Cara, Intensified

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Tasty Tuesday!

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When Friends Give you Bananas…

My weekend-long adventure of biking over 100 miles for MS research yielded several revelations. First, I realized how lucky I am to live in an area that boasts so much natural beauty. During the ride, I covered more counties in Kentucky than I’ve explored since moving here four years ago. Biking through the bluegrass, watching the sunrise over rolling hills and enjoying two days of beautiful sunshine made me realize how truly lucky I am to be privy to such natural wonder. Second, I developed a deep appreciation for padded cycling shorts. I nearly fainted when I first caught a glimpse of myself in the tightest, most unflattering shorts I’d ever donned. After my minor meltdown, I made peace with the fact that these were designed to be purely functional, not runway worthy. I tried desperately to avoid mirrors at all costs for the duration of the race; but after I sat on that bike seat for 10+ hours over the course of two days, I was utterly grateful for the padded spandex, however unattractively they clung to my thighs.

And third, due to the thoughtful friends waiting at the finish line with filled coolers, I arrived home with 5+ pounds of super-ripe bananas. Hmmmmmm, what to do? I was born with the unique inability to throw food away, so I decided I would find an easy recipe to turn all these mushy bananas into several desserts to share with friends. I know what you are thinking – “Duh, Cara, banana bread!” but it’s summertime and I wanted something lighter.

After googling “healthy banana recipes,” I found this list from Cooking Light reminiscent of Bubba Gump’s options for shrimp. Apparently, banana recipes are infinite! Wiped out from my weekend ride, I scoured the recipes with three factors in mind: looks tasty + easy to make + few ingredients. I settled on the banana mousse recipe and bought a few pie crusts to pour it into.

Here’s the recipe I “Cara-fied” by adding estimating ingredients for taste and consistency and adding some honey, stevia and fat free whip for good measure.

Banana Mousse

Contributor: Keep the Beat, Heart Healthy Recipes, NHLBI-Adapted by Cara, IntensifiedMakes 4 servings of mousse, or one pie; play around   with doubling, tripling or quadrupling if you have a million pounds of   ‘naners like I did!

 Ingredients

2 Tbsp lowfat milk

4 tsp sugar (Note: I used honey and stevia to taste!)

1 tsp vanilla

1 medium banana, cut in quarters

1 C plain lowfat yogurt

8 slices (1/4 inch) banana

Directions

Place milk, sugar, vanilla and banana in food processor. Process for 15   seconds at high speed until smooth.

Pour mixture into small bowl and fold in yogurt. Pour into pie crusts if   making pies, then chill.

Garnish each with banana slices, slivered almonds, cocoa or coconut just   before serving!

Note: If making pies, they are best kept in the freezer to harden up.   Simply remove and set at room temp for about 15-20 minutes before serving.

 

Let's go bananas!

Ok, I didn’t end the ride with this many bananas, but damn near close…

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Tackle It Thursday

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Getting Outside the Comfort Zone (Part I)

Aaaaand, we’re biking 100 miles….

I remember the exact moment my friend Tayo asked if I wanted to join her bike for MS team back in January. “What’s the deal?” I asked innocently. “You just have to raise $300 for MS research and then we do a weekend-long ride in June,” she said. “You can pick your route and length, but you either ride 70, 100 or 130 miles total, all for a great cause.”

Calculating the fact that I was committing to something a full five months away, it seemed like an easy call. Plus, I had been looking for a new challenge to focus on. I set my sights on 100, only because the thought of me having a century ride under my belt seemed pretty badass. I am not a fan of those bumper stickers that boast the length of runs, bikes or other physical feats, so I began brainstorming ways to casually slip it in to conversations. “Sure!” I committed, and the rest is history. If you’ve been following my woes during the past few months, you recall that I was slapped out of naivety along the way by several voices of reason.

First, I planned to tackle said century ride on my old (but lovely!) Schwinn cruisin’ bike. Doable, right? WRONG, accordingly to everyone around me who knows anything about biking and human anatomy. This led me into the wild world of road bikes, and after learning a thing or two and shopping around, I settled on a gorgeous used Fuji bike decked out in Americana colors and tape. She’s a beaut.

