Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why "I take my D!" may not be enough

If you've ever met me, talked with me, read my blogs over the years, or ever seen me walking at any of the dozen or so Race for the Cure events I've attended....then you know I am a huge proponent of Vitamin D.

I'm the crazy gal who wears signs on my back during the cancer walks that have statistics explaining how improving Vit D levels can improve their prognosis.

I wear t-shirts I made that read "Got D?" so that people will ask me about it and I can start conversations with them about this wonderful hormone.

See everyone else in their Race shirt? Not me :)

My D shirt collection
*Hot Pink* shirt not shown :)
I'm Crazy.

You know why? Because I'm sick of bad things happening to good people. I'm sick for my friend who just had a double mastectomy (under age 50, although a mastectomy at any age is devastating). And my other friend, a mother of 3 young children, who was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

I think national efforts in recent years have significantly increased Americans' general awareness about Vitamin D. Do most people know it's not actually a vitamin but rather a hormone? I doubt it.

Do they know they should probably be taking more of it? Yes.

People ask me ALL THE TIME: how much D should I be taking?

I wish there was an easy answer to that question. I wish I didn't have to delve into their personal and health history, asking questions like:
  • How old are you? 
  • Are you pregnant?
  • Do you have any autoimmune disorders?
  • Are you diabetic?
  • Exactly how overweight are you? 
  • Where do you live?
  • Do you put on sunscreen when you go outside in the summertime between 10am-2pm?
  • Do you have a history of cancer?
But the reality is that all of these things affect your D level.

After approx age 40, your body just can't convert sunlight into vitamin D like it used to do. Vit D is fat soluble so if you're overweight, you need higher intakes of D. If you live in the Northern States like Washington (where Seattle has the highest incidence of Multiple Sclerosis in the country), then even if you spend unprotected time in the sun, the UV levels likely aren't strong enough to enable you to make D. And if you're dark skinned, forget about it. Darker skin makes almost no Vitamin D.

As you can see, the list of variables that affect your body's ability to make Vitamin D is complex.

There really is no such thing as an ideal dose of D.

The best answer is: "whatever it takes to raise your blood level to 80 ng/mL."

For some that might be 2,000 IU/day. For others, that might be 15,000 IU/day. It's highly variable based on your individual circumstance. Even physiological factors that you may be unaware of could affect your ability to make D. Maybe you have one of the 200 polymorphisms that prevent your body from activating or binding the D properly.

Until you have your blood levels checked, its difficult to know if the amount you're taking is sufficient and if you're providing your body with what it needs to prevent cancer and fight off infections.

While I'm glad that when people see me now, they proudly declare "I take my D!" I think the dialogue needs to advance to them knowing what their D level is. I'd much rather hear someone say, "I have a great D level!" than simply knowing they take D.

There's nothing more frustrating than having someone who takes an inky-dinky amount of D (oh, say like 800 IU/daily) declare, "well I take Vitamin D and I still got the flu." Unless they knew their blood levels were higher than 80 ng/mL, they're not really proving Vit D doesn't prevent the flu; they're more or less expressing their ignorance on the subject.

Personally, I take 10,000 IU/daily and have since March 2007. My last blood level was 79 ng/mL. Ryan takes 2,000 IU daily and his last blood level was 69 ng/mL (I use the ZRT finger prick kit rather than having the lab draw his blood). RJ has been getting Vitamin D since he was a little baby tadpole (I took the 10,000 IU daily while pregnant. I probably could have taken more since I was heavier during pregnancy).

Now that I've established that I need 10,000 IU daily to keep up my level, I only get my D checked once a year. Same with Ryan. No need for excessive blood draws now that we know what it takes to get the ideal blood level.

How can you watch an amazing video like this, from ABC News, and not be inspired convicted to take action to ensure your family, your loved ones, your friends, your coworkers....are getting enough D:

"Vitamin D is pretty unique in its actions in that it does enter the cancer cells and induce them to undergo the cell death process."

Now do you see why I advocate so fiercely about Vitamin D? 

