Thursday, August 21, 2014

5 Reasons to Encourage Girls about Diet and Exercise

Girls aren’t supposed to want to be pretty and attractive. At least that’s the new message that seems to be out.  There's a hashtag movement to shy away from telling our girls that they are pretty, only smart - but why not both?  There’s a social message that we don't want our girls to think that exercising is for our own self-image, but only strictly to be healthy and because we enjoy it. More girl-focused campaigns are trying to downplay the truth of wanting to look good and be attractive.  And yes, as a woman and mom of three beautiful girls, I get that there's a lot of over-sexualization in girl-targeted ads and media and clothing; trust me, I struggle with that when clothes shopping, pushing my girls past the make-up counter and push-up bras in the junior sections.  But part of teaching them to walk past all of that superficial-ness and not be too grown, is to teach them to love their own image.

I workout, in a good week, three to four times.  Running, swimming, weightlifting, playing tennis – some combination of those.  And in a real good week, I limit the amount of ice cream and chocolate cake I eat to only 1 or 2 servings.  Like most women, I have a goal weight and a preferred dress size.

This all goes hand-in-hand, doesn’t it?  Exercise, diet, body size. Along with body image and satisfaction with that image. It's an important balance, aligning a workout schedule, a proper diet, and a reasonable desired body image.

So, it's not a secret that I workout and sometimes watch what I eat, partly (mainly) because of self-image. My daughters (and my son, too) know that I try to balance all of this to look how I want to look, or at least something close to it.  And here's why I've never really thought of this as something to deny because there’s a few things I want my kids to understand.

Physical fitness and good health is a choice. Exercise is something that fits into a lifestyle, it’s not just about going to the gym at a scheduled time to jump around, especially for children.  We can decide to sit on the couch and watch TV for 10 hours a day or go out and ride bikes or run around with the dog and be active.  It’s a choice and that choice will affect your health.

Your diet is a choice. And I don’t mean diet as in the all-grapefruit kind of diet, but “diet” in the sense of everything you eat.  We can eat pizza and fries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner 7 days a week (not good) or for one meal of the week, balanced with a salad and fruit, and other healthy meals.  We can’t eat ice cream three times every day, but we can enjoy a sweet scoop on a Saturday afternoon.  We can always enjoy the good things in life.

You should love who you are and what you look like.  There is nothing wrong with looking at yourself in the mirror and liking what you see.  There is also nothing wrong with wanting to be a better you and figuring out how to be that better self.  With proper nurturing and encouragement, that can result into healthier eating and exercise rather than quick weight-reduction tactics, starving oneself, and artificial beauty.  Maybe it will translate into appreciating their intelligence and talents, building their confidence.  We want our children to love their own natural selves.

You have some control over your life and your health.  Granted, there are some health-issues that we have no control over.  But the complications of being over-weight and not having a proper diet – that is within our own decision making power.  Along with that, hopefully the kids will begin to understand that who they are as people is also up to them – how they act, how they present themselves, what they become.  They have to decide who they want to be and be proud of that person.

It’s all about balance and moderation. Yes, you can exercise too little, as well as too much. You can overeat, undereat, consume the proper amount of calories but they might not be all “healthy.” It’s not about being rail thin to show off your ribs, but being a good correlation of height (which you can’t control) and weight (which you can) and eventually, age.  Like a lot of things in life, you have to find the proper balance of “enough” and moderate your intake and output.

And I will admit, it is a fine line between making children conscious of a healthy body size and being overly concerned about it, but that’s all part of the learning process – for all of us.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Ice, Ice, Baby... and a Check #IceBucketChallenge

My first thoughts about this #icebucketchallenge phenomenon was "the what? for why?"  I just was not getting it. Why were people dumping ice on their heads? And then I heard the rumblings of it being for charity, for the ALS foundation, which does research about ALS (also, or perhaps, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease) and supports families of those who suffer from this debilitating disease.  Got it. But how does dumping ice on one's head help?  I figured, the folks at ALS would probably rather you not dump the ice and instead make a donation.  Or if you really wanted to be freezing cold, still write them a check.  Either way, had nothing to do with me. None of my friends were doing it so surely, this craze would pass before it showed up on my Facebook page.

Then I got that "ping" that someone mentioned me on Facebook.  Right above a picture of my soaking wet friend.  Met by the full amusement of my family.

First, let me say how much I dislike being cold.  Summer is my favorite season.  The only good thing that comes from winter is really cute boots and excuses to crochet and knit lots of fun scarves and hats.  And my birthday.  And Christmas.  That's about it.  Okay, and the surprise of snow cream. But that's it.

A couple weeks ago, we were on vacation and went up to Portland. I tipped a foot into the water and nearly screamed it was so cold! to be the middle of August. But we were in public on a full-of-people beach.  That was my entire Maine water experience, I spent the rest of the afternoon happily sitting in the sand.  And in a moment of tourism-craziness, we also went to the Frost Bar in Boston, pretty much because it was named "Frost"- how could we pass it up?  I lasted about 30 minutes in the below-freezing bar and then I was aching to get out.  So, yeah, I don't like the cold.

