Win-It Wednesday Aurorae

Happy Win-It Wednesday, fellow FIT BFFs! Last week I reviewed some great products from Aurorae. If you missed it, you can check it out here. 

Thanks to the generosity of our great friends at Aurorae, we have partnered to give away their versatile multi-purpose sling yoga backpack…like the one I reviewed to one lucky reader.

I’m a big fan of this bag and know you will be too! But, Friends, that’s not all! The winner of our giveaway will also receive a bottle of Aurorae’s extraordinary scented organic yoga mat wash and microfiber cleaning towel. How awesome is that?!?

To read more about the wonderful active lifestyle and yoga products available from Aurorae, drop by their website here.

To enter, simply leave a comment below between now and Tuesday, May 2nd, midnight central time, sharing what makes you calm in this crazy-paced world, .

You may enter only once on the blog, but can earn one extra entry for doing each of the following:

  • LIKE the FIT BFFs Facebook page if you are new to the page
  • LIKE the Win-It Wednesday post on the FIT BFFs Facebook page
  • COMMENT on the Win-It Wednesday post on FB
  • SHARE the Win-It Wednesday post on FB

Giveaway open to US residents only. Randomly selected winners will be announced here on Win-It Wednesday, May 3rd. Good luck!

Aurorae Review

Friends, I recently received some yoga products generously provided by Aurorae for a test drive and review. This family business was founded in 2009 by yogi/cancer survivor, Dennis Ingui. I love that what began as a hobby has transformed into a business to empower others to embrace an active lifestyle. You can read more about that inspiring journey here.

I’ve previously reviewed one of Aurorae’s yoga mats, totes and towels here. That mat continues to impress and protect…it is one of the few I don’t fear skidding off through my downward dog. I can not say enough wonderful things; it’s plain to see high quality is of the utmost importance to this company. It’s also obvious they understand and aim to meet the needs of yoga students everywhere!

Take, for instance, this organic mat cleaner. Not only is it eco-friendly, it is available in four scents, made in the USA with pure essential oils. I don’t think I know a single yoga friend who doesn’t adore essential oils! What’s better, with the purchase of any mat cleaner comes the free bonus of a plush microfiber cleaning towel. I received the eucalyptus scented wash with towel. Not only do these make quick work of wiping down my mat, it leaves it smelling fresh and me calmed by that relaxing scent…ahhh.

 

I also got to play with Aurorae’s yoga strap. It’s 8 foot length is generous enough for any task you need it to perform. The strap is a bit narrower those I’ve used in studios, but I’ve noticed no difference in its abilities. I like knowing it’s constructed with 100% natural unbleached cotton and again…made in the USA! This strap is helping me get far deeper into some of my poses.

 

Finally, get a look at this unique sling backpack! I had my doubts that it would fit my needs. When I head to the athletic club for yoga, I also tend to sneak in some major cardio before class. So after shavasana, it’s time to hit the showers. This means the need to store extra clothing and toiletries in addition to mat, accessories and water bottle. The moment I saw how small this bag appeared, I thought there was no way my belongings would fit within. Boy, was I mistaken! I could have easily fit another change of clothes in there and probably my flip flops too.

The bag is a warrior…well designed and constructed with so many cool features, it’s obvious much thought went into its design. That’s awesome, but what I really love about it is how well it hugs me with that wide, comfy shoulder strap…from this pic, you’d hardly even know I had it on!

Probably my favorite feature of this bag is its multipurpose nature…I can use it for yoga, other workouts, biking, hikes, travel and beyond…how cool is that?!? I think its versatility is genius.

If you are looking for some products to further your love of your practice, don’t miss Aurorae. Stop by their website today to check out these great products and so much more!

To my fine friends at Aurorae, many thanks for this opportunity, and as always…NAMASTE!

 

Self-Avoider or Advocator? That’s the Question!

Fellow FIT BFFs, I have a confession to make. I have a ridiculous tendency to ignore my basic needs; do any of you relate?

Here’s an example…I’ve been struggling with knee issues for 8 months. After cortisone and physical therapy didn’t solve my issues, rather than pursue further care, I settled by overlooking the pain, limitations and frustrations. Day after day, I allowed this to continue by not making its resolution a priority. Although it was keeping me from activities I’ve desperately missed (RUNNING), I simply ignored it. Now how ridiculous is that?!?

If this was my husband or either of my kids, I’d be on it! Why do I still struggle with this idea? Why did I put me off for so long? After messaging a friend over the weekend, I realized it was time to address this. Of course he was right. What the heck was I afraid of? Yeah…I won’t even go there haha!

So yesterday I called Sports Med and made myself an appointment. But it isn’t for another few weeks. I needed relief now…more relief than icing can provide. I looked at my shoes and realized I’d been putting myself off in that department too. There was nothing left to do but get to the running store!

