Archive | April, 2013

First day of hiking and Larabar Review

28 Apr

Anyone who lives in the northeast knows that the weather this weekend was a long time coming and well deserved!!! Seriously-it was snowing last week! I’ve been getting pretty depressed about seeing everyone out running and biking, knowing that I can’t, however yesterday Austin and I went to the nearby state park and at least got a hike in.

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It started out okay and then turned into a tiring climb up a sheer cliff. At the top you could see the lake through the trees but the pictures didn’t do it justice.

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Fun day! I thought it would be appropriate to do my Larabar review on a post about hiking because they would be the perfect fuel if you needed some energy to push through on a hike!

I was so excited when Larabar sent me these goodies to review!! I had heard about them obviously from blogs but could never find them in stores.  For those of you that don’t know Larabar is one of the only bars with absolutely no artificial ingredients AND no added sugar. That makes them Paleo and Whole 30 approved! I liked them because it is so hard to find a bar without any added sugar that is completely natural.

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They sent me: chocolate peanut butter, chocolate chip cookie dough, peanut butter and jelly and carrot cake. I had most of them as an after lunch snack or in the afternoon to tide me over until dinner.

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The verdict: I had really high hopes for the peanut butter and jelly but my absolutely favorite was the carrot cake (not pictured). It had a great taste, chunks of walnuts and almonds. The chocolate chip cookie dough and peanut butter and jelly just tasted a little more artificial. (Even though it wasn’t)

The downside, I thought, to Larabars is that there really wasn’t that much protein in them to have them be considered a ‘protein bar’  and tide me over as a full snack. However, upon visiting Larabar’s website today they came out with a new product, called ALT, which is the first bar with added protein!!! I’d love to try those too! Larabars for me are good for a treat, but I don’t know if I would add them into my diet on the regular (because I would easily become addicted. And large lol).

Hope everyone is having a great Sunday! What is YOUR favorite flavor of Larabar??? Let me know so I can try out more!

Birthday dinner + the deal with doctors

21 Apr

This weekend has been a little weird because Thursday was my birthday, I took Friday off for a procedure, I’ve been sick, and it’s the middle of April and snowing.

Summer/my wedding can’t come soon enough.

Thursday  Austin and I had probably the best dinner we’ve had to far in our small town, at a place called Ho-Sta-Geh (no idea how to pronounce it, don’t worry), which is situated on top of a mountain overlooking the ‘city’.

It had beautiful views!!!

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We started with a nice bottle of wine (!!)


And the crab cakes appetizer, I forgot to take a picture of (bad blogger).


Then came my salad.


I also ordered an appetizer as my meal, since I was nearly stuffed by the time it came and none of the meals really appealed to me. It was a caramelized onion and gorgonzola steak flatbread pizza. The steak was literally falling apart in my mouth.


Austin ordered some sort of fancy ravioli with chicken. I don’t know why they were green and orange but it was kind of cool!



Overall it was an amazing dinner and birthday ! XOXO


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As mentioned, I took Friday off from work (no I was not up late partying for my birthday) because I was going to Buffalo to get a procedure to help my ongoing issues with back pain and SI joint dysfunction. I talked about it WAAAAYYYYY back in December in this post, and yes I’m still dealing with it!


The cycle since December has done a little like this:

1. In pain and can’t do exercise.

2. Rest to see if helps- it doesn’t.

3. See doctor. Do prescribed PT program. for a couple of weeks.

4. Helps a little. I start exercising again.

5. Back to pain.

6. See different doctor. Do prescribed PT program for a couple of weeks.

7. Helps a little. I start exercising again.

8. Back to pain.


I’ve gone through this cycle for the past FOUR months and have seen 4 different doctors.  I have not gotten any long standing relief. Friday I had an injection in my SI joint but I’m scared that’s just really masking the problem and not fixing it. I am starting to think that there’s really just not a doctor down here in my area that can help me. Top notch doctors in this field are not flocking to rural remote areas of WNY. I cannot run, bike, or do other activities I enjoy doing because of this injury. I know that it could be worse…I could have  some terminal illness so I shouldn’t complain. However when this happened in December I had no idea that it would carry on this long. Part of the cycle is also where I get frustrated and give my SI joint the big “F U” and go on a run or bike ride or do some intense exercise anyways, because I’m sick of resting and just want to feel good again, which obviously isn’t good for it. But if I’m going to be in physical pain I feel like “What the hell, I might as well be mentally happy”. To top is off I’m trying to manage this anxiety that I’m going to gain weight and not fit in my wedding dress. (I haven’t yet, so this anxiety is completely unfounded, but it’s taking a toll mentally).


