Friday, July 31, 2015

Let's Talk About Protection...

...from the SUN, people!  I don't know WHAT you were thinking.

Confession:  I am not a regular sunscreen-wearer.  I grew up in the 80's when sunscreen was not a 'thing'.  In fact, I remember calling it 'suntan lotion' when/if we did apply it back then!  But even now, 30 years later with everything we know about skin cancer and how important it is to protect against the sun, I rarely wear it.  In fact, I only lather up when I'm on vacation at the beach, or at the pool for the day.  I don't wear sunscreen on my face or body daily or year round.  I know.  I KNOW.

If the threat of skin cancer isn't enough to scare you (me!) into becoming a more regular sunscreen wearer, there are the more 'cosmetic' concerns of sun exposure like: skin aging, wrinkles and age-related sun spots.  I know I'm lucky that I don't burn easily and that I still look (fairly) young, but as a sun lover, I know I can't beat the odds forever! [However, last night at the Home Depot, a sales associate told me I "couldn't be more than 22 or 23 years old".  OH BLESS YOUR HEART SIR.  Yes, I am 22.  Or 36.  CLOSE ENOUGH.]

So, when Block Island Organics contacted me and asked if I'd like to sample their organic, toxin-free natural sunscreen I took it as a sign! 

One of the reasons I don't wear many products on a daily basis (ie, lotion, makeup, etc) is because I don't want unnecessary chemicals sitting on my skin, seeping into my pores!  In fact, I used to use the cheapest drugstore body lotion I could find until I realized it contained parabens.  NOPE.  I am now more conscious of the ingredients in the products I use.

One of the things I liked about this sunscreen, prior to using it, was that it was natural and organic (zinc oxide is the active ingredient).  No parabens, sulfates, petrochemicals, phthalates, dyes or artificial fragrances.  Also, they don't do animal testing and it's VEGAN!  Another thing I liked is that Block Island is a small New England company, owned by a 3 person family team.  They started their skincare line because they wanted to develop a safe, effective product.  I love supporting small independent businesses.

I've used the sunscreen several times now, and here are my thoughts.  The consistency is a bit thinner than other traditional sunscreens I've used, and the feel is lightweight and non-greasy.  This makes it great for wearing all day because it does not feel sticky or incredibly gross like most beach sunscreens do. (When all you want to do is shower it off immediately upon coming home.)

There is one caveat that I must reveal to you here.  This sunscreen is not waterproof.  How do I know this?  Well, the back of the bottle clearly states that it's non-water-resistant, however I failed to read that the first time I wore it.  Which was at the pool:

Hahaha Huge fail on my part!  I went to the pool with my sister, her husband and kids, and my brother-in-law started cracking up when I jumped in, as my face started dripping white into the water! 

So although you can't wear this sunscreen while swimming, I've worn it all day long working, walking and playing outside with my charges, and going to the gym, and it held up, in 90+ degree weather.   

I've always worn sunscreen at the beach/pool so I think Block Island organics fulfills a different need for me, in that it will hopefully coerce me into wearing sun block on a more regular daily basis, (although I would love if they came up with a waterproof version in the future!).

I also think it would be a great product to use on children (except when swimming), since it's not chemical-based like most sunscreens.  In fact, most of the children I care for do use natural (zinc-based) sunscreens on a daily basis. 

Overall, I feel good about the product and supporting a small eco-conscious company.  If you're interested in learning more about the company and its founders, or learning more about the ingredients they use and their other natural skincare products, you can check out their website here.

And, if you're interested in placing an order, they've offered a 15% discount using the code jillyc.  It's good for 15% off anything (even sale items!) from July 31-August 9.

Have a great weekend everyone!

*Disclosure: I was provided a free product to sample, but was not compensated otherwise.  The opinions contained in this review are all mine!

Do you wear sunscreen on a daily basis?

Do you pay attention to the ingredients in your skin care?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Just a lot of Thoughts...

This post is probably/definitely going to be all over the place.  My blogging over the past few weeks has been somewhat spotty.  I blame it on summer.  And sometimes I feel like what I'm thinking or what I have to say is not even worth typing out in a full post.  However, the posts I often love reading most from other people are the random stream-of-consciousness posts.  I just like to know the everyday things going on in other people's lives.  Is that weird?!  It sounds pretty creepy.  I think the internet has made all of us voyeurs of some sort even if we hate to admit it.

