Friday, May 22, 2015

5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Personal Trainer

No comments:

There are a lot of personal trainers out there. You do not need to settle with the first one you meet. Each personal trainer has a niche and specialty. Do your research, ask tons of questions, and listen to your gut when it comes to who feels right.

Here’s a list of questions to ask yourself before choosing a personal trainer:

- Why do you want a personal trainer?
- What are you wanting to achieve?
- Do you need someone that is modeling what you want to create?
- Are you looking for accountability?
- What support do you need from your personal trainer?

When you work with a personal trainer you are not only exposing your vulnerability to them, you are asking for help. It is okay if you decide someone it not the right fit for you. This is your journey, your life. 

When you choose the right personal trainer, you have chosen someone that will believe in you during times when you do not believe in yourself. Your trainer has belief and can visualize you reaching all your goals before you realize that you are.

This video by Diamond Dallas Page explains why I am a personal trainer:

There are some questionable trainers out there, just like in any field, so pick the personal trainer that gives you that gut feeling that they are the right fit for you.

 In good health, 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Awesome Life Friday #20 (Link Up)

It's Awesome Life Friday time!  We can't wait to have you join the party and share your blog posts with us! Before we share a few Featured Posts from last week's party, here's a look at what we've been up to this week:

Michael introduces us to Minnesota Singer/Songwriter Peter Mayer and his latest album, Third Street.

Ashley brings us a review of Snapdolls - fabric paper dolls with changeable outfits that can be attached to a t-shirt or bag - and we've got a great giveaway of a SnapDoll messenger bag with a doll and 3 outfits!

Amber pulls together a blend of veggies with Bacon, garlic and Parmesan Cheese for a side dish that's sure to please.

Bree went all out sharing with us her experiences with Garlic Gold products and offers two great recipes!  We're giving away a Garlic Gold Gift Box, so don't forget to enter!

Lynda is beginning a new journey toward a better relationship with her body, following the Mind-Body-Spirit centered guidance of Personal Trainer Vanessa Hartman.  This is the beginning of a series that will continue into September.

Seeing what you've been up to also makes our week awesome!  Here are a few that really inspired us - if you've been featured, you're welcome to grab a button! 

I hope you'll go check these out, along with a few entries from this week's link up!

Here we go!

Review: Peter Mayer's Third Street Album

No comments:
Originally published at The God of the Hinge.

Peter Mayer’s latest album, Third Street, sounds like the cover art looks: peaceful and tranquil, but revealing multiple layers and considerable depth.

Third Street is Mayer’s ninth studio album, and it includes several songs that he has been performing live for a while.

Where his previous release, Heaven Below, looked out into the world and the cosmos for its inspiration, Third Street turns inward: there are songs for and about his children, about ancestors and the nostalgic title song remembering how he met and courted the woman to whom he is now married.

... And my heart led my feet
Through the snow that had fallen on Third Street
Past the courthouse
The old jail
Past the Post Office where one day we’d get our mail
And I must have thought, on the way
It wasn’t only the snow that seemed rare on that day
It was the air
And the light
As I walked down Third Street
To this beautiful life
With you

 (from Third Street, Peter Mayer) 

Mayer, a former Catholic seminarian, has tackled spiritual topics throughout his career as a musician . Earlier songs including “God is a River,” “Holy Now” and “Heaven Below,” express a universalist theology, influenced perhaps by process theology, pantheism or panentheism and reverence for nature.

On Third Street, he offers “Winds of October,” a song that finds Mayer overtly expressing essentially pagan ideas:

Stir up the curtain
The curtain is thin
And when the dead reach out
From the other side, let me reach in
I’ll take the hands of ancestors unseen
Greet them all who’ve gone before me
Walk in the light of that land in between
The waking world and the dream.

(from "Winds of October", from Third Street) 

Mayer has always sprinkled humor through his albums, songs that evoke smiles and laughter without being novelty tunes per se. He offers three of such songs here: “Dr. Seuss,” “Hot Pickles” and “Head of the Shed.” They leaven the weight of what is otherwise a relatively introspective and sometimes melancholy collection.

