Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Party on, Nutella!

Creamy chocolate . . . hazelnut . . . yum . . .

Yes, I love Nutella. It's like a mash-up of so many of my favorite things. And isn't chocolate like the new health food these days? Yeah? I thought so :-)

What's more, according to the Nutella folks (and probably kids everywhere), it's the perfect thing for breakfast. I admit I hadn't thought of Nutella as a breakfast food until I was invited to host a Nutella tasting party with some of my friends. Nutella sent samples of the spread and other goodies, along with information on how to enjoy Nutella for breakfast. It is, after all, the most important meal of the day.

I decided to host a little playdate where the moms and the kids could try out the Nutella. We chatted, drank some coffee and tea and tasted Nutella spread on whole grain bread and animal crackers (hey, kids love animal crackers!). It was yummy! And I think the kids liked it too -- at least my (messy) son did.

Now, my son is a breakfast eater, so we don't have any problems there. But I know that other moms have trouble getting their kids to eat in the morning, especially when the menu consists of healthy foods. Nutella encourages them to look to the spread to help get their kids to eat healthy:
When used in moderation with complementary foods, Nutella® can form a part of a balanced meal. It is a quick and easy way to encourage kids to eat whole grains, such as whole wheat toast, English muffins, toaster waffles and bagels. With the unique taste of Nutella®, kids may think they are eating a treat for breakfast while moms are helping nourish their children with whole grains.
Although I don't have problems with breakfast, my son often wants treats for snacks. And by treats he means junk. So, I would look to Nutella on whole grain bread with sliced banana on top, or spread on a whole wheat tortilla, as an occasional snack option.

You can learn more about Nutella by visiting their web site. They have a Tips for Moms page set up and you can also download a coupon for $1 off a jar of Nutella. For those of you who really, really love Nutella, they are running a sweepstakes for a case of Nutella. That's 12 jars! Check it out HERE.

Review disclaimer: I was invited to host the tasting party and received samples of Nutella through MomSelect. I was not otherwise compensated and the opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Managing and maximizing family finances

Thank you to TurboTax for sponsoring my writing about household finances. Learn more about how TurboTax can help you find every tax deduction you deserve. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

In some sort of ironic twist, I have become the family financial manager. I say ironic twist because I'm more or less you're typical English Lit major kinda gal and my husband, well, he has the word budget in his professional job title, which should make him the perfect candidate for the home job.

Nope, it's me.

And I don't mind it. I almost like it.

It's true. There is a math geek buried deep inside me that longs to do a little subtraction, division and, when we're lucky, some addition and multiplication. But more than anything, it just makes sense. I do the shopping, I stay at home with my two boys so you could say that I have the time to manage the finances.

But even though I have the time I don't like to waste it. Instead, I like to maximize it and be as efficient as possible. So I do as much as possible online. We have a credit union that has an excellent online banking system and that serves as our hub. My husband has direct deposit for his paychecks so those go right into our account every two weeks. Our credit card and mortgage are through the same credit union so I just have to set up account transfers to pay those bills. Actually, the mortgage is set up as an automatic monthly payment so I don't have to do anything to pay that bill!

For all of our utilities and other regular bills (gas, electric, phone, cable, insurance, etc.) I have electronic payments set up so that when I receive a bill I just go online, input the amount that I need to pay for a particular bill and it is automatically sent on the date that I set. It's practically magic. I don't have to write any checks, fish through my bag for a stamp or worry about the payment being late. 

Aside from the ease of electronic payments there is also the fact that it does save real money. You might not think of it, but saving 42 cents on every monthly bill does add up. I figure we have about 8 bills that we pay each month, so that's a savings of $3.36 each month, or $40.32 each year. EDITED: Suzy pointed out that stamps are now 44 cents, so the savings is even greater: $3.52 each month, $42.24 each year.

