How I’m Celebrating National Girlfriends Day

Girlfriends

No, really. It’s a thing!

National Girlfriends Day is commemorated every year on August 1st, thanks to the CDC. Not only is the day meant to celebrate female friendships, but it’s also about empowering your girlfriends to take health into their own hands and live a healthier life.

But (sorry, ladies!) there will be no cliché spa days or shopping trips this year. Instead I’ve got a different challenge for each of you: Focus on women’s health and the importance of getting necessary medical check-ups. Take a moment to show your girlfriends how much they mean to you by helping them stay safe and live well.

And no, this is not a sponsored post; I just love the information below and wanted to help get the word out about doing something simple, yet meaningful, for the ones you love. Because you never know when a conversation like this could save a life!

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Will you celebrate National Girlfriends Day with your girlfriends?

Get Beach-Body Ready: Summer Sizzler Ab Workout

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A strong core is always in season, so I created this quick and versatile body-weight ab routine that can be completed anywhere, anytime.

Customize it to suit your needs, whether it’s one set on your lunch break or a multiple-set, full-body workout with the addition of short bursts of cardio (warm-up, cool-down and in between sets).

Hint: As always, if you’re not familiar with some of the moves listed, simply Google the term, and you’ll be able to find a description or video of it in action.

And please remember to focus on quality of movement over speed for the best results!

What’s your favorite workout for getting beach-ready? 

My favorite life-changing kitchen hack

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Ok, that title is a bit dramatic. But for someone who eats — on average — an avocado a day, it’s become imperative to find an easier way to prepare these slippery little suckers.

Previously, I’d cut them in half lengthwise and clumsily attempt to peel the skin away on each side only to have it disintegrate into hand-held guacamole. Or I’d cut them in half and scoop out the flesh, but that’s not really an option if you’re looking for pretty avocado slices or dices.

Enter this genius little kitchen hack. Total game changer!

First, use a sharp knife to carefully cut a ripe avocado in half, lengthwise. You’ll have to rotate it as you go because you can’t cut through the pit, and then gently twist to get the two halves apart.

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Next, remove the pit by striking it with the heel of the knife until the blade goes about 1/4 into it. Carefully twist the knife to remove the pit.

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After that, slice each half lengthwise again. Now you’ve got it cleanly quartered and are ready to strip the skin.

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No more fumbling around, though. If the avocado is ripe enough, the whole piece will come off in one fell swoop. Voilà!

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Now you’ve got some gorgeous avocado to use however you choose. My favorites are in salads to add good fats, on sandwiches in place of mayo and in good ol’ guacamole…with tortilla chips and salsa, of course.

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What’s your tried-and-true kitchen hack?

Race Report: Portland Trail Series Race No. 2

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Two down, three to go!

This week marked the second installment of the Portland Trail Series, a low-key series of five trail races over the course of five weeks held in Forest Park in Portland. Read about last week’s event here.

The best part? Syreeta, one of our Team LUNA Chix Portland Run members, had mentioned during our Monday night practice that she was thinking of joining us for what would be her first-ever trail race. So, needless to say, I couldn’t be more excited when we saw her at the start line!

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We lined up to get the scoop on the evening’s course, which measured 5.20 miles.

We’d start on Leif Erikson and go up Leif to Wild Cherry, up Wild Cherry to Wildwood, then down Wildwood to Holman, up Holman to 53rd, up 53rd to Birch, down Birch to Wildwood, up Wildwood to Wild Cherry, down Wild Cherry to Leif and Leif to the finish.

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The good news, they said? The course was net zero elevation.

The not-so-good news? It was far from flat, so we could expect a lot of ups, and a lot of downs in return.

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Syreeta’s already a pro on the trails, since she and her husband are avid weekend hikers. Seriously, if you want the lowdown on the most challenging jaunts and most scenic vistas in the area, she’s your go-to gal. 

