Workouts, Vegan Eats, & Christmas (and Blendtec)!

Yes, I’m jamming it all into one post. To keep the wordiness down, the Christmas recap will be mostly pictures. But, first, a couple announcements and my training recap.

A Blendtec Kind of Holiday

So much exciting stuff going on. First off, if you remember my what I want for Christmas post, I mentioned at the top of my list needing/wanting a new blender. Well, Santa skipped that one, but Fitfluential did not! I actually won a Blendtec Designer 725! Yes, I did! I haven’t received it yet, but here’s the proof:

WinnerYep, that’s me!

Small town, BIG RACE

As you know, Alan and I are training for the SLO Marathon on April 26. Our training program officially starts with the new year, so it’s time to get race plans in place. We’d love to have you join us, so remember that the prices will be going up December 31. You can still save $10 with the code WOODAMB, so hurry up and sign up!

SLO Marathon

As for my own training, I think the term “holiday training” pretty much sums it up. Yes, I ran, a little. Yes, I did practice yoga, twice, once at home, once at the studio. But, all things considered, I’m okay with that. Here are my workouts from last week:

Monday: Since it was looking to be a busy day, I did an at-home yoga class with Yoga 30 (taught by my friend April of Yoga Central) early in the morning, followed by a three mile run (because that’s all I had left).

Yoga 30
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: Alan and I planned to run in Huntington Beach while visiting the family, but I ended up with a migraine, so that didn’t happen. Put a damper on the whole day.
Thursday: Christmas day Alan and I took a little three mile trail run. After being sick the day before it felt good just to be out and running.

Christmas Run
Friday: Rest
Saturday: In keeping with the holiday run thing, we ran about 5.5 miles on the trails.

Trail Run
Sunday: Run with the dogs day. Okay, that didn’t happen. Here’s why:

Weather

The poor dogs didn’t even get a walk. I did make it to a 90 minute yoga class though.

So, not a whole lot accomplished, but with holidays, shopping, family, travel, not to mention migraines, I’m okay with my training. Back on track in the coming week, though. I’m not quite where I wanted to be by the end of December since official training starts next week, but it is what it is. I’m also thinking about joining the January yoga challenge that Yoga Central is doing this month. That should help me stay on yoga-track (there are prizes!).

Vegan Eats

Of course all of my eats are vegan, but we did get a couple chances to get out to eat. For our second visit to the Tap In Room at Whole Foods, we tried the Artisanal Vegan Cheese plate, and, Oh My God! It was good. It was actually served by the “Cheese Man,” who explained each cheese. We also had the Jackfruit Crab Cakes again, and they were good too. We couldn’t finish it all, so we took home the leftover cheese and I had it for lunch the next day. It was even better, probably because I didn’t have the gustatory distraction of the spicy sauce on the jackfruit cakes. I was happy to find out that they sell it in the store (I’d never even visited the cheese section), and I can’t wait to pick some up.

Whole Foods

Whole Foods 2We also had a chance to introduce some friends to Native Food. I tried a new menu item, the Crispy Chicken and Avocado Club, forgoing my favorites, either the Bistro Steak Sandwich or the Greek Gyro Bowl. It was okay, but I’ll return to my faves on my next visit. Our friends enjoyed their meal too, which always makes me happy. I love when non-vegans learn how delicious cruelty-free can be!

Native FoodsAnd Finally…Christmas

Alan and I actually had three Christmas celebrations, one with each side of the family, then our own on Christmas morning. But, as promised, I won’t get too wordy. Just a lot of pictures (and maybe a little explanation here and there).

MinervaWe took the same friends for their first visit to Minerva Street, the desert’s version of Candy Cane Lane. Even though the youngest “child” was 18, they all loved it! So did I!

DebbieOur very nice neighbors brought us a huge gift basket. Obviously they don’t know us very well (yet), but it was a great bring-along to our family Christmas.

Gift BasketOur first Christmas, in Huntington Beach with Alan’s son and his family. The grandsons scored!

