Staying Healthy On Vacation-Back From Mexican Adventures!

Happy Thursday!  It’s been a bit longer than I had planned on being away from posting, but we were on vacation.  Our internet was so spotty, I couldn’t get anything to load.  It was the perfect time to put down the computer and just enjoy being with my family.

We headed out two weeks ago for an 11 day vacation at the Sunscape Sabor in Cozumel, Mexico.  Staying at all inclusive resorts can be both awesome and terrible in many ways.  On the bright side, you can pay for your trip up front and then spend very little during the rest of your vacation besides tips and excursions.  This is nice because you can easily budget for your trip without too many surprises.

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On the other hand, these resorts can be really hard on your health and wellness because it can be very easy to fall into a trap of eating too much, too often, and consuming a ton of calories in alcoholic drinks.  Meanwhile, there are sunny beaches and pools to lounge at and avoid activity.

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From my experience, there is an interesting mentality that occurs when people head to a buffet.  Even in a cheap hotel where the food is of relatively poor quality, people flock to the buffet and start piling tons of food they typically wouldn’t consume.  Did you ever notice that the eggs that sit in those containers are usually some sort of liquid egg substitute that doesn’t always even taste like eggs?  Sit back the next time you are in this situation and watch what happens.

Being mindful of what we ate at the buffet was key to a healthy vacation.  I’ve been continuing to eat mostly plant based foods and this actually made eating easier on this trip.  The quality of food at the resort wasn’t that great but they always had a ton of vegetable options.  I was able to make salads each afternoon for lunch and each evening I stuck to mostly veggie based options.  With a buffet this is surprisingly easy.

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This view certainly doesn’t hurt!

We had a really great time at our resort but we were also very aware of how we approached this vacation.  First of all, Rock and I both really enjoy exercise and try to make a point to get some activity in each day and also spend time being active with our family.  The first day we were there we went for a 7 mile run together.  There is a nice one way road along the resorts that allows you to safely exercise outside.  However, we weren’t used to the heat and humidity and struggled pretty badly for the last mile.

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Fortunately the Sunscape Sabor had an excellent small gym that had really nice quality cardio machines and a really beautiful yoga studio.  I was able to get an 8 mile run in most days during the girls hour long nap time.  Getting a daily sweat in really helped keep me feeling energetic, which is important when traveling with an infant and toddler.  When you stick to a normal activity routine, your body and mind feel better.

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So grateful for the Simple Hydration bottle on these hot vacations!

Finally, when it comes to alcoholic drinks, I try to be aware of what I am consuming.  While I do enjoy beers, I avoid drinking them too often because they are loaded in carbs that go right to your belly.  I also avoid fruity or creamy based drinks because these are basically like consuming multiple alcoholic milkshakes or juices.  I personally enjoy wine and this is a lower carb, lower calorie choice.

Other great options if you choose to drink on a vacation are mixed alcoholic drinks with a club soda or diet cola base and a light amount of alcohol.  Moderation is always key and it is always important to hydrate plenty throughout the day.  Aim to drink a big glass of water when you wake up and then with each meal.  Sparkling water is also an excellent and refreshing option to mix things up.

Also keep in mind that sleep is vital to staying healthy.  Budget for good sleeping time whether it be a siesta or going to bed at a reasonable hour.  Waking up ready for the day not only is important for health and wellness, but also makes your vacation more enjoyable.

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How do you like to stay healthy on your vacations?

Which One? Healthy Eating Or Exercise?

The other day I was watching “The Doctors” and someone asked which was better: exercising or eating well?  Despite being an avid exerciser, I immediately shouted, “Eating well!”  As a certified health coach, personal trainer, and running coach, it has become increasingly clear over the years that what we put into our bodies is far more important than exercise.  Don’t get me wrong, exercise is essential to a healthy life.  But you can’t out exercise a poor diet, and you can’t outrun unhealthy eating.

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Sure, we have all put in an extra hour at the gym before, or run a few extra miles after a less than stellar day of eating.  And while that is a great way to bump things up when we fall behind, you certainly can’t rely on doing that every day.

Truth is, we need to eat well most of the time and exercise too.  There should also be some time for rest and relaxation, along with enjoying some indulgence as well.  I prefer the 80%/20% rule with this.  Keep it healthy 80% of the time and enjoy and indulge the other 20%.