So, next time we see each other, I hope that you'll impress me with your D level rather than the fact that you're taking it :) 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Menu Plan

Back in the day, I used to post my menu for the week on my blog.

A few people (who read but NEVER comment!) have asked that I do that again.

I still menu plan, so its no big deal to do up a quick post and get it out there.

I use Evernote to store my recipes, so most of the links I post will be to my Evernote account that has the recipe listed.

Here you go!

Sunday: Asian lettuce wraps (they were actually pretty good- we'll keep 'em around)
Monday: Salmon with tangy raspberry sauce and asparagus
Tuesday: General Tso's chicken and fried rice (I use the packets from the grocery store)
Wednesday: Craig has a meeting so I'll have a Monster Green Smoothie and Ryan will have tuna fish with fresh fruit as a side
Thursday: Chili (Craig's mom's recipe, which I don't have digitally yet)

I usually only menu plan for Sun-Thurs. We generally eat out Friday and Sat.

I've been pretty good about trying new recipes every week or two. This week the Asian lettuce wraps were new. They were good and I think they're healthy too.

Last week I made a corn and bean salad (cold).

I liked it.

Ryan liked it.

Craig tolerated it.

We'll have it again b/c it's easy and healthy :) Craig asked that it be limited to once/month. Fair 'nough.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Kale Chips

I freaking LOVE kale chips. I mean, love, love, love them.

They're weirdly addicting and unlike anything else I've ever tasted.

Yet, as much as I love the chips, preparing the kale has been time consuming which prevents me from making them as often as I'd like. Having to rinse, then cut, then let the kale sit out to become bone dry takes time. Because of that, it wasn't easily something you could decide to make on the fly.

Today at the grocery, I found a bag of shredded kale for $2.50! It's a huge bag too. This. Changes. Everything.

1 lb bag of kale
Kale, in all of it's simplicity, has amazing benefits:

Top 10 Health Benefits of Eating Kale

Kale is being called “the new beef”, “the queen of greens” and “a nutritional powerhouse.” Here are ten great benefits of adding more kale to your diet:

1. Kale is low in calorie, high in fiber and has zero fat. One cup of kale has only 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 0 grams of fat. It is great for aiding in digestion and elimination with its great fiber content. It’s also filled with so many nutrients, vitamins, folate and magnesium as well as those listed below.

2. Kale is high in iron. Per calorie, kale has more iron than beef. Iron is essential for good health, such as the formation of hemoglobin and enzymes, transporting oxygen to various parts of the body, cell growth, proper liver function and more.

3. Kale is high in Vitamin K. Eating a diet high in Vitamin K can help protect against various cancers. It is also necessary for a wide variety of bodily functions including normal bone health and the prevention of blood clotting. Also increased levels of vitamin K can help people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Kale is filled with powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants, such as carotenoids and flavonoids help protect against various cancers.

5. Kale is a great anti-inflammatory food. One cup of kale is filled with 10% of the RDA of omega-3 fatty acids, which help, fight against arthritis, asthma and autoimmune disorders.

6. Kale is great for cardiovascular support. Eating more kale can help lower cholesterol levels.

7. Kale is high in Vitamin A.Vitamin A is great for your vision, your skin as well as helping to prevent lung and oral cavity cancers.

8. Kale is high in Vitamin C. This is very helpful for your immune system, your metabolism and your hydration.

9. Kale is high in calcium. Per calorie, kale has more calcium than milk, which aids in preventing bone loss, preventing osteoporosis and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Vitamin C is also helpful to maintain cartilage and joint flexibility

10. Kale is a great detox food. Kale is filled with fiber and sulfur, both great for detoxifying your body and keeping your liver healthy.