Watkins

Watkins 2

ElvisWe traveled home on Christmas Eve. My migraine finally cleared enough so that I could at least decorate the tree. We didn’t actually put any presents under it though, what with our little terror, er, terrier, Johnny B. Goode, being such a chewer. At least he didn’t eat the tree. Maybe because it was blessed by Elvis.

Alan_LilyJust because Santa didn’t bring a blender doesn’t mean I didn’t get exactly what I wanted. Now I’ll have to have some fancy adventures on the run that are GoPro-worthy.

Go Pro

NathanMy son Nathan and my beautiful daughter-in-law Sarah. I’d even say she was glowing…

ChristmasMy youngest son David and his girlfriend Melissa. Awake and smiling here but both were recovering a bit from a Christmas Eve celebration the night before.

DavidMy niece Brynne, who was there with her boyfriend Eric and his son Zach.

Brynne

SarahThere was some fancy underwear.

SamuelI guess Samuel doesn’t quite know what to do with his yet.

Samuel 2I distinctly heard Samuel, son of Paleo parents, say “yum” after he took a bite of the vegan turkey roast. He looks pretty handsome in his new robe, doesn’t he?

So that was my week. Got it done in less than 1,000 words. How was your holiday?

Just a Few Things…

Just a few things that are on my mind this week before Christmas.

First off, have you entered to win the $100 giveaway yet?  Learn about all the Bakken Invitation honorees and how they survived life threatening conditions and now use their second lives to give back. You can win a $100 Visa gift card so that you can help out your community too. Read the post for details.

Bakken

On Saturday it will be 11 years since my little sister died from cancer at the age of 43. The pain has dulled, but I always like to take some time to remember Susan on December 20. If I could, I’d tell her that her daughter is doing well now. I’ll be seeing Brynne in a few days, and I know that she’s happy, involved with a nice man, and finally working at a job that she really likes. Take a few moments today to give your sister a call, especially if you haven’t spoken for a while. I’m going to call my baby sister Lisa.

Christensen Girls

I got some new shoes the other day! Amazon had such a good deal that I couldn’t resist buying a second pair of my favorite running shoes, Mizuno Wave Rider 18. Here’s my review if you missed it. Now I’m pretty well fixed for my SLO Marathon training.

Wave Rider 18

Speaking of shoes, I trade out my shoes, using different models for different kinds of workouts. The Wave Riders will be perfect for my medium and longer distance runs, while my slightly older but still usable Wave Rider 17 will be perfect for any off-road running that I do (I don’t like to get my new shoes dirty for at least a few weeks!). The trails I run on are hard-packed and pretty even for the most part, so I don’t really need special trail shoes. For faster runs, like my tempo or interval workouts, I have a pair of Asics Gel Electro 33 (review here), that I can’t wait to use. I haven’t been doing any speed work, so I haven’t been wearing them.

Electro33

I have all my Christmas shopping done! That is really rare for me. I do have a couple gift cards to pick up, but other than that I’m done, done, done! I got my sister and brother-in-law’s gifts sent off on Tuesday, plus I have most of my wrapping done (just need to decorate the presents). I’m usually a lazy package decorator, but sitting at work today I watched one of my co-workers creating a bow, and she made it look so easy and look so good that I was inspired to buy some wide ribbon to try it myself. I also bought a bag of bows, though, just in case.

Bows

I did a lot of shopping online this year. I always threaten to do so, but I usually procrastinate so long that there isn’t any shipping time left. As much as I hate getting marketing emails, some of them really inspired me to get going early. In addition to the Amazon deal (30% off!), Asics had some amazing 12 days of Christmas specials. I also did a lot of my at-home shopping at Kohls. The day I went, everything was 25% off! And this was on a quiet Monday evening, so I avoided any crazy Black Friday kind of experience.