Speaking of savings, one other key to managing my family's finances is to make the most of the money we have. My income plummeted (to almost non-existent levels) once we had kids and decided that I would stay home and care for them full time. We need, then, to save where we can. So I do the usual: I comparison shop, use coupons and continue to wear sports bras that I bought back in the 1990s. I also use the power of the Internet to save even more. By "liking" my favorite brands on Facebook, for example, I can often get notice of discounts, coupons or special deals. Similarly, I join rewards programs for brands I buy regularly (like the Stonyfield rewards program that gives me lots of free product just for inputting codes online from their yogurt).

One thing I don't do, and that many experts recommend, is budget. Strict budgets are just too . . . well, they are too strict for this gal. It's kinda like weight loss: Some people say you should weigh yourself all the time to keep your weight in check. But, for me, I prefer to gauge my weight by how my clothes fit.

It's the same with budgeting. I like to go by feel. I try to keep our weekly shopping tab to a certain amount. If I go over it by much one week I make a concerted effort to go under that amount the next week. And if we have a lot of extra things going on one month, I try to keep our spending a little lower the next.

It's just what works for me and for my family.

But what about you? Do you manage your family's finances? Have any tips you'd like to share? Think I'm ridiculous for not budgeting? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

CEP Compression Socks winner!

Holy cow. You all like the compression socks, huh?

Thanks to everyone who entered! There was great interest in this giveaway but I could only pick one winner. I used to select the winner and it is . . .

Allison at Just Tri and Finish

Congratulations, Allison! Send me an email (felicehalf at yahoo dot com) and we'll go from there :-)

Thanks to CEP for this awesome giveaway!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rokit Fuel winner!

You all seemed pretty eager to try out the Rokit Fuel. Unfortunately, I could only choose one winner and that is . . .

Rose from Eat, Drink and Be Meiri!

Congratulations, Rose! Email me your address (at felicehalf at yahoo dot com) and I will get you hooked up. I hope you enjoy the Rokit Fuel as much as I do.

Thanks again to Rokit Fuel for introducing me to their yummy endurance food and for this great giveaway!

Monday, March 7, 2011

CEP Compression Socks review and giveaway!

I have long wondered whether or not compression socks really work. I've read reviews on other blogs and seen people wearing them at races but still I wondered. Are they worth the money? Should I splurge?

Well, now I have my answer. I was contacted to try out a pair of CEP compression socks recently and I've worn them several times. My overall opinion is that they work! Totally worth the splurge.

CEP stands for Compete, Endure, Perform. I like it! I mean, when I compete I have to endure (some pain) to perform (well). What's more, CEP claims that they are "clinically proven to increase performance by 5%." Sounds good to me!

Here's a little information on compression and CEP socks:

The Science Behind Compression:1. Arteries with normal blood flow - Arteries are blood vessels that transport oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the organs and muscles. Veins transport de-oxygenated blood back to the heart.
2. Arteries extension - The compression of the CEP compression sportsocks expands the diameter of the inner arterial wall thus improving blood flow to the muscles.
3. An increased arterial blood circulation and supply of oxygen to the musculature - The arterial blood circulation increases by approximately 30% while at rest and by approximately 40% under physical strain. The special compression profile of the CEP compression sport socks* is a decisive element in ensuring these results.
CEP Prevents:
  • Shin Splints
  • Cramps
  • Achilles Issues
  • Fatigue
  • Micro Muscle tears
  • Vibration trauma
  • Blisters
  • Blood clots from travel
Read more about CEP's products on their web site HERE.

Since I'm training for a half marathon I've been able to give the socks several good workouts: I've worn them on all of my recent long runs (an 11 miler, my 9.2 mile race, a 12.5 miler and a 13 miler) and I've worn them for my speedwork (mile repeats). I've also worn the socks after my runs to enhance and speed recovery.

Check out my flashy green gams:

I know, weird angle. It was the best I could do!

The socks are a little tricky to get on, because they are tight (compression, you know). But, I like how the socks feel when I'm wearing them and I especially like how I have felt during my runs while wearing the socks. In fact, while wearing them I have run faster than expected in my 9.2 mile race and in my recent 13 miler. Now, I'm not going to give all the credit for my recent awesome runs to my CEP socks (I've been working hard!) but I think they may be contributing to how well my runs have been going. 

