Monthly Archives: May 2013

Memorial Day Weekend Napa Valley Wine Tasting

Early this morning I was woken up by a very enthusiastic dog. She was psyched to start the day, and wanted to start it now!

I’ve made it a habit of either hiking or biking on Fridays. Sometimes it’s first thing in the morning, sometimes I’m at the park for a sunset workout, and sometimes it falls somewhere in between the two. Between Harley’s high energy levels this morning and seeing that the temperature is going to hit 90 degrees today, first thing in the morning sounded like a good idea to me.

So, we headed to a place we’ve been frequenting – Harvey Bear Ranch County Park:

Park-View

We were there for the perfect sweet spot between the cool night temperatures and the sun getting hot. We hiked before the morning busyness filled the park, and besides Harley’s constant attempts to chase the crazy ground squirrels everywhere, it was a really serene hike. This short work week has been super busy, and it was a nice, relaxed way to start off my Friday. Luckily I think it tired Harley girl out:

Harley-snoozing

Horrible quality iPhone photo I just snapped, but how sweet is she?!

Moving on, today I’m going to recap my glorious Memorial Day Sunday — which we spent wine tasting all day in Napa Valley.

My hubby and I started off the day at Crane Family Vineyards, a small winery we recently discovered at Trader Joe’s and simply had to visit first and foremost because our last name is Crane. To taste there, you have to call and schedule an appointment beforehand, so I made it our first stop so that we’d be sure to make it on time.

The winery is in an unassuming residential area, and as soon as we pulled up and saw the gorgeous view and quaint winery, I knew that I’d like it. When we arrived, the owner Tom greeted us and we quickly found out that he and his parents lived in New Jersey before moving to California. Jersey people unite!

Our experience at Crane Family Vineyards was great. Tom was very down to earth and easy to chat with, and we learned a lot about the history of the winery his parents started while sitting on the patio and relishing in this view:

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As I’m a fan of smaller, less corporate businesses in general, I really enjoy more boutique, intimate wineries more than the big commercial ones that are so prevalent – especially in an area like Napa. There’s just something about getting some one-on-one information about the thought and work that was put into making the wine that sells me. The winery offers a cabernet sauvignon, merlot, winemaker’s cuvee, a port, and they recently started making white wine, a chardonnay. I enjoyed every one of the wines we tasted, and we bought a couple of bottles to take home with us.

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 You can sense my enthusiasm about Crane Vineyards in this picture:

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My posing = a little out of control. 😉

After leaving our first winery, we decided to stop at Stag’s Leap Winery. We’ve been there before, and although they are pricey and one of the bigger type of wineries that I mention above, their wine is really good. The wine that we’re making is merlot from the Stag’s Leap district, so we had fun tasting merlot there (and everywhere else we went) and joking around that our homemade wine will be as good if not better!

Stags-Leap

Afterwards, we went to a market/winery we had been to before called V. Sattui to pick up some things for a picnic. It was insanely crowded and we parked literally in the vineyard a mile away. Usually Adam and I avoid crowds like that, but their fresh mozzarella is SO WORTH IT!

After nabbing our grub and waiting on line for about 20 minutes to go to the bathroom, we got the hell out of the chaos and ventured over to a place I had read about in Wine Enthusiast called Rutherford Hills Winery. The magazine noted the winery as having a gorgeous view, so I thought it’d be a great place to eat lunch. We first did a tasting there, then we reserved a picnic table (slightly bizarre to me to pay to sit on a bench for a bit, but that’s Napa for you!). We thought the wines we tasted were just okay, except for their merlot, which I thought was pretty good. We nabbed a bottle of it to go with our lunch, and then feasted on fresh mozzarella, cheddar cheese soaked in cabernet, grapes, fresh bread and crackers:

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Seriously, I could eat that meal – particularly that mozzarella – every day of my life!

It was nice to just sit outside and enjoy some food and wine. We had nothing scheduled for the rest of the day, so we stayed a few hours. Between the wine and sitting down not doing much but relaxing, Adam and I joked that we really wished there were outside canopies around to take naps in.

