Friday, December 26, 2014

2014: Food & Exercise

When it comes to food and exercise, I like to evaluate from time to time what does and doesn't work. Most times, I keep an old-fashioned pen and paper diary in which I record what I eat as well as how much I move and work out. Looking back at 2014, here are some things I noticed:

  • Starting the day with plenty of greens and some protein keeps me properly fueled and makes me eat better for the rest of the day. 
  • Eating during a smaller eating window makes me sleep better and makes weight maintenance a lot easier. I usually eat breakfast around 6 a.m. and eat my last meal around 2 p.m. In the afternoon/evening I enjoy herbal teas. About twice a week, I eat an early dinner around 5 p.m. 
  • Meal prep is key to eating well. Whenever I spend a few hours in the kitchen on the weekends to pre-cook and prep food for the week, we eat a lot better. 
  • Being “too perfect” backfired in the summer. I had gotten to a very low weight by May (looking back, a bit too low), and I believe that led to some not-so-good food choices during the summer. While gaining a few pounds was actually good, not making food choices that made me feel my best was not a good thing. Going forward, I will remember to balance my food choices consistently and will always focus on eating what makes me feel my best.
  • Eating healthy, simple, & delicious food consistently makes weight maintenance and feeling my best easy. For me, this includes lots of veggies, enough fat, and some protein for most meals. I also eat limited amounts of fruit as well as some dark chocolate on most days. 
  • Walking at least 10,000 steps a day makes me feel my best. However, I also reached my limits a few times when I had a few back-to-back weeks with 100,000+ steps, and my weak/permanently injured ankle let me know. More is not always better!
  • Barre classes help my low back - which has been bothering me for years - feel its best. If I take two classes a week, the pain is completely gone. 
  • Yoga and meditation are an important part of my workouts that I tend to skip when things get busy and stressful - right when they are most needed! I need to make sure to make them a priority! 
  • After very inconsistent weight workouts in the middle in the year, I got back to a more consistent weight lifting schedule, and it feels great. 
Finally, to feel my best, I have been working hard at slowing down and enjoying the “little things” every day. When the kid woke us up at 6 a.m., we made the most of it and enjoyed the beautiful sunrise as a family!

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Questions: How were your food choices and workouts in 2014? What worked? What didn’t work? Anything you’ll change in 2015?

Be well,

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Workouts at Home

I used to go to the gym every single day. For a while, it was convenient. We had a steeply discounted gym membership to a posh gym, and when the kid was little, my workouts were my “me time,” and it was nice to take a shower in peace and have the time to blow-dry my hair without interruptions while he enjoyed their fantastic play care center. I also took group exercise classes, yoga, had a weight lifting schedule, and used the stair masters, ellipticals, and treadmills. Plus, there was a heavenly steam room and a sauna, which I took advantage of whenever I could.

Daily workouts left me in pretty good shape. Although, looking back, I can definitely see that I often overtrained and was in the mindset that more is better. Therefore, I hardly ever gave my body the rest it deserved. Plus, I now seriously doubt all that steady state cardio was very beneficial...

A few years ago, the kid’s schedule became more and more packed, and going to the gym in the late afternoons/early evenings just didn’t work out anymore. We therefore decided to quit our membership as we hardly went anymore. So I had to find alternatives. At first, it wasn’t easy. One positive change that happened right away was that I focused more energy on daily, long walks. Whenever I had a few minutes I walked. I learned to really take advantage of all the extra “free minutes” here and there. I also scheduled longer walks. They are part of my agenda and just as important as other scheduled meetings.

While walks are great, I still needed to get my strength and flexibility workouts in. I take classes at a local yoga studio and at several barre studios in the area whenever I can, which isn’t as often as I’d like as with drive time, getting there early to get a spot, etc., it just isn’t a very convenient and efficient way to work out at this time in my life.

So I started doing more workouts at home again (something I had done years ago but stopped when the kid came along as there were just so many interruptions….). One thing I found is that, just like with walks, it’s important to get things done throughout the day, which is much less overwhelming than doing it all at once.