Peter Mayer is well-known among Unitarian Universalists, and has become a kind of unofficial UU bard because his spiritual themes are comfortable and familiar among practitioners of liberal post-Christian religion.

But he deserves a wider fan base, because as his official bio says, he truly “writes songs for a small planet.”  Anyone who lives the human experience can appreciate what he has to say. 

If you'd like to read more about Peter Mayer, you can read my recent interview with him at The God of the Hinge.
CDBaby (to purchase or listen to samples)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review/Giveaway: Snapdolls


Paper dolls were pretty popular when I was a kid. I remember playing with a History of Dance and a Princess Diana book given to me by my grandmother. The colors were lush and it was great fun to look at, but they never lasted long after I removed them from the book.

Unlike the disposable dolls made of paper that you can play with for an hour or an afternoon, (if you are gentle, which my kids are more likely to sprout another head than be) SnapDolls are made out of fabric and can be purchased separately or attached to an item (such as a messenger bag or a t-shirt).

With a wide variety of outfits, SnapDolls can be customized to reflect your child’s personality, and like the Grranimals of old, the outfits are so well thought out, that even fashion-challenged folks like me can put together a great look!

I am a granola-crunching, tree-hugging hippie, I have been blessed with two hard-to-please, doll-loving, make-up obsessed, girly-girl tweenagers. But, however different we may be on the surface, my daughters and I did agree on the Snapdolls.


In fact, my daughters (and my friend’s loaner tween, who was here for a sleepover) went so head over heels ga-ga over these dolls, it was sheer torture to get them to hang back long enough for me to actually take photos!

The lovely folks at SnapDolls sent me two dolls - one on a super-soft t-shirt and the other on a messenger bag. I also received four outfits and accessory pack that included a tiara and a guitar.

My daughters promptly started a bidding war for the messenger bag, but it was actually the t-shirt which impressed me the most.

My younger daughter usually wears a size 14, so I was concerned that she would not be able to wear the size 12 shirt. However, it was obviously super-soft as well as super-stretchy... Because she totally rocked it.

One thing I really loved about the outfits were that they were feminine and girly without resorting to just being pink. They have pink items, but that is not the only color they have.

My oldest will not wear pink. Even though she did not go a day without the hue when she was younger, her tastes have changed--a fact overlooked by many manufactures.

I was honestly thrilled, when I opened the box and saw gorgeous, girly outfits with bright colors, including greens and purples.

Another thing I liked about the outfits were that they were very age-appropriate and not too "sexy." I liked that they empowered my girls and allowed them personalize their dolls with their likes and dreams. Even though they had never met my daughters, the outfits they sent me really reflected my daughters’ love of music and animals.

My oldest loved the safari outfit which featured a lion in a savanna and came with a pith helmet.

Personally, I loved Panda Playtime, the purple dress with its matching bow, as purple is my favorite color. However, Sunny Kate, the black and white dress with its matching black hat embodied the sophistication of the forties while the sweet blue polka dot dress with a matching red ribbon (not currently available), would be perfect for Independence Day.

Truth be told, if I wouldn’t have been murdered in my sleep, I would have kept all of the items for myself and turned that t-shirt into a pillow or a journal cover.

There is a lot of heart that goes into the SnapDolls, even their packaging is brilliant, with little hangers for each outfit to hang on. It looks like each outfit was hand-crafted and while the holes didn't always line up with the paper… Each outfit fit the actual doll perfectly and never fell off.

I even, mistakenly, washed the t-shirt with the polka-dot outfit still attached. After a jaunt in my washer and dryer, both pieces were still attached and the dress still looked pristine-- although the bottom did curl up a little.

 After we spent some time with the SnapDolls, I asked my daughter what she liked about them. She said it would be great to keep her library books in the messenger bag. Then, she got quiet for a moment and said that she liked how she would never be alone. As they are growing up, it is becoming more and more apparent that I am not going to be able to fight their battles for them. But she is right, through SnapDolls, I know will they will always have a friend with them.

T-shirts come with one outfit and cost $23.95, bags come with one outfit for $21.95, and additional outfits are $9.95 each.  They even carry a sleeping bag for your SnapDoll and hair bows. SnapDolls can be purchased on their amazingly beautiful website AND for the next week you can get a discount off your purchase:

Through 5/27 any online orders are 20% OFF if you use the discount code RCHSNAP1.

