Working from Home [+ Late Morning Soy Lattes]

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Working from a home office definitely has its pros and cons. The most obvious “pro” is that you get to be home- no commuting, no office drama and you can work in your pajamas all day long if you want. I’ve been working from home for a little over a year now and am definitely a fan. But, there are also some drawbacks. I miss the socialization and relationships that I had with co-workers in some of my former jobs. And, it’s also nice to have structure. Even though having a set schedule can be a pain sometimes, it’s also nice to have a routine. All in all, I like the balance that I have now: I generally work from home three days a week and go into the office the other two (and I always work a bit on either Saturday or Sunday- from home).

I know that it’s common for people to gain weight after they get an “office” job due to eating out, going to happy hours after work or any other calorie-inducing habits. It was actually the opposite for me. After I quit my teaching job and was home all of the time I quickly packed on the pounds. For me, having constant access to my fridge and pantry (stocked with delicious food!) was not always the best thing. I had a few snacks that I kept in my classroom during my teaching years, but in general I could only eat what I packed for breakfast and lunch (I never got desperate enough to buy cafeteria food!).

With my current schedule, I teach early morning (6:00 am) Spinning and Bodypump classes two days a week, which are followed by breakfast, a shower and a full day of work. On the other days I generally wake up around 6:30 a.m., work for a bit, exercise, eat breakfast and work for the rest of the day. I take a few breaks throughout the day to walk the dogs and to eat lunch. And, I always have my first (and usually only) cup of coffee in the late morning. Lately that cup of coffee has consisted of the following:

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Silk Unsweetened Organic Soymilk, coffee and a milk frother.

Fortunately I am able to function in the morning without drinking a cup of coffee first (I actually can’t drink coffee before exercising). And, this “latte” is much more filling than a cup of coffee, so it’s almost like a late morning snack (one cup of Silk Soymilk has 7 – 8 grams of protein!).

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Kombucha Brooklyn Giveaway

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Last fall, Kombucha Brooklyn sent me a kit so that I could make my own tasty brew at home. I was a crazy kombucha brewin’ fool after that, making all different flavors including blueberry, strawberry and raspberry. When we packed up our house to move last spring, my beloved kombucha jar was packed up and the scobys were tossed from my fridge, and I haven’t brewed a batch since. Kombucha Brooklyn was nice enough to reach out to me this winter and offered to send me a 1/2 gallon kit:

kombucha kit front

As if getting this kit wasn’t awesome enough, they also included a copy of their new book, Kombucha! The book was written by the founders of Kombucha Brooklyn, Eric and Jessica Childs. It includes a forward by Brenden Brazier, who is a renowned vegan athlete. I loved reading through Kombucha and all about the history of the brew, what exactly a scoby is, and the many health benefits that kombucha has. For instance, did you know that kombucha can help relieve acne, headaches, PMS and anxiety (just to name a few!)? Reading this book will teach you the “art” of brewing the perfect batch of kombucha including the best tools to use and when to bottle your batch.

Besides that, the book includes tons of unique and tasty recipes to eat and drink and health and beauty “recipes” for your skin! The food recipes include things like mustard, soups and delicious sides- even kombucha apple pie! There’s also a variety of tasty cocktail recipes. Kombucha also works as a great ingredient for cosmetic “recipes” like a clay face mask (which I’ve made before and love!), a detox bath and even a body mist.

I made my first batch of kombucha in my next kit early last week, and it will probably be ready to drink in a few days. Here’s what the kit includes:

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DIY Snow Globes

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Hey all! I hope you had a fantastic weekend! Are you excited for the holidays yet? It looks like we’re not going to get a white Christmas here- and I’m totally okay with that! I would love to go hiking on Christmas day and it looks like the weather might be just perfect for that. I enjoyed a weekend of being mostly lazy all day Saturday, with the exception of going out to the gym in the late morning and to a movie in the late afternoon. (We saw Anchorman 2. It was mostly stupid but funny, and it had Paul Rudd :)). Sunday was filled with all of that last-minute Christmas shopping (I still have two things to get!), lots of errands and stuff around the house.

I also made these:

snowglobes

I was scouring Pinterest a while ago looking for some easy DIY holiday crafts and pinning a few things along the way. I found one website with tons of different ideas using mason jars and a few other supplies and thought that seemed easy enough! I really liked the snow globe idea, so I made a few of those.

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10 Great Halloween Costumes [that I wish I'd thought of!]

8th grade photo

Happy Friday!

I imagine that a few of you might be going out to celebrate Halloween this weekend- and may even be dressing up. I’ve been a big fan of Halloween my whole life – choosing that perfect costume was a pretty big deal when I was a kid. When I was in college Halloween was also a big deal. My friends and I would get dressed up (in not-so-creative and predictable costumes) and take to the streets of Fells Point in Baltimore with thousands of other decked out (and often intoxicated) young adults. Man, did we have a good time!

I’m a little sad to say that since graduating college (which was 11 years ago! eek!) I have been a big slacker when it comes to participating in Halloween. I’ve been to a handful of parties, but I haven’t been able to get Greg on board to share in my enthusiasm. We’ve continued our pumpkin patch and pumpkin carving (<—–OMG I need to go back and make that pasta sauce!!!) each year, but have yet to dress up as a couple. Well, I’m happy to say that finally this year will be different! For weeks my good friend Heather and her boyfriend Will have been planning (what will most definitely be) a stellar Halloween bash. I’m happy to say that Greg and I will be attending and we will be in costume!