When it comes to diet and exercise, what you put in is what you will get out.  If you eat poorly, you will get poor miles or poor results.  You can’t outrun a bad diet.

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This has been weighing on my mind a lot lately.  While I have been busy Netflixing, I spent a few hours watching documentaries.  Last year I had a client who told me she watched “Food Choices” and it changed her life.  She was focused on a plant based diet.  I watched the documentary and it hit me hard.  But it didn’t completely change my mind.

Earlier this fall I caught a bit of a segment on NPR where a doctor was discussing how Americans eat far too much meat.  He said that if you eat meat every day, you should work to go one day without meat each week.  If you eat meat once a week, you should aim for once a month….and so on.  Basically, he discussed how it causes inflammation in our bodies and Americans consume much more meat than most other countries.  I was intrigued, but still didn’t do much about this.

I don’t recall why, but I ended up watching “Forks Over Knives” on Netflix a few weeks ago.  This documentary emphasized again how we eat too much meat and showed a correlation between weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many other issues.  As a health coach, I also know that if any diet can be recommended to clients, the Mediterranean Diet is the heart healthiest.

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This information continues to show up and it was starting to make me consider what might happen if I adopted not a vegetarian lifestyle, but more of a plant based emphasis each day.  So while Rock was out of town for work last week, I set about finding recipes.

Here is what I found:  My grocery bill was so cheap!  I thought it would be much more expensive to just buy fresh fruits and veggies.  But the reality was, between produce and some canned and dried options, I was leaving the grocery store with a lot more money in my pockets.

While this wasn’t my main goal, I ended up dropping a few pounds almost immediately.  It was  a pleasant surprise.  One day I was walking by a mirror and noticed that my face looked a bit more thinned out and my muscles looked more noticeable.

A few days in, I was cruising along on the treadmill and found myself bumping the pace up because it felt good!  I was hesitant to run at this pace because I figured I would hit a wall.  However, I suddenly noticed that I was maintaining this pace and I wasn’t tired.  I really did just feel good.

It didn’t end there either.  I was watching the new season of “Grace and Frankie” and I was having such a fun time that I didn’t want to stop running.  My mileage soared and I felt so good, I didn’t even realize that I forgot to take a day off.  I ran eight days in a row and averaged 8-10 miles each day.  I didn’t have a super long run in there, but there was some really great mileage and my muscles weren’t complaining.  In fact, I made a mistake in an earlier post this week.  I actually ran 58 miles last week!

The Verdict:  I still love meat.  I’m still going to eat meat.  But we as a family have agreed that we are going to focus more on plant based meals.  My body felt good and I enjoyed what I was eating.  I made a delicious Indian curry that warmed my body and had some awesome anti-inflammatory spices added in.  The whole house smelled amazing!

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Chickpeas, Onions, Tomatoes, Spinach, and spices over rice.  So fast and so good!

Everyone needs to do what is best for their own lifestyles.  But there is a lot of evidence that adding more fruits and veggies and enjoying even a little bit less meat can make a big difference in your health.  I highly recommend checking out “Forks Over Knives” and “Food Choices” if you are curious about this.

Do you love a good burger like me?  Any thoughts on eating a little bit less meat?

Running Makes Me A Better Mom- Momming Makes Me A Better Runner

The other day I was finishing up a pretty awesome run on the treadmill and I looked over to see little Lucy hanging out in her swing and smiling at me.  I love that she likes to hang out there.  In fact, these days she giggles and smiles the moment I put her in.  I catch her watching my Netflix options and it kind of cracks me up.

I love that I am finding a way to balance my healthy habits and the greatest job I have ever been lucky enough to have.   Everything about being a mom centers around balance.  And quite frankly, a heck of a lot of running centers around balance too.  Being a mom has made me a better runner, and running has made me a better mom.

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Mary 2 years ago!

Patience: I cringe as I type this, but I started out not being the most patient mom.  I’m still not always great at this.  But I have had to learn to step back and take a look at difficult moments with a toddler and first decide if it is really worth getting upset about, and then how to deal with the situation without losing my cool.  I’ve noticed that the calmer I keep my voice when we are in a tense moment, my little one is less likely to become more difficult.

When I first started to train and run more races, I increased my mileage and started running most days of the week.  I had a “more is better” attitude and that of course lead to many, many injuries.  I assumed that running fast every time would make me a faster runner, so I pushed every run like it was a race to another PR.  I had a lot of nagging injuries.

