Honey Dijon Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Breasts [With Creamy Dipping Sauce]

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Hey there! Tuesdays are such a love/hate thing for me. I teach my super early exercise classes (Spinning at 5:30 am followed directly by Core Plus (an awesome class that I just started teaching this summer that targets the abs/obliques/lower back with some major stretching at the end)- and while I love these classes and the regulars that show up week after week- waking up in the 4:00 hour is just not fan, no matter what.

But- on the bright side, I am always super productive on Tuesdays because I’m home by 7:30 am and my workouts for the day are already DONE. On most Tuesdays, I’m like the Energizer bunny all morning, and then crash some time in the mid-afternoon. So, I try to take advantage of all of that energy all morning and use it for good. My goal today? Finish cleaning out my office. It’s a bit of a lofty goal (seriously, I should have taken a “before” picture- it was scary)- but I am determined to turn it into a calm, relaxing environment with as few distractions as possible. I’ll be back with an update on how that goes tomorrow. ;)

On to today’s topic! When we flew to Colorado a couple of weeks ago, I made a list of recipes that I had floating around in my head to make when I got home. It’s a pretty short list- but I finally got around to making the first one last night. I’m happy to say that it was a success- and SUPER easy to throw together.

I love these bunny pretzels made by Annie’s. I pretty much always have some variety of them in my pantry (whether it’s the regular, honey wheat or spelt).

I was thinking that they would make a good crust for chicken, so that’s exactly what I did!

First, I took made a quick marinade and let two chicken breasts soak in it all afternoon.

When it was time to cook the chicken, I ground up the pretzels in my little food chopper, and then added in some parsley.

(Next time I’ll grind them up a little bit smaller!)

I also made a creamy dipping sauce using this Dijon mustard, honey and Greek yogurt.

I’m happy to say that the chicken breasts turned out well- and had tons of flavor (and the dipping sauce was delicious!).


Honey Dijon Pretzel-Crusted Chicken Breasts

For the marinade:

1 T Dijon mustard

2-3 T red wine vinegar

1 tsp honey

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes

Additional:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (4-6 oz each)

1 oz. pretzels

1 tsp dried parsley flakes

In a small container, whisk together the ingredients for the marinade. Place chicken breasts into the marinade and flip them over a few times make sure they are coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours (even longer is better!). Pre-heat oven to 375˚ and spray a shallow pan or cookie sheet liberally with nonstick spray. Crush the pretzels or pulse a few times in a food processor until they are broken down into small pieces. Pour the crushed pretzels into a bowl, add parsley and stir well. Dip the chicken breasts into the crushed pretzel mixture and make sure each gets coated evenly. Place chicken breasts onto baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 170ºF. Serve with creamy honey dijon dipping sauce (recipe follows).

Creamy Honey-Dijon Dipping Sauce

1 T whole-grain dijon mustard

1 T honey

1/4 c. 0% plain Greek yogurt

Stir ingredients together in a small bowl.

**

I’m eager to make this one again- and will grind the pretzels a little smaller next time.

I also learned that you definitely need to spray the heck out of the pan, or the crust will stick to it!

One recipe checked off the to-do list… many to go!

Have a great day!

 

Finding A New Routine [+ Random Ramblings]

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Hey guys! I’m back to my regularly scheduled programming now… whatever that means. :) I hope that you enjoyed reading my Colorado re-caps and looking through the 1,000 photos that I posted- it was certainly a wonderful vacation! And in case you missed it- you must check out the cute baby overload photos in yesterday’s post. That’s something you won’t hear me say often!

But for now, it’s back to reality. What I’m trying to figure out for now is: what is my reality?

(Pretty much) ever since school ended in June, I’ve been traveling. All along, I’ve been saying “When I get home from Colorado, I’ll get down to business.” I spent most of last week playing catch-up, staying up late and sleeping in and generally feeling unmotivated to do much, but that is definitely going to be changing.

One of the big things on my Summer Bucket List is to get my home office cleaned up and in order so that I can actually used it as a home office. I tackled it last week and still have a little ways to go- but I made pretty good progress. And over the weekend, Greg and I went out and bought a cheap desk from Bed, Bath and Beyond to put it in there, so I can set a little private study area for myself.

I also registered for personal trainer certification study program this weekend!

After months of researching, talking to health club managers and other trainers and weighing the options that each different certification offers, I opted to go with NESTA. Even though I heard a lot of trainers say “go through NASM,” what I heard from every single club manager was “it doesn’t matter- just get certified.” NESTA’s training program and exam fees were a lot cheaper than NASM and ACE- and that was a big selling point for me. They are nationally accredited and accepted by every major health club- so I’m confident in my choice. I have 90 days to take the exam from the day that I registered (which was Saturday), but I’m hoping to have it by mid-September. Which means- I have to seriously hit the books. I’m really excited to get going with this new career and to see where it leads!

**

Another thing that I need to get back on track with is my eating. I’m going to elaborate more on this a little later in the week- but all of the traveling this summer certainly hasn’t helped with my weight-loss efforts. Sure, our vacations are super active and I still exercise every day when I travel- but I also eat more calories than I do at home- and for me, those do not cancel each other out. Now that we’re not traveling anywhere for a while, I have no excuse not to get back on track. Like I said- I’ll talk about that more soon- and also about a few new exciting fitness initiatives for the blog!

**

I have to share this amazing recipe. I’m slightly obsessed with it- and I don’t think I’m the only one (including the chef/creator herself!). Last week, Amanda posted a recipe for Cool Ranch Hummus on her blog, and I was immediately intrigued. I’ll confess- I definitely ate my share of Cool Ranch Doritos (or Doritos, period) in college, and although it’s probably been about 10 years since I’ve had any- I can still remember how they tasted. Amanda stated that this hummus tasted just like Cool Ranch Doritos- so I had to find out for myself. I immediately threw a bunch of dried chickpeas and water into a jar to let them hydrate overnight. The next morning, I boiled them and made the hummus in my food processor… and oh Mylanta…. it’s good. REALLY GOOD.

I only had dried herbs, and used sesame seeds instead of tahini and Vidalia onion instead of red… and it still tasted exactly like Cool Ranch Doritos.

GO MAKE IT NOW. You’re welcome.

**

I’m going to talk about how much I love iHerb again (and no- they do not bribe me to say that). I earned so many “rewards” through them last month, that I got over $100 in free products! Even better- shipping was free and my order got to my house two days after I placed it. Check out this loot!

FOR FREE, my friends. If you haven’t checked out iHerb’s website- be warned- you will get sucked in. They have so many good vitamins, supplements, grocery items, health & beauty and household products for really good products. Use the code QIR197 for $5 off your first order!

**

While looking through the freezer yesterday, I discovered the top tier of our wedding cake. I had completely forgotten about it! We were in Colorado on our anniversary, so obviously we didn’t get to eat it then. I took it out, cut a piece off to let it thaw, and we had it for dessert.

It was still good! The majority of our wedding cake was carrot cake (the best ever!), but this was vanilla with a chocolate hazelnut filling. The only problem now is, I’ve got about 12 slices of wedding cake that I’m trying to decide what to do with (eating all of them is not an option).

