Dehydrator Review

Rewind a year to a summer with no fruit on any local trees and boy were we annoyed. A fancy new dehydrator sitting there, and paying $5/pound for organic apples at Whole Foods in order to give it a test drive. This year is quite the opposite in terms of fruit; more free, organic fruit than we can possibly pick, so our dehydrator that runs every few days. Mainly we have been dehydrating apples, which are very easy and turn out to be a great snack, for both big and small people.
They are so easy, there really isn’t a recipe, but two tricks we have learned are to make sure the apples are cut a consistent thickness and soak them in a lemon juice/water mix to avoid having them turn brown. To make sure the slices are all the same thickness we have been peeling them (I know peels are healthy, but they don’t dry consistently along the skin if they aren’t peeled. Plus we compost the peels!). After peeling, use a coring tool that cuts the core out of the apple, leaving cylindrical core. Then slice the apples about 1/8″ thick perpendicular to the core, leaving an “O” shaped slice. Dunking them in lemon juice/water is pretty self-explanatory, not even sure how much juice to water to use, but a couple glugs of juice per medium sized bowl seems to work well. No matter how hard I try to keep the slices the same thickness, they are always dry at slightly different rates, so check them periodically and remove the dry slices before they get crispy. I think these apples taste as good as the store-bought variety, but I know where they came from, and the price is right too!
Once dry, keep the bulk of the dried fruit in the refrigerator to maximize shelf life. This simple workflow applies to most fruits, just ask Google whether the lemon juice bath is necessary.
Another fun (or boring depending on age) product that can be easily produced in a dehydrator is fruit leather. It involves a bit more work, as it requires making applesauce from the apples, then drying. It is another tasty, healthy snack, but is also the subject of another blog post.

22 Minute Hard Corps Equipment

A few people have recently asked me what equipment I use for 22 Minute Hard Corps, and the other home workouts I enjoy so much. I have to say the minimal equipment requirements are one of the reasons I really enjoy working out at home; keeping it simple and free from complex machines, GPS input and other technology I don’t get along with takes stress out of working out. With that said, here is a list of all the workout equipment I own: weights, a sandbag, a pull up bar/resistance band, and a jump mat. Other important items are a towel and water.

Weights-I prefer dumbbell style weights in XX pounds per dumbbell. They are versatile and can be used as a substitute for the sandbag if you don’t own one or don’t want to use one. I prefer weights since there are a few moves where sandbag would be a little more difficult to use, but it is just a personal preference. Plus, with dumbbells, as each phase goes on, it’s easier to adjust the weight to keep my reps where they should be.

Sandbag-sandbags aren’t required, but they do make for a bit more dynamic workout with the swinging involved. The advantage is that it is easy (and cheap) to adjust the weight with changes in strength, goals or fitness. For those of us in colder climates, the sand can be used for adding grip to walkways in the winter when strength workouts get fewer and farther in between. Sandbags can be bought at any sporting goods store, Walmart, Target, teambeachbody, Amazon etc.

Jump mat-not a lot of people know what a jump mat is used for, or for that matter what it is. My husband gave me a quizzical look when trying to explain it to him. It is simply a good way to add a little bit of extra shock absorption while doing plyometric workouts. Since I work out in our living room, which is carpeted, I don’t feel the need to use mine on a regular basis, but if I worked out on hardwood or concrete, it would be a lifesaver. I suppose in a pinch, a yoga mat would be a reasonable substitute for a jump mat. But be sure not to confuse the two!

Pull up bar-pull ups are not one of my favorite workouts, so losing and/or breaking my pullup bar has crossed my mind more than a couple times. Maybe that’s why I like my lightweight, pullup bar that over a doorway since its small enough that I could easily “misplace” it. Unfortunately, even if I “lose” it, a resistance band will work just as well. Since the only way to get better at pullups is being able to complete the full range of motion, I used a chair, or pull up assist works quite nicely until I was able to do a couple pullups all by myself.

Resistance bands- can be used in place of most of the equipment I listed above, seems like every video has someone showing how to substitute a resistance band for most workouts. Just be careful to properly secure the end to avoid any painful snap back (don’t ask how I found this out….).

Hope you found this to be helpful. And one more thing…a towel to wipe off the sweat and don’t forget to drink your water, that’s the most important one!

Working Out With a Toddler

 

While doing my 22 Minute Hard Corps workout this afternoon, my daughter wanted to join in on the fun. 22 Minute Hard Corps requires a lot of jumping back and forth and up and down, which is quite hard when I have a toddler who is trying her hardest to mimic my movements. She is pretty good at mimicking, but is always half a step behind, ensuring she is going back when I am trying to go forth. While trying to do mountain climbers, it was the same story, she was crawling underneath me. What’s a parent to do while trying to workout with a very mobile child?