So to that end, here are some things I've been thinking/random pieces of my life lately, in no particular order, and probably of no particular importance to anyone but me.  And perhaps my cats!

I got a new fridge in my apartment last week.  Honestly new appliances/electronics/etc are not my thing but I had been functioning for months over here with a freezer that didn't actually freeze food.  I'm guessing here, but my old fridge was probably manufactured in or around 1989.  Pretty sure this says something about my approach to certain situations in life. I tend to make do with less-than-ideal situations for much longer than I should.  Anyway, I finally complained that my vegan ice cream was consistently melting and wa-la.  Just like that I got a brand new fridge.  Why didn't I do this sooner?  Life is good over here.

The injury/thing behind my knee has been feeling ok lately, but not really much better.  The pain now feels like it goes up the back of my leg and down my calf a little. I haven't run in almost 2 weeks, but I'm not exactly taking it 'easy' on the workout front.  I've still been going on long walks, hiking, biking, rowing, lifting, planking and taking Body Combat once a week.  I'm thinking that Body Combat may be where I pulled something though so that's probably not my wisest decision. 

My work schedule has changed a bit so I spent not one, but TWO mornings last week at the library hanging out with the senior citizens and the more academic of children on their summer breaks.  I checked out these books - do you see a theme?!

Two of them are first-hand accounts of hiking famed trails.  I am enjoying "A Walk in the Woods" immensely.  IMMENSELY.  This author is hilarious and now has me putting the Appalachian Trail on my bucket list as well.  All I want to do while reading this book is to be out in the woods somewhere. (In fact, that is exactly what I did yesterday afternoon.)

When I came out of the library last week, there was a truck parked outside selling fruits and vegetables from a local farm.  So I stopped and bought some corn and peaches.  I've been eating them all week.  Why does corn on the cob taste so different from canned corn?  I don't know, but anyone in my family can tell you I won't touch canned corn with a 10 foot pole. I despise it.  But give me corn on the cob and I'll eat it all summer long.

I spent almost 2 hours yesterday morning watching "Dating Naked" on VH1 and then hated myself.  Did I just mention voyeurism up there?! Andddddddd it's time for me to get rid of cable.

I was out running errands last week, missed lunch and was starving.  I usually have some kind of protein bar in my bag at all times for just such occasions but for some reason I did not.  So I ran into GNC to grab something.  They only had 2 vegan options so I settled on this one, and it was not the greatest.  I didn't even finish all of it :(  Super disappointing because it costs $3.99?! WHAT?!  I like Vega's protein but this just did not do it for me.

It's been awhile since I've done happy hour, and even longer since I had been down to Fell's Point, once my favorite neighborhood in the city.  I still love the area, but every time I go back, I see my old workplace and get really negative vibes. I don't know if there's a bad energy surrounding that place or if just brings back unpleasant memories for me, but nonetheless it's there.  Anywayyyyyy, I had a good time with friends on Friday and met some new people so I'd like to think that my influx of GOOD vibes helped to counteract those negative ones.

Sliders and Strawberry Soda (which was pretty much a strawberry flavored mojito.  I had 3.  Don't judge.)

As I was driving downtown Friday, sun out, windows open and radio up, on the most perfect of summer afternoons, the DJ on the radio took that moment to inform us all that there are only 7 weekends left of summer.  WTH dude?!  He also made it a point to repeat this statement.  Why are people trying to kill off summer already.  I've heard tons of people say summer is half over.  Can we please just enjoy the greatest season on earth without constantly reminding each other of its eventual and impending end?

All I can think about lately is planning my trip to CA in Sept!  I've been researching hostels and Airbnb and daydreaming about dipping my toes in the Pacific Ocean for the first time EVER!  My plans are to fly into San Diego and spend a few days there (either in a hostel or in a room in someone's home from Airbnb), then rent a car and drive up Hwy 1 to experience the coastal scenery.  I plan on stopping for a day or two at beach near LA (Long Beach? Venice? Santa Monica?) before continuing up Hwy 1 to San Francisco where I hope to meet up with a friend I used to work with many years ago.  From there, I'll grab my sister and our friend from SFO airport and make another 2 hour drive north to our cabin and wedding site!  I CAN"T WAIT!  I feel like something life-changing may happen on this trip.  And that's all I'm going to say.  I don't want to jinx it!

