Life Update: September 27, 2016

Hi friends!

As you know, from time-to-time, I will post a quick blog about what I’ve been doing and/or projects that I’m planning. Usually when there is a short break in my posting schedule, that means I’m up to something.

And I’m definitely up to something!

I have wanted to get my online store ready for a while now. It has been a dream of mine for over a year, but I never took the time to sit down and make it happen. I thought the mood may eventually pass. Instead, my desire to create an online store has grown! I think it is finally time to make this happen.

I’m still writing blog posts. I have several on the horizon — some in the works with some great sponsors and some that are ready for publishing. But I am also taking some time to create art as well. I am building my inventory of hand-lettered cards and signs, typography/prints, and digital designs. I plan to launch my online store very soon (so please subscribe to my blog so that you’ll receive an email as soon as it’s open!) and sell at a few local craft fairs, too. Being an artist means so much to me, and I am looking forward to sharing my work with you soon.

In addition to my artwork, it’s running season again! (I’m an outdoor runner, and train very little during the hot and humid NC summers.) I begin mentoring on Monday with a new group of trainees who will be completing their first 5K in December. I will personally have my first 5K of the season at the end of October.

All that said, you can expect lots of blog topics heading your way. I will have some great fall recipes for you, running tips as we transition to cooler weather, blogs featuring NC Triad businesses, fall and winter fashions, and some holiday DIY projects. I’m on a mission to make this fall the healthiest and most creative yet. I hope you’ll join me!

 

Aleia’s {a GFAF Event Vendor showcase}

Recently, I attended Greensboro’s first Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event. The event was coordinated by Nikki Everett, who has been directing this educational one-day convention in other cities since 2009. I am so grateful that she decided to include NC Triad in this year’s schedule.  The event was informative and fun! As a member of their Blogger Team, I had the opportunity to chat with the vendors and speakers before the event opened to the public. Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to showcase a few of my favorites.

Today, I want to introduce you to Aleia’s.

Based in Connecticut, Aleia’s is artisan food for those of us who have to avoid gluten. Their products can be found in select stores throughout North Carolina, and online. (Aleia’s is currently not in stores here in the Triad, but they’re working on that!) Online orders of $40 or more ship free within the continental US. Their foods include cookies, stuffing, breadcrumbs, croutons, and their brand new product, a gluten-free/dairy-free crunchy coating similar to a bagged coating made popular by its claim to be a less-greasy, baked alternative to frying.

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Of their products, I decided to try the new crunchy coating first.

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The directions are simple and it took about five minutes to prepare. I began with three thin chicken breasts, rinsed and then drizzled with coconut oil. I opened the box, which contains two coating packets and two bags, and removed one of each. I opened the seasoned coating and placed it into the bag.

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From there, I simply placed one chicken breast into the pouch and shook the bag a few times. I didn’t have to shake it vigorously; the coating covered the chicken really well. I removed the chicken breast from the bag and placed it on a cookie sheet. I repeated the process for the remaining two breasts.

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I placed the coated chicken breasts into a preheated oven set at 425-degrees, and baked them for 20 minutes. The breasts that I used were thin, so the time would need to be adjusted for thicker ones. While the chicken baked, I chopped and sautéed mixed vegetables.

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In less than 30 minutes, I had prepared an easy and delicious meal. Aleia’s new Coat & Crunch was seasoned beautifully – not too spicy! – and really took my typically bland baked chicken to a new level. My tastebuds were extremely happy. I highly recommend that you try Aleia’s.

You can find Aleia’s products near you by clicking here and entering your zip code, or by ordering online at aleias.com. I have a discount code (valid for online purchases only – save $1.00 on each item) that I am happy to share with you if you will:

  1. Click here and LIKE my Facebook page.
  2. Click here and LIKE Aleia’s Facebook page.
  3. Comment below that you have completed steps 1 and 2, and share with us what product you’re most interested in trying.

I also invite you to subscribe to my blog by entering your name and email address in the fields under my photo on the righthand side of the page. That way, you’ll know when my next blog will publish featuring another fantastic GFAF Event vendor!

Aleia’s is devoted to producing superior hand crafted, certified gluten free, Non-GMO and kosher products. Our commitment is to provide healthy, delicious options for living a gluten free lifestyle every day! Handcrafted and packaged in the USA in a dedicated gluten free bakery that also processes peanuts, tree nuts, milk ingredients and lots of smiles!

