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Hot & Cool After School Snack: Fluffy Popcorn & Smoothie

Hot extra buttery microwave popcorn used to be one of my favorite snacks, but after reading several articles about how bad it was for you I switched to air popped corn.  The best part is that I've come up with a way to satisfy all 3 sets of taste buds in my house.  Salty for Ava, sweet for me and spicy for Eric.  I pair Ava's with her favorite Strawberry Mango Smoothie and it's enough to hold everyone over until I've cooked dinner.

Fluffy Popcorn: Salty, Sweet & Spicy

INGREDIENTS:  1/2 cup popcorn kernels, 4 tablespoons melted butter, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoons sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon white cheddar popcorn seasoning, 1 big bowl for popping and 3 smaller bowls for serving

Begin by popping 1/2 cup of popcorn into a large bowl.  While this is happening melt 4 tablespoons of butter.  Once the popcorn is finished popping, thoroughly coat it with the melted butter.  I recommend using a large flat wooden spoon to turn the popcorn so you don't get your fingers dirty.

Separate the popcorn into your 3 serving bowls, about 4 cups per bowl.  Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt evenly over the popcorn in each bowl and turn to coat.  SALTY is done, set it aside.

The second bowl is going to be SWEET.  Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.  Turn with your wooden spoon to coat thoroughly.  Set aside.

Rinse and dry your spoon and we'll finish up the last bowl, SPICY!  Add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon rosemary and 1/4 teaspoon white cheddar popcorn seasoning.  Turn with your wooden spoon to coat thoroughly.

The sweet and spicy look similar so I recommend using colored bowls so little ones don't get confused.  You're almost ready to serve.

Strawberry Mango Smoothie

INGREDIENTS:  1/2 cup unsweetened frozen strawberries, 1/2 unsweetened frozen mangos, 4 oz. yogurt (2 tubes), 3/4 cup apple juice

Measure strawberries, mangos, yogurt & apple juice into your blending device.  I love my magic bullet.  Be sure not to overfill the cup.

Blend until smooth and now you're ready to serve.

Snack time!  Use a ziploc bag or tupperware to store uneaten popcorn for tomorrow.

A Tug-a-War...Exercise vs. Mom

Summer is around the corner and as a mom, you may have this thought running through your head,  “I liked to tone up for the summer, but I do not have time for exercise and be a mom.” Trying to find time for yourself and have time with your children can sometimes feel like a tug-a-war. I remember the days before children; I worked out 1.5 hours 6 days a week.  That kind of schedule is not going to happen now with two small kids.  Not only do I not have the time, I choose not to take it.  What I have learned is that my workouts depend on my children’s stage of life.

For example

As a baby

Once cleared from my doctor to exercise after the birth of my daughter, I struggled to figure out what I should do. It was too hot to go outside in the afternoon and her naps could be unpredictable.  My focus was not to get in a long run or take the time to go to the gym.  My favorite workout was simple….a pair of weights, an exercise band and a resist-a-ball right in the middle of my living room floor. I would work as hard and intense as I could for 20 minutes, which was all I had on most days.

As a Toddler

A walking/running stroller is a must at the toddler age.

There was nothing I loved more than a long walk or run while talking to my little one and exploring the world.  My goal was to utilize my time for exercise as an opportunity to spend time with them and be a good example of health and fitness.

As a child

A long talk, family time and a lot of calorie burning has been accomplished while they ride their bikes next me as I walk or run.

It is not always at the intensity or duration that I may desire, but it gets the job done. They have also hit the stage to play in the backyard while mommy gets in a 20 minute strength training work out.

Finding time for kids and exercise will change with the season of your family.  Do not be discouraged. Throw out what you may have done in the past and create a new plan for exercise with your kids and don’t let the tug-a-war pull you down. Not only will you “tone up” but you will be a great example and before you know they will be working out right next to you.

Growing Green

With gas prices skyrocketing , I'm willing to cut back on luxuries but  I won't compromise the quality of food that comes out of my kitchen!  I love using fresh herbs  and each time I have a glass of ice tea at Shirley Ray's house, she always throws in fresh mint. So, I thought I'd ask her for a little education in regards to  planting a mobile herb garden.  Recently I showed up with a clay pot and a few herbs and my lesson began. She took me step by step through the process .

Herb gardens have few limitations. They can be planted in the ground , a clay pot or any kind of a wire basket. They can live by a kitchen window, a back yard or an apartment balcony. Shirley begins by lining the basket with her favorite landscape fabric,  WeedFree Pro. This allows water through but keeps roots inside the container.

On this particular afternoon, she put together a couple of herb gardens. I thought this aged bicycle basket was  a perfect place for a mobile garden as well as  the traditional clay pot I brought with me.

Shirley prefers inexpensive gloves, rather than a name brand.

