Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hearty Breakfast Shake

1 banana, frozen
1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup raw oats (uncooked)
Milk, soy, almond milk... Whatever is your dairy-type drink of choice.

Toss banana, cocoa and oats into a blender, add enough milk to cover ingredients (I guesstimate a cup or so). Blend until smooth.

If you consume protein powder, this is an excellent way to incorporate it into your breakfast. Easy to take on the go, the oatmeal will keep you full for hours. You can also add a few almonds or a bit of peanut butter if you'd like some extra protein, but keep an eye on the portion-size.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Prime Location Domination in a Group Setting

I have identified two basic strategies for scavenging someone else's spot in a group setting such as Zumba.



Situation one: Scavenger arrives to class late, and finds themselves relegated to the back. This requires the employment of the bulldozer, or pillaging, strategy. Scavenger uses obnoxiously large and often unrefined arm and leg movements. Then, taking advantage of his/her fellow classmate's unwillingness to risk life or limb to hold their spot, the Scavenger effectively clears the way to a more desirable spot, often 3-4 rows forward and 5-7 spots left or right.
Situation two: Scavenger finds themselves within sniffing distance of their target location. This situation requires the use of the vulture tactic. Scavenger waits until thirst or another malady weakens their target enough to make him/her leave just long enough for the Scavenger to swoop in and take over. This technique works well for that prime spot just one or two clicks over.

Nobody wants to be the victim of a Scavenger, so here's what you can do to protect yourself. First, you will need to practice self-denial. You need a drink? Use the bathroom? Toughen up, cupcake--those vulture-type Scavengers aren't going to take pity on your bodily needs, and neither should you. And to deter the bulldozer, you'll want to employ body armor. Goggles, a helmet, shin pads and steel-toed boots are a good start.

Lastly, don't let the Scavenger make you question your existence. You are visible, and most of us can see you.
Happy workout!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When you are a parent...

...you are also a one-person search and rescue operation.

Missing: Two muppets by name of Elmo and Ernie, and it is nap time.

Plan: Check bottom two pantry shelves, train table drawers, pool table pockets, low-lying bathroom and kitchen cabinets, and refrigerator.

Outcome: Muppets located safely, nap time commenced on schedule. Crisis averted.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A 5k, and a fundraiser

Friends and family,
I have signed up to participate in the Kiss Me Dirty/Dirty Girls 5k in THREE short weeks.  I have been invited to join the Sassy b's team, and am so excited to run with this fun group of gals.  The Kiss Me Dirty race series is a female-only 5k mud obstacle course that benefits Gynecological Cancer Research--so we won't just be running a 5k distance, but we will be crawling through mud, jumping through tires, climbing rope nets and wading through soap suds, just to name a few obstacles!  Not only have I signed up as a competitor, but as a fund raiser as well.  I've set the goal to raise $250.00 before the race and I need everyone's help!
To donate, simply go to http://www.imathlete.com/donate/HeatherRuiz .  100% of your donations go directly to the UofA's Cancer Research Center.
If you are interested in supporting me and the rest of the Sassy b's as a spectator, the race will be held on Saturday, March 24th at the Pima County Fairground in Tucson, Arizona.  The first wave goes out at 9:30 AM.  The Sassy b's are scheduled to run in the fourth wave, so we will begin at 10:00 AM.  For more information on the Kiss Me Dirty Racing Series, go to http://www.kissmedirty.com or http://www.kissmedirty.com/tucson.html for information specific to the Tucson event.  You can also always email me for additional information.
I will be sure to post race photos here after the event!  Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Going greener series: Homemade laundry detergent

In our quest for greener products, we've learned that this much is true: sometimes you have to shell out more cash for guilt-free cleaning.
*long, dramatic sigh*
BUT, don't you fret.  Sometimes, with a little research and DIY, you don't.  And laundry soap just happens to be one of those products that falls into this category.  So, gather up a few supplies, have a little courage in good old-fashioned know-how, and you too can stick it to the man.
Whoever he is.

This is the idea that started all of our "going green" movement.  While wasting time on Pinterest, I happened upon a link for homemade laundry detergent which claimed to be "the best laundry detergent ever".  Intrigued, I did some research, and ended up with the following "recipe" (with a slightly different amount of Oxyclean, I think...) from being creative to keep my sanity.
Huh.  Someone else has sanity issues.
Here we go!
Supplies:
1 box (4 lbs) Borax
1 box (4 lbs) Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
1 box (4 lbs) Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
1 large tub (3.5 lbs) Oxyclean or similar cleaner*
3 bars Fels Naptha
*I found a tub of off-brand oxygen cleaner at Fry's (Kroger) for less than $4.  Score!

Grate the Fels Naptha (or stick it in your food processor).  The trick here is to get the Fels Naptha into as small of pieces as possible.  
Mix all ingredients thoroughly.
And, lastly, put your mixture into the container of your choice.

Here's the real magic:  you use a tablespoon for a small-medium load of laundry, two for an large-extra large load (I re-purposed the scoop from the oxygen cleaner, which happened to be a perfect  two tablespoons--serendipitous!).  Seriously.  And.  It.  Works.  We used to use Arm & Hammer liquid detergent, which, let's face it, is one of the cheaper brands--and not only are still we saving money--but it works better than what we were using before (and this isn't just "new soap" excitement speaking, we've been using it for a while now).
As a side note, you can substitute 3 bars of Ivory bar soap or Zote for the Fels Naptha if you prefer.  I may try the Zote next time to see if I prefer one over the other.
Another note, if you pick up an extra bar of soap, you can rub it on stains to pre-treat them.

