Planting a Vegetable Garden

(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

We finally did it – we planted our vegetable garden! A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I had been wanting a vegetable garden for years. After removing a ton of stones and small boulders from our “rock garden” and turning over the land, we were finally ready to plant. However, one thing led to another, including my trip out of town, and we weren’t able to plant the garden until today.

Our first step was clearing the garden once more – this time of those spinner things that fall from the trees. They are such a nuisance because if they actually take to the soil they can sprout little trees anywhere and everywhere. Well, I couldn’t let that happen to my garden, so rake in hand, I removed as many as I could.

After that, we headed to Home Depot to pick out our plants. Unfortunately, there must have been a mad rush for vegetable seedlings on this 85-degree day, because many of the vegetables we wanted were not even there. Blah! So, it was off to another garden center for us. I had better luck at the garden center, but still had to buy seeds for some of the vegetables we wanted. I was told it might be “too late” to start from seeds, but what the heck. If it doesn’t work, I’m only wasting about $5 on 3 packets.

After over an hour of shopping, here is what we finally arrived home with:


  1. Cilantro – one plant
  2. Thai basil – one plant
  3. Roma tomatoes – two plants, plus two more for a Topsy Turvy hanging plant holder
  4. Red, green, yellow peppers – 4 plants total
  5. Cucumbers – 2 plants
  6. Jalapeno – about 8 plants total
  7. Watermelon – 1 plant (hey, it’s worth a shot!)
  8. Snap peas – 2 plants (heard they were easy to grow)
  9. Strawberries – 6 plants for a Topsy Turvy holder

Seed Packets

  1. Carrots
  2. Broccoli
  3. Spinach

Quite honestly, aside from finding all of the plants we wanted, the hardest part of planting our garden was deciding where to put everything. Each vegetable has special needs – snap peas grow up and they like to be close together; carrots can’t be planted too deep or shallow; watermelon vines spread out so they need lots of space, etc. We did our best to make sure every vegetable was given the attention it needed. We even got the kids involved – helping us drop the seedlings into the holds, pouring in the dirt, etc. They called it “making salad”, which was just too funny! Little do they know that in a few months, that’s exactly what they will have – all the makings for a salad!

Now, only time, and consistent watering/weeding, will tell how well we’ve done at our first attempt at gardening. I admit, we have probably gotten in over our heads. I’m not worried about recouping the $100 we spent on the garden, I just want to actually have vegetables grow and not have our efforts be completely fruitless (no pun intended). Stay tuned!!

Growing Your Own Vegetable Garden

Late last night, I started watching the last episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on Hulu. I enjoyed the episode as always, but something toward the end of the show really hit home. The episode showed school children and families working in their gardens, harvesting their own vegetables. Scott and I have talked about planting our own vegetable garden for years, but have never really made an attempt. Then, last night, around 11 PM, I declared that we would start our own garden.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

There are many reasons why I want to have our own vegetable garden:

  1. Convenient, fresh produce – A vegetable garden, if it is appropriately tended, can yield an abundance of fresh produce, right outside your back door. So, if you’re lucky enough, you won’t have to make those last-minute trips to the market to pick up peppers or tomatoes, you can just meander into your backyard.
  2. Cost Savings – We all know that most fruits and veggies are very expensive these days. By planting some of the more expensive veggies – like bell peppers, tomatoes, and lettuce, you may end up saving quite a bit of money by the end of the summer.
  3. Life Lessons – Although my two children eat many vegetables, I would love for them to eat more. By getting them involved in the planting and care of the garden (and picking the veggies!), I’m hoping that they will be more excited about eating them.

So, after my garden declaration, Scott and I discussed where we’d like to plant a garden, what we’d like to plant, and when.

  • Where – The most obvious place to plant the garden is in our current raised garden which, before today, was home to a few flowers, weeds, and a ton of rocks that we had from a small pond we drained a few years back. The raised platform can help with water drainage and keep a few pests away.
  • What – Everything we’ve read about starting your first vegetable garden says to not take on too much your first year. We decided to pick a few of our favorites, particularly those veggies which are expensive at the store. These include tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, romaine or spinach, jalapeno, possibly melon, and a few herbs like cilantro and basil. We also intend to grow strawberries using one of these hanging planters. I really hope it works because we love strawberries and they are so expensive at the store.
  • When – Well, there’s no time like the present! We decided that we would start today! Our first step was to get the garden ready to plant, which meant, taking most of the rocks away, digging up weeds and other plants, and turning over the soil. Little did we know that this first step would take nearly 6 hours – and we still have more to do!