I wasn’t sure how to train outside of simply jumping on my new road bike and riding, but road riding makes me a bit nervous, and I’m not keen on driving down a back road and getting lost by myself. My friend was taking spin classes to train for a triathlon, so I signed up with her and considered this part of my training. Spin classes became a part of my normal workout routine, and somehow the weeks crept into months, and June snuck right up on me.

Last week my work travels took me to sunny SoCal, and I spent my normal time in the gym and hopped on the recumbent bike for 2 hours one morning, but I didn’t really feel like I was pushing myself. When I flew back home on Thursday, my ride scooped me at the airport and dropped me at the door of the spin studio with just enough time to pee, hop on a bike, curse jetlag and sweat through the pain for 60 minutes.

It was after this class when my triathlon-completing girlfriend asked what I was wearing during the ride, which was happening in a mere 36 hours. (I was still conveniently pretending it was months away.) “Yoga pants?” I shrugged. Instead of walking me through the nasty and painful consequences of biking 100 miles in thin cotton pants, she insisted that I wear her tri outfit, which included padded shorts. I happily agreed, and thus my outfit was decided.

I woke up Friday confused about what state and time zone I was in. I mustered my bit of energy and rolled into work with half a head. I had promised another friend a ride to the start of the race, which was 35 miles outside of Louisville on a beautiful farm. It was then that my ride asked me how I planned on getting two bikes and three people in a car and to the farm. My head was spinning. Effin’ logistics! Planning stresses me out, mostly because I’m a slacker at heart who tries very hard to be uber productive. Sometimes it works out for me, and sometimes it bites me in the ass. I could feel the nibble. I was overwhelmed by these questions — What are you wearing? How are you getting there? What will you eat? What shoes? Do you have a tire repair kit? — that I’d had five months to prepare for. Five months, people! Being the amazing person that he is, my ride procured and assembled a fab bike rack Friday while I was busy pretending this ride was not happening in 12 hours. After work, I had dinner with a dear friend who was driving though town. It was after dinner, around 10:30 p.m., when I couldn’t hide anymore. It was time to pack my bag, figure out my breakfast and be ready to leave my apartment at 5:45 a.m. in spandex.

I melted into a pile of tears. Thank God I have friends that can support me through ugly cry face. So that’s how my Friday night ended. I was finally considering the implications of riding 100 miles the next morning, having not really trained and having no idea what to expect. I knew I could do it, and that it would probably be fun, but that little voice of doubt coupled with fear of the unknown had crept in….

 

Bike MS

 

 

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Happy Summer Solstice!

Jackque Fowles liked this post

Today marks the first day of summer, and we’ll be graced with the most hours of sunlight out of any day this year. Consider this your friendly reminder and all-access to pass to enjoy this day with reckless abandon! Ok, not too reckless. Most of us have to work today, but that still leaves us plenty of sunshine-filled hours to get outside, eat a juicy peach or melon, start a bonfire or whatever gets you in full-on summer mode. No matter how you choose to celebrate, be sure to take a few moments to be thankful for this day, the sunshine and the many blessings it brings. Embrace it with open arms! If you need a few ideas for celebrating this most glorious of sunny days, check out these ideas from the Old Farmer’s Almanac. My parental units have a summer solstice party each year, celebrated in their backyard that overlooks the pond. From summer cocktails to a fire ring, it’s a fabulously low-key celebration of friends and nature.

How will you celebrate summer solstice?

summer sol

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Tasty Tuesday!

Teresa Riemer Smith liked this post

Foodie Finds

Foodie love. No matter who you are, you know this feeling. You have brands that’s you don’t just crush on a little. You downright love them. I have my list, and a few of those on it had booths at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago back in May. I took advantage of this opportunity to show my love for my old favorites. If you haven’t tried any foods from the brands below, I invite you to jump on my bandwagon of, well, one, and hopefully find some new foodie loves for yourself. First, let me take you through a list of my old favorites that I reconnected with.