With  numerous choices of herbs to choose from we started off with basil, rosemary and mint. She keeps several kinds of  mint in her garden like pineapple mint, chocolate mint and spearmint. She planted multiple  herbs in each garden, but left sufficient room for each to grow and spread.

Fennel has a long droopy leaf and she planted it in the bicycle basket by the outside edge, giving it room to fall over the basket. She doesn't really cook with fennel but she informed me that caterpillars are attracted to it and  by planting fennel she'll also have butterflies in her garden.

This is called the Butterfly Bush, a member of the lilac family.Its rich nectar attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and beneficial insects.

Shirley plants lavender in her garden  just because she loves the fragrance. In fact, a small pouch of  dried lavender  tucked inside your pillowcase is supposed to help you sleep.

While she's not picky about her gloves, she is particular about the soil she uses and she pampers her plants with

Miracle Grow.

After just about an hour in Shirley's backyard, she had put together two distinct herb gardens and guess whose front porch this mobile garden calls home?

Shirley Ray: personal style-Texas casual

I'm inspired by memories of my grandmother's garden. Every time I walked into her backyard, it was wall to wall flowers.

Shirley is  also the founder of Shirley's Creative Solutions. She is a caterer, event planner, provides services as a personal assistant and whips up unique hand made gifts.

Leaving a Fingerprint-Cindy Barry

In 2006, Cindy Barry was hired as a Parent Support Specialist in Round Rock ISD. She was hired to build a bridge between home and school; locate invisible parents and educate them, empower them to get involved in their children's education.Through her work she discovered  a homeless population people weren't aware of. A boy sleeping on a bench by a local hamburger stand while another missed school for a week because he didn't have a pair of tennis shoes to wear to PE. Then there are the "couch hoppers." Kids who crash  in the living rooms of  friends because they don't have anywhere else to go.

Cindy  uncovered the reasons students missed school. Hungry and homeless students hide their secrets,ashamed for people to know their circumstances. This petite woman with a giant heart began to feed them before they headed for class and that small act of kindness proved she was trustworthy. Once the trust was established,the students began pouring out their stories and Cindy began to catch their tears; the tears that fueled an engine that has run nonstop for six years.

She started out by asking her neighbors to help her out with a little pocket change so she could keep a stash of  granola bars in her office but the more stories she heard, the more resources she needed.

Cindy has facilitated  job interviews, medical appointments, and clothing donations for hundreds of students. She and her crew of volunteers have helped students move into their own place and taught them the discipline of budgeting.

On June 1, 2011 budget cuts  ended her position with the school district.

I had built relationships with kids and their families. I couldn't let the absence of a paycheck keep me from helping them. I wasn't willing to disappear.I couldn't let them down.

For almost a year, Cindy has continued to run her program without funding. Instead of an office at the high school, her garage is now a warehouse for gently used clothing, backpacks and toiletries. This single mother of four remains prepared to meet the need when her cell phone rings and she says she receives phone calls daily about students in crisis. In turn, she calls on people  in the community  that are willing to help when they know the need.

While at the gas pump, a young man recently approached her. "You probably don't remember me but a  few years ago, you gave me a pair of shoes.You paid attention to me that day. No one thought I'd finish high school but I did  and now I'm getting my Associates degree."

Cindy is leaving her Fingerprint in the Round Rock, Texas community.  To donate money, gently used clothes, blankets,backpacks,  toiletries or to invite Cindy to speak  to your club or organization, email her @ rjb1011@sbcglobal.net

Seeing is believing

"Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see."                                                                     Hebrews 11:1

You've been running for miles, and are exhausted. The race is almost over. Not too far off in the distance, you see the finish line. What happens next? All of a sudden, you get this second wind, and you're running faster than ever. The finish line is coming at you at lightning speed. Next thing you know, you've crossed the finished line!

Can you see your dreams in the distance? No? Then why not pretend like it? Recently, I began purchasing magazines and dowloading images on my computer of things or dreams I desire to achieve. They may be things that seem far off in the distance, but with a vivd imagination and a pair of scissors, a girl can work wonders!

To anyone else, buying a bridal magazine when not only are you not engaged, but you havent had a date in months, may seem proposterous. But to me, it's visualizing my dreams....speaking things into existance.

I cut out the image I associate with my future, and write a scripture next to it...I write the TRUTH next to it. Everyday, I look at them and SEE my dreams coming to life.

I've not only done this in bridal magazines, but others as well. Homes, cars, in fact, I've got a whole page of TODAY Show cut-outs....my dream job.

Ever purchased flower seeds before? What's on the package? Is it a picture of the seed, OR a picture of what the seed WILL BE? I think you get the picture...pun intended.

 

Heavenly father,

Help me to stay strong in my faith, and remeber that no father ever hears their child crying out for something only to turn their back on them.