Typical Workouts At Home

Early morning - 4:30 a.m. 
Yoga practice, barre workout, or meditation - usually between 15 - 30 minutes

Lunch time workout (I’m usually at home for lunch)
Weights or core - usually 15 - 20 minutes

Yoga practice, meditation, or barre workout - anywhere between 15 and 60 minutes, depending on the day

Once a week

I don’t work out three times every day, but I often do. Overall, my workouts are a lot gentler than they were years ago when I went to the gym every day. Yet, I think I am in just as good shape and my body actually feels better than it did back then (I remember one particular year when I got one cold after another and also had constant foot pain in my weak/permanently injured ankle. Probably because I never allowed my body to completely heal…). Plus, now I focus more on meditation and gentle yoga practices, which are oh so good for body and mind… :)

Questions: What’s your exercise philosophy? Has it changed over the years? Do you work out at home? What does and doesn’t work for you when it comes to home workouts?

Be well,

Monday, December 8, 2014

Simple Avocado Dressing to Eat More Raw Veggies

Eating healthy foods does not have to be complicated. In fact, some of my favorite recipes have very few, simple ingredients.

I have been trying to eat more salads and raw vegetables lately as raw vegetables always make it easier for me to maintain my weight or lose a few pounds. And they are of course good for you. I have always liked salads and raw veggies but have been even more aware of the benefits of eating lots of raw veggies every day since doing my first Conscious Cleanse two years ago. One of my favorite salad dressings is a very simple avocado dressing.

Simple Avocado Dressing 

  • 1/2 small, ripe avocado
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (I buy a brand without added sugar) 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • salt & pepper to taste 
  1. Smash the avocado with a fork until smooth. 
  2. Add the rice vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper and mix well.
This dressing is good with many different types of lettuce, and I have enjoyed it with arugula, mixed greens, Romaine lettuce, and more. The dressing also works well as a dip for raw veggies.

Life has been very busy, and I have felt overwhelmed on more than one occasion. I haven’t made time to exercise as much as I normally do, and that doesn’t help as it is my stress relief. So I scheduled my workouts for this week (2 yoga classes, 2 barre classes and daily long walks), and I am determined to stick to my schedule! One thing that always makes me feel better is time spent with my boys, and we had a great time on Thanksgiving and took some family pictures.

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Questions: Are you eating enough salads and raw vegetables? Do you find it harder to eat raw vegetables and salads in the winter? I always find it more challenging to eat raw vegetables and salads in the winter, and it doesn’t even get really cold here… But after a few weeks of not eating enough raw veggies and salads, I always crave them. I think a tasty salad dressing makes eating raw veggies much more enticing… Are you taking care of yourself this holiday season? 

Be well,

Monday, November 24, 2014

What To Do With Thanksgiving Leftovers: Mini Turkey Pot Pies with a Mashed Potato Crust

To be honest, I am never overly excited about the Thanksgiving meal. I like turkey alright, but it’s far from being my favorite.

While the actual Thanksgiving meal isn’t my favorite, I love what I make with the leftovers every year: individual turkey pot pies with a mashed potato crust. They are really tasty, and I love the built-in portion control.  

Mini Turkey Pot Pies with a Mashed Potato Crust

  • Leftover turkey, cut into small pieces
  • Mushrooms, sliced
  • Peas (frozen and thawed peas work very well)
  • A little half and half (or stock to make it lower calorie)
  • Leftover mashed potatoes (it’s also really tasty with smashed sweet potatoes)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
What To Do
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Sauté mushrooms in a little oil for a few minutes.
  3. Add frozen peas and turkey meat.
  4. Add a few tablespoons half and half (or stock).
  5. Season mixture with a little salt and pepper
  6. Fill small ramekins 3/4 with the turkey/mushroom/pea mixture.
  7. Top with mashed potatoes.
  8. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes have a nice golden color. 
Questions: Do you like turkey? As I said, it’s not my favorite. What’s your favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal? I started making smashed sweet potatoes a few years ago, and they are now my favorite part of the meal, but I try to fill up on salad and green veggies. How do you plan to stay active this Thanksgiving holiday? I’ll start Thursday with a 1.5-hour barre class, and we are going to go on a 4-mile family hike in the afternoon. We have also planned long walks and/or hikes on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Be well,

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Joyful, Mindful, & Relaxing Holidays

Every year, the holidays prove to be busy. Parties, get-togethers, shopping for gifts, shorter days, cooking for a crowd - the list is endless. It’s important to choose wisely when deciding which events to attend. But still, there is usually too much to do, and it’s easy to let the busyness get to you.