Post lunch, we drove to St. Clement Vineyards – a place that we had a picnic at with my parents last time we were in Napa. I absolutely love the view and atmosphere at this winery:

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We sat on a swing on the patio, shared a tasting, and listened to a musician softly playing the guitar. The weather was perfect, and I loved every minute of it.

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After St. Clement Vineyards, we had just enough time before the wineries closed to fit in one more tasting somewhere. We found ourselves at nearby Alpha Omega Winery, a place we have never of before. Long story short, I wasn’t a big fan of their wines and thought they were way overpriced. Pretty view like many other wineries around Napa though!

Alpha-Omega

One of the perks Adam and I discussed in moving up to the Bay Area was that we’d be close to great wine areas. Last weekend was exactly what we’d had in mind, and we had an awesome time together!

I’m off to get some work done. Hope that you have a great weekend!

Muir Woods National Monument

The first day of our Memorial Day weekend getaway, my hubby and I planned to spend the afternoon exploring the Muir Woods National Park, then head towards our hotel in Napa.

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In the morning, we dropped Harley off at the kennel – which was slightly traumatic because it’s the first time we’ve taken her to a new kennel since moving. Our last kennel was pretty fancy schmancy and was called a ”pet resort” rather than a kennel. In contrast, this kennel is more like a ranch style kind of place where the dogs are allowed to run around together more freely. We were a little worried that Harley would display her typical only child syndrome and snap at another dog for taking a ball or something… but my excitement for our weekend plans overpowered my worry about my pup, and we quickly dropped her off and were on our way towards San Francisco!

From what I’ve heard and seen online, I knew that Muir Woods is a popular redwood forest destination, but I did not expect it to be quite so crowded. Unbeknownst to me until we got there, it was the first day of the popular season at the park, and the tourists certainly came out. When we got into the vicinity of the park, we saw signs saying that the parking lots were full and that we needed to park in an overflow area and take a shuttle to the park.

Once we got to the park, we hiked around for a couple of hours while snapping photos and enjoying the wonder that is redwood trees.

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I thought that the fallen trees around the park were pretty cool. We read that the park monitors tilting trees, and when they think a tree is going to fall soon, they rope the area off and just let it fall on its own.

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A few facts:

  • Redwoods can grow to 379 feet tall 
  • The trees live up to 2,000 years old
  • The forest land was bought in 1905 by a wealthy couple who wanted to protect one of the last stands of uncut redwoods
  • In 1908 President Roosevelt proclaimed the area a national monument

Though there were a ton of people visiting, the park is so massive that it’s pretty easy to get away from the crowds once you get past the entrance – especially once you get on trails that have some elevation. Lucky for us, a lot of people avoid a workout so we were able to wander off and hike to a quiet spot to just sit and enjoy the scenery. 🙂

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Once we had had our fill of Muir Woods, we waited on a long line for the shuttle back. A note about transportation: Even though we were there on a bustling holiday weekend, if we go back to the park again, I definitely think that we’d just try to drive up there and find parking ourselves. I get motion sickness on buses, and it’s a very twisty drive to get to the park. Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling so hot getting to and from our car. You also spend a good amount of time waiting for the shuttle and driving only about 5 MPH up hills in it.

We munched on protein bars and lots and lots of sweet cherries during our afternoon (my current obsession!), but were starving for some dinner by the time we got to my car. We decided to try a Greek restaurant we passed nearby called Dipsea Cafe. I ordered falafel with tzatziki for an appetizer, and spanakopita (a spinach and feta filo pie) with Greek potatoes and salad:

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I love Greek food! It was a perfect pit stop before our drive to Napa to fill our bellies.

It’s not surprising that Muir Woods is a popular destination for both American and international tourists alike. I think the park is gorgeous and definitely worth seeing. Visiting Muir Woods was a great start to our little mini weekend vacay!

Memorial Day Snapshots

Hellllooo friends!

