Sunday, May 18, 2014

Race Report - Gold Nugget Triathlon 2014

I know this isn't a fitness blog, but I had a great experience at a race today and wanted to share, in hopes that it might inspire someone else to try something out of their comfort zone!


Alaska has an awesome women's triathlon called the Gold Nugget, and it's well-known to be super friendly toward beginners. I'm used to running, and started kicking around the idea of a triathlon last year, but not until the race was already sold out. This year I was ready for registration and got in (before it sold out in 9 minutes)! I was nervous about the swimming and biking, since I hadn't really been swimming since I took a class in college 15 years ago, and I hadn't biked since I was a kid. But I love having a goal to work toward, so I took on the challenge and started working!

The distances were (in this order): 500 yd. swim, 12.1 mile bike, and a 4.1 mile run. I trained through the winter at the gym and the indoor pool, and got outside as soon as the snow cleared (April). It was hard to estimate what a good goal would be since I'd never done one before, and I originally shot for 2 hours, 30 minutes, knowing that it would be easily doable. As my training went on, and I looked at previous years' results, I started to wonder if I could actually go under two hours. While the biggest thing was just to finish and have a great time, I really started to have my heart set on that 2 hour mark. And, I'm proud to say, I beat it by quite a bit, with a time of 1:50! I almost had to let out a little scream in the race results tent when I saw it.

The Good
*Meeting my goal time, of course!
*I was really happy with my training leading up to the race. Between working full-time, and 3 kids in various sports and activities, it was really challenging to fit in enough workouts. I had to be really creative, getting up early in the morning, swimming laps while my kids had swim lessons, etc. Not to mention that there are NO triathlon training programs that take into account that the ground will be covered in snow until the month before the race. But I used what I knew about running training programs, and wrote myself something that I felt like worked really well for me.
*The race itself. Everything was organized so well, the volunteers and organizers were super friendly, the other racers were supportive - you couldn't ask for better energy in a race. It was amazing. The ages of the racers ranged from 9-76, and women of every size and shape.
*I also had a crazy awesome run. All this cross-training has really helped my run times, and I ran some of my best miles ever.
*Seeing my family there, cheering me on! I also had several friends and family members in the race throughout the day, and it was fun to see them and cheer them on.


The Bad
*Someone posted a picture of a black bear on the bike course the night before the race. Uh, can you say nerves?! And, reading the race reports coming in on the Facebook page, it seems that more than one person SAW black bears on the course today! Ack! Gotta love Alaska!
*I had shin splints in the two weeks leading up to the race, along with some crazy busy weeks at work. I knew I had to lay low and mostly stay off my feet for the shin splints, but it made me really anxious that my body would just forget all the training I had spent months on. It didn't, but it caused me a lot of anxiety in the days before the race.
*Okay, I know this sounds like I have turned into a true Alaskan, but it was actually a *touch* too hot for me out on the course today. We've been uncharacteristically warm here lately (over 70 degrees), and I was super hot on the run. Felt like California! Of course, it's better than the alternative, and I'm sure in future years I'll look back longingly on this 72 degree day!

The Ugly
*I forgot my sunglasses AND my racing belt/bib (my number) at my first transition!!!! The racing instructions said you HAD to have your racing bib for the run, so I spent a LONG hour on my bike having nightmares of what they would do when I got to the run and didn't have it (answer: nothing, but it was a lot of stress).

And that's it! I've had so many people say they could NEVER do a triathlon, but it was really encouraging to see women of all ages and fitness levels out there on the course today! Most people could do most beginner-level races with a few months of training, so start exploring what's in your area and try something new this summer!


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Monday, May 5, 2014

Meet the Mop That Changed My Life


I want to make clear from the beginning that this is NOT a sponsored post - just sharing something I love!

Sometime last year, I put a plea out to my readers to help me find the perfect steam mop. I HATE mopping with the passion of a thousand fiery suns, and I was willing to pay nearly any amount of money to make the job bearable. Here's some key words to start us out. Black dog. Three kids. Linoleum. Rental. Am I painting a lovely mental image here?

So one dear reader suggested the Hoover Floormate. I have the SpinScrub, but there is now a newer model. The Hoover Floormate is not actually a steam mop, but ended up being exactly what I was looking for. My main issues with mopping were:

1. I would spend all this time mopping, and then afterwards, if I would wipe the floor with a baby wipe, it would still come up brownish/gray.