**

And one last thing. If you follow me on Instagram (@OatmealLauren) you’ve probably seen a million photos of my dogs- but I just have to share this one that I took on Saturday night. I had my flip flops sitting on the living room floor, and they each grabbed one to take upstairs for me when it was time for bed.

I love them. :)

Have a fantastic Monday!!

Colorado Recap Part IV [The Last Two Days]

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Happy Sunday! I hope I haven’t been boring you to death with all of my Colorado re-caps here, here and here… I’ve got just one more to do- and then it’s back to business as usual tomorrow.

Sunday was our last full day in Colorado, and we enjoyed sleeping in a little bit (you know, until like 7:30). When we did wake up, we decided to head back to Chautauqua for another hike.

We wanted to hike a trail that we hadn’t done in a while, and set out on the opposite side of the park than we had on Friday. We ended up gaining a lot of elevation really quickly, and the first 30 minutes were pretty much straight uphill and totally butt-kicking. I was really starting to feel the results of so much activity during our entire trip, and my body was tired. We ended up running into a woman that was hiking with her two Golden Retrievers (who were siblings!) and talked to her for a while- and it was nice to take a little rest break. After that, we decided to just take it easy for the rest of the hike, and tried out some lower trails that were new to us.

We got to see a different view of the Flat Irons too, which was pretty cool!

I posed on a rock

And hugged a tree

And never wanted to leave. :(

But we did, eventually.

For lunch, we hit up the salad bar at the massive Whole Foods on Pearl Street. I put together the most beautiful salad in existence – almost too pretty to eat!

Of course I ate it.

We had dinner plans with Greg’s best friend that lives near Boulder later in the evening, but decided to take the afternoon to stop by a few places nearby. The first stop was to Celestial Seasoning Tea Shop.

I always stock up when I go there- not on tea- but on personal care stuff! They sell all kinds of awesome brands (like Jason and Alba) for super cheap, and I take full advantage. I also love visiting the tea room to sample all of the different types of teas they are offering that day.

I sent a text to Heather and Kim letting them know that we were headed over to Left Hand Brewery to see if they wanted to meet up- and they did!

Kim is a regular at Left Hand, since she lives so close, but it was the first time visiting for the rest of us. I’ve had a few of their beers in the past, and have liked every one of them. They had a nice selection in the taproom!

For $1, you could get a sample of any beer (which I think was about 4 oz.). I knew that could get dangerous really quick. :) Greg and I chose a few to sample and shared them (and paced ourselves).

It was great to hang out with Heather and Kim again- two times in three days!

Kim had to get back home, but Heather and I (along with our husbands) decided to keep the party going and headed over to Oskar Blues, which was just a short drive away. Since Greg and I didn’t get to sample many of the beers in their taproom, we had wanted to go back.

Heather and I talked and laughed and had a great time while the boys bonded over stories of golfing and snowboarding. :)

I’m so jealous of Heather and Kirk (her husband). They moved out to Colorado recently and are loving it!

It was eventually time to part ways, and we headed back into Boulder to meet up with our friends for dinner at The Med. I don’t have any photos from it- but I can tell you that it was delicious! And by the time we finished dinner, we were ready for bed!

**

Monday was our last day in Colorado. We had packed up our stuff the night before, so that we wouldn’t have to worry about it the next morning. Our flight home wasn’t until 7:30 pm, so we pretty much had the whole day to spare! We decided to do an early hike, and allow enough time to get back to the hotel and shower up before checking out an noon. El Dorado Canyon was only about a 20 minute drive from where were staying, and Greg and I had really liked hiking there a few years ago.

Of course, we stopped for breakfast on the way:

A different Whole Foods with an oatmeal bar- and a made-to-order breakfast burrito station for Greg!

After fueling up, we set out towards El Dorado Springs, and made it there with enough time to do a two hour hike. We chose to hike the same trail that we had before, El Dorado Canyon Trail, since we had remembered liking it a lot the first time.

The trail was an out-and-back, which I have mixed feelings about (I tend to prefer a loop). It is nice to do an out-and-back when you’re somewhat limited on time, because on a trail like this, it takes about an hour and 15 minutes to go out and 45 minutes to go back (there is a lot of elevation gain on the first half of the trail).

We didn’t see a single person on our way out- it was so nice and quiet!

The scenery is really pretty, and you can even catch a train going by across the way every now and then. And these “blue” berries are everywhere (we saw them at Mt. Galbraith too)-

I’m assuming that they’re not actual wild blueberries, because we have those near us and they grow on tall bushes. They sure do look similar though! I wasn’t about to taste one to find out.

We got to a point where we had to turn around, snapped a few photos, and were on our way.

(I was running down to Greg to try to beat the self-timer!)

On our way down, I just tried to savor every single second and really soak it in. I was getting pretty sad about it being our last Colorado hike for awhile. I know that may be rolling your eyes at me whining about how much I love Colorado again- but I just can’t explain it. I feel a connection to so many places there (especially at Chautauqua) like I have never felt before. I really hope that my Colorado friends never take for granted the beauty that surrounds them!

Like most out-and-backs I’ve hiked on, the hike back to the trail head was a little steep downhill at times. When we were about ten minutes away from the trailhead, I did the inevitable- tripped and fell.

No big deal, just a little blood and another scar to add to the collection (and now I have matching ones on my right and left knee!).

Besides my graceful tumble at the end, the hike was wonderful- and the perfect way to wrap up an amazing week of outdoor adventure.

After our hike, we quickly went back to the hotel to shower, change and check out, and headed into Denver to meet up with Katie (and her daughter!!) for lunch.

Katie had suggested City ‘O City, which is a vegetarian restaurant downtown. Since I know that she has great taste in food, I was sure that the place would be great. The place had kind of a hipster vibe, but the decor was funky and industrial, and the staff was very friendly.

Katie was one of the masterminds behind the Blend retreat, and we had met for the first time last May. Since then, we’ve stayed in touch through our blogs, email and social media- and I’ve been glued to her Instagram feed to see the photos she posts of her daughter.

If you know me, you know that I  do not get all crazy and ga-ga over babies (dogs? that’s another story…), but I mean… LOOK AT HER.

She was petting my hair like I was a dog! :)

We had a fabulous lunch and conversation, and it was really great to learn things about Katie that I didn’t know. And oh yeah- the food was awesome too. I got a housemade veggie burger with an EGG on top.

I had to eat that sucker open-faced with a fork!

Baby A kept us entertained (and all of the tables nearby were captivated by her) by walking around, staring out the window

Eating her stroller

And just being too darn cute for words.

She is truly the happiest, most charming little lady I’ve ever met!

I didn’t want the lunch to end, but it eventually had to. We said our goodbyes

And off we went (and I got a nice “BYE BYE” from little miss charming!)

Katie’s going to start thinking that I will try to steal her baby if I post any more photos, so if you want more cuteness overload, check out this post here. Seriously, I die.

Since Greg and I had a few hours to kill before we went to the airport, we decided to walk a few blocks over to the 16th street pedestrian mall. We passed by some impressive government buildings on the way!

I won’t pretend to know what they all were…

Honestly, we weren’t that impressed with the pedestrian mall. We walked about 6 blocks down it, and it was a little… seedy. I have to say, I definitely prefer the hippies on the Pearl St. Mall in Boulder any day!

