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Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday Food Favorites

I have been trying all sorts of new recipes from various healthy eating websites and pinterest over the past few weeks and today I would like to share a few that scored big with my family.

Chicken Salad 

Chicken Salad 
This recipe is a combination of different recipes and trial and error over the past few years. It consists of 2 cups cooked and cut chicken breast, 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, a little olive oil, 1 Tbs Dijon mustard, celery, apples (I prefer pink lady), and red grapes. Mix that all together, chill, and serve over spinach or in a pita. I have been known to eat the entire bowl in one sitting.

Pretzel Chicken Strips 

Pretzel Encrusted Chicken Strips

This was  by far one of the kids' favorites. I got the recipe from a HyVee weekly add and made a few substitutions. Cut up several chicken breasts, mix together two cups of crushed pretzels, a Tbs of ranch dip mix, and a dash of pepper. Dip chicken pieces in whisked eggs (egg beaters can  be used also) and then dip in mix. Place on a greased pan and bake at 400 degrees for 12 to 15 mins. There are also lots of good honey mustard dipping sauces that can be made from scratch. We used honey BBQ to dip.

Crock pot Turkey Meatballs 

Turkey Meatballs

Turkey Meatball Pitas
These were one of my favorites from the week. To make the meatballs I used 1 lb ground turkey, 1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup Mix, 1 egg, and 1 cup of Old Fashioned oats. I also chopped up Baby Bella Mushrooms. For the sauce, I used this recipe: .

Cauliflower Crust Vegetable Pizza 

Another family favorite was Cauliflower Crust Vegetable Pizza which can be found on Your Lighter Side Blog . My crust was a little doughy. I think I need to add more cauliflower next time as well as another egg (I only had one). I might cut back on the cheese as well. For toppings I used a natural pizza sauce, green olives, red and yellow peppers, mushrooms, onions and spinach. 

 There were also some epic fails this week: kale chips (way too much sea salt), and all natural orange chicken in the crock pot. If anyone has a better recipe for orange chicken or healthy Chinese besides stir fry, please share.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Seven Big Ideas from Think and Grow Rich

I love a good quote so I thought I would share some of my favorite lines from Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich.

1. "All impulses of thought have a tendency to clothe themselves in their physical equivalent."

2. "Every man is what he is because of the dominating thoughts which he permits to occupy his mind."

3. "No one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality."

4. "Fear, the worst of all enemies, can be effectively cured by the forced repetition of acts of courage."

5. "One who loves truly can never lose entirely."

6. "The next best thing to truly being great is to emulate the great."

7. "Nothing which life has to offer is worth the price of worry."

What are your favorite quotations and inspirational lines from your favorite reads?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Eight Steps to a Better You

I love reading. In particular, the past several years I have become a nonfiction junkie. I love personal development books, blogs, websites, etc. A life changing memoir or a how to book can also capture my attention for hours. Today, I thought I would share the top eight things I have learned from my nonfiction craze.

1. Establish Good Habits - What are yours? Which ones need to be changed?

This is as simple as getting 8 hours of sleep, having a colorful plate at meals, or reading something educational or motivational every day. For me personally, the two I am working on currently are working out every day and writing in a gratitude journal. I list three things about my husband, my kids, and my life that I am grateful for every day.

2. Surround Yourself with Success - Who do you know that emanates success? Who do you need to weed out of your life?

I am sure everyone has heard that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. I have heard this many times and always do a gut check when I do. This has been an ongoing goal for me to seek out the people I want to be like. This has proved to be challenging for me since I work from home and don't have opportunities to meet a lot of new people. I am always looking for suggestions in this area so feel free to share.

3. Burn the Boat - Set Challenging but Realistic Goals

Too often we set goals that are safe, and we keep them to ourselves. Lately, I have read more and more about the idea that bigger goals are easier to achieve because they push a person more. Set a goal that is outside of your reach and will take some work to accomplish. The bigger piece to this is to share the goal with others. Once it is out there, it is much harder not to follow through. I shared some of my goals in my first post of the year. My big goals are to qualify for Boston and to travel and speak for a living. There, now it is out there so I need to burn the boat - no going back now!

