Workouts, playdates and mommy time with great friends. Come join the fun!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The only two reasons I will continue to exercise the rest of my life.

There are a thousand good, solid reasons for working toward increasing fitness. Maintaining a healthy weight and regular physical activity is undeniably beneficial to anyone's overall physical and mental wellness. There is a ton of research documenting this. 

As women, I believe there are some additional benefits to maintaining regular exercise and KNOWING that you are fit, and breaking free of the ridiculous images we are bombarded with daily in so many ads and tv shows. As a mom, there is a deep satisfaction in knowing that you *will* catch up with that toddler when he starts to run; or knowing that yes, you *can* pick up your big kid when they still need those mommy snuggles after a rough time at school.

There are people who workout because they just love it. There are people who have been runners their whole lives, and people for whom exercise is as natural as breathing. I am not any of those people. The journey into fitness as a lifestyle is a recent one for me - it started 2 short years ago. Compared to the me of 2 years ago, I just feel better. I have more energy, a better outlook, more acceptance of myself and others, and more patience to handle the demands of motherhood. All of these benefits of regular exercise are fantastic, they really are. And now, 2 years later, I can't imagine ever NOT exercising several times each week.

But there are only 2 reasons why I exercise. One of them is sleeping in his crib right now after a bath with blueberry-scented shampoo, and the other one is sleeping in her big girl bed zipped up in a pink cocoon of a sleeping bag because she would rather have that than a blanket. 

And that is all. 

This struck me last night as I was driving home from a late-night Body Back session, thinking about how much I loved what I do, how lucky I am to spend time with other moms passionate about modeling positive behavior for their families. 

I have no idea what paths my kids will take. No idea what kind of adults they will grow into - what careers they will pursue, if they will choose to raise families, if they will be as lucky as me and find their partner in life. But here is one thing I do know: They will have parents who have remained active. They will have parents who lift weights so that they can also lift their grandchildren. They will have parents who have loved them so much that they have taken care of THEMSELVES. 

I workout for the love of these two people. Because I want them to be as strong and active as their bodies will allow, and to love themselves.  I want to be around for as long as I can be - and while there are always unknowns and surprises in life, I am going to maximize every opportunity to keep myself healthy and strong. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Easiest Christmas Tree Ever: Paint it!

A friend of mine had a fabulous idea this week that I immediately borrowed (Thanks, Teri!): Paint a Christmas tree on a sliding glass door! 

We are going to be celebrating Christmas while visiting relatives this year, so had not planned on putting up a tree. The expense and hassle of rearranging the living room, getting a tree, and pulling out all the ornaments did not seem worth the short amount of time we would be able to leave up a tree, but I was feeling blue about not having something for the kids (and for me - I love to decorate trees). The perfect solution: tempura paint.

My 5-yr-old and 2-yr-old helped me paint 2 trees on our back door this morning. This was one project where they really did HELP - not the kind of help that makes what you are doing take 3x as long - and we all had a blast. The base coat is drying now, and when they are done napping we will paint on some decorations. I tried to paint some decorations on as we went, but the colors mix when they are wet. We also spent another couple hours this morning drawing, coloring and cutting out paper decorations to tape on the tree.

Here is the work in progress: 

See the newspapers on the floor? Use lots and lots of newspapers or other drop cloth - the younger your helpers the more you will probably need :-) Also it is good to have either a roll of paper towels or a pile of wipes or moistened cloths in reach just in case. Tempura washes out of cloth, but is a little bit of a hassle to remove from carpet.

We used tempura paints, regular paint brushes and a wide sponge "brush" for our little guy... his fancy work is on the lower right corner of the tall tree. The smaller tree is entirely my 5-yr-old's creation.

If you have older kids, or babies too young to participate and want to take on the project just for your own amusement, you can also use acrylic paints. Check out some information from a professional window decorator for some more tips HERE.

Happy Tree Making! 

Our finished product, with paper snowflakes and ornaments: 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Holiday Gift Idea #2: Time for some Pampering, and I don't mean diapers!