We got back to the car and killed the remaining time by driving up to Louisville- just because I had read about it being “America’s best community to live in” in Money magazine, and wanted to check it out. We walked around the downtown area a bit (which is very small and charming), got an ice cream cone, and headed towards the airport to come back home.

With all of the time zone changes, we eventually landed at 1 am, and got home a little before 3 (which was around the same time that we woke up to catch our flight to Denver the week before!). The next day sucked and we were both kind of useless- but of course, it was all totally worth it to spend an extra day in Colorado.

I hope I’ve kept your attention reading through all of these re-caps. Hopefully I’ll be back out there again SOON!

Do you return to the same destination year after year for vacation? Where do you go?

 

 

 

 

Colorado Recap Part III [Fitness + Friends]

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First things first- to the many of you that entered the Nutty Butter giveaway- please head on over to Sarah’s blog to find out who won! Thanks, Sarah for providing such an awesome prize! I know that the winner will be very happy. :)

So yeah, back to the Colorado re-caps. My last post ended talking about our visit to Oskar Blues Brewery. As I said, I was trying to be careful of my beer consumption that afternoon, since Greg and I had signed up to run a 5k in Denver in the evening. I ended up having 1 “taster” (4 oz.) and a can of Dale’s. One and a half beers may not sound like a lot, but that’s enough to definitely give me a good buzz. Greg had a little more than me, but he also has a higher tolerance.

We left the brewery and headed back to our hotel to change for the race. I don’t really know why I signed up for the 5k, but at the time it seemed like a really good idea. A friend had posted a link to the race on the a Colorado Bloggers Facebook page (which I am a member of- ha!) and everyone talked about running it together, which sounded like fun. I used to run races all the time- and have even placed 2nd and 3rd for my age division in two 5ks before (out of about 100 women in the same group each time!), but I’m just not a runner anymore. And running in high altitude is a totally different thing than running at sea level- it’s much harder. Let’s just say that I was not looking forward to running after a morning of hiking and an afternoon of beer drinking.

I tried to make the best of it, and had no intentions of running fast or setting any PRs, but knew that I’d be happy when it was over and I could say that I ran a race in Colorado. We got to City Park about 30 minutes before the race started up to meet up with some friends that were also running, including Lynne, Liz, Heidi, Heather and Kim (it was her first 5k ever!). Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures because I couldn’t carry anything with me.

The race started promptly at 6:30 and we were off. Right away, I felt icky. I started off at a pretty slow pace, and Greg was nice enough to stay by my side the whole time (we’ve run races together before, but never stay “together,” since he is much faster and I don’t want to hold him back). My heart rate was super high and I was just so not feeling it. I could also feel the beer rising up, and thought I was going to throw up. And then I got a major cramp all through my stomach and side. At that point… I had to stop and walk. Something I’ve never done in a race before! But, I didn’t care. So we walked, for about a minute. That actually really helped, and I told Greg I’d run the rest of it- but it would have to be at a slow pace. He stayed with me the entire time (which was really nice, because I know that he probably wanted to just sprint ahead) and talked me through it. And then, FINALLY, we crossed the finish line. My chip time was 30:05. My worst 5k race time ever, by far- even my first 5k was about 28:00, and almost 6 minutes slower than the last 5k I ran. But, you know what? I really don’t care! I finished it and can now say that I’ve run a race in high elevation.

After the race, a group of us headed over to Bull & Bush to meet up with some other blogger friends and grab dinner. I was totally classy and changed out of my sweaty tank top and into an awesome t-shirt that I got from the Oskar Blues Brewery earlier that day. And I was SO EXCITED to see my girl Tiffany!!

Do you know what my shirt says? Yeah… neither did I. “Fuh-CAN-eh”

Like I said… classy.

There was a massive group of us at the restaurant, but they were very nice to accomodate us. My friend Lena joined us for dinner, who I had met at Blend in May, and adore! And I finally got to meet Diana, who I missed at Blend in May since it was her anniversary weekend. She was every bit as adorable as I thought she would be!

(OMG I look creepy.)

There weren’t any stellar photos taken that night, because it was dark and I really didn’t care about putting in the effort- I was having such a good time with these girls!

The Colorado Bloggers

After dinner, Lena, Diana, Tiffany (and her boyfriend) and I (and Greg) headed over to Menchie’s for frozen yogurt. The girls RAVED about this place, and who am I to turn down fro-yo? Tiffany also has a big thing for their spoons… apparently they are the best ever.

We stayed out super late (like midnight- whoa!), just talking and laughing and I never wanted the night to end! Unfortunately we did have to eventually have to leave, since we were all going to bootcamp at Red Rocks the next morning!

**

Saturday morning started early – at 7:00 – with my alarm going off. Even though I was super tired, I was really excited to get up any moving. I had really been looking forward to Fitness On The Rocks ever since I signed up for it- and was excited to see my blogger friends again, and also to meet up with some for the first time! The event was FREE and consisted of several different group exercise classes including yoga, kickboxing, Zumba and bootcamp, and all took place at Red Rocks amphitheater. I had signed Greg up for the 8:30 am yoga and 10:00 am bootcamp sessions, but we had decided the night before that there was no way that we were making it to yoga (even though it would have been awesome). In order to make the 10:00 bootcamp, we still left the hotel a little before 8:00 in order to grab breakfast and allow enough time for parking and to meet up with friends beforehand. And boy am I glad we did- parking was a nightmare! I took forever to finally be directed to a lot where we could park- and then we had to walk about 20 minutes (uphill, baby!) to actually get into Red Rocks. And it was hot – right around 100˚ and sunny.

We walked around a little bit to see the different vendors, but decided that it would be better to do more exploring after the bootcamp.

We finally got in and met up with our other friends that had signed up for bootcamp- and I finally got to meet Corrie!!

I’ve read Corrie’s blog forever- and always love reading about the workouts that her and Kevin (her hubby) do together. She even brought him along!

I also got to meet Heather for the first time- another girl whose blog I love and have been reading for quite some time. I really admire Heather’s badass-ness and the fact that she has traveled the world and hiked everywhere.

The bootcamp started a little late, because I think that the organizers were just a bit off on the timing in general. It wouldn’t have been a big deal, but we were all already so HOT at this point, and I begun to wish that I had brought extra sunscreen with me…

The workout was AWESOME. There were several different trainers that each presented a workout- and they held nothing back! We did burpees, jump squats, push-ups, you name it… all on the benches and concrete.

I made a mental note to definitely bring gloves and a towel next time- the surface was a bit too hot to be doing push-ups on!

It thought that the workouts were well organized and the flow was good- very short breaks in between each trainer’s presentation. There were water stations nearby to fill up our bottles (which I filled up about 4 times in that hour!) and people also walked around with hoses that were attached to tanks of water to “mist” us off. THAT was nice.

I paid a lot of attention to how each trainer presented- and what I liked about them. It really got me pumped and excited to be a personal trainer, and made me think “Someday it could be ME on that stage leading a workout at Red Rocks….”

By the time we were done, we were COOKED!

I can’t tell you how much I love these girls. I absolutely LOVE having friends that get together to do fitness activities like this- and genuinely ENJOY working out.

