Thursday, April 28, 2016

My Favorite Bluetooth Wireless Headphones for Running

Since I started running in recent months, I've found several tools of the trade, so to speak, that have made my life on the road easier less unpleasant.  One of them is a good set of bluetooth wireless headphones.  I've  got a couple of pairs of wired headphones and they had great sound quality and worked well enough, but I was forever getting tangled in the cords, no matter what I did.  I usually tuck my phone into my jogging bra and my reading glasses hang from the front of my top, so the wires were making my running and walking life miserable.

Could wireless earbuds be the solution?  I'm no techie by any stretch and have to admit that the idea of bluetooth wireless headphones scared me just a bit.  I had never used bluetooth anything before and was afraid it would be too technical for me.  What was all this pairing stuff about?  Would I need to call my son 600 miles away and have him walk me through it?  Not wanting to spend a lot of money on something that I might not be able to figure out, I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to get a pair of bluetooth earbuds at a discount in exchange for an honest review on amazon.  I've since tried a couple of different models and they all worked equally well, with decent sound quality, so now I have one hanging on my treadmill and keep one in my running bag where I stash gum, reading glasses, snot rag bandana, and water bottle - ready to grab on my way out the door.

My new best running friend is the HV-930 Wireless Stereo Headset,  where the device is worn around the neck, completely out of the way.  The wires go the short distance from the receiver/neck piece to the ears, so there's nothing hanging down behind your head or in front of you to flop around or get tangled in anything.  They are very lightweight and I've worn them both walking and jogging on the treadmill and on the road a number of times, and even two recent 5K races, and they've performed perfectly.  The device doesn't bounce around the neck, it just sits flat against my collarbone, and it's so light that I don't even know it's there.

I don't use any fancy music programs, just the Amazon Music app that's free with amazon prime, and my phone is nothing spectacular either (Android, Samsung Galaxy S4), but the app performs well with these headphones and the sound quality of these earbuds is pretty darned good.  The package includes the neck piece receiver with attached earbuds, extra earbud pads/covers of varying sizes, USB cable for charging, and instruction manual.  It was simple to pair the device by turning it on, going to settings on my phone, and selecting bluetooth, which found the headset and paired immediately.  Done and done.

Oh, another nice little feature of these bluetooth headphones is the earbuds are magnetic (not the side that goes into your ear ... duh), and they pop right into the ends of the receiver for storage when not in use.

Magnetic earbuds tucked into the receiver

I honestly can't think of a thing that I'd change about this wireless headset, and was happy to give the product an honest 5-star review on amazon, not influenced by the fact that I was able to buy them at a discount.

~ Marie Anne

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Another 5K in the Books

I completed my second 5K on Saturday, my time being just a little slower than the previous week, but I did complete it, so it's still a win in my book.  It was a really small race, and in all honesty, I'm reluctant to really call it a race due to the size and lack of management, but I'll cover some tips for both race coordinators and participants in future posts.

Saturday's race was also on asphalt, and I'm still leery of doing too much running on hard surfaces, but once again, stretching and warming up really helped.  I didn't feel any shin or knee pain at all, but wasn't happy to see the small hills scattered through the course.  Still, adding hills give you a good workout, so even if I didn't get a personal best out of the deal, it got me out there and moving, and that's never a bad thing.

After doing that 5K Saturday morning, I did another 5K on the treadmill later in the afternoon at an even slower pace.  I had a weekend L4L goal to meet (30,000 steps over the two days), and knew Sunday was going to be a little busier with church activities both morning and evening, so wanted to get more than halfway to goal on Saturday.  I made my goal and then some without compromising worship time, so calling the weekend a win all the way around.  I thank God each day for every step that I'm able to take; He deserves all the praise and glory.

There are lots more races coming up within driving distance, but I haven't narrowed down which I'll enter yet.  Money is always an issue so I need to be smart and choose those that I really want to do and which are worth the entry fee.  I probably should limit myself to one race per month, but will see how that plays out.

Lots of ideas for future blog posts, so stick around!  As I mentioned in my opener, I'm anxious to cover some race tips for both runners and coordinators, to help their race be a better experience for all.  I'll also be doing some product reviews for fitness gear and tech stuff that I really like, and would love to hear about your favorites too.

~ Marie Anne

Thursday, April 21, 2016

To run, or not to run

So ... guess who's graduated to running again in the last few months?  This crazy ol' grandmother, that's who!  I'm not running far nor fast, but I have worked up to be able to do a 5K without stopping to walk, and that's quite an accomplishment for me!

I've dropped about 25 lbs since the first of the year, and it's definitely made a difference in being able to put one foot in front of the other.  I still have a good ways to go, but am confident that eating right and continuing to walk and run daily will get me there.

