Sunday, May 25, 2014

Trying Something New...Ultra Thin Sargento Cheese

Every once in a while I like to shake things up a bit and try something new. Whether it be a healthy food option or new workout; it's what motivates me on this whole fitness lifestyle.

This month I tried a new food product--cheese. You are probably wondering where this is going, but hang in here, it gets good (really). I was chosen by Influenster to try and review a new product-- Ultra Thin Sargento Cheese. I received a free voucher to purchase an Ultra Thin Sargento variety of my choice. I found the Colby-Jack Ultra Thin Sargento at Target. I was really excited for this review because I love cheese. My favorite snack is cheese slices, a glass of wine and sliced apples, so this review was right up my alley plus each slice of cheese is only 40 calories. Cheese is also a good source of calcium and protein, perfect for those who lift or run.

The fun part of the review process was trying out new recipes, I'm using this term loosely because I'm not much of a cook. I added the cheese to my kids sandwiches, my chicken salad sandwich, my quick go-to cheese and turkey wrap plus I expanded my horizon and put it on chicken smothered in broccoli. I even rolled it up and ate in plain as a wonderful low-calorie, mid-day snack.

My Influenster box came packed with coupons and a cute thermal tote which gave me the idea to pair the cheese with a bottle of wine perfect for toting to a concert at the park.

I have since bought another package of Ultra Thin Sargento cheese in the cheddar flavor. It has 45 calories, and pairs nicely with all my favorite foods. Once you go thin, you'll never go thick again.

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Passion for Running; A Passion for Pink

If you would have told me ten years ago that I would run a 5k, I would tell you that I'm not a runner, but if you told me that I would run at least one 5k every year I would know you were crazy. I never had a passion for running before I had my boys. I went to the gym lifted some weights and got on the elliptical, but just don't ask me to run. I don't know exactly what happened. I think it might have something to do with giving birth naturally (2x), and then feeling like you can run a marathon.

I started small with the Running Mate program as I pushed my son in the jogger. Every day, a little bit, each time until I was running 3 miles. The program encouraged me to sign-up for a 5k to set a goal for myself. I chose the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5k. 

It wasn't a random decision. I knew I wanted to run for something that had meaning. Like the young mom I knew who died of breast cancer, or my Aunt who battled breast cancer with chemo and surgeries, and my own scares of cysts and lumps. It was a disease that affected some many people in my life, and I wanted to make a difference. 

It gave training for the race a whole new meaning. When a steep hill would cause me to slow down, I would remember to keep running for those who couldn't. I would imagine myself running proud in my pink t-shirt inwardly cheering for those fighting for their life.

This year will be my 3rd time running in the Susan G. Komen race on June 14, and this time I have partnered with Cary Heise at Vend Raleigh. We are organizing a team of walkers, runners and sponsors within our community to help raise awareness for breast cancer and money for research.

Interested in being part of the team as a walker, runner or supporter? Click here to Join the Team

See you at the race!

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

People Dedicated to Quality...Fresh Fast Food

A simple menu, personalized service and high standards are the keys to PDQ, a growing fast-casual restaurant's success. It starts with their name PDQ, short for People Dedicated to Quality, and then you realize they are serious about their dedication. As soon as you walk in the door an employee holds the door open for you, and genuinely greets you. It's especially helpful when you have two busy boys bustling along side of you, so excited that you choose to take them to PDQ today.

I had the opportunity to meet with Nathan Bartlett, the Operations Director, at the PDQ in Cary. We started with a tour of their kitchen, but before we entered; we washed our hands. PDQ has a sink with a water fountain feel available to customers to wash their hands before dining without having to go into the bathroom. The bathrooms are kept clean, but it can be a hassle with little ones touching things plus this sink can be easily turned on with a pedal located near the floor.

After thoroughly washing our hands, we turned our attention to the beverage selection. I was impressed with the fresh brewed green tea. Green tea is one of my favorite drinks since I stopped drinking soda, and I was so excited to see they offered it along side the sweet and unsweetened tea. For the soda drinkers, they offer a state-of-the-art Coke dispenser that unlike the usual fountain machine uses pods for the fresh from bottle taste plus nearly 140 flavors. Locals will enjoy the bottled Cheerwine.


PDQ offers a simple menu of chicken (grilled or fried) tenders, sandwiches and salads plus a turkey sandwich and salad. Fresh-cut fries, fresh blueberry coleslaw, and fresh apple slices round out the available sides. Desserts include fresh-baked cookies and freshly-prepared milkshakes using real fruit or chocolate depending on your selection. If you haven't noticed, everything is fresh and prepared on-site (bread is delivered daily) and made when you order. They don't have a microwave or freezer in their kitchen. Lemons are cut and squeezed throughout the day, cookies baked, home-made sauces made and individually portioned into containers.


I love all the fresh food and quality service, but my favorite part is the food-- it's delicious, and the kid's love it too. I can sit-down, and enjoy a grilled chicken salad with blueberry vinaigrette comparable to any fancy restaurant while my kids enjoy their tenders, fries and apples. The kids liked the Yoo-hoo chocolate milk and the opportunity to make their own milkshakes.

The prices are reasonable and the menu is uncomplicated. The tough choices are deciding on a sauce to pair with your tenders; they offer 7 delicious home-made choices.

We left with a strawberry and chocolate milkshake for each boy; they shared a little bit of their cold treats with me, and once again I was impressed with the freshness and taste.