One of the themes of Stroller Strides is the importance of moms remembering to take care of themselves first. Remembering the "me" in mommy is a challenge with all of the tasks on our plates taking care of our families, but a burnt out mama isn't going to be a help to anyone! 

Focusing on fitness is a GREAT way to increase your happiness, energy and confidence. Imagine what a treat at a spa will do for you!!! This is a very good suggestion to someone looking to buy you a gift - just pick your favorite local spa and ask for a gift certificate, or if you have a particular service you know you love you can ask for that. 

Everyone loves different atmospheres and personalities, so a spa experience can be a pretty personal thing. Here are some recommendations from about town: 

1. An aromatherapy facial from Essential Esthetics by Richelle. If you have not had a chance to check out Richelle's in-home studio yet, you are missing out! She offers facials, waxing and brow/lash tinting. I appreciate the hours available for appointments, accommodating  crazy family and work schedules with evening appointments and highly flexible hours. All of her products are natural, organic and smell sooo good! Richelle is offering us a great special, too - mention Stroller Strides to receive 50% of a facial when you purchase one at regular price.  Highly recommend this one - great service, quality products AND a chance to support a mom-owned local business! 

2. A massage! There are several holiday specials being offered around town. Two offers have recently caught my eye: First, a discount offer from a one-hour or half-hour massage from the medical professionals at Gray Chiropractic Health Clinic.   Also, a complimentary hot stone add-on ($25 value) to any massage service from Glaze Nail Bar during November and December.   Of course there are DOZENS of other venues offering massage options around town. Several locations also offer a couples massage option - a great gift to BOTH of you! Ask around, and give the Salon a call to ask about any special offers going on, then let your shopping elves know what you want! Don't forget a manicure or pedicure too.

3. Some mental time off! Find a theatrical or musical show coming to town and ask for tickets for yourself - better yet, buy two and take your partner, spouse or friend for a fun grown-up night of culture and mental stimulation. Search the Anchorage Concert Association for ideas, or check out the searchable events database from Anchorage Daily News. Don't forget Cyrano's Off-Center Playhouse downtown! 

4. On a budget? Send your spouse or partner out with the kids (check out indoor play spaces such as Park and Play, safe and easy options for these frigid days!).  Use some hours of kid-free, responsibility-free time all to yourself to take a bubble bath, read a book or some magazines, drink some tea, take a nap, do a crossword puzzle, work on a scrapbook page. No catching up on business projects, errands, or cleaning is  allowed! Use the time to unplug and relax, listen to YOUR music, and do exactly what YOU want to do.

Give some thought to what would help you feel rested, revived and rejuvenated, and ASK FOR IT! Every one I know would love to give the special someone in their life the perfect gift - so let them know what it is! 

Happy Hinting :-)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Feeling Thankful

As I sit in my warm, secure house while the snow comes down and the temperatures hover around zero degrees, I have so much to feel thankful for. After a fantastic, busy weekend spent in the company of friends I am feeling especially thankful to live in Anchorage and to have the opportunity to spend part of each day with so many amazing moms and their kids.

This week my oldest babe turned 5, and it blows my mind to realize my journey into motherhood has now been five years in the making. Having kids changes everything. I feel so thankful that for me, one of the changes was to find a program like Stroller Strides where I can spend time with my beautiful kids AND get into the best shape of my life. I am thankful for legs that have done so many lunges they are strong enough to run with my kids, arms that have done so many curls and extensions that they are strong enough to lift my kids for hugs and snuggles, and a mind so full of songs and games for them that we can entertain each other for hours. 

I am thankful for all the families who have allowed me to share in their journeys, to play with their kids and encourage their moms to give themselves the awesome gift of muscles sore from a great workout, and confidence that comes with increasing strength. So thanks, everyone, for being part of the family. Thanks for committing to being a model of an active and healthy lifestyle for your kids. Thanks for singing silly songs while you do your bicep curls. 