I have said this before, but one of the most important strategies in long-term weight maintenance is, in my opinion, to learn how to deal with stress and to counteract it. Stress will always be part of our lives, but there are different ways to deal with it. And in the process, life will be a lot more enjoyable.

Here are some of the strategies I use to stay mindful and (mostly) relaxed during a busy time of the year:
  • Get up 10 - 15 minutes earlier each day to start your day less rushed. This can make a huge difference. Whenever I start my day not rushed, I feel more relaxed all day long. 
  • Start each day with journaling - just 10 - 15 minutes makes a huge difference. I started doing this while doing my first Conscious Cleanse and the habit has stayed with me. 
  • Do some yoga or other exercises for 10 - 15 minutes. Yes, by now I'm getting up 30 to 45 minutes earlier, but it makes such a difference in how my day goes. It’s absolutely worth it! And I do compensate for getting up earlier by going to bed earlier! 
  • Take a bath - I love Epson Salt baths to relieve sore muscles and help with detox symptoms. 
  • Use a fragrant body scrub - I recently found Trader Joe’s Lavender body scrub - it makes me feel like I’m at the spa and leaves my hands, feet, elbows and the rest of my body smooth and soft. Plus, the subtle fragrance stays with you throughout the day. 
  • Light a candle. I love the atmosphere candle light creates and an aromatherapy candle adds a wonderful smell to your home. 
I was recently asked to review Old Factory Candles for the blog, and I have been enjoying the little candles a lot. They are hand poured and come in assorted packages of three. I chose “fall harvest,” which comes with pumpkin spice, cranberry, and autumn leaves, and I love the scents. Even though the candles are small, they burn for 20 hours. To be honest, when the candles first arrived, I was surprised by how small they are. But they make my house smell amazing and burn evenly and for a long time, so I think they are worth the price, and I would buy them, or give them as a gift. Next time, I will probably go with some of the aromatherapy scents that promote relaxation.
Old Factory Candles
Finally, to make this time of year more enjoyable and stress free, it’s important to eat well. Since we are lucky to live in a climate that allows for year-round Farmers’ Markets, we continue to get seasonal fruits and vegetables at the Farmers’ Market. It’s a fun way for all of us to connect with healthy food and get some exercise in the process. 
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Farmers Market 01

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Farmers Market 04
Here is what we got today:
Farmers Market 02
  • lemons - for warm lemon water in the morning
  • fresh ginger - for ginger tea 
  • green, red, and yellow bell peppers - I’ll roast them with onions and two potatoes
  • leeks - I made soup with two of the potatoes
  • potatoes - two went into the leek soup and two will be roasted 
  • persimmons - Andy likes the longer, Hachiya persimmons - you have to let them get very soft; I don’t like their texture. I enjoy the Fuyu persimmons, which you can eat like an apple. 
  • onions - one went into the leek soup, and I’ll roast some with the bell peppers
  • lettuce - there is nothing better than a nice, fresh salad for lunch
  • radishes - I sliced them thinly and marinated them in the salad dressing (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and a bit of mustard) for a bit before adding the lettuce
On Saturday, I also spent a little time in the kitchen to cook some food for the week. Here is what I made: 
  • grass-fed ground beef, sautéed with onions, carrots, and mushrooms 
  • roasted asparagus
  • roasted Brussels sprouts
Healthy eating is so much easier when there is always something healthy ready to grab.
Question: How do you de-stress your life during the holidays? Have you found that dealing with stress is essential in long-term weight maintenance? What strategies do you use to reduce stress? 

Be well,

[Disclaimer: I received the Old Factory Candles for free to review for the blog. As always, all opinions are my own.]