4. Envision Your Ideal Life. Write it, Share it, Read it, Visualize it, Become it.

It is much easier to focus on all the things that are going wrong in our lives or to rudiment about the past. It is impossible to move forward if you are always looking back. Keep your eyes set on the end prize which forces you to look forward. Many people use vision boards for this. I like the idea of using a journal, vision board, or creating a video with music, text, and images that you can watch each day. It keeps you focused on what you want your life to be instead of what your life isn't. 

5. Act the Way You Want to Be

The brain is extremely powerful. We can convince ourselves of almost anything. That is why visualization is so important. See yourself doing the action again and again and your body will start to believe you already have. The same goes for other areas in your life. Act the way you want to be, and you will become it. 

6. Give - of your time, resources, friendship. Random Acts of Kindness Go a Long Way.

This is probably the simplest thing people can do but is often times the one that is the least practiced.Many times we think if we don't have something monetary to give that we don't have anything to give. I am guilty of this as well. However, when I think back to the gestures that have made the biggest impact on my life, they haven't been monetary gifts, but instead they were kind words, time spent with me, or support. All of those things are easy to give, and they are free. My husband did something really cool for his birthday this year. On facebook he posted that instead of wishing him happy birthday on his wall, he would like people to do a random act of kindness and think of him. That is why I married him! What an awesome idea. 

7. Accept and Love Yourself Where You are Right Now

This is much tougher than it sounds especially if we are not at the place we want to be personally, physically, financially, or emotionally. It is great to set goals and want more for yourself; however, beating yourself up because you are not there yet is not the way to reach those goals. Looking in the mirror everyday and telling yourself that you accept and love yourself where you are at this very point in your life may sound cheesy, but it will ultimately motivate you to become the best version of you that you can be. 

8. Never Stop Learning, Reading, Growing - Approach Life with an Open Mind

One of my favorite quotations from the movie Shawshank Redemption is, "Get busy living, or get busy dying". Once we stop learning, reading, and growing, we start getting busy dying. We only have one shot at this life so why not take full advantage. Learn as much as you can, experience as much as you can, and grow as much as you can. Approach everyday and every situation, even difficult ones, as an opportunity for growth. Every relationship, every interaction, and every experience in life holds within it a lesson to be learned. The key is taking the time to learn it. 

These eight steps in no way represent all that I have learned over the past few years, but I had to limit my list or this post would go on forever. What are your favorite ideas, lessons, or nuggets of wisdom about life? 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Fitness Favorites

As many start 2014 with new fitness and running goals, I decided to share some of my fitness favorites from the past few years.


Smart Wool Running Socks
The past year I got in the habit of not wearing socks with my Nike Frees so when I do wear socks, I like them thin. Smart Wool running socks are not only thin, but they keep my feet dry and blister free. They are a must have for any runner.

CEP Compression Socks

For longer runs and races, I like the CEP Compression socks. They also keep my feet blister free and help keep the blood circulating. I leave them on after my long runs to help with recovery. I bought a white Nike pair of compression socks, but they are not nearly as tight or effective. 

Groovy Run Short


Nike Pro Shorts
The Nike Pro Shorts are by far my favorite running and work out shorts. I own three different pair. If someone would have told me three years ago that I would be wearing compression/bike shorts out in public, I would have laughed. I love these because they are comfortable, light, and I have never had any chaffing while wearing them. However, I just purchased two pair of  the Lululemon Groovy Run Shorts, and after only a few wears, they are definitely a contender for my new favorite run short.


Nike Drifit Running Tights
Lululemon Run Inspire Crop

When the weather gets colder, my go to running bottoms are the Nike Dri-fit Running Tight. They are light weight, comfortable, and keep me warm and dry. I also like the Lululemon Run Inspire Crop for both running and working out. Both tights are light, super comfortable, and keep me dry. More importantly, they stay in place when I run. I have several other pair of running crops and tights from Underarmour and Lululemon, but so far, these are the only ones that don't slip down when I run. I also just purchased a new pair of Nike Running Crops, and after one run, I am thoroughly impressed. They are a little thicker than my other tights, but they stay put when I run, feel good, and look good. I also just purchased a pair of Lululemon cold weather pants. I have not had a chance to wear them running, but I have worn them out and about and for coaching. I love that they are fleece lined and water resistant in t front. They are also a nice length which can sometimes be a challenge for me. 