2. The dog hair. Oh, the dog. How I wish.... never mind. Each time I would mop, it would simply push lines of dog hair into the corners of my floor, and I would have to go back through afterwards with baby wipes and clean all that up.

It was getting to the point where I would vacuum, use a Swiffer, then get on my hands and knees to spot-clean what the Swiffer hadn't gotten, and it STILL wasn't clean enough! Something had to change. Once my reader recommended the Floormate, I read the reviews and knew it was just what I needed.

Here's how it works:
*The Floormate has three functions: Vacuum, Wash, and Dry.
*Vacuum: Not intended to replace a regular vacuum, but nice if you're mopping and come across some crumbs or something. You can easily turn the switch to Vacuum, suction them right up, and then move along.
*Wash: You squeeze the trigger, and it sends out washing solution onto the floor, at which point some little rotating scrubbers under the head scrub the yuckyness, making your floors beautifully clean. At this point, the Floormate is also suctioning up the dirty water into a separate compartment.
*Dry: To decrease the drying time, there is also a Dry setting, which further suctions up the water. I don't use this because to me, the floors dry quickly enough without it.

The day it arrived from Amazon, I was giddy...

The first day I used it, I was converted. Here is my floor's side-by-side last two columns on the far right have not been mopped yet.)
Doesn't that look so nice and sparkling clean?

And then... this is unsettling. Here is some of the water the Floormate had sucked up during its first use. Beware... this is gross... See that bottom inch? Eeeeewwwww!
Thinking of buying one? Here are some Pros and Cons...

The Cons:
*Obviously more expensive than a regular mop.
*I always forget when I go into Dry mode, and I think I'm in Wash mode. I feel like it shouldn't squirt out the cleaning solution unless you're in Wash mode.
*About the same weight/size as a vacuum.

The Pros:
*No nasty water getting mixed into the water you are using for cleaning!
*The head is nice and low, so I can easily mop right against the edge of the floor, under the edges of my cabinets.
*You don't need to use their cleaner - you can use anything, even water and vinegar.
*It can clean lots of different surfaces - tile, grout, sealed hardwood, linoleum, etc.
*Cleans my floors so beautifully that if I take a baby wipe to it after I'm done, it comes up clean! I could NEVER make this happen before!

*And the biggest Pro of all.... now I LOVE mopping! I have gone from avoiding it at all costs, to actually being disappointed if my husband uses it without me. And, the more I love using it, the more frequently I use it, and the cleaner my floors are likely to stay! Can't beat that!

So that's that! Check it out! If you have any similarly wonderful products that have changed your mind about a household chore, I'd love to hear about them!

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

When to Get Off the Merry-Go-Round


Does anyone else go through this cycle? This is me, constantly. I was always a chubby kid growing up, and about 4 years ago, I was at an all-time high with my weight. I was unhappy, I lost about 30 pounds, and now... I'm here. I'm not overweight, I'm not thin. I'm just.... average, I guess.

But I am constantly going through the cycle above. I'll gain a little bit of weight, and commit myself to being healthy and fit, eating right. I'll be super super disciplined, and count calories, exercise, etc., and the scale doesn't budge. So then it all seems pointless. Or, I lose a pound or two, and then I reason that my weight is actually fine. I'm a mother, I like my curves, I like my body, I'm just going to maintain. But then maintenance quickly spirals into eating whatever I want, the pounds pack back on, my clothes don't fit, and then we start again.

I think a perfect world, for me, would consist of never weighing myself, and just focusing on reaching fitness goals, trying different classes, events, races, and routines, and just eating more cleanly and having a healthy lifestyle. Wouldn't that just be the ideal? It sounds so easy!

I want to just do one or the other. Decide I'm going to keep going, and be disciplined about getting there, or be honest with myself that this is an acceptable weight for me, and stop beating myself up about it. How do you decide when you're done?

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Easy Weekday Dinner - Fried Rice

Growing up, my mom was a working mom who always managed to get a delicious dinner on the table at the end of the day, something I certainly appreciate more now than I did at the time! One of the go-to meals around our house was fried rice. Now, this isn't meant to be an authentic recipe for fried rice, guys. Certainly you can find that elsewhere on the interwebz. But this is how I was taught to make it, and it turns out pretty tasty, if I do say so myself.

This will be more like a tutorial than a recipe, as I have never measured any of the ingredients and they're all going to be "to taste." But you will need cooked white rice (preferably leftover, or at least refrigerated), an egg, soy sauce, a variety of vegetables, and some meat. Vague, I know, but this is one of those super flexible meals that you can kind of make work with whatever you've got in the fridge.