It’s been quite a while since I’ve had my gait analyzed, and was kind of surprised to find I needed an entirely different type of shoe. Mallory, the shoe guru at TerraLoco had me try a couple options and I knew the instant I put these Hokas on that I’d found the ones!

My cat completely agreed with my choice the minute I got them home…oh, Spanky!

I could hardly wait to get to the gym this morning to get my new kicks on the track. And do you know what? Although my older shoes still, theoretically, had many more miles to go, my new ones felt a hundred times more supportive!

I guess I took a step in the right direction, who doesn’t want dynamic stability? Ha!

I’m actually looking forward to that Sports Med appointment because with today’s diminished pain, I’m already happier…think of what no pain will do for me!

While I was at this self-advocacy thing, I decided to give my comfort zone another square kick in the behind. Following last year’s multiple episodes of mammogram/biopsy/surgery drama, I realized it was time for me to make my annual date with the boob-smasher…yikes!

Although this was the very last thing I wanted to do, I picked up the phone and scheduled that too. Why give it any more energy or power than it deserves…time to just get er done!

Friends, can you relate? Are you a self-avoider or advocator? Is there something important you need to deal with that you’ve been putting off? It’s time to treat yourself at least as well as your loved ones. And if I can do it, so can you. It’s just one more way we can all put our Best Foot Forward!

Vacation Transformed Part 2

Friends, I’ve been home from Colorado for more than a week and I keep returning to what a memorable success it was. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here. In that post I mentioned some mindful modifications we’d made to our standard vacation for better outcomes.

That week progressed quite nicely into one of my favorite trips of all times. We continued to venture out of our condo every morning with a new version of the same view…

   

And if that awe-inspiring daily welcome wasn’t enough, we drove all of two miles to enter this phenomenal playground…

Eric, Connor and I spent an afternoon exploring Rocky Mountain’s Bear Lake. Although it was still frozen over, it provided the freshest air, great vibes and opportunity to get lost in it all!

That afternoon beat any video game, thrill ride or entertainment…nature is all we needed!

As the afternoon wound down, it was time to meet up with my college friend, Lynda.

And it’s great we did because she knows that park like the back of her hand…she took us places that blew my mind! Thanks for a spectacular tour and evening, Lynda!!!

If I lived close to this, I would come every single day. I don’t think it could ever get old! This waterfall was both enchanting and mesmerizing.

   

I just couldn’t leave without some more yoga. It just seemed like the right thing to do!

That day’s light, love and energy seeped clear into my bones and soul.

Our week in Estes Park continued to be a challenge for me to eat healthy, but if one looked hard enough, good choices could be found. Take for instance this entree from The Egg and I…LOVED it!

I needed to keep fueled for our last day because I had something important to check off my bucket list. Since the moment I’d seen this place on an episode of Extreme Weightloss, I knew I had to go!

Red Rocks Amphitheater has played host to countless performers and their sold-out concerts on hot summer nights. But in daylight, this venue welcomes those looking for an unforgiving workout. It was exactly what I was hoping for on our final day in Colorado.

Because my knee was less than functional, I had to run/walk, but that didn’t take away from the amazing accomplishment I felt having traveled across each of 69 rows down, then back up again. I logged five miles of harsh slopes and relentless heat.

I was ecstatic too, because although this was likely not on Eric’s bucket list, he got me there and even joined in!

That workout took all I had within me that day…I left it all there! Which turned out to be a good thing because the next day and a half was spent driving home from this astounding vacation.

The drive home was somber, it was tough leaving such beauty behind. I replayed the amazing experiences we’d had over and over again in my mind and heart. That second day on the road, although tiring was an a-okay way to spend my birthday. Why? Because my beloved Pita Pit was only a couple hours from home!

Friends, I think we finally got this vacation balance thing right! I returned home tired but nothing like trips of the past. I’m recharged and ready to work on that bucket list of mine…a list I never bothered dreaming up until my weight loss transformation proved was possible!

 

Vacation Transformed!

With spring break upon us, I’ve thought a lot about what vacations used to look like for my family and me. They consisted of ALL our favorite junk foods, a jam-packed schedule of busyness designed to entertain and engage our kids from morning to night in locales that catered to non-stop fun. We made a million memories, but most of mine were of indigestion, sensory overload and exhaustion. When I look at the photos, I wish I saw the fun and excitement, but I’m brought right back to the overwhelmedness.

I’m happy to realize throughout my weight loss journey, our vacations have transformed as well. I put serious thought into what I wanted out of this spring break, then set some mindful plans into action. We chose a location conducive to well-being as our top priority and hit the open road.