I hope that you all had a fabulous Memorial Day weekend. My getaway with my hubby to Napa was awesome! I can’t wait to share some details about it, but right now, I’d like to pay tribute to this day.

Land-of-the-Free

This year I didn’t visit anywhere to honor Memorial Day, but I’ve certainly had the significance of this special day in my mind. I talked about it last year after spending the afternoon at Fort Rosecrans in San Diego, but I think it’s so important to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day. It’s easy to go about your daily life and not think too much about men and women who are serving our country and protecting the freedoms that we so often take for granted. Having lived through it as a military wife, I’m often reminded of the daily sacrifices that military families are making at this very moment also because I have so many friends who are serving today. I can’t even fathom what it’s like for all of the military spouses and families out there who have lost loved ones while they’re serving our country.

Today is about honoring those who have paid the ultimate price for our nation. And whether you’re in support of the war currently going on or completely against it, I think it’s important for the people of America to recognize that our military does their best to get a job done and carry out orders, whether they  personally agree with the mission or not. These people put themselves in danger to keep us safe here at home. Today, as the lives of our servicemen and women are remembered, I wanted to share a couple of Memorial Day snapshots that I came across with you:

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”It’s a very important day, not only for the Veteran of Foreign Wars but every veteran organization, every branch of the service, and every patriot in general – every American. This day is hugely significant and should never be forgotten.” -David Olson, 66, of Portland, the VFW’s state senior vice commander (Source: Huffington Post)

Hearty Whole Wheat Waffles with Strawberry Sauce

It’s officially Memorial Day weekend! I hope that all of you reading this who are living in the states have lots of fun plans for your [hopefully long] weekend. I am super excited for the next couple of days. In the morning Adam and I are heading up to Napa for the weekend! It is a much needed mini vacay for us, and will definitely be involving some of our favorite things – wine, hiking, food, and time together!

I have the perfect recipe to share today for those of you looking for a fancy, healthy breakfast recipe to try out over this holiday weekend:

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A couple of days ago, I realized that I hadn’t used my waffle maker in quite awhile. Obviously this realization called for my whipping up of a new waffle recipe ASAP. I mixed ingredients up as I went along, which can either turn out really well or really bad. Luckily, this time it was a success!

I’ve had a truvia/sugar baking blend in my cabinet for awhile, and decided to try it out for this recipe. I like truvia because it’s made from the stevia leaf extract, a natural sweetener. This blend has 15 calories per 1 TBSP serving, verses 45 calories in regular sugar, and it’s sweeter than typical sugar so you don’t have to use as much. According to the bag’s conversion chart, it’s 1:2 of truvia baking blend to sugar.
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I used whole wheat flour, wheat germ, and chia seeds to make these waffles hearty and delicious. For the sauce, I simply combined strawberries, the truvia baking blend, and water on the stove to make a syrupy sweet waffle topping.

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If you really want to get crazy, you can add some dark chocolate chips to the waffles. It makes for quite a decadent lazy weekend morning breakfast. 🙂

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Hearty Whole Wheat Waffles with Strawberry Sauce
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • 2 TBSP chia seeds
  • 2 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 1½ cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • ½ TSP vanilla extract
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • ¼ TSP salt
  • ½ TSP cinnamon
  • ¼ cup truvia sweetener baking blend (or ½ cup regular sugar)
Instructions
  1. Heat your waffle maker to medium high heat. Coat with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, wheat germ, chia seeds, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and 1 TBSP of truvia baking blend.
  3. In another bowl, mix together almond milk, oil and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until smooth.
  4. Pour waffle mix into waffle maker and form 4 waffles. Cook until lightly browned.
  5. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, add the remaining truvia blend and water. Add sliced strawberries to the pan and stir. Allow the mixture to cook until it becomes thick and syrupy.
  6. Evenly pour the strawberry syrup over the cooked waffles, and immediately enjoy!
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 waffle & ½ cup strawberry sauce: Calories: 275, Fat: 11 g, Carbohydrates: 40 g, Fiber: 8 g, Protein: 8 g

Fruity Kale Salad with Pistachios

Up until recently, I was not a fan of kale. I was turned off by its bitterness and coarse texture.

