Saturday, August 10, 2013

Country Jog

Amish Farms

This morning, I took a jog in the country side. We're up at my in-laws' lake house in Northern Indiana. They live in Amish country. It's really slow paced and relaxed here. As I shared before, I restarted my fitness routine in June. I've been back to spin classes at the gym and working out about 4-5 days a week. I feel really good and not feeling sore after exercising.

A few weeks ago when we were at the lake, I ran about 45 minutes. Today, I set out for a goal for an hour. I use my heart monitor and watch my heart rate closely. Instead of speed or distance, I look at my heart rate and listen to my body. In spin classes, I do lots of interval training and have already seen my aerobic endurance improve. My lungs feel clear when I exercise and I'm not seeing any asthma issues.

Today, I ran on a straight, dirt road along the Amish farms. I ran for an hour and turned around at the 30 minute mark. The sun wasn't very direct in the first half, but it was starting to get really hot towards the end. 

I enjoyed the quiet scenery, despite the farm smells. I didn't see any cars, just an Amish man crossing the road to get his mail. I passed two horses and one blinked at me sweetly to I took their picture.

Beautiful horses
At the halfway point where I turned around, I saw a sign in the corn field that said no spray organic. That made me happy!
Organic corn

When I got back to the house, I felt good. But then I looked in the mirror and I was bright red from the heat! I drank a lot of water to cool off.

I ran close to 4 miles in an hour and burned 735 calories. I don't run for distance. I just stay in tuned with my body and how I feel. I religiously watch my heart monitor to take a break if it starts getting too high. I will do a recovery period and let my heart rate come down about 20 beats per minute after walking a minute or so. It was nice to be alone away from the family to decompress.

Friday, August 9, 2013

State Fair Visit

Bravely petting the calf.

We've been in Indy 4 years now and every August we visit the State Fair. It's been a  different experience each year. Our first year, I was in my early pregnancy with Ava. And now it marks a summer tradition with her as she grows bigger. We like to go on a weekday evening and stay for dinner so we can see the animals without the weekend crowds. 

This year Ava was very brave with petting the animals. She really enjoyed petting the ponies, baby goats, and the baby cows. Her school had their own Fair where they made crafts like quilt and fruits and veggie art projects. They learned all about farms and had their school Fair on the same day that the State Fair kicked off. She really loved it! Here's a look back two years ago when she was afraid of petting the baby calves. And last year at age 2, Ava fed the goats for the first time.

Seeing the babies in the Cattle Barn

First year of the Fair rides.

The Dad's Lounge next to the Lactation Station
Feeding carrots to the goats.
We went through the animal barns when we first arrived. Ava especially loved the sow and her piglets. They were sleeping and then woke up to nurse when we walked up. We hit all the animals first, and then she asked to do some rides. She was just a bit too small to do the rides by herself so we went with her. Aaron rode the air balloons with her and I did a sea ship ride with her. Then she played a game throwing darts to pop a balloon on a wall. Three year olds throwing darts is a bit scary! She picked out a soft toy rose as her prize and carried it the rest of the evening.

Then we walked to get some dinner. Aaron and I got pulled chicken BBQ sandwiches which weren't too unhealthy. But, we did splurge and shared some french fries. After the short dinner break, we continued to the Future Farmers of America barn that has the baby animals and playground area. It's like a petting area for the kids to feed the goats. She had fun feeding the goats carrot shavings.

We stopped in Pioneer Village and saw more horses and ponies. There was a long line for the pony ride so maybe we'll do that next year.

Lemon Shake Up
By the end of the evening, we walked the entire loop! It was starting to rain, but we managed to stop for our favorite Fair treat for dessert. We shared an elephant ear. Ava really loved it.