Next week, we’ll tackle the potting soil and maybe even plant our first vegetables! Stay tuned…

When Organic Is Better

We all know that organic foods provide no additional health or nutrition benefits  compared with nonorganic foods. But eating organic can often help reduce the amount of pesticides and other chemicals we consume directly through our food intake. I am quite aware that many fresh fruits and veggies contain harsh chemicals. However, like many Americans, I can’t always afford to buy organic produce, which in most cases, is more expensive than nonorganic.

The Dirty Dozen

According to the latest report by the Environmental Working Group, there are actually nonorganic fruits and veggies which may contain very low amounts of pesticides. In the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, the EWG lists 12 fruits/veggies to always buy organic because of their tendency to contain the highest amounts of pesticides. Likewise, they list 15 types of produce (the Clean 15) which contain low amounts of pesticides, and, therefore, would be safe to buy in the nonorganic form. Let’s take a look…

As reported by the EWG in its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides:

The Dirty DozenWorst Fruits/Veggies (those that contain the most pesticides and would be better to buy organic)

  1. Peach
  2. Apple
  3. Bell Pepper
  4. Celery
  5. Nectarine
  6. Strawberries
  7. Cherries
  8. Kale
  9. Lettuce
  10. Grapes (imported)
  11. Carrot
  12. Sweet Potato

The Clean 15 – Best Fruits/Veggies (those that contain the lowest amounts of pesticides and would be safe to buy in the nonorganic form)

  1. Onion
  2. Avocado
  3. Sweet corn
  4. Pineapple
  5. Mango
  6. Asparagus
  7. Sweet Peas
  8. Kiwi
  9. Cabbage
  10. Eggplant
  11. Papaya
  12. Watermelon
  13. Broccoli

You can actually download the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides for free. It’s a great cheat sheet to take with you to the grocery store to remind you which fruits and veggies to buy.

Happy Organic Shopping Everyone!

The Thanksgiving Spirit

Hi There!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…the Winner of the Running With Cake Explorer’s Bounty Giveaway is: #5 Christy from SweetiePotato.

Christy wrote:

my favorite type of organic chocolate is newman’s own… i’ve had the espresso dark chocolate and it was amazing! anything with a little bit of coffee flavor (especially chocolate) is fantastic, in my opinion ;)

Thank you to Christy and all of those who entered my first giveaway. And a special thank you to all of those who gave me great ideas for organic chocolate! I’m hoping to do a few more giveaways before the holidays so check back!

Speaking of the holidays, there are so many things that I love about this time of year. So, instead of giving you a recap of my day (sometimes, I just don’t feel like writing about running/eating), I wanted to share with you a few things that help me get into the Thanksgiving spirit:

11.17 Thanksgiving decorating

1. Decorating for Thanksgiving! If you can believe it, this turkey actually has a twin; because, you can never have enough turkey.

2. Watching Thanksgiving specials, like the Thanksgiving Day Parade and Charlie Brown! Yo, Chuck..

Charline Brown 2

3. Perusing the Holiday catalogs that come in the mail…

11.17 Holiday Sale magazines

Does Crate and Barrel have the best Christmas stuff or what? I feel like circling all of the things I want, just like I used to do in the toy catalogs as kid. Or maybe I could just draw one giant circle around the whole magazine! You think my husband would get the hint? 😉

4. Sipping a hot skinny mocha, peppermint mochavanilla latte, ok ANYTHING from a Starbucks Holiday cup…

11.17 Starbucks Skinny Mocha

I enjoyed this skinny cup of chocolate Joe today as my “Happy Tuesday” surprise.


5. Reading all of the Holiday issues of my favorite magazines…

11.17 Real Simple Magazine

With a huge chocolate brownie of course!

But, the two things I love most about Thanksgiving are being with my family in Michigan and going for a long run on Thanksgiving morning (it’s my preemptive Turkey Day strategy!)

So, the question of the day is…How do you get into the Thanksgiving spirit?

Last Chance For The Explorer's Bounty Giveaway!

Don’t forget to enter Running With Cake’s first giveaway for a load of Explorer’s Bounty organic goodies! Enter by 9 PM Eastern tonight and I will announce the winner shortly thereafter.