Like parenting, I have learned that the easier I keep my pace most days, keeps me both healthier and happier.  I have to be patient with not only my pace, but also with my body and my mind.  Things happen and you can either roll with the punches or freak out and make things worse.  Just like in parenting, not every day is a PR!

If I freak out when a rough mile comes up, things can fall apart quite quickly.  But if I stay calm and collected and assess the situation, it is easier to realize that it’s just one rough mile and the next one can be better, even in a marathon (and isn’t every day of parenting a marathon?!).

Acceptance:  Our children are so similar and yet so different.  I adore them for their uniqueness.  I appreciate my toddler’s tenacity and strong will and it also drives me crazy.  I love how active and fun she is and also adore the fact that our infant has a much more chill, “roll with the punches” kind of attitude.

Every day with children is different and so are our runs.  Some days we feel like we could keep going forever, and others just don’t feel right at all.  Just like being a mom, I have to accept these different days for what they are.  I can’t change them.  I can accept the hand I have been dealt and appreciate them for what they are.  Sometimes they just need a different approach.

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Love:  The love a parent feels for a child is profound.  It rocks your world.  It changes you in every single way.

I used to sit around hating different parts of my body.  I ran to burn calories and hopefully change myself.  I spent hours lifting weights to tone areas that didn’t look perfect to me.

I see myself in such a different way now.  I’m a mom and I am a role model for two beautiful little girls.  My body isn’t some imperfect thing that needs to be changed now.  It is a powerhouse that gave birth to two amazing human beings.

When I put on my shorts and tank top and my two year old asks if I am going running, I say “yes” with pride because she sees her mom as an active example.  When she gets down on the floor and shows me a “daddy push-up” or Happy Baby pose, she is mimicking her parents who find a healthy balance in their lives.

I can’t help but grin when my 4 month old smiles at me as I run on the treadmill.  She’s going to grow up seeing her parents enjoying exercise because it makes them healthy and happy.  They don’t do it as punishment, but instead because we as a family enjoy doing active things together.

I love that my children can teach me new lessons each day and that I as a parent can also have an impact on their attitude towards sports and activities.  While we parents have a lot to share with our children, they constantly make us grow in so many ways too.

How have your children or other people helped make you a better runner/keep you active?

Still Rocking The Treadmill & My Favorite Workouts

Well that was a long, but fun week!  Rock was out of town for work and I had the girls to myself.  We had some awesomely fun times and also some incredibly frustrating toddler moments.  I believe I referred to most days as a rollercoaster this past weekend.  There were some highs and some definite lows.

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This awesome gift was waiting on our porch Friday for the girls.  They spent the weekend watching cartoons in it.

I have actually found that being a mom of two has made me love parenting more than ever.  I’m surprisingly more patient than I was in the past.  And that is a good thing, because an infant and a toddler present all sorts of “interesting” challenges.

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It’s a Hard Knock Life being two.  I introduced Mary to “Annie.”

We survived the week and I was able to get in 49 miles too.  The week started off super cold, which made very appreciative to have the treadmill.  On Friday we were at 52 degrees and I would have loved getting a run in outside, but I have been enjoying my Netflix and watching Lucy swing while I hit the mill.  Treadmill workouts have been my jam lately.

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I love running outside, but am slightly freaked out by the idea of pushing 2 kids!

January has been really good to me as far as mileage goes, and I attribute some of that to some changes I have made in my eating.  I will touch upon that a bit more later this week.  But regardless of those changes, I have been loving my running and upping my mileage.  I’m considering some fall marathon options and am excited to be representing the Simple Hydration Running Team again this year!

I know a lot of people absolutely despise the treadmill.  It can be boring, and let’s be honest, running long distances isn’t exactly exciting to begin with.  However, there are a few things you can do to make the mill a bit more exciting, namely by implementing treadmill workouts.

Sometimes I like the treadmill because you can just zone out.  This isn’t always easy or wise when you are running outdoors.  You really should be constantly aware of your surroundings when you are outside.  On the mill, you can blast music or binge watch Netflix and not have to worry too much about what is going on around you.  Sometimes this can be a nice change.  Please note, this does not mean you have the freedom to be obnoxious at the gym!