 

Fuel stops found me jumping at the pump and avoiding the endless empty calories I used to gather from gas stations. I was prepared, having packed a jumprope and plenty of healthy snacks.

Upon reaching our destination, I knew we’d made a great choice. Check out the view literally just two steps outside our rental condo…my soul smiled when I saw the exquisite view and heard the playful stream.

Ahhhhh.

I have come to an awareness that vacation can’t mean taking time off from myself. So with that in mind, we made plans to be active. Our first day in Estes Park found us hiking picturesque Lily Mountiain…

I only regret our older son was unable to join us because this would have been right up his alley.

You should know that hiking is my thing!

However, my husband Eric is not at all fond of heights and our younger son Connor is not a fan of hiking. At all. But they both sucked it up to climb the steep two miles; although there were some pretty tense moments scrambling up the final snow-covered section the breathtaking summit was well worth the fear-factor!

 

The view was stunning and unforgettable!

The descent was tougher than I expected, but this was the kind of memory I had hoped we’d make while we were here! I’m so proud of those two!

That hike was one heck of a workout and my knee was not at all happy…traitor! The next morning it was still cranky, but I had some strength training plans!

Thank goodness for a fitness center at the resort! The rest of the day was set aside for some sightseeing, grocery shopping for the right kinds of nourishment, and relaxing.

Although many of my friends chose warmer climates for spring break, imagine my excitement when I woke up to this…

How beautiful is that?!? This Minnesota gal’s heart was warmed waking up to this gorgeous Colorado morn. And because I have goals in place, there was only one thing to do…haul over to the fitness room for some cardio!

 

And after a great sweat sesh of a warm-up, there was only one thing on my mind for a cool-down. Would you like to build a snowman?!?

Why, yes I would! My teenager had zero desire to help me, because he brought his friend named X-box haha!

So there you have it, our transformed vacation! We still have several more days to embrace all Estes Park has to offer. I’m thrilled to report, since making mindful changes to our typical vacation, I’ve yet to experience indigestion, sensory overload or exhausting. Mission accomplished!

Quinoa and Black Beans

As March winds down, I am completing work on a Nutritional Scavenger Hunt I’ve been chipping away at all month. The challenge was provided by the dietitians at my local gym and has really motivated me!

One of the tasks was to prepare some provided recipes, and when I tried this one, I knew I had to share it with you. I’ve been doing a lot with quinoa lately. I don’t know why it took me so long to get on board with it, I avoided it thinking it was complicated. Friends, quinoa couldn’t be simpler to work with and the results are delicious and nutritious!

Quinoa and Black Beans

Ingredients:

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup frozen corn kernels

1 – 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic to saute until lightly browned.
  2. Mix quinoa into saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
  3. Stir frozen corn into saucepan, continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in black beans and cilantro.

This recipe yields ten 1/2 cup servings at 76 calories each with 2.6 grams of protein and 1.9 grams of fiber.

Quinoa and Sweet Potato Chili

Happy weekend, Friends! I’m continuing to work through the tasks of the Nutrition Scavenger Hunt happening at my local gym this month. This has motivated me to prepare another recipe provided by the Rochester Athletic Club Dietitians. I actually received this one about 4 years ago while a member in their weight-loss program, ridiculous that I waited until now to try it…better late than never!

I made this for a casual weekend lunch today with the goal of nurishing my post-workout hunger. I enjoyed the simplicity of preparation and an amazing, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, Lenten-friendly twist on a cool-weather comfort food. This would be a great recipe for meal prep too!

If you’re looking for a super food cooking adventure, look no further!

Quinoa and Sweet Potato Chili

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 – 6 oz can tomato paste

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon oregano

1 – 29 oz can low sodium black beans, rinsed and drained

32 oz low sodium vegetable broth

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup quinoa, uncooked

Avocado and cilantro for garnish (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add tomato paste, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously.
  4. Add beans, vegetable broth and sweet potato. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add quinoa.
  5. Continue cooking for 15-30 minutes, stirring frequently, until quinoa and potatoes are cooked and chili has thickened. If chili becomes too thick for your liking, add water to achieve desired consistency.
  6. Serve hot and garnish with avocado and chopped cilantro, if desired.

This recipe yields six servings at 330 calories with 15 grams of protein and 14 grams of fiber!

Fashion Friday

Happy Fashion Friday, Friends, I’m excited to share my latest dicovery with you! Since my weight loss transformation, I’ve struggled to find comfortable, versatile clothing I feel confident wearing. I’m just now beginning to enjoy shopping again, but was still having difficulty finding a flattering fit. That all changed when Cents of Style sent me this Hannah Keyhole Tunic to test drive and share with all of you.

How cute is that?!?

This tunic has versatility written all over it! I’ve only had it a week, but in that time it has stylishly taken me from church, to the grocery store, between classes and workouts at the gym and even through an online interview.