Here is what I find works best for us:

First, I try really hard to make sure there are plenty of toys, and other non-workout related activities readily available, but hard to since jumping around with mom is a lot more interesting than the same old toys. Since I workout in the living room, her toys, play kitchen and coloring supplies are available so I can keep an eye on her if she decides to play on her own. Sometimes she’s pretty good at not bothering me too much….

When toys don’t work, sometimes it is easier to have her join in! She already knows how to bear walk (there’s a move in the 22MHC, Cardio 1), she likes to do downward dog and jumps around when I’m doing some sort of jumping or running in place type move.

My final thought is that it can be difficult to workout with a toddler present, and working out while they are elsewhere (or sleeping) is very enticing, but I believe that having them around is setting a good example, plus watching her try to do some of the moves can be fun!

22 Minute Hard Corps Review

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Please indulge a moment of extreme de-motivational energy, but here goes:
I hate push-ups and burpees.
Whenever one of these two exercises pops up on part of my current workout, I tell myself, “burpees aren’t that bad…”, until I do a couple, and yup, sure enough, I was right, full on hate. Same with push-ups. I’m not sure why I hate them so much more than any other moves (some of which are more painful or harder), but that’s just the way it is.
That is all, now onto some positive workout related info….

Anyway, I am currently working out with a Tony Horton workout called 22 Minute Hard Corps. I decided to start this new program because for the past few weeks I’ve been feeling very unmotivated to commit myself to another 60 or 90 day workout with a program I have completed several times in the past couple years. I was randomly mixing up workout between P90X3, Piyo or a quick TurboFire HIIT, and (big surprise) I wasn’t feeling like the workouts were beneficial. I guess following a program is better than doing random workouts, who knew…

I have found that the best solution to solving low motivation is spending money on a new workout program, so I was looking around on the BeachBody.com website and found a new boot camp/military style workout called 22 Minute Hard Corps. I really like it so far, and the best part is that it’s only 22 minutes long! Don’t think that because the workouts are only 22 minutes long this workout is easy, it’s not.
While each workout is only 22 minutes, they definitely get the job done! 22MHC includes as a lot of basic moves we all remember from gym class like pull ups, squats, lunges, some plyometrics, bear crawls, gorilla crawls (a killer leg workout) as well as the afore mentioned push-ups and burpees.
I also really like the fact that all the people on the DVD are from differently military branches (nothing but support for our men and women in uniform!), and they do all the workouts wearing a 22 Min Hard Corps shirt, camo pants and combat boots. The workouts are done in a cadence reminiscent of military drills (at least the ones I have seen on TV), with everyone counting plus a little drumming music in the background. The cadence is something I had to get use to as I’m not use to doing a workout by this style. Tony goes around counting and motivating the others. There are three rounds with 5-7 moves and a 22 second break. During the first round, there is someone to show a demo of the move including a modified version. There’s also a killer ab workout that’s done on the cardio days.
I highly recommend this workout for its intensity and relatively quick time table – it’s quick and gets the job done! The change I made that helps me get through it is turning on upbeat music in the background because I don’t like hearing the cadences. If you’re someone who is short on time or has a toddler running around, this is a great workout. Another plus is the required equipment is very basic, just a pull up bar, jump mat, and weights (or a sandbag), plus water and a towel…..

Here’s a preview of the workouts!

 

Cherries, Cherries and More Cherries!

Frozen cherries, dehydrated cherries, cherry pies, cherry jam…I’m sounding a little like Forrest Gump, but only because we had so many fresh cherries off my parents tree we didn’t know what to do with them except, make pies, jam, freeze and dehydrate!

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My parents begged us to pick as many cherries as possible while they were (conveniently, as it turns out) out of town this past week. Without hesitation, without even an inkling of an impending catch, I said yes and then it was off to do some cherry picking. My first rule of fresh fruit picking is to take regular samples to make sure the product is up to standard, but seeing as how these are SOUR cherries, beyond confirming the sourness, I wasn’t about to keep on putting myself through any more tasting then necessary. But free, fresh fruit is free, fresh fruit, so we all pitched in picked a gigantic bowl full. A bowl full of fresh cherries is sort of a wintertime dream come true, but processing these little gems was closer to a nightmare. I spend the next couple days pitting cherries. The good news was that my mom loaned me a cherry pitter, the bad news was that these sour balls of fun were slightly too small for the pitter to pop out the seed like I am used to with normal sized cherries. That means running them through the pitter once to loosen the pit, then going back through and picking out the pits by hand. Thousands of times. Did I mention we picked a lot of cherries?

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Homemade cherry jam made at nap time!

