Ragnar Cape Cod: #wheremybeachesat

12 women. 2 vans. 192 miles from Hull, MA to the tip of Cape Cod. 30 hours. This is Ragnar Cape Cod!IMG_8967

Back in the fall, my running buddy M told me about this crazy 2 day relay race and asked if I wanted to help get a team together to do it. So for the past few months we’ve been recruiting, planning, and training hard to get our fabulous team off the ground. Check out that good lookin’ group of badass ladies!

IMG_8964The concept/logistics of a Ragnar are a little bit hard to wrap your head around until you’ve done one, but the idea is that you have a team of 12 runners split up into two vans. Everyone in the first van runs, handing off at designated checkpoints, and then they head to eat/rest while the six runners in the second van each take a turn. The vans leapfrog the runners to make sure the next runner is ready for the hand-off at each exchange. IMG_8955This is repeated until each runner has gone 3 times. When the process is over, there has constantly been someone running for 30-ish hours and the team has covered around 200 miles. Individual legs vary between 2.5 and 10.5 miles, with the total mileage per runner ranges from 12-22 miles. Got it? No worries… neither did I about a week ago!

I have to say, I had some skepticism about this race. I usually don’t love “gimmicky” races like obstacle courses or themed events like the color run, but Ragnar was a blast! A smelly, sleep deprived blast. Here’s how my 17.5 miles went down over the course of the two days.

IMG_8886Leg One: Friday at 5:30 p.m., 4.84 miles across the Bourne Bridge. As runner number 12, I was the last person on our team to tackle their first leg. I was pretty antsy to get started, since I had been cheering on my teammates since the morning, and despite the humidity and fog I happily sped off along the banks of the Cape Cod Canal. Most of my legs had been classified as “hard” since the van couldn’t drive next to me, but I liked doing some of the running solo on bike paths and trails. I took a quick and weird spin through a trailer park and scooted past traffic and up and over the bridge–officially entering the cape! I finished at an 8:15 average pace just as the raindrops began to fall.

First handoff!
First handoff!

After leg one, our team had a few hours of break time, so we did some googling and beelined it to Bobby Bryne’s in Mashpee for dinner. Having eaten peanut butter sandwiches and granola bars all day, we were thrilled to be indoors and eating a full meal. After a pit stop for blister supplies, we drove to a local high school to get a couple of hours of sleep before we started running again. Most of us had barely drifted off when we had to don our reflective gear and head back into the van to begin our rainy, nighttime legs around 11 p.m.

Night runs. Safety first!
Night runs. Safety first!

Leg Two: Saturday at 2:30 a.m., 3.15 miles in Harwich. Being runner 12 came in handy for my night run, since the rain had mostly let up by the time I started. As required, I pulled on my reflective vest, headlamp, and taillight before taking off down a quiet street. It was pretty eerie running in the dark, especially since part of my route was along a pitch-black bike path. I ran with a couple of other ladies for part of the leg and then passed them (in Ragnar parlance we call people you pass “kills,” short for roadkills). I wanted to get the leg over with ASAP! As I was nearing the handoff point, I heard my teammates yelling and pointing at one of the runners I had passed, who was speeding towards me and gaining on me. Somehow my sleep-addled brain clicked into competitive gear and I yelled “OH HELL NO!” and sprinted towards the exchange. You know, it’s not about winning… until sometimes it is 😉 I finished the short leg at an 8:19 average pace.

At this point, we were all really ready to crash, so we headed into the local high school gym, rinsed off in the showers, and then attempted to get some shut-eye. Despite ending up next to one of the loudest snorers I’ve ever heard (how is it that those people don’t wake themselves up???) I shoved in my earplugs and passed out for a couple of hours. At 5 a.m. my teammates gently shook me awake and we waited in a long, smelly Dunkin’ Donuts line before getting ready to begin our final legs.