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Longterm Weight Maintenance

Life isn’t always smooth sailing and neither is weight maintenance, at least for me. Sure, over the years I have figured out strategies that have helped me to get back on track when things are a bit “off,” but I still need to be very diligent on a consistent basis and there are slight ups and downs.
I am tall, so a 5 - 10 pound gain - that’s where I have worked hard at to keep my “gains” for years - may not cause alarm right away. I can still squeeze in my clothes - although they are definitely not as comfortable or flattering!

So while that “little” gain may not seem a big deal, it can be. Because those 5 or 10 pounds can easily become 15 or 20 or more. And losing that much weight becomes a whole different story.
While it’s important to reign in those “little gains” right away and turn them around, I also think it’s important to understand that they are normal and will happen once in a while. I used to beat myself up whenever my weight crept up a bit. I thought I was failing. But I wasn’t. What’s important is having an arsenal of strategies that gets you back on track right away. So here are my weight loss strategies that I use when weight starts to creep up a bit. Several of them I learned while doing the Conscious Cleanse for the first time almost two years ago. They have definitely made maintenance easier even though I had maintained my weight for years before then.
Here is what I do:
  • Start each day with warm lemon water while journaling (being extra mindful is so important when trying to lose weight)
  • Shopping, prep, and pre-cooking on the weekends so that there is always something healthy to eat - I do this year-round, but when I try to lose a few pounds, I am even more diligent. 
  • Make time for exercise - walks, yoga, weights - the benefits are far beyond physical - when I work out I eat better. Also, just a small drop in workout time can have an impact on how I overall feel and eat. 
  • Get enough sleep - oftentimes hunger is caused by sleep depravation.
  • Add “spa elements” to the day to relax - candles, flowers, a bubble bath, a pedicure - little ways to pamper ourselves can make such a difference in how we feel, which in turn makes eating right and getting enough exercise much easier
  • Doing a Conscious Cleanse a few times throughout the year has helped me make weight maintenance and feeling my best year-round much easier. It’s a great way to take care of little gains and bad habits that may creep back into your life. I didn’t think I would like a “cleanse,” but the Conscious Cleanse is a food-based cleanse that can be adjusted to any eating plan. Also, it goes far beyond food and helps you take care of yourself in all aspects of your life. If you would like to experience a group Conscious Cleanse with lots of built-in support (private FB group, daily emails, six live tele seminars (which are recorded), as well as email support), click here for more information about the November Conscious Cleanse. Registration closes on October 27. 
Questions: What strategies do you use to keep little weight gains from turning into bigger gains? 

Be well,

[Disclosure: I’m a Conscious Cleanse ambassador and will earn a commission if you decide to sign up for the cleanse using one of my links. Links to clothing items are affiliate links, and I may earn a commission on actions taken on the links.] 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Living Consciously this Holiday Season

Summer used to be my favorite season. I love the beach and the pool and usually work a lot less in July and August. But then, seven years ago, the kid was born in the fall, and fall quickly became my favorite season.

Whenever I go for a walk, and I see all the fall colors, I am reminded of those first walks I took with the kid in a carrier. He was barely 5 pounds when he was born, and people often asked if there was really a baby in there as he was so tiny that it was hard to see him. I also love pumpkin, cooler temps (still waiting for them here!), and reading a good book by the fire place. Plus, there are soups and stews and homemade apple sauce.

Yet, fall and the holiday season that follows can also be a source of stress. There are countless parties, often with few healthy food options. The days are shorter yet there is more to do with back-to-school activities, fall sports, and parties. It’s no wonder that we often look for the “reset button” on January 1.

Last year, I approached the holidays differently. I had done my first Conscious Cleanse - a food-based cleanse where you eat real food customized to your needs and preferences - in January and loved how it had positively changed my life. I had lost weight, slept better, had better skin, and felt more centered and mindful. For the first time in years, I didn’t have stomach pain and discomfort.

When Jo & Jules, the founders of the Conscious Cleanse, offered a pre-holiday cleanse, it made a lot of sense to me. Why wait until January to feel my best?

The pre-holiday cleanse helped re-affirm a lot of the positive changes I had made but had started to let slip a bit. I recommitted to starting every day with warm lemon water followed by a green smoothie. I got rid of all condiments and everything with added sugar. I gave up chocolate and anything with caffeine.