Disclaimer: I was given one box of Coat & Crunch Extra Crispy and one box of Coat & Crunch Crispy Spicy by Aleia’s to review as part of the Greensboro Blogger Team. This post does not contain affiliate links. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way. 

The Skinny on Wellness

On Monday, I blogged about confidence and body image comparisons. I spent the better part of my childhood and early adulthood battling negative self-esteem. Life doesn’t always help; society promotes a certain look, peers can be cruel, and fashion is full of lies.

Of all of my flaws uniquenesses – from frizzy, curly hair and glasses to being nearly 6-feet tall – the one thing that I have allowed to give me the most grief is being overweight. I weighed 9.5 pounds when I was born. It’s like I was destined to be, well, big. But as a child and young adult, I viewed that negatively. My earliest memory of my weight was when I started wearing hand-me-down jeans from my brother. They were labeled “Husky” size and I recall that bothering me more than the fact that I was wearing boys jeans.

I was a relatively active child/young adult. I played a lot outside, rode my bike, swam, and even dabbled in community and school sports. However, I never considered myself athletic. I was too busy comparing myself to my oldest brother and sister, who didn’t require a special size of jeans, or to classmates who were shaped completely different than me.

I have more negative memories from middle school. In Physical Ed class, we were required to wear uniforms. I remember my teacher digging through a pile of “oversized” uniforms searching for one that fit me. I stood behind her office door as she tossed above-average sizes my way as I tried them on, praying the next one would fit. I also remember a similar incident when I made the basketball team. Everyone else had jersey with low numbers, but my number was 54 because I required the largest uniform.

Let me stop here for a second and say that I was not morbidly obese. I was only about 10-pounds overweight at the time, but I was also freakishly tall for my age. Again, I was a just… big.

In addition to my weight, I also started to realize how my body didn’t perform the same as my classmates. I remember during my freshman year, we had to perform agility and strength tests… and I could not do a chin up. Not. One. By my senior year, I had stopped all sports. I had gained around 15 more pounds, and was one of, if not the tallest girl in my class. My giant-ness consumed me. I was awkward, uncomfortable, and officially self-conscious in so many ways.

I went on to have equally awkward experiences in college. I went to the beach with friends and was horrified to wear a swimsuit; something that never bothered me during my childhood “husky” phase. I continued to gain weight, so I started crash diets and taking supplements. I ended up completely wrecking my metabolism, so much so that later in life, it completely wrecked me.

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in my later 20s. At my heaviest, I weighed 70-pounds more than I did in high school, and could barely fit into a size 20. I would refer to my high school weight as “when I thought I was fat” and the only desire I had was to “be so skinny that I looked sick.” The way I viewed myself (and health in general) had become painfully distorted.

As my 30th birthday approached, I knew that I had to make lifestyle changes. Nothing else was working and I refused to allow myself to move into another pant size. I joined a weight loss program through work, that began to teach me about nutrition and portion sizes. The next decade of my life was spent undergoing more than just a positive physical change of losing 50-pounds. My thirties also brought about positive emotional and mental changes as well.

I still have to watch my weight — I always will, thanks to an under active thyroid, an aging body, a dislike of formal exercise, and an occasional mean sweet tooth! — but I no longer seem to struggle with it. I think I have finally learned to accept me for me. I have found confidence in my own skin, and have the wisdom to know that health isn’t, and never has been, about a body image.

Recently I had a conversation with my doctor. We both decided that, although there is room for improvement, things could be a lot worse. I’m only 11.5-pounds away from my goal weight, and I’m running 5Ks regularly. I drink 100-ounces of water a day, and I eat well-balanced whole-food meals, appropriately measured for portion control. I also keep a check on things like my blood pressure and stress levels. I’m making progress in truly becoming healthy. But it was my statement to her that she believes shows my biggest progress… “I’ll never be skinny, but I am going to do what I can to not gain weight.” In my quest to focus on not gaining, I actually started to lose weight.

Maybe that is how we should all approach life? Think about it; instead of pointing out someone’s flaws, we recognize their strengths; instead of dwelling on the bad days, we start counting our blessings; instead of verbalizing hate, we speak love; instead of  thinking the worst, we pursue the best. It could change attitudes and produce more positive outcome!