Pros: Cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap, cheap!  Holy moly, if you do near as much laundry as I do on a weekly basis, you are going to be happy.  Also, my kids have sensitive skin and Eczema, and since we have switched to this detergent, we have seen nary a rash or dry spot.  Plus, the good feeling you get when you don't put a ton of nasty stuff back into the Ecosystem.

Cons: Um.  The grating?  Maybe?  Also, it seems the bar soaps use some perfume and dye (though, I can pretty much guarantee it isn't nearly as much as the commercial stuff we used to buy!).

Going greener series: Henna

Early this year, I decided to do something I've always wanted: dye my hair red.  I loved the results, but my hair didn't.  Chemical dyes make my head itch during the process, smell awful, and then I end up with dry, damaged hair.  To add insult to injury, my hair just didn't hold on to the red color long enough to justify such crazy processing.
Cue the search for a healthier option.  Fortunately, there is a very cost-effective option for those wishing to color their hair in a more natural process: henna.
I will not go into the specifics of henna dyeing here, just my personal experience.  If you are interested in learning more about henna, I suggest you check out henna for hair, a wonderful website with a comprehensive guide to all things henna.
After browsing the above-mentioned site for several days, I decided that, at least for my first henna, I didn't want to mess with mixing my own color.  Instead, I went with a "ready-mix" from LUSH (found here).  LUSH also has a henna picture gallery with fantastic reviews and tips for their product, delightfully called "pictures of happy caca heads".
My henna arrived via UPS a few days later, looking like:

Sort of like a big brick of chocolate
I cut off two of the squares, and following some of the reviewers suggestions, I grated them.  Some reviewers complained about the smell, but I found it pleasant, like a spicy, grassy tea.  At the last minute (perhaps inspired by the scent?), I decided to brew a strong cup of Earl Grey and use that to mix with my henna, rather than plain hot water.  After obtaining what I thought was the proper consistency, I donned the gloves that came with my henna, and pasted the mess all over my head.  Instructions say to leave the henna on for 1-2 hours, and many reviewers leave it on even longer.  I planned on leaving my henna on for 6 hours, but got too impatient to see what was going on after 2.  I rinsed it out (which, yes, is more difficult than chemical dye, but wasn't a nightmare), and beheld my new, shiny mane.

Before
Dark blonde, dry

Styled, before.
After



Red! And conditioned.
Styled, after.
Wowza.  I am pleased with the results, it has mellowed to a light red auburn with gorgeous copper highlights (henna is a tone-on-tone color, which means it will pick up on your natural high- and low-lights).  I have received many, many compliments on the color.  Also, my hair is nicely conditioned and feels wonderful.  I still have 4 squares of henna left for later, and plan on leaving it in longer now that I know good things are happening under that mud.  *wink*

Pros:  Healthy!  LUSH's henna is mixed with a healthy dose of cocoa butter, making it super-conditioning.  My usually dry hair is happy.  No allergic "itchy" reaction to the henna.

Cons:  Depending on how much, and what type of henna--it can cost more than chemical dye, unless you are used to having your hair dyed at the Salon, then it will definitely be cheaper.  It takes a lot longer than chemical dye.  Also, you need to be cautious about dying with henna if you have previously chemically processed your hair, a strand test is highly recommended.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Going greener series: Carpet cleaning

As a family, we made the decision to go greener in our everyday lives.  In my "going greener" series, I will share some of the ideas we have put into practice, and hopefully inspire someone out there to follow suit.

The first topic I want to discuss is near and dear to my heart: clean carpets.  There is nothing that makes me crazy faster than a dirty floor (and with two kids and a dog, that is a big task!).  Our home features quite a lot of carpet--so we run the house "Island style", that is, we remove our shoes at the door.  We keep a large basket in the entryway that is the shoe dumping ground, which helps to keep the floors cleaner and makes it easy to locate shoes.  Score!

Despite our best efforts, the floors still sometimes require a deeper cleaning than just good old vacuuming can fix.  We own a carpet cleaner, and try to run it every few months--but this becomes a problem for several reasons:  1) Cleaning solution for this much carpet gets expensive, 2) Chemicals on my floors, which the kids and dog are exposed to, and 3) This requires us to dump detergents back into our water system.

So, as I noticed that our carpet was due for another deep cleaning, I began researching better alternatives to commercial cleaning products.  Here is what I found:

Spot-cleaning:  If you have a few dirty spots, but not enough to warrant a full-on carpet cleaning session.  OR, if you want to pre-treat some spots before a deep-clean.  Mix up a paste of baking soda and white vinegar (learn from my mistake--don't make it too watery!  I ended up with crusty baking soda stuck to the carpet--though it came up with some gentle scraping), dab on the spot and scrub with a sponge or rag.  Let dry and vacuum as normal.

Deep-cleaning:  Instead of using chemical-laden detergents to clean your carpets, simply fill your carpet cleaning machine's clean water tank with a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and hot water.  Put your machine on the "water rinse only" option, and clean away.  

Benefits:  No chemicals on the floors, no soapy residue in the carpet (which can dry sticky, like soap scum, and attract dirt, making it harder to get rid of), no detergents being dumped, and it is super cost-effective!  I cleaned the two largest carpeted areas of the house with one gallon of white vinegar--less than $3.00!  Also, the vinegar does an amazing job of dissolving stains and neutralizing carpet odors (like that of a big stinky dog... *ahem*).

Drawbacks:  Hot vinegar smell.  It dissipates as the carpets dry, but there's no getting around it.  I suggest saving this, if possible, for a nice day when you can open some windows.  Regardless, it is better than smelling chemicals, and I find this a small price to pay for a cleaner, greener home!