I’m not going to share what we’ve decided to dress up as yet- you’ll have to wait and see after the weekend. :) I will say that I spent weeks scouring the web for ideas and found several that are great. What we ultimately chose isn’t super creative or original, but I’m thinking that we’ll have a lot of fun with it (and that’s what it’s all about after all!). Today I share with you some of the most fun and creative ideas that I found during my search. Enjoy!

Deb from Napoleon Dynamite (source)

Deb

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Pickles + Nut Butter [Things I Don't Buy Anymore]

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TGIF! I hope you’re staying cool wherever you are- we are certainly having a heat wave here in Maryland! I’m all for hot weather, but anything over about 90˚ is where I draw the line. The temperature has been hanging out 100˚ for what seems like forever- but fortunately the forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-80s all of next week! I will be really happy to escape the excessive heat (and humidity!) very soon!

I’m really looking forward to this weekend- I have some really fun stuff planned! I’ll be wrapping up my Friday teaching my Spinning and Bodypump classes later this afternoon, and come home to our weekly pizza night afterwards. I usually take a rest day on Saturday, but volunteered to cover the 8am Spinning class (let’s face it- I need the money!) and then will be celebrating Ashley’s wedding in the afternoon/evening! I’m so excited, and can’t believe it’s finally here! On Sunday I teach Spin class in the morning (again!) and then have one last Bodypump practice session (before the launch!) with some of the other instructors in the afternoon. After that, I’m meeting up with my friend Krista to see MAGIC MIKE. :)

Whew!

Ever since school ended, and I’ve had a bit more time on my hands, I’ve found myself making more things in the kitchen. I have had a “to do” list for simple recipes forever- things that I just didn’t make time for during the school year- and I’ve been tackling it one by one. And from that list there are two things that I’ve become slightly obsessed with making: pickles and nut butter. And no, I don’t eat them together (although I did know a girl in elementary school that would each pickle + peanut butter sandwiches!).

It all started when I bought some pickling cucumbers at the farmers market last month. Look how cute they are!

We are big pickle fans in my house, so I figured that making my own pickles would be a great idea. I remembered that I had pinned a pickle recipe from Ashley’s blog and used her “Simply Pickled” recipe to make my first batch. I was so excited to see how that first batch turned out- I couldn’t even wait a day to try them! Even after a few hours, the cucumbers started to “pickle,” and kept getting better as the days went on.

I’ve tried a few of the other recipes from Ashley’s pickle post, and am completely stocked up on all sorts of pickling spices. I’m also excited to try pickling some other vegetables like green beans, cauliflower, onions… maybe even broccoli!

As I said above, I’ve also had an obsession with making nut butter recently. I’ve been making my own peanut butter for a while now- it’s easy to do and you can’t really mess it up. I usually just throw a few cups in the Vitamix and let it go. It literally takes less than 2 minutes to make! As much as I love peanut butter, it’s not my favorite of the nut butter varieties- that title goes to almond butter.

I had tried making almond butter several times in the past, and just couldn’t get it right. I would do the exact same thing as I did with peanuts, and would end up with nothing but almond meal. But then, magically last week, I finally figured it out! There are two factors that contribute to successful almond butter making: #1: roast the almonds beforehand (thanks again, Ashley for that tip!) and #2: Let it GO. If you’ve ever tried making your own almond butter before, you’ve probably noticed that steam/smoke starts to come out of your food processor/Vitamix after a while. This always scared me, and made me shut off the machine. What I didn’t know is that it’s actually a good thing- the nuts need to heat up to release the oils and get soft enough to turn into nut butter. When I applied both of these factors to a batch I whipped up last week, it finally worked! I was beyond excited- finally I was able to get drippy, perfect almond butter!

I’ve developed a preference of using my food processor instead of my Vitamix to make nut butters- mostly because it’s easier to get every last drop of it out of there. I even made my own sunflower seed butter yesterday, which also turned out perfectly!

I used 2 cups of roasted sunflower seeds from Whole Foods (I also roasted them for a few extra minutes before using) that already had salt added, which yielded about 1 cup of sunflower seed butter.

I will definitely buy unsalted next time, as these were way too salty for my liking.

The great thing about making your own nut butter is that you can also flavor it however you want. Obviously, plain (with just a little salt) tastes great on its own. I have personally fallen in love with the honey/vanilla/cinnamon/sea salt combo. I’ve made varieties of peanut and almond butter with that combination, and it’s really hard to keep my spoon out of the jar! And, obviously, there are a bunch of other nut/seed varieties to experiment with aside from the three of these.

Salad dressing and jam is another thing that I enjoy making myself (it’s so darn easy to do), and I want to start tackling other condiments next: mayo (which is super easy), mustard, ketchup, BBQ sauce… I’m seeing a few hours of browsing Pinterest in my near future.

OH- and one more thing (or three). I’ve finally gotten with the times and gotten a Facebook page and updated my Twitter and Pinterest accounts. If you’d be so kind to “Like” Oatmeal after Spinning on Facebook, I will be very thankful! And if you want to follow me on Twitter on Pinterest, please click the hyperlinks. :) And as always- thanks for reading. You guys ROCK!

If you haven’t entered the NuNaturals giveaway yet, there’s still time!

What are some of your favorite foods/condiments that you prefer to make at home, rather than buy at the store? Any good tips/recipes to share?