Being healthy is so much more than a weight, or a dress size, or how many jumping jacks that you can do. Total wellness includes intellectual health, emotional health, and even financial health. What is your current battle? Do you allow negative thoughts to distort your perspective? What will you choose to focus on today?

Motivation Monday: Uninvited

Rejection. Uncertainty. Negativity. Failure. Intimidation. — There are so many reasons for a lack of self confidence. I know I have struggled with confidence in the past, and I see so many others who are struggling with it too. Particularly women. So today’s Motivation Monday is dedicated to all of you ladies who are reading this and need this reminder:

“You don’t have to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Accepting yourself and being truly happy can be a long and tedious journey. We often hold onto past mistakes, harbor grudges, and compare ourselves to others until we’ve lost complete focus of who we actually are. We allow life, particularly the unfair parts of life, to shape us into feeling less than and left out.

  • Maybe we haven’t lived up to the expectations of others, or even the expectations we’ve placed on ourselves.
  • Perhaps someone said something horrible to you, and you haven’t been able to shake their voice from within.
  • Many of us struggle with body image comparisons, and society has convinced us that we’re just not beautiful.
  • Or life has just been hard… leaving you tired, unhopeful, and lonely.

Our confidence becomes overshadowed by lies. Then we no longer accept that we belong; we believe we’re unworthy. And nothing holds us back like our own insecurities.

Ladies, it’s time to give ourselves grace… and break the vicious cycle of believing all of these lies. It’s time to hear the real truth. I invite you to join me for an online Bible study that begins tomorrow, September 6 and runs through October 16. We will be reading a new book, Uninvited, from Lysa TerKeurst, a North Carolina author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. You may be familiar with some of Lysa’s previous books like Made to Crave, Unglued, and The Best Yes.

In Uninvited, Lysa shares her own deeply personal experiences of rejection – from the perceived judgement of the perfectly toned woman one elliptical over to the incredibly painful childhood abandonment by her father. She leans in to honestly examine the roots of rejection, as well as rejection’s ability to poison relationships from the inside out, including our relationship with God. Lysa will help us to stop feeling left out, change our tendency to either fall apart or control the actions of others, restore our confidence through prayer, and overcome insecurities. [Excerpt from the back cover.]

I have always enjoyed Lysa’s books and the Bible studies that Proverbs 31 Ministries has offered with them. I truly believe this one will be a blessing to those of us feeling unloved… by others, and by ourselves. Together, we can take this journey to regain honesty, trust, confidence, and acceptance. You can register for the FREE online Bible study by clicking here, and you can order Uninvited on Amazon by clicking here.

I would also love if you would consider heading over to my Facebook page (click here) to LIKE it and/or follow me on Twitter (click here) so that we can chat and encourage throughout the study. Motivation doesn’t have to be limited to first Mondays on the blog! 🙂

Even if the Bible study isn’t for you, I still want to connect with you to offer encouragement and support. I want this blog to remind you to stop being so hard on yourself; stop comparing yourself to others, don’t judge yourself based on what happens to you in life, forgive yourself and others for past mistakes, let go of negative feelings that you’ve been holding on to, and focus on your strengths.

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You have the capability to regain your confidence, and you will. Accept yourself for who you are; uniquely and wonderfully you. Stop believing the lies. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are forgiven. You are smart. And you are worthy.

 

I was not compensated for this post, and it contains no affiliate links. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.

Make EveryDollar Count

Has this ever happened to you? You’ve managed to make it to the week of your next payday. You think you have just enough money left in your account to get by until Friday… and then you remember that a coworker’s birthday is Thursday, and you’ve committed to bringing cupcakes. You opt to buy grocery store cupcakes because they’re cheaper than the local bakery but while you’re in the store, you pick up a couple of frozen meals because they’re on sale. Your small bank account just got smaller, but it’s Wednesday and you’ll be fine. And then, when you arrive home, the air conditioning isn’t work. You check your saving account, only to remember that you used $250 last month for a last-minute vacation and you barely have $120 remaining. You can’t be without air conditioning – it’s 94-degrees outside! – so when you call for a service appointment, you ask if they take credit. It’s your only option.

So maybe that scenario is a bit extreme. It may not happen often, but it certainly happens. We fail to plan appropriately, or we think that using our savings will be okay because we can rebuild it in the upcoming months. Not following a budget can really put us in a bind.