Stay tuned on Monday for a special Tofu post! Seriously. To go along with Meatless Monday I want to talk about tofu, and how it doesn’t have to be bland or boring, and how easy it is to prepare delicously. I received some coupons for Nasoya tofu, so I’ve been working on a few things to share with you.

Tofu

I received the nicest package from Prana! Remember I wrote about how I felt inspired by their clothing to return to yoga? Well, I guess they liked it and sent me this package which included two beautiful scarves, a purse, a couple caps, a top, a belt, Coola sunscreen and post-sun lotion, and two headbands. I. Love. It! Thanks Prana!

Prana1Have a wonderful weekend! Have you finished your holiday shopping yet? Do you alternate running shoes?  What’s your favorite tofu recipe? Now, go call your sister (or brother, parent, or any loved one you haven’t spoken to in a while).

What I (Really) Want for Christmas plus a Training Recap

So Far So Good

My training this month has been pretty good. I’ve managed to increase my mileage consistently, make to to yoga fairly regularly, and even slip in a Pilates reformer workout here and there. At this middle point in the month, I’m just where I want to be in my base training for the SLO Marathon in April. The new year will bring, among other things, my training program. For now I’m happy just increasing the mileage, and trying to re-create my yoga habit. Here’s how it went:

Monday: Run 5 miles. One hour yoga class (moderately challenging, since it was at the country club where I work). Oh, I did take a fall on the run. I was on the sidewalk and tripped on a crack. It happened so fast I didn’t have time to even try to stop myself, but with the exception of a couple bruises on my hands and knee, I am fine. Didn’t even tear my tights!

Fall

Tuesday: I tried out Yoga30, where my favorite yoga studio/teacher now has online classes. Full review coming, but I just did a 30 minute hips and hamstrings workout that really fired up my legs.

Wednesday: Run 4 miles with four hill repeats (up and down a nearby bridge. Twice.) It feels good in a masochistic kind of way to push my body again.

Wave Rider 18

New shoes! I found an awesome deal on Amazon for my favorite Mizuno Wave Rider 18.

Thursday: On the reformer for a one hour Pilates workout.

Friday: Rest. Though I did have a 90 minute deep tissue massage that felt like a workout at times.

Saturday: Run 7 miles, my longest run so far in this training cycle. We got a late start so I didn’t make it to yoga, which was probably just as well, since the run kicked my butt.

Sunday: This is our “run with the dogs” day, so a total of 3.4 miles with various dogs. Then I did make it to yoga, a 90 minute, challenging, Vinyasa class.

Prana

Many thanks to prAna who sent me a lovely early Christmas package, which included this darling top, which I wore to yoga on Sunday, and the cute cap, with which I covered my yoga hair.

We even managed a little Christmas shopping, though I’m not done yet. We lasted a couple hours only, then, starving, we tried the taproom at the new Whole Foods in Palm Desert.

What I Want for Christmas

Everywhere you look this time of year, you will find a holiday gift guide (I’ve posted a few here too). They’re great for getting an idea of what you want to buy your loved ones for Christmas. You will find convenient links, discounts, and some really wonderful suggestions for gift giving.

That is not what this is.¬† I have most of the gadgets, dozens of shoes (well, almost), and a new-ish computer. I have plenty of fitness wear (see below for the exceptions), and so many running jackets that I never wear most of them. Nope, this is just a list of what I what for Christmas. ¬†That sounds a little spoiled, but I don’t mean it to. People keep asking, so here it is. By the way, none of this is sponsored, though there are a few affiliate links. So, let’s get started! First off, this is what I don’t want.

No more coffee cups! While we own about a hundred (or a million, seems like), Alan and I use two each for our coffee in the morning. I’d start re-gifting, but I’m pretty sure most other people don’t need another coffee cup either.

There are always some high-end items on my list that I won’t go out and buy myself. Obviously I don’t expect my children to do it either, so you can guess who this part of the post is intended for.