Is anyone even still reading this?!  I think I've blabbered on enough for this post.  But that's what's been happening lately.  Fill me on the little or big things you've been thinking about lately. I love to hear them.  Really.

Also, anyone out there have experience using Airbnb?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Family Times are the Best Times

Hiiiiii!  I've just come back from a whirlwind 4 day visit to PA!  We had a bunch of family things going on and my sister and many of my cousins came in from out of state.  It was wonderful and I was so sad to leave last night.  It makes me so happy when all of my sisters, cousins and extended family are reunited.  I love the times when we can all come together.  It reminds me of when we were little and we used to do things together all the time, before everyone grew up, spread and out and moved away.

Ok enough sappiness.  On to the recap!  Warning: picture overload ahead.

The weekend started out with a surprise 90th birthday party for my grandfather!  He is truly the patriarch of our family, and the person who instilled the notion in all of us that family comes first.  Holidays and parties were always hosted at my grandparents house when I was little, and there is nothing my grandfather loves more than having his whole family gathered together.  He walked into the party totally surprised!  (Probably because his actual birthday isn't until October! HA But we planned the event when everyone could fly into town.)

Here are a few pics from the party:

My grandparents and their grandchildren

My grandparents with my family

My 5 nieces and nephews!
I would say the party was a raging success (without any actual raging, of course).
The following day was my niece's Christening day.  My sister asked me to be Godmother.  I now have 4 Godchildren!  Each time I'm asked, I feel so special that the parents have chosen me to serve that role in their children's lives :)  After the Christening there was a big party at my parents house.  It happened to be the HOTTEST day of the year so far, so most people stayed indoors. Which meant my parent's house was pretty much bursting at the seams!  Ah well, the more the merrier. 
My new Goddaughter
The next day we took the kids to an amusement park.  I can now successfully cross that item off my summer bucket list! Yee haw.  This particular park was one that my parents used to take us to when we were little (Knoebels), and it was the first time we had been back there in 20+ years!  It was also the first time I had been to an amusement park at all in years.  Something about being there kind of makes you feel like a kid again.  Who am I kidding, I pretty much feel like a kid every day.  HA  #nannylife
We spent all day there which wore the kids (and adults) OUT!

Post flume-ride AKA soaked!



Other highlights from the extended weekend include:
Picking giant zucchinis from my parent's garden:
Spending more time with my newest nephew who is now 1 month old!

And of course, some Vegan Treats (cake batter & chocolate soft serve):

Someone recently told me that my family sounds lovely from the way I speak about them and it's true. I love them.  I cherish the times when we are all able to be together.  Especially my sisters.  I miss them both often and wish I could pop over to see my nieces and nephews any time I wanted!  Time really does seem to speed up as you get older.  I guess the best we can do is to enjoy the moments we have together and hold them in our heart until the next time.  Kind of like what I do with summer to get me through each winter :)

I hope you've all been well and making memories of your own!

What were you up to this weekend?

Are you close to your family?

When was the last time you went to an amusement park?!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Fitness Friday: 6 Benefits of Exercise That Have Nothing to Do With Weight Loss

I think a pulled a hammy.  Actually, I have no idea.  Pretty sure I don't remember doing anything like this either:

A few weeks ago I felt a twinge behind my left knee when I was running.  It felt like someone was snapping a rubber band against the back of my knee!  So bizarre.  OF COURSE, I continued running for the next 2-3 weeks.  It wasn't especially painful and the weird sensation would only last for the first 1/2 mile or so, then fade away.  But it has gotten progressively worse, so I finally decided to take some time off.  Trying to be a good Bean here even though it's driving me UP THE WALL.

The strange thing about the pain is that it isn't present on the back of my thigh at all, where I imagine a hamstring strain would be.  The pain is behind my knee only and has me thinking it is an inflamed tendon/ligament (tendinitis maybe?) at the point of insertion of the hamstring muscle.