Did you know that more than half of people in the United States live paycheck-to-paycheck? That means over 50% of us are at risk of experiencing the above scenario at any given time. Scary, isn’t it?

I want to introduce you to a great tool that helps me stay on budget. It was created by Dave Ramsey, a financial guru whose methods have proven affective for nearly everyone who has followed them. It is very user friendly, and best of all… FREE!

Meet EveryDollar®

EveryDollar

EveryDollar.com is a website that tracks your monthly income, projected expenses, and actual money spent in order to give every dollar a name. In other words, you make every dollar count. This method is what Dave calls based on zero-based budgeting. If every dollar has a purpose, then we can start to gain control of every dollar that we spend. It may seem like a silly idea at first, but once you use this method for a couple of months, you will see just how much control you have over how much you spend, and what you spend it on!

When you first register with EveryDollar.com, you will be asked to create a username and password. You’ll also be asked to answer a few simple questions to establish your account. You will be given the option to upgrade your membership from FREE to EveryDollar Plus. This is a $99 service that includes the option to link to your bank accounts and credit cards. That way, your data is automatically entered instead of you having to enter each cost yourself. There is a free 15-day trial but I haven’t upgraded yet. The free membership works for me. Here is a comparison of what you receive with each membership.

Membership

Once you have registered, you can begin using EveryDollar.com immediately. Select the month that you’re budgeting, then follow the prompts to enter your monthly salary (what your actual take-home pay is) and the expenses that you know are monthly, i.e.; mortgage, insurance, car payment, etc.

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Food

Once you have entered all of your expected expenses, don’t forget to consider overlooked expenses. Birthdays, doctor appointments, pest control, and gym memberships are just a few of the things we frequently do not consider when planning a monthly budget.

As you enter expenses, you will notice that the website will keep count of your balance for you. It will be just below your income tab, listed as $ Left To Budget.

Left to Budget

Your goal is to get this to $0… which means you are making every dollar count. When you’ve succeeded, you’ll get a green checkmark like this:

EveryDollar Budget

You will also have a breakdown of expenses by category, so that you can make sure you’re not spending too  much money in one place. I love this feature so that I can stay on track with the budgeting percentage plan that Dave’s daughter, Rachel Cruze, shared on her website about two years ago.

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Once all of your planned monthly expenses have been entered, you can use EveryDollar.com or the available smartphone app to track your actual expenses. The budget tool will maintain transactions throughout each month.

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In addition to the tool giving you control over every dollar each month, Ramsey has created another feature within EveryDollar.com that is great for planning ahead… Debt-Free Baby Steps. The baby steps are listed in overview, with additional information and helpful tips to focus on and achieving each goal. The first step is a $1000 Emergency Fund.

Step One

You’ll notice that the Emergency Fund tab is part of your planned monthly expenses. Be sure to put back money each month, in whatever amount that you can, to work toward this first baby step. Once you have saved $1000, you can reallocate the money that you were using toward that goal to your second baby step.

Baby Step Two is taking control of your Debt Snowball. Check out Dave’s website to learn his recommendations for knocking out debt. This isn’t something that will happen overnight, so go into this stage with patience and perserverance. It will be so rewarding when you finally complete this step and move onto Baby Step Three.

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I sit down at the end of every month and use this website to make sure things are in order for the next month. I love the feeling of control when it comes to my money. I use the smartphone app to enter transactions in real time (something I haven’t been doing since banking went online and I stopped using a check registry years ago) so that I can truly account for every dollar that I spend. Most of all, I love knowing that I have an emergency fund, have control of my debt, and am working toward completing Baby Step Three.

Although I have cut back on buying things that I don’t necessarily need, I haven’t stopped buying things. I have been able to take vacations that were already paid for, pay cash for Christmas gifts for my family, and occasionally treat myself to massages and pedicures. If you’d like to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck, and gain control over every dollar that you make, I highly recommend EveryDollar.com.

“A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”
― Dave Ramsey

 

I was not compensated for this post, and it contains no affiliate links. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.

Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie [Gluten- and Dairy-Free]

This pie is THE BEST tasting pie on earth. No, really! That’s exactly what my dad proclaimed when I made it for his birthday last week. And what Dad says, goes. At least that is what I grew up being told. 🙂

Although it may not be the best pie on earth, it is truly the best tasting gluten free, diary free pie that I have made. It is seriously so good that I can’t image ever topping this pie. If you love chocolate and coconut (think Mounds candy bar), you will want to give this pie a try. It is simple to make, and doesn’t take long to prepare.