Finally, read on for a great giveaway!


SnapDolls is giving away a great set for your favorite little girl!   One winner will receive their red messenger bag with white polka dots, along with one doll and three outfits, with a total value of $51.80!

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Rafflecopter, then leave the name you commented under and your email in the box in the Rafflecopter entry. (This allows us to contact you if you win!)  This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US RESIDENTS ONLY
and will end just before midnight ET on 6-3-15. 

The winner will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway.  In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Italian Roast Vegetables with Bacon


How many of you hear the word Brussels Sprouts and turn up your nose? Or think of the dinner side that your grandma used to make you eat as a kid? Well not anymore, I can promise that! I was that way, I would hear that word and think ew yuck, no thank you!

Now as an adult and someone who has to cook meals for others, I have learned to love them... how could I not? Grandma used to just steam them on the stove, food and recipes have come a long way since then!  In this recipe, we incorporate Brussels sprouts and other veggies with bacon (bacon saves everything) along with Parmesan and garlic.

MY KIDS ACTUALLY EAT THIS and Don't complain!! That is a win-win in this mamas book!

So for our family, we have changed this dish many times and added/removed things over the years. This is something I keep going back to and I can honestly say, it's my favorite side dish for any occasion. So this recipe is to feed a family of 4. it can be changed or altered to fit the size of your family easily, just add more veggies!

Italian Roast Vegetables with Bacon

Prep time: 10 minutes
Bake time: 40 minutes @ 400 degrees

8 large Brussels Sprouts (stem cut off and cut in half)
1 small Broccoli crown (cut into smaller chunks)
I small Zucchini (cut in 1/2 then thick slices)
2-3 slices of thick cut bacon
1 tablespoon Parmesan Cheese
sprinkle of Garlic Salt

In a glass pan, lay the bacon out on the bottom of the pan. Add the sliced Brussels, Broccoli, Parmesan and Garlic Salt. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes, uncovered, at 400F.

After 20 minutes has passed, add in the Zucchini and give it a good stir. (The reason I do this is because if you add the zucchini in at the beginning, it gets so soggy it falls apart which my husband hates. If you like it soggy, by all means stick it in from the start)

Let it cook for an additional 20 minutes or shorter depending on your oven - they should begin to get browned and look crisp! The bacon should be almost completely cooked.

Remove and try not to eat all the crispy Brussels leaves (that's my FAVORITE part)

Add as a side to your favorite dinner dishes, and enjoy! Le'ts get those old memories of nasty side dishes out of your heads and into the new world of delicious greens!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Review/Giveaway: Garlic Gold - & Recipes for Garlic Lovers!


I am a complete and utter garlic fiend. I don't know what I would do without garlic... food just wouldn't be the same. Whether or not you actually like or dislike garlic, it is pretty ubiquitous in every kitchen. I'm pretty sure that once everyone moves into their very first apartment, and stocks their very first pantry, salt, pepper and garlic powder rank pretty high on the list of essentials.

But sometimes, no matter how delicious, garlic starts to seem a little bit common place. A bit drab, boring and unremarkable. And once you've eaten your share of garlic gems like roasted garlic and pickled garlic, it can be really hard to make everyday garlic seem special again.

Really hard, but Garlic Gold seems like they're on a mission to make garlic special again, with handcrafted, gourmet garlic products. I never thought I would find an ingredient or cooking additive that would renew my affection for garlic. We'd had our torrid love affair and were moving into the seven-year-itch stage. Quite honestly, I had just considered moving on to something exotically new and exciting like Asafoetida just to shake things up a little.

So when I got a chance to review a giftbox from Garlic Gold, I was excited, but frankly not expecting to be blown away or anything. I mean, its just garlic, right?

But when I received my gift box in the mail, my heart skipped a beat. I got really excited! The item had weight. I've gotten gift box selections of products from many companies where you pay a pretty penny and receive very parred down, kid sized portions of their products. This gift box includes full sized products.