But while all this ice dumping was going on, I looked at the website a bit to find out more. What was ALS, and, ahem, who is Lou Gehrig?  I had heard of him, was pretty sure he was a baseball player and knew this disease lead to terrible, life-ending effects, but honestly, didn't know much more than that.  I read a little bit and gained more understanding of how it slowly degenerates your nerve cells.  I think this blog post on about what a family thinks of the challenge really explains the effects quite clearly.

So, in the middle of my day, my kids filled up a cooler with ice water (note to self - next vacation, be sure to put everything away), gathered another neighbor child to laugh along with them, and insisted that I stay in my dress because my friend who had challenged me, also wore a dress.  You'd think peer pressure would've worn off at my age, right?  They really enjoyed pouring that ice over me; I did what one does when being doused with freezing water - screamed in my drenched hair and dressed. And made a donation to

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Sweet Road Continues - More Ice Cream in New England

The family that eats ice cream together, stays together.  At least until the next scoop.  Our recent vacation road trip could've been dubbed the "Ice Cream Tour" for all that we ate.  We started in New York and moved up through the New England states.  Catch up on the New York and Boston flavors in this previous post (part 1 of the ice cream tour) and continue on to New Hampshire and Vermont here.

To remind you of the rules of our ice cream stops:
  • We’re looking for fresh, home-/hand-made ice cream at independent shops, or at least ones don’t seem to be big-name chains.
  • Scoops have to be less than $4, as close to or below $3, if possible.  I’ve noticed some places now charge $4, $5, even $6 a scoop!  For us, that’s $30+ for dessert.  So we did pass up shops that may have fit the independent shop rule, but were too pricey.  I’d like to not break a $20 if possible.
  • Good flavors, creative mixes.  Give me a scoop of coffee or chocolate ice cream and I’m pretty happy.  But I’ll definitely try one of those with some nuts or chocolate ripple mixed in.  The kids are cookie dough, birthday cake, mint connoisseurs.
  • Exceptions can be made to these rules, as needed. 

Annabelle’s - Portsmouth, NH
This was our one stop in New Hampshire as we passed through on our way from Boston to Portland, Maine.  And if you are ever just driving through, it's an easy 5-minutes or so off of I-95.  It’s located on a small alley street on the water.  The whole little area is a pleasant, walkable tour-book portside shopping area.  I got the Kahlua chocolate chip, which was really more like Kahlua & cream & chocolate chip. My son got the mint chocolate (his favorite flavor), but unlike most mint ice cream, it was not green, or even white with mint flavor, it was chocolate with mint flavor.  It was really good, like an Andes mint.  Price?  $3.65 for a single, which was actually 2 scoops; and there was a smaller, cheaper kid size.

Ben and Jerry’s, Waterbury, VT
Waterbury is up in the mountains of Vermont. A pretty, natural drive.  There was a decent sized crowd when we got there, which continued during our visit.  You have to get a ticket for the factory tour, which lasts a little less than 30 minutes. We had to wait about an hour for our time slot, but not standing in line; you get a ticket then can wander off until the assigned time.  We checked out the flavors at the Flavor Graveyard (all the flavors that have been retired), ate lunch at one of the food trucks parked on the grounds, and – what else – ate ice cream.  I got my one of my favorites, Coffee Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz, and tried a new flavors, Hazed and Confused, a hazelnut and chocolate mix.

The factory tour consists of a short film about the history of Ben & Jerry’s, which was pretty interesting, and then an explanation of the ice cream making process from a viewing room above the manufacturing floor.  Since most of the process seems to be in huge heating and cooling vats, it’s actually not a whole lot to see until the ice cream is filled into the pint containers. The day we were there, there was some malfunction with a few lids so ice cream was spilling out across the conveyor belts which amused the kids.  The other highlight of the tour is the exclusive factory-only flavor sample served at the end.  Our day was Meet Me at the ChocoBanana flavor – a banana ice cream with chocolate and nuts.  It definitely needs to go through whatever approval process to get into a store near me.

Of the 12 days we were on vacation, I think we had ice cream at least 8 or 9 of those days (all of our scoops aren’t listed since some were end-of-dinner restaurant served scoops.)  We unfortunately got rained out in Maine and never made it to Gifford’s which is supposed to be really good. But I see that their truck is rolling around our home city every now and then, so maybe we’ll get a taste eventually.  But 9 out of 12’s not bad, right?

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Taking the Sweet Road - Our Ice Cream Tour

One thing our family agrees on is that we all like ice cream. A lot.  Enough so that one of our traveling rituals is to eat ice cream almost every day of our vacation.  (We also walk a lot on vacation, so it kinda balances.  Kinda.)