Interested in trying PDQ? They have locations 8 locations in North Carolina including Raleigh, Cary, Concord and Hickory. For a detailed list visit PDQ locations

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Unraveled, a book review

Secrets intertwined with relationships begin to unravel in Heidi McCahan's riveting debut novel Unraveled. McCahan takes readers inside the close-knit community of Emerald Cove, Alaska; a port town similar to her childhood hometown and parent's bed & breakfast. McCahan weaves a realistic tale of love, friendship and choices. When heroine Lauren Carter returns to her hometown to plan her wedding, she is faced with the people she has left behind- her parents and their struggling business, an aging grandparent, and a past love. Lauren must choose between keeping her secrets hidden or coming clean to those she loves.

My favorite story elements included a family-run bed & breakfast, a relay race, a kayaking adventure, a second chance with a past love, and most-importantly God's abundant grace. I had a chance to talk with the author and ask her a few questions about writing her first book.

Author Heidi McCahan

Rachel: Is there an inspiration behind the book? 
Heidi: "The concept of a reunion romance appeals to a lot of readers. Who hasn't wondered about “the one that got away” ?

Rachel: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Heidi: "I hope my readers will hear a message of hope and that the Lord can redeem anything, even the huge messes and seemingly unforgivable things we've done."

Rachel: Do you have any advice for other writers? 
Heidi: "Two things come to mind. First, join a group of other writers. Whether it’s online or in person, find people who are writing consistently and figure out a way to read and comment on one another’s work. You’ll stop feeling like you are going at this alone, you’ll experience tremendous growth as a writer, and you’ll learn to accept constructive criticism. Secondly, I follow a blogger named Jeff Goins and he once said, “stop waiting to be picked”. To me, this means start writing and don’t worry about when or how or if you’ll publish it. Write something every day and if this is your dream, never, ever give up."

Start reading Unraveled today and escape to Alaska.

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Kid's Martial Arts Review- Sheng Chi Kung Fu

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.

Sheng Chi Kung Fu

Sheng Chi Kung Fu teaches Shou Sho Kung Fu an ancient fighting system used for self defense. The online kid's program touts itself as an anti-bullying tool. My plan was to watch the videos with my son, but unfortunately he lost interest after the first few lectures (short videos). For $27, you will be able to access 15 lectures ranging from 5 to 35 minutes long. The lectures begin with the basics-- greetings, bows and tying the belt. A 23-page downloadable handbook is also included. Lectures deepen with stances, locking elbows and demonstrations.

The lectures featured children in a typical martial arts school. Even though I was viewing from home, I felt like I was a student in the class. From my son's lost interest, I believe this program is better suited for children 8 and up. I think this program would be a wonderful introduction for kids who are interested in martial arts. They can learn a little bit on their own time before committing to a school in their community.

I think a DVD version of the lectures might be more engaging then watching on a computer or iPad screen. Maybe even include a belt to use with the tying lecture. Overall, I found the program informative for anyone interested in martial arts.

Would you like to try Sheng Chi Kung Fu? You can for 50% off the retail price. Visit the following link to receive your discount Half Off Sheng Chi Kung Fu.

Plus you can win a Free 15-Lecture program with a 23-page Handbook.

Just enter below:

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Hospital Memories

There was an episode of Fraser awhile back about memories. Not just any memories, but hospital memories. The show began with Niles in the hospital awaiting bypass surgery, and then as he was slowly being wheeled down the hall into the operating room, each room he passed contained a different memory. You would see a birth, a broken leg, and then a cancer diagnosis. I began thinking about this episode last week when I was in the ER with my son.

It's been 13 years since I moved from my hometown of Gastonia, NC; but it has once again pulled me home into another chapter of it's hospital memories. As we sat in the small room waiting for the doctor, I started remembering all the memories contained in this one hospital, Gaston Memorial.

Gaston Memorial Hospital

My first memory was when my sister Sarah probably only 3 years old, popped her elbow out of place. Her high pitched screaming drove my frantic mother to the ER. We were new in town, recently moved to the area from Wisconsin. We didn't have a regular pediatrician, and Sarah's screams wouldn't wait for an appointment. It was an easy fix, the skillful doctor wiggled around her elbow and pop; it was back in place. It wouldn't be our last visit there for Sarah's elbow, but after multiple visits the doctor finally showed my mom how to remedy the problem.

I had some learning experiences at the hospital too. I became a certified babysitter after completing the babysitter course and then in high school my family living class took a field trip to the hospital's birthing center. I think it was the nicest way my conservative Christian school could scare us from having sex. They showed us birthing videos (images that you can never erase). It grossed out the boys and the girls were terrified of the pain- those women were screamers.

Other memories, weren't so lighthearted.  My Bubbie. She was a fun lady, and she knew how to throw a party. She was smart and stylish even at 90, but one day she just didn't feel herself. She was admitted to the hospital, and a couple of days later she passed away. I had seen her hours earlier. We were talking and laughing. She seemed fine. We left for lunch, and then we got the call. She was gone. She wasn't alone, a nurse was there holding her hand. She didn't want us to see her go. I know she was probably singing Amazing Grace. My Jewish Bubbie loved the old hymns. I would watch her sing at her retirement home while another played the piano. She was full of life until the end.

It wasn't all tears at the hospital. We welcomed my sister's first daughter there. We happened to be in town for Easter that year, and that's when Lydia arrived. My poor sister labored all through the night until Lydia came in the morning. By this time, there was a new birth center. The one I toured in high school was long gone, and a new wing with new memories had emerged.

Four hours later, we left the hospital. Liam had croup, but was feeling better after having some medicine. As we drove away, I wondered when we would return for more memories. I hope they will be happy.

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