(Courtesy of MindBodyGreen)

Here is the kale chip recipe I use (from Gluten Free Girl):

Baked Kale Chips
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic 

3 large handfuls lacinato kale, torn into shreds
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Preparing to bake. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Combine the salt, smoked paprika, and garlic in a small bowl.
Wash the kale. Rinse the kale leaves, then put them in a salad spinner and spin until the green becomes a blur. Round and round, spinning and spinning — let the kale dry. After it comes out, dry it even more with paper towels. Those leaves should be bone dry.
Oiling the kale. Put the kale leaves in a large bowl. Drizzle over 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Massage the oil into the leaves. You might need more. You might have larger hands than I do. Use your judgment.
Bake the chips. Arrange the kale chips onto the sheet try and slide it into the oven. Bake until the leaves are crisp to the touch but still a dark green. (When they turn brown, they turn bitter.) Check at the 12-minute mark, to be sure.
Remove them from the oven. Sprinkle with the garlic smoked paprika salt.
Let them cool a bit. Eat.
Freshly made kale chips going into the oven
Now, I have a Misto (which if you don't have one, you're missing out- they're fabulous), so instead of putting the kale in a large bowl and dumping oil into the bowl, I just sprayed the olive oil directly onto the kale as it sat on the foil lined cooking sheet. I did massage it a little, but the Misto makes it SO EASY to oil things. Seriously, you need one.

And, because of the awesome bag of kale, we can enjoy these much more frequently so when I made the seasoning this time, I made a bulk batch. 

Kale chip seasoning
So now I've got everything needed to make these wonderfully addicting (and healthy) chips quickly. 

To ensure you're getting maximum nutritional benefit from these chips, be sure to use unrefined sea salt. Unrefined salt is mineral rich, unlike the refined salt that has been stripped of magnesium, potassium and other important nutrients. Using this mineral rich salt kicks up the health factor significantly! 

I hope you enjoy these as much as we do! 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Homemade tent

I did it!

I made something from Pinterest that requires tools :)

A tent, a fort...some place he can go to read and play with his stuffed (and real) friends:

Reading a book with Mickey
Constructing it was pretty easy (instructions here). After a quick trip to the local hardware store, we had all of the wooden pieces and hardware ($20)- they even cut the pieces down to size for me. We got the curtains at Bed, Bath and Beyond in the clearance section (you must use tabbed curtains since they alternate at the top) ($20- I didn't have a 20% off coupon with me...doh!).

In total, I spent less than an hour building it. I waited until Ryan went to bed one night and whipped it up then. When he woke up in the AM, I told him we had a surprise for him (his response? "Santa came?!") and we hurried downstairs.

The genuine excitement in his eyes is something I'll never forget.

I wanted a tent/fort that he could use for years to come so it had to be big enough for him to grow into, but also needed to be easily stored. This fits the bill perfectly.

And it's handmade. With love.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


My little family loves geocaching. We started caching because Hubby and I wanted a hobby that got us outside and was sorta physically challenging. We both carry around a little extra weight, so it's not difficult finding something that causes us to exert energy (and sweat).

I remember we were visiting Kentucky and I came across something online about geocaching. I researched it a bit and within 30 mins, I had hubby's entire family outside looking for a cache. I'm pretty sure they thought I was nuts (and probably still do). But, we found the cache and immediately wanted to find the next closest one. We used sister-in-law's iPhone and a free app.

That's how easy it is to get started.

Here I'll answer some of the most frequently asked questions I get about geocaching:

1) What is geocaching? This bumper sticker says it best:

Photo courtesy of Cafe Press
People all over the world have hidden caches (treasures) and posted the GPS coordinates online at You get the coordinates and then go find the cache. Caches range in size from nano (size of a screw head) to large (ammo boxes). Generally, you don't know exactly what you're looking for, but you usually know the size.

See the little black container I'm holding? That's the cache (was hidden
under a park bench in Indianapolis)
2) Do I need a specific GPS unit in order to geocache? Nope! I've found caches using an iPhone, my Android phone, and the Garmin GPS from my car (portable). Nowadays, I use my Magellan Explorist which is a GPS made specifically for geocaching. I received it as a gift many months after we started caching. While it does make caching easier, it is not a necessity.