But since it was her first trail race, we decided to run together and let her set the pace. My goal, I said, was to get her across the finish line A) in once piece, and B) smiling. Her goal was to run as much of the course as possible.

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Wild Cherry, again, did not disappoint. #WhatTheHill

But Syreeta powered right up without stopping, so we chugged along and caught our breaths while enjoying a beautiful downhill section on the back side.

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We kept a solid pace through a number of rolling hills before hitting a pretty long uphill, which I think it was the Holman and 53rd section. After taking the first part at a jog, we rounded a corner and saw it keep going up, up, and away…so Syreeta made what I thought was a great judgment call and started hiking up.

Not only would this allow us to keep moving along at a good clip (a purposeful walk over a long, steep hill can be just as quick and effective as a slow jog), but it’d also allow us to conserve some energy for later.

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I was beyond impressed with Syreeta’s positive attitude and willingness to lay it all out there — her second wind hit with about a mile and a half to go, so we picked up the pace again and headed for home.

Luckily it was all downhill from here…

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Syreeta led the charge to a strong finish; we wound our way back down Wild Cherry and crossed the line with a final time of 58:10.

This even included a quick backroom break about a half-mile from the finish!

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We met up with Ben and got sidetracked as soon as we spotted a booth for Bogg’s Trail Butter, which was nothing short of delicious. It reminded me of my beloved PocketFuel, but instead of a gritty texture from sugar (which can start to trouble my tummy during longer races) this had more of a chunkier/crunchier texture from all the nuts.

My favorite flavor was the Ozark Original, which combines many of the ingredients found in a classic trail mix. Nuts, seeds, raisins, cranberries and a hint of semi-sweet chocolate hit the spot.

Plus, we learned a great new way for prepping food for the trails — spread the nut butter on a flour tortilla, roll it up, then chop into bite-sized pieces. Brilliant!

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Can’t wait to do it again next week! Same place, same time, different route — so stay tuned for my report from race no. 3.

And for more information on the Portland Trail Series in the meantime, click here.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

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Son, engineer, metallurgist, PhD, husband, father, pop-pop.

Cherry-bomber, banana-smusher, pea-smasher, we-gotta-get-outta-this-placer.

Oreo aficionado, pen collector, name-that-tune title holder, keeper of the peace and answer-er to all of our questions.

Devoted family man, caring boss, generous soul and common-sense adviser with a wicked sense of humor.

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From your pre-dawn childhood paper route to dodging melted metal on the foundry floor to logging long hours while leading the charge as an executive, your work ethic and commitment to our family has been something I both admire and appreciate.

And, as I always say, isn’t it a funny thing that the older I get, the smarter you get?!

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Well, we’ve been listening to your advice for years, and although it may not have seemed like much was sinking in (for example, that time I crashed my car into yours…in our driveway), we heard every word.

Thank you for always being there “time after time” — from middle-of-the-night calls to providing a shoulder to cry or lean on before gently guiding us back on track.

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Happy birthday, Dad! I love you! 

Recipe: Thai-Style Noodle Salad

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As we creep toward our one-year anniversary of living in Oregon, we’re headed for a season of record-breaking temperatures. Not that I’m complaining. It’s going to take a lot more humidity to scare this Midwesterner who’s also lived through a few sweltering East Coast summers.

If I’ve noticed one thing, however, it’s that my desire to eat warm foods is inversely proportional to the number on the thermometer. So hot summer days call for a cold, protein-packed salad — and this one’s something I whipped up on a weeknight utilizing ingredients we already had on hand.