Conscious Cleanse8

Since I had followed the Conscious Cleanse guidelines most of the time, the changes weren’t radical but rather little tweaks here and there that left me feeling great.

One aspect I love every time I do a Conscious Cleanse is that it helps me to be more mindful in general. As recommended, I start each day by journaling for 10 to 15 minutes. It’s a great way to clear your mind and focus on what’s really important. I also always declutter my surroundings when I cleanse - from the kitchen to my closet to the garage. It feels great!

On January 1, 2014, I was at my lowest weight in 10+ years and felt great. I had had a great holiday season and felt ready to tackle the new year.

The 2014 pre-holiday cleanse starts on November 1, 2014. Right now early bird registration is underway, and you can get $25 off with code EBCC1114. The code is good through October 12. Click here for more information and to register for the Conscious Cleanse.

For those who are interested, here are some posts about my experiences during and after the Conscious Cleanse, including the foods I ate and how I planned and prepped cleanse foods. [Note: The posts are in reverse chronological order.]

Question: What are you going to do to be more mindful and present during the holiday season this year? Even one little change, like journaling for 10 minutes first thing every morning, can make a huge difference...

Be Well,

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Freezer Prep to Make Meals Easier

If you have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I do a lot of meal  planning, prep, and cooking on the weekends. Usually, it looks something like this:

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Without it, we wouldn’t eat as well and life would be a whole lot more stressful.

In addition to my weekend shopping, prepping and cooking sessions where I focus on buying and preparing fresh, in-season produce, my freezer and my pantry are my best friends when it comes to keeping meal time stress-free.

Here is what I normally keep in the freezer:
  • Bone-in chicken – I use it to make chicken broth in my slow cooker. I buy organic chicken when it’s on sale and always have some in the freezer. The other day, I came down with a bad cold and was very glad to have chicken to make some broth.
  • Chicken broth – I always freeze some of the chicken broth I make to have around for an “emergency” when one of us gets sick. I also use the chicken broth in soups, stews, and sauces.
  • Vegetable peels, ends, etc. – I freeze the peels, end pieces, etc. from organic vegetables in a big freezer bag. I use the peels to make vegetable stock as well as bone broth (beef or chicken).
  • Pancakes – I make almond flour pancakes every few weeks and always make extra. The leftovers go in the freezer. It’s easy to take a few out for the boys’ breakfast.
  • Various homemade freezer meals: beef stew, chickpea stew, kimchi stew, and various vegetable soups are some of our favorite meals from the freezer. 
  • Leftover rice – it’s very convenient for quick meals.
  • Sourdough bread – I buy a good, four ingredient sourdough bread at the farmers market for the boys. They don’t eat a lot of bread, and I always freeze at least 2/3 of it (sliced). We defrost it a few slices at a time over the next couple of  weeks.
  • Frozen banana slices – I buy organic bananas at Costco and freeze most of them (sliced). I use the frozen banana slices in my green smoothies. When it’s warm out, I also enjoy eating a few slices as a little frozen treat.
  • Organic frozen vegetables – peas, asparagus, etc. – great meal savers when I don’t have other veggies around.
Questions: What do you always keep in your freezer? Do you use your freezer to make meals easier? 

Be well,

Monday, September 22, 2014

Half Moon Bay Escape and Food & Beers at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company

Friday and Saturday were full of work prep (preparing for a new academic year) and life prep (cleaning, food prep, and pre cooking). While I was very busy and got up really early on both days, it felt great once everything was done. I truly believe that the time spent on getting everything organized is essential for life to go smoothly, and it ultimately affects everything from how you sleep to how you eat.

On Sunday, we got to escape to the coast up north to “get away from it all.” Andy had been invited to try the beers and food at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, and the kid and I got to tag along.

Andy got to sample all ten beers on tap and enjoyed them a lot.

We started our meal with the seafood duo: Ahi poke and ceviche with fried wontons and tortilla chips. The dish came with a fruit salsa, which went great with both the poke and the ceviche and was a wonderful palate cleanser when switching from the poke to the ceviche. I am usually not a big fan of fruit salsas, but this one was very nice as the onions and peppers in it provided a nice balance. I didn’t have any of the wontons or the chips, but Andy and the kid liked them a lot. Both the ceviche and the poke were outstanding, and the dish was the highlight of our meal.