I also like to do speed and HIIT \ workouts when I am on the treadmill.  Many people don’t realize that the treadmill can actually be a great tool for interval training, especially if you have difficulty finding or holding a goal pace for these workouts.  This can also help create a little variety and avoid numbing the brain.

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If you find that you are constantly watching the time on the monitor, these might be a great way for you to mix things up a bit.  My guess is that you will start to notice that you are so busy following your plan that you forget you are on the treadmill or how long you have been running.

These are also great ways to learn to mentally hold those faster paces.  You might hit your hardest pace and fear that you won’t make it, only to find that when the pace switches again, you recover well and really are capable of sustaining faster speeds.  This is great mental training for races or doing longer distances.

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The Pyramid Run:  This is one of my favorite treadmill workouts.  Start out with a short warm up at an easy pace.  After a few minutes start bumping up the pace every minute until you reach your hard pace.  You shouldn’t be running at 100% but should be to a point where it would be difficult to hold a conversation (about 75%).  Once you reach this point, hold that pace for one minute and then start bumping it back one minute at a time until you reach your starting pace.  Continue this pattern of building and falling back until you have reached your time or distance goal.

The Fall Back Run:  This is a great variation of the Pyramid Run.  Begin with a short warm up (around 5 minutes).  Then start building up as you would for your pyramid run.  Once you hit that difficult speed, fall right back to your starting pace.  I love this workout for anyone who is new to speed or HIIT workouts.  While it can be scary to push yourself at these harder speeds, it can feel less daunting knowing that once you hit that hard pace, you get to start back at the easy level.  Once again, continue these build up and fall backs until you reach your time or distance goal.

What are your favorite ways to make the treadmill more exciting?

The Marathon Will Change You

Happy Monday!  We just had a wonderful warmer weather weekend and it was fabulous.  We’ve been busy with projects going on in our house.  Our kitchen cabinets were being painted and it was so nice to be able to get out of our dusty house and enjoy some time with the whole family.

It’s amazing what a few coats of white paint can do to a kitchen.  Our whole house feels fresher and brighter!

As I was completing one of several nine mile runs on the treadmill this week, I was thinking about how this marathon of a project has changed our house and how the marathon itself can change you as a runner and as a person.  Marathon training season has officially kicked off for many and I thought I would share a few of the reasons why I feel the process can change you as both a runner and a person.

The Marathon teaches you mental grit.  I dare you to try completing an 18 week training plan or a 20 mile training run and not learn to be stronger and cope better in life.  While we generally start off a training cycle excited and enthusiastic, as the weeks go by, it takes some strong motivation to stay on track.

The mileage gets long and lonely.  We have to learn to stay the course and push through the difficult miles.  Your mind is a powerful tool, and it will grow in ways you never imagined.

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Grandma’s Marathon was horrible for me.  I almost quit and I had to walk the last few miles.  I learned so much at this race.

Running actually becomes easier.  Would you ever imagine that you would get to a point where 6 miles seems short and easy?  I have had so many runners marvel part way through training at how they suddenly think a 6 mile run is no longer a big deal.  These were the same people who were frightened by a 3 mile run just a few weeks ago.  At some point, 10 miles even starts to sound “short.”  It’s a great feeling to realize that the miles are becoming more doable both mentally and physically.

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You are going to chafe and stink, and disgust not only others, but likely yourself too.  Try running dozens of miles each week and not getting some nicks and scrapes along the way.  Gentleman, please make sure you tape up those nipples.  Ladies, embrace lathering the body glide in areas that rub.  But let me warn you that one day you will hop in the shower and sting in places you didn’t know had rubbed, regardless of the prep work.  It will cause some screams and perhaps a few profanities.

You are also going to sweat, a lot.  And you are going to come home a disgusting mess.  Winter running and spring allergies can cause lots of runny noses.  Things are going to get ugly.  Make sure you thank your family members for sticking around during these grosser days.

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So gross!

You will amaze yourself.  There will be difficult days. There are going to be days that you will question how you are ever going to finish 26.2 miles.  You are going to get frustrated and you will probably cry at some point.  The marathon is hard and the training is harder.  But you will grow as a person and a runner.  Nothing is more empowering than getting through a difficult run or crossing the finish line of 26.2 miles.  You will be forever changed!

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How has the marathon or the training process changed you?

Simple Homemade Valentine Decoration (Great For Kids)

I love decorating for the holidays.  As soon as Thanksgiving dinner is over, I am ready to pull out my Christmas decorations.  The tree goes up and the balsam candles are lit.

