Favorite Finds of the Month: April

Beauty, Food

This is the third in a series of posts highlighting my favorite product finds each month. 

Can you believe we’re already more than a third of the way through 2019? Christmas feels like it was forever ago at this point but I still can’t believe how fast this year is flying! I’m not complaining, though, as I have some great things to look forward to this summer (including my golden birthday). Summer is my fav season by far so I can’t wait!

But before we look ahead to the next few months, let’s rewind to April and check out some of the best products I discovered last month!

1) Coco Bakes Gluten Free Sourdough

Bread has been one of my biggest fear foods since my eating disorder but it’s also been one of the foods I enjoy the most. Go figure! I pretty much eat almost entirely gluten free when I’m at home, not because I’m celiac or have been diagnosed with an intolerance, but I just feel better when I avoid wheat (however, I’m down to enjoy gluten when I go out to eat, since I typically only eat out once a week, and sometimes I still seek out GF options if that appeals to me at the time) so it’s hard to find GF bread that’s also vegan and tastes good. I have found a couple brands (Little Northern Bakehouse and O’Dough’s bagels) that are available at Sprouts that are pretty decent, but I was craving real bread, ya know, not just sandwich slices or bagel thins.

Lots of bloggers/Instagrammers I follow raved about Coco Bakes, a small-batch bakery in LA that specializes in GF vegan sourdough. I had had a similar sourdough before (from Bread SRSLY, based in the Bay Area) and wanted to give another, slightly cheaper version a try so I bit the bullet and ordered a loaf.

Since it was coming from LA, it arrived in my mailbox just a few days after it was baked, which means it was nice and fresh when it was delivered. And I gotta say, this bread lives up to the hype! It is perfect for toast (it crisps up nicely in the toaster even after I sliced it and put it in the freezer) and it has a great, chewy texture and that slight sour flavor that I missed from legit bread.

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Honey wants in on the sourdough toast action!

Each loaf costs $20 (plus $7.99 for shipping), which seems expensive for bread, but for bread this good (that’s made in small batches, no less) it’s worth it. I’ve already ordered it twice and I plan to make it at least a monthly purchase.

Also, you should definitely follow Cocobakes on Instagram for serious toast inspo plus the founder of Coco Bakes (Coco Kislinger) is really hilarious and down to earth in her IG Stories!

2) Trader Joe’s Sweet Basil Foaming Hand Soap

I am typically a ride-or-die Bath & Body Works girl when it comes to hand soaps (though I make an exception around the holidays when I stock up on the Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day peppermint soap). I haven’t shopped at B&BW for a few months as I’m saving my last Christmas gift card for their summer scents, so when I ran out of hand soap in my bathroom, I decided on a whim to try one of TJ’s soaps.

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Even the bottle is supah cute!

I’ve loved nearly everything I’ve ever bought from TJ’s, including this soap. It smells just like a fresh bunch of basil, and it foams up just as well as the soaps from Bath & Body Works (I prefer foaming hand soaps). Also, it’s cheaper at just $2.99 per bottle, and much more convenient to buy, since I’m at TJ’s almost every week.

3) Kaleidoscope Juice #LoveUp Sport

Hydrate but make it compassionate. That’s basically the gist of Kaleidoscope Juice’s #LoveUp Sport drink. I’ve already professed my love for Kaleidoscope here but within the last month they introduced a totally new kind of sports beverage. Move over, Gatorade, cuz #LoveUp Sport is way better for you (and for the community…more on that in a sec).

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Even dogs love it (JK, Honey doesn’t get to drink this)!

Whereas Gatorade and most sports drinks are made with sugar, sugar and more sugar (and fake colors/flavors), #LoveUp Sport is made with blue majik spirulina powder (giving it its pretty ocean-blue color), monkfruit (a natural zero calorie sweetener), lime juice, Himalayan pink salt and trace minerals to help you replenish your electrolytes after a tough workout.

The flavor of #LoveUp Sport is subtle, but that’s why I love it. But I also love that it supports the #LoveUp Foundation, which supports kids in the foster care system. Now that’s a sports drink I can get behind!

4) Herbaland Calcium & Vegan D3 Gummy Vitamins

Canada is really leading the way when it comes to vegan gummies (since most gummies are made with gelatin and aren’t even vegetarian). First it was SmartSweets which makes some awesome sugar free gummy candies (2 varieties are vegan), now it’s Herbaland coming in clutch with the vitamins.

Most of us probably don’t get all the nutrients we need from our diet, especially vegans. While many people are hung up on the protein thing, there are key vitamins that vegans can struggle to get from food, namely calcium/vitamin D3 and B12. I strive to eat a balanced diet full of fruits and veggies, but I make sure to supplement so I can stay healthy, and that’s where Herbaland gummy vitamins come in.