I had a bit of a scare after getting the results of my bone scan a couple of weeks ago.  I've been walking forever and had started running some weeks before, but knowing that my Vitamin D level is still low and I've already had the insufficiency fracture in my right tibia several years ago, I asked if we could do a bone density test to see just how bad it was before I stepped off to do much more running and risk another injury.

The results weren't pretty.  My spine is worse than my back, but I definitely have osteoporosis with radiologist reporting "high risk for fracture".  Hooo boy, now what do I do?  I freaked out for a bit, figuring this had me sidelined yet again.  It hurt to run on the road, but I'm ok on the treadmill, so after talking with my physical therapist, we decided it was ok to continue what I'm doing, as long as I pay close attention and stop if I feel pain.  So far, so good, and I even ran my first 5K last Saturday!

Since it was on a paved bike trail, I wasn't sure if I would be able to run the whole thing, so I prayed about it before heading out, and just hoped to beat 45 minutes total, even if I had to walk part of it. Well I surprised myself ... I DID run the whole thing, felt NO pain in shins or knees, with a finish time of 39:18 - I couldn't believe it!  That's an average 12:40 mile/4.73 mph pace, which is the fastest I've ever done, even on the treadmill.  After cooling down, I went back and manned a water station for the half marathoners, and jogged up and down a short patch of trail for probably another mile, then jogged the last 1.5 mile in with a friend who did the half.  I'm happy enough that I made it and in a good time for me, but the biggest praise is that there was no injury.  Thank you, Jesus!

So ... I'm going to continue to march run and do what I can until my body says otherwise.  Because of the pain/time involved in getting back from the injury several years ago, I have to be really careful and pay attention for signs that I've done enough, but as long as I slow down or stop when that happens, I should be good.

Osteoporosis or no, I'm not ready to hang up my sneakers just yet.

~ Marie Anne

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Bored walking on the treadmill? Not since I got my Kindle holder!

Walking or jogging on the treadmill never really bothered me much before, as long as there was something decent to watch on TV.  Since there's not much I care to even watch on television nowadays, it's become more of a chore.  Even if there is something on that doesn't rattle my morals, I have to crank the volume up so that I can hear it over the noise of the treadmill, and I'm sure my three dogs don't appreciate that too much.

It got better when I got these awesome in-ear headphones or earbuds or whatever you want to call them, and could listen to my audio bible app or my pastor's sermons that I missed,  They're very good quality and the sound is amazingly crisp.  Still, I'd rather be watching something while I walk or jog on the 'dreadmill', rather than just listen.  I do use the earbuds extensively when I walk outside, though.

Although I swore I never wanted a Kindle, much preferring to turn the actual pages of a book, I broke down and ordered the Kindle Fire just before Christmas when they were on sale.  It turned out to be a wise purchase for me, and money well spent, as I was able to use it while traveling over the holiday, and in most cases it got a better connection than my slow, cheap laptop did.

When the weather turned much colder and now that there's snow added to the mix, much of my walking is indoors.  To keep from going batty, I needed to find a shelf or holder so I could fire up the Kindle and read while walking.  Of course I went straight to amazon, where I found this exercise mount for iPad that had decent reviews and didn't cost an arm and a leg, so decided to give it a try.

At first I didn't think it was going to work out because the prongs that hold the mount on the treadmill weren't wide enough to fit over my console panel.  If it didn't have a secure hold, I was worried that it would bounce around and make me dizzy, or worse, fall off and BOOM - there goes my new Kindle Fire.

After playing with it for a few days, I realized that it's pretty secure, and I've been using it for between 4-10 miles of walking every day for over a month now.  Even at a slow jog, it doesn't shift or move at all, even though my cheaper treadmill isn't nearly as sturdy as better, higher-priced models.  My eyes and equilibrium definitely appreciate that the words aren't bouncing around on my Kindle screen!

I'm in the throes of a huge challenge on Leap4Life, and this tablet holder has been a lifesaver for me as a Kindle bookshelf.  I just make sure I have at least one good book to read and set my treadmill to a pace to either walk at a steady clip or a slow jogging pace, and off I go, letting my mind wander off into whatever depths the plot takes me.  With a really good read, my feet and legs don't even realize how far they're carrying me, and my mileage has increased greatly.

So if schlepping along on the treadmill is incredibly boring to you, find a way to make the experience just a little brighter.  The earbuds and treadmill bookshelf make a huge difference to me.

~ Marie Anne

P.S.  While my hat has surely seen better days, my Kindle screen isn't cracked.  It's the reflection of my ceiling.

P.P.S.  I did receive the earbuds at a reduced price in order to review them on amazon, but this blog post is just an afterthought, and not influenced in any way by the discount.  I purchased both the Kindle Fire and the iPad holder at full price and am not receiving compensation for mentioning them here.  If you happen to make a purchase after following one of my links, I might make a few pennies.