But we do have some criteria, we don’t stop at just any ole ice cream spot.  A few rules.
  • We’re looking for fresh, home-/hand-made ice cream at independent shops, or at least ones don’t seem to be a big-name chain.
  • Scoops have to be less than $4, as close to or below $3, if possible.  I’ve noticed some places now charge $4, $5, even $6 a scoop!  For us, that’s $30+ for dessert.  So we did pass up shops that may have fit the independent shop rule, but were too pricey.  I’d like to not break a $20 if possible.
  • Good flavors, creative mixes.  Give me a scoop of coffee or chocolate ice cream and I’m pretty happy.  But I’ll definitely try one of those with some nuts or chocolate ripple mixed in.  The kids are cookie dough, birthday cake, mint connoisseurs.
  • Exceptions can be made to these rules, as needed. 

On our recent roadtrip, we enjoyed scoops from these ice cream shops throughout New England.  And we did make one big exception - we ended up at a slightly larger ice cream shop – the Ben and Jerry’s Factory in Vermont.

Mr. Softee Truck – Brooklyn, NY
This may not really qualify as home-made ice cream, but we don’t get one of these trucks in our neighborhood too often and how can you pass up $2 soft ice cream cones?  Ice cream for the whole gang and friends for $12? We couldn’t let this truck roll by.

Dylan’s Candy Bar, Manhattan, NY
Okay, not your teeny mom & pop shop, but not a big chain either.  Upstairs, there’s an ice cream counter and candy bar, i.e. cocktails.  The kids got ice cream which they said was delicious! while my friend and I got candy cocktails. Her’s had Strawberry Nerds in it, mine had a rock candy swizzler. In the middle of walking through the city, this is a fun stop. Albeit, an expensive one. 

Boston turned out to be a big ice cream stop. Who knew?
Churn2 ice cream truck, Harvard Farmers’ Market (on campus)
This is the scientifically made ice cream.  Liquid nitrogen is blasted into a metal mixing bowl with fresh ingredients (milk, flavor, etc.) until it’s frozen.  Each order is made fresh while you watch. The results? Very creamy and that full, round mouth feel.  The process is supposed to make this less fat than regular ice cream, too.  This does, however, break the less than $4 rule. A scoop is $6.25; we got one to share because we just had to taste it.

Lizzy's Ice Cream – Harvard; Boston, MA
We found this teeny little shop while on our way to dinner, then had to make sure we were back before it closed because it looked really good.  Good decision.  I got the Colombia Fudge Avalanche – coffee ice cream with all chocolate and walnuts – which was really good; it was creamy, tasted like coffee, and full of the add-ins.  And the price was right – about $3 for a small scoop, which was really enough post-dinner. There was also a kiddie cone and an even smaller mini-cone.

Christina'sIce Cream – Cambridge, MA
The shop smells like Indian spices, presumably from shop next door (which may be owned by the same people).  It’s a pleasant smell, just not one you’d expect at an ice cream shop.  I got the Bailey’s ice cream, which was creamy, but didn’t really taste like Bailey’s, more like coffee with a whole lot of cream in it (which, by the way, is how I drink my coffee.)  The kids got birthday cake and mint.  The scoops were about $3 for a small.

And now, I'm so full - and hungry.  Let me go grab a bowl of coffee ice cream with some almonds sprinkled in and I'll get back to the rest of the list in part two of the ice cream tour.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Returning Back Home After Vacation

1878 miles, 12 days, 9 states, 2 countries
6 people, 6 hotel rooms

We’re finally back home.  And this is going to take a little bit of getting used to.

The coffee pot is not in the room, just steps from the bed. I actually have to go all the way downstairs for a cup of coffee to get the day started.  This is reminding me of my plan to install a coffee station in my bedroom, however.

Breakfast, although included and available at this place, is not ready when you get downstairs.  There is no buffet of croissants and pastries, fresh squeezed orange juice, a hot waffle iron, or a dude waiting to make omelets-to-order.  But maybe, I’ll get up one day before school starts and set out a big breakfast, just to throw the whole family off.

We do not have to check to be sure we didn’t pick out a sibling’s/child’s/parent’s shirt or underwear out of the suitcase before pulling them on.  To pack for our most recent roadtrip, I packed half of everybody’s clothes in one of two suitcases so that we would only have to drag one suitcase in to the hotel, instead of five.

There’s nowhere we have to be today.  There’s no sites that we must see because we’re on a 48-hour schedule. We don’t have to figure out how many hours and miles to our next state and decide whether we should eat in this city, the next, or in the car.  We packed and accumulated a lot of snacks (and wine) while out on the road.

We’ll all be eating the same thing for lunch and dinner, whatever that may be.  There’s no option for six different meals to be brought out to each person’s individual tastes.

We will not be in arm’s reach of each other 24/7.  We can go in different rooms, even outside, by ourselves if we want.  So, I might admit that I liked hanging out with my kids and hubby all day. Sure, there was some bickering, fussing, even some tears, but it was good.  Our regular schedule splits us into 6 different directions on a daily basis, so this was nice.

We can wander to the kitchen or our outside in our pajamas and no-one looks at us funny.  We’re home.

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