Another thing that surprised me was that the gift box set was beautifully packaged. If you are sending this as a gift, no worries about extra gift wrapping... the company's packaging really does fit the bill. I felt like I had received a real treat!

I also was really impressed by the fact that even with gift packaging, the materials were minimal and all recyclable or reusable. Very fitting for a company that claims to focus on sustainability. I was really pleased to see they carry that value into their packaging.

The gift box came with four organic products: The namesake Garlic Gold, Garlic Gold Nuggets (Sea Salt), Garlic Gold Oil, and Garlic Gold Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette.

I love that all the products are organic and have zero preservatives. Our family shops about 90% organic, and we try our best to keep our kitchen organic.

Organic condiments and seasonings with simple ingredients are generally really hard to find, so I was so happy reading the ingredients list for these products.

Three or less ingredients for all except the Vinaigrette which had seven and no added sugar. Nice!

Garlic Gold is the original flagship product taken from a coveted family recipe created by the father of Garlic Gold's founder Orion Brutuco. Orion took the much loved recipe and turned it into a real business as part of an entrepreneurship project with three of his high school friends in 2002. They started selling in California farmer's markets, and a star was born. Everyone wanted to get their hands on the gold.

The original Garlic Gold is little tiny bits of toasted garlic packed in high quality, first cold-pressed olive oil. Being the namesake product, this was the item I was most excited to try when I opened the packaging.

When I popped the top, the first thing I did was take a good smell... definitely some garlicky goodness in there. It was strong but not overpowering. Then I dipped a little spoon in to get some of the toasted bits out.

Now maybe it's just me, we all have our blonde days, but I did not expect this to be crunchy! That was a big surprise! I know everything said toasted but actually tasting it was so unexpected.

I will have to be honest and say that I did not like the original Garlic Gold. The toasted bits did not taste like garlic to me, they actually had a bitter taste and left a lingering effect in my mouth. I really wanted to like them, even the crunchiness would have been a nice surprise had the bits actually tasted like garlic. I think the garlic flavor came mainly from the oil they were packed in and not the toasted bits themselves, although they did seem to add a more pungent garlic aroma to the oil.

At first I thought it also could be a side effect of the toasting... garlic when overheated or overcooked becomes bitter. But then I moved to the Sea Salt nuggets, which are also toasted, and was suddenly not so sure.

I think, due to the strongly toasted taste and crunchiness, this would be best used in a long simmering sauce where it has time to mellow and mingle with other flavors.

GarlicGold Nuggets, Sea Salt Flavor

The nuggets were absolutely delicious! As soon as I tasted the first little bit I wanted more, and could already imagine all the things I could sprinkle this amazing stuff on. 

The nuggets are simply garlic bits toasted in organic olive oil and blended with sea salt (for this flavor). 

On the Garlic Gold website, they have a variety of flavors like Herbs de Provence, southwestern and even Parmesan which I would more than happily jump to try.

The nuggets were crunchy and there was no bitterness whatsoever. The aroma was so pleasantly fresh. The nuggets were also nicely salty, and definitely strong enough to substitute for some of the salt in any dish (although it is not meant to be a salt), with out being mouth-puckeringly salty. 

Just mild enough to use as a topping, but strong enough to mix into a dish. It is, in my opinion, perfectly blended to be a versatile kitchen staple.

The jar says this would be great on just about anything, and I agree. I could instantly see making some knockout homemade potato chips, sprinkled with the sea salt nuggets while still hot. Yum!

But I did have one nitpick about this product and it's that I wish the holes on the shaker top were a bit smaller. The product doesn’t sprinkle out evenly or slowly enough for me to use it in this manner while cooking, but really like I said... nitpick. 

Also, the product says it is a healthy alternative to bacon bits. And while it will definitely fill your taste for salt, it is not quite crunchy enough to really stand in for that bacon bit quality, so if you must have a good crunch, keep making your homemade bits for that... but definitely add in some sea salt nuggets when you do!

The next product I tried was the Garlic Gold Oil. This stuff too had an amazing garlic aroma, but not quite as strong as the nuggets. 