When we came home from Christmas in Chicago, I was sad to see that our tree had shed entirely shed itself.  That night, we went to work at getting that thing out of our house before it left our living room covered in needles.  I was sad to see it go, but it was time.

Now that the New Year is over, I’m ready to get some other decorations out.  Last year, Mary was just getting old enough to color and I pulled out a few craft projects.  Doilies adorned our cabinets and we painted her first ever project.

This year she has a new love for crafting and I am taking advantage of it.  We made this adorable Valentine canvas in just a few minutes.  What I love about projects like these, is that regardless of your child’s age or ability, they turn out great.

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If you want to attempt the framed picture (last year’s project) it is a really nice and easy one as well.  Simply take a piece of white paper and allow your child to use appropriate colored finger paint.  Let dry and then cut into a heart shape.  Tape to a piece of pink construction paper and place in frame!

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Project Materials:

White canvas (I purchased ours in bulk at Michael’s)

1 sheet of computer paper

Washable Dot Paints (like what you use for bingo)

Tape

Make Your Project:

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Take your computer paper and fold in half.  Draw half of the heart.  This is easier than just drawing a free hand heart, as it stays more uniform.  You could also trace one if you have a stencil.  Cut out heart shape and set aside.  Tape the sheet of paper to your canvas.  Start by taping around the outside.  Then using very small pieces, secure the inside just slightly along the edge.  Once secure, use appropriate colored dotters and blot the inside.

The dot paints won’t bleed under the paper and will cover the area nicely.  They even look great when overlapped.

After you have finished with the dot paint.  Gently peel the paper off, as soon as you have finished painting.  You can carefully use the edge of the blotter to cover any areas that weren’t covered.

Craft Your Holiday Cards

This week I have a few easy craft projects to share with you.  Today I’m starting with a super simple way to reuse your holiday cards.

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Since we have moved to Michigan, we have been recycling more than ever.  When we lived in NYC it was mandatory that you place recycling outside of your building.  The Department of Sanitation would fine the building owner and this was incentive for all of us to separate our garbage.

However, when we moved to Chicago, they have a much more lax recycling program.  Unfortunately, this made recycling far less convenient for us and I am sorry to say that we got a bit out of the habit.

Interestingly enough, recycling isn’t mandatory up here in Michigan.  But our local recycling center makes it so incredibly easy, that we now recycle more than ever.  All you need to do is pull up to the building and bring everything in.  They have bins labeled to help you separate materials.  The employees will also come out to your car and help carry everything in and separate it for you.  We now have far less garbage to put out every week.

Now that we recycle more, I try to think of ways to reuse things we have around our house.  One fun thing we have discovered is making gift tags for next year out of the holiday cards we received from family and friends.  This is also a great project that you can involve your kids with on a cold winter day.

We have dozens of these cards each year.  I have a rack that we set out to display cards and this year Mary had a blast looking at the pictures and hanging the cards up.  However, once the holiday season is over, the cards often just get tossed into the garbage at some point.

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Most holiday cards are made of nice material and come in many fun colors and adornments.  Instead of tossing the cards out, try taking some of your favorites and cutting them into tags to use for next year’s gifts.  This creates less garbage and also saves you money when you purchase gift wrap next year.  You can even do this as a family and spend time looking at each card one more time.  Mary finds this to be a fun way to name each person she knows.

Take a look at your cards and find fun prints or pictures and then simply cut into shapes.  Mix up the sizes and styles of your cut.  You can even get creative and use different types of scissors with various borders.  Use a hole punch to make a space for string.  Or leave alone and tape onto packages next year!  Don’t forget to look on the back of the cards.   This is where you usually can find some really nice designs.

Do you day any family crafts when the weather gets really cold?

Year In Review

Happy New Year!  It’s been a bit over a week since I last posted.  I attribute that to a whole lot of fun activities going on over the holidays and to an early Christmas present from Mary in the form of the Norovirus.  The latter wiped me out for nearly a week.  What can I say?  We do encourage her to share as much as possible!

2017 was a really fun year for our family and also for my running.  It didn’t involve many races or racing goals, but there was plenty of mileage to be had anyway.  Here’s my quick recap and mileage.

January:  132 miles

I started this month out by jumping into training for the Boston Marathon.  We got hit almost daily with several inches of snow and I quickly realized that winter marathon training in Northern Michigan can be quite miserable.