Cape MapLeg Three: Saturday at 11:00 a.m., 9.5 miles from Truro to Provincetown. The weather Saturday was gorgeous–75+ degrees and clear and sunny. While cheering my teammates on during their last legs, I focused on getting in as much hydration as I could (btw, I highly recommend unflavored Nuun tablets). The run, as expected, was incredibly beautiful (this is literally the very end of the Cape, and most of my run was right along the water) but the sun was unrelenting–I didn’t have any shade the entire time. IMG_8963Despite being sleep-deprived and warm, this run was amazing–SO scenic, and the best part was that my entire team joined in to run through the finish line together. I managed to wrap up this leg up with an 8:46 average pace.

So would I do it again? You’re damn right I would. I loved the challenge, adrenaline, and camaraderie of the event–running can be such a mental struggle when you’re all on your own, and I can’t say enough about the team aspect of the event. In fact, team #wheremybeachesat loved it so much that we’re aiming for another race in the fall–click here to vote for our photo and help us with a free trip to the Adirondacks race! There were definitely a lot of lessons learned, too–keep an eye out for a future post on what I would do differently next time. Off to rest up before the Harpoon 5 miler this weekend!

Looking forward to the next one!
Looking forward to the next one!

Fitness adventures: that time I tried aerial yoga

Fall marathon training season is officially over–and all of a sudden, my built-in workout plan is no more. While I’m still running, some niggling knee pain and a colder/darker season have made this a great time to revisit my favorite yoga spots (love to Coolidge Corner Yoga and Yogaworks Back Bay!) The void left in my fitness life also gave me with a hankering to try new things, so today I’m going to recap the aerial yoga class I took at Om Factory Yoga in New York City.

I’ve been wanting to give aerial yoga a shot for years–I LOVE anything that involves heights and getting off the ground (flying trapeze, anyone?) and I was bummed when South Boston Yoga stopped offering classes. So I scooted off during a family trip to NYC for Thanksgiving to take a beginner’s class at the Om Factory Flight School.

Location/atmosphere: Obviously this studio isn’t in Boston, but for anyone who lives in/spends time in NYC they’re located right outside of Union Square. The studio has big fabric loops rigged from the ceiling, and can accommodate about 15-20 students. The silks/hammocks (which you can see hanging out in the photo below) are adjusted for each individual student.image2 (1)

The basics: Aerial yoga is probably less traditional yoga than acrobatics type work, but it’s a fun fusion and the silk loops provide a really neat way to “float” your body weight up off the floor. Classes involve a ton of movement and playing around–sense of humor 100% required!

The workout: The class started with some standard breathing/stretching and then proceeded into a series of guided moves using the silks. The instructor was very specific and demoed all of the moves, which made it easy to follow along. We did corework, backbends, and upper body work using the silks to support our seats, backs, arms, and legs. I absolutely loved using the silks to invert and backbend–taking your feet off the ground makes it super easy to use gravity and get really deeply into the poses. There is an incredible amount you can do with silks, and for an inversion junkie/heights lover like me it was a total blast. If you were one of those kids who always wanted to get the swings to go up and over the top of the swingset, this class is for you!

image1 (2)

The takeaway: I had a fantastic time and loved getting to play around and take some photos after class. While my arms were pretty sore the next day, this wasn’t the most intense workout (thank goodness, because I had just finished an 8 mile loop around Central Park). It was a super fun challenge, though, and well worth it if you’re ever in the ‘hood. Boston studios, get on it–I’d love to try again!!

Stay tuned for more upcoming recaps of my fitness adventures–up next, I try my first bootcamp class.

10 lessons I learned running my first marathon

Sometimes big accomplishments take a while to sink in. Basically, my thoughts have been running in a loop over the past few days that goes something like this: I just ran a marathon. Did I just RUN a MARATHON??? I JUST RAN A MARATHON.IMG_7848

I’m working on a full race recap post, but since I get teary every time I try, I thought I’d start with a list of the top ten things I learned this past weekend. Some were total surprises and some reinforced what I had expected–but they all were funny, powerful lessons on just how wonderful people can be if you let them.