Good luck!11.17 Explorer's Bounty Organic Products

Explorer's Bounty Tea and First Giveaway

This afternoon, I was in deep thought looking out our back window when I noticed this scene…

11.13 spider web trees

A spiderweb of trees in our backyard! It was amazing and kind of creepy all at the same time.

Earlier in the day, I went for a cold run for which I had to bundle up in layer after layer. After the run, I thought I’d give Greek yogurt another try after my spoil-sport yogurt yesterday…

11.13 Greek Yogurt with peanut butter 2

I mixed Trader Joe’s vanilla Greek yogurt with a handful of walnuts and a dollop of all-natural peanut butter..11.13 Greek Yogurt with peanut butter 1

When you mix it all together it’s like peanut butter fluff with a whole lot of crunch! I also enjoyed some super yummy tea..

11.13 Explorers Bounty Tea

About a month ago, the nice folks at Explorer’s Bounty sent me a big package with a bunch of all-natural organic goodies, like chocolate covered nuts and puffed fruit. I did end up tasting several of the products and was not a huge fan of the food. Don’t get me wrong, the products were not horrible, I’m just not a puffed fruit eater and am not a lover of organic chocolate. But, if you are, you’re in luck.

Running With Cake is hosting its FIRST EVER GIVEAWAY!! I have several unopened packages of Explorer’s Bounty products, including puffed fruit, crackers, and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. To enter my giveaway, please do the following:

  • Visit the Explorer’s Bounty site to check out their story and products, AND
  • If you have a blog, mention the Running With Cake giveaway on your blog, AND
  • Leave a comment on this RWC post letting me know your favorite organic chocolate brand (any brand) and what you like about it (I’m hoping to find one that I actually like!)

Please have all entries to me by 9 PM Eastern on Tuesday, November 17. Then I will pick a winner randomly and announce the winner to all. OK, ready, set GO!

Although I didn’t care for Explorer’s Bounty organic food, I LOVE their tea!!

11.13 Explorers Bounty Tea 2

They sent several types of herbal tea for me to try and today I gave the Green Tea a whirl. Let me tell ya, I am not a big green tea drinker (although Scott loves green tea) but this tea was great! I liked it so much I almost made another cup. I even gave Scott a taste and he said – “yeah, it’s good” – that says a lot for him since he’s super particular about his teas. What I really liked about it was the light flavor – even after steeping it for over 5 minutes. I think that’s why I haven’t liked most green teas in the past because they are too strong tasting to me. I am definitely looking forward to trying the of my tea samples – yum yum!

11.13 Explorers Bounty Tea 3

After breakfast, instead of doing the early Christmas shopping that I intended to do this morning, I ended up not leaving the house until 11:30 AM to run to Costco and the grocery store.

Scott was working at home today, so when I arrived home from shopping we made some sandwiches for lunch…

11.13 Sandwich with tricolor peppers

I love little bell peppers! They are a) convenient because you don’t have to cut them up to take them to work, b) they are sweet, and c) they are so darn colorful and cute!.

11.13 Tricolor peppers

All three reasons were enough for me to buy a jumbo size bag at Costco. I just hope I can eat them all before they go bad! By the way, Costco was rockin’ the samples today – from sausage, to cake, to mozzarella cheese, I could have made a meal out of everything they were having. I wasn’t really in the mood for snacks luckily because I probably saved at few hundred calories.

It was my turn to make dinner tonight. Scott often says that whenever it is my turn to make dinner I always decide that we should go out to eat. Well, I really attempted to make dinner tonight. I even went to defrost chicken and realized that we were on our last 2 chicken breasts. I was really weighing the option of defrosting chicken and not having any for the rest of the week or going out to eat. You all know where this is headed…

11.13 TGIF spinach dip

Yes, we ended up at Friday’s, where we had the obligatory spinach and artichoke dip. I used to love Friday’s but now have a more luke warm feeling towards the restaurant. As for my entree…

11.13 TGIF Mediterranean Salad

I’m just not having luck with foods these days, especially Mediterranean/Greek salads from restaurants. Tonight, although my salad looked good, after a few bites I realized that it was completely loaded with dressing, so much that it was soggy. Yuck! I really dislike eating my salad when all I can taste is dressing – no matter how good the dressing is. I ended up eating about 1/4 the salad then pushing it aside. I left Friday’s a little perturbed and hungry. I’m having serious thoughts of eating a big bowl of Kashi right now.