For his main courses, Andy had the wild salmon, which was topped with the fruit salsa (a nice combo) and came with rice and veggies. Everything was tasty.

For my main course, I chose the green salad with a balsamic vinaigrette on the side (I ended up not needing it) topped with Dungeness crab and bay shrimp. There were big juicy pieces of crab meat, and the shrimp were very sweet and tasty. The salad had artichokes, mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, and cucumber slices, which, with the seafood, made for an instant dressing. It had the ingredients a salad on the California coast should have: wonderful produce and fresh, tasty seafood.

Early on I had spotted a flourless (and naturally gluten-free) chocolate torte on the menu and decided we had to try it. It was great, and a few bites went a long way.

We had planned to go for a walk after lunch. When we saw a farmers’ market nearby, we decided to stop by first. The kid had a great time taste testing all the different fruits, including pomegranate seeds.

Then we headed to the pier and the beach. It was 65 degrees and overcast – the perfect weather to recharge our batteries and get our daily steps. 

It was a great day with great food and effortless daily steps.

Questions: What was the highlight of your weekend? Sunday definitely made up for Friday and Saturday and all the prep work earlier in the week! Smile  What’s your favorite seafood? I don’t have crab meat very often but love it. It was great having it in the salad. Also, Ahi poke is one of my favorite seafood dishes, and the one we had was very good.

Be well,

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mixx in Mountain View: Weekend Food Fun

On Friday, we were invited to have lunch at Mixx in Mountain View during its soft opening.

We went toward the end of the lunch service after we picked up the kid from school.

The meal started with warm bread and butter. The boys were excited since they don’t get to eat a lot of bread at home. Both said it was excellent.

Our appetizers were pork belly sliders, which were served on steamed buns. Since I can’t eat gluten, I didn’t try the bun but liked the slightly sweet sauce on the pork belly and especially the marinated vegetables on top. The kid gave them 10 “thumbs/fingers” up. Smile 

Andy ordered the steak frites, which was served with fries and a salad. I really liked the presentation of the fries in a little wire basket. The fries were served with a homemade ketchup, which was good but quite sweet. 

The kid got the croque madame, a giant grilled cheese and ham sandwich that is served with a poached egg on top. He enjoyed it a lot but couldn’t make a dent in it. The sandwich is definitely big enough to split between two people.

Finally, I got the kale salad. It was well marinated/massaged and had a generous amount of quinoa as well as feta cheese, dried cranberries, nuts, and fresh grapes. I very much enjoyed the kale salad. I like kale a lot, but I think even those who aren’t the biggest kale fans would enjoy this version as it’s well marinated, and the kale taste is therefore quite mild. The serving was huge. Two people could have a nice meal splitting one or two appetizers and the kale salad.

Andy enjoyed a Firestone Walker Union Jack with his meal and was excited that Mixx offers a selection of craft beers on tap as well as in bottles. There are also ciders on the menu as well as specialty cocktails. A big lounge area features big screen TVs as well as numerous games, including a shuffleboard. It looks like a fun place to hang out after work (for those of us who can….). 

Questions: What was the highlight of your weekend? Do you like kale? (Biz, you don’t need to answer this… Winking smile)This is the second kale salad I had in a restaurant in the last few weeks, and I enjoyed them both even though they were completely different. The one I had at Herbivore wasn’t massaged/marinated and the kale flavor came through a lot more. I think the version at Mixx is perfect for those who enjoy a milder kale flavor.

Be well,

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Recent Kid-Friendly Hiking Adventures in the South Bay

The kid is enjoying longer and more difficult hikes (for the most part – I would lie if I said there was never any complaining, but it’s rare…), which has been awesome. Hiking, especially hikes with some steep parts, is definitely my favorite way to get those daily steps!