  1. Be selfish: New York is one of my favorite cities, so planning a weekend away without a lot of museum-going, city-strolling, or bar hopping with friends was a struggle. My takeaway was to just own the weekend and be incredibly appreciative that my parents, boyfriend, brother, and cousins all were there to support me–crazy meal schedules, hydration planning, early bedtimes and all. Be selfish, it’s YOUR marathon!
  2. IMG_7833Beware what you wear: Spectators will yell whatever you have on your shirt, over and over, for 4+ hours. I got all hometown proud and decided to wear my Boston Strong t-shirt with my name stuck on below. I didn’t quite realize I’d be hearing “woooooo Boston!” and “go Pats!” for most of the day on Sunday. So just beware, people will read and yell the biggest and boldest thing you’ve got on your chest. Choose wisely.
  3. Do not underestimate the power of having family and friends along the course: looking for friends and family is the number one best way to pass time during the most painful parts of the race. I’ll let this video speak for itself in terms of my enthusiasm level the first time I saw my personal cheering squad. Goofball central!
  4. Staten Island Ferry viewsMost runners people are really, really nice: My most frequently asked pre-marathon question was: are you running it alone? And the answer was yes. Like most runners, I think, I like to run races solo so that I’m not beholden to anyone else’s pace. Being by myself made me even more appreciative of all of the support from friendly fellow runners: Sarah from San Francisco who showed me the sights from from the ferry (check out that sunrise!), my fellow #teamglutenfree runners who kept me company during the stressful last few minutes before the race, everyone who made noise during the long, painful slog up the Queensboro bridge, and more–you made me feel like I had a running buddy holding my hand all day. Thank you. 
  5. The last 5 miles will be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced: in equally good and painful measures. My body did some tricky things at this point in the race–muscles I didn’t even know I had threatened to cramp up, dehydration set in, and sweat flowed–but I also felt like I had an invisible hand pushing me forward. That’s what those months of hard training are really for. I knew I could run 21 miles, but I built up to be able to get myself through “the wall” and across that finish line.
  6. You are a rock star (for a few miles, at least): the high that is running down fifth avenue about to accomplish a huge life goal with thousands of people screaming your name has to be experienced to be believed. Pure marathon magic.
    Hey! I'm almost done!
    Hey! I’m almost done!
  7. Marathons are emotional roller coasters: Highs, lows, frustration, tears, pain, euphoria–all emotions were on tap on race day. But the disappointment and frustration of cramping up and dropping below my goal pace paled in comparison to the complete sense of accomplishment I felt when I knew I had done it.
  8. There’s a reason people say your first marathon time goal should be to finish the race: Watching my time goal slip through my fingertips was really hard–I had a sub-4:00 time in my grasp and then just lost it during the last five miles or so. I’m glad I had a secondary goal in mind and am incredibly proud of my 4:05, but this was a lesson I learned the hard way.
  9. The post-finish line trudge will be the longest walk of your life: NYC is notorious for making you walk pretty far after you finish the race, and the rumors are true–my achy, cranky legs had a 20 minute walk ahead of them before I could leave the chute and find my family. This is supposedly good for you, but those were probably the longest 20 minutes of my life.
  10. The next few days will hurt: I’m usually pretty diligent about stretching/yoga, foam rolling, and getting back on my feet after a race. Post-marathon recovery, however, is a whole different beast. It took me 3 days just to be able to walk down stairs properly, and running probably won’t be happening until this weekend at least.

What lessons have you learned from accomplishing a big goal–running-related or otherwise?

Go take a hike!