Ingredients:

  • Mi-Del Chocolate Snap gluten free pie crust (available in most grocery stores alongside regular
    pre-made crusts)
  • So Delicious CocoWhip (available in select grocery stores beside other frozen whipped toppings)
  • 1 can coconut cream (14 oz)
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch (this can be replaced with arrowroot powder, if you prefer)
  • 2/3 cup cashews
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

Instructions:

Before you begin, place cashews into a bowl and cover with water.  You will want these to soak no less than 4 hours, although they can soak longer. When they’re ready, rinse well.

Shake the can of coconut cream well before opening. Measure out 1 cup and pour it into a mixing bowl. Add in the cornstarch and whisk until all lumps are removed. Set aside.

Pour the remaining coconut cream into a measuring cup. There should be approx. 1/2 cup. Pour your choice of non-dairy milk (I use cashew milk) into the coconut cream to make a total of 1 cup. So this means you’ll probably use about 1/2 cup of non-dairy milk.

Add the cream/milk to a blender with soaked and rinsed cashews, maple syrup, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt. Blend ingredients until they become smooth and creamy.

When they’re blended well, pour the mixture into a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk continuously as it heats, bringing the mixture to a gentle simmer. When the mixture is simmering well, reduce heat to low and pour in the cream/cornstarch

Continue to whisk all ingredients for approximately 5-10 minutes until it begins to thickens. When it starts to have the same consistency as pudding, remove the mixture from the heat and add in the coconut oil. Whisk again until the mixture appears glossy.

The mixture is now ready to pour into the pies crust. Doesn’t it look delicious? Refrigerate for 4 hours.

Tip: When you place the pie into the refrigerator, this is the perfect time to also remove the Cocowhip from the freezer and place it into the refrigerator as well. This will give the Cocowhip time to thaw, which will make it easier to spread.

After 4 hours, add a layer of softened Cocowhip onto the top of the firmed pie. It’s ready to serve!

You’ll be tempted to eat it quickly because it tastes so good, but be sure to savor every bite of deliciousness. If you give this pie a try, be sure to let me know if you love it as much as I do!

 

I was not compensated for this post, and it contains no affiliate links. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way. All photos © 2016 by jennonamission.

 

The pie filling recipe was taken in part from Natural Girl, Modern World. Be sure to check out her blog if you’re interested in a vegan option pie crust and simple whipped topping.

Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event

When I learned about my food allergies last year, my blog changed. I went from posting recipes of quick meals made with ingredients that I had purchased for next-to-nothing with coupons, to experiments made with new products that I had never heard of before. It has been challenging, but in a wonderful way.

Although I feel like I have learned a lot since my diagnosis, I also know that I have barely scratched the surface on all there is to know. That is why I am so excited (and extremely honored) to have been selected to be a part of the Blogger Team for the upcoming Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event in Greensboro on September 10.

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Key speakers for this event are: Dr. Nicole DiNezza, DC, NTP, Jennifer Cuevas, Tarah Jakubiak, Meg Huebner, Rodger Lenhardt, Beth Mincher, and Drs. Roosevelt Smith, and Clifton Mays. They will be discussing an array of topics including essential oils, traveling with allergies, and digestive disorders. There will also be many vendors on site, including some well-known brands. It is going to be an amazing resource for anyone with food allergies, whether you were recently diagnosed or have battled them for years. 

I will be posting updates throughout the event; if you’re unable to attend, be sure to follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. I will also post a blog with highlights from the event the week of September 11.

Tickets are only $10 and can be purchased in advance or at the door. Please comment below if you’re planning to attend. I would love to connect with you at the event!

 

As a Blogger Team member, I will receive free admission and possibly additional compensation for posts regarding this event.

Greensboro Science Center

As summer winds down and families prepare to head back to school, I wanted to share with you a hidden gem right here in the NC Triad that can serve as both a last-minute daycation and an educational field trip.

Welcome to the Greensboro Science Center!

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The Greensboro Science Center is located on Lawndale Drive, just minutes off of I-40, and houses a museum, zoo, and aquarium. All can be accessed for one admission price of roughly $12. Also on site, but not included in admission, are a restaurant, a theater, and an outdoor adventure center. Hours vary between attractions, but all are open nearly year-round.

