Archive of ‘Miscellaneous’ category

A New Normal

Today I nurtured and nourished a tiny human. And that's a lot more important than dishes and laundry. I’m baaaacccckkkkk! After a long and unintended hiatus, I’m back at this blogging thing. BIG News – I had baby number two! He’s a cutie, if I do say so myself.

So what has suddenly brought me back to this page? I’ve certainly had a lot to talk about over the last year but haven’t shared it here: turning 40 (gulp); two miscarriages; moving and remodeling; a successful pregnancy along with some minor complications; a late-term premature birth; jaundice; tongue-tie; and, well, that about catches you up!

Lately I’ve been feeling less than productive even though I’m taking care of two kids. Keeping them clothed and fed is all I can manage some days and even that is questionable. Thankfully J is in kindergarten most of the day during the week. And I try to keep our house from looking like a category 5 hurricane blew over (most days it looks like a class 3) all while functioning on 4 hours of sleep. So with my busy schedule I figured it would be the perfect time to squeeze writing back into the fold too. Did I mention baby C is only 8 weeks old? :)

There isn’t much of a point to this post other than to get back to updating things here…and to tell myself that keeping the littles alive and well is more important than having a spotless kitchen.

What Is Ebates? Earn a Cash Back Rebate When You Shop!

Ebates - Earn cash back when you shop

Earn a cash back rebate when you click through Ebates before shopping online. It’s quick, easy and FREE! If you look closely at this image, in the upper right hand corner you will see my cash back to date. Yes, over $1000!!

Summer is in full swing and I’ve been spending most of my time away from the computer. I’m not sure if this has had a positive impact on my pocket book since I’ve been out of the house, however I haven’t been shopping online a lot. This also means I haven’t been getting my Ebates cash back when I do shop!

What is Ebates? It’s a free service that pays you a rebate when you shop online! There are a few caveats: you have to click through their web site to get to your online retailer (or install their plugin); the web site has to be listed in Ebates; and it takes awhile (months) to get your rebate. BUT, if you’re spending money at a retailer you may as well get a rebate if available. And it’s not like those three things I listed are difficult to do!

Also, if you refer a friend you will get a cash back reward. Ebates runs various promotions throughout the year, so the reward will vary – usually $5 to $25 for each referral. Additionally, when your friend signs up, they get to pick a reward. This offer also varies but is usually a gift card with a $10 value.

Warning: clicking the links to Ebates from my blog will give me a referral. Let’s be referral friends! :)

Over the last few years, I have earned $1066.35 from rebates and referrals. Um, mostly from shopping rebates…very few from referrals. The cash back you receive varies per store and will also vary throughout the year. Sometimes I got 6% cash back from shopping at Nordstrom.com and other times I would only get 3%, depending on the promotion. But, hey, it was an additional savings, so why not take advantage?!

If you ever forget to click through Ebates before you buy, don’t worry! They have a page where you can submit a request for a missing rebate. You will need to cut/paste your email receipt from the purchase to prove you spent the money. I’ve used this many times and have always received credit.

Retailers are not the only sites that offer cash back through Ebates. Many travel services such as hotels and car rentals are listed. Remember that your cash back from these services will post AFTER you complete your reservation. Normally, within a couple days, you will receive an email from Ebates notifying you of your cash rebate.

I’ve read online that some people think Ebates is a scam. It’s not! However, you don’t get your rebate immediately. You have to wait – the same way you do with traditional rebates that you have to send via snail mail or submit online. You also have to create an account with Ebates which does require creating a password and giving your name, address and email address. They don’t ask for any classified information and it’s all public domain, so you’re not risking anything!

Have you tried Ebates? I’d love to hear your experience. I love it!

What’s My Fitbit Name?

My Fitbit greeting says ROCKSTAR

My Fitbit calls me ROCKSTAR! What’s your name?

For those of you with a Fitbit One or Ultra, your tracker greets you with a name. Most likely it’s your first name. Well, I have a secret to share with you and I have not told anyone about it! Instead of my first name, my Fitbit greets me with “ROCKSTAR”. I like how it’s ALL CAPS! :D

Have you thought of changing your greeting, but can’t find the right name? I’m here to help! Unfortunately, the name is limited to 8 characters, which is a bit of a challenge. Anyone remember the days of MS-DOS command prompts and filenames??!! (Yea, my greeting should say “GEEK”.)

