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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Couch to 5K in Less Than 4 Weeks!

Do you want to lose weight? Feel less stressed? Be healthier?

There is no better day than today to start taking care of yourself!  I know it can be hard to find the time for yourself, but YOU ARE WORTH IT! When you take care of yourself, you feel good.  And when you feel good, everyone around you benefits from it.  My husband knows that when I go out for a run, I come back feeling good, and therefore I have more patience with the kids and I can handle the day to day stresses much better.

Here are 7 benefits of getting physical activity from the Mayo Clinic:

No. 1:  Exercise controls weight

No. 2:  Exercise combats health conditions and diseases

No. 3:  Exercise improves mood

No. 4:  Exercise boosts energy

No. 5:  Exercise promotes better sleep

No. 6:  Exercise puts the spark back into your sex life

No. 7:  Exercise can be fun

A cheap and fun way to get your exercise is running! 


Running is not like riding a bike.  You can't take a break for a few years and then jump back into it at the same speed as when you stopped.  I used to run almost everyday years ago and I was in the best shape of my life.  I can remember running a half marathon and not getting tired at all.  A few months ago, a friend asked me to do a 5K with her and I said "SURE!"  I wanted to start running any ways and I knew this would give me a push to get started.  I thought a 5K would be easy until I went out that first day to start my training. I thought I was going to die!  I couldn't run for even 2 minutes without being completely out of breath.  I came home exhausted and knew I needed to start off slower.  I'm not 20 anymore and I could definitely feel it.  I wrote a running plan and in 6 weeks I was running for 10 minutes straight with no problem.  Here is what I did:

Put on my favorite music, laced up my running shoes and started my timer..... it's time to RUN!
I try to run 3-4 days a week

Days 1 and 2
Walk 3 mins.
Run 1 mins.
For a total of 15 mins.

Days 3 and 4
Walk 3 mins.
Run 2 mins.
For a total of 18 mins.

Days 5 and 6
Walk 3 mins.
Run 3 mins.
For a total of 21 mins.

Days 7 and 8
Walk 3 mins.
Run 4 mins.
For a total of 24 min

Days 9 and 10
Walk 2 mins.
Run 5 mins.
For a total of 30 mins.

Days 11 and 12
Walk 2 mins.
Run 7 mins.
For a total of 29 mins.

Days 13 and 14
Walk 2 mins.
Run 9 mins.
For a total of 35 mins.

Days 15 and 16
Walk 2 mins.
Run 10 mins.
For a total of 38 mins.

Keep increasing your running time with each run.  I don't time myself anymore, but after 3 months I was running for 45 minutes while only walking 2 minutes to start and 2 minutes to finish.

Here are some other running plans I found:
Couch to 5K
Train to Run Long Distance
Couch to 5K

Make sure you always start and end with walking.
It is also a great idea to keep a journal of your progress.  Then you can look back and see how far you came from day one.  If you have back or knee problems and can't run, then speed walk.  TIME says you can add YEARS to your life with just 15 minutes a day of exercise!

I had such a blast running the 5K with my friend Lisa.  It feels great to set a goal and complete it.  My boys were at the finish line waiting for me and they looked SO proud!  They all said they want to do it with me next year!  It's one thing to talk to your kids about being healthy and exercising, but it's another to show them how.

You don't have to wait until New Year's Day to start..... Start Today!  Dishes need to be washed, laundry needs to be done, bathrooms need to be cleaned, but most importantly... you need to take care of yourself. YOU ARE WORTH IT!  Signing up for a run is great motivation to start a training program.  Here are some websites to look for a marathon near you:
Marathon Guide
Runners World
Running in the USA

There are many different runs you could sign up for!  Brandi and her family did a mud run last year and they had a blast running together!

There are also a lot of helpful running apps you can get for your smartphone...