My family and I recently visited the science center, and had a wonderful time. These are a few of the highlights from our trip:

The Carolina ScQuarium is home to many animals, including sharks, stingrays, penguins, and otters! We began our day enjoying the stingrays and sharks; we were allowed to touch them! My niece said that the stingrays were very soft but the shark felt more like a lizard. At 10am, we ventured over to the African penguins where we listened to a presentation while they were being fed.


After we finished in the Aquarium, we headed over to Destination: Dinosaur. It was an exhibit of fossils and dinosaur replicas, which was both educational and fun! I knew T-Rex had tiny arms, but I guess I never really knew just how tiny until I saw the comparison between it and a smaller raptor.

Just around the corner from the dinosaur exhibit was HealthQuest. It was a room full of hands-on exhibits that covered everything from sneezing and gastrointestinal sounds to reflexes and nutrition.

Our next stop was the Animal Discovery Zoo! My youngest nephew enjoyed the goats and chickens in the petting zoo, while his older brother and sister checked out the wallabies. My favorite part of the zoo were the gibbons. They looked like they were having so much fun!

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As we looped around the zoo’s path, we stumbled upon Davis Kelly Fountain. It was not only beautiful (and entertaining to the younger kids) but was a refreshing spot for such a hot Carolina day. The fountains played music and the water sprayed to the rhythm of each song!

Adjacent to the fountain was the Discovery House. Here, you could see (and pet!) animals like the domestic rabbit, ferret, guinea pig, and this adorable chinchilla below. There were also armadillos, porcupines, snakes, and an Egyptian bat!

As you can imagine, we worked up quite the appetite with all of our adventures, so we heading back inside the main building to grab lunch at The Fresh Market Cafe. I was impressed by their selection of food; there was truly something for everyone. My mom and youngest nephew enjoyed hot dogs, my sister-in-law had a turkey and cranberry sandwich on wheat, another nephew has pizza, and my niece enjoyed mac and cheese. The Fresh Market Grill is very allergy friendly, so I had delicious gluten free chicken strips and hummus with carrots.

Once we had our bellies full, we played a bit in Sciplay Bay. There were several rooms with a mixture of interactive elements, stunning special effects, and live- action adventures.

We finished our day with the TWC Extreme Weather Gallery, learning about record rain falls, variances in hail sizes, and feeling hurricane-force winds.

We didn’t make it downstairs to the Herpetarium Exhibit. We were all tired and ready to head home. But I feel certain that we’ll go back. In addition to the exhibits we did not see, the science center is expanding! They’re on a three-phase plan with final construction scheduled to be completed by 2020. I highly recommend visiting the Greensboro Science Center on a regular basis over the next four years.

 

I was not compensated for this post, and it contains no affiliate links. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way. All photos © 2016 by jennonamission.



 

NC Blogger Network Triad Meetup

UPDATE: This event is being rescheduled. When a new date is available, I will update everyone with a new post. Thank you!

Hello blogger friends! I am hosting a fun meetup next month, and I hope that you will join me. It will take place on Thursday, September 1 at 6:30pm.

This will be the first NCBN Triad Blogger Meetup of 2016, and my first meetup hosting as NC Blogger Network’s Triad Ambassador.

The event will be held at the newly re-branded Wolfgang Puck Kitchen + Bar at Friendly Center in Greensboro. Enjoy an evening of socializing, free appetizers and a drink special* (complements of the restaurant), and the chance to win a door prize.

NCBN Triad Meetup
During our event you’ll get to mingle and network with area bloggers and their influential friends, gain insight about the NC Blogger Network (if you aren’t already a member) and learn who is blogging practically in your own backyard.

The meetup is open to all members, non members, and bloggers in general. Seating is limited, so be sure to grab your tickets early, and please bring a friend! Click here to RSVP.

*You will be responsible for purchasing your own drinks and any additional food.

Ladies, It’s Time to Get: Outdoors!

After my failed attempt to paddle down the Yadkin in a tiny kayak a couple of months ago, I was in search of two things: someone who could fit me for the right sized kayak, and someone who could teach me how to maneuver it correctly. I was told that Great Outdoor Provision Co. would hold demos but when I checked their event calendar online, all local demos had already passed. I was starting to convince myself that it would be springtime before I would get to be fitted, when out-of-the-blue, a friend told me about a Demo Day in Greensboro through a company called Get: Outdoors. It was scheduled for July 23, and I already had plans for that day, so I jumped on the company’s website hopeful to find more Demo Days scheduled. What I found was even better.