It’s just so cool having friends to share my passion for exercise and being active- and something that I definitely wish I had more of in Maryland.

We walked around to see the different vendors after the workout- but honestly, I wasn’t that impressed. I heard that there would be a lot of cool freebies and expected to leave there with a bag full of schwag. There were a couple of good protein and recovery drinks, but not a whole lot other than that. The best vendor by far was the KIND TRUCK, which I bee-lined for! And who should be operating the KIND truck but my buddy, Dan!

I was so excited to meet Dan- he’s the rep for KIND that I have emailed back and forth for months, and is responsible for the monthly KIND giveaways on my blog each month!

After chatting with Dan for a bit, we trekked our way back to the car and slowly made our way out of Red Rocks. I had really wanted to hit up the Boulder Farmers’ market, which went until 2:00 (it was about noon when we left Red Rocks). We planned on walking around there and grabbing lunch, and made it with plenty of time!

Neither of us really knew what we wanted for lunch- but the locally made ice cream truck was looking really good. We decided to split a 1/4 lb. burger (which was gone in about 10 seconds) and each got a scoop of ice cream.

Perfect lunch, indeed.

We walked down to the river and stood under the bridge and people watched for a bit. I love, love, love Boulder. :)

We wanted to stay in Boulder for the rest of the day, but decided that it was probably a good idea to head back to the hotel and shower up first! When we got back, I looked in the mirror and saw the most hideous sunburn ever!

Apparently my sunscreen wore off pretty early that morning. Ouch!

We planned on having a pretty low-key evening and walked around Pearl Street for a bit, and then headed to Tossa for dinner. I was really craving some good thin-crust pizza, and this place had been highly reviewed on Yelp. We started with the Harvest Salad, which was full of all kinds of good things like figs, sunflower seeds and big, fat juicy tomatoes.

We split a small pizza- and kept it simple: the Margherita topped with roasted red peppers.

This pizza goes in the Top 5 pizzas of all time. It was SO GOOD. If you’re in Boulder, GO THERE NOW.

And of course, the night was finished off with another stop at Boulder Chill for my 64 calorie cup of ice cream (plus Cinnamon Toast crunch as a topping!)

It was such an awesome day- and I think we were passed out by 9 pm!

There’s ONE more re-cap left, and that’s it! (I promise!)

Do you like doing fitness related activities with friends?

 

 

Colorado Recap II [Bikes, Hikes + Breweries]

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The re-caps of Colorado continue! Click here to see where I left off. :)

What I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post is that Greg and I got a couples’ massage later in the afternoon after we hiked the 14er. We both get deep-tissue on a regular basis (every two weeks) because we know how important it is for muscle recovery- especially when you work out at the rate that we do. This was our first experience of couples massage though- just meaning that we were in the same room, side by side. The therapists asked both of us what type of massage we liked and we both said “Deeeeeeep tissue. Beat me up.” And man- these ladies didn’t mess around- it was hardcore deep tissue! But, we both knew how great it was for muscle recovery and were so exhausted from the hike that we both almost fell asleep (which is not easy to do when you’re getting deep tissue!)

Anyway- on to the next morning. We both woke up kind of sore (even though the massage did help a lot), especially in our calves! It was kind of weird- I’ve never had super sore calves from hiking before, but then again, I’ve never hiked for 8 hours up to 14,000+ feet. We decided to take a break from hiking and take it a little easy (he he) and planned to rent bikes in Breck and ride the bike path down to Frisco to rent kayaks. We got engaged while kayaking in Frisco (during a bike ride!), so we thought it would be a fun, timely thing to do. We had the bikes for about four hours, and figured that would be enough time to ride, kayak and grab a bite to eat in between.

The path to Frisco is about 10 miles from Breck, and it’s mostly downhill. However, there are a few steep hills, and I was definitely feeling them! By the time we got down to Frisco, I was already tired! We walked over to the kayak rental place and discovered that they were all booked up! I would have really liked to kayak, but honestly- I wasn’t that upset about it. This gave us more time to just walk around the town and relax and enjoy a leisurely lunch. We still walked down to the waterfront for a little bit- it was a beautiful day!

We got engaged right out there. :)

For lunch, we went to the best restaurant in Frisco- the Butterhorn Bakery. If you’ve been to Frisco, you know what I’m talking about. I ordered a 1/2 sandwich and salad combo, which was delicious.

I had to resist buying one of their delicious cookies that are the size of your head, but definitely snagged a few of the sample bites.

We walked around town a bit, and I went into my favorite store, Rivers Clothing Company, and got a steal on a PrAna shirt (YES!) and made a new friend :)

By 1:00, we figured that we better head back up to Breckenridge, since our bikes had to be back by 2:00. My quads were not looking forward to biking 10 miles back uphill, but had to put my game face on.

And really- the view is extraordinary along the bike path… just mountains, trees, and nature’s beauty. I definitely took mental snapshots the entire way and tried to live in moment for as long as I could!

When we were about halfway up the path, dark clouds started to roll in… and then it started to rain. This actually helped though- it made me pedal a lot faster, and it was kind of fun! By the time we got back to the bike shop, we were soaked!

It was raining pretty lightly by that point, so we decided to just walk around Breck any way and shop around (I was determined to buy a shirt that listed all of Colorado’s 14ers!). I did find my shirt- and was tempted to get this one too, because I just think it’s hilarious. :)

(I did buy that one in the background with the Colorado flag… I can’t help myself!)

While walking around Breck, we stopped into a little wine shop and did some tasting.

The labels were pretty hilarious (the one on the right reminds me of Magic Mike)!

I also made a new friend (hi, Crystal!) that happened to live in Virginia! She was there on a solo trip and just exploring the area with no real “set” plans- how awesome is that!? (We also immediately followed each other on Instagram… because we’re cool.)

Quite possibly the worst photo of me ever taken.

We headed back to our hotel a little later to shower up and get ready for dinner. We had decided that this would be our “fancy” dinner out, and researched a few menus in town. Our first, second and third choices were all booked up, and we ended up going with our fourth choice- Modis. It ended up being fantastic! As soon as I saw the corn pancake appetizer (with local goat cheese mousse and housemade jam) I was SOLD.

For my meal, I got halibut that was crusted with salt + vinegar chips. Normally, I am completely anti-breading on any type of seafood, but this was just a light crust on top and was phenomenal. 

We shared a dish of vanilla housemade ice cream (yes!) and called it a night.

**

On Thursday morning, I woke up bright and early and headed over to the hotel gym. It was actually pretty impressive!

On the other side were a few pieces of cardio equipment, including several spin bikes! My plan was to do a short workout, since we had a hike planned for later in the morning. I wanted to run through a few Bodypump tracks (to stay fresh!) and run a quick mile on the treadmill. We had signed up for a 5k in Denver the next day, and since I am not used to running in the altitude, I figured that it would be a good idea to run at 10,000 feet (that’s the elevation of our hotel!) so that running in Denver wouldn’t be as bad… good plan, right?

It actually wasn’t so bad! I felt pretty confident about my high-altitude-running abilities for the next day, even though I certainly wasn’t intending to break and records. :)

After my workout, we ate a quick breakfast, packed up our things, and said “bye” to Breckenridge. Even though I was really sad to leave Summit County, I was excited for the second half of our trip. We had a lot of great things planned over the next few days!