My Magellan Explorist GPS
There are basically to ways to geocache:

Freestyle caching: Very little prep required, usually done with an iPhone/Android phone using a variety of apps. Good for when you're already out and decide on the spot that you want to geocache. These are caches of opportunity.
Involved caching: Preparation required, good for when you want to spend several hours geocaching. You decide ahead of time which caches you want to find (using the Geocaching website) and set out to find those. Premium membership to the geocaching website isn't required for this, but it sure helps make the planning easier.
3) Who would enjoy geocaching? If you like being outside, walking around aimlessly, and exploring, then you would probably enjoy caching. Geocaching takes you all kinds of places. We've cached in the heart of big cities (Indy) and in the thick of the woods in the middle of freaking nowhere. We've walked right up to the cache and other times, we've searched for 90 minutes only to come up empty handed. Folks with heart towards being green would probably also enjoy caching (local geocaching groups often sponsor "Cache In, Trash Out" events in which you pick up trash while you're out caching).

4) Who would NOT enjoy geocaching? If planning a trip to find a plastic container filled with McDonald's toys isn't your idea of a good time, then you probably wouldn't enjoy caching. Geocaching also requires a bit of stealth (others around you, known as muggles, aren't supposed to know you're geocaching), so if you're not comfortable with feeling around under park benches while 500 people are enjoying a family reunion in the park across from you, then maybe caching isn't for you.

Geocache Hidden in a guard rail near the highway
5) What do you once you find the cache? A geocache, by definition, must contain a log book of some type. It doesn't have to contain toys or coins or anything else, but it must contain a log book. Once you find the cache, you sign the log book and the date. Then when you get home, you log into your account to log your find. This way, the person who went through the trouble of hiding the cache is notified that someone found it! Some caches do contain little trinkets and if you want, you can trade items.

6) How long does it take? That depends on how quickly you find the caches :) On a Saturday morning, we'll generally update the GPS and head out with the intent to find 3-4 that morning. We'll be out for 2-3 hours. Other times, we'll already be somewhere and I'll wonder if there's a cache nearby (usually there is). I'll put out my cell, look for a cache (using the free c:geo app) and grab one if it's nearby!

7) Do you need anything else besides the GPS unit/cell phone? Generally speaking, no, especially if you're freestyling. You don't need anything else. However, because we usually make this an all morning event, I have a backpack I bring:

Geocaching gear
Contents include Magellan Explorist, first aid kit, several pens, pad of paper, a flashlight, tweezers, hand sanitizer batteries, and Altoid mints :)

Batteries are important for the flashlight and the GPS. The tweezers are essential for taking logs out of the nano caches (they're too small to pull out with your fingers, so tweezers help).

I'll also bring snacks for the little guy and water for all!

8) Do I need a Premium (paid) account on the Geocaching website? No. The first year or so we cached, I didn't have the premium account. I was able to find caches, load them onto the GPS unit (one by one) and we'd be off. Premium membership is nice, though, because:
  • It helps support the website and without that, we wouldn't be able to geocache at all!
  • It allows you to run reports of geocaches and load them (all at once) on the GPS unit (rather than one-by-one which you have to do if you use a GPS unit without the premium membership)
  • Access to a few Premium only caches (not available to others)
It's $30/year. The last two years I've had it and now wouldn't go without it.

9) Can kids geocache? Absolutely! I would safely say that kids over age 2 will love it. It's outside, they can run around, get that energy out and have a good time. I'd be aware of where I'm caching, though. We'll take Ryan out when we go to the park or the woods. But if we're freestyle caching (in public)...we generally won't cache with him there. Remember, you're supposed to use stealth and that's difficult to do when you're with a little kid. I'd say 85% of caches we've found are kid-friendly. In fact, on the website, you can run a report (premium membership) and look for kid-friendly caches.

Looking for a geocache in the woods

Found it!
10) So, how do I get started? Wanna start now? Like, right now? Download the app to your phone, search for the cache nearest to you and go find it! If you're lucky like me, there's a cache less than 1/2 mile from your home that you could find RIGHT NOW :) Then, sign up for a free membership on the geocaching website so after you find your first one, you log it!