True to the name, the oil is a beautiful golden color. It was great to look at, and beautiful when packaged, but I was a bit disappointed that, being a high quality “gourmet” oil, it was not packaged in a UV protective bottle. This is one you will definitely want to store away from your stove in a cool, dark cabinet to keep it fresh, no exceptions.

I tasted the oil, outright. In my opinion, and for my taste buds, there was no huge difference between this oil and the oil the Original Garlic Gold is packed in. But it was delicious, light and just-so garlic flavored. Because I did not like the toasted bits in the Garlic Gold, and loved the oil, I would definitely purchase this product over the Garlic Gold hands down.

I was excited to use this product the most. Anyone who has tried their hands at making infused oils knows how difficult and frustrating it can be. Things go rancid very easily, and a lot of oil (and money) is wasted. For me, this beautifully colored and flavored garlic olive oil would definitely be worth the convenience. Even before cooking with it I knew I would buy again just for that fact. And then I had to get cooking with it!

My first order of business... make Midnight Pasta or, traditionally named, Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (that's spaghetti with garlic and oil in Italian). 

Midnight pasta is a favorite dish in our house. It is basically a classic Italian spaghetti preparation. Thin noodles tossed in oil and herbs with cheese. It is the most garlicky dish my husband and I can ever agree on (me being a garlic-lover, him being a garlic-tolerater). I wanted to try my hand at making the dish using less fresh garlic (which he always picks out and dumps in my bowl) and adding in the Garlic Gold products... maybe I could finally pull him over to my side.

The final consensus: some ups and downs. First off, it was delicious, no doubt about that. But surprisingly, using these garlic products over actual garlic did not make the end result more garlicky. It did something wonderful and strange at the same time. 

The pasta ended with a very pleasant, subtle but very “there” dispersed garlic flavor, which my husband actually really liked. Score! I however, missed the strong pop of garlic flavor I would usually get when using fat slices of garlic in this recipe. But, I did love that, by using the oil, I could taste garlic in every bite.

So I have two versions of midnight pasta with Garlic Gold Oil. One “get your garlic-feet wet” version, for those of you who like a nice garlic flavored dish, but hate chunks of garlic, and a second “all out” version for those of you who want garlic, garlic and more garlic goodness. Use as many organic ingredients as you can to enjoy with this organic product.

You can choose any type of pasta for this dish you like (although I suggest no tiny pastas), but the classic preparation is with spaghetti. Nine times out of ten, we make this with penne. Something about the thicker pasta when covered in Parmesan is not only delicious, but easier and faster to eat, which means seconds for you before its all gone! Also, easier for my little toddler to enjoy with us.

Midnight Pasta (Spaghetti Aglio e Olio)
1lb dry organic Pasta, your choice
1/3 cup Garlic Gold Oil
2 tbsp butter (no margarine or spreads! optional)*
4 cloves garlic, minced (or 8, for true garlic lovers)
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp sea salt
½ cup fresh minced parsley (optional) OR dried parsley, to taste
1 cup quality, grated Parmesan cheese (suggest Stella, if not organic)
*Butter is completely optional, but it really kicks up the savory flavor of this dish.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta.
In a large pan, heat Garlic Gold oil, and butter (if using) over medium heat. Add minced garlic and cook just before browning, about 30 seconds.
Add red pepper flakes and cook for an additional 1 minute.
Take 1 ½ cups of water from the cooking pasta and add to pan. Add salt. Whisk to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is reduced by one third, about 5 minutes.
Add drained al dente pasta to the pan with the reduced liquid and toss to combine.
Remove coated pasta to serving dish and toss with Parmesan cheese and parsley (if using). I also personally like to add lots of black pepper. If your pasta is needing any salt, I definitely suggest topping it with the Garlic Gold Sea Salt Nuggets.
Serve (and eat) immediately! Midnight pasta is best when hot!

Midnight Pasta is as versatile as the Garlic Gold Nuggets and Oil. Dress it up with fresh cooked and crumbled bacon, or pancetta. Do midnight zucchini or farro pasta instead.

Last but not least, the Vinaigrette. I'm going to be completely honest, I did not expect to like this or even use it again. 