Because, if we’re being honest here, my willingness to hit the grocery store also plummets as the heat rises… 

Thai-Style Noodle Salad

Ingredients: 

Salad:

  • 1 package black bean pasta, cooked al dente
  • 1 bag matchstick carrots (approx. 2 cups)
  • 2 cups grilled chicken, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, halved lengthwise & chopped
  • 1/2 cup red onion, minced
  • 1 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onion, chopped
  • 1 small container roasted peanuts

Sauce:

  • 2 cups all-natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 TBSP fish sauce
  • 1 TBSP ginger (minced or paste)
  • Dash of salt

Directions: 

  1. Once pasta is cooked and cooled, place all salad ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together all sauce ingredients.
  3. Pour sauce over salad, and toss to coat evenly.
  4. Serve immediately (with a sprinkle of peanuts), or refrigerate for an hour if you want to eat it cold.

Not only is the black bean pasta gluten-free, but it’s also a terrific source of protein — there’s a whopping 25 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber in every serving!

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This salad is super-versatile, too; I’d serve atop leafy greens for a more nutrient-dense main dish or as a side salad to accompany a meaty entree on nights when I’m looking for more protein.

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Do you adjust your kitchen habits with the weather?

Race Report: Portland Trail Series Race No. 1

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: There aren’t many places I’d rather be than summer in Oregon. And this week only reinforced that belief, thanks to the Portland Trail Series!

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The Portland Trail Series is a low-key series of trail races held in Forest Park in Portland. Three five-race Series (Spring, Summer and Fall) are held Wednesday evenings from May-October, and each race covers a different, challenging course, ranging from four to six miles.

Here’s the summer schedule:

  • Race 1 – July 15, 2015
  • Race 2 – July 22, 2015
  • Race 3 – July 29, 2015
  • Race 4 – August 5, 2015
  • Race 5 – August 12, 2015

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First up was a 5.98-miler for the kickoff race this past Wednesday. And, as you can see, they stay true to the “low-key” description with a super mellow start — just two tents at the trailhead, plus a few self-serve jugs of water and electrolytes.

Although they capped registration at 150 runners, only 101 people showed up to run (so feel free to come with $20 cash if you want to drop into the next one).

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Ben and I grabbed our bibs and promptly bumped into one of my running buddies (and badass triathleteAnabel Capalbo who was there to cheer on her college roommate. Gotta love the small-town feel of Portland, especially the endurance scene!

Around 6:15 the race director gave us a quick run-down of the route, complete with a warning to watch out for owl attacks on one of the trails. My strategy for the evening? A) Run it for fun and enjoy the experience. B) Stick close to someone taller, in the event of an angry owl (thanks, Ben! #takingonefortheteam).

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Each race in the series starts and finishes at the gate at the Leif Erikson trailhead. For this first race, we started on Leif Erikson and went up Leif to Wild Cherry, up Wild Cherry to Dogwood, then down Dogwood to Leif Erikson, then out Leif to Alder, up Alder to Wildwood, Wildwood to Wild Cherry, Down Wild Cherry to Leif and Leif to the finish.

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Although I find it tougher to get pysched up for an evening race because I’m used to working out (and racing) first thing in the morning, we really couldn’t have had a more beautiful night for trail running. And after a casual countdown from 10, we were off!

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After about a quarter mile down the main trail, we made our first turn and immediately started climbing up Wild Cherry. As far as trails go, this one turned out to be quite a zinger.

This is also when I felt my recent lack of trail running kick in. We were spoiled in SF with hill training built into nearly every run, and it’s clear that Portland’s flatness has softened me!

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Because of the unrelenting ascent (and, let’s face it, my lack of recent trail training), I had trouble getting my heart rate down and breathing under control for the first mile and a half or so, so we alternated hiking the hills and jogging when it leveled off. After the initial climb, however, we were treated to a lovely downhill on Dogwood and had a blast bombing down the hill to try to make up some time.

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After a series of rollers, there was another climb up Alder (read: more walk breaks!) before the final descent to the finish. Our final time was 1:01:36 — not a record-breaker by any means, but we were satisfied with the roughly 10-minute-per-mile average pace after a rocky start.

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The best part? We get to do it all over again next week! Same place, same time, different route — so stay tuned for my report from race no. 2.

And for more information on the Portland Trail Series in the meantime, click here.