Keep me from becoming discouraged when it seems the finish line is far off. Instead, over-run me with your love, so I don't notice the miles, but instead, enjoy the ride.

"You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it," Matthew 21:22.

Top Color Trends from Summer To Fall

The air is still hot and sometimes a bit muggy, but a girl can’t help to feel a longing for the warmth of fall colors.  Oh, the smell of a chocolate brown coat that’s drawing you to fall limp into a coffee shop couch while sipping lattes as the cool air blows outside the window.  But how quickly the vision is a miss as the hot sun burns through the beautiful image you’ve created.  So what’s a girl to do who longs for the fall but is still living in the hottest month of the summer?  Good news, it’s easier than you think! Designers found way to pair the bright, bold summer colors that screamed, “Summer is here to stay,” with warm neutral staples that easily transition us from summer to fall.  No more shades required entering your closet plus the money you spent on fun summer brights didn’t go down the drain!

 

Summer Color - Yellow

Pair with

Fall’s new color Nougat or Grey

Be careful with  dark black so you don't look like a bumble bee!

You can also trade in the yellow for Fall’s Bamboo

 

 

Summer Color - Fuchsia

Paired with

Coffee Liqueur or Black to ground

Summer Color - Sunkist Orange

Pair with

Nude/Bone/Nougat

Or trade in Sunkist Orange for Falls new color - Emberglow

Maxine Dress

Pair with

Denim Jacket and summer scarf substitute in the fall for a more full, warmer scarf

There it is girls, your top tips to help you transition from summer to fall!  For more fall color inspiration, get the Pantones iPhone App to help you in a shopping emergency.

September Issue of Created Woman will be packed full of Fashion, can't wait!

 

Hot Trends for Fit Fashion

  If you (like me) are one of those girls who may have a cute wardrobe for dressing up and going out with the girls or business attire but when it comes to working out and "errands day" you throw on an old t-shirt from your high school days and a pair of your guys basketball shorts...you need to read this!

Fashion doesn't have to stop when your hair is in a ponytail and your sweating your face off. In fact, after seeing how many cute options there are you may want to hit the gym/trail more often just to get a chance to try out your new duds!

New Hot Trends for Fit Fashion include:

  • Running skirts. Found HERE, this running skirt is a great way to stay chic on and off the trail!

  • Slipless anti-sweat headbands. I love THIS anti-sweat headband by Lululemon.

  • Dry-wick racerback tanks. I could not get by without my dry-wick tanks during these hot summer months! HERE is a great one by Nike found at Dick's Sporting Goods. These are great for yoga, running, or going to the gym!

  • Compression Socks. I've been seeing THESE everywhere from races to the trail I run at Town Lake. They are cute AND cut back on recovery time after a long run!

    

Fashion Goes Global

As someone who tries to stay current on the latest trends and fashion I must say it is absolutely exhausting. There are times I leave the house and clearly could not care less about what Vogue says in style, it just gets hard keeping up! However, there is a new trend that I hope catches like wildfire and people never tire of, and that is the trend of social entrepreneurship. The most well known brand associated with social entrepreneurship is Toms. Toms have traditionally made canvas flats for men and women, with a distinct design. I am a fan. The shoes are comfortable, flexible in all seasons, and perfect for packing and traveling. Recently though, Toms have updated their design for a current summer trend, wedges. For each pair of Toms purchased, the company donates a pair of shoes to someone in need. The wedges shown below can be purchased at Nordstrom but Toms are sold at a variety of stores, including Whole Foods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I must admit, I have saved the best for last-- my favorite summer trend, the bright colors! Hot hues are everywhere and I love it. I was elated when I saw Kate Spade partnered with Women for Women International, an organization which provides employment for women in places like Rwanda and Afghanistan. The results are dynamic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This summer there is no lack of color or options. Desginers have made it easy to celebrate the most carefree time of the year. Let your eyes indulge and let your heart feel full when you shop socially responsibly!

Spring Fashion 2011

Aaahhhh!  The smell and feel of spring fashion, it's irresistible!  Just the thought of a great, summer dresses with the perfect shades or dipping my feet in the cool water of a pool or lake gets my heart thumping so hard I can hardly catch my breath.  Although I love the fall and am always ready for it by end of summer,  just the same when March 1st roles around I find myself drawn to the light linens and whites that make my perfect summer tan look and feel golden.

So what can I look forward to this Spring/Summer?  This is always the first thought after my heart beat finds it's way back to normal.  After searching the pages and stores for all the hot spring trends, I'v narrowed it down to some of my favorite finds.

So let's get started....first things first.....color!

This Spring's hottest colors are in

Cinnamon/Rust Citrus Colors White

Replace winter red with hot shades of cinnamon or rust.  Deck yourself in the spicy flavor anywhere from lips, dress or shoes, just not all at the same time.  Or, if your a little more bold, citrus colors scream summer fun.  Of course, Summer wouldn't be complete without the staple, fresh and crisp white.