So here it is, an easy way to get a fun(ny) new Fitbit greeting! Leave me a comment with your name. I’d love to see how many other ROCKSTARS are out there.

Use your initials to find a new, personal greeting.

Your FIRST Initial Your LAST Initial
A - raw A - beef
B - fast B - play
C - best C - star
D - new D - bird
E - big E - goal
F - bad F - road
G - zany G - lead
H - bold H - mode
I - busy I - gal
J - cool J - rat
K - true K - girl
L - mad L - boy
M - good M - dog
N - hard N - bear
O - high O - wolf
P - hot P - game
Q - icy Q - show
R - lean R - doll
S - gym S - iron
T - rock T - fuel
U - real U - guy
V - ripe V - head
W - dark W - reps
X - taut X - bull
Y - fit Y - dude
Z - free Z - lady

 

If you’re having trouble meeting your step goal, checkout my post Fitbit Follies – How to Get 10K Steps a Day.

Chef V’s 3-Day Cleanse + 55% Off Discount Code

UPDATE 01/25/2016: Today I was contacted by Chef V and given a 55% off discount code for the readers of this article. It is AWLN. The information contained in my post below was written long before I was contacted and is an unbiased review of her cleanse! For more information or to order, visit Chef V’s web site.
Chef V - 3 Day Cleanse

Chef V’s cleanse arrived early in the morning as promised.

This is my first cleanse and I’m excited and slightly petrified. My goal is to detox my system and maybe shed a few pounds in the process. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about her cleanse because it’s all described on her web site. The reason I chose this cleanse is that it’s organic and she’s a local company here in North San Diego County.

Each day of the cleanse you consume roughly 700 calories. I will tell you that going without food is my worst nightmare! I wouldn’t last a day on Survivor because of the lack of food. You also drink a crap ton of water plus the green drinks and protein shakes. On paper this is about 10 times more liquid than I normally drink so I’m apprehensive that I won’t be able to drink it all. I am definitely challenging myself by doing this but I am also curious to see if I CAN do it.

Pre-Cleanse

Chef V advises you to pre-cleanse for at least two days. This means eating off of her list of approved foods (there are a lot) but basically you’re cutting out dairy, wheat, sugar, salt, alcohol and caffeine. Wait, what??? Caffeine!!!! If you’ve read my post on cold brew, you’ll know I love me a good cup  ‘o joe (or 3). I didn’t follow her pre-cleanse instructions very closely, however I did wean myself off of coffee because I wanted to avoid the dreaded caffeine headache. I Googled caffeine withdrawal symptoms and found articles claiming caffeine withdrawal is a mental disorder and those saying withdrawal symptoms don’t exist! Talk about confusing! I’m happy to say that I was able to stop drinking coffee within 3 days of decreasing my intake and I didn’t suffer any headaches or other negative effects. I will start drinking coffee once the cleanse is over!

Day 1 – Morning

Chef V - 3 Day Organic Cleanse

Included in the organic cleanse are three bottles of green drink (one bottle per day contains four servings), six packets of protein powder (two shakes per day), three soups (one per night), detox tea (one cup each morning), a shaker bottle, and a detailed of schedule of when to drink each item – very important!

As promised, my cleanse showed up on my doorstep early Monday morning. By 7am I had unpacked the bag and refrigerated everything as needed. The cleanse comes with specific directions about the order in  which you drink water, the green drink and protein shakes. It even comes with a timeline schedule to keep your intake evenly spaced out.

At 8am I had my first taste of the green drink. It’s pretty good!! I’ve had a few other green drinks lately. Jamba Juice’s Apple n Greens is quite good but also packed full of sugar. Suja’s Mighty Greens is organic and also tastes good. It did take me a few glasses to really like the flavor but even at a first go it’s not offensive. However, it also has a lot of sugar compared to Chef V’s drink (19g of sugar compared to 3g per 8 oz serving). So after being used to sugary green drinks I wasn’t sure how I’d like Chef V’s but it went down easily.