Old Loves               

Food for Life: Food for Life owns several brands of breads, wraps and grain products that are organic, delicious and steeped in love. Each product carries a motivation message and is named after a biblical figure. Yep. I know that carbs get a bad rap, especially when it comes to living healthy and losing weight. I can’t remember who introduced me to my favorite Food for Life brand, Ezekiel bread, but whoever you are, thank you. Ezekiel Bread is a staple in my breakfast lineup. I love that Ezekiel low-sodium sprouted grain bread has living grains. What does that mean exactly? Read more about this phenomenon here and know that you can enjoy your bread guilt-free as Ezekiel bread is low in PointsPlus values. Yes, I realize that you can find “skinny breads” that boast only 45 calories per slice, but I’ve yet to find one that contains the pure, natural ingredients of Ezekiel bread.

Zico Chocolate Coconut Water: I love my Zico coconut water. No flavors, no frills — I like the plain stuff. But I got my socks knocked off by the chocolate version of this stuff. I was totes skeptical, but in my quest to try new things I gave it a go and was so pleasantly surprised. Now when I get a hankerin’ for chocolate milk, I go for a glass of this stuff. I can get my electrolytes, potassium and chocolate milk fix all in one. Score!

PB2: If you are familiar with me at all, you are aware of my love of PB2, powdered peanut butter. This stuff comes in chocolate flavor as well. If you are a super fan like me, you put it in your Greek yogurt, use it in baking and order it by the case from Amazon.com. Hey, don’t judge. With 45 calories in a 2-tablespoon serving, I’m convinced that this is the stuff that dreams are made of. LOVE!

In my next post, I will blow your mind with some of the new wild creations I sampled on this most amazing of trips… stay tuned!

 

 

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Foodie Friday!

Lessons from the National Restaurant Association Trade Show

As I promised in a previous post, I’ve cultured the pearls of wisdom I plucked from the National Restaurant Association Trade Show and they are ready to be shared. My next few posts will be broken down by chef with a final post about all the AMAZING new products I tried and foods I ate. Let’s start with Rick Bayless.

The owner of Frontera Grill, Xoco and others, this Chicagoan developed an obsession with Mexico at a young age. After convincing his family to vacation in Mexico City when he was 14, he said he felt like himself in the city. He is known for his Mexican cuisine, and his variations on guacamole are rumored to be the best in the biz. Sadly, I didn’t get to sample any of his restaurant fare on this trip. (Brightside = this warrants a return trip to Chicago!)

His was the first demo I saw, and I developed a bit of a crush. He seemed so sweet and personable! I also loved that Chef Bayless stressed the importance of sourcing your food as locally as possible and shared the woes of growing fresh produce on a rooftop in the Windy City. 

A quick-typing colleague snagged the recipe he created on stage, which you will find below. Although I like to consider myself slightly skilled when it comes to cooking, you won’t find me cooking up any pork belly in my abode anytime soon. But I have a feeling that this recipe will be right up the alley of some of my swine-loving friends. (I’m looking at you, Dad and Able Blakely.) Happy cooking!

Pork belly salad with avocado and mango

·         Toast pumpkin seeds in dry skillet, tossing around when they start to pop.

·         They will plump up and be light and fluffy when they are ready; let them cool.

·         Brown your bacon or braised pork belly.

·         To make the dressing, sauté a Serrano chili and garlic cloves (4 pieces each) in olive oil until softened; place in blender jar with pumpkin seeds,  1/3 cup fresh lime juice and 1/3 cup olive oil. Add salt and blend. Add a bit of honey or agave for sweetness and thin with water if needed. Finally, add your herb of choice: cilantro, mint, lemon basil or lemon verbena.

·         Dice a mango and an avocado, and toss in a bowl with some dressing.

·         Place some gem lettuce on a plate. (Writer’s note: This is the cutest f#ckin’ green I’ve ever seen!)

·         Lay pork belly around lettuce. Spoon fruit around the plate. Top with crushed pumpkin seeds and crumbled queso fresco (blue cheese or goat cheese), and top with dressing.