But once I began making green juices and getting used to them, I began to not dislike kale so much. It started to not be quite as scary to me, and I wound up ordering a couple of kale salads out at restaurants…and really enjoying them.

kale-salad

Kale is a nutritional powerhouse. It provides you with tons of antioxidants and vitamins and is high in fiber. And while I wouldn’t say that I’m in love with it, I certainly am finding ways to incorporate it into my diet more often.

Enter this colorful salad:

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One of the things I’m trying to do when I experiment with kale is find ways to make it not quite so bitter, so that I can reap the benefits of the veggie AND actually kind of like eating it too. One way to help reduce its bitterness is to soak it in your salad dressing for awhile.

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I had a ripe nectarine in my fruit basket and thought it would go perfectly with my chopped kale. I also shelled some pistachios to add some crunch and saltiness, and since I’m obsessed with dried cherries lately, I also threw some of those into the mix. My dressing was a simple homemade one: olive oil, fresh lemon juice, red wine vinegar, sea salt and grated parmesan. This salad is packed with healthy goodness, and the combinations of sweet fruit, leafy kale, salty pistachios and parmesan make for a flavorful dish.

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Fruity Kale Salad with Pistachios
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • ¼ cup dried cherries
  • 15 g/2 TBSP of shelled pistachios
  • 1 small nectarine, chopped
  • 1½ TBSP grated parmesan
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • ½ TBSP fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TSP red wine vinegar
  • ⅛ TSP sea salt, plus more for additional sprinkling
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, sea salt and 1 TBSP grated parmesan.
  2. Toss with the chopped kale, then let it sit for around 30 minutes.
  3. Add pistachios, chopped nectarine and cherries to the kale.
  4. Sprinkle remaining ½ TBSP parmesan over top, plus a bit more of sea salt.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 475, Fat: 23 g, Carbohydrates: 61 g, Fiber: 7 g, Protein: 10 g

 

PB Cherry Granola Apple Sandwiches

Hi friends!

Today was just another manic Monday filled with the usual activities. I had a long, sweaty workout at the gym this evening, and now my body is feeling pretty tired. I think it’s going to be one of those nights when laying down on the couch and watching some TV will feel great! But first, I want to share a healthy, easy snack/light meal combo that I make often… in fact, I had it for breakfast just this morning:

Apple-Sandwiches

I’ve seen variations of apple sandwiches around, and while I may have mentioned eating them on here before, I don’t think I’ve ever shared my take on this yumminess. I think this combo is great for people who don’t have time or energy to prep a healthy snack or late-night bite to eat. I also think this is a perfect thing to whip up for kiddos!

Let’s face it: A lot of us are crazy busy people who want their meals and snacks to be convenient and quick to throw together. Sure, in our society there are fast-food joints that can whip up a pile full of food filled with saturated fat and lacking nutritional value at every turn, but making healthy choices can be pretty convenient too. This 5-ingredient combo takes about 2 minutes to prep, and is one of my go-to staples in the kitchen.

First I cut a medium apple into circular slices. I usually cut 6 ”sandwich” slices and then just chop up the remaining ends…

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Next I spread a serving of peanut butter on half of the sandwich slices. I’ve been using PB 2 powdered peanut butter, and I also sprinkle cinnamon raisin granola and dried cherries onto the slices.
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Lastly I put the apple slices on top to make little sandwiches, sprinkle everything generously with cinnamon and devour…

Apple PB Sandwiches

PB Cherry Granola Apple Sandwiches
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
 
Ingredients
  • 1 medium apple
  • 2 TBSP dried cherries
  • 1 serving of PB2 powdered peanut butter, or any kind of nut butter
  • ¼ cup granola (I use cinnamon raisin granola)
  • Cinnamon, for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Cut the apple into circular slices.
  2. Spread peanut butter evenly onto half of the slices. Sprinkle the granola and evenly place the dried cherries on top.
  3. Place the apple slices on top to form little sandwiches, then sprinkle generously with cinnamon. Enjoy!
Nutrition Information
Calories: 265, Fat: 3 g, Carbohydrates: 59 g, Fiber: 9 g, Protein: 8 g

 

Question: What’s your favorite easy healthy snack or meal to throw together?  