This man

Blender

I have an old $39 blender which is, well, behaving like a $39 blender. It’s time for an upgrade, and I may as well as wish for the best. I would love a blender with at least 1500 watts of power (my current one can barely even crush ice in a smoothie. Here are a couple options.

Blendtec is one of the top of the line blenders that can accomplish anything from smoothies, to juices, to nut butters, without blinking an eye (so to speak).

Blendtec Total Blender Classic with WildSide & Twister Jars $329-$649

I have also heard good things about the Ninja, a much less expensive, but still powerful, choice.

Ninja Ultima Kitchen System (BL820) $99-$249

Go Pro

A couple years ago I made a (very bad) video about why I needed a Go Pro. It was kind of a dream back then, but I still think it would be one of the coolest ultimate techy gifts.

GoPro HERO3+: Silver Edition Price: $199-$499

The rest of my needs are pretty simple. Not even too expensive (you’re welcome).

Bathrobe

As wonderful as those “Sweetest, Softest” robes are, I can only wear them for a few minutes before I am so hot I just want to tear it off and sit naked for a while. Remember, I am a 50-something woman. So a lighter weight, pretty robe is perfect.

Slippers

I think since we’ve had Johnny he has eaten at least three pairs of slippers, so I’m in the market for an inexpensive (in case it happens again), yet comfortable pair. Large please. Also, no leather or wool.

Sweaters

Believe it or not, I may be one of the few people who actually want a sweater for Christmas. Two things though. 1) It needs to be long enough that if I reach up my belly doesn’t show and 2) NO turtlenecks. Please. I don’t like things around my neck they make me feel like I’m choking.

Services

I decided that this year would be the year of services. What would make me very happy is to receive a certificate for a massage, a pedicure, or other type of service that I rarely purchase for myself. There are a few ways to do this locally, including the Spa at the La Quinta Resort (I can dream, can’t I?), Massage Envy, or find a great deal through Groupon or Deal Chicken.

Running & Yoga Stuff

My drawers may be bursting with both running and yoga clothing, but it still may be the perfect gift for me. I pretty much have all the accessories that I need, GPS, heart rate monitors, yoga mat, but I can never have enough running tops or yoga pants. Medium. Check out my Yoga Outlet Store for good prices on some of my favorites (including prAna!).

Are you all ready for the holidays? What gifts are on your list?

Frazzled for the Holidays: 4 Tips to Remain (Mostly) Stress Free

Remember when you were a kid? The holiday season was a marvelous time. The countdown to Christmas or Hanukkah took so long and you savored every moment. Your only gifting responsibilities, if any, were your parents, and most likely you made it in school, or went shopping with mom or dad, laid out your precious pennies, and purchased the one gift that was always your parents’ favorite (you knew this because they told you).

Welcome to adulthood! These days the countdown to the holiday flies by, and not only are you responsible for shopping for gifts for your entire family, you may have friends, co-workers, in-laws, and others to think about. You must decorate your home, make sure that it is spotless pretty much all the time, bake, cook, entertain, attend other parties, all the while trying to keep the “normal” part of your life going, which includes caring for your family, work, exercise, hobbies (like blogging). Whew! Sounds exhausting doesn’t it? And stressful.

Stress Free Holiday 2

While it is impossible to take away all of the work involved in preparing for the holidays, it is possible to change how you react to the stress. Here are a few tips that I have found help me handle the holidays without tearing out my hair, and to keep me (almost) stress free.

1. Budget your Gift Giving

The holidays, particularly Christmas, are expensive. Avoid overspending by making a gift giving budget. Take the time to make your gift list, have an idea of what you want to give, and decide how much you want to spend. Then stick to it. Also, occasionally take stock of who is on your gift list. No one expects you to buy a gift for every single person in your life, particularly if you find yourself overspending every year. It really is the thought that counts, and a personalized card, a shared memory, a few photographs can mean more than a quickly purchased present. Finally, embrace the joy of giving with a gift card. No longer considered an “easy cop-out,” gift cards are ideal for everyone from teenagers to the man who has everything.