It’s hard to describe how something tastes, since it’s subjective. For me, the primary flavors are kale, apple and a little parsley. The kale is subtle, though. It’s not like a kale salad. I have a hard time with those salads and this green drink is much more palatable. There is some chunkiness to the green drink so I swirl it around before drinking. The last few gulps of drink are chewier than the first.

I drank more water, then had the protein shake. I made it with the shaker cup included in my cleanse (the plastic bottle is BPA free). Again, not bad! It was a little gritty, but I found by the end some of the grit had absorbed water so it wasn’t as rough. Next time I drink it I’m going to let it sit for a few minutes to see if it has a better consistency. I made it with ice and cold water.

I could taste the vanilla and the stevia in the protein shake. It was better at the end than at the beginning. It reminded me of almond or soy milk which is weird since those ingredients aren’t in the shake.

It is now almost noon and time for my next green drink. I’ve peed four times since 7 am and I can see that this will be my reality for the next two and a half days. Must flush out the toxins, right? And they were full bladder pees. I know, TMI.

————————————————–

Day 1 – Evening

So I made it through the rest of the day and I am typing this at 8:30pm. I’m feeling satiated and sipping my last bottle of water before bed time. Chef V recommends drinking another 24oz of water between the time you finish the soup for dinner and go to bed. I’m not going to drink this much because I don’t want to be up all night peeing! Anyway, here’s how the rest of my afternoon and evening went.

I had my green drink at noon and another at 2pm. I drank a lot of water in between. I felt mildly hungry during this time but it was manageable. At 2:30pm I had a protein shake and I was fine until the next green drink three hours later. I drank at least 16 oz of water during this time. I thought for sure that I’d be ravenous, especially since I had to feed J during this time and make dinner for Curt. Even the smell of chicken in the oven didn’t make my stomach growl! Who am I??!!

Have I mentioned that you get to eat a delicious soup for dinner? It’s a sweet potato-y carrot-y bowl of yumminess. After drinking ice cold water / green drinks / shakes all day, it was great to sit down to a hot bowl of soup.

I’m really surprised that I didn’t feel super hungry all day and that I was able to consume all of the liquid. I was intimidated by this, but I figured I’d try it…and I’m happy I did. I maintained a normal amount of energy throughout the day too. I even managed to get all of my Fitbit steps in for the day (yes, I’m standing at my computer stepping from side to side). We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Day 2

All I do is pee. Really, like every 45 minutes. It makes sense considering how much liquid I’m consuming, but it’s a bit much. At least my number two was regular, not a number three. TMI again? I think it’s important to mention it since I am doing an all liquid cleanse! I’ll repeat, no hershey squirts!

I woke up with my normal amount of energy, which was neat considering my low caloric intake the previous day and my lack of coffee. I felt hungry around noon like I did yesterday, but it may have been my environment. I stuck to my normal routine of taking J to swim class and then having lunch at Panera. I was bombarded by the smells of the restaurant and inches away from J’s chicken noodle soup since I had to blow on it because of its temperature. Parents of small children will know that any food warmer than 85 degrees will immediately prompt said child to lament “it’s too hot!!” But I overcame the urge for solid food, drank my green drink and reveled in my martyrdom – kidding, of course. I did tell myself that I was half way done. I wanted to stick to the commitment I made to myself to complete the cleanse so I didn’t cheat.

The rest of the afternoon and evening were smooth sailing. I don’t think I described the soup properly yesterday (or four paragraphs up) . There is a hint of Thai flavor due to coconut milk and curry. It’s a mild flavor, though, and I definitely wouldn’t say this is curry soup.

As I wrap up day 2 I’m starting to think ahead to what I’ll eat after day 3. Being so “clean” I don’t want to bombard my system with my usual eating habits. Chef V recommends a two day post-cleanse diet which is the same as her pre-cleanse. I intend on eating from this list, with the exception of eggs and cheese because I really love them. I am digging the low amount of sugar that I’ve consumed. One day of Chef V’s cleanse has 36g of sugar. Now when I think of the kale apple smoothie at Jamba Juice with its 19g of sugar, I get a little nauseated. Before the cleanse I was eating Chobani’s Greek Yogurts but they have a lot of sugar in them too. I’m going to switch to plain Greek yogurt with fresh organic fruit. Strawberries are on Chef V’s list of excluded foods and I’m not sure why.