Why am I telling you all of this?!  Partially because I want someone out there to tell me what this mystery injury could be.  And partially because it relates to the title of this post!

There are SO many other benefits to working out than just weight loss, or weight maintenance.  Now that I am 'injured' I am acutely aware of all of these benefits and missing them incredibly.  These are some of the beneficial side effects I experience from exercising.  What about you?

Even on days when I'm feeling tired or unmotivated, actually especially on those kinds of days, if I get myself to the gym or fit in some kind of workout, it actually gives me an energy boost.  It sounds counterintuitive but it's a real side effect of movement.  And the cumulative effects of working out regularly lead to a steady state of increased energy.  It's akin to a rock rolling down a hill, picking up more and more momentum with every movement. 

Works with kids, and adults too!  The more you wear yourself out during the day, the more restful your sleep will be at night.  Total nanny knowledge right there.  Even after taking just a few days off, my sleep has been affected.  I am tossing and turning and not sleeping soundly.  I have way too much pent up energy.

Exercise is a natural way to release stress (as opposed to throwing back a fifth of Jack).  If I have a lot on my mind, or am feeling frustrated/angry/etc, running is a HUGE release for me.  But whatever your exercise of choice, working out definitely helps release some of the stress hormones we all tend to accumulate over the course of each day.  Since it's only one of my legs that's affected, I'm considering taking up punching, I mean boxing, for awhile. 

This is somewhat related to #3 but I feel like over the course of a day, there's a lot of 'junk' that builds up in my brain.  And working out has a magical way of clearing that out.  I think if you exercise you will agree, you feel so much sharper and mentally focused right after you work out. I feel like all those little neurons in my brain are firing a mile a minute. I wish I knew the scientific reason for this but I do not. 

One of running's greatest side effects!  Endorphins are nature's pharmaceuticals and working out pumps a bunch of the 'feel-good' hormones right into your bloodstream.  Oh Goddddddddd am I missing runner's high right now.

Working out obviously increases your body confidence, but we're focusing on non-weight related benefits for this post, so I'm talking more about self esteem here.  When you accomplish something physically, it absolutely makes you feel more powerful and self assured about other aspects of your life.  You feel like you can take on the world.  After finishing a half marathon, I almost always feel like I can probably run for President.  Or something like that.

For all of these reasons I hope this hammy, or whatever it is, shapes up and ships off REAL FAST!

How about you?

What non-weight-related benefits do you experience from working out?

Have a great weekend!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer Evening Concerts at Boordy Vineyards

"Summer days drifting away to, uh oh, those summer nights..."

I love summer nights, probably second only to summer days.  There is something about the long lazy way the sun sets and twilight that seems to last forever in summer.  It's as if the sun doesn't want to say goodbye to us in the summer.  I think it misses us just as much as we missed it, after hiding away all winter.

This weekend I had the opportunity to spend a perfect summer night outside, with friends, drinking wine.  Perfect.  Did I already say that?

It was my first time at Boordy Vineyards in Hydes, MD (north of the city, east of Towson).  It's a nice scenic driving through winding rural roads to get out there and the grounds of the winery itself are pretty picturesque.

One of my best friends organized a girls night out on Saturday so we could attend one of Boordy's outdoor summer concerts.  The winery hosts concerts every Saturday evening throughout the summer from 6:30-9:30pm if you're interested.  Tickets are $20.  You can bring your own snacks and food (but no outside alcohol), and then purchase wine there.  There's a huge lawn to set up blankets/tents/tables and have a picnic!

When we got there is was still super sunny and HOT!  We're talking boob sweat, and I barely even have boobs.  Whenever I feel myself start to complain at times like those I just remind myself of the endless, freezing, arctic Winter we had and I'm all good.  Sooooooooo, yes, it was hot...and I loved every minute of it.  And what better way to rehydrate when you are sweating buckets than with wine?  Pretty common runner sense right there. 
Boordy had about 15 or more wines available for purchase:
A few of the wine varieties for sale

We ended up drinking mostly sweet and white wines.  I'm not a huge wine drinker or lover but I really do not enjoy dry, red wines.  #Italianfail

My favorites tend to be cheap, fruity, bubbly dessert wines.  I mean, lets be real, I enjoy some Arbor Mist.  HAHA

Boordy's Riesling was my favorite from the evening:

Also, side note, we had so many good snacks!  Everyone brought something and we ended up with: Olive oil and dipping bread, Veggies, fruit & dip, Chips and salsa, Pita chips and hummus, meat, cheeses and cookies.  YUM!

