Monday, April 29, 2013

Eight Things I Learned from Boot Camp

Four weeks ago, I was petrified as I started a boot camp class after not working out for years. Pretty much if you looked up couch potato you would see a picture of me next to it. So now four weeks later, I’m here to give my tidbits of knowledge of things I’ve realized over the last month. They are, in no particular order:
  • The first week you will hurt in just about every muscle and bone in your body. You will partially feel awesome for your accomplishment and partially just want to dig your own grave (if of course, your arms would actually work to hold a shovel).
  •  You may need to pop an Advil while driving TO your second boot camp class because it hurts just to walk and you can’t even imagine having to exercise again. Not like I ever did that – wink, wink.
  • Jumping rope is MUCH easier when you are child.
  • You will do things that you would NEVER ever do or even think of doing before. I mean have you ever looked at a park bench and thought, “Oh, I’ll just army crawl under that – ya know, for fun.”
  • Getting up at 4:45am is actually NOT as bad as you would think it would be. Your body gets used to it and the class does actually give you more energy. Of course, you have to go to bed earlier which is also an adjustment.
  • Your instructor will recommend you buy running gloves partially for when you do burpees across the parking lot so you don’t shred your hands on the pavement. Instead, you will go to Target and buy $9 kid’s football gloves and call it a day.
  • If you continue to say, “I worked out this morning so I can eat whatever I want” you will not lose your muffin top. I’m still reminding myself of this daily.
  • Boot camp makes you swear.
So there you have it – that about wraps up my last four weeks. There are men and women from all ends of the fitness spectrum that get up BEFORE sunrise to have their asses kicked. These people are crazy – and now I am one of them. Oh, and did I mention I’ve now bumped it up from three times a week to five times a week. Seriously, what is wrong with me?!

If anyone is interested in jumping on the crazy train with us and lives in the Foxboro, MA area, check out The Extreme Challenge. We’d love for you to join us!

PS - Army crawling gives you elbow burn if you're a wimp like me.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Stop and Shop: Go Green and Win Free Groceries! (Giveaway)

So I have reusable grocery bags – lots of them. They actually attack me each time I open the closet. My kids hoard their toys in them while playing various imaginary games around the house. My problem is that I often forget to bring the bags with me when I shop. I use them frequently for packing up/transporting other things but often actual groceries don’t end up in them. I know some people keep them in their car so that they’re always available and I think that’s a great idea. I simply just don’t have the space in my car to keep them.  When I get the earth killing plastic bags, I at least re-use them to make myself feel better. They are most often used as liners for trash cans or bags for stinky diapers.

However, Stop and Shop’s new initiative is quite the motivator to make sure you’re using your reusable bags. From now through May 31, 20013, they will automatically enter any customer that shops with reusable bags (and uses their Stop & Shop card) into a drawing to win free groceries for a year. Yup – A YEAR! Can you even imagine how awesome that would be? It’s the kind of thing a stay at home mom dreams about!

So make sure you’re bringing those bags (I’m talking to you, Diane) and using them for a chance to win. In the meantime, I’m giving away a $10 Stop and Shop gift card to one lucky Dollops reader for you to use however you like. If you  don’t have a closet full of reusable bags, you might want to go pick some up or if you have enough bags you can use it to buy cookie dough ice cream (that’s what I’d do with it).

To enter, please use the Rafflecopter form below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
*Stop and Shop is providing the gift card for the winner. Please see official rules for the Stop and Shop free groceries for a year campaign. As always, all opinions are my own.*  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Unique Photo Gift Idea

On Saturday, my cousin got married. In addition to the standard wedding card with money, I also wanted to give her something a bit more from the heart. Now what's more personal than a gift that includes three cute kids? So I printed out a saying for each of my kids to hold and then glued it on construction paper. We then headed outside and I took a hundred few pictures of each child holding up their designated sign. I then picked my favorite picture of each child, had it printed, and put in a frame. I give you the end result...

"Congratulations Auntie Janet and Uncle Joe!"
The best part is you can use this idea for any event, holiday, or just for fun. You can also have the signs say whatever you want. If you have the time and patience you could also have the kids help to make or decorate the signs. If you have a baby, you can also simply place the sign in front of the baby (like I did with Daniel for his through the months pictures). Pretty much the ideas are endless and it's a gift that's sure to be a hit!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Daughter: A Mini-Me and a Best Friend

“You’re her best friend.” It’s something my husband said to me once about our five year old daughter. Although I’m sure he doesn’t even remember saying it, it’s really stuck with me. I was complaining one night about Isabelle. It wasn’t complaints of her being naughty but rather of just never having a moment of silence with her. She loves to be with me. She wants to do what I’m doing. She wants to help. She wants to tell me every single thing that has happened since the last moment I saw her. Hell, she wants to tell me every single thing that happened during moments I was there. She is a talker. She is a do-er. She is in an analyzer. She is me. She is me in a beautiful, miniature form. Now let me tell you, spending the whole day with myself can be exhausting. Never mind, having two of me to tend to. Sometimes I just want to hit the mute button on my brain and on her mouth.