Generally, with strict tasting requirements in place, there wouldn’t be many cherries left to make into other things, but Addison was the only person who could eat them and keep a straight face. When life gives you a pile of sour cherries, add sugar should be a saying, because that’s exactly what we did! The jam recipe we used called for equal volumes of sugar and cherries, which seemed completely outrageous when measuring out the sugar, but I will say this jam turned out just the way we wanted! It’s definitely not low calorie or low sugar, but the jam turned out awesome. Jam making is an intense process (careful measuring, lava-like liquid splattering, time constraints etc.), but we managed to make 12 jars in just under 2 hours. Just as a warning, if you have never made jam, do not try making jam with little kids running around, that could end in a disaster a number of different ways.

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As for the dehydrated cherries, I knew they had to be sweetened somehow, so some internet searching let me to a kind blogger who shared her experience with trying to re-create the Trader Joes cherry snacks. Following her recipe, I boiled them in sugar water for 20 minutes, drained, then dehydrated for about 5 hours (time and temp will vary for different dehydrators). Very tasty, although the bowl of cherries I started with ended up fitting in a small container.

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My little helper sealing the frozen cherries

Now that I don’t have any more cherries to pit, I will say it was a productive week of preserving, and nice to get some winter supplies into the pantry this early in the summer. Hopefully, next year the cherries won’t be quite so bountiful.

A Love/Hate Relationship with Cardio

The workout I love to hate (or hate to love, depending on the day). Cardio is sort of like kale, I know it’s good for me, but it’s hard to get motivated to actually do something about it. It’s not like I don’t do cardio; most recently I put myself through 60 days of a Shaun T workout which is about the most extreme cardio I have ever done. My past attempts at sustaining a cardio workout plan include traditional cardio like swimming, including training for and completing a 2.7 mile swim across Donner Lake, martial arts/kickboxing style workouts, running on a treadmill (let me just say I hate running of any kind) and I even struggled through a 5k race (did I mention I hate running).

I guess the moral of this blog post is that cardio doesn’t have to be the traditional long duration run/brisk walk (or elliptical machine), I mean, who has time for that kind of stuff? It is just as easy and more fun to incorporate sports that involve running like soccer or basketball, or even martial arts. The beauty of the Shaun T workouts I mentioned is that I can get the cardio aspect done quickly and also include strength and flexibility at the same time.

Just in case I needed any more reason to include regular cardio workouts into my routine, here are some more reasons (thanks Google!):

Most efficient workout for burning fat and calories for which can result in weight loss (with a proper diet of course)

-Increases heart strength which leads to more efficient blood circulation, even when not working out
-It increases lung capacity
-It helps reduce risk of heart attack, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes
It makes you feel good (endorphins anybody?)
Increases sex drive (how can that be a bad thing?)
Leads to better sleep
Reduces stress

What’s your favorite cardio workout?

Benefits of Yoga

I will admit…I’m not a fan of yoga. Sitting in poses letting my mind wander for who knows how long is not my idea of a fun workout, but more like preparing for a nap. In my book, any workout where checking Facebook is possible during the workout isn’t really a workout….My favorite workout is strength training or sweaty cardio where I feel that post workout high, deep muscle burn, sweat in my eyes and the need to sit down when done.

But….several of the trainers, workout blogs and workout friends I respect keep mentioning yoga, so I begrudgingly did some research and found that, strangely enough, yoga does have benefits (who would have thought). Before I share my personal experience, here are some benefits that will hopefully encourage readers to take a small step towards throwing in the occasional yoga workout:

“Prevents cartilage and joint breakdown, protects your spine, better bone health, blood flow, ups the old heart rate (can improve cardiovascular conditioning), drops blood pressure, regulates adrenal glands, improves happiness, lowers blood sugar, helps focus, relaxes your system, maintains nervous system, releases tension in your limbs, helps sleep deeper, boosts immune system functionality, gives lungs room to breathe, prevents IBS and other digestive problems, increases self esteem, eases pain (asana, mediation or a combo of the two helped with back pain, fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel, arthritis to name a few), gives inner strength, benefits relationships, uses sounds to soothe your sinuses, keeps allergies and viruses at bay! and supports your connective tissue just to name a few.”

That is quite a list, and I am not totally sure how yoga can accomplish all those at once, but I certainly believe the stretching and strengthening aspects are true as I have experienced them myself. Currently I am throwing a PiYo workout into my weekly rotation when I am not in the mood for an intense workout, and find that I am relaxed when done, but still feel like I have kept up my conditioning and have increased mental focus (that is until my two-year-old starts emptying kitchen cabinets). Being around a toddler, I am always trying very hard to avoid getting sick, so if the immune system boosting claim is true, that can only help my cause.

All in all, my weekly yoga workout hasn’t transformed me into a yogi, and don’t imagine myself ever sitting on a mountain in the lotus pose, but would recommend throwing in a yoga based workout once in a while, if nothing else, it will add variation to any workout plan, and best case scenario the benefits could include all those on that really long list….