Stress Free Holiday

2. Budget your Time

Trying to do everything for everybody is not only exhausting, it is impossible. Prioritize your responsibilities to lighten your load. Sit down (yes, you have time), make a comprehensive list of what needs to be done. Shopping, cooking, cleaning, decorating, try to get it all. Then break it down. First, by order of importance and due date. Then, take a look at your list and ask yourself what can be delegated. Prepare to let go of control a little, but yes, your spouse can run the vacuum. Your kids can decorate the tree. True, it may not be exactly the way you would do it, but it will get done, and you will earn a little time.

Stress Free Holiday 3

3. Breathe

Or meditate. Or get a massage. The idea is to take a little time, calm your mind, and give yourself some space to breathe. Try spending a few minutes every morning just breathing, empty your mind of all of your to-do lists, and just be quiet and calm. After days and weeks of worrying about everybody else, treat yourself to a massage or facial. Avoid the temptation to “wait until after the holidays.” Nope, you need it now.

Stress Free Holiday 44. Exercise but…

Obviously, I embrace the power of exercise to not only keep me fit and strong, but to help me handle life. Running gives me confidence and lifts me up, while yoga keeps me strong, centered and focused. All of this helps me deal with stress. But, sometimes, something’s going to give. You really may not have time to do it all. Acknowledge this, embrace it, and get your activity when you can. Take a walk (a perfect time for mobile meditation), do a higher intensity (but shorter) workout (I have dozens of them pinned on Pinterest, how about you?). Play. If you only have 20 minutes for a run instead of an hour, take it! Don’t give it up altogether, but allow yourself to just do a little less.

While I don’t always follow all of my own advice, these are a few of the ways that I keep my stress to a minimum during the holidays. What would you add? How do you get it all done without going crazy? Please, leave your tips in the comments.

Return from Down Under

No, I didn’t take a quick trip down under to Australia.

I am just now popping my head up after over a week of holiday stuff. I did manage a quick post about our family celebration last Saturday, but beyond that I’ve been absent not only from the blog but also from social media (aside from a quick Instagram post here and there).

It was glorious.

Even now, I just wanted to post a quick holiday update, with the plan to be back and ready for the new year on Monday.

Running has been a challenge for me this month. I’m not sure why, but I’m just not feeling it. It could be the holidays, work stress, or something I’m not aware of, but I’ve been finding it hard to run even five miles. It’s putting a bit of a crimp in my training plan for the Palm Springs Half Marathon, but even that thought hasn’t really motivated me.

Not that I haven’t had some good runs. I took time off from work this week, and Alan and I have been on the trails a couple times with the dogs. I’ve really enjoyed that. The challenge is runs like this morning’s five miler. After a mile with Penny (who needs a break after the trail run yesterday), I had to drag myself back out and basically slogged through the run. The only good thing I felt about it was when it was over.

Down Under - trail running

Penny decided to blaze a new trail and led us on a new route.

I’ve been running long enough so that this doesn’t really worry me. I’ve had times that I just didn’t want to run for a while. I know that, as long as my body is able, I will be back. Running soothes my soul, energizes me, and helps me sleep soundly. I am a runner. I’ll decide soon if I’ll get my mojo back in time for decent training for the PS Half, and if not I’ll pick another race.

So after our family Christmas last weekend, we came home and finally got our own Christmas tree on Monday. I decorated it on Christmas Eve. You can tell it is decorated for dogs: the bottom two feet are basically ornament free. I’m wasn’t sure yet whether I could trust Coco not to eat the decorations, but she did very well. Of course, she couldn’t reach any of them so I guess it wasn’t really a proper test.

down under - Tree with Goldie

Goldie couldn’t care less about the Christmas Tree.

Down Under - Coco

Coco on the other hand loves to play and chew things.