Viola! I know that everything about this recipe — the loose measurements, the lack of PointsPlus values, the inclusion of pork belly — is going to fuss some readers out there. But this is the first-hand account of an amazing dish from a Top Chef Masters winner and Outstanding Restaurant winner from the James Beard Foundation, and it must be shared.

Whether or not you find the pork belly salad recipe appealing, you may find these tips from the Master himself helpful:

·         Avocados don’t grow well in Mexico; they do best in Mediterranean climates.

·         Be very gentle on these green fruits; Bayless’s chefs leave them in the boxes until it’s time to prepare them for a meal to avoid any blemishes or bruising.

·         Bacon and pork were last year’s meats; 2013 is the year of the goat!

If you are legitimately frightened by that last bullet point, you are not alone! But I just looked it up, and goat is low in PointsPlus values. Anyone out there going to add this lean protein to their repertoire???

 

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Tasty Tuesday

Happy National Cheese Day!

According to the fine folks at Food.com, every day is a food holiday. And as luck would have it, today is National Cheese Day. To celebrate, I am sharing an oldie but a goodie from the archives – enjoy!

Cheese. Queso. Fromage. This stuff is delicious in any language. It is also one of the most asked foodie questions that I get from my fellow Weight Watchers. Although there are many fat free and low fat alternatives available for this notoriously mouth-watering and calorie dense food, I’ve found that many have a rubbery texture and “un-meltable” quality that is simply not worth it. So what’s a girl to do? I’ve got my list of cheesy favorites to share with you, but first let me give you a little breakdown of the stats we’re dealing with here.

In general, most cheeses are going to set you back between 100-140 calories per ounce (PointsPlus value of 3). This includes your common cheddar, Colby and mozzarella types, as well as your decadent Gruyere, Parmesan and Goudas. While this is a lot of calories for a small amount of food, if you can keep your portion in check and be satisfied with an ounce or less of your favorite, then cheers to you! You’ve got this covered. For the other 98% of us, we need a plan. I can stick to a small serving of cheese when offered on a cheese plate or at a party, but I simply cannot justify adding 3 additional points to a recipe or sandwich for a slice of the good stuff. So here’s where I get creative.

Goat Cheese This one is polarizing- you either love it or you hate it. I love it, which is why I was so stoked to learn that the soft and crumbled varieties, often labeled by their French name Chèvre, are more points friendly. You’ll normally find about 80 calories (and 2 PointsPlus values) in an ounce of this goodness. Goat cheese has a strong, earthy flavor, so a little goes a long way which is always a plus when dealing with calorie-dense foods. It’s great on sandwiches, in salads, in omelets and appetizer recipes that include fruit. (Think goat cheese stuffed figs. Drool.) I keep a container of the crumbled version at my disposals for use in my favorite veggie omelets. Using a crumbled or shredded version of any cheese is a great way to maximize flavor and minimize calories.

The crumbled version = more surface area coverage for less calories. It’s science!

Fat Free Feta

Along the same lines as goat cheese, this smelly delight is usually on your love or hate list. Feta cheese is a staple ingredient in the ever-popular Greek salad, as well as many Mediterranean dishes. The beauty behind this find is that the fat free version tastes nearly identical to its full-fat counterpart, and the stats are unreal! Most versions boast just 35 calories per one ounce serving, or PointsPlus value of 1. Rejoice! I find that much like a goat cheese, a little goes a long way so a half ounce usually does the trick. But if you want to indulge, this is the one to do it with. I use it to take my spinach salads to the next level, in wraps and sprinkled on top of roasted or grilled veggies.

 

The stats on this one are almost too good to be true. Pinch me!


