Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Giving Thanks 2013: Year End Wrap Up

So, last year, I decided to end the year with a shout out post thanking all the blogs/bloggers who sent me the most referrals (whether they meant to or not - Ha!). I've decided to do the same again this year. Because it's fun. But first I sort of want to do a little "year in review" with some of my most popular posts that you all seemed to appreciate... in case you want to check them out again, or pass them on to a friend, I guess. I don't know. I always love when other bloggers share those types of things, so I'm hoping you will too!

Top 5 Most Popular Posts on ACL written in 2013: 

5. PRO Compression Marathon Sock Review

4. Shaklee 180™: Beginning Month 3

3. 6 Months Through: a Shaklee 180™ post

2. Staying Fit While Pregnant (guest post by Emma of A Mom Runs this Town) 

1. I Run: I am a Runner 

Looks like you guys like fitness related posts, right? I've definitely got some more in the works! Along with some more cloth diaper related, parenting related, family events related, and overall - whatever the heck I'm doing in my life related posts.

Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year, New You

I know it's almost cliche at this point, but doesn't everyone decide to make healthier choices for the new year?

I am an eMeals blogger and I am also an affiliate. I have been given access to the eMeals service in exchange for blogging about my experience. I also benefit from any sales made through my affiliate links. However, as always, all opinions are my own. 

If you're looking to make some changes to the way you eat, and the way you budget, eMeals is definitely something you want to look into. It's even been endorsed by the Dave Ramsey. If you know anything about him, you know he wouldn't encourage you to put your money where it doesn't benefit you.

eMeals is a meal planning service- you choose which program you want (ie. clean eating, paleo, low calorie, simple gourmet, etc.), and eMeals provides you with a weekly meal plan including your shopping list. If you download their app, things become even simpler for you. I know for me having a plan in place eliminates extra shopping trips, and wasted groceries. It also cuts back on the processed foods we end up eating because there wasn't anything planned ahead and no time to put it together. So you're making healthier choices for your waistline and your pocketbook. Seriously. PLUS, right now, and through the end of January, if you use code DINNER15 you can save 15% off your subscription!

They don't just offer dinner plans, they also have breakfast, lunch, and now dessert!

To see what else I've written about eMeals, you can go HERE, otherwise, click the banner to go to their site:

I've really enjoyed eMeals in the time that I've had my subscription. I definitely recommend it to my friends online and off. Please let me know if you decide to give it a try! 

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Turducken Holiday Dinner with recipes

I totally lucked out this year when I was contacted on behalf of Eschelon, the creators of the original Turducken. Everyone has heard of Turducken, right? Few of us have been fortunate enough to actually partake in one, and I am so excited to say I was given the opportunity to share my experience and how I dressed my meal with you!
turducken holiday dinner with recipes for garlic sauteed asparagus and honey butter whipped sweet potatoes

The particular Turducken I chose was stuffed with chicken apple sausage stuffing, inside a duck, inside a turkey. Duck on its own can be a fairly decadent treat, so I didn't want my sides to be too heavy. I ended up going with some whole wheat rolls, garlic sauteed asparagus, and honey butter whipped sweet potatoes.
turducken holiday dinner with recipes for garlic sauteed asparagus and honey butter whipped sweet potatoes

Because a Turducken is so dense (as you can imagine!), the directions for this size roast is to cook at 220* for about 7-1/2 hours (that's after adequately thawing your bird) to be sure it's appropriately heated all the way through. You definitely need to plan ahead before preparing this - but if you purchase one of these, you're already planning ahead! 

turducken holiday dinner with recipes for garlic sauteed asparagus and honey butter whipped sweet potatoes

A Turducken is super easy to serve, because it's actually boneless - aside from the legs and wings. Just slice directly down the center, then take slices out toward the sides after that. I was worried that the meat might be dry because of the way its cooked, but it's actually very tender, moist, and well seasoned.  It's a bit of an investment, but definitely something you should try at least once for a special occasion. With New Year's coming up - you definitely want to put this on your list of possibilities. And if you somehow don't have a plan for your Christmas dinner yet, make things easy on yourself and pick one of these up. You will be sure to impress your guests.