All the while, I enjoyed the sleek fit of its super-soft rayon/spandex blend and its pajama-like comfort. I am kind of in love with it!

I went with black because it coordinates so well with everything! But these tunics are available in an array of delectable colors…

And if the keyhole design is not your thing, check out this sassy babydoll style.

It also comes in an exquisite palate of color choices.

Both tunic styles are two of this spring’s hottest trends and are available to fit sizes 0-18…that’s great news!

But Friends, the best news is this…Cents of Style normally offers these tunics for a modest $34.95 but are offering them this weekend for the fantastic price of $19.95 + FREE SHIPPING using the code: TOPSTORY when you shop here.

While you’re there, take a look around at their wide array of the latest in trendy clothes, shoes, scarves and jewelry, all at affordable prices.

I especially love this store for its mission: To empower women to lead bold and full lives. We believe that if you look good, you feel good. And when you feel good you can do good for others around you.

LOVE IT!

I hope you take advantage of such a sweet opportunity, but remember, this Fashion Friday deal is only available thru 3/26. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some shopping to do!

 

Dietitian Store Tour

I’ve been working my way through task after task of a highly motivating Nutrition Scavenger Hunt this month, created by dietitians at my local gym. One of the suggested activities on the list is to attend a grocery shopping tour with a dietitian at Hy-Vee.

I knew Hy-Vee stores employed dietitians, but have never really known what they do there. I recently emailed Sara from one of our Rochester locations to schedule my shopping tour. She met with me earlier this week with her intern, Deanna, to give me a store tour from a dietitian’s perspective. Here, they introduced me to Bolthouse dressings (I brought home the mango chipotle…YUM).

In my 4 1/2 year get-healthy journey, I thought I knew a great deal about the multitude of products available to those who care to make more mindful choices. I’d like to think I know my way around a grocery store too. But this store is a giagantic recent addition to Rochester, and having been intimidated by its size, I shied away from it. Until now!

I mean, check out this bulk area for instance…it houses 997 items. I stood there wondering where a person would even start. But with Sara by my side, she zeroed in on one of her favorites…

Organic red lentil beans, something I never knew existed, but was glad she pointed out, because some of those went home with me!

Spending hours in a store on your own, attempting to make healthy discoveries can seem overwhelming. I know, I’ve been there so many times. But strolling through the isles with these knowledgeable ladies was a treat. They pointed out so many products that offer lower calories, lower sodium content and a cleaner list of ingredients! Take for instance this awesome tomato sauce, it contains tomatoes…and that’s it! Better yet, only 10 mg of sodium!!!

Yup, that went home with me too!

As Sara and Deanna steered me down the chip isle, I joked (actually quite seriously) there couldn’t be anything healthy in that isle! But Sara led me straight to these…

Although the calorie range is equivalent to other chips, these contain only a few ingredients, the first of which is whole navy beans! Must be why they have 5 grams of protein and fiber in each serving. I went home with the white bean chips with hint of lime flavor. I ate some last night…delish!

Snacks can sometimes get me in trouble, but these flackers were developed by a doctor to promote health in a multitude of ways…how cool is that?!?

The tour lasted an hour, but Sara and Deanna’s recommendation list went far beyond! I’ve become aware of so many new super food items, many with convenience in mind…like this ready-made quinoa.

And these amazing cauliflower crumbles that save time and mess!

I’d show you the spiralized veggies that intrigued me, but I can’t; when I went back to choose some, they were sold out!

I’m happy to know there are some great products out there to replace others that didn’t fit well in my diet, like these seasonings to help me avoid salt.

And how about these instead of tortillas? At 60 calories and a plethora of flavors, I’d reach for these every time!

It was eye-opening what I learned in an hour. Sara, many thanks for your expertise and willingness to spend an hour with me, so glad Deanna accompanied us too. I’ve gained much valuable insight!

I’m freshly inspired knowing there’s even an ice cream out there that aligns with my goals!

Shout out to the Rochester Athletic Club dietitians for such an innovative way to observe National Nutrition Month; I’m off to complete another task on the scavenger hunt!

Win-It Wednesday OOFOS Winners

Happy Win-It Wednesday!

Friends, your response to the FIT BFFs OOFOS giveaway was amazing! I’d like to thank my generous friends at OOFOS for another opportunity to educate and reward my readers with their fantastic products.

I’m excited to announce our three winners:

Suzanne G, Hope C-R & Rhonda M!!!

Congratulations! I’ll email you for shipping details.

Many thanks to all who entered…I wish I had a pair to give each and every one of you because I know you’d love them too. Why not stop by the OOFOS website to take a look, because treating our feet is a soothing way to literally put our Best Foot Forward!