Whole30 Compliant Applesauce Salad Dressing - For More Than Just Salads

Applesauce Salad Dressing
I love to eat a big green lettuce salad with button mushrooms, sharp cheddar cheese, and apple chunks, and usually had it with ranch dressing.  Since starting Whole30, I can't have the cheese, and I can't have my usual dressing. What to do?  I had almost two full heads of lettuce in the fridge that I didn't want to waste, and really needed it to add another vegetable to my rotation. I tried making a compliant Dump Ranch dressing and it didn't come out very well, or at least I didn't care for it. I thought it to be very bland, and almost bitter, and I needed something a little sweeter to dress my salad.

Realizing that unsweetened apple sauce is compliant on the Whole30 plan, I wondered if I could somehow use it to make a dressing that would satisfy me?  Apple chunks in my salad were sweet, so perhaps an applesauce dressing would do the trick.  Off to the interwebz to search!

I found this recipe for Awesome Applesauce Salad Dressing that looked pretty good, so decided to give it a shot.  I didn't have mint leaves, but didn't see where that would be a big deal.  The first time I made this, I couldn't get my jar of minced garlic open, so I substituted a compliant garlic powder instead, and it was fine.  I did used the minced garlic from a jar the other times I've made it, and it's amazing.  Dried basil got tossed into the mix instead of fresh, but it still worked.

After mixing the ingredients in the amounts listed, I found the apple cider vinegar to be a bit overpowering, so I added more applesauce, a little at a time, until I settled on a taste that was palatable to me.  If I had to guess, I'd say I ended up with more like 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce, but stayed with the amounts listed in the original recipe for the other liquid ingredients.  I also used my new stick immersion blender instead of dragging out the big one, and it worked fine.  Super easy cleanup? Bonus!

Since I couldn't wait to see how it worked on an actual green salad, I filled my bowl with torn iceberg lettuce and sliced a couple of good sized button mushrooms on top.  I decided to omit my usual apple chunks since I was using the applesauce dressing.

The verdict?  I loved it!  No, it wasn't the same as my apple and cheese-topped salad, but it was Whole30 compliant, and it was good.  I don't like tomatoes, so just the lettuce and mushrooms was fine with me, but you could add just about anything else you wanted to this and I'm sure the applesauce dressing would be just as tasty.   It still had a bit of a punch with the apple cider vinegar, but not so much as to make you pucker up.  I would imagine if you like any sort of vinaigrette, you would enjoy this applesauce dressing too.

As I dished out the rest of my meal, I had an a-ha moment.  What would the applesauce dressing taste like on my chicken breast and red potatoes?  Only one way to find out!  I drizzled the dressing lightly over the chicken and potatoes and put it in the microwave for just a few seconds so that the dressing wouldn't chill the rest, and called it good.

Chicken/veggie mix with applesauce dressing
The whole thing was delicious!  I enjoyed it so much that I poured it over breakfast this morning too (which consisted of the leftover chicken, a couple of cubes of sweet potato, and some steamed broccoli ... who said breakfast had to be eggs?)

This applesauce salad dressing will be a staple in my kitchen for sure.  The majority of my meals end up being a mix and match stir-fry kinda thing from whatever I have in the fridge, and I think it will be tasty over both beef or pork as well as chicken, and most any vegetable.  I don't think I'll try it over eggs, but the boiled shrimp I'll be fixing in the next day or two will definitely get a drenching.

Since there is a good amount of olive oil in this dressing, it should count as a fat if I use enough of it over my meal, which is also a bonus for me.  I struggle with getting enough fat from regular foods, and didn't want to rely on my homemade ghee (clarified butter) for every meal.

If you try my version of applesauce salad dressing, please let me know what you think!  I'd love to hear how it works out for others.

~ Marie Anne

Updating:  I've been using this applesauce salad dressing on EVERYTHING!  If I'm working out in the morning, I chop a hard boiled egg and add a little of this dressing and that gives me the little bit of protein and fat before I get on the treadmill.  I use it on salads (of course), and just about any meat and vegetables that I throw in the skillet to stir fry or make a hash, this applesauce salad dressing goes on top after I dish it up.  Since apples go well with pork, this dressing makes an AWESOME-SAUCE (see what I did there?) to go on pork chops as well.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Ghee, it's not so hard to make after all!

My biggest problem with the Whole30 program is still getting enough fat into my meals.  Sounds like a good problem to have, right?  But it's not.  I need GOOD fat, and there's only so much olive oil and coconut milk I can handle.  It's easy to add nuts to the mix and get the fat in there, but you're supposed to use nuts sparingly on the Whole30 plan, and I've been trying to stick to that.  I knew I needed butter to put on my potatoes and other vegetables, so that meant making my own ghee (also called clarified butter).