Overall, I really like the socks. I plan to wear them for my half marathon and I'll most likely be sporting them for the rest of this year's upcoming races. Hmm . . . I have a bunch of races on the schedule so maybe I should splurge on another pair!

To buy:

CEP Compression Socks retail for $60. You can buy them at various online retailers. 

Lucky for you, CEP has given me a discount to share! Visit Sports Compression and input the code BLOG15 for a 15% discount on your order! 

To win:

Would you like to win a pair of CEP compression socks? Sure you would! Well, that's what going on. One lucky reader will win one pair of CEP compression socks. 

To enter:

Here's what you need to do: Become a follower of CEP on Facebook AND their blog (REQUIRED) and then come back here and leave me a comment.

Additional entries:

As always, you can gain extra entries. Remember, though, you must complete the required entries first! (Leave one comment per entry for the additional ones to count):

  • Follow this blog, or let me know that you already do (leave a comment)
  • Follow my other blog, or let me know that you already do (leave a comment)
  • Become a fan of The Happy Runner on Facebook, or let me know that you already are (leave a comment)
  • Let me know what your favorite socks are (leave a comment)
  • Link to this giveaway from Facebook or Twitter (do as often as you'd like, just leave a comment  each time)
  • Link to this giveaway from your blog (leave a comment with the url)
This giveaway will run through Tuesday, March 15th at 11:59pm EST and the winner will be announced on Wednesday.

Good luck!

Review/giveaway disclosure: I received one pair of CEP compression socks to try out. I was not otherwise compensated and the opinions expressed are entirely my own. You can read my disclosure statement HERE.

Rokit Fuel giveaway ends tonight!

Be sure to enter the Rokit Fuel giveaway today, if you haven't already. It ends tonight at 11:59 PM EST. Yum, yum, yum!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hey, runners! A contest for you.

Earthbound Farm recently announced a contest for runners of all sorts: Two entries to any of the races taking place during the Big Sur International Marathon weekend. This looks super cool so I wanted to share it with all of you. Here's some information from the Earthbound Farm PR folks:

The world-famous Big Sur International Marathon is sold out in all but two race categories but there is still one easy way to gain entrance to this legendary race. Simply “like” Earthbound Farm on Facebook and secure a chance to win one of the healthiest vacations of a lifetime:  a trip for two to scenic Monterey, Calif., and two coveted entries to the 26th Big Sur International Marathon’s events. 
In just one minute, anyone can enter to win this milestone of an experience. From Feb. 22 through March 15, those who “like” Earthbound Farm on Facebook and take our Healthy Lifestyle Quiz, will be entered into Earthbound Farm’s Big Sur Marathon Sweepstakes!

Run, walk, or watch — there's no more beautiful place to do any of these activities than Big Sur, often called “the most magnificent meeting of land and sea in the world.” Runner’s World named the Big Sur International Marathon one of the three best marathons in America and “the nation’s Best Destination Marathon,” and said it's one to put on "your life list."
As a long-time presenting sponsor of the Big Sur International Marathon’s 10.6- and 9-mile Walks, Earthbound Farm is offering the lucky grand prize winner two guaranteed entries to any of the following events on May 1, 2011:
  • The Big Sur International Marathon (the competitive 26.2-mile run, sold out since October!)
  • The 21-Miler (a non-competitive 21-mile walk or run)
  • The 10.6-Mile Walk presented by Earthbound Farm (a non-competitive 10.6-mile walk or run)
  • The 9-Mile Walk presented by Earthbound Farm (a non-competitive 9-mile walk or run).
  • The Big Sur 5K Race (a competitive walk or run)

The grand prize also includes roundtrip airfare for two to Monterey, accommodations for two at the beautiful Portola Hotel & Spa, a post-marathon spa treatment for two, a new iPod® Touch for chronicling the experience on Facebook and $500 cash (total retail value: $4,500).

For sweepstakes details see our Official Rules. Get more information about the marathon’s events, course requirements and other terms and conditions at

Good luck!