I don't know if I really have a favorite running top at this point. I prefer either long sleeve dri-fit tops or tanks with a built in bra. I am still looking for a good sports bra and go to tank. I have been considering getting the Lululemon Cool Racerback as it has great reviews. Recently, I came across Ellie and Fabletics athletic wear online, and I am interested in some reviews of their running gear before I take the plunge.


Nike Frees 3.0-5.0
I have tried various pairs of running shoes over the past few years and have yet to deem one my favorite. When I first started running, I wore the Nike Lunar Eclipse. I then switched to a pair of Asics Kayano. Both proved to work quite well so I purchased another pair of the Nike Lunar Eclipses;  however, the upgrade did not work as well, and I ended up searching for a new pair after a few short months. Since that time, I have suffered several injuries, so after a great deal of research, I decided to try a more minimal pair of running shoes. To date, I have thoroughly enjoyed the Nike Frees for short to medium runs. I also like the Brooks Pure Cadence but definitely need to go up a size in those and take some time to transition into them as they force me to run more with a midfoot strike which I was not used to.I transitioned into those at the end of my marathon training and suffered the consequences with some serious shin issues. This past running season I tried the Asics Lite and Mizuno Wave while training for the TC marathon, but both felt too  big in the toe box, and I was sidelined once again with a femoral stress fracture. Currently, I am wearing the Saucony Kinvara as I get back into running after my injury. 
Brooks, Mizunos, Asics
Saucony Kinvara

What are your fitness favorites and go to gear?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Thoughts for Teacher Tuesday

What is the Best Way to Teach?

As I start back to school after 15 days off, I can't help but return to the age old question, "what is the best and most effective way to teach?" So far this school year I have been bombarded with several theories and ideas each one vastly different from the previous. 

 Write Math

One focus at the IRA conference last spring was the concept of  Write Math. This was/is a concept I can really sink my teeth into. It just clicked and made sense even for an English teacher like me. The basic premise is to teach students how to problem solve not simply solve a problem. Give them real life problems and have them verbalize what steps they would take to solve the problem and why. Considering this is what real life is all about, I found this to be a great way to prepare our students for the future. Of course, I have tried "selling" this concept to many math teachers since last spring, and I still don't have any buyers. The biggest obstacle standing in the way of such a shift - standardized tests. It seems teachers are so focused on preparing students for the test, that they don't want to try anything new. I don't fault them as this has been the focus in education. However, I did find an excellent TEDtalk to support the concept of teaching students how to problem solve. It is four years old, but it definitely speaks to the idea of preparing students for real life. Math Makeover

More Technology

I recently attended the MN TIES conference. As one could assume by the title, the entire conference revolves around technology in education. I was bombarded with the latest and greatest tools, gizmos, and apps to make learning more applicable, differentiated, personalized, and fun. There were sessions on gamification, one on one, and the ever so popular flip classroom. I even attended a six hour seminar on how to create a more innovative school. Although I walked away with a great deal of neat new ideas to try in my classroom, I didn't walk away with a great deal of research, statistics, or data to prove that all of this technology is the answer to producing smarter, more motivated, and better prepared students. If anyone has any, please share. 

Less Technology More Rigor

This fall I had the opportunity to read Amanda Ripley's book The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way. If you haven't had the chance to read it, I highly recommend it. Amanda follows exchange students into the new academic powerhouses of the world: Finland, Poland, and South Korea. She explores what they are doing that works and how it compares to education in the United States. The key concept or idea that I walked away with after reading this book is that in order to make a change in education, you need to make a change in your culture. Everyone needs to buy into the value, rigor, and expectations of the education system in order for a country to succeed. This book challenged my ideas of education in several ways. First, she points out how the United States spends more money on technology in education than any other country, yet continues to fall behind. Standards for teachers and students were higher in all three of the countries studied. Smaller class sizes were not one of the top reasons for success and few, if any, of these schools had extracurricular activities as part of their education systems. 

My Classroom

Personally, my students will be starting the research unit this week. In the name of action research, I am trying something new this year. I have provided my students with six different alternatives to the standard research paper including videos, websites, adventure essays, interactive timelines, newscasts, and Isearch papers. I am excited to see what they produce and if these alternatives better accomplish the objectives of the unit. I will keep you posted. 