IMG_6829Like all grateful New Englanders, I LOVE Boston in the summer. But when the nice weather hits, I’m setting my alarm at 6:00AM on weekends and jumping in the car to drive 2-3 hours north for the day. Why would I do anything so crazy? Just a little range called the White Mountains. Thanks mostly to my mountain-loving other half, I have officially been bitten by the hiking bug. While the city is mighty pretty in the summer, there’s something special about the blue skies, 360 degree vistas, and the glorious endorphin high from a good hike. These mountains are gorgeous, for sure, but they’re pretty challenging to scale and it can be intimidating to figure out how to get started. Here are my tips for novices, along with some great resources to get you up and hiking.

First and foremost, be prepared! Most hikes in the Whites are lengthy and strenuous, so make sure you are ready for 5+ hours of work. I suggest bringing the following:

  • Synthetic clothing and lots of layers: even if it’s 80 degrees in the valley it could be in the 50s at the summit, so always have extra layers. Be prepared for changeable weather conditions and lots of wind up top.
  • Proper footwear: ideally, hiking boots or trail running shoes. Good sneakers should be fine if you’re just starting out, but consider investing in something with better traction and support.Garfield
  • Water, water, water: Even if the weather isn’t super warm, hiking dehydrates you quickly and there may not be anywhere to safely refill along the trail. I usually bring at least two liters, and more if the hike is particularly long.
  • Food, and not just snacks, but something for a proper meal. Trail mix, jerky, and peanut M&Ms are great fuel, but you’re going to want a real, hearty lunch–think meat, cheese, veggies, protein, etc.
  • A proper daypack: You are going to be way happier hiking if you have a pack with a waist strap and chest strap. I absolutely love my Osprey daypack, if you’re in the market!

    Not an ad for Osprey backpacks.
    Not an ad for Osprey backpacks.

Choose wisely: The Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) has wonderful guidebooks that describe the various hikes, and you can also look around at sites like this one for more information. When they describe a hike as difficult, they mean it–don’t get cocky! Pick hikes that are appropriate for your timing and skill level. Just because you’re fit does NOT mean you should pick the toughest trail on the mountain. Start small and build your way up!

Also, some bonus wise words from hike-master J: Schlepping through the woods up and down rocks and roots in the humidity can a take a toll on your spirits (why does the last mile take so long!) Do yourself and your mountain-mates a solid and stay positive. If you need an outside influence try bringing some hard candies (just like grandma)–a little bit of sugar will keep you going!

I have just scratched the surface of what there is to hike in NH (let alone the rest of New England) but I do have a couple of hikes I recommend for newbies, listed from easiest to most difficult:

  • Blue Hills: a local Boston area option with skyline views–the trails are not well marked, so skip this one if you get lost and/or frustrated easily
  • Zealand Falls: a short but rewarding hike to Zealand Hut (more on the huts below!)

    Zealand Falls in the fall (no pun intended)
    Zealand Falls in the fall (no pun intended)
  • Mount Mondanock: a wonderful mountain to get you started–super popular, with rewarding views
  • Mount Garfield: a great first 4000 footer with some spectacular views
  • Mount Mooislauke: a good challenge if you’re ready for the next step–the 360 vistas at the top are worth it!

If you want to turn your trip up north into a multi-day adventure, look into your options for camping or get a teeny bit more swanky by staying at one of the AMC’s huts. I have a bit of an “in” here since my brother worked up at the huts for years, but staying at one is an incredibly unique experience. You get:

  • A comfy bunk to sleep on (BYO sleeping bag)
  • Delicious home-cooked dinner and breakfast (they’re super accommodating for gluten free guests!)
  • Fun extras like naturalist talks, hilarious skits by the caretakers (the “croo,” to the initiated), activities for the kiddies, and indoor bathrooms/access to clean water, drinks, books, games, and snacks.

Most importantly, staying at the huts means you can get a several days of hiking in without having to camp overnight and carry all of your food with you. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it! J and I are doing our first multi-day hut trek in a couple of weeks, so more to come on that front.

Happy hiking!