And now, I want to share the recipes I came up with to go along with our Turducken dinner. They're super easy, and super tasty!


Garlic Sauteed Asparagus 

minced garlic (I prefer fresh)
olive oil
sea salt

Wash and trim your asparagus. If your asparagus is particularly thick, it's always a good idea to take a vegetable peeler to the bottom few inches. Peeling that will take off the stringy, chewy, not so yummy part. I cut my asparagus in half, but you can leave yours whole if you like.

Next heat an appropriately sized frying pan to about a medium high heat. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil, then a few cloves worth of minced garlic (more or less to taste). Let the garlic flavor infuse with the oil then add the asparagus. Sprinkle with a few pinches of sea salt. It will only take a 4-5 minutes to fully cook the asparagus, if you're like me. Cook a few additional minutes if you like it to be a little more tender.

Honey Butter Whipped Sweet Potatoes 

4-5 sweet potatoes
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
chopped walnuts

Wash, peel, and cut the sweet potatoes into quarters (or smaller if you want it to cook a little quicker). Add to a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender.

When potatoes are ready, drain and place in large bowl. Using a hand mixer (or a stand mixer if you prefer) blend, adding butter and honey. Sweet potatoes are (duh) naturally sweet, so you really shouldn't need more than 1/4 cup of honey, but it's up to you. I tend to go the "add a little, then add a little more" route to be safe with new recipes like this.

Once the potatoes are a smooth consistency, add a few generous dashes of cinnamon (which you know I love), then add chopped walnuts (amount depending on how nutty you want your potatoes, I prefer less over more) and lightly blend together by hand.

Have you ever tried a Turducken? What are your holiday dinner plans? Anything fun set for New Year's? We're still trying to figure out our plans for that... Suggestions? 

Disclosure: I was provided with a Turducken for the purpose of this blog post. I was not compensated in any other way. As always, all opinions are my own. 
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide: Family Gifts

If you're a horrible procrastinator like I am, you still have not finished all your Christmas shopping (assuming you celebrate Christmas like I do). So maybe you won't mind this last minute gift guide for the whole family. Gifts like these are great, because you probably spend the same amount as buying each individual a gift, you possibly spend less, and everyone in the family can still enjoy the gift.
2013 holiday gift guide for families

Be sure to check out my gift guides for Expectant Moms as well as Running Moms

Last year, my in-laws gifted us with a family pass to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). I'm honestly hoping they renew our pass for another year this Christmas! It has been so much fun and such a great answer to "What should we do today?" We can spend hours there, and both kids love it. Now that G is getting older, he's really been enjoying the science labs, and N loves all of the water related exhibits, as well as the engineering exhibits. She's two. I think that says a lot about the thought that goes behind everything that OMSI has to offer, don't you? With the OMSI pass, you also get free or discounted admission to other museums in the area as well. Including the Gilbert House in Salem, which both my kids also love.
2013 Holiday Gift Guide - OMSI

Other area attractions would include the Oregon Zoo, which you know we've been enjoying quite a bit this year. Whichever zoo is local to you, I'm sure they also offer an annual membership, and with it tends to come a few perks - like discounts, and early admission to new events or attractions.

Monthly Subscriptions:
This option could include anything from something like BabbaBox or Citrus Lane (edit: click here for a recent CL post on the Cloth Diaper Revival), to something absolutely deliciously for the entire family like a Fruit of the Month club from Harry & David's. Yum! I wouldn't turn that down!  You could also invest in a subscription to a family magazine, or a year's subscription to a service like GameFly or Netflix.
2013 Holiday Gift Guide - BabbaBox

This could be either a board game or a video game. If the family you're shopping for happens to own a Wii U, I would highly recommend Super Mario 3D World. We rented it over the Thanksgiving weekend, and EVERYONE was loving it. You can even have up to 5 players on that game (if you have enough controllers).