Laughing Cow Wedges

I try to eat as little prepackaged and processed food as possible, but this giggling bovine makes a regular appearance in my meals and recipes when I need something Points-friendly that is creamy and full of flavor. Each Laughing Cow cheese wedge clocks in a just 35-45 calories (or PointsPlus value of 1). The best part about this product is the fact that it comes in over 7 drool-worthy flavors, so you can pick the perfect pairing for your taste or recipe. The spreadable texture makes it perfect for sandwiches and wraps, and the fact that each serving comes individually wrapped means built-in portion control and a travel-friendly accompaniment. Still skeptical? Dip your raw veggies into a wedge of the Light Swiss, melt a serving of the Mozzarella Tomato Basil over your whole wheat pasta or toss the Queso Fresco & Chipotle into your next quesadilla, then talk to me.

Amazingly yummy and versatile

Low Moisture Part-Skim Mozzarella

I also keep a bag of finely shredded part-skim mozzarella on hand for my famous Egg Florentine Oatmeal or quinoa. The part-skim version of mozzarella boasts around 80 calories per ounce, or PointsPlus value of 2. I’ve found that a half ounce of the finely shredded version is usually more than enough to add the texture and flavor I’m looking for, so my needs are met with just one point.

Decent stats without sacrificing the good stuff

 

Sargento Ultra Thin Slices

And for those of you who refuse to deviate from the good old fashioned cheese slice, I’m loving the stats (and low sodium count) of Sargento’s new Ultra Thin cheese slices. These are simply a thinner version of the full fat cheeses we know and love that clock in at around 40-45 calories per slice, or PointsPlus value of 1. Brilliant!

A skinnier version of your full-fat favorites. Why didn’t I think of this??

 

There you have it- cheesy indulgences a la Cara, Intensified. There are countless brands, flavors and types of cheeses out there of varying stats, so be sure to check your labels before you buy or indulge. Shop around, get creative and by all means let me know your favorites and new finds. After writing this post I’m off to enjoy one of my morning favorites- a veggie omelet loaded with spinach and goat cheese. Bon appetite!

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Tasty Tuesday

Trent Raper liked this post

A Weekend in Foodie Heaven

I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating right now:- I love my job. I’m a public relations specialist for Atria Senior Living, and it comes with the most random of perks, including the opportunities to travel to new cities and meet new people — two of my passions. I am developing the content for my company’s first blog set to launch mid-summer, so the next two months will be spent gathering fabulous resident profiles and stories to help tell our company’s story.

A few weeks back, I heard that members of our culinary team were heading up to Chicago for the weekend to attend the National Restaurant Association Trade Show. Say whaaatttt? I suggested that this would be an excellent forum in which to set our culinary team apart by showing senior living chefs learning from and hobnobbing with some of the greats, including Anthony Bourdain, Cat Cora and Hamaro Cantu. So Friday afternoon I flew up to the Windy City and spend all day Saturday and Sunday checking out the latest in kitchen innovations, sampling some of the industry’s best food and watching cooking demos performed by people I’ve only seen on TV and read about in Food + Wine magazine. I was in absolute heaven!

I made the rounds sampling everything from smoked salmon and cheesecake bread (true story!) to Matcha Green Tea and freekeh. I definitely came away with some new favorites that I can’t wait to share with you! I also took the opportunity to accost the fine folks at the Food for Life booth to let them know how I much I l-o-v-e their sprouted grain breads and other products. I did the same at the Bell Plantation booth and nearly kissed the reps that work for PB2, one of my favorite natural low-cal foodie finds of all time.

After sampling all the fare, I thought I better earn a few activity PointsPlus values before I go back for round two of free eats. The Wisconsin cheese tent was calling my name, so I hopped on a VibaBody Slimmer to give this new technology a go. This exercise machine of the future featured two large vibrating plates to stand on. The rep assured me that this new machine was designed to increase metabolism, build strength and flush my lymphatic system. I felt mildly inappropriate as it gyrated my body to near oblivion in front of a small crowd. I held on for dear life — heels and all — and instructed the rep to crank up the intensity. I was quite skeptical while aboard this supposed miracle machine, but I will admit that I felt relaxed, calm and energized after my 10-minute session. I will let you know if I wake up tomorrow looking like Heidi Klum — I’m still skeptical.