Thinking out loud Thursday: my running must-haves

I’ve been getting a lot of good thinking done during my runs recently, especially since I’m trying to do less running with my headphones. Oddly enough, most of my thinking while running is about… you guessed it… running! Thinking-Out-LoudSo I’m linking up with Amanda from Running with Spoons for Thinking Out Loud Thursday to share my latest musings 🙂

The NYC marathon will be my first long (10k+) race in a year or so, and it has been fun breaking out all of my favorite running gear. Over the course of the past few years, I have a few pieces that have been indispensable to my training. Here are my top five favorite items:

  1. Fuel belt (or other hydration conveyance device): Hydration is incredibly important for distance runners–and finding a comfortable way to carry your H2O around is no small feat. Luckily, there are lots of options out there to lug water around. I happen to have a small handheld single bottle for shorter runs and a fuel belt for longer ones, but I plan to test out a small Camelbak this season. Whatever you choose, be sure to stay hydrated, especially in the summer heat.
  2. Reflective gear: Unless you don’t have a job (and you do have incredible time management skills), you will probably end up doing some running in the dark–so make sure you’re as visible as possible (and those teeny reflective stripes on your sneakers are NOT gonna cut it, sorry!). I love my Amphipod vest because it doesn’t bounce around, but anything reflective will do.

    Rockin' some sweet shades on top of Mt. Moosilauke
    Rockin’ some sweet shades on top of Mt. Moosilauke
  3. Comfy sunglasses: Getting caught without any eye protection on a particularly bright or windy day is the worst–and cute everyday stunnah shades are going to get old really quickly. I recommend snagging a pair of lightweight sport-style sunglasses for running. No need to spend major $$ here–I got mine for $15 off of an LL Bean sale rack. Not the most fashionable but an absolute lifesaver.
  4. A foam roller: Distance running does some… shall we say… interesting things to your muscles. You’ll be feelin’ it in places you never expected. My IT and I spend quality time pretty much every night with my foam roller and it has done wonders–it’s like an at-home deep tissue sports massage. Hurts SO good.
  5. A running ID: Thanks to my running bestie Bry for bugging me to finally get one of these. It’s a little bit scary to wrap your mind around, but you should always run with ID in case anything happens to you when you’re on the road. I got a Road ID that attaches to my shoe, so I never have to think about it, but there are lots of great options out there.

Runners, what gear can’t you live without?

Leah

 

Marathon training with Boston Fit

I am running a marathon in t-minus 162 days. Holy WHOA… so close yet so far away! The most common tip I’ve gotten about marathon training is to find a crew of people to run with. Given the fact that my charity team is five people strong and we’re all over the country, I took to the internet and found my brand new running crew: Boston Fit.

As they say on their website, Boston Fit is “a group of training partners and friends preparing together for a fall marathon or half marathon.” Basically, we meet up every Saturday morning (so so very early…), listen to a seminar on a running-related topic, and head out for our long runs together. I’m only three weeks in, but the verdict so far? Two very enthusiastic and sweaty thumbs up!

Here are my favorite things about Boston Fit so far:

  1. Accountability: It is super easy to get myself up and rolling on a weekend morning when I have a place to be and a time to be there.
  2. The coaches: I’ve never had a running coach before and I’m pumped to have professional cheerleaders/advice givers to give me tips along the way.
  3. The pace group: Boston Fit splits their runners into three pace groups and I somehow ended up in the fastest of the groups (say whaaatt??) It is really lovely to be with a group of people who challenge me to push myself. I tend to find I’m faster than most casual runners but slower than most hardcore runners, so this is a great middle ground.
  4. The seminars: So far we’ve covered hydration and injury prevention, and I’m super pumped about the sessions on proper gear and running form. SO much to be learned…
  5. The training plan: Every week, Boston Fit gives each pace group a detailed plan for which days to run, how many minutes to run for, and when to fit in hills and tempo runs. I’ve never run for time before (my training plans have always been mileage-based) but I feel great so far, and I LOVE not having to plan out my runs myself. Especially the long run routes!Leah and Bry Run
  6. This girl: I somehow managed to get my former work wife and running bestie Bry on board to train for her first marathon with me at Boston Fit. Hooray for fit friends!!