I'd have made it earlier this week when I started the plan, but I didn't have anything to strain the milk solids out of the butter with.  They say you can use cheesecloth, but I didn't have any, so I ordered these nut milk bags from amazon and they came in today.  I couldn't wait to rip open the box and put them to use.  I needed my ghee!

The Whole30 book says to cube four sticks of butter, but I didn't see where it would make any difference how much you used because you're just melting the butter by itself, not adding anything else where a ratio of one ingredient to another might matter.  Not wanting to waste a whole pound of butter if I messed it up somehow, I decided to start with just two sticks.

So... here's how to make your own ghee.

Simply cut the butter into chunks and put into a small saucepan and melt it on medium/low heat, and don't stir it.  Once it melts down and starts simmering, white stuff will float to the top - that's the milk solids that you DON'T want, as they're not Whole30 compliant.

After it's simmered for a bit, take a spoon and skim the white stuff off the top of the melted butter and discard it.  That should get rid of most of the milk solids, but you'll still need to strain it good to make sure you got it all.

My nut milk bags were kinda stiff, so I had to think about how best to approach this step of the process.  I decided to try putting the empty bowl to catch the butter inside the nut milk bag and pour it through that way.  It was a bit tricky as it wanted to roll around on top of and off the side of the bag, but as soon as I poured it on top, I lightly pressed my finger down over the bag to make a slight indentation, so that it would flow through that spot over the bowl.

It might not have been the best solution, but it worked.  As fine a mesh as the bag was, it didn't seem like it caught much of anything, so I drained it through a second time.  It still didn't catch much, so I guess I must have done a good job when I first spooned out the solids.

After straining, I poured it into a glass measuring cup to make pouring easier, and put it into a large baby food jar to cool.  The two sticks of butter that I started with yielded slightly more than the baby food jar full.  I still needed to make something for dinner, so I used what little was left in the measuring cup, so I didn't need to scramble to find another jar.

Here's the clarified butter just after taking off the stove -

And after it settled for just a few minutes.  You can see at the bottom of the jar that it's already starting to solidify.

After more cooling and settling, into the fridge it goes, ready to add to my next meal!

It really is as easy as that.
  • Cut butter into chunks
  • Melt and simmer slowly until white stuff appears
  • Skim white stuff and discard
  • Strain to get rid of more white stuff
  • Pour into glass jar
  • Allow to cool, then refrigerate

I'm so happy that it's such a simple process, because I doubt I'd make it the full 30 days of the Whole30 without it.  This solves a huge problem for me, and I can't wait to try ghee on my breakfast veggies in the morning!

~ Marie Anne

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Dump Ranch Dressing, First Attempt

My stick blender arrived this morning so I immediately grabbed what I needed to make Dump Ranch dressing.  Without it, I've been having a hard time finding the fat required with my meals when following Whole30 so I've been anxious to try it.  This Dump Ranch recipe uses olive oil and coconut milk, both compliant fats on Whole30, so if I use this in salad or as a sauce over vegetables, I'll meet my fat requirements easily.

I didn't have everything on the ingredient list, so I modified mine just a bit.  I didn't have red wine vinegar and was afraid regular red cooking wine wouldn't be compliant, so I just omitted that.  My herbs were limited, so I just added what I had - a little oregano and basil.  The garlic and onion salts that I have on hand aren't compliant (both have other fillers in them - ugh), so I went with just salt and pepper, and a little chopped garlic.  Sigh - more things I'll have to add to my ever-growing shopping list.

My immersion blender didn't fit down into the neck of the jar that I had planned on storing the Dump Ranch in, so I used a large glass measuring cup, then poured the results into my jar when done.  No biggie, just means I had one extra thing to wash.  I chunked everything into the measuring cup and commenced to blending.  Everything whipped up just fine and looked great, so I did a taste test by dunking my finger in it.

Hmm ... kinda bland.  I added a little more garlic then grabbed an onion and cut a very small chunk, minced it, and tossed that in too.  Tasted again; still needed something.  Added more salt and pepper, and then it ended up too salty.  I poured just a tad more coconut milk into the mix and called it good.  It's not the tastiest thing I've ever made, but poured over other foods, it'll be fine. It'll sure beat the coconut  milk I added to my tea this morning.

I do miss the sweetness of a store-bought dressing, but maybe the red wine vinegar will help with that.  I probably won't miss it as much in my salad because I add apple to that, which will add quite a bit of sweetness.

All in all, I feel I've realized a modicum of success in my first attempt at making Dump Ranch dressing.  I expect I'll be experimenting with this basic recipe as I go along and will be sure to write about my successes (and failures).  I've never used fresh herbs much, but plan on seeing what I can find locally.  Maybe I'll even try growing my own.

Veggies will be on my plate with lunch, and salad is on the  menu with dinner tonight, and I can't wait to try this!

~ Marie Anne