Apple Cider Vinegar

I first learned about apple cider vinegar and its’ benefits a couple of years ago after having an allergic reaction to a bee sting. Sounds confusing, right? After the sting, my arm swelled up so I ended up going to the ER. After refusing the steroid treatment, they suggested a stronger combo of benadryl than I had been using and pepcid. I questioned the combo especially since pepcid is known as a an antacid. Apparently pepcid is also a histamine blocker and it works on different histamines than benadryl. I didn’t really understand the science but since I didn’t want to take the steroids and I needed to do something, I figured it was a better option. The drug combo made me tired but it worked on the swelling almost immediately. A side effect of the pepcid was that I got heartburn. How did I get heartburn from an antacid you wonder? My Chiropractor friend explained that the pepcid stopped my natural stomach acid so my body responded by producing more. He suggested taking a shot of apple cider vinegar to help. Wow! It worked almost instantly. It is now my “medicine” of choice for heartburn.

I heard more about the vinegar when I saw a recipe for coughs which include 1 tablespoon each of raw honey, fresh lemon juice and raw apple cider vinegar. RAW apple cider vinegar? I had no idea what that even meant. At the time I was making homemade raw sauerkraut and reading a lot about fermented foods so it wasn’t much of a stretch when I learned the raw vinegar is just not heated or pasteurized so it has beneficial probiotics in it naturally.  I am all about natural and probiotics. I found a recipe online and made my first batch. The downside is that it takes 3 plus months in the beginning. The plus side is you just need apple scraps, sugar and water. That time goes fast and once you have made your own, you will never want the processed vinegar again.

The first batch I made called for cutting up pieces of apple including the core and then making a simple syrup. I use raw sugar and make a one to one ratio for the syrup. One cup of boiling water to one cup of syrup. I use a quart mason jar and fill it with apple pieces. I have used scraps from pie making, whole fresh apples, and apples that are starting to go past their prime, that my kids don’t really want to eat. My son’s teacher used cider making scraps. Pour the cooled syrup over the the apples and fill the jar with filtered water. You need the sugar to aid in the fermenting. The fermenting process needs air to aid it so I use a coffee filter held in place with the jar lid. You can use cheesecloth, a thin paper towel and a rubber band to hold it in place. You want to keep bugs out but let the air in.

Keep the apples in a cool dark place that will get good air flow and check on them regularly. At first I kept my apples in a kitchen cabinet, but now I have a pantry so I keep them in there. The first batch I made, I checked ever day constantly pushing the apples below the liquid to prevent mold. Now, I tend to neglect them for days sometimes and it is fine. After about two weeks, strain the liquid, dispose of the apples and return the vinegar to the jar. You have the beginnings of vinegar and now all you need is time.

Check the vinegar regularly. Again, with my first batch I did it daily, now I do it weekly. Stir the vinegar to help the air flow. You can start tasting it after a couple of months and it is “done” when you are happy with the flavor. You can then put your vinegar in an air tight container. It will continue to age but at a slower process since it isn’t exposed to the air. Now every time I make the vinegar I add a little of my previous batch to the apples as it helps them ferment faster. My current batch even has a good sized “mother” which is similar to a scoby used for kombuchu tea.

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You can use any kind of apples you like and you can even mix and match them. It will change the flavor slightly of your vinegar. Apple cider vinegar has been touted for everything from stomach problems, to reducing inflammation, to aiding in wait loss, to helping with preventing illness and more. Good luck and happy fermenting!

A New Year

Happy New Year!

The holidays have come and gone and as I suspected I was busy with Christmas shopping, entertaining, holiday programs, volunteering at school and all the usual year end activities. The last six weeks have passed in a flurry Christmas preparations followed by days off from school for vacation and winter weather.

I did continue to exercise in December and felt good about where I ended the year. I know that I have not blogged for several weeks about my road to fitness but I managed to walk, run or bike a few times every week. The holiday season is always a problem with unhealthy habits, but I didn’t stress about it too much which I believe made a big difference in the outcome.

I enjoyed my time with my family and the sights and sounds of the season. It is so easy to get caught up in the stresses, but my children really love Christmas and it is contagious. We love the songs, the decorations and the holiday baking. We all stayed up past midnight to ring in the New Year and talked about goals we want to accomplish in 2014.

It seems appropriate to take time today the twelfth day after Christmas to get back on track with my blog and begin to work toward some of my goals. I am settling back into my routines and also challenging myself to be a better version of myself this year and in the future.

Happy New Year to you all and thank you for taking the time to read my words.

