to the urgent care where my mom was certain that I would have to get the round of rabies shots!  Luckily, I just had to get a tetanus shot and I had to take a round of antibiotics to fight off infection.  Apparently, according to the doctor, rabies is very uncommon in the United States because of vaccinations.  However, it is still a common problem in other countries.  He seemed more concerned with infection than anything else.  So I got my tetanus shot and the antibiotics.  I really didn’t want to take the antibiotics but when I mentioned not getting the prescription filled, my mom flipped out like mothers do.  She said that if I didn’t, the bite would get infected and I would most certainly have to get my leg amputated!  My mom is very dramatic!  J 

The next time I ran was inside at a gym, so I didn’t have to worry about dogs biting me.  I listened to my music as usual and it was not an issue at all.  But shortly after I got home, I went out to the New River for a jog.  This was when it set in that I really was affected by the dog bite.  I was all of a sudden scared of every noise and was constantly looking over my shoulder for a dog or other animal.  I was listening to my i-pod and that scared me even more because I couldn’t hear any external noise.  So I took my ipod off and haven’t used it outside again since.  It’s probably not the safest thing anyway with cars and other noises that I really should be able to hear when I am working out outside. 

So now I am learning to run without my ipod.  It’s been difficult.  Music is such a motivator for me.  Upbeat music gets me moving and pumped up.  But I am starting to get used to it.  Rather than getting upset, I am trying to look at it as an opportunity to hear birds, nature, traffic that could be dangerous and other noises that I should be aware of.  It’s not such a bad thing!  Now that it’s spring, I hear lots of birds and I can monitor my breathing as I run.  I am more in tune with myself now that I am running without music.  I guess music is a distractor as well as being a motivator.  I was distracting myself from everything around me.  Now I am in tune with my surroundings and it’s good to be in tune with all of the great sounds of nature. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Food Shelving System = Healthier, Whole Foods Eating

When I started this weight loss journey nearly two years ago, there was no need for me to have shelves to hold beans, grains, flours, etc.  Essentially, I did not enough whole, unprocessed foods and I did not eat enough “from scratch” foods to warrant a shelving system like this.  But as I started cooking healthier, I started cooking more meals from scratch.  Beans instead of fake meats, grains instead of processed pastas, and so on…..  After reading the Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, I was so inspired by her shelving system in her house.  I thought it looked so pretty—almost like interior decorating instead of food shelving.  That’s when I decided to check out Ikea and see what I could come up with.  As my weight loss journey and healthy living continues, so does my need for more shelves and jars!  Unfortunately, my house doesn’t have the space for any more shelves, but hopefully some day I will be able to expand my shelving system. 

Everyday, when I look at these shelves, it reminds me of the transformation I have made with my health.  Here's to many more shelves! 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Flying Pirate Half Marathon-Outer Banks, NC

I am finally getting caught up with uploading and editing pictures!  The spring is such a busy time.  It just feels like I have come out of hibernation and there's so much to do!  The school year is also winding down and I am the testing coordinator at the school I work out.  It's that time of the year where there's one standardized test after another and I am responsible for making all of that happen.  Yuck!  The Flying Pirate Half Marathon was on April 10th at the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  Ever since I moved to NC a few years ago, I have only heard good things about the Outer Banks.  R and I have been trying to get there for a long time so it was nice to finally see the Outer Banks.  The weather was not really "beach" weather, but it was still nice to be at the ocean nevertheless.

The day before the half marathon, we had some time to explore the area and do some site seeing.  We drove along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and also spent some time at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  

(Cape Hatteras Lighthouse-Outer Banks, NC)

We just missed the light house "climbing season" by one week!  I was so bummed!  I wanted to climb all of the steps in the light house to the top.  They normally charge a fee and let you climb to the top but they hadn't opened it for the year.  But they did have someone inside the lighthouse talking about its history.  We could walk inside and look up at the stairs.  But I wanted to climb them!  (I would have NEVER wanted to climb the stairs before I lost weight!)

(At Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Visitor Center)

R and I decided that we didn't want to run any of the half marathon.  We just wanted to walk and have a good time. So that's what we did!  We didn't even run one minute of the half marathon and I was completely fine with that!  Before the race got started, we stopped off at the disgusting port-a-potties.  Yuck!  Runners have terrible bathroom etiquette with the port-a-potties-especially the ones we stopped at along the race.  I think the competitive runners just run in and literally use the bathroom all over the place and don't clean up after themselves at all because they don't want to lose any time.  It was the nastiest thing ever!  Anyway, I digress.  While we were waiting in line before the race got started, we saw this shirt:

Because the race was pirate themed, many people wore clever shirts, dressed up, etc.  It was a lot of fun to see what some people came up with!  I think if I had it to do over, I would have definitely done something with skulls and crossbones.  

Here are some of the pictures along the route:

(The Wright Brothers Memorial was along the route-very cool!)

We lucked out and our rental house was along the route of the half marathon and, even better, was right at mile 6.  When we stopped at the house to go to the bathroom and take a mini break before finishing the race, R decided to switch into her Teva sandals-not a good move!  Here we are at the medical station at mile 9 so she could get bandaids for her blistered feet!

The last stretch of the half marathon was great because we both felt like we were in our element.  It was in a wooded area and was more of a hike than a walk.  We had hills and inclines and were shaded by trees.  The path was dirt instead of asphalt.  It just felt like we were hiking at home!  It actually felt really good on both of our thighs to go up hill.  I think it was because we were able to work different leg muscles and that took some of the pressure off of other parts of our legs.  Whether you are walking, jogging or sprinting, 13.1 miles is a long way and you will feel it!  

Because we walked the race, we were at the very end of the finishers.  The post-party and awards ceremony festivities were pretty much over when we finished.  I think our finishing time was around 4 hours.  That was with our stop at the house and taking breaks when we needed to.  We weren't trying to break any records, we just wanted to have fun and see the Outer Banks.  

After the race, we both decided to get a post-race beer from the beer station.  I am not a beer drinker so I took one sip and poured the rest out.  It was pure nastiness to me.  Overall, I really enjoyed the Flying Pirate Half Marathon. The highlight was being at the ocean and the lowlight was the port-a-potties used by the runners.  

I think I could really get into "active vacations."  I really like the idea of exploring, hiking, and taking adventures in a new place.  We are planning on going to Great Smoky Mountains National Park next month and I am so excited about hiking around as much as we possibly can!