Of course board games (aka tabletop games) are always a great option. Our family enjoys all the classics from when I was young like Sorry, Life, Battleship, and Chutes & Ladders. If your kids are older, they might like Monopoly or Risk (HUGE favorite with my nephews). And seriously, does Hasbro make all the good board games? I honestly had no idea they were all by the same company until I started looking up links for this post!
2013 Holiday Gift Guide - Risk

Hopefully, you found this useful. What are some great family gifts you've given or received? And how do you manage to stay in your holiday shopping budget? I thought I was doing well, then somehow went completely overboard in the end... 

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Simple Shortbread Cookie Recipe

Apparently, the colder it is outside, the more time I spend in the kitchen baking. All to your benefit, of course, and the girth of my hips and thighs. I've thankfully been able to keep my weight in check despite my personal bake-off, though, with great appreciation to habits I picked up as a Shaklee blogger earlier this year. I often tell people I blog with a focus on family, fitness, and food, but the emphasis on food has been coming out more and more often now (which I'm kind of liking, and I hope you are too!), so I decided to add a tab up top just for all the recipes I've started posting. I will never claim to be a decent food blogger (I shouldn't even bother beginning to apologize for my terrible food pictures), but maybe someone likes my style of recipe-sharing. If nothing else, I'm collecting all my recipes in one place for me.

Anyway, when the weather hit lows of 10*, I started chugging hot chocolate like it was going out of style. Something about winter time and camping turns it into a lifeline for me. Chocolate, warmth, memories, and chocolate. And you know what's even better? Shortbread cookies to dip in that hot chocolate. I love the way they almost disintegrate in your drink and melt in your mouth. Maybe that's not as appealing for you, but I don't know who you are.
Simple shortbread cookie recipe from @lilmondu

I usually just buy cheap shortbread cookies at the grocery store, but as I've been bit by some home-making-baking bug, I decided to search Pinterest for every shortbread cookie recipe I had the patience to check out. I found a couple that seemed easy enough, then sort of adjusted as I saw fit. I'm not very good at following recipes unless they're very complicated and demand my attention.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

New Dessert Plan on eMeals!

Have you heard the news about eMeals? They just launched a dessert plan! This may not be something you necessarily want to subscribe to year round (or may you do), but this is definitely a great idea around the holidays! How many times have you wanted to drop off a treat to a friend, teacher, hair stylist? How many times have you been sitting around the tv watching old holiday movies with a cup of hot cocoa wishing you had a little something extra for your sweet tooth? If you're like me, more times than you want to admit.
eMeals Dessert Meal Plan

So now here's a great opportunity for you to try out some amazing new recipes! If you're already a member of eMeals, you've no doubt been enjoying the free week of dessert recipes! If you are not a member yet - the holiday specials have been continued! Use code CYBER for 30% off your subscription!

And here is the best part of all my eMeals posts - a recipe. This time, it's a recipe to satisfy your sweet tooth!

Buttery Toasted Vanilla Clusters recipe from eMeals Dessert Meal Plan

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

ZOOLights at the Oregon Zoo!

ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo

Last week we were given the awesome opportunity to check out the ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo. I've wanted to go every year, but this was my first chance actually going. It was amazing. Despite the sub-freezing temperatures, we still managed to have a lot of fun. I am adding one solid thing to my Christmas list, however - a nice quality pair of gloves!

I learned my lesson from our last few trips to the zoo and brought the wagon this time - such a good choice! Well... at times. We were able to fit both kids, snuggled up with blankets in the wagon for the most part. G loved running ahead and check things out, and by the end, all N wanted was for me to hold her.

My husband was stuck working out of town for the week, so the kids and I brought my parents along. They were cold, but enjoyed the trip every bit as much as we did. Plus, it gave G and I the chance to check out the virtual ride! We chose the snow ride, and G loved it so much, we went for a second ride before leaving! It's a 3D simulator ride with a bunch of different options - a tropical ride, a futuristic glacier run.
ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo
If nothing else, it was a really fun way to take a break from the cold for a few minutes!

ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo
The light displays were absolutely phenomenal. I know some people are concerned about the train not running during the event this year, but I really don't think we could have experienced all the lights as well as we did just walking through the park like we did. It was great being able to stop and spend extra time where we wanted (and taking sometimes foggy blurry pictures along the way!).
ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo

Grandma & Grandpa braving the cold with G & N
I absolutely recommend ZooLights for your whole family! There's just something magical about Christmas lights. You can get in as early as 4 (which is perfect considering how early it gets dark out!), so you don't have to worry as much about staying out late with littles. Plan on spending a couple hours, and BUNDLE UP as appropriate! My kids were warm enough with their parkas, boots, extra layers, and snow bibs, but I could have used another layer! Don't be like me - check the weather report before you're in the car and on your way. At the very least, treat yourself to a cup of hot cocoa from one of the open snack carts along the route! 

Have you been to anything like this before? Any great holiday events you have coming up? Anything you'd like to recommend? 

Disclosure: I was given admission to ZooLights in exchange for writing this post. All views and opinions expressed are my own!

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide: Running Moms

Another gift guide! I actually had 5 of these plotted out that I had planned on sharing with you, but then - life happened. That's pretty much my daily excuse for everything, but is it any less true?
acl 2013 holiday gift guide for moms who run

So, I'm a runner, and I'm a mom, and these are some running related gifts I'd genuinely like to get. Are you listening? I think I'll add all these items to a zift list, and maybe some super generous reader will pitch in on something. Right. Like I'm Jenny Lawson. Here's to wishful thinking anyway!

Some links may be affilliates, most are not. Be sure to check out my gift guides for Expectant Moms as well as Family Gifts

My top 10 gift list for running moms:

1. SKORA Running Phase-X running shoes. While I'm not ready for barefoot running, I do love me some zero-drop heels while hitting the pavement. I've had great success with the Base model, and I'd love an upgrade to the Phase-X. Frankly, you should too.

2. Koss FitClips. Okay, I actually already own a pair of these, so I'm honestly just vouching for how awesome they are. They come with 3 different sizes of earbuds, so you can choose the size that's most comfortable for you. I'd never tried clips before, but my other earbuds always seemed to work their way out while I ran - which is extremely annoying. I think it may have had something to do with the extreme amount of sweat I tend to produce, but that's another (gross) story for another time.
via Koss

3. A running belt. There seems to be a ridiculous number of options for these, but the top runners in my wish list are FlipBelt, RooSport, and Fitletic. And okay, so RooSport isn't a belt, but I'm not looking to hold my pants up with these - I'm looking to carry things like my phone, my keys, my ID, and one day some gels or something for longer distances.
via FlipBelt

4. RoadID. Functional and fashionable. They offer a ton of safety products for runners from ID bracelets to flashing lights for nighttime runners. I want, I want, okay? First of all, I actually like the look of the Wrist ID Slim (in teal, if you're wondering...). Secondly, you know my dream to run the HTC (Hood to Coast relay), and for some reason I always imagine myself running at least one leg in the dark. For that, RoadID offers some awesome high visibility gear.
via RoadID

5. Rock My Run subscription. I actually have a free membership, but I wouldn't mind an upgrade to be able to access some of their longer mixes. Rock My Run offers some pretty awesome options of music mixes tailored to your preferences in music as well as your race distance and preferred pace (based on average heart rate). I'm not ashamed to say I'm a big fan of what they have to offer.

6. Good compression socks. You know my favorite are SLSTri, but your loved one may have different preferences when it comes to their socks. It honestly took me way too long to figure out how important all the different nuances available can be in finding "the right pair." A good pair of compression socks can definitely make a difference in a long run and in your recovery.