It was an amazing weekend. I learned so much and have an even greater respect for our talented culinary team and the lengths they go to delight our residents with innovative cuisine. I got some great footage for the coming blog and came away with a plethora of new recipes and food knowledge all mashed up inside my head.
Goal, achieved.

During the chef demos, I totally nerded out and jotted down recipes and advice from the pros. In my next post, I will share said pearls of wisdom and hope my fellow foodie wannabes find them useful in the kitchen.

From the demo kitchen. I wanted to take the background home for my apartment!

From the demo kitchen. I wanted to take the background home for my apartment!

 

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Tasty Tuesday

Guilt-free Chocolate MousseA friend recently introduced me to a blog called Peanut Butter Fingers, and I instantly fell in love. I immediately felt as if the author Julie and I would be besties if we ever met. Peanut Butter Fingers is full of fresh ideas, musings and recipes from a similarly health-minded 27-year-old. But my first visit to this blog was very purposeful, as my friend mentioned that this blog not only rocks, but is where she found a chocolate mousse recipe that sounded quite intriguing. It features one of my all-time favorite fruits-posing-as-a-veggie and power foods, the beloved avocado. Whaaaaat?!

I had to get to the bottom of this. So I found the recipe and made the dessert for a cook-out last week, where I gave it the “true dude” test by serving it to my friend’s husband who cares first and foremost about taste. He is often shaking his head in displease and raising his eyebrows in skepticism at the healthy antics his wife and I explore in the kitchen. But he is a great sport when we cook up the newest healthy recipes and swap-out ingredients to “healthify” classic dishes.

Without a clue that the mousse was a health food in disguise, I shoved a spoonful of it in his mouth upon arrival. He gave it the stamp of approval and the four peeps in attendance- including myself- tackled the dessert with true class. We took four spoons to one bowl and proceeded to lick it clean. This is a quick, amazing dessert that any chocolate lover is sure to enjoy. Behold the recipe for this three-ingredient delight, which simply requires avocados, honey, cocoa, a food processor and a sweet tooth. Enjoy! And thanks, Julie- I look forward to more tips and recipes from you in the future.

From Peanut Butter Fingers:

Dark Chocolate Avocado Mousse

(Adapted from Chocolate Avocado Mousse Martinis via If It Makes You Healthy: More Than 100 Delicious Recipes Inspired by the Seasons cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado, skin and pit removed
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons honey

Directions:

  1. Place avocado and dark chocolate cocoa powder in food processor. Add honey.
  2. Process avocado, cocoa powder and honey for approximately one minute, pausing to scrape the sides, or until a thick, smooth mousse forms
  3. Spoon mousse into a small bowl and top with slivered almonds, fresh fruit or chocolate chips and enjoy

Note: You may simply add more cocoa powder and honey if you prefer more chocolate or sweetness!

Double Note: I’d double if not triple this recipe if I were you. We only had one avocado on hand and I wanted more. Lots more.

The finished product. Delish!

The finished product. Delish!

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Motivational Monday

Happy Earth Day!

Get outside and give Mother Nature a figurative hug today! Plant a tree, start recycling, ride your bike to work or make a pledge to shrink your carbon footprint. Little changes can have a big impact, especially if millions of people make a move in the same direction.

Earth Day is a great time to make changes, but it’s important to think about your impact on Mother Nature every day of the year. The “health” of our planet is every person’s personal responsibility. I found this excerpt from a Baltimore Sun Times article by John Racanelli especially powerful:

My colleague Sylvia Earle, a renowned oceanographer whom Time Magazine called  a “Hero for the Planet,” has said that the next 10 years may be more important  than the last 10,000 in determining the fate of our oceans. She may as well be  talking about the fate of humans. It may not be the planet that needs saving so  much as we do.

These are things we deserve: a safe place to live, access to healthy  food, safe air and clean water, and the opportunity to contribute to a  better world. Like every parent, I want my son to live in a world that benefits  from the positive actions we take today. I want him to be as optimistic as I was  when I came of age and to be able to see some of the natural treasures I’ve been  lucky enough to experience. What parent doesn’t?