My New Workout Playlist

IIt’s Sunday night and another weekend has flown by. Here are some snapshots of my last couple of days:

Hiking around a nearby lake 

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Racking my homemade wine again 

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 My first pro soccer game: the San Jose Earthquakes

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My hubby introduced me to an awesome sandwich shop called Ike’s. I tried the Sometimes I’m a Vegetarian sandwich  – grilled mushrooms, marinated artichoke hearts, pesto & provolone – on whole wheat bread and it was seriously delicious.

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Found a new beach spot with forests that back up to the sand 

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A pineapple, orange, kale, spirulina & carrot green monster breakfast

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Plant shopping 

Fire-Flowers

I bought the plant pictured above solely because it completely reminds me of Katniss Everdeen & The Hunger Games. The plant looks on fire just as she’s known as the girl on fire, do you see the resemblance?! I know I’m such a dork!

This weekend I also downloaded some new music to add to the top of my gym playlist. I haven’t changed up my gym music in awhile and felt like I was in need of some new tunes. I definitely rely on music to keep my energy up and keep me motivated during workouts, and I’ll be jamming to this playlist during my sweat sessions this week:
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Good night!

If You Can’t Change it, Change How you Think About It.

I’m a big believer in the power of attitude and positive thinking. While I’ve talked about how readjusting your outlook can make your life seem so much better when it comes to trivial things, I don’t think I’ve really discussed how I handle it when more important things in my life are bothering me.

I think that in being an optimist, sometimes I have a hard time admitting when something is really Optimist-quoteupsetting me. I always want to stay positive, but then I remember something I heard awhile back that has stuck with me: Positivity is NOT the denying or lack of negative thoughts. It’s the recognition of sometimes having them and being honest with yourself about it, but then being able to discard those thoughts before they fill up so much space in your life that you have no room left to see all of the good.

So when I find myself struggling to push away certain thoughts that are causing me stress, what do I do? In a nutshell, I first acknowledge it. I let myself feel it. I tell myself that it’s okay to have an ”off” day. Earlier in the week I had that kind of day. I gave myself a break, allowing myself to stew a bit in what was bothering me. I skipped the gym (I had worked out too many days in a row anyways!). I drank wine. My hubby and I spent awhile playing with Harley and laughing at her antics instead of doing something productive. I ate guacamole with chips & cheese and crackers for dinner, and I didn’t count the calories.  

I think that every once in awhile, giving yourself permission to be frustrated makes you feel better already. But I also put some work into being honest about just what was bothering me and how to change my outlook moving forward. I write down the things I’m upset about. Identifying what’s going on in my head and putting it down on paper helps me to process my thoughts.  

Next, I look at the worst case scenario. What is my worst fear pertaining to this? It sounds weird, but just recognizing what the worst outcome could be makes it seem not as scary.

Now comes the attitude adjustment.

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I ask myself how I can prevent whatever is bothering me from doing so in the future. How can I look at this differently moving forward?

I jot down how I think it’s best to proceed. How can I prevent the worst case scenario from happening? What will I do if it happens anyways? Coming up with a sort of game plan in my head helps to further process the situation.

And then… I move on. I set myself up for a better tomorrow. That night I went to sleep repeating the mantra to myself, Tomorrow is a new day. It will be a great day. It may sound silly, but I think it really works for me.

I also make sure to do things that always bring positivity into my day. I fit a yoga session in first thing this morning, which left me feeling refreshed and ready to conquer my day. And you know what? It turned out to be a pretty good day.

So, the next time you are beating yourself up over being upset or having a bad day, decide if it’s worthy of being distressed about. If it isn’t, try following these steps to refocus your attitude, which work for me. If it is important enough to be down about, try doing the steps I’ve talked about. It just might make you feel a hell of a lot better!