Christmas Day was small and quiet here in La Quinta. Alan and I spent the morning together, then my son David and his girlfriend Melissa came over in the afternoon for basketball and dinner. Even though there were only four of us, I still spent an awful lot of time in the kitchen (and no photos to prove it!). In fact, not many photos at all of Christmas Day, except a few of us snuggling with our dogs. Here’s one of David and Melissa from the weekend.

David_Melissa

I spent the last two days relaxing. Short runs, getting Alan’s new computer (that Santa brought) set up. We went to the movies today, the Wolf of Wall Street. Good movie, but it won’t give you much confidence in stockbrokers. Tomorrow we’ll have one more Christmas celebration, with the twins and their parents, who will be at their Palm Desert home for the weekend. We’re pushing for California Pizza Kitchen for dinner though. We’ve done enough holiday cooking for the year!

I’ll be back next week with some ideas for creating achievable goals for the new year, my favorite blog posts from 2013, and a couple product reviews. In the meantime, I plan to enjoy the last weekend of the year.

How about you?

A Picture of Christmas + the FlipBelt Winner

We had our family Christmas celebration this past Saturday. For the second year, we picked up the twins in Orange County, then headed south to my son Nathan’s home in San Diego. Three Grandsons. Triple Awesome. In addition to the grandsons, Dane, Cash, and one year old Samuel, my son David, his girlfriend Melissa, niece Brynne (my sister Sue’s daughter), her boyfriend Eric and his son Zach were there. With, of course, Nathan and Sarah, Samuel’s parents. Nice size group, which included several paleo eaters, two vegans, and a bunch of “if it tastes good I’m eating it” eaters. Interesting combination.

While Nathan roasted a turkey, he also made a vegan stuffing, and we brought a party tray from Native Foods. We all had plenty to eat. I’d even got a slice of vegan pumpkin pie for myself when I picked up the platter, so I’d have something to nosh on at dessert time too. Confession: I didn’t take any pictures of the food. Instead, I took a lot of the family. Here are a few.

Samuel_DavidSamuel loves his Uncle David.

Dane_CashDane and Cash

Sarah_SamuelSamuel and his mom Sarah

David_MelissaMy youngest son David and his girlfriend Melissa

Brynne_EricMy niece Brynne and her boyfriend Eric

saraj_NathanArtsy pic with Sarah reflected in the mirror while Nathan admires his Chargers t-shirt.

MontanaA Joe Montana jersey for the 49ers biggest fan (sometime I’ll tell you the story of the only time I saw my husband speechless..when we bumped into Joe Montana at the Cliffhouse in La Quinta).

Alan_Dane_CashThe boys loved their goggles.

Brynne_Zach_EricWe had a plethora of 8-year-old boys. Eric brought his son Zach too.

Sarah_Nathan_SamuelIt’s great to be a one-year-old at Christmas. Of course Elmo was there.

SamuelAll this for me?

samue;2Of course, as children do, Samuel picks the wrapping as his favorite present.

Alan, the twins, and I stayed overnight in Encinitas. When we woke up on Sunday morning, we all went for a run along the coast. I’ve said it before, these eight year old boys are amazing. We all ran almost three miles!

Running FamilyMandatory family selfie

Running Family2Yes, we were running along the coast on December 21. Don’t hate us.

It was a wonderful celebration! The only sad thing was that my sister Lisa couldn’t be there. Hopefully she’ll be able to make it out from Texas next year (or, even better, the whole family meets in Hawaii (love this idea)).

With the big celebration out of the way, Christmas Day will be much smaller. Alan and I will celebrate it together, and my son David will probably stop by (and, omnivore though he is, enjoy some vegan Christmas dinner).

Before I forget, the winner of the FlipBelt giveaway is Sheena!! She says she will pick a black FlipBelt so that it will match all her crazy running clothes! Congratulations Sheena. I know you’ll love your FlipBelt. Remember if you didn’t win, you can still save on your FlipBelt! Just use the coupon code LFL and save 10%!

I hope that all of you who celebrate have a wonderful Christmas. Stay safe and enjoy the moment. See you in a few days.