I just don’t understand why most doctors don’t really care about what is actually wrong with you. They just want to give you pills to mask the problem and send you on your way. Is it really that much to ask to have a knowledgeable doctor that really wants to help you? As a teacher I know there are good teachers and bad teachers, but I encounter far more of the former. I honestly can’t believe I’ve seen 4+ medical professionals about this problem and absolutely no one can figure out what to do. It’s frustrating physically and mentally because I want to get back to the things I love doing. I’m starting to think I will live with this for the rest of my life and just deal with it and work around it like I’ve been doing for the past four months. The only other option is SI joint surgery and I really don’t want to do that.

Sorry this post sounds a little ‘woe is me’. It’s not the end of the world, just something that frustrates me. Like I said, it could be worse. I’ll just try to keep my head up and ‘deal with it’.

What is your experience with doctors? What do you think makes a good one?

Egg-less chocolate protein mug cake

17 Apr


I feel like I haven’t had any time to write this week! It’s been an emotional and trying week- from the sadness of the bombings in Boston to the hectic and stressful school days filled with NYS testing.

I hope the rest of the week will be looking up- tomorrow is MY BIRTHDAY….and I have a three day weekend! I wanted to share something I whipped up the past couple of night for my late night snack.

There are A TON of chocolate protein mug cake recipes on the web- I know because I searched it- yet most of them contain egg. I spent a good chunk of time trying to search for one that didn’t have egg in it. I don’t know about anyone else, but I spend $4 a carton on high quality, organic cage free eggs and I really didn’t feel like wasting a couple of eggs for “1/4 cup egg white” that most of the recipes called for. After searching for some time I just decided to wing it. I made it two nights in a row and it was yummy both nights!

Egg-less chocolate protein mug cake

1/2 a banana, mashed

1/2 of a scoop of chocolate protein powder

1 tbsp coconut flour

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp milk

1 tbsp water (as needed)

1 packet of stevia

Optional add ins: chocolate chips, strawberries, unsweetened coconut, chocolate syrup…the list goes on.

I mashed up the banana really well in a bowl, and then added all the dry ingredients. I mixed it really well, then added the milk and water as needed. I threw in a couple of chocolate chips and put it into a coffee mug spayed with non-stick sprayed.

Mine cooked in about two minutes. My microwave’s pretty weak though. Try doing it for a minute first and cook as needed. Then top with more goodies.

Egg- less chocolate protein mug cake



Other highlights of my week:

Banana soft serve with yummy toppings

Banana soft serve

And a special delivery from Larabar!!! I’m so excited to try these….Review to come…

Larabar delivery


For awhile when I was doing Whole 30 I cut out my late night snack, but I always found myself looking forward to it, so I decided to add it back in. I don’t know why but when I get in my head that I am going to have a snack it gives me something to look forward to. I don’t know what makes it so different than having something right after dinner. I think I need to learn more about eating when I am actually hungry, and not just a habit. Oh well, I will keep trying and eventually learn.

Do you eat a snack after dinner?

Nut Butter Crazy!!

13 Apr

I jumped on the nut butter band wagon after starting to read blogs about a year ago. I’m not a huge fan of the original almond butter, my favorite is probably homemade sun butter. If you haven’t tried it…you’re crazy!

Fancy nut butters also tend to be pretty pricey! That’s why I was super excited when Artisana sent me some free goodies to try! I’ve seen their stuff around the blog world but could never find it in stores so I was dying to try it.