Remember to enter the Explorer’s Bounty giveaway by 9 PM Eastern Tuesday!

Have a great night everyone!

Cursing the Chex-Mix

Hello All! Thank you all so much for all your sweet and concerned comments about my lost camera. I am liking the new one – the Canon SD 980 IS, however, I may have my sights set on an even better one!! Hopefully, I’ll have more details about that in the coming weeks. But, let’s just say that one camera is NOT enough for this household!

After my split run (2 miles on the t’mill and 2 miles outside) I came home and enjoyed a bowlful of fluffy goodness…

10.12 breakfast1

Today I tried Chobani’s fat free vanilla Greek yogurt topped with walnuts for extra crunch and MUFA. This yogurt was pretty tasty, but I still prefer Trader Joe’s Greek yogurt to most.

I arrived at work about 9:15 AM, Starbuck’s skinny vanilla latte in hand, and promptly got down to business. For nearly 4 hours straight I barely left my cube. I was so entrenched in work that I didn’t even feel like eating lunch – just wasn’t hungry. Instead, I munched on some homemade chex-mix, full of chex cereal, mixed nuts, and pretzels (what, not chocolate?), that was found in our staff lounge. I have a very strong feeling I should have eaten lunch, because around 4 PM I was cursing that chex-mix big time – ugh! Please note that I do NOT normally skip lunch completely. It’s only on these very rare occasions when I’m just not hungry that I do actually forgo a lunchtime meal. I do not recommended it at all, because most of the time, I will end up eating junk or over eating later in the day.

Anyway, now it’s on to dinner with Scott, which is always event. Tonight, I came home to a very clean house (thank you!) and a huge pot of potato soup!

10.12 dinner1

Hmmm….sooo good on a cold day! I will have to admit, I do like my version of the potato soup a tad better. I think it may have to do with the carrots and leeks that I add – they give my soup a ton of flavor. But this version is still quite tasty.

10.12 dinner2

While we were waiting for the soup to finish cooking, I decided to finally break into the Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread…

10.12 pumpkin bread1

I simply followed the recipe on the box, only I added about a cup of chopped walnuts right on top…

10.12 pumpkin bread2

The smell of this batter was just heavenly! It’s amazing what certain food scents can conjure up in your mind. I felt like it should be Thanksgiving or at least November.

About an hour later, the sweet bread was finally puffed and fluffed and ready for me to take out of the oven…

10.12 pumpkin bread3

Next came the taste test….

10.12 pumpkin bread4

This bread was really good, although I felt like there was something missing. I can’t put my finger on it just yet, but I can assure you that if it just had a little something more, it would have been fantastic. Scott, on the other hand, liked it “enough to have a second piece”. I think I’ll try homemade next time….

I am completely spent for the night. Have a great evening and see you all tomorrow!

Taking Food Pictures In Odd Company

Hola Chicas! Sorry I’ve been out of pocket all day. I’ve been bogged down at work and couldn’t break away to post. 

Because it’s staying dark later in the morning, I am faced with the problem of needing to run at the same time – around 6:15 AM – but having it be pretty dark when I run. Obviously, this happens every year in the Fall/Winter. So, to accommodate this seasonal change, I run on the treadmill for 10-15 minutes. Then, when it’s just light enough for me to see, I jump off, put on my windbreaker and go outside for the rest of my run. This also helps me ease into treadmill season – late November until the end of February – which I dread every year.

So after my 4-mile indoor/outdoor run this morning, I quickly got ready and grabbed a small bowl of cereal for refueling…

9.29 breakfast

The bowl was a mix of Multigrain Cheerios (3/4 cup) and 1/4 cup of Cascadian Farm dark chocolate almond granola. It was filling, but I wish we would have had a little fruit for me to add. I also had day 29 of my Daily Wellness Shot from Zola. I can’t believe that tomorrow is the last day of the challenge – that went by fast!

9.29 Zola

Immediately when I arrived at work, I became so engrossed in my projects that I didn’t eat anything until lunch. I ended up going to lunch with a coworker and my boss. We all walked up to a nearby Italian cafe because it was beautiful outside. I did NOT take pictures of what I ate – how weird would that look if I took pictures of my food with my boss sitting right there! I wonder what excuse I could give in this situation – here are a few good ones..