So first, dice everything into similarly-sized pieces. I usually use what's pictured below: celery, carrots, and ham. We ALWAYS have those on hand, and all my kids like them (in theory).
 Next, take any veggies that need to be cooked, and cook them in a little bit of oil.
Cook your veggies until just tender. Here's where you have two choices. One, just add your rice and ham and move on to the next step. Or, a slightly less healthy, but very delicious option, is to actually fry your rice. First, you add a little more oil to the pan after you cook your veggies. Then pat your rice and meat down into a flat layer and let it fry up a bit on the bottom. I usually let it fry up a bit, then give it a stir, and repeat.
Your rice will start getting a little bit crispy. Don't overdo it though, you just want some crispy bites throughout, not an entire batch of rock-hard rice. Next, make a well in the center of the pan. Crack an egg into a separate bowl and whisk it, then pour it into the well.
Cook the egg in the center gently, as though you're making scrambled eggs.
When your eggs are pretty much cooked through, stir the egg in with the rest of the ingredients.
Add soy sauce to taste (start with a splash or two). If you're going to use green onions, stir them in right at the end here.
We pair this with the potstickers from Costco, for an easy weeknight meal that can be made with whatever you've got! This would be delicious with pork, shrimp, or chicken as well! Fried rice is also a good way for me to get some protein into my picky eater, as he's not much of a fan of meat, but he'll eat some scrambled eggs any day! Give it a try and let me know what your kids think!


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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fur Rondy


For a while now I've been meaning to do more posts on living in Alaska. It's truly such a unique experience that we are having here, and I'd love to share more of it with you.

Tonight we went to a celebration called the Fur Rendezvous (or Fur Rondy, as super cool kids call it). I just learned, courtesy of Google, that Fur Rondy started in 1935 as a 3-day sports festival to give the locals something to do in the winter. For reals. Now it has all sorts of events, from a Native Alaskan blanket toss, to the Running of the Reindeer (race against reindeer!), Outhouse Races (?), fireworks, and more!

We always love to see the snow sculptures made for the competition. This year, with Minecraft, Minions, and Dr. Who all in one competition, my kids almost wet their pants with excitement. It's amazing to see what people can make from an 8'x8' block of snow.
(This was half of a huge sculpture of a bear bowling at these little penguin bowling pins)

There is also a carnival that sets up downtown, and everyone comes and enjoys it, and we all pretend we're not going to the fair in the middle of an Alaskan winter.

As we look down the "midway," you'll note our large hotel off to the left, one of the dead giveaways that they just plopped this carnival right downtown.
Fair selfies.
 
Attempting to share cotton candy and a caramel apple in the cold, with no tables, pummeled by an 8-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a 6-year-old with two loose front teeth and a penchant for swallowing them.
 
We ended the night cold and content. It was one of those nights where the kids behaved, strangers gave us extra tickets, no one cried and begged for more than they got, and the fair treats tasted like the nectar of the gods. Love this Alaskan life.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

BBQ Sauce and Rub Review and Giveaway!

We've been going crazy with the BBQ sauce around here lately, since BBQ Pit Stop sent me some sauce and rub for a review and giveaway!
As many readers know, my husband is actually a former chef and the stay-at-home parent, so he is the one primarily making the meals in our family. I just sort of flit around and think up wonderful-sounding things for him to make. We were both excited for this product review, as we are always looking for something new to add to our recipe repertoire.

First up, we tried both the rub and the sauce on some plain ol' BBQ chicken.


Mmmmmmm..... The sweetness of the sauce was immediately noticeable. One of the ingredients is actually vanilla extract, and it gives it just a little touch of something different. My 8-year-old daughter noticed the sweetness immediately, and declared it "super yummy."

Next we tried the rub and the sauce on some shredded pulled pork sliders.
 Again, absolutely amazing. The sweetness of the sauce paired up so nicely with the pork.

And finally, we mixed the sauce with some mayonnaise to make a BBQ aioli as a dipping sauce for these homemade tater tots. Sooooooo delicious.

My kids LOVED this sauce, and so did my husband and I. The rub adds that extra bit of flavor, and would be excellent on its own, though we kept pairing it with the sauce! We'll definitely be picking up more of both in the future!