The band we listened to that night was also really fun.  They were a cover band that played all kinds of popular music from the 50's to now.  Think a wedding type band.  There was also a huge patio if you wanted to dance but we ended up just dancing on the grass. 

Started the night conservatively with 4 bottles
Ended the night with 8 (I think??)
Here are a few more pics from the evening:


Red solo cups.  We're so classy.

It was a great way to spend a summer evening and I hope we are able to do it again before summer's over.  I'd definitely recommend the winery or concert series to anyone in the Baltimore area!

I hope you all had great weather this weekend and enjoyed your summer nights!

What were you up to this weekend?

Have you ever been to a vineyard?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Summer Haiku


Sun that never sets
Twinkling sky filled with fireflies
Days that never end
The heat wraps itself
Like a blanket around me
Summer, I feel you
Bright ripe fruit so sweet
Peaches, melon, and berries
We waited all year
I shed my layers
And step outside to run free
Rain, not snow, cools me
Sand beneath my feet
Waves that crash against my legs
I have missed you, sea
Driving around town,
Windows down and music up
I am Taylor Swift!

Your turn!  Write me a Summer Haiku or two!  (3 line poem that follows a 5-7-5 syllable pattern)

Happy Summer weekend to you all!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Celebrating the 4th with Baseball, Babies and Running!

Helloooooooooo!  What day is it??  I've been out of town for the past 3 1/2 days and feel all out of sorts.  What month are we in again?!

There was a lot going on this weekend back home so this post is going to be laden with plenty of pictures, particularly BABY pictures.  You're welcome!

Friday started out with a 4 mile run around my parent's neighborhood, followed by manual labor in my father's garden.  I pruned tomato plants for the first time ever.  I'm a farmer now.  Do these look pruned or what?!


Later that evening, my dad and I celebrated the 4th in possibly the most American way ever: with baseball!  The Phillies' AAA farm team plays in Allentown and my dad got seats in his company's box for us.  LIVING LARGE. 

Just a couple of ballers.
The game went into seven extra innings.  I repeat, SEVEN.  I watched 16 innings of baseball that night.  And after all that, they lost. 
And then we stayed for the midnight fireworks:

Saturday morning I met up with one of my very best friends so that we could run together.  We ran track together in high school, TWENTY years ago!  And she was amazing.  Definitely faster than me.  She was a middle distance runner (the 800m was her event) and made it to Districts freshman year.  Well, she has just started running again, and is training for her first half marathon in the Fall.  So I couldn't wait for us to take a trip down memory lane and go for our first run together in years.  I HAD SO MUCH FUN!  I hope she did too.  I can't wait to do it again.  In fact, I think I'm going to run the half marathon she has chosen in the Fall as well. (This one)

High school track teammates and BFF's - 20 years later.
Later that afternoon, I went over to my sister's house so I could hang out with my new nephew!  He is such a sweet baby. 
We had a nice chat.


I miss him already.  Every time one of my sisters has another kid, I think, "How can they possibly top any of my current nieces/nephews?".  And somehow, each one comes out just as cute.  I really hope there's no limit to these good looking genes because I'm counting on them coming through when I eventually reproduce.

On Sunday, I went on a long walk and then came home and stacked firewood outside for my dad.  WHO AM I!?!  Paul Bunyan apparently. I am paying for that manly display today. 

In the afternoon, we were invited to our grandparent's house for a 4th (5th?) of July cookout.  My grandfather is the one who has the grape arbor that came from Sicily almost 100 years ago with my great grandparents! The grapes are so plentiful now that they create a huge shaded awning over the back patio, and this is where we've had all our family cookouts since I was little!

It was great seeing my grandparents, cousins, aunts and of course THIS GUY again!

We had 4 generations of our family celebrating Independence Day yesterday! 

So much outdoor time, family time, and baby time this weekend.  It was perfect.  I hope yours was wonderful too.

What did you do for the 4th?