Get: Outdoors has an amazing program called Women on the Water. (I love that the acronym is GO WOW.) The program is lead by JoAndra Proia, an ACA Certified Kayaking Instructor/Guide and Yoga Instructor. GO WOW offers women encouragement, support, and training for paddling flat water and beyond. Jo is passionate about unplugging from the digital world, sharing her knowledge of wildlife and nature, and teaching outdoor safety from kayaking to camping skills to first aid. Not only does GO WOW offer instruction, but they have many opportunities to utilize the skills that are learned in class with both day trips and overnight adventures. And it’s all for women only. How empowering!

I picked up the phone and immediately called Get: Outdoors to register for two classes that were being held on the same day, Intro to Kayaking and Foundations & Fundamentals 1. They were both held at the same location, one right after the other. The classes were only $35 each for two hours of instruction. The cost included kayak, life vest (PFDs), paddle, and lake fee. When I registered, I explained my previous experience and what I was hoping to find in a kayak. I was told that there would be several options of kayaks to choose from that day, and that fitting/demo was part of the class. I was ecstatic!

Just as promised, on the day of the class I was given the opportunity to demo any of the kayaks that Jo had brought. After chatting with her, and checking out the different makes and models, I ended up falling in love with the Perception Prodigy 12.0. It handled so easily, was just the right speed for me, and was surprisingly comfortable. At 12′ long, it only weighs around 50lbs. It includes knee/thigh pads around the open cockpit, slide lock foot braces, and an oval stern hatch.

The Intro to Kayaking class began at 10am. Many of us had very little paddling experience; some of us had no experience at all. Jo was thorough in making sure we were prepared well before we launched our boats. We had a PFD demonstration followed by how to enter and exit our kayaks. Once we were in the water, we covered the basics: forward paddle, reverse paddle, side sweep, and how to raft up.


Here are the participants from the Intro to Kayaking class at our first raft up. That’s me on the far right, at the end.


We’re working on our paddle grip in this photo. I have a tendency to hold my paddle too tight. The correct grip allows you to be able to wiggle your fingers. It took some getting used to, but I finally got it!


Jo had us team up to work on our side stroke. It’s hard to tell if you’re moving sideways without a stationary kayak beside of you. One of us would sit while the other paddled away. That way, we could better tell if we were actually moving to the side or forward.

At noon, class dismissed. Some of the ladies left. The three of us who were staying for the 1pm class had a nice lunch under the lake’s picnic shelter with Jo. We were able to ask additional questions and chat about paddling in general. It was fun learning about the history of Get: Outdoors, and all of Jo’s adventures!


At 1pm, the Foundations & Fundamentals class got underway. Those of us who had attended the morning class helped the “new” students with prepping. We grabbed a partner and shared our new-found knowledge with step-by-step instructions for PDFs and foot brace adjustment.

Once everyone was ready and boats were selected (I remained in the Prodigy), we headed back out on the water to learn more advanced maneuvers like “rainbow” sweeps, edging, steering with our hips, and spinning the kayak.

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Our afternoon raft up. 🙂


We even got in a little kay-yoga!

When class finished, we helped Jo load our kayaks back onto the trailer. I whispered “see you again soon” to the Prodigy, since Jo wouldn’t let me take her on home with me. haha [Get: Outdoors has an end-of-season sale in September where they offer their used boats at a discounted price. I am hoping to attend the sale and find my new-to-me kayak just in time for some last-minute fall paddling.] I left the marina around 3:15pm with a huge smile on my face. Yes, I had just received four hours of very educational training… but I also gained so much more. I had a new-found confidence, met some great people, and even had a sun-kissed glow on my arms and legs. (Hey, I don’t tan very easily so that’s a big deal to me!) It was such a wonderful experience. I just wanted to find a kayak that fit me but instead, I have found a new community of women with whom I can be adventurous.

Ladies, if you live in or around the NC Triad area and have ever considered paddling but aren’t sure where to begin, I highly recommend GO WOW. It is an experience that you will not regret. I hope to see you all on the water soon!


Happy Paddling!

I was not compensated for this post, and it contains no affiliate links. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way. Photo credit: JoAndra Proia