I am not a fan of the huge pills you have to swallow or even powdery chewable vitamins (yes, I’m basically a 5-year-old) so gummies it is, but it can be hard to find vegan gummy vitamins that aren’t super expensive. Luckily, I came across Herbaland when searching for vitamins on Amazon, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that none of their vitamin bottles cost more than $20, which is about half the cost of most vegan gummies! I ordered the calcium & D3 variety (because I already take B vitamins in the hair gummies I have).

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Taking vitamins is easy when they’re this yummy!

I love that these are gluten free and sugar free, because many vegan vitamins have glucose syrup, which I’m not a fan of. Plus, they taste pretty good and you can’t beat the price ($16) for a month’s supply.

I plan to try more of their vitamins, including the vegan collagen booster and cold brew energy gummies.

5) Trader Joe’s Jalapeño Sauce

Y’all know I like things spicy. So I’m always down to try a new hot sauce, especially if it’s from TJ’s.

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This sauce pairs perfectly with tofu potato tacos (recipe on my Insta!).

This green sauce is different from most hot sauces in that it’s creamy, but it is in fact totally vegan! It reminds me a lot of dairy-free crema I’ve had at many Mexican places, so it works really well drizzled on top of tacos, but I’ve also used it to dress up a vegan poke bowl. It’s just good on anything.

What new products did you try last month? 

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If You Run, You’re a Runner (My Running Journey)

Life

“Run wild / I’m on a mission and I won’t stop / No destination but it’s worth a shot / You gotta let me go / You gotta let me go / You gotta let me go” (Thutmose & NoMBe, “Run Wild”)

Running. It’s one of those things that seems to be so polarizing — people either love it or hate it. For years, I fell into the latter camp. Well, not really. I was more ambivalent about it. I grew up taking dance classes from the age of 3 or 4 up until high school, which helped me stay active but it was more for fun. I did love playing outside and going for bike rides but I was never one of those kids who played sports. Except for the two seasons I tried YMCA soccer and realized I have no coordination. And I also took up tennis in my teens, but again, more for fun (I never played for a school team).

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I definitely loved dancing because of the costumes! Throwing it back to ’99 and the era of bangs and pink sequins. 

It wasn’t really until I got to college that I viewed physical activity as something I “had” to do, instead of just to enjoy myself. Mostly this was tied to my eating disorder, so I felt compelled to exercise. Surprisingly, I never went to the gym during undergrad — I mostly did at-home workouts to quell that voice in my head (and would still play tennis for fun when I went home on weekends or breaks).

I started my first job a few months post-graduation, and moved away to Tulsa. This gave me access to a gym right in my apartment complex, and I was determined to use it. And I definitely did, but I happened to discover something I enjoyed even more — running.

During my college days, I followed a lot of healthy living bloggers, many of whom were runners. I always thought wistfully about running, but then told myself it wasn’t in the cards for me. The few times I attempted going for a run, I felt out of breath and slow. It made me really question my fitness level. So I put it on the back burner, until one beautiful spring day in May 2014.

There was a great paved trail just across the street from my apartment complex, that ran along the Arkansas River and next to Turkey Mountain. I had never lived so close to water before, so it was magical to me (even though the river was often fairly low, let’s be honest). When I moved to Tulsa, I alternated going to the gym with walking along this trail for a few miles. But one day, I got the urge to try running. And it was like a switch had flipped on in my brain, and suddenly, I was obsessed (in a good way). I still wasn’t in running shape obviously, but for the first time, I felt like it was something I could do.

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The face of a proud newbie runner. 

It started off slow, with walk-run intervals. I would run as far as I felt I could, walk for a ways and then start running again. A huge breakthrough came in early June, when I ran 5K (3.1 miles, for those not in the know) without stopping…in the rain. I was super proud of myself and motivated to keep going.

 

I invested in some better shoes (I first started running in Converse-style sneaks…bad idea) — buying my first pair of Nikes in November 2014 got me hooked on the brand and I haven’t run in anything else since. I bought some more workout gear, like cute sports bras and tank tops. I downloaded more music to my phone to help pump me up during runs.

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Only in Tulsa can you run by a river AND Christmas trees!