Join the more than 12 million people who are using RunKeeper to turn their phone into a personal trainer in their pocket! Track your runs, walks, bike rides, hikes, and more using the GPS in your iPhone.

 iPhone Screenshot 2

Ghost Race
Training for a marathon? Looking to beat your personal best? Do you need that extra push? Stop running against the clock and start training against a competitor. Set the distance and pace you would like to beat and get ready to train! Keep track of all of your fitness activities from taking a walk outside to working out in the comfort of your own home. Monitor your progress with the built in history storage complete with weather details at the time of your activity.

 iPhone Screenshot 2
Cost: $0.99

Get Running (Couch to 5K)
Targeted more for beginner runners.  With three enjoyable workouts a week, in nine weeks you will be running continuously for half an hour, even if getting off the couch is a struggle today!

 iPhone Screenshot 2
Cost: $2.99

Fitnio is another GPS-based tracking and monitoring app for walking, running and cycling. The app records your activity and then displays distance, pace, caloric burn and also keeps an ongoing log of all workouts and also syncs with its website. Fitnio also provides an emergency contact option in the event that immediate help is needed during a workout.

 iPhone Screenshot 1
Cost: $1.99

Run Coach Pro
Run Coach Pro puts a personalized training plan in your pocket. Training plans are available for getting fit or race events (5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon, and 50K Ultra). 

Cost: $0.99

Map My Run
MapMy is a fitness tracking application that enables you to use the built-in GPS of your mobile device to track all of your fitness activities. Record your workout details, including duration, distance, pace, speed, elevation, calories burned, and route traveled on an interactive map. You can even effortlessly save and upload your workout data to any of the MapMyFitness websites where you can view your route workout data, and comprehensive workout history.
 MapMyRun apps

Cost: FREE

You don't need an expensive piece of equipment or a monthly gym membership to get the exercise you need!
Running or walking outdoors is also a great way to soak up some vitamin D!

US News Health says:
The sunshine vitamin may protect against a host of diseases, including osteoporosis, heart disease and cancers of the breast, prostate and colon. What's more, sunlight has other hidden benefits — like protecting against depression, insomnia, and an overactive immune system.

Make sure you put on sunscreen if running for long periods of time and follow these important safety rules from RRCA.
  • Don’t wear headphones. Use your ears to be aware of your surroundings. Your ears may help you avoid dangers your eyes may miss during evening or early morning runs.
  • Run against traffic so you can observe approaching automobiles. By facing on-coming traffic, you may be able to react quicker than if it is behind you.
  • Look both ways before crossing. Be sure the driver of a car acknowledges your right-of-way before crossing in front of a vehicle. Obey traffic signals.
  • Carry identification or write your name, phone number, and blood type on the inside sole of your running shoe. Include any medical information.
  • Always stay alert and aware of what’s going on around you. The more aware you are, the less vulnerable you are.
  • Carry a cell phone or change for a phone call. Know the locations of public phones along your regular route.
  • Trust your intuition about a person or an area. React on your intuition and avoid a person or situation if you’re unsure. If something tells you a situation is not “right”, it isn’t.
  • Alter or vary your running route pattern; run in familiar areas if possible. In unfamiliar areas, such as while traveling, contact a local RRCA club or running store. Know where open businesses or stores are located in case of emergency.
  • Run with a partner. Run with a dog.
  • Write down or leave word of the direction of your run. Tell friends and family of your favorite running routes.
  • Avoid unpopulated areas, deserted streets, and overgrown trails. Avoid unlit areas, especially at night. Run clear of parked cars or bushes.
  • Ignore verbal harassment and do not verbally harass others. Use discretion in acknowledging strangers. Look directly at others and be observant, but keep your distance and keep moving.
  • Wear reflective material if you must run before dawn or after dark. Avoid running on the street when it is dark.
  • Practice memorizing license tags or identifying characteristics of strangers.
  • Carry a noisemaker. Get training in self-defense.
  • When using multi-use trails, follow the rules of the road. If you alter your direction, look over your should before crossing the trail to avoid a potential collision with an oncoming cyclist or passing runner.
  • Call police immediately if something happens to you or someone else, or you notice anyone out of the ordinary. It is important to report incidents immediately
Start running today and let us know how you are doing!  We would LOVE to post your progress to inspire others who read this.  Take a before picture and your measurements to compare with later.

Go HERE to read 101 tips to get you motivated to run.  You can do it... YOU ARE WORTH IT!
Happy Running xoxoxoxoxox

Friday, December 28, 2012

New Years Eve Game for the Whole Family!

You might not be able to go to New York to watch the ball drop this New Year's Eve, but with this ball of treats... you'll be glad you stayed home!