I want to sneak away to Target by myself on a weekend and leave her home. I want to have a trip without incident, without endlessly talking about if we got everything on the list, what we are doing next, or what the boys are doing at home. I just want alone time. I often (somewhat begrudgingly) take her with me because I know she loves trips to the store as much as I do. Without fail, she will look at me at one point and say how she is enjoying our special “girls only” trip. For all the times I think of how I just want to be alone, I try to remember that she just wants to spend some one on one time with me. After all, I am her best friend.

Each night when she goes to bed she draws in a journal. Every few weeks or so she’ll bring it down in the morning to show me her hard work. Without fail, every few pages amongst the pictures of butterflies there is a picture of me and her with a heart around us. Without fail, there are pages covered with the words, “I love Mamma.” When she is upstairs in her bed, waiting for sleep, she is thinking about me and how much she loves me. This is what I remind myself of when I can’t get a minute to myself or a moment of silence. I am her best friend and someday in the not so distance future I will long for these days back again. 


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My Memories of the Boston Marathon

As we all know, what started yesterday as the running of the 117th Boston Marathon ended in horror and tragedy. While I was nowhere near the finish line this year, I have been in the past. Now as we know, I’m not a runner but in Boston you don’t need to be a runner to have amazing Patriot’s Day memories. Back in my carefree days, my friends and I would take the day off from work and head to the city bright and early. It didn’t matter if we had tickets to the Red Sox game or not, you would head towards Fenway. We would sit in one of the bars in the area which would have the Sox game on half the TVs and Marathon coverage on the other half. You had to get there early because all the local bars were always packed. Everyone was happy and everyone was a sports fan (even if just for a day). It was the unofficial start of spring and the official start of drinking Stoli Raz and Sprites on the patio season for me. We would then meander our way towards the finish line. We would marvel at the amazing people who could run – like really run. We would cheer, we would support, and we would celebrate. I’d always leave a little sun-kissed and with a little too many drinks in me. It was always a great day.

Even on years that I couldn’t make it, I would drive parts of the Marathon route on my way to work. People old and young would be lining up on the sidelines to cheer on their loved ones. On my way home, workers would be sweeping up countless orange peels and paper cups. It made you feel proud and envious of the amazing people who had been there hours before.

Yesterday morning I woke up thinking of all my happy memories of those days gone by and silently wishing luck to all the runners lacing up their shoes. Then tragedy struck and I was reminded of other memories – memories of September 11, 2001. When the Twin Towers were struck I was at work in Boston. We watched the news unravel from our cubicles before a bomb threat was reported close to our building. I remember calling my mother and leaving her a message telling her that I loved her. I wanted to be sure she knew in case I didn’t make it home. We were escorted from the building by the bomb squad and told not to take the subway because it wasn’t safe. I remember feeling scared and lost. I can only imagine that the people in Boston yesterday felt what I felt but a million times worse.

Today, I am going to remember the positive memories that I have of Boston Marathons of the past. I will not let whoever is responsible for this take that away from me. I’m also going to remember the victims of yesterday’s attack, the first responders, and the average people who turned into heroes in the blink of an eye. 

Photo courtesy of my friend The Fortuitous Housewife who, like so many Bostonians, was watching the marathon with her children earlier in the day never imagining what would happen later.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Kids Bowl FREE Program: Free bowling for kids all summer!

Have you heard of the Kids Bowl Free program? Select bowling centers around the country offer a fun and entertaining way for kids to spend their time this summer. With the pass, children can enjoy two free games of bowling ALL summer long. This program is brought to us by the support of bowling centers, schools, and other community organizations. That's it - no strings attached, no fine print - just free games of bowling for the kids!

Personally, with three, small kids this program is a slam dunk. Although, the kids enjoy bowling some trips are more successful than others for us. Some days the kids love it and don't want to leave. Other days, the kids get bored more quickly (especially the two year old!) and they lose interest in the game. I hate to spend an arm and a leg on activities if we don't last long at them so a free program? Hello...awesome! Bowling is also great for us on a rainy day or a super hot day when the playground is smoking hot.

Also, if you want to get in on the bowling yourself you can purchase a Family Pass for $24.95. This pass allows up to four adults to play two games per day as well all summer long.

Want to join? In order to register, click HERE and then find a bowling center near you. There are ones located all over the country (including 20+ here in Massachusetts!). Once you find the center you want, click on it and on the right hand side it will show you the dates of the pass, times you can use it, and the terms and conditions. On the left hand side will be the order form to sign up. If you don't originally want to commit to the Family Pass but later decide you do want it, you can always go back and sign up.  