See you soon. :-)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Holiday Gift Idea #1: Give the gift of fitness!!

The Holidays are approaching faster than a speeding sled! All the early snow and cold temperatures have a lot of Anchorage residents in a holiday frame of mind - of course, all the stores have had their Christmas tree displays up since BEFORE HALLOWEEN (am I totally dating myself to say I remember when none of it appeared until after Thanksgiving???? yikes). 

So, here is the first in a series of ideas for all the wonderful moms on your lists! Feel free to print and leave strategically on the counter where your special elves might find it. 

The Gift of Fitness. 

First of all, let's get rid of the notion that it is in any way rude, or presumptuous, or anything but thoughtful to give someone one of these gifts. Buying someone a gym membership does not mean you think they need to shed some pounds - it just means you love them enough to help smooth the path to increasing their health and wellness. It means you value this person and want to keep them around a good long while, strong and healthy and ready to play with the kids in their life. Here are a few ideas to get you going:

1. STROLLER STRIDES!!! It's me talking, after all, so of course this is at the top of my list. Already a member? Consider a gift for a new or expecting mom in your life! There are two Holiday Specials available this year (contact Chandra at to purchase): 
  • A five-class pass for only $25. These are not normally available - usually class passes come in a bunch of 10 and run $110 ($11/class). This is a great way to introduce someone to the program! Passes are available for purchase from now through the end of December.
  • Registration and three months of unlimited classes for only $120 ($240 value). Perfect for mothers of infants who are ready to get active again! 
2. Body Back - A fantastic new workout and nutrition plan for Every Mom!  Our first session will be limited to 10 moms and will begin January 4, 2012. Check HERE for more details on this exciting opportunity to make some tangible changes in how you look and feel this year! Contact Chandra at to register.

3. Plan a ski or snowshoe date (including childcare)! It would be soooo dreamy to have someone else figure out childcare for a few hours to spend with your spouse, partner or a good friend in the fresh air and fluffy snow! What a great way to burn some calories while having fun with someone you care about. This would be a great gift for YOU to give to your significant other AND YOURSELF.

4. Gift certificate to a yoga studio; check out Inner Dance Yoga Studio's new student special of any 3 classes for only $20.

5. Dance classes!!! This would be so amazing as a gift from a spouse or partner - honey are you listening? - especially if it came with a childcare solution already figured out! Check out the links at Dancing Fools for some ideas of class types and locations, from ballroom to Zumba.

6. Gym membership - at a location close to the office for working moms to get away on their lunch breaks or before/after their day, or a location with childcare options for moms who are with their kids during the day. 

7. Home exercise equipment. Beyond traditional options like stationary bikes or treadmills, there are also some fun electronic options such as a Wii, or X-Box Kinect, that the whole family can enjoy. 

8. Gift certificate to Skinny Raven, Sports Authority, (members don't forget your discount!), or another store or online retailer focusing on fitness gear and apparel. It is so much more fun to workout wearing cute and comfortable gear!! 

Hope this gives you a few ideas, would love to hear some more! Stay tuned for the next installment, focusing on some well-deserved pampering.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Low fat, nutritious and delicious Spiced Pumpkin Molasses Cookies with Raisins

A cookie recipe??? Yes! 

I love pumpkin, and this time of year all the tempting treats led me to search for a pumpkin recipe that I could be happy about giving to the kids, and not feel bad about indulging in one for myself! It took a surprising amount of searching online to find a recipe that is - as cookies go - relatively healthy and totally delicious. This is modified from a couple recipes found online - I had to change the proportion of flour, up the spice content and the amount of pumpkin but in the end these are just right. They are low in fat and sugar, but so yummy!

These are the cookies I had for our Stroller Strides Halloween Class #1 (none of them survived for Class #2). The new snow and low temperatures make perfect baking weather. These cookies fill the house with a lovely smell - and are a perfect treat after playing with the kids outside! Bake a batch and enjoy - these also freeze well to save part of the batch for another snowy day. 