I like citrus, but generally not as a dressing. My husband loves a salad dry with just lemon or lime squeezed over the top. Not my idea of a good time!

Opening up the bottle and taking in the scent I was surprised to find that lemon was not an overpowering smell there. Yes, definitely some lemon, but still garlic too and something else that made me eager to try it. 

I couldn't put my finger on it so I read the ingredients. A very impressive 7 simple ingredients for a salad dressing. Just their Garlic Gold Oil, Organic Meyer lemon juice, garlic gold nuggets, sea salt, pepper, spice blend and Italian seasonings (all organic). It was the Italian seasonings that had my taste buds tingling. 

I was really impressed already with this dressing before tasting, because it smelled so delicious. So I dabbed a little out of the bottle. It was delicious!

The Italian seasoning blend in this is very good. And the lemon was just enough as an acidic kick and flavor. I typically don't do vinaigrette because they are just too, well, vinegary. But this is a vinegar free vinaigrette... ingenious!

So the next day, I made myself a fresh Summer Salad. A mixture of whatever greens I had, and fresh seasonal local fruit. I call it a summer salad, but it's really meant to fit any season with whatever you can source locally and organically, and of course in season (although I cheated a little). Here's what I ended up with, but really your spring,summer or winter salad will be whatever you want to make it.

My Summer Salad

Red and Green Leaf Lettuces
Pea Sprouts
Carrot Top Greens
Shredded Rainbow carrots
Diced Blood Orange
Diced Orange
Diced Kiwi Fruit

And it doesn’t end there. I’ve done this with blueberries and strawberries. Clementines are one of my favorite add ins. You can add protein. I think nuts work great. Try Brazil Nuts or sliced almonds. You can also add wheatgrass for a nutritional punch (don't overdo it and you won't even notice its there). Rainbow kale or beet greens for a colorful addition. Arugula for a peppery kick. Experiment with other sprouts to finish it off.

Top with your favorite salty cheese to help cut the sweet and acid of the fruit. I chose feta, but Parmesan works great too.

When all was said and done, I topped this beautiful salad with the Meyer Lemon dressing and the Sea Salt Nuggets. And let me tell you... it was gone before I even sat down! I never got the crunch from the nuggets that I thought I would, which I think is a general downside of the product for me. The crunch is just not strong enough to notice once mixed into things. Either way I could taste the extra kick of garlic they added.

The acid in the dressing worked well with the kiwi and oranges. The spice blends gave it a great flavor. 

I hate nothing more than a dry salad and this dressing really clung well to the salad which I have to say is a really cool thing to me. Usually dressings slip and slide of my greens leaving a pool or wasted dressing in my plate at the end, but there was none of that here.

I also love the little freebie in the box, the drizzle spout, which I popped on the bottle. It made it super easy to dress this salad without over doing it.

Now to be fair, I did ration out a bite to my husband and toddler. Even my daughter loved it, it was not too strong for her. 

My husband however did complain it was too acidic. Although I did not feel the same way, I understood where he was coming from. I had quite a bit of acidic fruits in the salad to pair with a vinaigrette. I loved it so I think it is personal preference. Just be careful of putting too many acidic fruits in your summer salad with this dressing if that is undesirable because it does have a nice, noticeably lemon flavor.

What I loved most about the dressing was how understated it was. Sometimes you dress a salad and every bit you are tasting the dressing first and foremost, regardless of how much is used. Most are packed with so much sugar and vinegar you can't help but notice them. 

This dressing was not short of flavor in any way, but it was such a team player. It didn't overpower the fresh ingredients which I feel is most important. Fresh local ingredients are meant to be enjoyed, and the dressing definitely allowed me to do that while making the whole dish better.

I think by far and most surprisingly the dressing ended up being my favorite Garlic Gold product, followed by the nuggets and oil. I don't think I would try the original Garlic Gold again.

Not only did I not care for the flavor of the toasted bits, but I can not see how I would use it in cooking. Even after looking up recipes on the Garlic Gold website I could not see the benefit to using the Garlic Gold. Both the nuggets and original Garlic Gold did not seem to have enough of a noticeable crunchiness to stand out once mixed into things, so I didn't see it as a benefit over the garlic oil and fresh garlic. For those that strongly dislike chopping their own garlic, it may be useful, however, in recipes that allow for a good bit of simmering time.