February: 171 miles

I continued training for Boston, until we found out that we were expecting in October.  At this point, I decided that I would rather not train for a marathon while being pregnant and hope to qualify again another year.

March: 197 miles

Being pregnant certainly wasn’t going to stop me from running.  When we got to Florida, I spent 10 days running on the beach with Rock and enjoying some warm, snowless, weather.

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April: 159 miles

We headed out east to New York City for 2 months of work.  Mary got to skate at Wollman Rink in Central Park, where we used to work, and where Rock and I first met.  I got to enjoy running in the park, along the East River, and on Randall’s Island.  We also got some running together as a family up in Fishkill, NY.

May: 84 miles

May was a learning month for me.  When you are pregnant, your body requires far more electrolytes than it normally does.  I ran through what felt like a terrible calf cramp that ended up being a muscle tear.  This lead to some down time for healing.  When I finally got back out to run, I tripped over a brick and messed up my pelvis (thanks pregnancy hormones!).  It was June before I could even walk properly again.

June: 161 miles

This was a recovery month for me.  As I eased back in to running, I wasn’t certain if I would be able to do the only race I had planned for the year.  Fortunately, I played it smart and took my time.  Many days I broke my runs into two parts and this seemed to really help.

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July: 158 miles

I spent a week pushing Mary in the running stroller in Rhinelander, Wisconsin and the following week I was feeling well enough to do the Cherry Festival Half Marathon in Traverse City.  At 27 weeks pregnant, I was careful not to push myself too hard and was pleased by both the beautiful course, and my 1:53 finish.

August: 143 miles

I could tell my outdoor running was coming to an end as we enjoyed a week of family vacation up in Glen Arbor, MI.  However, as I took my runs inside and was feeling great, I was surprised when some early labor lead to modified bed rest.  Our fabulous doctors and nurses kept me and the baby healthy enough to just hang out at home.

September: 27 miles

Lucy Carroll Dudek arrived 4 1/2 weeks early and stole our hearts.  I was so scared about sharing my time between Mary and another sibling and couldn’t imagine how I would possibly love another child as much as my first.  The truth is though, that I love being a mom more than ever before.  These two girls bring so much love into our lives.

October: 160 miles

I took 18 days off after Lucy was born and then eased back in on the treadmill.  This was both easier on my body and also for a mom who now has a toddler and a newborn to take care of.

November: 192 miles

This month marked my first outdoor and double digit runs.  We tried the Winnetka Turkey Trot in Winnetka, IL and had a blast.  This was also Mary’s first time riding with me during a race and also her first kids race.  It was all a success!

December:  193 miles

Despite ending the year with a GI bug, the whole month marked some really great mileage and runs.  We had a fabulous Christmas and start to our New Year.  We are so blessed as a family and I thank you for following my adventures.

Total mileage: 1777 miles

What was a highlight of your running this year?

Three Parties & We All Need A Nap!

Happy Tuesday!  I missed a Monday post because we didn’t even have time to catch our breath this past weekend.  It was fun filled and very active.

Friday evening we headed over to my parent’s house for Christmas dinner. We will be out of town, so this was the perfect evening for us to celebrate.  We had a lovely dinner and then Mary had a blast opening gifts.  It is so fun to see your child “get” the idea of Christmas for the first time.

A few months ago Mary made friends with a boy who is a drummer in a band and also the high school band.  He let her play his drums at the homecoming football game and she has talked about it every single day since then.

Her buddy showed up during our Christmas party and gifted her a drum set.  It was the highlight of her night and was all she talked about the entire weekend.

Saturday started out with a minor crisis in our house.  The belt flew off of the treadmill during Rock’s run and he found himself spending a few hours learning to be a treadmill mechanic.  It would be an understatement to say that my husband is a saint.  He worked like crazy to get it fixed so that I could get a run in before we hosted our own Christmas party.

Thanks to him I was able to run that day and the treadmill got me through 42 miles last week.

We cleaned and decorated and then I got to business on making a cheese platter for the table.  This year we did an appetizer and cocktail party and the centerpiece was my cheeseboard.  I bought these beautiful acacia platters at Target for $13 each and lined them with a variety of cheeses, meats, nuts, and fruit.  It made our dining room table the perfect gathering place.