Here's a YouTube video on how to cache using your iPhone (this video is an example of free style caching):

After you free style a few times, then maybe you'll want to plan an excursion. In that case, use the website to find a list of 2 or 3 that look fun and interesting that you want to find. Send them to your GPS unit (or note their location) and then drive to the first one. The website can map out a few right around each other, which is very helpful when you're new and want to find a few that are in close proximity to each other. 

Just don't forget to log your visits (so you don't repeat them) and earn points towards receiving a "favorite" badge. Once you have a badge, then you can start awarding it to others when you find a cache you really, really loved.

One of our favorite caches-- can you see it?
It's hanging from the tree (circled in pink)
When we travel to another city and we only have a few minutes to cache, I use the favorites to decide which caches I want to find. Why spend an hour looking for one that nobody has favored? Unless you're going for quantity over quality. Then find the caches regardless of their favorite status. If you want to find cool ones though, and you're short on time, find ones that have at least one or two favorite points. Those tend to be the ones most worth finding.

These have a lot of favorite points!! (271, 116, and 101 respectively)

In another post, I'll review the different types of caches (traditional, virtual, Earthcache, etc), but for now, if you're new to caching, stick with the traditional caches (indicated by the green covered box as shown in the picture above). 

Taken during one of my favorite caches--
I never would have known this beautiful
site was full of walking trails!
Examples of a few caches we've found over the years:

Under a fallen tree, cameo'ed and was difficult to find.

Hidden within a hallowed out tree

Hidden under a large fake rock at the park.

Good luck and happy caching!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The one about organization

Disclaimer: I am not a Thirty-One consultant-- I never have been. I just own quite a bit of their fabulous loot :) I also wasn't paid or compensated in any way for this post.  

One of the recurring resolutions people seem to make this time of year is to get organized.

With this in mind, I thought I'd share some of my favorite organization solutions that use my Thirty-One bags/totes/pouches. I'm pretty sure I own more Thirty-One stuff than many consultants I know.  

This is my greeting card tote:

I keep it just outside kitchen on the ledge heading into the basement. When I kept it elsewhere, I realized I wasn't utilizing it like I should. Now that I keep it within just a few steps of the kitchen, I'm pretty good about filing away cards after I purchase them. I'm also good about getting cards mailed on time since everything I need is in the tote (cards, envelopes, stamps, pens, return address stamp). 

I also made one for my mom for Christmas. She's really good about mailing cards-- just needed some help organizing all of them.

Inside the minivan, I have this Fold'n'Go organizer. I keep blank checking deposit slips and gift cards in there (along with a pen). I change purses often and found that I wasn't always great about making sure these items made the transition into the new bag. So now I leave them in the car and have them when I need them. The folio also has a nice sized pad of paper in it.

Also in the mini, I keep all of my loyalty cards on this Thirty-One key ring. Why lug those around on my every day keychain? Instead, I keep them in the van and grab this whenever I head into a store.

In between the driver's and passenger's seat, I have another Organizing Tote. This resides permanently in the van. It never, ever leaves.

It houses the trash bag, spare diapers/wipes, Wet Ones hand wipes (essential!!), the aforementioned Fold'n'Go organizer, and a Thirty-One zipper pouch. The side pockets contain a stash of pens, pair of scissors, gum, and a lint roller. 

The zipper pouch contains:
  • nail clippers & file
  • tissues
  • lip balm
  • feminine products
  • Tums
  • Vitamin C chewables
  • Ibuprofen
  • Coupon organizer
I LOVE the large Zipper Pouches. They're probably my current favorite Thirty-One item. As you'll see, they serve many purposes in my life (I own five of them and also gave two as Christmas gifts this year).

This next bag is my every day bag. It's what I carry almost every time I leave the house. It contains a Diapees & Wipees carrier and another Zipper Pouch that houses Ryan's on-the-go toys. I love the mesh pockets on both sides-- one carries Ryan's cup and the other fits my travel mug perfectly! 