I will definitely continue to use Garlic Gold products. Not only are their products delicious, they are organic, and it is an organic business that has grown from a family passion.

You can shop Garlic Gold direct from their website. I like their simple product line, and they have an entire blog of recipes for all of their products. Browsing the recipes gave me some good ideas - they had a really wide collection of completely different foods you could make with their products. I can't wait to try some out. Hopefully I've got my husband hooked!

If you sign up for the Garlic Gold newsletter you will receive a coupon worth $5 off your next order!

Garlic Gold is offering a fantastic Giveaway - one Winner in the US will receive the same Garlic Gold Gift Box I received for review ($37.95 value)!  This Giveaway ends 6-1-15, making it a great gift idea for your favorite garlic-loving dad!

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment in this entry as instructed by the Rafflecopter, then leave the name you commented under and your email in the box in the Rafflecopter entry. (This allows us to contact you if you win!)  This will open up additional optional entries to increase your odds of winning.

This giveaway is open to US RESIDENTS ONLY
and will end just before midnight ET on 6-1-15. 

The winner will be notified by email within 24 hours after the end of the giveaway.  In order to claim the giveaway prize, the winner will need to respond within 24 hours of notification, or an alternate winner will be selected.

Good luck everyone!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sunday, May 17, 2015

My Life Balanced - Introduction to a New Journey


I'm excited to announce that I am beginning a new project as I work through Vanessa Hartman's My Life Balanced 120 Days Lifestyle Change Manual.

Vanessa is a lifestyle coach that focuses on health and goal coaching via phone, video conferencing and email - you may already have begun to get to know her, because after she agreed to let me work through the 120 Days Lifestyle Change Manual for review, she then agreed to join us here at Reviews, Chews & How-Tos as one of our contributors!  She's already shared a few very helpful posts on the subject, with more to come.

The manual provides a way for someone like me to work through lifestyle changes on a daily level in a few different ways - each page includes four sections:

Mind - a word, to be used as a meditational focus or journal writing subject.

Meal - a tip or suggested activity or change having to do with nutrition. 

Move - a suggested activity that gets your body moving.

Mantra - used here in a difference way than I'm used to (mantra as a focus sound for meditation), here it acts as an affirmation of sorts - something that is motivational toward, mostly, attitude adjustments.

Glancing through the book, there are a lot of great tips and suggestions each day, and some that are, admittedly, not going to happen - either because they aim toward a lifestyle change I'm not interested in (I am not a vegetarian and have no desire to be) or that I cannot manage (some specific movement activities involve things I cannot safely do, because of physical disabilities, so those will need to be modified).  But even after I take those conditions into account, it looks like there is plenty I can do or consider with modifications every day.

The biggest advantage I see at this point, before actually starting this journey, is the high emphasis on subtle shifts in mindset along the way - so that what seems very challenging now, may well, after small incremental habit alterations, be doable by the end of the four months I'll be actively working through it.

In the letter sent with the manual, Vanessa says,

"This program has been designed to be what you need it to be.  We can each read it and pick something different that resonates with us.  I encourage you to read it first thing in the morning and set your intention for the day.  If you miss a day, no problem - get back at it.  It's also not about how fast you reach the end, it's about what you learn along the way.  I encourage you to give this a true chance, this program is designed to be life changing and long lasting."

At the beginning of the manual, Vanessa includes a few simple breathing exercises - you can find a few more on her post How to Feel More Calm With Breathing Exercises.

Today's post is just an introduction to the 120 Days process, and I find it helpful before beginning a long endeavor to assess my starting point, my personal intentions, and suspected challenge - not to start with excuses, but to get a realistic feel for what pitfalls I should be prepared for.

Mind - I have been an on and off again personal journaler since I was old enough to hold a pencil, and I'm thrilled to have a platform for daily journaling!  I know from experience that this will be very helpful for me.  It also inserts a challenge, as I already try to journal regularly with a daily Tarot card as inspiration - and I may play with this part a bit by incorporating the two so that I needn't stop a habit I already find beneficial. (I am weird - I like games and puzzles and this sounds like a fun challenge for me.)