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Back to Basics

Day 1 – I realized over the weekend that I was almost 130 miles away from my goal of doubling my 2012 bike mileage so this morning after the school drop off, I rode my bike on my trainer to close the gap. I rode 12 miles and did it pretty easily even though I have not ridden my bike in weeks. Apparently it is just like riding a bike as long as you are doing some form of cardio.

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After the ride, Jack and I went on our hiking trail. It was a nice day and we encountered a few others with the same idea. On our way to the woods, I ran the quarter mile down hill and also did some running along the trail. At one point in the not too distant past, it was all I could do just to hike down and back up the trail so I really have made progress.  I spent some time thinking about my friend’s mom and the one year anniversary of my brother’s death which is coming up this week. Walking always centers me and brings my spirituality to the surface.
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Day 2 – I took the boys to school and made a quick trip to my favorite grocery store, Trader Joe’s. Matt was working from home so we could go to the funeral later in the morning. Since we were going to be gone a long time that day, I made the decision to take Jack for a walk in the woods before getting ready. I also made the decision on this walk to focus on my bike and these long walks for a bit, since getting any exercise at all during this season is difficult for me. I have never been diagnosed but I suspect that I suffer from some form of seasonal depression. I am more likely get out and do things that I really love. I will continue to do some running, but it is much easier to get on my bike in the house during the cold weather than go out for a run that I am still struggling with. I have not quit running and still plan to do it, but I will walk and bike regularly through the cold dark days.
Day 3 – I volunteered in the kindergarten class today and went my my quarterly hair cut. When I got home, I took Jack for a short walk.
Day 4 – This  morning I met up with a friend and that headed home for a walk in the woods before getting the boys.
Day 5 – Even though my twelve miles of riding earlier in the week was pretty effortless, I did pay for the lack of biking with a sore rear for a few days. Today I got back on my bike and rode another twelve miles. I will make it to my goal by the end of the year. After today’s ride, I have 102 miles to go.
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After the ride, Jack and I did our hike. The walk in the woods that I regularly do, used to take nearly an hour one way several years ago and has since been cut in half. It is a true measure of my fitness progress over the years. I still have a long way to go, but I have come a long way. I have made it a habit not to try to get the closest parking spaces. Instead, I park farther away from entrances to avoid the crowd of traffic and to get a longer walk in.
Day 6  and Day 7 – We had a busy weekend filled with activities for the kids and get-togethers with friends so I did not get any formal workouts in. I did some laundry and cleaning which counts as activity in my book. I also ran some errands which I typically avoid on a weekend. I had planned to do a hike by put the cold weather was a deterrent.  I am doing well staying away from holiday treats so we will see how the year ends up.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all! I have much to be thankful for and hope that you do as well.
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Week Twelve Time to Refocus

Day 1 – Today I got up and got everyone out of the house earlier than usual. I am a co-chair for the elementary school book fair and needed to meet my partner. The fall book fair is a mini-fair and will run today and tomorrow from 8:30 am until 8:00 pm. We got everything set up and had a few customers. It is a half day both days because of conferences so I arranged for child care for the boys until 4. I then went home to get the organized for swimming, homework, dinner and a sitter before heading back out for a conference and to help close the book fair for the day.

Day 2 – Today is a repeat of yesterday but I could only stay at the fair until 1:30 when one of my boys had a well visit and the second had an appointment to check out his sore ear. One ear infection and a successful well visit later and we headed home for homework. We then took Nate to the pool and headed to Target for an antibiotic. The sick child had tubes but they are both sitting on his ear drum, so I hope this isn’t the start of many ear infections. Luckily our ENT is conservative so he won’t rush to do a second tube surgery. After the boys went to bed, I got my “run” in on my trampoline. Aerobically, I work harder outside because I sweat more and seem to get my heart rate higher, but I think I work my muscles harder on the trampoline.

Day 3 – Jack and I took a nice walk in the woods. It was beautiful and no squirrels bothered me so it was a successful outing.

Day 4 – I got back outside for my run which felt great. My pace has slowed, but as long as I keep getting out, I am not going to beat myself up about it. The goal is to move my body and get fit any way I can.

Day 5 – We walked in the woods again and my nearly ten year old dog was more playful than I have seen him in quite a while. We ran into many other dogs and owners enjoying the day. I am starting to panic slightly about the ten people I am hosting for dinner tomorrow. My house is still littered with camping gear and detritus from our New York trip, but I am making progress one step at a time.

The walk today was so good for me as I am also thinking about the two deaths I learned about today. One is the mother of a close friend whose cancer ended her life and the other is a young man from our summer pool who was killed in a home invasion. I am thankful for my health and every day I have. I am trying not to take anything for granted.