We stopped in Golden to hike at Mt. Galbraith. I had seen this trail many times on our way to hike at Golden Gate Canyon State Park in the past, and always thought it looked like fun.

The hike was great! It was pretty moderate, with a very gradual elevation gain, and a little over 4 miles. However, it was very hot, and the sun pretty much beat down on us the whole time! We were definitely noticing just how different the temperature is when you leave the mountains (it had been around 70˚ in Summit County, and was 100˚ in Golden!).

I want to live here:

This hike went up to about 7,000″ and it was funny how easy that seemed after hiking Grays and Torreys!

After our hike, we grabbed a quick lunch in downtown Golden, and since we were there, we decided to head over here:

Greg and I had done the Coors Tour a few years ago, and remembered that it was pretty cool (even though neither of us are big fans of Coors beer…)

Eh, it was okay. I guess it’s not a tour that you need to do more than once. And, it was PACKED. We did have someone take a photo of us in the tasting room though- in the same spot where we had one taken two years ago! :)

Two years ago:

We left Golden and headed to Broomfield to check into the Omni Interlocken resort… which was completely ridiculous. Seriously, check out their website and look at the photos. I’ve never stayed in a place like this before- it was definitely a resort! Greg got a great deal on Priceline and it ended up costing about $80/night. Everything about the hotel was awesome, but this was definitely my favorite thing:

I probably had 10 gallons of cucumber water while I was there. :)

After getting cleaned up, we decided to head into Boulder (which I can now conclude is definitely my favorite part of Colorado) to hit up Avery Brewery.

We’ve been to Avery 4 times, but had never eaten there. I remembered from visiting in May that their food menu was pretty impressive and that nothing cost over $10. I also remembered Heather and Laura raving over the sweet potato tots, so we had to order those.

Holy mama- the order was HUGE! If I had known that they would be enough to serve as entire meal for Greg and I, we wouldn’t have ordered entrees! I got a salad that came with hummus and chicken on a skewer and Greg ordered a sandwich.

Wow- the food at Avery is just as good as the beer! (It’s actually made by the catering company across the street.) I usually have no problem being a member of the clean-plate club, but this meal kicked my ass. I barely made a dent in it!

Plus… I had to save room for dessert.

I had remembered going to Boulder Chill before, and topped off the night with some soft-serve.

Normally, I’m all about having a little bit of the “real” thing, rather than some low-fat imitation… but this yogurt tastes just as good as any full-fat version. It’s sweetened with Xylitol and has 8 calories per ounce. So, an entire cup of yogurt is 64 calories. Works for me!

**

On Friday, we woke up bright and early and headed back into Boulder. First stop: breakfast at the Whole Foods on Baseline Drive! I discovered the oatmeal bar there when we were there in May, which is always the perfect fuel for hiking at Chautauqua!

Going back to Chatauqua was kind of emotional. The last time I saw this lawn, we were boot-camping on it for Blend!

I’ve always really loved this place, but feel and even stronger connection to it now. We decided to hike the Royal Arch trail, which was the same one that a group of 70+ of us hiked together back in May!

I remembered that the last time I hiked along this trail, I was talking to Callee pretty much the whole time on the way up. I miss her! Luckily, Greg was pretty good company. :)

We reached the arch (which is a pretty amazing natural rock formation, don’t you think?)

And were actually able to get some photos as the top this time, since it wasn’t quite as crowded :)

I definitely felt like I was on top of the world!

We made our way back down, got in the car, and made a short drive over to Aurora to eat lunch at the Oskar Blues Liquids and Solids restaurant. This place was AWESOME- I loved all of the beer decor!!

After lunch, we headed over to the Tasty Weasel/Oskar Blues Brewery (which is just down the street).

Greg had met up with one of the Oskar Blues reps at one of his beer club meetings, and he gave him the contact info of the Tasting Room manager, Garret, who we were told would take good care of us. And he did indeed! Garret gave us a private tour of the facility, which looks like an amazing place to work. We spotted several bikes (the owner, Dale, is an avid mountain biker)

and of course… lotsa beer everywhere.

They even have Skee-Ball!

Can I please work here??

The coolest part of the tour was when Garret grabbed two cans of Dales Pale Ale (my favorite OB beer) fresh off the line- right after it was filled (and before it had the top put on!)

Doesn’t get much fresher than that!

I wanted to taste all of the beers, but it was already 3:00 at that point… and we had signed up to run a 5k in Denver at 6:30. At this point, I already had 1.5 beers in me, and knew it wasn’t a good idea to have any more! So, we just loaded up on a few merchandise items, including this awesome bike jersey for Greg.

We left the brewery and headed back to the hotel to get ready for the race…. to be continued!!

**

Oh! Before I forget (again!): the winner of this month’s KIND Giveaway is:

Congrats, Tess!! Please email your name and address to oatmealafterspinning@gmail.com and I’ll let you know any other information I need!

Colorado Recap: Part I [Anniversary + 14ers]

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I’m back in Maryland.

Yeah… I’m not too thrilled about it.

You’ll have to forgive me- I definitely leave a big piece of my heart in Colorado every time I leave- and it gets harder and harder each time! I’ll try to keep my re-caps brief, but let’s face it- I’m probably going to ramble and post about 1,000 photos. :)

This is the fourth summer in a row that Greg and I spent a week in Colorado, and I don’t see that changing any time soon (unless of course, we’re living there!) This was actually my fifth trip to the land of sunshine and happiness, since I had also gone for the Blend retreat back in May. We purposely scheduled our trip during the middle of July, so that we would be there for our one year anniversary (in case you missed it, we also got engaged in Colorado two years ago).

It all started last Monday with the alarm going off at 3:15 am (!!). Our flight was at 6 am, and the airport is about 45 minutes away. We both tried to sleep on the plane- but that didn’t really happen (I can never sleep on planes!). After landing, we went to get our rental car. I mentioned to the guy at Enterprise that it was our anniversary, so he let us pick any car we wanted (except 4-wheel drive, which were way more expensive. I would have opted for something practical, like a Ford Taurus or Toyota Camry… but not Greg. He chose this:

Sure- it was a fun car, if you’re going to Napa – but not so practical for Colorado. I saw his eyes light up though, so I just bit my tongue.

We made a quick stop at my Aunt Carol’s house in Denver (she was flying back east the next day for vacation) and chatted with her a bit. We also hit up Whole Foods to stock up on a few things for the week. Our plan was to head out west towards Breckenridge and stop at Loveland Pass for a quick hike on the way. Even though we were both so tired, we figured it would be a good way to “break the ice” with the altitude. It’s also kind of become tradition for us to hike there on our first full day in Colorado. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, as storm was about to roll in (as you can see by the sky).

We decided not to push our luck and just drove right into Dillon to get some lunch at the Dillon Dam Brewery. We had been there once or twice before, and I remembered the food being decent and the beer tasting pretty good. But the best thing about it? The view…

Can you imagine seeing that view every day?! Sigh…

After sampling a few beers and grabbing a bite, we drove on up the road to Breckenridge. Greg got a great deal through Hotels.com at The Lodge & Spa at Breckenridge, which is where we planned to stay for the first three nights. I was really excited about it, because the description on the website was great- and I was not disappointed! Check out our room!