OK, I took a break and Googled “why are strawberries excluded from a cleanse”. The first result is from something called “Clean Program”. The wording in Chef V’s include/exclude food list is exactly the same as this 21-day cleansing program. Their explanation about strawberries says they are a common allergen and contain high amounts of pesticides, even organic strawberries. Hmmm…I’m not so sure about that and I’m going to continue eating organic strawberries!

Day 3 – Morning

I am a masochist. It’s noon and I’m hungry. I decided to prep for tomorrow’s clean eating so I cooked quinoa and a brown rice blend – two separate pots. The wonderful aroma of quinoa has infiltrated my nostrils and I’m borderline ravenous. Don’t think quinoa smells good? Try not eating solid food for two and a half days and you’ll be all over that grain like Kobayashi at the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest. Instead of eating, I’m drinking my green drink right on schedule and hoping it will satiate me.

Aside from this mid-day hiccup, I feel great! I have my normal amount of energy as I just spent two hours cleaning my house. I am still peeing hourly and am happy to report another normal number two this morning!

Last night I was a bit hungry before bed but I just ignored it and went to sleep. When I woke up in the morning I wasn’t hungry feeling anymore. I drank a cup of Chef V’s detox tea before drinking any water. It was ok. I’m not a tea person, though. It was drinkable but not a substitute for coffee (and I know it’s not supposed to be).

As I’m typing this, my hunger is dissipating. Yay for green drink! I’m expecting the rest of the day and night to go smoothly.

————————————————–

Day 3 – Evening

I did it!!! All done and no cheating. So this evening wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. My stomach was really growling a lot. I drank water and the grumbles went away, then came back. It’s almost bedtime and I’m not hungry, so after the soup I’ve been feeling great!

The interesting thing is that I haven’t felt any blood sugar crashes. Even when I was feeling like I wanted to chew on my left arm, I didn’t experience any of the light headedness or fading away feelings that I normally get when I’m starving. I was able to power through the hunger and I’m so glad that I did!

My stomach has rumbled a bit each evening after eating the soup. Not crampy but just a little gurgle-y. I’m carefully planning my first meal of solids so I don’t undo all of the work from the past three days as well as end up with cramps or painful digestive issues.

I’ll be reporting my weight loss tomorrow so keep reading just a little longer!

Post-Cleanse

Chef V - Post-cleanse Meal

My first post-cleanse meal consisted of quinoa, egg, avocado, and salsa – all organic. The egg is not included in her clean eating list…damn, I’m a rebel.

I chewed food – woo hoo! I tried making a meal mostly off of Chef V’s clean eating list. I feel great this morning and I’m going to continue to drink a lot of water today – and hopefully everyday. And number two was normal again. Whew! I must say that I am curious to see how a 5-day cleanse would go. This morning I wasn’t starving and I could have done the cleanse today.

I lost 4.2 lbs and a half inch off my waist and an inch off of my hips. I’m sure I will gain some of the weight back once I eat more solid foods and that’s ok. My biggest take away is that I need to eat less sugar to avoid the shakey feeling I sometimes get when I’m hungry.

Have you tried Chef V’s cleanse or another cleanse? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below. And thanks for reading this super long post!

Use code AWLN when you order your cleanse from Chef V to receive 55% off!

Sheriff Callie Sugar Cookies and Birthday Madness

Disney Junior's Sheriff Callie decorated sugar cookie - Sparky Horse

Disney Junior’s Sheriff Callie inspired these cookies – Callie’s trusty horse Sparky.


J celebrated her 4th birthday last week and along with it came the annual birthday bash. The past few years we had her party at our house which was fun as well as a ton of work. My child’s small birthday parties typically include 50 to 60 guests (adults and children).

So, in an effort to regain some my sanity, we outsourced her party to a local play gym. It was tons of fun for the kids and a lot less work for Curt and I. Of course, I still went overboard and made a photo collage, Sheriff Callie themed banner, centerpieces, and favors  which included a decorated sugar cookie that looked somewhat like Callie’s horse Sparky.

 
Sheriff-Callie-Party-Favor

I put the Sparky Cookie in a plastic cup shaped like a cowboy boot. I pinned a sheriff badge with each child’s name to the boot.