Meal - In the area of food, other than the challenge of how to address nutritional suggestions that are at odds with my own nutritional aspirations, I think I am in fairly good shape here - we strive for a primal diet and I have learned the hard way that I pay hard for departures from my intentions to avoid wheat and sugar, so these happen only in light moderation at carefully controlled times. We shop for locally grown organic produce and locally farmed meat and I regard it as a 'win' when a meal involves no canned or boxed items. But I have grown lax lately on making my best possible choices, so this area will be mainly a refresher of what I know mixed in with some new ideas to try - I think the challenges here will also be fun and lead to a renewed motivation to eat in a way that is both nutritionally compatible with my needs and pleasurable.

Move - now this one is not only hard and likely the area that makes me whine a lot, but I also think it's where I'm going to find the hugest help.  I have been dealing with rheumatoid arthritis since a few years before I was officially diagnosed at age 19... 35 years ago!  I have developed strong deformities in my hands, and lost a hip due to bone thinning (a common side effect of many of the medications that allow me to be functional), and due to that there are certain things that are too high risk for dislocating or falling down (which would cause a dislocation) for me to even try. But there are a whole lot of things I can do, and just don't.  I can't say I'm looking forward to this part - Yet. But  I know if I take up the challenge and am open to pushing past intimidation (safely) and basic out-of-shape resistance, it will come easier over time and result in huge health improvements.  Just at an opening glance, I find that labeling it 'movement' rather than 'exercise' helps reduce the instant urge to say "I can't!"

Mantra - these will be helpful, especially in pushing through the movement resistance.  Many have to do with body issues, and I'm happy to say that I've reached an age where I'm mostly over body-hatred (nothing like chronic pain to make you put worries about whether your nose is shaped funny or if your tummy feels more like a pillow than a six pack), but I am still pretty prone to negative self talk about my body not working the way I want it to - so it will be good to work on getting that Inner Critic out of my head where it sabotages any effort to improve what I can, and accept with grace what I can't.

With that all in mind, here's my plan:

I will post here every 3 weeks on my progress and share any victories, insights and difficulties I experienced in that time frame.  I may share a snippet or two of the journaling work, as well as what worked for me and what didn't.  I'm choosing every 3 weeks based on the old chestnut that it takes 3 weeks to change a habit, so that, if needed, I can focus on specific areas for a bit before moving onto another.

I also plan to put into practice a process  that I've learned from getting on RA treatment plans - sometimes, it's best to build up gradually over time rather than attempting many new things all at once.  So, while each day I will deal with as many of the four areas as I am up for, I will only hold myself to one a day for this first 3 weeks, then 2 a day for the next, and so on - with reasonable exemptions for days when an item isn't one of the things that fit my personal goals or ability, as well as days when I'm already packed full of to-dos.

I can do this!

I know me well enough to know I LOVE starting things, pile on a whole lot of intentions and then get overwhelmed and quit the whole thing.  I really want and need to make it to the end of this journey, so I am going to take it slow enough to make the new routine stick.

My long term goals are to fine tune my nutritional habits, establish some workable exercise habits, and to become more mindful about my self-talk, good and bad.  I think this will handily accomplish those things if I stick with it.

I also know that this first three weeks is going to see me pouting, moaning, dramatically proclaiming that I can't do this... and that by the time I report back in three weeks, I'll be mostly over it.  It's what I do - the important part is to just acknowledge that and not let it be a reason to stop.

So, I won't actually be reviewing the 120 Days Lifestyle Change until the end, because for this sort of thing, struggle in the moment is NOT a negative thing - it's just a part of the process. Furthermore, I acknowledge now that I am aware that there will be times when I strongly think "this isn't working for me!" but that I will likely discover by the end it totally did what it was supposed to.

It doesn't hurt at all that I have Vanessa to help as needed to keep me on track in spite of my less than graceful attitude to new changes, which, when you think about it, is what a Lifecoach does!

Overall, intimidation aside, I am very much looking forward to this and I hope you'll enjoy the updates on what happens!

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