A few years ago, we started a New Year's Eve game which the WHOLE family could enjoy.  It's a great way to reuse all of the wrapping paper from Christmas! We call it the New Years Ball Game. :)

Here is what you'll need for the game:

- Used wrapping paper, tissue paper and/or newspaper
- Packing tape (the more you use, the longer it will take to unwrap)

- Treats: candy, small toys, gift cards, gum, etc.  You can spend as little or as much as you want!  That's one of the things that makes this game so great!

-A single, typical 6-sided die.

I always start the ball with the best prize in the middle. :)

Start with wrapping paper around the prize and add a piece of tape.

Lay the prize on top, cover with paper and then tape.  The more tape you use the harder it will be to unwrap!

Keep adding more treats, paper and tape until the ball is the size you want.

How to play the game:

- Everyone sits in a circle.
- The youngest player gets the ball first.
- The person to the left has the die.
- That person starts rolling the die as the player with the ball starts to unwrap the ball.
- As soon as a 6 is rolled (or any single number you choose) both the player with the ball and the player with the die pass to the person to their right.  
- What ever a person unwraps, they get to keep.
- Keep going around in a circle until the entire ball has been unwrapped.

My boys have a BLAST playing this game!  It will be a New Years tradition for years to come! The first year we played I only had a prize in the middle and it wasn't as much fun.  The next year I added more treats throughout the ball and they really liked it because everyone was able to get a few treats.  We try and eat very healthy throughout the year, but on New Year's Eve we like to celebrate the upcoming year with some yummy junk food treats.  

I hope you and your family enjoy this game as much as we do. Have a fun and safe New Year's Eve!  xoxoxoxoxoxooxoxo

Here is a video of my family playing the game for New Years Eve 2012


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Homemade Wheat Thin Crackers

Have you ever read the label on a wheat thin box? Sparkly Polliwog has and we don't like what we have found! Why buy a snack that has MSG in it when you can make it yourself and know exactly whats going in it. Not that the package kind is evil or anything, but there is just stuff in it that you would never add to your food by choice. It is also a fun project to do with the kids! Found this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

   Makes ~3 dozen.  I doubled it :)
  • 1 1/4 C whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tbs sugar
  • 1/2 tsp table salt , +additional for topping          
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 4 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/4 C water

  1. By hand or food processor: COMBINE the flour, sugar, salt, paprika, and butter until evenly distributed. (I don't have a processor, SIGH, so mixed by hand-I grated the cold butter before mixing). Mix until looks like cornmeal.
                                 Drizzle 1/4 C water and combine and knead until all blended.

  2. Heat oven 400* and either lightly grease baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
  3. Roll half the dough out at a time on floured surface. You want to get it as thin as possible and in much of a rectangle shape as you can. You can recruit a helper ;0

                            Using your pizza, knife or pastry wheel, cut into 1 1/2 inch squares.
 4. Place onto baking sheet, don't need to be spaced to far apart and poke holes into each square using a tooth pick

Sprinkle some salt and bake until golden and crisp ~5-7 minutes depending on thickness 
Cool on baking rack

Store in airtight containers up to 2 weeks.

We like ours with the Garlic Cheese Ball! So YUMMY

Hope you and your family enjoy this alternative to the package kind. We sure do for so many reasons! Happy Snacking!!

Written by Brandi

Garlic Cheese Ball Recipe

If you love cheese as much as I do then you will go crazy over this CHEESE BALL! I am a cheese ball at heart and this is my new best friend and favorite recipe. It's simple, with few ingredients and makes enough to share with your cheesy friends. My friend Abby was nice enough to share her aunts recipe after making it for a recent holiday party. I didn't leave the cheese balls side, it came to every room I was in, in fear that someone else would devour it all before me.

      This picture only shows half the size this recipe makes bc I made one w/o nuts for my Nut Free hubby.

-1 8oz package of cream cheese
-1 1/2 pounds of sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese (grated)
-Mayonnaise (just enough to moisten 1-2 tbsp)
-Fresh garlic -minced 1-10 cloves depending on taste (I put 7-8 cloves in mine)
-Seasoned salt
-Chopped Walnuts

1~Mix softened cream cheese with grated sharp cheddar cheese with enough mayo to moisten. (Use heavy duty mixer, or clean hands)
2~Add garlic and seasoned salt.
3~Roll into a ball, then roll in chopped walnuts.
4~Wrap and place in refrigerator.