Day 6 – Today is a big day. I probably should try to get out for at least a walk, but the piles of laundry to put away along with the dusting, vacuuming and bathroom cleaning is stressing me out too much to leave the house. I got a bit of exercise running through the house. I enlisted the help of all family members and we got it all done. We were ready for dinner group at 6:00. I even delivered my oldest to his swim meet and transferred him to one of our very capable teenage babysitters. I will leave dinner at some point to pick him up.

Day 7 – After church this morning, I wanted to go for a run or at least a walk, but I spent a lot of time on the phone making arrangements for a wake and funeral early next week. My middle son got invited to a last minute party and my oldest had part two of his swim meet. I may not have gotten all the exercise I wanted in this week, but I am making healthier eating choices and have stepped back from the Halloween candy. As long as I don’t gain my usual “holiday ten” I will be happy. I also plan to refocus on my goal of doubling my 2012 bike mileage. I have about 120 miles to go so I need to fit about two rides in per week.

Camping and planking and running too

Week Ten
Day 1 – Jack and I had a wonderful autumn walk in the woods. It almost feels wrong to count it as exercise, but when I am huffing up the hill at the end and come home sweaty, I know I worked hard.

Day 2 – I just came home from one of my best runs ever. I ran as far as I could, and while it still isn’t a mile, I pushed myself further than I have ever gone. I alternated shorter walks between longer runs for the rest of the time for my 2.25 miles.

A friend asked me last week what injuries I was focused on and why I thought intervals were better for me. I am not sure I articulated it very well to him at the time, but I realized what it is today. I am worried about all injuries and realized today that after running for a while my form suffers. I start to roll my ankles and feel myself stepping funny. The SECOND I notice it and I have difficulty correcting it, I stop and walk until I feel like running again. I believe for me, poor form may lead to some injury. So while I am still not running a mile, I am still running. That is more than I was doing less than three months ago. That accomplishment alone makes me feel proud and keeps pushing me out the door.

Day 3 – I volunteered today and didn’t exercise but for those of you following my squirrel adventures, I have another to add. I was walking to my car from the school when I heard a loud sound. I looked up startled and saw that a Squirrel had leapt or fallen onto the hood of the car parked just in front of mine. From the sound, I was pretty sure it was injured and the car was damaged. As I gingerly walked toward my own car, I jumped again when the squirrel ran up a light pole. I certainly got my heart rate up!

Day 4 – I had a great run and was able to go just a little further than Tuesday. Since today is Halloween and I have NO willpower when it comes to candy, I also took Jack for a short hike. This is the beginning of my yearly struggle with overeating and the holidays. I usually end the year ten pounds more than the beginning so I am really going to work on avoiding that this year.

Day 5 – much of the day was spent preparing for a camping trip with my Cub Scouts, but I also started a 30 day plank challenge. Here is the link to the details: http://www.active.com/fitness/articles/30-day-plank-challenge I especially like how the challenge starts at your fitness level and focuses on proper form. I will be taking the remains of our Halloween candy to the camp out, because I don’t need any more.

Day 6 – I did not get an official workout in, but we were camping and I was loading and unloading heavy things, setting up tents and camp and got plenty of fresh air and some exercise. I planked in the tent before bed. Tonight is the official end to Daylight Savings Time so I get to lay on the cold ground for an extra hour trying to sleep.

Day 7 – We broke camp, took down tents, loaded cars and then unloaded everything when we got home. I wanted to go for a run, but after checking for ticks and showering, I really needed a short nap. We walked around the neighborhood handing out “scouting for food” bags. It is part of a food drive we do every year. I ran a little (two blocks each way) after dropping my youngest off for a play date and on the way to pick him up. This is the first week since starting that I have’t gotten three runs in, but I really needed the rest since I rarely sleep while camping. Last night was no exception. I did stretch and got my planks in after a meeting of the Mold Task Force. I am hoping for a good night’s sleep.

Week Seven and the Running Tramp

Day One – I got up this morning and put on my running clothes. I want to run Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week because my friend is visiting for the weekend and we want to walk or bike. I went to wake up the kids only to hear the familiar barking/honking sound of croup. My middle son would not be going to school. I fed everyone and got the other two off to school and took Will to the doctor. His lungs were clear but he had an ear infection.

While we wandered around Target waiting for his prescriptions, I saw a mini exercise trampoline. I had been thinking it might be good to get one to “jog” indoors without the cost of a treadmill. I could run and watch tv! I could also get workouts in during bad weather.

After dinner and getting the two youngest in bed, I decided to open up the box and put together my trampoline so I could still get my Monday run in. Luckily my ten year old has mad skills after putting together dozens or maybe hundreds of Lego creations so he helped me decipher the directions and figure out how to use the “spring tool”. His way worked much better than mine.