If you’ve read any of my other recipe posts, I always include a reminder to use organic ingredients wherever possible. I do this with my cookies, except for the meringue powder and food color. This is the dichotomy of my cookies – organic cookie with tons of artificial food dye. Well, I don’t eat these everyday (and you shouldn’t either) so I have a clear conscious using Red Dye #40 (although there is no red in these cookies). You get my point.

Here are steps I took to make this cookie.

1. I made a batch of Sweetapolita’s Sugar Cookies. I have to make the batch in two parts because the entire recipe makes my stand mixer jump and sound like a steam engine. Then I cut the halves in half to make it easier to roll the dough. One full recipe gives me 4 discs of dough. I used three of these discs and froze one for later. Here is her recipe and steps for making the cookie pops. This time I actually made pops because I thought it was cute to have a “stick horse” for a cowgirl party. I alter her method slightly, so please check out my DIY Sugar Cookies post for my changes.

Cookie-Sheriff-Callie-Baked

My stick horses – get it?! Until they were decorated they looked like dogs to me…I’m glad they ended up looked like horses.

2. While the cookies baked and cooled, I mixed up a batch of Bake at 350’s royal icing. I had lots of extra icing with her recipe, but I mixed most of it blue so I couldn’t save it. For these cookies, you will need a little white, a little brown, a lot of blue and a little black plus blue sanding sugar. I cheat and use premade black icing because it’s a lot easier. You need an obscene amount of black food color to make truly black icing. I baked the cookies and mixed the icing one evening after J went to bed and decorated the next two evenings.

3. Time to decorate! After you mix the blue, put some in a piping bag for the horse outline and thin the rest for flooding. I like to outline a few cookies at a time and then flood. I made roughly 24 cookies and left them overnight to dry.

Cookie-Sheriff-Callie-Partial-Outline

I outlined each cookie in two sections. It was easiest to decorate with the cookie upside down because of the stick.

 

Cookie-Sheriff-Callie-Outlined

All outlined and ready for flooding. You can see I biffed the outline on one of the tails (lower right). Just wipe off the icing and start over. The flood covers up the mistake!

 

Cookie-Sheriff-Callie-Flood-Fill

New to flooding? Fill the center of the cookie and then use a toothpick to spread the icing until it touches the outline.

 

Cookie-Sheriff-Callie-Flooded

I wish royal icing dried shiny. I’ve experimented with other icing, but overall I like royal icing best.

4. Once the cookies are dry it’s time for the details. I piped Sparky’s bridle with a #2 round tip but skipped his saddle. I also skipped making his hooves. It would have been easy to do, but required a darker blue color. I was lazy and didn’t want to pipe and flood such a tiny amount of color. After the bridle I made the white part of his eye with a #6 round tip. Use a slightly wet finger to push down on the white icing to flatten it out.

Cookie-Sheriff-Callie-Bridle-White-Eye

Zombie horses! I use lollipop sticks instead of cookie sticks. They are slightly smaller in diameter and easier to use.

5. After the bridle and eye detail, I added blue sanding sugar to the mane and tail. The bridle and eye on the first cookie you decorated should be dry enough that the sugar won’t stick to those areas. I used a mixture of equal parts meringue powder and water to mix the “glue” for the sanding sugar. Use a small paint brush and wet the mane and tail area. I use Bake at 350’s anal retentive technique for sanding — sprinkle sanding sugar onto the cookie while holding it over a coffee filter (clean, of course). Use the filter as a funnel to pour unused sugar back into your sprinkling container. Use a toothpick to remove any stray pieces of sugar.

Cookie-Sheriff-Callie-Sanding-Sugar

Down the homestretch, just need to add pupils. (Bad horse racing pun totally intended.)

6. After the mane and tail have been sparkled, add the black pupil to the eye. I used my #2 tip again to make a tiny dot on the white icing. I flattened it with a slightly wet finger.

Cookie-Sheriff-Callie-Finished

Time to bag and tag!

7. Let dry a few hours or overnight again before bagging. Since the cookies have a nice layer of icing on top of them, they won’t dry out, even with being uncovered for two consecutive evenings.


 

1 2

Fitbit One
The product names and logos shown on this site are the trademarks of their respective owners.