I ran in all kinds of weather — rain, hot/humid summer days, cold/cloudy winter days with snow flurries, when there were literally tornado watches nearby (probably not my smartest move). Because my work schedule was so whack (when I first started running, I was working evenings from 1:30 to 10:30 pm, then switched to early mornings from 4:30 am to 12:30 pm and eventually to overnights from 10 pm to 6 am), I ran at basically any time of the day I could fit it in. Sometimes, it was before work in the mid-morning, sometimes it was after work at 7 am or in the midday heat, sometimes it was in the late afternoon/early evening soon after waking up when I worked overnights. I covered every mile of the trail across from my apartment that spanned from just south of downtown all the way to the suburb of Jenks, and even tried a few other trails that connected to it.

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Running trails > running pavement. 

I even tried trail running at Turkey Mountain, and loved it. It was so cool to be so close to nature and enjoy it in a different way than if I were hiking.

When I moved to Tucson in January 2016, I was thrilled to discover that my new apartment was about a mile from another amazing trail that went along a river (technically the Rillito River is more of a wash and only ever had water in it after it rained). I ran there the first time just a few days after moving in and knew I had found my happy place. Unlike in Tulsa, I was never able to run on every segment of the trail because it was much longer, but it was even more beautiful and close to nature. I saw rattlesnakes and coyotes twice each, some javelinas once and so many lizards and roadrunners. This is where I truly discovered my love of the desert.

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I mean, how can you not love running with the view of saguaros & mountains?

Just like in Tulsa, I ran in all kinds of conditions — during cold winter rains, on days when it was 105 degrees (or hotter), after a monsoon storm, while the sun was setting (my favorite time to go). I also ran trails at Sabino Canyon a few times, which was an incredible experience, being surrounded by saguaros and mountains. It was in Tucson that I began regularly running more than 3 miles at a time. It was where I truly fell in love with running.

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I miss Tucson’s beautiful trails. 

I was definitely sad to leave Tucson behind in January 2018 because I wasn’t sure there were any running paths in the Phoenix area that could compare to those in the dirty T. And TBH, I haven’t found any that rival the Rillito River path. There are some trails that run along the canals here, but I haven’t run them because I don’t live close enough to them and there isn’t parking nearby. I ran once at Papago Park when my family went there to hike, which was amazing, but it’s too far away to be a regular running spot. I also ran once at the Riparian Preserve in Gilbert which is much closer and I would definitely like to go back, but it’s not the same as Tucson. I’ve mostly run neighborhood streets since I moved here, including a short trail that runs through my area, which is fine because before this, I had never run in residential areas. It’s definitely different and cool in its own way but I much prefer the trails I was used to in Tulsa and Tucson. I guess I got spoiled living so close to great running paths.

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Sunset runs have my heart. 

Despite this, in the past year I’ve run the most I’ve ever had. When I was unemployed I had so much free time that I could run most days of the week and even now, I run at least 4 to 5 days a week. The longest distance I’ve ever run is 7 miles, which I’ve now done a couple of times, along with some 6 milers and several 5 milers but my sweet spot is 4 miles. Running just comes so much easier to me these days, and I love it. That’s not to say that some days I’m not excited to lace up my shoes and hit the pavement. Once I’m out there though, my whole outlook changes and I can often convince myself to run further than I planned on. Having a killer playlist helps (I’m always buying songs on iTunes so I have new stuff to listen to), as do cute workout clothes and shoes.

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7 miles and proud of it!

I ran 110 miles in January, the first time ever running at least 100 miles in a month. I know some people can run 100 miles in one race, or even reach that mileage in a week or two so it doesn’t seem that impressive but for me, it is. It’s taken me nearly 5 years of running to reach this point, but I’m proud of myself for my dedication.

I know I’m nowhere near the fastest runner out there, and my usual weekly mileage is somewhere between 15 and 20 miles, but the fact that I run consistently makes me a runner. I’ve never run a race before (not even a 5K) and honestly don’t really have plans to because I run for myself, not to compete with anyone else. I know I could race just to compete with myself, but I know it would put me in a bad head space and I wouldn’t enjoy running anymore. I don’t need race results or other runners to motivate me (though I do start running faster when I encounter other runners out there, so thank you for that!), I can do it all by myself. I run to clear my head, to get closer to nature, to improve my self-esteem and mood, to feel alive. That to me is more important than any medal.

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I’m a serious runner, yo!

For anyone out there who’s just starting their running journey, and you feel slow, or coming back after an injury and feel weak, or maybe you’re like me and you’ve been running for awhile but you don’t run as fast or as far as the runners you see on Instagram — don’t doubt yourself. If you run, you’re a runner. Whether you can only run 5 miles or even 1 mile, you’re just as much of a runner as any marathoner. And you should be proud of that, because I know I am.

 

 

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Running makes everything better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a runner? If so, how did you get started in the sport?