                       *****Best if made several hours ahead of time for flavors to blend*****

                       Serve with choice of cracker-we love it with HOMEMADE wheat thins (CLICK FOR RECIPE)

I plan on making this awesome cheese beast for every party I tend, mainly bc I love it and so I don't eat the entire thing by myself! Happy Eating my Cheesy Friends!!

Written and tasted approve by Brandi

Friday, December 21, 2012

Bubble Burlap Wreath

I love burlap and decorating with it. It can be tricky to cut, but in this wreath tutorial it doesn't matter! Wahoo! Its super easy and turns out really cute. Since burlap is so durable, this wreath can be hung in or out doors. The ribbon or embellishments can be changed seasonally or to match for each holiday.

What You Need:
  • 10" foam wreath
  • 1 1/4- 1 1/2 yards of burlap (or fabric of choice)    
  • pins with large heads
  • scissors
  • ribbon or way to hang

What to do:
  1. Cut burlap into 4x4 inch squares by first cutting it into strips.
Doesn't have to be perfect, but pretty close to same size.

     2. Fold squares into half to make a triangle

 Fold left corner and bring to meet front and line up corners
    Bring right corner to the back, lining up all corners and making a bubble.

Pin through all four corners using one pin.

  3.Pin the "bubble" to the foam wreath

Keep making and adding bubbles one at a time leaving no gaps. You don't want to see any pins or foam. It helps to pin at an angle.

Bring it all the way to the edge and fill in any spots that show green

  4. To attached ribbon, just loop around and tie up top. ~I made a bow and used glue gun to add

Just fold ribbon in thirds and wrap a piece of burlap around center and use glue gun to secure

Attach using glue gun

That's it!!! Hang it wherever you please. I hung mine with the DIY Banner  I made for the holidays.

Written By Brandi

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Name Sign

I love monograms and signs made out of  last names to represent a family and its unity in the house. I decided to try to make my own instead of buying one and I think it turned out pretty nifty.

I was able to get all the letters off a photo share site called Flicker for free. I printed them up onto regular printer paper and just so happened to have a 5 spaced frame I got from Ikea. But if you don't have an exact spaced frame to fit you name then all you have to do it select the size of your letters to be printed to fit side by side onto your frame.

You can keep it simple or spice it up.

*I decided to spice it up, bc Im that type of gal*
 Cut each letter out, arrange them onto mat of frame and tape or glue them down. Use your glue gun and jute or thick twine to border each letter. Start on bottom right corner and wrap around without cutting until reach starting corner.

If want,  line the outside border of mat with your twine too.

I then made fabric and twine flowers made the same way as in the revamp picture frame and vase to put in corner.
Glue edge and wrap around self and glue at same time. (this one isn't glued-don't want space)

Glue flowers onto frame and if want sand paper edge of frame to to make it look more distressed. Then hang on the wall, That's it!

You can do this for any name, any size! Makes a great gift. Be cute to have the "mat" be burlap or instead of jute use small individual frames inside the big frame. Or get small colored mats for each letter or use scrapbooking paper. The flicker site has tons of letters to make each sign your own!
**If want to know how to make Easy Burlap Wreath or Jute wrapped letter, click on links ;)

Written by Brandi

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Are You Using Your Toilet the Right Way?

Are you using the toilet the right way?  Did you even know there is a "right" way to use it?


Talking about what goes on in the bathroom is not usually something people like to talk about.........
except this lady!

My boys actually inspired me to write this.  They LOVE to talk potty talk.  They know how much my husband and I DON'T want to hear about their daily bathroom business, but they continue to tell us any ways.  Then one day, my son asks me, "Why is it so gross to talk about poop?  We all do it."  I agreed and then told him, "Just not while I'm eating please."  He was right though.  Why do we have such a hard time talking about something that is so important to our health? 

The main reason for starting Sparkly Polliwog was to share the things we do to make our lives better.  As personal as this next story is for me, I feel I have to share it.  If I would have read this 12 years ago, maybe I wouldn't have had to go through all the pain, money and discomfort that I did. If you have had any problems with constipation or hemorrhoids, read on because this could change your life!  It did mine!