7. Headbands. I have a couple that I depend on, but they're nothing to brag about. A few brands I've heard AMAZING reviews on that I would LOVE to try (hint, hint, right?) are BondiBand, Lululemon Bang Buster, and Sparkly Soul (I'd go with the wide option).
via Lululemon

8. Jump rope. I know this is something you use in actual running, but using a simple jump rope will seriously improve your strength and endurance on the road. Make the ridiculously low investment - this is a perfect stocking stuffer!
via Amazon

9. Fitness Tracker. This means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I get by using various apps on my phone, but I'd love something a little more... gadgety. A lot of runners swear by their Garmin. I certainly wouldn't mind having one of my own. I'd also love to get my hands on a FitBit Flex or a Jawbone UP24.
via FitBit

10. The Oiselle Flyer Jacket. This is pretty much the creme de la creme for running jackets, and way out of my current budget for things I would buy for myself, but I covet. I am definitely and unabashedly coveting this. Not only is it an attractive piece of apparel, it's lightweight, waterproof, windproof, insulating, and doesn't make that annoying sound you think of with most waterproof running jackets. *sigh* I live in Oregon, yo. I need this.
via Oiselle

What do you think? What running gear are you hoping to get this year? Anything I should add to my list? 

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

PNW Blogger Holiday Party 2013

A little more than a month ago, I attended the Pacific NorthWest Blogger Holiday Party. It was hosted by the amazing ladies of The Paper Mama, Just Love.ly, and A Well Crafted Party. This is the third one of these events I've been to, and it was fun catching up with some of the amazing ladies I've met in the past. As usual, everything was amazing, from the event space (Union/Pine) to the decor and everything available to eat and drink.
PNW Blogger Holiday Party 2013

If you're new to blogging, or new to the more social side of blogging, this is a great way to get your feet wet. I'm just awful in social situations, but even I enjoy these meetups. These events are always packed, but there's still plenty of opportunity to network - no matter what type of blogger you consider yourself to be. 
PNW Blogger Holiday Party 2013

Monday, December 2, 2013

All That Glitters: Shane Co.

Several years ago, I was working and going to school in Eugene, OR. Through mutual friends, I met the man who would become my husband. As we got to know each other, we found we had a lot in common and truly enjoyed each other's company. I'm not sure the exact moment I fell in love with him, but it didn't take long. We started dating in the early fall of 2005, and by that following February, we were already talking marriage.

We weren't "officially" engaged yet, just making plans and not telling anyone. At one crazy point, we even thought about eloping to Las Vegas. I'm sure my parents would have never forgiven me if we'd gone through with that! Eventually, we started shopping around for a ring. How long can you stay "unofficially engaged", right? I never considered myself a picky person when it comes to jewelry, but we were having a pretty difficult time finding a ring that fit both my taste and our budget.

That spring, we drove up to stay with my (now) in-laws for the weekend. While in town, we took a very spontaneous trip to the Shane Co. in Tigard (near Portland).

You may not think there is such a thing as an ugly diamond. Shopping the selection at Shane Co., I realized I'd been looking at "ugly diamonds" every where else by comparison. I am not a particularly materialistic person (just check out my hair and my wardrobe!), but my diamond is beautiful. The customer service experience really topped things off. We sat down with a consultant and were given as much time as we needed. She asked us all sorts of questions and really listened when I told her what I was hoping to find. Wow, did she deliver! The ring I chose may not be every woman's dream. It's a simple princess cut diamond in a platinum Tiffany style setting. I love it. It is seriously my favorite piece of jewelry.
Shane Co: All That Glitters #ShaneCo #CleverGirls
my own Shane Co. treasure

Nearly 8 years later, and I have zero regret about the engagement ring I chose. 

That evening, after a delicious dinner, I got my official proposal on a walk along Waterfront Park at sunset. Pretty much, perfection topped with perfection, right? I thought it was.

I know this isn't typically a wedding/engagement related blog, but I sincerely and wholeheartedly give my recommendation for you to shop Shane Co. for their amazing engagement ring selection. They offer unique designs with reasonable prices and an incredible lifetime guarantee. And if you're like me (ie. beyond the need for wedding jewelry), you still need to check out everything else they have to offer. Christmas is right around the corner! And then there's Valentine's*, my birthday*, Mother's Day*, and my anniversary*...


An example of some of the lovely items they have to offer:
Shane Co.

Shane Co.

Shane Co.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
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