Oh yeah, if you haven’t yet, head on over to my fundraising page to support my NYC marathon run for the Celiac Disease Foundation. And if you or anyone you know wants to train with us for a fall marathon, tell them about Boston Fit–there’s still time to join!

Happy running,

Leah

Advice for bloggers (from a superfan)

As you may have gathered from my favorite blogs series (parts one and two) I’m borderline obsessed with my favorites. But there are a few things I see almost every single one of my favorite bloggers do that just get under my skin. Am I qualified to offer blogging advice? Probably not. But bloggers, I’m just one reader, and I’m here to give you my ten cents.

So without further ado–here are my top ten pieces of advice for bloggers, from a loyal fan and reader!

  1. If you’re going to go outside your niche, but that fitness, fashion, travel, or food, do it well. In general, know your brand and stick to what you’re good at.
  2. Also, if you don’t know what your niche is, figure it out. Unless you’re like, a supermodel look-alike living the most glamorous life ever, your general “lifestyle” blog is going to get old real fast.
  3. I am SUPER excited for you that you’re pregnant/just had a baby!  Your pics are adorbs, truly. That said, if you turn your blog into a baby blog I will unfollow you immediately. I’m 27 sooo not ready to be bombarded by that stuff yet. Also, refer to #1.
  4. Please stop apologizing because you posted 3 times a week instead of your usual 5. Your readers have no idea what your posting schedule is, nor do we care. Keep on providing high-quality useful content and we’ll keep reading!
  5. If you don’t have anything interesting to say, don’t say anything at all. I actually like reading your cute little life recaps before you post a recipe–but if you spent your weekend eating cereal straight from the box and binge watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix, the internet does not need to know that. (No judgement though!)
  6. If publish a post entitled something along the lines of BEST PANCAKES/CAKE/DINNER EVER and then proceed to share an incredibly complicated recipe with obscure ingredients I can’t actually buy at a store, I will probably be sad.
  7. Don’t post a recipe you haven’t tested properly. Make it multiple times, feed some to your friend/boyfriend/neighbor/dog, listen to their feedback, make it again, and THEN post it on your blog. Quality > quantity!
  8. Be up front when a post is sponsored. You gotta bring home the bacon, and that’s totally cool. Just be honest with your readers–we’re not stupid, and we’re going to figure it out if you’re not.
  9. Fashion blogs/posts are cool. I’m not the best at dressing myself and inspiration is always welcome. But posting 25 pictures of the same outfit is annoying, unhelpful, and makes you seem like a raging narcissist. Cute top though.
  10. Before you hit publish on a post, ask yourself what your readers will get out of it. The golden rule? Always consider the reader. Always.

Fellow fans, what advice do you have for your favorite bloggers? Bloggers, I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback too!

Leah

My #30before30 bucket list and A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

I don’t know if it’s the Virgo hidden somewhere in me, but I sure do love a good list–and one of my favorites is my 30 before 30 bucket list. This list changes all the time, as I change, but there are a few big ones I’ve been itching to get going on. Read on to see what I’ve checked off, what I’ve got left, and the exciting one I’ve got booked for this coming November…

Teaser!
Teaser!

Completed items:

  1. Make one new recipe a week for two months
  2. Start and maintain a blog: welcome to mygfboston.com. DONE.
  3. Do a 30 day yoga challenge
  4. Learn to surf: took lessons in Monteverde, Costa Rica! I even stood up. #winning
  5. Go blonde(ish): ok, I got highlights–still counting it.
  6. Watch the sunrise
  7. Commute via bicycle
  8. Go skinny dipping: details are private on this one (hi mom!)
  9. Go to a music festival: Newport Folk Fest, and I can’t wait to go back.
  10. Go vegetarian for a month
  11. Own and learn to use a dSLR camera: this is definitely a process, but I’m getting there!