Quote of the Day: “The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.”

 

Pan Fried Sesame Chinese Noodles with Veggies

Happy hump day!

My morning flew by, and now I’m taking a break from work to eat some lunch (breakfast for lunch today: protein pancakes with strawberries & honey) and share this dish with you:

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Sometimes I like a bit of burntness or crunch to my food – not just the usual crunchy pretzels or chips, but I intentionally do things like burn my sweet potato fries a bit. So when I nabbed soft Chinese noodles at the grocery store recently, I had the idea to pan fry them instead of just cooking them as directed.

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After cooking the noodles, I used just enough sesame oil to fry them until lightly browned, and then combined the pasta with sauteed portobello mushroom, red bell pepper, broccoli, yellow onion, garlic and sesame seeds. It added just the right amount of crunch to these normally very soft, almost mushy noodles.

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Pan Fried Sesame Chinese Noodles with Veggies
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3
 
Ingredients
  • 1-9 oz package Chinese noodles
  • 2 cups broccoli
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1½ portobello mushroom caps
  • ¼ yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1½ TBSP sesame oil
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
  • 1 TBSP roasted sesame seeds
  • ½ TSP sea salt
  • ¼ TSP black pepper
Instructions
  1. Mince garlic and onion and chop broccoli, pepper and mushroom into bite sized pieces.
  2. In a large pan, warm vegetable broth over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook until lightly browned.
  3. Add the rest of the veggies, and cook about 7-10 minutes, or until tender.
  4. Meanwhile, cook noodles al dente according to package directions, then drain.
  5. In another large saute pan, heat the sesame oil over medium-low heat.
  6. Add the noodles and cook until they're lightly browned, constantly tossing.
  7. Once veggies are cooked add them to the pasta. Add sea salt and pepper and sprinkle sesame seeds on top, then toss to combine. Serve while hot.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 387, Fat: 10 g, Saturated fat: 1 g, Carbohydrates: 60 g, Fiber: 6 g, Protein: 14 g

Hiking the Merry-Go-Round Trail at Mount Madonna County Park

Hope that everyone had a great weekend and Mother’s Day!

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My hubby gave me flowers for being a wonderful canine mother. 😉

I was thinking a lot about my mom yesterday and how much I appreciate her. Even though we live on opposite coasts, we talk at least once a day and are really close. She was on vacation with my dad in Aruba the past several days, so I kept thinking it was strange not getting to call her and wish her a happy Mother’s Day. I love my mama!

with my parents

with my parents

Yesterday Adam, Harley and I went hiking at a new spot nearby, called Mount Madonna County Park.

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Adam and I were just recently talking about how neither of us have really seen Redwood trees before – because we’re planning a trip up to Redwood forests very soon! – and we were pleasantly surprised when we got to the park map and saw that Redwoods were along the trail we were about to hike. My guess is that these Redwoods are nowhere near as big as some of the ones we’ll see on our getaway soon, but they were really cool!

There’s something about seeing Redwood trees that puts life into perspective for me. I ran into this quote and thought it described the trees perfectly:

”The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.” – John Steinbeck

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We hiked the Merry-Go-Round Loop. Based on what I’ve seen online, this trail is part of the whole hike around Sprig Lake (which, by the way, is not a lake at all now… though it must have been at some point) is around 9.5 miles. I believe the hike is a bit under 5 miles, though it’s times like these that I wish I still had my FitBit. As I’ve talked about on my blog before, I think the FitBit is a great healthy living tool. Unfortunately I lost it while on a motorcycle ride about a month ago. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reached for it on my waist to check how many steps I’ve taken for the day, or to see how long a hike like this is!

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Someone enjoyed climbing on fallen Redwoods like a monkey…

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It took us a bit under 2 hours to loop around the trail, and it was decently challenging for a Sunday afternoon stroll. There was hardly anyone on the trail, and we let Harley off the leash to sniff around while we walked…

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…which resulted in a very happy, tired puppy afterwards:

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I really enjoyed this hike and definitely plan to go back there soon!