Ava and I are heading back to the Fair next Friday with Aaron's mom. I'm volunteering at the Lactation Station with a girlfriend next Friday morning and Ava will get to visit the Fair again with Grandma. I volunteer at the Lactation Station every year. It's a nice spot for nursing mamas to stop to breastfeed in comfortable rocking chairs near fans. Usually with the sweltering August humidity, it's nice for mother's to have some fans to cool off.

Ava is excited about going back next week.We really like this fun summer tradition!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Healthy Budget Friendly School Lunch: Apple Sandwich

Step 1: Find a round apple
In this installment of the healthy budget friendly school lunches, I wanted to try apple sandwiches. I saw this idea awhile back and I think it's a great convenient and pretty way to eat an apple. I cut the apple with a star shape cookie cutter and filled it with natural creamy Kroger peanut butter. Then, eat it like a sandwich. If your school is nut-free, try sunflower seed butter. It has a similar consistency as peanut butter and the taste is also nutty.

Ava's favorite snack these days is a vegan Maple Oat Brown Sugar muffin. I bake a batch and freeze them. You can pull them out from the freezer and they will be defrosted by lunch or in our case afternoon snack. Ava has an egg allergy and I like this recipe because there's no egg and it uses coconut oil. I made them for a play date and the moms and kids loved them! I use silicon muffin cups to pack them in the lunch container. Kids love the different colors.

Step 2: Slice horizontally in the middle.
Step 3: Cut out the middle with a small cookie cutter shape. Fill with peanut or other nut butter and stack.

To round out the lunch, I added vanilla organic yogurt in a separate container. A budget friendly tip is to buy yogurt in large tubs instead of the small cups. It's cheaper to buy the larger container and then you can fill small reusable containers for snacks or lunch on the go. Another tip is to buy plain yogurt and flavor the yogurt with a homemade berry sauce or pure maple syrup. I don't like to buy flavored yogurts because of the artificial ingredients so I usually read the labels and stick with something simple.

You may also include the extra apple pieces in a reusable lunch bag in case your child would like more apples. You might notice that I don't include veggies. That's a hard one for us. Ava won't eat veggies except for a few forms. I usually can get her to eat spinach in homemade fruit and yogurt smoothies and we pile in the veggies in our spaghetti and meatballs. She will eat spinach or swiss chard even in lasagna and homemade pizza. I try to fit in veggies wherever I can, even if it's just a small taste with dinner. When is comes to packed school lunches, I try to give my daughter foods that she will eat because we've established that she likes them at home. It wouldn't work for us to experiment with foods that she won't eat while she's away because she will do just go without.

Muffin, apple-peanut butter sandwich, and yogurt

Have your kids picked out a fun lunch box? Ava picked this lunch box out and she carries it with pride to school on the days we pack her lunch. Some kids are sensitive to packing lunches and eating different things than their friends. Sometimes Ava's friends make comments in the morning asking why she's eating different pancakes for example. I tell them that the pancakes aren't good for her body and they would make her sick. Her teachers tell me that for the most part, she eats her own food when I provide it without a second thought which I'm glad to hear. I believe starting her out at this early age with eating healthy foods will carry forward to her adult life, which is why I make it a priority to provide it. Plus, it's really rewarding to know that she's eating nutritious foods as her body is growing. Also check out the Kroger "Trade-Worthy School Lunches" Pinboard for more ideas from moms.

By the way...Ava really liked the star-shaped apple sandwich. She thought it was really cool!

All packed up!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Healthy Budget Friendly School Lunch Ideas: Make Your Own Trail Mix

I started packing lunches and snacks for Ava's preschool when we discovered her egg allergy earlier this year. I also bring her a lunch on the days that she won't eat the hot lunch. I'd rather pack her a lunch than her just eating only the fruit. Healthy and budget friendly really do go together! When you cook your own meals you're saving money and you can focus on healthy ingredients for your family. I always prepare a packed lunch for our entire family. I spent about 30 minutes in the morning packing lunches for our family.