    Caution: photographer in training
    Caution: photographer in training

Still on the list:

  1. Go skydiving
  2. Get certified to teach or assist yoga classes
  3. Get into full split or handstand
  4. Cultivate an at-home yoga practice
  5. Try snowboarding
  6. Travel to four new countries! Wish list: Peru, Iceland, India, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia.. and many, many more
  7. Do a road trip out west
  8. Go skiing outside of New England
  9. Plant something and eat what I have grown
  10. Host a dinner party
  11. Go to a Phish show
  12. Take a pedicab
  13. Read a classic (Les Miserables is currently in top contention)
  14. Go to a movie alone
  15. Go rock climbing outdoors

10649788_10100252254242308_189860782312877543_nIn process:

  1. Get my MBA: almost done with my second semester!
  2. Live with a significant other: J and I have signed our lease and are moving to Fenway on 8/15. Yay!
  3. Join a running club and work on speed: I just signed up for Boston Fit, because on November 1, 2015, I am going to….
  1. RUN A MARATHON!

After five years of talking about it incessantly, running six half marathons, and one impulsive google search, I am officially registered to run the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon for the Celiac Disease Foundation.

New York running! Many more photos coming your way soon.
New York running! Many more photos coming your way soon.

I’m equal parts terrified and excited! And I would be beyond appreciative if you would consider giving a gift to the CDF to support my run. They do incredible education and advocacy work on behalf of those of us with Celiac disease, and I can’t think of a better team to be a part of. You can read more about my Celiac story, the CDF, and why I’m running by clicking here.

Get ready for lots of training and fundraising updates, posts on marathon fueling with Celiac, and lots and lots of requests for help and wisdom from all of you experienced marathoners out there. I can’t wait to take you along on this incredible journey and check this one off the list!

Any big pieces of advice for a first-time marathon runner??

Breaking out of the breakfast rut: five new favorites

Dear world: my name is Leah, and I am an oatmeal addict. Overnight, in a bar, stovetop, instant, baked–you name it, I’ve tried it. But recently, I have been trying to break out of my breakfast rut. Thanks to some of my favorite bloggers, I found five delicious new ways to get out of my routine. You guys, there’s a whole world of amazing breakfast out there–if you’re a fellow oatmeal addict, give one of these recipes a whirl!

image1Muesli: I’m cheating a little bit, because this has oats in it, but my mom and I have been loving Uproot from Oregon’s breakfast muesli recipe. If you haven’t tried muesli, you totally should–it’s a tasty mix of oats, nuts, seeds, and grains that you soak in milk overnight and top with fruit to gobble up in the morning. One of my new mason jar faves.

Grain-free porridge: I actually got it into my head that I was eating so much oatmeal it was giving me tummy troubles, so when I saw this oatmeal alternative from Gluten Free Palate, I was stoked. Turns out oats and I are still friends, but this porridge and I are friends too! It’s hearty, easy to make (it’s basically homemade instant hot cereal), and tastes surprisingly great given that it’s grain-free and refined-sugar free. If you’re short on time, give this one a go and make it in bulk ahead of time.

image2Giant single-serve pancake: Yeah ok, I saw the photos of this one and was instantly sold… bananas + berries + peanut butter = YUM. Also, there are FIVE ingredients in this bad boy! You can’t really beat that. It does use coconut flour, which is not generally my favorite, but if you follow the instructions and use just a tiny bit, it holds the pancake together without giving it any weird spongy texture. Perfect brekkie for one!