My every day bag-- it goes with me everywhere!
If Thirty-One carried NFL licensed merchandise, this of course would be either a Broncos or a Colts bag. But, until then, I decided on UK :) It's fun carrying it around b/c I frequently get stopped by strangers asking if I went to UK. I didn't, but that doesn't prevent us from carrying on a good discussion. In a few instances, the stranger and I are six-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon :) 
Zipper pouch I keep inside the UK bag
Ryan's on the go toys....dinosaurs, cards, coloring book, more dinosaurs :)
I use this Cindy Tote as my professional bag. I've got a few meetings each month I attend for some groups I'm associated with, so this is where I keep my binders for that. I love that it's big enough to carry my Macbook Pro. Usually larger bags don't have long enough straps, but this bag doesn't have that problem. It's perfect!

Cindy Tote used for meetings
 This tote is from many years ago. I think it's the first Thirty-One product I bought. I use it as my "beach" bag during the summer (we live in the Midwest, so there's no such thing as a beach here!). This is the tote I grab whenever we'd heading over to my parents' house to swim or if we're meeting friends at the local splash park. It has RJ's swim trunks, water shoes, towels, sunscreen, water bottles, and my hat. The bag hangs on the wall on the way downstairs into the basement. Convenient, yet still out of the way.
My "beach" bag :)
I have 2 of the Large Utility Totes. These are probably the only items that I don't have a routine or permanent use for. I've used them to transport casseroles for meetings and to haul Christmas presents over to my folks' house. Usually, though, I use this one (shown below) as a laundry bag for RJ's clothes. His pint sized clothes means they fit into the bag nicely. I like this b/c I can carry this bag on my shoulder plus carry another laundry basket upstairs at the same time. Efficient :) 

Laundry bag for the little one
This is (yet another) Large Zipper pouch. It's very functional-- we use it store all of our cables/cords/adapters for when we travel. We don't travel lightly with respect to our electronics. We have iPads, iPods, Kindle readers, a Kindle Fire, Nintendo DSes, cell phones, and a Macbook. Rather than using our home cables, we have spare cables all packed up and ready to go when we travel. We also have a travel sized 5-outlet surge protector that comes with us. 

Before I discovered the zipper pouch, I used a small purse to carry these, but the zipper pouch is more flexible and takes up much less space. I love being able to just throw this bag into our backpack when we travel.

And finally, I have this mini organizer, wallet-thingy. I actually have two of them (got them during a sale where I could add them on for $5). I don't think I've ever used it. I'm still trying to figure out what to do with it. It used to fit my cell phone, but I got a new phone and now it's too long for the organizer. The pocket is about the size of a deck of cards. Any ideas??

So that's how I use my Thirty-One products for organizing. Fun, huh?

The problem is.....I'm in trouble. I mean....I'm in REAL trouble. 

Thirty-One just announced they now have a new line exclusively for organizing! Bins, hanging folders, large totes....yauzers. 

I'm in trouble. No doubt about it.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Indoor treasure hunt

If you haven't done an indoor treasure hunt with your kid, you're missing out.

We're avid geocachers. It's a fun, physical activity that gets us outdoors and we end up visiting cool places we probably wouldn't otherwise have seen.

But when it's 30 degrees outside, I prefer geocaching indoors ;)

This morning I found this indoor scavenger hunt online and decided to get it set up for RJ. He got a safari vest for Christmas which is perfect for our treasure hunting; really helps him to get in the spirit!

Surprisingly, he picked up on the idea of finding the next clue pretty quickly. After the second find, he said, "I need to find the next clue!"Although the free printable I used has fill-in-the-blanks, I read the clue with the word. Kiddo is smart but he has no idea that "bed" is what rhymes with "fed."

It took me less than 5 minutes to print, cut and place the clues. It took us about 20 minutes to complete the hunt.

All of that to find the treasure which was hidden in the dryer.....

See the excitement on his face!

I used the Walgreens App on my phone to upload the pics to our local store for printing. This fun adventure is the first official page of our SMASH book for 2013!

(SMASH book pages will be displayed on the blog on the first Thursday of each month starting in February as part of our challenge, but here's a sneak peek:)