The view was just… breathtaking.

We spent the rest of the day taking it easy and took a little walk in downtown Breck and grabbed some dinner. Since we were doing our 14er hike the next morning, we got all of our stuff ready to go and called it an early night.

**
Tuesday was the big day- our one year anniversary! Greg and I had been talking about hiking a 14er for over two years- and figured that our first anniversary would be the perfect day to finally do it. In case you’re not familiar- a “14er” means a mountain that peaks at (at least) 14,000 feet above sea level. There are 53 14ers in Colorado, and they range from “easy” to “difficult.” Easy is really a relative term- because any 14er is quite difficult- some are just more challenging than others. We chose to hike Grays and Torreys, because you can actually summit both on the same hike, and they’re considered to be good 14ers to start with. Grays is 14,270 feet and Torreys is 14,267- so there’s only a three foot height difference between the two! They are connected by a saddle, which makes it easy to hike from one to the other (again- easy is a relative term!). Greg had done a lot of research, and I got some great advice from my friend Heather (who has a number of 14ers under her belt!), so we had a good idea of what to wear and what the bring. One thing we did make sure of is that we left early enough to allow adequate time for the hike. Strong storms tend to roll in during the early afternoon, and you do not want to be stuck at the top of the mountain during one of those (unless you want to get struck by lightning!).

We woke up early and got our stuff together and headed out to hit the trail by 6:00 am. We were both full of nerves and excitement as we drove through Summit County. The morning was beautiful and misty- and just really set the tone for an awesome day.

We had been warned that most cars couldn’t make it all the way to the trail head. The road was super rough, and you definitely had to have a 4WD vehicle (preferably a big Jeep!) to make it all the way to the parking lot. We ended up having to park about a mile and a half away, along with most of the other cars.

Where we parked was somwhere between 10,000-10,500″, and you could definitely feel the elevation! We had to walk up to 11,280 to get to the trailhead- and that alone was enough to kick your butt!

After what seemed like forever, we finally reached the trailhead. I was already exhausted- and our hike hadn’t even started yet! But, I was fully prepared to have my butt kicked, and this was only the beginning.

We set out on the trail, and I was really struggling. There wasn’t a ton of elevation gain in the beginning- but when you’re that high up (and used to living at sea level), even a gradual elevation gain can seem like a like. I tried to focus on my breathing and thinking about the fact that I was doing something pretty amazing, and that I was with my husband of one year. Greg was also really good at encouraging me and talking about how cool it would be when we got to the summit. I also focused on the beauty that was around me.

I finally got into my groove and started feeling a little more energized. It also helped when we finally we able to see Grays and Torreys up ahead!

As we hiked along, and didn’t see too many other people. This trail is typically super crowded on the weekends, but since it was a Tuesday, we didn’t have to deal with that. We eventually got to a point where we kept hearing a squeaking sound- almost like a bird crowing- but it was coming to the ground. When we looked over, we noticed tons of little pikas- which I have never seen before! I tried to get a picture of one, but they are so fast. Here’s one running away from me:

Around this point in the trail, we met a few people. Once we got this far and starting gaining more elevation, we had to stop pretty often to take very short rest breaks (even just a 10 second break helped a lot!). We kept moving along!

We met a triathlete from Wyoming and his young daughter (6 or 7ish?)- he had done this trail many times, but it was her first! They were both super fast!

There were so many times where it looked like we were getting so close to the summit, but I knew we still had so far to go. As we got closer to the top, every single footstep took more effort and we shuffled along.

And then all of the sudden- we made it to the summit!!

It took us about 3 1/2 hours or 4 hours to make it to the top of Grays from the time we left the car. We stayed at the summit for a few minutes and just soaked it in. Luckily, it wasn’t really windy at all!

Our plan was to hike across the saddle over to Torreys and then come back down to the saddle to eat lunch. There was a trail linked to the saddle that linked up with the Grays peak trail, so that we didn’t have to climb all the way back up to Grays again. The hike down Grays peak was super steep, but once we got to the saddle, it leveled out a bit.

And then there was the hike up to Torreys peak… whoa. Talk about steep- this was killer!

By this time we had been hiking for over 4 hours (all uphill) and it was going to take a lot more energy to get to the top (which I think was about a 700 foot climb).

I started to really struggle- but then I saw this coming towards me in the distance…

Some Goldie love was just what I needed!

Those 30 seconds right there gave me the momentum to get all the way to the top! And boy, was it worth it!

Greg signed our name on the sheet in the capsule

And we took a bunch of pictures.

Greg and I stood at the top and wished each other “Happy Anniversary” and were just in awe of the view. There’s nothing like standing at the very peak of a mountain with a 360˚ view for miles and miles.

We eventually hiked back down the mountain to the saddle and enjoyed our packed lunch- peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a Dale’s Pale Ale!

This was probably one of the best tasting meals I’ve ever had- seriously. And our lunchtime view… you can’t beat it!

Around noon, it was time to start making our way back down. Coming downhill was a little challenging at times, but we both really tried to take in every single moment, since we knew it would be awhile until we saw something so beautiful again. I think that we were both on such a high too- we just couldn’t stop laughing and smiling.

One thing that I noticed on the way down was the swelling of my hands (Greg’s too!). I had read about this same thing happening to Lynne- and sure enough- I had huge sausage fingers (the swelling came down a few hours later).

We eventually made it back down the trailhead and started walking towards the car. Luckily, about five minutes later, someone with a 4WD vehicle offered to drive us the rest of the way to our car. We happily agreed! All in all, it took about 7 1/2 – 8 hours total from the time we left our car until we returned to it. It was the coolest thing I have ever experienced- and the second most difficult hike I’ve ever done (the first is still the Grouse Grind!!).

We eventually made it back to the lodge and showered and rested for a bit. For dinner, we had decided to keep it low-key and just grab something at Breckenridge Brewery- which was where we ate right after we got engaged. As always, we had to start with a beer sampler.

The beer was good of course, but the food left a little to be desired. Neither of us complained though, because we were still on our 14er high!

I can’t think of a more perfect way to celebrate our one year anniversary, and will be thinking about that hike for a long time to come. Two 14ers down, 51 to go, right? ;)

Stay tuned for the next re-cap tomorrow!

How do you celebrate anniversaries or special occasions with your significant other?

 

 

Guest Post: Diary of a Semi-Health Nut [Running Addiction]

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Hey guys! I’m back in Maryland and I am exhausted. We got in at 3 am- after being on a plane that was about 95% boy scouts coming home from a 2 week-long camping retreat (let me tell you how wonderful the plane smelled…). I’m a bit useless today, but promise to be back tomorrow with a new post by me re-capping some of our Colorado adventures. I’ll also announce the winner of the latest KIND giveaway… and speaking of giveaways: have you entered to win some of Sarah’s delicious Nutty Butter yet?!
I hope you have enjoyed reading the guest posts from some truly wonderful women over the last week, and maybe you’ve even added a few more blogs to your reader! Well, I’ve got one more for you today. This one comes from Amanda- who is simply adorable and delightful. Enjoy!!
**
Hello Everyone!
My name is Amanda and I blog over at Diary of a Semi-Health Nut.
I share my newfound love of running, my obsession with baking cookies, and my two cents on living a well-rounded, semi-healthy life.