Currently, this sauce and the rub (along with a variety of others) are available at their storefront, which is located in Lehi, Utah, or you can give them a call at (801) 341-7171 and place an order. Their storefront also stocks a variety of different grills and smokers. So if you're local to Utah, definitely go check it out! Excellent stuff! We'll be heading over there in person the next time we're down that way!

Want to try some of the rub and sauce for yourself? Enter our Rafflecopter giveaway! To enter, "like" Simply Clean Living and BBQ Pit Stop on Facebook, and/or leave a comment below, letting me know your favorite way to use barbecue sauce! The winner will receive the Blues Hog Barbecue Sauce and Plowboys BBQ Yardbird Rub. Entries subject to verification. Giveaway closes next Tuesday, February 18th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Monday, January 20, 2014

6 Reasons Why Parenthood is the Best Show You're Not Watching



If you don't already watch Parenthood on NBC, you're missing out on the best show on TV. It's about a family, led by Craig T. Nelson and Bonny Bedelia, their four adult children, and the assorted in-laws and grandkids. All around amazing characters, storylines, dialogue, all of it. Here's what sets it apart from the rest:


The women are not rail-thin fashion models
While the women who play the main characters are all gorgeous, they are not the stick-thin actresses you see on some other shows. None of them are overweight, but they do have bodies that at least resemble real life. They're dressed appropriately for their body type and age, and when the characters are at home with their kids, their wardrobes aren't magazine perfection - they're in cute, comfy, SAHM clothes. Or, sometimes frumpy SAHM clothes. So, pretty true to life.

Realistic Storylines
While of course there are storylines that make me roll my eyes (hello, long-suffering Kristina - can anymore sadness come your way?), I love that there are such realistic storylines. I laughed when Jasmine and Crosby had a new baby, and it wasn't all adorable coos and cuddles - they were fighting about getting up in the night, and Jasmine was angry and resentful when she always had to be the one to feed the baby. I wish that new parenthood was represented this way more often, because it's much more realistic.

Another storyline that I loved (and hated) was when Joel and Julia tried to adopt a baby, and at the last minute, the birth mother changed her mind. There was no happy ending, the birth mother didn't show up to swelling music in the last ten minutes saying never mind, they could adopt the baby. She just... changed her mind. Like women do. And they didn't get the baby they had been planning and hoping for. It was devastating, but wonderful to see represented on TV.

While there are storylines about issues common to many TV shows (infidelity, health problems, alcoholism, etc.), they also touch on other issues more rarely seen (Autism, PTSD from serving in the military, foster care, to name a few).

A Main Character With Asperger's
The first thing that made me fall in love with Parenthood as a show that stood out for the rest was the inclusion of a main character with Asperger's, which is on the Autism spectrum. Autism Spectrum Disorders and other disabilities affect so many families, yet I could count on one hand the number of family sitcoms I've seen where a main character has any sort of disorder or disability. Max's Asperger's isn't a very special episode, and it's not what the show is about. It's just a part of who he is, and a part of what makes their family what it is. Sometimes it's a focus of an episode, sometimes it isn't, but it's just part of Max's character. My heart aches with their family as they make decisions about how to help him navigate life, and while I don't have a child with Asperger's, as a Special Education teacher, it rings true to the issues and conversations I know some parents go through with their children.


Leaning On Family for Help
When I have problems, I don't go to a therapist, a hot neighbor, or even a friend - my first stop is my family. A sibling, a parent, an in-law... somebody who has known me for years and loves me anyway. And I think that most families are this way. What I love about Parenthood is that it shows the characters leaning on each other, going to their siblings, parents, grandparents, or extended family for advice and comfort, something I find sadly underrepresented on TV - and the way they do it here is beautiful.

There's Rarely a Good Guy or a Bad Guy
The show portrays conflicts between spouses, parents and their children, siblings - usually two people who love each other very much. They disagree - sometimes it's major, sometimes minor, but nearly always, there are two defensible sides to the argument. There is no villain of the family, and no angel - just people who love each other, disagreeing about real things, each of them with valid points.

It Gets Me Every Time
I challenge you to watch an entire season of Parenthood and not cry at least a couple of times. If you're like me, it'll be more like every episode. Maybe this shouldn't be on a list of good things about the show, as it sometimes reduces me to shuddering sobs and ugly cries - and I do not look like the lovely Monica Potter, pictured above.

If you haven't been watching it, jump right in. Or catch old episodes on Hulu, Netflix, or watch from the beginning of this season on nbc.com.

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