Spiced Pumpkin Molasses Cookies with Raisins

Ingredients (use organic wherever possible!) for 3 dozen cookies:

  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar (or 1/4 c agave)
  • 1 cup canned unseasoned pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup dark molasses
  • 1 cup raisins, or dried cranberries or a combination
  •  (optional extras - skip these to keep calories and fat lower: 1/2 c chocolate chips and/or chopped pecans or walnuts)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg in a large bowl. 
  3. Whisk eggs, brown sugar (or agave), pumpkin, oil and molasses in a second bowl until well combined. (TIP: use the same measuring cup for the canola oil and molasses, doing the oil first. Makes the molasses pour right out of there with no sticky clean up). 
  4. Stir the wet ingredients and raisins/cranberries (and optional extras) into the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.
  5. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, and drop the batter by level tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheet, spacing the cookies 1 1/2 inches apart.
  6. Bake the cookies until firm to the touch and lightly golden on top, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy a delicious winter treat!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Candy: to cave, or not to cave?

I love Halloween. And I also can't stand it. 

Here is what I LOVE: carving jack-o-lanterns and roasting the seeds; babies crawling around in adorable fuzzy costumes; reading Halloween books with my kids; the boundless creativity in costumes for young and old; the pumpkins and bats and friendly ghosts - all the "G" rated versions of the Halloween decor make me smile. 

Here is what do not love, and this year in particular am struggling with: THE CANDY. I clearly remember, as an elementary school aged kid, hoofing it far and wide with a group of friends with our pillowcases for collecting candy. The Reese's peanut butter cups and Smarties were top of the pile and first to go; Dum-Dum lollipops and bubblegum were the last. And in between, every imaginable type of processed, conventional candy. The same stuff I won't let my kids eat. 

So here is the thing - I am very, very aware of what I will give my children to put into their growing bodies to build their bones, muscles and minds. Do I let them have treats? Absolutely - this weekend they had pumpkin cookies with chocolate chips and raisins, and they regularly enjoy things like Clif Z-bars and fruit ropes, Luna minis, and plenty of other processed yummies that don't contain artificial dyes or many artificial ingredients.

Recently, however, I have become more aware of the artificial dyes used in foods - particularly those marketed to our children - and I have not liked what I have learned. We are now trying very hard to limit our consumption of these dyes, particularly Yellow 5 and Red 40. Both of these have been found to cause behavioral changes and aggression in kids, and both of them are EVERYWHERE. (Did you ever notice that even white marshmallows have dye in them? Blue 1 is the final ingredient in the store-brand marshmallows in my pantry). 

At our first Halloween Class for Stroller Strides yesterday, there was not a single piece of candy in site and the kids had a blast. Now, these are all very young kids of course, or they wouldn't be at a Stroller Strides class. They are kids who still think that a sticker is amazing, kids who are excited about a stamp on their hand for hours afterward, kids who enjoy coloring OR chewing on mini coloring books. The oldest child attending was my own daughter, who will be 5 in just a couple weeks. 

Her age is the reason this year has been a struggle for me. She is old enough to see and want all the brightly colored candy instead of the alternatives I would have for her. The mini tubs of play-doh that were a successful substitute last year are just not cutting it anymore. The good news: We took her to a trick-or-treating event at UAA this weekend, and  discovered that she is not only old enough to want those brilliantly packaged and dyes candies, she is also old enough to understand why we pulled them out of her jack-o-lantern bucket and tossed them. (She got to keep most of the chocolate-based treats which I think made her feel better.)

Last night at the grocery store, my husband and I debated whether to buy a bag of candy to have on hand in case we get any older kids trick-or-treating at our house, kids who are past the age of stickers and play-doh. We had not planned to be home for the evening but now we will, so we did not plan ahead and stock up on any alternative treats or treasures. In the end, a bag of mini candy bars is on our counter now, staring at me. I will feel a guilty twinge when I put them in the hands of other people's kids... And the mini play-doh buckets are going to be on the top of the basket. At least the older kids will have to dig for their sugar.