Lauren and I attended Blend Retreat (aka a life-changingly awesome blogging retreat) together this past May.  I’m jealous she got to go back to Colorado, but delighted she’s letting me take over her blog for a day while she sleeps, no doubt exhausted from all the fun she had.

Today’s topic is running.  
or

The Running Addiction

I have not always been a runner.  In fact, if you ask me if I’m a “runner,” I will probably get all weird and mutter something like, “sorta..er..well I run sometimes.”

I am pretty sure “the mile” run was dreaded every year for me all through high school.  Seriously, even when I was young and should have had plenty of energy to do it, I just barely made it every time!

For some reason, the girl who has no talent in running, decided to pick the sport up about a year-and-a-half ago.  I couldn’t tell you if it was boredom or a quarter-life crisis (I turned 25 in April..woot!), or reading running blogs, but I thought that I should try to run a half-marathon.

A half-marathon is 13.1 miles for those of you who don’t obsess over running things.  That is a lot of miles for someone like me, who just decides to run a half-marathon.

I found a race to run, got online and found a Hal Higdon training plan and decided I would start training and see how it went.

Well, I got kind of addicted to running.  

You see, it’s not that the running itself was always awesome.  Truth be told, sometimes I felt like I was going to die running.  My family would be talking at my funeral, “If only she hadn’t had the dumb idea to train for a half-marathon.  Who does that??”

I also found out that when I run hard, my face gets beet red.  And I look like I really am going to die at any second.

It wasn’t about how I felt the whole time running, but these little  moments.
The moment when I realized I could run a mile straight without walking.
The moment when I ran all the way up a hill without stopping with the best song ever on my ipod.
The moment when I realized I could run in the cold or the rain.  Weather would not keep me back!

The moment when I nearly keeled over after running 9 miles.  But I survived!

When I did my first (and only to this date) 10K race, which is about 6 miles, it was one of the best moments of my life.

You see it’s not just the running.  It’s the confidence I’ve gained in myself physically and mentally.  I felt like if I could run 6 miles, I could do anything.  Who WOULDN’T want that feeling??

I even got (get) excited about entering all of my miles into Daily Mile and/or my Training Plan that I arranged in a nice spreadsheet online. ;-)

I know, I know, I’ve become a running nerd.

Well, the first half-marathon I signed up for last summer, I hurt my back at work, so I had to sit it out (and was out of work awhile…no bueno).  The second one I signed up for this spring, I got a nasty cold from the twins I babysit.  I was a little depressed by that one.  I worked so hard!! *sigh*

But I’m trying again!  I know I can do this and I will keep trying until it happens. 

I want more of those  moments.
Because I may or may not have a little running addiction on my hands. :-)

*~Amanda aka Semi-Health Nut~*

Tell me, are you a runner?  Why or why not?

I’d love to connect with you!  Check out my Diary of a Semi-Health Nut blog, follow on Twitter, “like” on Facebook, or follow me on Pinterest!

Guest Post: The Smart Kitchen [Falling Backwards Into Business + Nutty Butter Giveaway!]

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Hey guys! I’m enjoying one last day in Colorado before I catch a flight tonight back into Baltimore. I can’t wait to share my photos and stories with you guys!

I’ve got a really awesome guest post lined up today from my friend Sarah, who is (you guessed it!) another Blend Retreat alum. I remember first really chatting with Sarah during out Saturday morning bootcamp workout- and I fell in love with her spunky personality right away! And then when I found out that she makes incredible nut butters, I loved her even more! We got to hang out a bit in Charlottesville a few weeks ago- and I’m hoping that she’s planning a road trip up to Maryland soon! ;)

Oh- and she’s doing a pretty sweet giveaway too…

**

As Lauren herself knows all too well, life has a funny way of working out sometimes.

I’ve written often—OK, maybe once or twice– on my blog about the way that our ‘life path’ often chooses us, and not the other way around, and all of that other “I’m going to get ‘deep’ here for a moment and then back to our regularly schedule Beet +Watermelon Salsa recipe” business that happens in the blog world now and again.

I truly believe that one event leads to another, whether it is an immediate repercussion, or a strange twist of fate that you didn’t see coming…until you look back a few months (or years) and find the foreshadowing portent* that brought you there.

*Why yes, I was an English major!

So, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the passion I expressed for homemade nut butter over two years ago

….and the creation I deemed Nutty Butter…

…would lead me to this:

Hello, my name is Ms. Smart,* and I am a small business owner.

*Not really. Just in case you were confused.

I’m a teacher by trade, and never imagined myself as a “business woman.” Business was for my friends in college who bought suits and made presentations and were wined and dined into jobs that paid a whole lot more than the elementary schools where I was looking to work.

But when the combination of social media chatter and eager-to-eat friends resulted in sudden demand for my homemade Nutty Butters…I found myself falling backwards into business.

Within a matter of days, I was meeting with a small business advisor, ‘building a brand,’ fielding offers for 40+ jars of various flavors, and securing commercial kitchen space so I could get an official license to sell food in the state of Virginia.

Suddenly, the things like jar size, lid color, and sample cups seemed to be of the utmost importance, and giant boxes of each were showing up on my doorstep.

I spent Friday (and Saturday) nights*—and some days, too—handwriting labels and taping them onto jars…

*I know. I’m a wild one.

…while checking (and rechecking) the color-coded spreadsheets  have created to try and keep track of who wants what—and where it is supposed to go.

I’ve also spent a LOT of time sampling test batches of ‘buttah.’*

*More difficult than it sounds. Trust me. [And my stomach.]

And the only thing I know for sure is that I know NOTHING about what I’m doing.

But I have passion for pea-and other-nut butter.

And a mind that keeps on creating new flavors.

So I keep falling backwards, blindly, down a Wonderland-like rabbit hole, hoping that when I land, it will be soft and Nutty Butter* smooth.

*Yes, I did I just turned that noun into an adjective.

[Is it cookie dough? Or Nutty Butter?]

I’ve always heard that when you are ices skating, skiing, snowboarding, or generally competing in a foot-binding athletic activity (also, apparently those involving snow and ice) if you are going to fall, it is best to fall forwards.

I don’t actually know the validity of this statement, seeing as how the grand total of times I have attempted any of the previously mentioned activities—and the rollerblading fad of the 90s–comes in at less than the number of fingers on my right hand (as opposed to my left, which was the victim of a food processor related accident*).

*I kid. I kid!

And sure, that makes sense. You are a better angle to catch yourself without breaking a wrist, and you can see the ground in front of you and all of that. But isn’t there also some joy in NOT being able to see ahead of you? And a little bit of a thrill in the risk of the fall?

Despite what the faceless ‘they’ say, lately I’ve been wondering…is falling backwards really so bad?

BUT WAIT!! There’s more…

Because one of the best things about making Nutty Butter is getting to share it with other nut butter lovers, I want to give some away!

Which flavor? Well, that will be up to me…it might be an old favorite, or it might be a sneak peak of one of the FOUR new types I’m working on. [Trust me, they are good. ;)] From Lauren: She’s right- they ARE all good!!