According to US News Health, over 63 Million people suffer from constipation!  In the United States alone the cost of treating constipation is about $235 MILLION a year!

I was one of those people. After having my first son over 12 years ago I developed postpartum hemorrhoids and constipation.  I dealt with it for over 10 long, very uncomfortable years.  I think I went to see the doctor more than I actually went to the bathroom in those 10 years.  I did EVERYTHING the doctors told me to do.  I ate more fiber, exercised, drank more water, no soda, meditated, ate prunes and yogurt, stomach massage.  I tried going at the same time everyday, Metamucil, phsyllium husks, enemas, etc etc etc. Nothing worked!

In 2005 my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer.  He had over 3 1/2 feet of intestines removed!  It was then that I decided I needed to take this more serious and start trying other options.  I went to the library and got every healthy eating book I could find.  The first thing I did was remove dairy from my diet.  Then meat, then all animal products, and finally all cooked food.  I went 100% RAW!  I ate only fruits, vegetable and sprouted seeds and nuts for over a year and my bathroom problems stayed the same.

When I moved to the East Coast I started adding cooked foods into my diet.  It was much harder to get fresh organic fruits and veggies in Connecticut during the winter.  I can remember feeling so hopeless.  I tried everything I could and I was still the same as I was over 10 years ago. I ate a lot healthier, but the constipation was still the same.  I can remember lying in my bed one night asking God to fix me, telling him that I wouldn't ask for anything else for myself ever again.  It seems a little dramatic now, but after 10 years of being backed up, I was all out of ideas.

About 3 months later my lovely SIL and BIL came to visit us.  She told me about a book her husbands mom got him for his birthday called The Guru In You.  I decided to buy it on my phone that night and started reading.  I had no idea it was going to change my life the way it did.  That was almost 2 years ago and since reading it I have gone to the bathroom EVERYDAY, most days more than once!  I feel so much lighter, less stressed and so much healthier.

Here is what I learned:

According to proctologists, "We were not meant to sit on toilets, we were meant to squat in the field."

From Dr.OZ:
Squat to Improve Bowel Movements
"If you squat when going to the bathroom instead of sitting, you can release your bowels three times faster. This is actually the position that people around the world used for thousands of years before the invention of toilets. Squatting also reduces the development of hemorrhoids and strengthens your legs."


From Yogi Cameron Alborzian:
"For thousands of years people have been sitting on the floor or squatting on the toilet, which is the natural sitting posture."

How could something as easy as changing the way I used the toilet fix all my problems?  I had my doubts at first but I decided to try it for a week and see how it went.  Two years later I am still squatting.  I will NEVER go back to sitting.  My stomach cramps are GONE, my constipation is GONE, my hemorrhoids are GONE!

From Natures Platform:
                                                 Seven Advantages of Squatting
1.   Makes elimination faster, easier and more complete. This helps prevent "fecal stagnation," a prime factor in colon cancer, appendicitis and inflammatory bowel disease.

2.   Protects the nerves that control the prostate, bladder and uterus from becoming stretched and damaged.

3.    Securely seals the ileocecal valve, between the colon and the small intestine. In the conventional sitting position, this valve is unsupported and often leaks during evacuation, contaminating the small intestine.

4.   Relaxes the puborectalis muscle which normally chokes the rectum in order to maintain continence.

5.  Uses the thighs to support the colon and prevent straining. Chronic straining on the toilet can cause hernias, diverticulosis, and pelvic organ prolapse.

6.  A highly effective, non-invasive treatment for hemorrhoids, as shown by published clinical research.

7.   For pregnant women, squatting avoids pressure on the uterus when using the toilet. Daily squatting helps prepare one for a more natural delivery.

There are many different things you can buy to go on your toilet to make squatting easier......or you can just squat on the toilet itself.


Here are some websites were you can read more about the benefits of squatting:

Natures Platform

It is so weird that during the 10 years of going through all these troubles, I never heard about squatting, not even from all the doctors.  It is not something that people will usually bring up during a friendly conversation, but it is such an important subject.  Please pass this blog never know who could really benefit from it. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo


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