Easy paleo pancakes: Lexi’s Clean Kitchen is one of my favorite blogs for a reason–her recipes just plain always work. These fluffy paleo (I know, I know) pancakes are really really close in texture to the real thing! They are still a little thin for my liking, but the flavor is bomb and they’re super easy to make. Blueberries or chocolate chips are not optional.

image5Cinnamon raisin bread: I super love Taylor’s blog, and love it even more now that she is no longer strictly paleo (sorry kids, I kinda think paleo is for the birds, but thanks for all the gluten free recipes!) This bread is just divine–cinnamonny, dense, and slightly sweet–perfect toasted up with some nut butter on top. Be sure to read the comments and bake for 45 minutes instead of 30. Warning: if you toast this at work, you make everyone in your office insanely jealous. #sorrynotsorry

Have you ever gotten stuck in a breakfast rut? Got any other amazing recipes for me to try?

What to buy at Trader Joe’s

First off, thanks to everyone who entered the Love with Food snack box giveaway–a big congrats to the winners, Holly and Leesa!

Now, on to the topic at hand. One thing I’ve been loving in the past few years is the expanded grocery store options in Boston (especially since Wegman’s has moved in–hurrah!) but my absolute favorite is Trader Joe’s. They have a great mix of traditional groceries and unique prepared foods, and they do a fabulous job with their gluten free items. They’re all clearly marked and there’s quite a variety, from snacks to fresh baked goods to fruits, veggies, and dairy products. In no particular order, here are my 10 favorite gf TJ’s finds!

  • Pumpkin Pancake Mix: Oh sweet lawd these pancakes… they are fluffy, sweet, and have the perfect amount of pumpkin flavor. These babies were a favorite among gluten freebies and gluttons alike in my house. I stocked up back in the fall when they were in stores but they’re sadly gone now (seasonal item). Hopefully they’ll be back!
  • Oats: TJ’s has really great reasonably priced certified gluten free oats–they’re a staple of my diet and it’s great to know I can always stock up. I highly recommend trying out the flourless oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe on the back of the bag–they’re delish.
  • Snickerdoodles: Are you a fan of moist, cakey, chewy, cinnamon-y cookies? Then these soft-baked gems are about to become your new favorite treats. They’re hands-down some of the best packaged gf cookies I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a lot!) Plus they’re vegan, if that’s your jam. Don’t miss ‘em!

    Trader Joe's Snickerdoodles
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  • Sweet Potato Chips: TJ’s is basically the mecca of snacks, but their sweet potato chips are my number one salty snack favorite. Yes, they’re chips, but they’re not super processed and have some real veggie flavor to them. This makes them healthy, right? Great. Moving on…
  • Peach Salsa: This is certainly the perfect accompaniment to my sweet potato chips, but if you’re a sweet salsa fan this stuff can literally go on anything: fish, burgers, rice, burrito bowls, nachos–sky’s the limit. I like to combine this with the corn salsa for a unique and yummy treat.
  • Powerberries: In the not at all healthy category–these nummy little dark chocolate treats are an incredibly yummy treat. They’re little morsels of chocolate-covered fruit pieces–we love them as hiking snacks or as an after-dinner treat. Just be careful, because they’re addictive. You have been warned.
  • Soy Ice Cream: While I thank my lucky stars that I’m not at all dairy-intolerant, I absolutely love this cherry chocolate chip soy ice cream. It has big chunks of both fruit and dark chocolate, and has the traditional texture without any funky soy flavor.
  • Frozen Paneer Tikka Masala with Basmati Rice: This is one of my favorite go-to frozen dinner options (and I don’t love processed frozen foods in general). The ingredient list is short and pronounceable, and I like that each package has one single serving with rice–lots of packaged Indian food is multiple servings and you have to BYO rice on the side. The flavors are great and it’s enough food to fill me up–not an easy feat 😉

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  • Two Buck Chuck: I can’t leave TJ’s without grabbing a bottle of this el-cheapo vino. It’s pretty darn good and you just can’t beat the price!! My faves are the Shiraz and the Cabernet. I’m a classy lady.
  • Udi’s, Luna Bars, and Larabars: I love always being able to stock up on my favorite tried and true brands, and TJ’s carries a great selection of these three.

Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? If so, what are your favorite items?