Sunday morning we woke up and got ourselves together enough to go to church.  We coaxed Mary into going by promising her we would return quickly so that she could play the drums.  She went downstairs and wailed on the drums and even penned her own song.  Thanks to some lessons from Daniel Tiger she created a song where she simply shouts, “I’m so mad.  I’m so mad.  I’m so mad, mad, mad!”  Please trust me that she is not angry when she sings this but I think these are the only things she knows that should be shouted.

We were able to get her down for a nap with a promise that her friends would be coming over later for another party.  As soon as I walked in to wake her up she jumped up and said, “Oh!  I need my tights!”

We invited Mary’s friends and our friends over for a gingerbread decorating party.  We are so lucky that many of our good friends have awesome children that are so great to Mary.  Ages ranged from 1-11 and they all did a great job of making some pretty cool houses.  The older girls took it pretty seriously while the younger ones shoveled a lot of their projects into their mouths.

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Pre-party set up!

By the time we put the girls down to bed Sunday night and poured a glass of wine, Rock kicked his feet up and announced that we were officially done hosting for the holiday season.  While it was a little sad to see it come to an end, I am thrilled that there are so many more celebrations yet to come, and that we had some party successes over here!

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And this is how Mary decorates cookies. Can you figure out which ones she did?!

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How was your weekend?  

What would be your ultimate choice to have on a cheeseboard?

Oh Fudge! And Let’s Spread Some Kindness

Happy Friday.  You made it to the end of the work week and the madness of our holiday weekend is just beginning.  I’m excited and just a tad frazzled!

I wanted to do a quick and delicious dessert recipe for you.  But first I wanted to share a fun idea to make the holiday a little brighter for everyone.

We usually don’t eat fast food unless we are in a major bind on road trips.  However, after Lucy was born and Mary took her first ballet class, she was very hesitant to go into the class alone.  I promised her a “special dinner” afterward and it is now our Tuesday tradition on the way home.  Mary gets a Happy Meal and everyone is happy.

A few weeks ago we were in the drive through and I was in a major hurry to get home, though not for any particular reason.  I just wanted to get home and get things in order for the evening.  When I pulled up to pay for the food, the girl be behind the counter informed me that our bill had been paid for by the car ahead of me.  I was in total shock!  I had tears in my eyes at the thoughtful gesture.  I was in such shock as I pulled away that I told Mary what I should have done was pay for the car behind us.  We decided to do it the next time we stopped for her special dinner.

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Anna recently posted about this idea as well.  We all know how stressful it can be to take little ones out to dinner.  But her sweet kiddos were impressionably adorable to a gentleman and he returned the kindness.  Then they went ahead and returned the kindness to another stranger.  It’s contagious!

This week we were able to repay the favor at the drive-thru.  When we went to pay for Mary’s meal, I asked to take care of the bill for the car behind us.  The girl at the counter asked if we knew the other car and we told her no.  She said she loved when these things happen because it causes a 20 minute parade of every car taking care of each other.

It was a wonderful lesson for my children.  It was heartwarming for me.  I hope that the car behind us needed a little extra love or kindness and that it was as fun for them as it was for us.  Maybe it even was a helpful reminder for them of what the holiday season is about.  I encourage you to find a way to do a random act of kindness this holiday season.  Buy someone’s coffee.  Pick up a meal.  Or just give a stranger a friendly smile.  Kindness doesn’t have to be monetary.  Maybe you simply open a door for someone or carry a bag to a car for a person who looks like they could use a little help.  The holiday season can be a difficult time for some people.  Shine a little light where you can!

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Now let me share a quick and awesome recipe that you can share with friends and family.  It is bound to brighten their day too!  This S’mores fudge comes together in minutes.  It is creamy and has some fun little flavors going on.

S’mores Fudge: Prep and cooking time 10 minutes total

Fudge

Ingredients:

1 can condensed milk

1 bag milk chocolate chips

4 graham crackers

1 cup marshmallows

Directions:

Line a square baking dish with tinfoil and then spray.  Crumble the graham crackers and set aside.  In a microwave safe bowl, pour the chocolate chips and condensed milk in and microwave in 30 second intervals.  Stir in between and continue until mixture is thoroughly melted.  Dump in the graham crackers and marshmallows and mix well.  Pour into baking dish and cool in the fridge until set.

Note:  I double this recipe, otherwise there isn’t nearly enough to share!

Have a wonderful weekend!