The first one I tried was the Pecan Butter. The great thing about Artisana is everything is all natural, raw and organic. There isn’t any added sugar in the pecan nut butter and many of their other raw organic nut butters. For me this is a plus because most of the almond butter and even sun butter you see in stores even if it is organic has added “evaporated cane sugar” or some other sugar in disguise. The pecan butter was a winner! So decadent and sweet all by itself.

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They also sent me 5 of the their new nut butter ‘super foods’. These were quite interesting. It’s basically cashew butter mixed with a little something extra in the form of nutrients, antioxidants and vitamins.

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They were cool to try but some had a weird taste- especially the blue algae and marine phytoplankton!  I could handle the goji berry and milk thistle as well as the berry antioxidant.

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I went ahead and purchased one of their products, the walnut and cashew butter. O.M.G. This is so simply deliciously good. It has a rich, walnut taste and crunchy texture. Perfect for dipping veggies or on toast in the morning. Or eaten straight out of the jar using a finger as utensil. That’s cool too.

Nut Butter

Just watch your serving sizes on this deliciousness because it has 200 cals per 2 tbsp. Similar to any nut butter. Although a tablespoon with veggies has some staying power.

Walnut Butter

Head on over to the Artisana webpage if you want to check out more of their goodies. Definitely high quality products without nasty additives!

I still want to try their coconut butter!

What nut butter products do you love?

Engagement Anniversary Dinner: Shrimp ‘n Grits

12 Apr

Happy Friday! Today is April 12th which means Austin and I have been engaged for a year. It flew by but it has also been dragging. I can’t wait for our day to get here already!!!

We got engaged while we were vacationing in Charleston, South Carolina last year.


This was right before it happened. I was unsuspecting!

The tastiest meal I had while down there HAD to be the famous Hominy Grill’s Shrimp ‘n Grits.


Sooooo good.

That was my first time ever eating grits and ever since then we’ve been hooked! Shrimp ‘n grits is a regular on our weeknight menu since it is quick and delicious. Of course I’ve doctored the recipe with some healthy substitutions! Tonight I decided to commemorate our engagement making this meal. Needless to say mine is no Hominy Grill’s…..but if you’ve never had it your should try it!

Shrimp ‘N Grits (Two Ways)

4-5 strips  bacon

1/2 bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeño, minced

1 medium onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

3/4 cup chicken broth

2 tbsp tomato paste

Spices: 1/4 teaspoon of each salt, pepper, garlic salt, curry powder

1/2 tbsp Siracha

3/4 lb uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined


I use Quaker Quick Grits- mixed with 1 tbsp butter and some cheese!

OR for a healthier version, use rutabaga or celery root puree in place of the grits:

Blend in a processor: 1 cup cooked rutabaga or celery root, 2 tbsp coconut milk, 1/4 cup chicken broth, 2 garlic cloves, salt and pepper.

1. Cook your bacon in a large skillet and set aside, keeping the fat in the pan. If you using the healthy version, start boiling your rutabaga or celery root here.

2. Sauté the green pepper, onion and garlic in the bacon fat until soft.

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3. At this point, you should start your grits if you’re using real grits.

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3. Drop your shrimp in the pan and cook until they start turning pink. Add salt and pepper and other spices.

4. Add your tomato paste, siracha and chicken broth to the pan and stir to mix. The ‘sauce’ should be thick.

5. If you’re using real grits, mix in your cheese and butter here. If you’re using the healthy version, puree your cooked rutabaga or celery root with garlic, coconut milk, chicken broth and salt and pepper.

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Real ‘cheese grits’

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Fake ‘rutabaga’ grits- still yummy!

6. Top your grits with the shrimp mixture, then crumble bacon on top. Enjoy this southern favorite!

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Austin would not let me get a picture of his grits plate but it sure looked delicious! You should definitely try this meal! Yum!

What are your favorite southern foods? If you’re from the south please share recipes!!!

How to change your mindset and become happier

8 Apr

Book Review: Psycho-Cybernetics




The title sounds weird- but this book was borderline life changing. It was also published in 1960, so there’s no new information here. The book is written by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a former plastic surgeon, and covers revelations and brain based researched strategies about mindset, achieving goals and de-stressing your life.