Kroger grocery stores have a fun healthy, budget friendly school lunch campaign right now. So I thought I'd join the fun. We have a Kroger just a few minutes from our house and I've been impressed with the store brand products such as cereal, peanut butter, and milk. We read the labels closely to buy healthier food options. For example, the Kroger natural creamy peanut butter is just peanuts and salt. I focus my shopping in the organic produce and natural food sections. I like the Key Ring app to store my store cards and you can access coupons in your mobile app. It's a great way to get the deals in the store without clipping the coupons.
Pretty and healthy lunch!

One of my favorite packable snacks is make-your-own trail mix. It makes a great addition to a lunch too! Depending on your mood or seasons, you can customize it with anything. I like sesame sticks because they add a salty, but healthy flair along with nuts. Yesterday, I couldn't resist these organic grapes at our local Kroger. They are delicious. I added nitrate-free ham roll-ups. Ava likes it when I roll up her ham or turkey lunch meat. And she especially loves when I cut her cheese slices into shapes.

 Healthy Lunch 1:  
  • Organic grapes 
  • Make your own Trail Mix (Kroger honey nut blitz cereal, roasted almonds, and cheddar sesame sticks)
  • Nitrate free ham lunch meat roll-up
  • Cheese stars
  • Wheat crackers in the Wexy bag
Diggin in!
I made this lunch with smaller portions because I was making it as Ava's afternoon snack. I like the concept of a "nibble tray" so this works well as a snack for young ones too.  Here's a picture after she discovered her snack when she woke from her nap. She was excited and named all of the items. Fun shapes, colors and textures are great for kids lunches to keep the interested in the food.

Watch the blog for some other healthy and budget friendly school lunch ideas.

Giveaway! I'm going to give away a $25 Kroger gift card to one of my lucky readers this week after the posts. To win you can comment on the blog or Facebook, share, or repin to enter the drawing. Add your own healthy lunch ideas to the comments! I'll do a random drawing for the winner after all the posts are up. Keep reading...

Coconut Oil: Beyond Baking

Trader Joe's is now selling coconut oil and using it instead of butter in their cooking demo stations. Within the "crunchy" mommy circles, coconut oil has been such a hot topic. Using coconut oil for more than baking and for skin is something I keep hearing more and more about.

I started up on the coconut oil train after reading about it on Dr. Mercola's blog several years ago. I bought a tub from Whole Foods and used it primarily for baking or high temp cooking. I use coconut oil for making muffins or stir fry dishes. Ava's favorite right now is a vegan recipe with coconut oil, egg-free Maple Brown Sugar Oat Muffins. I make a batch and keep them in the freezer afternoon snacks at school.

Then I discovered homemade deodorant last year! The deodorant is a mix of coconut oil, arrowroot powder, and baking soda and it really eliminates stinky pits! Coconut oil is solid until about 76 degrees. It works well for deodorant because of the solid paste. And the antibacterial properties help eliminate any funky smells.

Coconut oil is also great for diaper rashes on baby's bottoms. If you're cloth diapering, you need to be careful about using traditional diaper rash creams because they cause the cloth to not absorb as much. I remember one of my daughter's care givers slathering diaper cream innocently and then it clung to our cloth diaper like crazy. You can use a diaper liner if you use a barrier cream, or simply use a small amount of coconut oil on the baby's bottom to heal her skin.

This week, Ava had I have had nasty colds and instead of using petroleum-based Vaseline on our noses and face, I used coconut oil. It's so soothing! I have noticed it's much more healing than any other lotion that I've used on a sensitive skin during a cold. And believe me, we have used loads of tissues on our noses this week.

I keep a very small container in the bathroom of coconut oil so it's convenient for skin applications and it won't be contaminated in our larger jar.

I really like the Nutiva brand (available at Whole Foods and Amazon). I also recently bought a giant 54oz tub from Costco that was about $15. A great value!

Have you tried coconut oil either in cooking or on your skin? What do you think?