Then he went to bed and I jogged on my trampoline while watching last weeks’s Grey’s Anatomy episode. I ran this way for 40 minutes which is about ten minutes longer than my outdoor runs. I don’t think I was as hot and sweaty but I felt muscles ache (especially in the gluts) that I haven’t for awhile. It was definitely different than running outside, but I think I got a good workout in.

Day Two – I went for a walk today with Jack. We walked in the neighborhood for about 70 minutes. I stretched those sore gluts.

Day Three – I ran outside but it was hard today. I am not sure of my actual pace, but I did my usual 2.25 miles. I had to walk more than I did my last run. I don’t know if I am tired from the walk yesterday or just a little sore from my trampoline run.

Day Four and Five – It is raining cats and dogs so I did not get outside to exercise. I could not get myself to exercise inside either. I feel very tired. I am also upset about some extended family issues as well as continued mold in my kids’ school. I helped Matt and Nate pack for their camping trip.

Day Six and Seven – My good friend Claire is visiting and we walked both days in the drizzly weather. Saturday we walked four miles per hour for one hour and Sunday we walked a little longer at a slower pace. We had the dog and Claire was wearing Fit Flops because she had some gnarly heel blisters. Claire also got me to log my food into MyFitnessPal. We did quite well over the weekend with our food and drink choices. Gone are our days of squirt cheese product and Ben and Jerry’s pints. It helps to have friends to encourage and motivate me on the path to fitness.

Going Raw

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A few years ago, a good friend of the family was visiting and he was following what I thought was a strict food plan. For breakfast he was eating Irish Oatmeal soaked overnight in soy milk in the refrigerator. At the time, I thought he was crazy and suggested he cook the cereal before eating it. He was polite about his response and ate his concoction. Whenever I seem to make a judgement about something, life has a way of bringing my words back to me and making me eat them. Yesterday, I ate my words in the form of oatmeal soaked in almond milk with blueberries. It was great and was truly the best oatmeal I have ever eaten.

For the first three days of this week, my husband and I were on a raw food mini detox. We ate nothing but raw foods. Well actually, I slipped up on the first day and we ate hummus, not even thinking that the chickpeas were cooked before being ground up. My whole life I have battled with my weight. This year, I made a promise to myself to be healthy. No more diets, no starving myself, but I was going to adopt a healthier lifestyle permanently. I have three young boys and I want to be around to see them grow up and to be able to be active with them.

Since January, I have been eating healthy whole foods, exercising regularly and keeping track of it all on MYFitnessPal, an app for my iPad and smartphone. I have done well, but the last month or so I have been on a typical plateau. Was I building muscle? Maybe, but it was frustrating not to see the results of my hard work. Matt and I talked about replicating the 7 day detox that we did after New Years which involved eliminating caffeine, wheat, dairy, meat and all processed foods. During this detox, we did not limit our calories extremely, we just cut out ALL the junk in our diets. At that time, he lost 10 pounds and I lost 6. Most of the weight had been holdover from holiday treats.

This time, we decided that we didn’t have a full week since the kids and I are traveling to Iowa this weekend, so we heard about a 3 day raw detox from http://bitchindietitian.com/ which is actually the same blog we learned about the longer detox in January. The bithcin’ dietician is the mother of our middle son’s classmate and she is a dietitian, cookbook author and vegan. We didn’t follow either of her detoxes step by step, but we used them more as a guide and followed in the best way that we could.

The idea of going raw was a little overwhelming and we probably should have done some more research before going forward because we could have used more protein in our meals. I would say it was a success. We had fresh fruit and veggie juices or smoothies for breakfast, fruit and nuts for snacks, salads for lunch and a heartier meal for dinner. As I said,t he first day, we slipped up and had hummus. We ate a lot of nuts and avacado, flax seed, chia (as in the pets) and more fruits and veggies than most people do in a week. We both felt great and I was able to move off my plateau. Will I go raw again? Maybe for a day or two, and we frequently eat no meat meals, but I must confess I really enjoy a filet or burger or sushi every now and then. I can’t eat as much meat as I once did, but I am not ready to give it up permanently. Next time we go raw, I will find some more raw food sources of protein. We didn’t limit calories, in fact a much higher percentage of the food we ate while eating raw, was fat. Both Matt and I had success and saw the numbers move down on the scale this week.

One other good thing I noticed about this raw stage is that I seemed to have a lot of energy both mentally and physically. I didn’t seem to need as much sleep and in fact, it was difficult to quiet my mind at night. I was pleased with the outcome and enjoyed the energy I got from this way of eating.