For all color trends, be aware of your skin color and wear the best colors for you adjusting accordingly.  Some might be great in white, others in off -white.

Shape

Tunics are all the rage and a great new shape for summer.  Tunics show off those tan legs and can be worn as a dressy date night dress or a throw on and run comfy look to run errands or grab light salad with a girlfriend.

Era to take a cue from, the 70's

The 70's always seem to resurface, but this time around it's a little bit more romantic than hippie.  Take a cue from Vanessa Hudgens who channelled 70's fashion icon Bianca Jaggar but tweaked the look a bit by keeping the lines a little bit more simple.  Beautiful!

Maxi Dress

Still taking a cue from the 70's, the maxi dress has also taken on a more feminine look.  From long, flowy patterns to shear skirts the maxi dress also can go from casual to ba-bam!

Materials

This spring, shear and lace are finding their ways into dresses, shoes and accessories.  A little can go a long way and show off your feminine side all the while.  Make sure to at least invest in one staple lace piece that is versatile.

Wide leg, high waist Pants

We can't spring back into the 70's without bringing with us the wide leg, high waisted pants.  This is a great look for work and play but be careful to give them a 2011 twist so that you don't look like you rummaged the goodwill free rack.  Pleats or no pleats, these pants are a hit!

Shoes

There are a lot of new styles to choose from, pick your vice!

Low Heal Thick heal Flatforms

Still hot from 2010

Spilling over from 2010 are two of my favorites; Military and the 60's full skirt and they are here to stay for at least another season.  Pair a great military vest or jacket with a great pair of shorts or short skirt.  Here, you can see the perfect white dress has taken on the lace trend along with the full skirt of the 60's.  You can't go wrong!

It's time to indulge ladies!  Choose your favorite, check your budgets and remember to mix in your staples.  Spring is all about fun so....go have fun!

Happy Spring shopping!

Run to win! 5K/10K training tips

This past fall I rekindled my love of running. I ran a ton in high school and have put in a few miles and races since then but never REALLY got back into it...until 2010. The first few runs were really rough - my breathing was off, I got side cramps, and at least once a run had to tell my running partner to slow down. It really wasn't the glorious, effortless experience I was expecting. Looking back, I am SO glad I didn't give up when it was tough because after 2-3 weeks I got my flow, learning how to breathe and prevent side-cramps, my endurance and lungs got so much stronger. Now if I miss a run I really MISS a run. I feel like every-time I lace up my shoes and get out there it's a win. Here are some tips I'm learning along the way - hope they help you win too!

  • Gear up. Without the right gear running (especially during the winter!) can be a cold, painful, pitiful drag. Key pieces to invest in that will keep you on your feet: a good pair of running shoes, timing watch, running tights and turtleneck (dry-wick), socks with arch support (I love these!), dry-wick/fleece headband to keep your ears warm and the sweat out of your eyes, hat, fingerless gloves, and sunscreen. Layer up! You can always take off a jacket mid-run if you feel you're too toasty. If I'm running alone I like to use an ipod - if I'm running with my running partner we usually end up chatting the whole time...except for the uphills!
  • Proper Fuel. Lots of veggies, fruits, whole-grains like brown rice or oatmeal, lean proteins, raw nuts and seeds, and tons of H20. Limit your refined sugar intake to keep your immune system strong. Pre-morning runs I try to at least have a big glass of water and a piece of fruit. Granola bars or yogurt are also good options. My post-run routine is Emergen-c, green tea and oatmeal with almond butter and all-fruit spread or fresh berries(sooo good and filling!).
  • Consistency. Be consistent in your running days and times - mark running dates on the calendar (in pen!) and stick to them. I like to get mine done first thing in the morning before all of the distractions of life get me off track. It's a lot easier to come up with excuses about how busy I am at 6pm than at 6am.
  • Motivation. Honestly, when my alarm goes off at the crack of dawn while it's dark and freezing outside, my first thought is NOT, "this run is going to be so great for my cardiovascular fitness" or "I can't wait to get out there and build my endurance!". My thoughts are usually along the lines of, "if I don't get my booty in gear I'm going to be late to meet my running buddy!" or "if I miss this run it's going to be a lot harder the next time". I have to have my running gear laid out the night before and lunch packed so I don't even have to think about it when I wake up - I'm on autopilot for the first 10min.
  • Measurable Goals. Runner's World has a great, free running log that I love using. It's always a great feeling "adding miles" to the log and watching your progress grow! Signing up for a few races a year is another way to push yourself to run faster, longer, and stronger. Make it a group thing with your pals and be sure to grab brunch afterwards :).

Happy running!