I tend to be (I like to say “used to be!”) a worry-wart and a negative nancy so this book had some great advice. If you find  yourself miserable, stressed out and not happy with your current state of life you should definitely get this book.

I could go on and on forever about the revelations in this book, but I wanted to share the main ideas I got from it.

1. It doesn’t matter what actually happens.

The first part of the book explains Dr. Maltz’s plastic surgery background and how he noticed that after he changed people’s faces, their self perception changed, therefore they started acting differently and becoming happier. He started to wonder if he could change people’s self perception without even doing actual surgery.

It’s kind of interesting if you think about it, but what happens or the truth of what is actually happening does not matter so much as what your reaction to what is happening matters. Confused yet?

The book used the example of a hiker walking down a trail. He *thinks* he sees a bear so his nervous system reacts. His heart starts beating, he starts sweating and becomes afraid. Your body reacts to what it *thinks* is happening whether or not it is actually happening. If the *bear* actually was a dog, his body would have the same reaction.

“You act, feel, not according to what things are really like, but according to the image your mind holds about what they are like” (pg 34).

You can use this tool in order to become happier. If you lose your job, naturally you will become upset about it. But your life and emotions aren’t affected by the fact that you lost your job, they’re affected by how you react to it. If you choose to feel sorry for yourself and wallow in self pity you will be miserable. If you change your reaction (use it as a chance to try something you’ve always wanted to do, or work at your goals harder), you will change how you feel about it.

The same scenario/mindset can be used for virtually any mundane “problem” or thing that stresses us out on a regular basis, and even large stressors like job loss.

2. Imagine yourself successful



You have probably heard that positive thinking will help you achieve goals. This is only partly true, according to Dr. Maltz. It takes more than just positive thinking to achieve your goals. You can’t sit on the couch eating ho-hos and think “I want to be thin” and have it happen.

Dr. Maltz explains that every human has a built in “success mechanism”. Our brains are hard-wired to achieve goals and we just need to steer them in the right direction. If you picture yourself successful, or achieving the goal you want to achieve, and know all the possible steps that need to happen, your brain will automatically adjust and keep you working towards that goal.

The keyword is working. To achieve your goals you must know the actual steps needed to be taken and be actively working towards them every day. Once you are actively working towards your goals consciously, you will ultimately be successful.

3. Don’t compare yourself to others



Many of us don’t take steps to achieve our goals because of fear of failure. Maybe we see a professional blogger and say “I could never be as good as them because of X, Y and Z.”  One thing I’ve learned is to not worry about anyone else when working towards my goals. For instance, I don’t like factors like other blogs or setbacks stop me from achieving my goal of having a bigger blog.

“..because we think, feel and assume we should measure up to some other person’s norm, we feel miserable and second-rate and conclude that there is something wrong with us” (pg. 56).

Fear of not being as good as other people may hold us back from taking steps to achieve our goals. It doesn’t matter what anyone else does because you are you. You are unique, and there’s no reason why you should ever compare yourself to anyone else or try to do things exactly like someone else.

This can also apply to us comparing our food choices with that of other bloggers. You are unique, therefore there is absolutely no reason why you should be comparing what YOU eat to someone else’s plate then feeling guilty/inadequate/not good enough.


My Happy Place


I could go on and on!!! One more quick thing the book talks about is how to use relaxation to lower stress during the day. Maltz recommends picking a “happy place” – maybe a place you’ve been on vacation (I imagine being on my honeymoon), or a special getaway or secluded place that makes you feel happy and comfortable. Maltz recommends trying practice relaxation and meditation for 30 minutes every day (eek, hard to fit in) and then during your day when you’re feeling stressed- simply relax and go to your ‘happy place’. This sounds really corny and stupid but it works!! This is actually proven to work as a natural ‘tranquilizer’ and de-stressor.

What mindset tricks do you use to become a happier/healthier person?

Peanut Butter and Jelly Protein Oats

7 Apr

We’ve finally been experiencing weather here in NY that doesn’t warrant having oats for breakfast, but since I came back from my spring break and had NOTHING in the house, this was what I’ve had for two mornings in a row. I felt the need to share because of my love for all peanut butter and jelly flavored items.