For more information about Kids Bowl Free, visit their website, find them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter! The kids and I area looking forward to perfecting our skills this summer!

*My family received a free Family pass through the Kids Bowl Free Program. As always, all opinions are my own.*

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Crock-Pot Freezer Recipes: Chicken

I recently wrote about how I got together with a couple of (new) friends to prep a bunch of freezer meals. Since then I've been asked by people for the recipes so I wanted to share them here.

Now as a warning, I have not tried the finished product for most of these yet but I assume that they are good! These are also not my original recipes but rather recipes that a friend gathered based on her own recipes, her friends', and recipe tweaks from various cookbooks/sites. Feel free to change them to fit your needs/likes. Also, if you are putting the ingredients directly from the freezer to the crockpot, I'd suggest cooking on the low setting. If you plan it out ahead of time you can defrost the bag the day before and then you can cook on low or high. You also don't need to freeze them at all if you want to just make the recipe one day and cook immediately.

So without further ado, I'm starting off with five chicken recipes (beef and pork to follow!):


4 boneless chicken breast halves
1 can (14 oz.) pineapple tidbits in juice, undrained
3/4 cups finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup each chopped sweet red peppers and green peppers
1/3 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cups chopped green onions
2 cups of chicken broth

Combine all ingredients in freezer bag. Cook on low 6-8 hours.  Serve over rice. Sprinkle with sliced green onion.

2 cups carrots
2 cups bell pepper
1 lb chicken breast
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
8 oz orange juice concentrate

Combine all ingredients in freezer bag. Cook in crock pot on low 4-6 hours. Garnish with clementine or mandarin oranges and green onion. Serve over rice.


1.5 lb chicken
1/4 cup lime juice
1 TBS chicken boullion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp pepper
2 TBS butter

Combine all ingredients in freezer bag. Add 1 cup water to crock pot with ingredients. Cook on low 7-8 or high 5-6 hrs. Serve with starch and veggie of choice.


6 boneless, skinless breast halves
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup lemon-lime soda
2/3 cup white vinegar
3 cloves smashed and chopped garlic
2 T soy sauce
1 tsp ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in freezer bag. Cook low 6-9 hours or high 4-5 hours. Serve over rice with veggie of choice.


1 onion, chopped
1 (16 ounce) can chili beans
1 (15 ounce) can black beans
1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (12 fluid ounce) bottle of beer
2 (10 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
1 (1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning
3 whole skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Combine all ingredients in freezer bag. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Serve topped with shredded Cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream (or a dollop of diane), and crushed tortilla chips, if desired. 

New to slow cooking or just in need of a new crockpot? You can check out one of Amazon's best selling ones here! If mine ever bites the dust I'm definitely getting a programmable one just to make my life even that much more easier! Also, don't forget to pick up the Slow Cooker Liners. They were LIFE CHANGING for me!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Buying My First Pair of Running Sneakers

After my first ever run over the weekend, I started having shin pain. I'm not surprised at all about it because I knew I needed new sneakers. In the past, I always have just bought sneakers based on fashion and not purpose. You can get away with that if you never actually work out in your sneakers! The sneakers were holding up fine for boot camp but the outside run was too much for my legs. So I asked my trusty Facebook followers where I should get actual running sneakers and the overwhelming response was at Marathon Sports. Conveniently, they recently opened a location not far from me so I headed there Sunday afternoon.

I found a nice employee (whose name I sadly don't know) who asked me about my exercise/running history (the response was brief!) and if I had any prior injuries. He then had me take off my shoes, roll up my pants to my knees, and walk around the store for him to watch. It sounds kind of creepy but it wasn't at the time. He told me about my gait...arch...or something. I probably should have paid more attention to what he said but the end result was I needed a shoe with a little support but not tons (or something along those lines!). Can you tell I'm a newbie in the running world?!

He then headed back and brought out all different kinds of sneakers. I must have tried on about ten different pairs. It's amazing how differently they all fit even though they were the same size. 

I ended up going with the Brooks Dyad 7...

I haven't hit the dusty trails with them yet but I did wear them to boot camp on Monday and they were great. They also said I could take them for a run around the building before buying them but I passed on that. I figured I didn't need my second run ever to be around a shopping plaza!

If you are new to running (or just need a better fitting sneaker) I highly suggest heading to Marathon Sports (or an actual running store if you are not in the Boston area). They were so helpful and knowledgeable. They even showed me how to tie a runner's knot (who knew there were other ways to tie your shoes?) and spent time talking to me about socks. The one on one attention was really great. Oh, and they also say funny things like, "Once you're a few miles into your run your feet might swell." Imagine running for a FEW MILES?! Ha! Such jokers :)
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