I won’t just be giving away ONE jar…but TWO. One for Lauren’s blog…and one for mine. ;)

That means you have the opportunity to win two different ‘mystery butters.’

How to enter?

First, leave a comment here telling me what existing flavor—Cookie Dough, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, Chai, Apple Pie, Cinnamon Coconut–you HOPE to win.

Second, leave a comment on my blog [The Smart Kitchen] telling me what flavor you think is the next to be revealed.

Oh, and tell your blends. ;)

Guest Post: Fit, Savvy & Haute [The Benefits Of Massage!]

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Hey guys! Hope you’re having a good weekend. Today’s guest post comes from another one of my BLEND ladies, Vanessa! Her post is all about something that I am a firm believer of doing regularly: massage. As you may (or may not) know, I get a deep-tissue massage every other week. Some people view massage as a luxury, but it’s definitely essential in my life for muscle recovery. I’m also lucky to have found an amazing massage therapist that I’ve been seeing for years- who happens to give me a great deal on the price. :)

Take it away, Vanessa!

**

Thanks, Lauren for the opportunity to write a guest blog. I’m Vanessa Yanez, a fledgling blogger with two kids who changed the way I thought about food starting with joining Weight Watchers three years ago. Since then I’ve broadened my love for fitness, travel and adventure too.

Adventures: it started with exercise in 2009 when I started taking hip hop dance class again after a decade hiatus. I took a ton of classes growing up and loved it. I do something every day, but I found that running, biking, the gym and their classes can all get boring. I tell my girls who are four and six years old that variety is the spice of life. It’s a mantra in our house. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

So over the last year, I’ve been exploring Yelp. I make recommendations for my day job and respect those that are educated and informed. Of course I would apply that to my research for massage, right? It’s pretty cool these days, you can find Swedish, Thai, Swedish/Thai, Chinese, Hot Rocks from Indian Springs in Calistoga, CA to my city in Northern California.

I’ve found inconsistency in quality and high prices, but when you exercise a lot or worse, get injured and you find yourself taking pain killers, the research and trials are worth it. Massage is an excellent drug-free alternative.

Extreme example: My husband and I ran a race in March of this year in Long Beach, CA. About a third of the way in he got a charley horse (muscle spasm). He finished the race but immediately afterward we Yelped best massage. We found Chiro Spa, less than a mile from us with excellent reviews.

Since then I’ve learned a massage post-race is actually is NOT what you are supposed to do. Ideally, like this recommendation, it’s three to five days before and also again three to five days after a race.

Live and learn.

That said, massage, especially Thai massage, is the right thing to do if you are an exercise adventurer. Note: This is not your regular spa massage. Most reviews on Thai start like this “Ow, ow, ow, OW!”

Check out what this reviewer said after having the ‘not so hard massage’:

“My masseuse started of course by walking on my legs and back. I will forever be amazed at how strong these tiny Thai women are! Do they do hand strengthening exercises by breaking walnuts open with their bare hands? After walking on me, my masseuse brought out the oil and started breaking up all the knots on my back.  It hurt like hell, but there was no way I was going to tell her that. I am just too damn macho for that… :)”

The massage ended with the stretching. I felt all the spine cracking noises I have come to love.  Whenever a masseuse cracks my back, I love it. But if I crack one knuckle accidentally at home, I think I’m going to get arthritis. Go figure…

This is not a massage for the faint of heart, but if you want to feel better, it will work.

How do I know?

Two weeks ago when on vacation, I fell off my bike while at a stop light. (Stop laughing.) From Lauren: I’m not laughing- I’ve done that, too (if front of a bunch of people!). My shoulder was (and is) sore and I kept working out like normal, bruises and all. Last week, I went to my local Thai massage salon, went through the pain. I hated the next day, I’m not going to lie, but while I have a little soreness, it’s 1000 times better.

The lesson: Don’t think you need to wait until you ‘deserve’ a massage. If you work out, it’s a necessity, especially when you find yourself popping ibuprofen . Happy adventures!

Guest Post: Talk Less Say More [5 Life Essentials]

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Howdy! I’m having a blast in Colorado- I can’t believe that it’s already the weekend! I’m definitely trying to cherish the last few days in Colorado. I hope you’re been enjoying the last few guests posts- there’s still a few more to come!

Today’s post comes from the lovely and talented Katie. We met at the Blend retreat- and I just love this girl! And I bet that after you learn a little more about her, you will too!

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Hi Everyone! My name is Katie and I blog over at Talk Less, Say More.

I’m so excited to be guest posting for Lauren today. I got to meet her at the BLEND Retreat in May and spent the second half of our hike talking with her, her husband and Janetha. It was so fun!

I thought it would be fun to share a few of my Life Essentials with you today, so here they are:

1. Just Breathe

As simple as this may seem, learning to breathe has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. It’s so easy to allow the little annoying things in life to get to you, but learning to breathe through them is the greatest way to not allow them to bring your whole day down.

If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you’ve experienced this first hand. You’ve probably experienced first hand anyway, but in yoga they often tell you to just breathe when you no longer want to hold that pose and when your body is telling you it’s had enough.

2. Eating Real and Healthy Foods

What we put in our bodies is absolutely essential! I have been lactose intolerant my whole life and there was a time a couple years ago where I was unable to eat anything – literally putting food in my body was causing me severe stomach pain and sickness. I saw a doctor who tested me for Celiac disease or a gluten allergy but ultimately told me I didn’t know how to deal with my stress.

I didn’t believe him. I knew there was something more to what was going on and so I sought out a Nutritionist who helped me make sure I was eating a balanced diet. Through that, I also started reading healthy living blogs and decided to start eating more real and less processed foods. My body feels so much better!

3. All Things In Moderation

I have a sweet tooth; there’s no denying it. And it’s super easy to overdo it on sweets (or salty foods if that’s your thing). But I also know denying myself some of my favorite junk foods, like cookies, ice cream or frozen yogurt, means that I will eventually overindulge and feel awful. When I allow myself these things on occasion, I am better able to eat appropriate amounts and actually enjoy the foods!

(This doesn’t include coffee – I need lots of it! ;) )

4. Find your escape

For some that may be cooking, cleaning, writing, music, exercise, or yoga (or maybe even something else). For me it’s exercise and writing. I started my blog in January 2011 as a way to document my journey of growing up, but what I didn’t expect was the release I would find when I sat down in front of my computer to just write. I found I could completely lose myself in the words and just go into my own world.

The same thing happens when I workout. I started running a few years ago when I was still living in New Jersey after a friend suggested running as a way to build up my lungs and reduce the trouble I was having with asthma. When I found that it wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be, that I was having fun, and that it made me feel good (physically and mentally), it was a breakthrough!

I can always tell when I haven’t given myself as much time as I need to because my anxiety and stress are through the roof but as soon as I give myself a little time to just escape, I already start to feel better.

5. Make time for fun!

This is really an important one and one that I think we often forget when we get in the daily grind, but it might also be one of the most important. I was on vacation last week and as I sat staring into a fountain, I realized I was allowing life to pass me by and wasn’t giving myself enough PLAY time.

Life is short so we need to make sure we make time for ourselves to enjoy it and do something new – like Hydrobiking!

What are your life essentials?