I would be interested to hear what others think is the solution to an every growing problem in our country's education system. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Starting the New Year

The new year started as a wild ride. We spent the evening at Radisson Blu and the Mall of America. It was a great time with the family. You can't  beat the convenience of walking right to your hotel room after an evening of Nickelodeon Universe and a day of shopping.

The kids loved the hanging baskets in the hotel lobby. It really is a cool place; if you get a chance, check it out!

Year in Review

2013 did not pan out as I had planned running wise. A femoral stress fracture in early August put an end to my marathon training and running. Four long months off proved to take its toll on my endurance and waist line. The positive was a new found love for Les Mills Body Pump. 

Races - Get Lucky 7k was a cold, icy and slow going race, but the atmosphere was well worth it (11,000 people dressed as leprechauns running on icy roads through Minneapolis and St. Paul). The 21K is on my list for 2014. Brainerd Run for the Lakes was my first, and only, half of the year. It was much hillier than I expected, but the weather was great, and it was a beautiful course even though it was still snow covered the last week of April.

Eating habits also went by the wayside the past few months. The goal was to eat healthy as a family. Too many dinners out and Christmas treats the past few months sabotaged that goal.

Blogging more - my last blog date speaks for itself

Bettering myself as an educator - I started the year as I always do, eager and excited. I have tried some new assignments and attended two great seminars this past year. I went to the IRA conference in San Antonio last April (easy to convince me to attend when we were having snowstorms here in MN) and the TIES conference this December. Wow! I discovered there is so much room for growth professionally. 

Looking Forward 

What does 2014 have in store for me and my family??
1. Run at least four half marathons and hopefully one full - looking at the Rock and Roll Tour Pass currently. I would love to run San Diego, Chicago, and Vegas. Other suggestions are welcome.
2. Run at least two races with my son. We need to  beat our 5K time from last year.
3. Cut out the junk. I found if I plan my meals out for the week this is much easier to do. 
4. Write more
5. Go on at least one date a month with my husband. I would love to do more, but we need to start somewhere.
6. Tone up and slim down. I signed up for a power yoga class as well as the next session of body pump. I am  hoping to stay injury free by taking a more balanced approach. I am also toying with the idea of doing the Iron Man challenge at the Y. This would force me to become a better swimmer.
7. Read More - good book suggestions are always welcome
8. Do something I am scared to do. Thanks Eleanor for the inspiration! Swimming would fit this. 
9. Give more
10. Be positive!!!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Running the Country from Home

I don't know how many are familiar with ifit, but it is an interactive program you can purchase for your treadmill. If you do a lot of treadmill work and want to alleviate some of the boredom of training indoors, ifit is one way to do it. When we purchased our new treadmill this fall, we purchased one that has a built in touchscreen. With the touchscreen and apps, I have been able to run virtually around the world. I have run across the Golden Gate Bridge, Heartbreak Hill in Boston, the road to Hanna in Hawaii, around the Colosseum in Rome, and many other fun destinations. It also offers a feature where you can create your own google map and run any course you create. I started to experiment with it this weekend by creating a few familiar runs I have already done. I think this will come in handy as I get closer to races because I can run the race course.

Sunday I did my "long" run. It was 6.02 miles, 107 elevation, 8:57 pace, 53:51 time, and 733 calories (not sure how accurate this one is). I felt fairly good except for the chaffing...didn't think that was possible in the winter time. I incorporated several inclines and hills into my treadmill runs to make it more like running outdoors. I have noticed that it has really increased my leg strength. Now, I need to get back to cross and strength training. I have also been working on finishing with a kick and was able to do that successfully yesterday. I spend a lot of time talking to myself and visualizing that I can see the finish line or that I am minutes away from hitting my PR. This helps me push a little harder at the end of runs.

Still working on the eating habits. Yesterday I made a delicious quinoa, mushroom, carrot soup and another omelet. I also had a  bowl of raspberries, kiwi, blueberries, and blackberries. I am getting better at avoiding wheat but with a few outings this weekend it made it a little more difficult. I need to purchase some more tea as I have fallen back into the coffee trap. I will be traveling for work this week so it will be a good test of discipline for getting in work outs and eating healthy.