On Labor Day, we did a 9-mile hike in Henry Coe Park in Morgan Hill. It’s quite a drive to get to the parking lot as the winding road leads you 10 miles up the mountain. The trail we followed was beautiful, but there wasn’t a lot of shade and it was quite steep at times. Since it was 90+ degrees on the day of our hike, it was not the ideal hike to do on that day. Plus, we didn’t bring enough water – a big no no.

Here are some photos from the hike:

A few months ago, we hiked in Castle Rock State Park in Los Gatos. It’s a beautiful hike with plenty of opportunities to climb on some rocks, which the kids loved. The longer hikes there are great for kids 6 and older.

Rancho San Antonio in Los Altos is a favorite with the locals and parking can be a challenge. Deer Hollow Farm – a working farm with chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, a cow, plenty of herbs and vegetables, and more –  is about one mile from the parking lot and many families walk there on the weekends. If you are lucky, you may even be able to buy some farm-fresh eggs from truly happy chickens (they run out quickly though). There are many trails to choose from throughout the park, and you can do anything from a leisurely walk to the farm to more challenging trails, including the - at times - quite steep 8-mile PG&E trail.

Some hiking dos:
  • Bring enough water – you’ll probably need more than you think! We learned that the hard way last week!
  • On hiking days, make sure you are well hydrated, even before you start your hike
  • Wear hiking shoes that provide stability – since I have a weak/previously injured ankle, this is an absolute must for me
  • Bring sunblock and a hat
  • Pay attention to your surroundings – this past weekend, a 6-year-old boy was attacked by a mountain lion in the Santa Cruz mountains – read the warning signs at the trail head and know what to do when encountering mountain lions, snakes, etc.
Questions: Do you like to hike? Do you have a hiking bucket list? For now, I just want to explore more of the awesome trails in our immediate area, but I also would like to explore the Pinnacles sometime soon.

Be well,

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Berkeley Visit and Vegan Food at Herbivore

On Saturday, we decided to visit Andy’s alma mater. Before exploring the campus, we went to Herbivore – a vegan restaurant at 2451 Shattuck Avenue. Herbivore also has two locations in San Francisco, and I had been wanting to visit one of their locations for quite some time. Luckily, we were not disappointed.

We decided to split the raw kale salad. I was going to get the lemongrass noodles and Andy the shawarma wrap with “chicken.” Our waitress had indicated that Andy’s order was her favorite. The menu can potentially be a bit confusing as it lists chicken and beef strips (without quotes). Clearly, they are meat substitutes, but we actually overheard customers asking for clarification as they were confused by the language on the menu. Perhaps it would be a bit clearer if “chicken” and “beef strips” were in quotes…

Since we weren’t very clear when we ordered, our waitress only ordered the kale salad and the wrap. This was actually a good thing as the kale salad filled me up. It was simply dressed but very tasty. The onions were very mild (maybe soaked in ice water?) and added a nice crunch to the salad. It’s definitely a kale salad that lets the kale shine and doesn’t try to cover up its flavor. I enjoyed it a lot, and even the kid ate his fair share of it. I also had some of the filling of Andy’s wrap, and it was very tasty as well. It was marinated in a very flavorful, slightly spicy sauce and came with a nicely dressed side salad. The meal left us satisfied and ready to explore the campus. We can’t wait to go back and explore more of the menu!

After lunch, we walked toward campus.

But first we stopped at the student bookstore. 

We had to take a picture in front of the famous Sather Gate. 

And then we headed to the Campanile Tower. 

We took the elevator to the top (unfortunately you can’t take the stairs) and enjoyed the view. 

Then we headed to the Life Sciences Building and checked out some dinosaur bones. This was definitely the highlight for the kid!

Then we explored the beautiful campus some more. It was a great way to get some steps. I love it when we get plenty of steps effortlessly! 

Exploring Berkeley and the university campus was a great way to spend a Saturday. I love the relaxed, offbeat atmosphere of the city, and there is lots to explore on campus, including lots of things to keep kids interested. We can’t wait to go back to explore more and try more dishes at Herbivore! 

Questions: What was the highlight of your weekend? Do you have a list of restaurants you want to visit? I do have quite the list, but since we hardly ever go out to eat, we pretty much never visit any of them. I’m glad I can cross Herbivore off the list but also want to go back! Smile 

Be well,