Just wanted to give a quick shout out to Syracuse basketball. Heartbreaking loss last night. I don’t usually get upset about sports, usually I could care less and I make fun of Austin for getting emotionally involved in sports. But this one stung this morning. We had a good run though!

Back to the food. I haven’t had oats for breakfast in awhile as a result of cutting a lot of grains out of my diet. But like I said, this was all we had so I went with it.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Protein Oats

PB J Oats

1/2 cup quick cooking oats

1/2 scoop of vanilla protein powder (I use designer whey)

2 tbsp PB 2 (or peanut butter) + 1 tbsp water to make creamy

1 tbsp your choice flavored jam

1 cup of water

peanuts for topping

**Add 1-2 packets of stevia or sweetener of choice if needed

1. Microwave the water and oats for 90 seconds.

2. Stir in protein powder and microwave for another minute. *Stir in sweetener here if adding.

3. Stir everything up and add your PB2, jelly, and peanuts.

4. Yum!!!


Peanut Butter and Jelly Protein Oats

Nice little Sunday morning. You’d think it was still winter. Oh wait….I wouldn’t hold my breath that we won’t see snow again.

How’s the weather where you are? Still winter or spring?

AIS Reading Progress Charts

6 Apr

I’ve been on vacation this week, so it’s kind of a bummer to start thinking about school again, but I’ve had this post in mind since I wrote about my AIS writing charts. We’ll be getting ready for the New York State ELA exams upon return to school (fun fun) so I’ve developed a new strategy in AIS reading to help students practice non- fiction reading skills.

On the chart along the bottom are the numbers 1-8, which correspond to 8 non fiction reading skills of the common core.

I gave students a cheat sheet with  matching sentence starters for each common core reading skill.

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Students have all picked out a self chosen non-fiction book. As they read, they comment on the book using the sentence starters. They write the comments (we call them sticky note comments) in their notebook in a ‘double entry diary’ format.  Every time a student performs that skill, they mark off on the numbered chart. My goal is for them to have check marks across the board before moving to fiction.

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I also keep a running record (a la Nancy Atwell) of each student and what book he or she is reading, as well as the progress made in the book to make sure they’re actually doing something during silent reading time.

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Some days, I’ll work with a small group of students from my class on a particular skill, doing guided reading. AIS can be a pain in the butt, but I believe the system I’ve developed has been working well, and I plan on doing it next year too.

Wedding Post: Reception Site

1 Apr

We picked our reception site almost a year ago…..right after we got engaged! Surprisingly even though we were 14 months out after getting engaged to when we wanted to get married we secured the last available weekend at our venue for the 2013 season. I looked at a couple of different venues but nothing had the feel and atmosphere of the place we ultimately decided going with. Neither of us are super religious so I knew that getting married in a church wasn’t a requirement. I originally wanted a rustic/barn sort of feel but there wasn’t a venue in my area that offered that. The second best thing was a romantic, outdoor venue and we found just that in the one we ended up going with. The ceremony and reception are at the same site!

Saturday, Austin and I met with the owner to nail down some more details and it ended up being a beautiful day to visit the place where we’ll get married in EXACTLY four months!!IMG_2250

As mentioned before  we’re getting married in Oswego, NY, where I attended college. It’s on Lake Ontario. There’s really not much more to say about it other than to gawk at the pictures of how amazing it is.


Gondola and walk down the aisle. Hopefully the day we get married in August will be just as sunny and about 40 degrees warmer than it was that day.


Lake Ontario Beauty


Great spot for pictures

Here’s a picture of the banquet hall. Just your general banquet hall look but it’s huge!



And…..possibly the thing that sold me on booking this venue was the awesome bridal suite that I have to get ready.



This bridal suite also has a bathroom, extra room and a full bar and kitchen.

Holy Crap! Can’t wait….just four *short* months. It feels like I’ve been waiting a lifetime! We’ve been engaged since April 12th, 2012. Just get here already!!!!!

If you’re getting married in Central New York I highly recommend Bayshore Grove in Oswego. Everyone we’ve worked with there so far is awesome.


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