My personal Earth Day project involved helping to start a compost bin for the garden. While this homemade compost bin lives at my friend’s house (next to the garden), I have my own little compost bucket in my kitchen to store my contributions. It’s the perfect place for all my coffee grinds, egg yolks, fruit peels and other cooking by-products. Considering I spend the majority of my home time in the kitchen, this project is sure to yield some interesting results.

Homemade composter! Showing the garden some love.

Homemade compost bin! Showing the garden some love.

So what are you doing today to make an impact on the planet? Here are some ideas if you need a little creative boost outside of playing in the dirt, planting trees and recycling:

Have kids? Mother Nature Network offers 10 ideas for getting your little green ones involved in the planet-loving fun.

Make some chemical-free home cleaning products with ideas from Earth Easy,  or make some green body scrubs with these recipes from Tree Hugger. I make my own body scrub with turbinado sugar, grape seed oil and a bit of tea tree oil, and it’s amazing.

Have a fabulous Earth Day and remember to take a moment to be thankful for our amazing planet and the beauty around you.

 

 

 

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Tackle It Thursday

Jackque Fowles liked this post

Progress, not Perfection

So, I guess I should be stoked that I accomplished one of the goals on my previously mentioned list. Well, sort-of. If you read my last post, you know that my next goals include:

1. Finding that f*@#$ bike key so Fritz can play and enjoy spring.

2. Finding a previously-loved road bike that isn’t a piece of junk for less than $150.

3. Raising $300 to support multiple sclerosis research.

4. Conquering a century road over the course of a weekend in June, and the subsequent training leading up to it.

And I’m getting there, one step at a time, in my ever-so-Cara roundabout way. So I didn’t exactly find the bike key. I searched my apartment high and low, and I turned my Camelbak inside-out, thinking that I was sure to spot the key that kept itself hidden the last 12 times I searched for it. It was nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile, the sun finally decided to make an appearance in Louisville again (I missed you dearly. It’s about time!), so I had to call in the big guns. So Saturday morning I awoke knowing that Fritz had to be freed to enjoy the sunshine, no matter what. I arrived back at my apartment after hot yoga in a state of zen, searched for the key one final time and called in back-up.

Back-up arrived in the form of an organic cocktail for my nerves and bolt cutters, both delivered to my door by a friend and resident handyman. We nodded in agreement and headed down to my apartment building’s sketchy basement to do what had to be done. I couldn’t watch. But about 15 minutes later, Fritz was standing free and virile at my back door, just begging to go for a ride. Beside him was the $25 bike lock that I overpaid for back in 2009 when I made the grand adventure to Louisville from West Virginia with a bike and a dream. OK, now I’m just being dramatic, but the whole freeing-of-the-bike conundrum took weeks from start to finish. But goal one was, well, semi-accomplished.

The aftermath.

The aftermath.

I had to laugh to myself about the deeper lesson in this Saturday afternoon first-world problem. My friend Jaimie rode over an hour later and we were off! We bebopped in the sunshine and made our way downtown to the newly opened walking (and biking!) path bridge. We basked in the sun for the first time in what felt like ages, and laughed about the woes of our first worldness. Jaimie is currently training for a triathlon (she’s certifiable) because “it looks like fun” and she’s “never done it, so why not?!” and subsequently got me hooked on the spinning classes she’s been taking at 6 a.m. twice a week.

I was hesitant about shelling out the cash for this newest form of “healthy crack” that I can’t afford, but I was in need of a new workout and I figure this counts toward training for the century ride (see goal number 4 above). So that’s where I stand. I am beginning April with a freed mountain bike to play with and new spin classes to keep me challenged. In the coming weeks I’m going to focus on finding a road bike that fits my budget, raising more money for MS research and honing my riding skills.

And I’m going to let the lock-cutting incident serve as a reminder that reaching my goal is the most important thing, not the path that gets me there. And the fact that I have amazing people in my life to cut locks, ride bikes and laugh with along the way.

Cheers from the Big Four Bridge!

Cheers from the Big Four Bridge!

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