Top 5 excuses that I can give to my boss for constantly taking pictures of what I eat…

  1. I am taking a photography class that requires me to take artsy photos of my food
  2. I’m coming down with amnesia and want to remember what I ate
  3. If I end up getting food poisoning, I need documentation
  4. My parents like to see what I eat every day
  5. I’ve entered a local “biggest loser” contest and must show proof of what I ate

Question – Have any of you ever run into this situation where you hesitate to take photos of what you eat because of who you are with? What do you do in these situations?

I did have a lovely bowl of tomato basil soup with a dollop of basil pesto on top. It was really rich and creamy – just delicious! 

The rest of the afternoon was spent in meetings and doing more writing. I think I’m getting carpel tunnel from all of the typing. 

Scott is at class, so I made a very easy, no cook dinner..

9.29 dinner1

…a 1/2 salami, ham, and Swiss cheese sandwich topped with Mezzetta hot and sweet peppers, all on double-fiber Brownberry bread. I was surprisingly full after I ate this – partially due to the huge amount of ice cold water I chugged while eating.

Now, I’m enjoying some of my new Yogi tea!!

9.29 yogi1

This tea is awesome!! It has such a yummy and slightly citrusy taste. Since this is my first time drinking it, I’m not sure if it actually “promotes restful sleep”, but I sure hope it does!

9.29 yogi2

I love that this tea has all sorts of organic ingredients, like chamomile, spearmint, and English Lavender (ooh, how European!).

9.29 yogi3

I am enjoying my tea with a bit of homemade blueberry cake – courtesy of my baker-in-law father-in-law.

9.29 dessert1

He really does make some great baked goods, especially around the holidays. And, this blueberry cake was fantastic. Pretty dense and very moist, with just the right amount of blueberries.

9.29 dessert2

I have to finish up a few things for work before I head to bed. So, have a great night everyone!

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Hey Ladies!

It was a very windy morning today – gusts up to 40-50 mph, so I decided to run on the treadmill. I ran a very fast 4 miles – 32 minutes flat!! Yippee! I just wish I could keep up that speed for 10 miles – he he!

Breakfast was a quick bowl of Kashi Go Lean cereal mixed with Cascadian Farm dark chocolate almond granola…

9.28 breakfast

Then, on the way to work, I stopped at a drive thru Starbucks to pick up a warm, but skinny vanilla latte..hmm..

OK, now onto the good stuff!!

Happy Anniversary – I love you Scott!

Eight years ago today Scott and I were married on the North side of Chicago in an old Catholic church. It was a small wedding/reception, attended by less than 90 people, but it was beautiful!


Two days after the wedding, we jetted off to Maui for our 10-day honeymoon in Wailea at the Four Seasons – the best hotel/resort I have ever stayed at!


In 8 years, we’ve traveled all around the US, have cruised to the Caribbean, and have spent time in Europe. So, where are we headed next?


We’re going to Disney World! That’s right, in the Spring, we’re going back to the place where it all started. We met in Disney World in college so the Mouse is quite magical and nostalgic for us. I get sappy just thinking about it!


So, here’s to 8 years of adventures and many more adventures to come!

Fancy a Chocolate or 50?

Ok, enough already. I, once again, walked into the staff lounge to find more food….

9.23 chocolate2

Somehow, gourmet chocolates seem to lose their appeal when they are laying in front of me in mass quantities. But, I had to test one out, just for research purposes of course…

9.23 chocolate3

Hmm, dark chocolate covered orange cream…I’m still on the fence about this one. I may have to try the raspberry cream later 😉

9.23 chocolate1

For breakfast, I grabbed a quick shot of Zola’s Daily Wellness drink then had a little cereal bowl…

9.23 breakfast

I had a mixture of Cheerios whole-grain and Cascadian Farm organic dark chocolate almond granola. It was very tasty. However, I became distracted by my pile of laundry, so by the time I ate the cereal, it was a little soggy.

For lunch, I went to Go Roma Italian cafe for some super tomato basil soup!

9.23 lunch

It was just what I needed on this chilly FALL day! Now that I am refueled for the afternoon, I have to do a s-load of writing. Ugh – deadlines are approaching and I’m feeling a little queasy just thinking about them.

Tonight, I’m headed to my first-ever Williams Sonoma cooking class. It’s on weeknight French suppers -doesn’t that sound yummy! I’ll write a tell-all post tonight, so stay tuned!