09/5/16

Review: The all new Mitsubishi Mirage!

Last week I had an opportunity to drive and review a 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 as part of the blogger outreach program through DriveShop USA! sssssss

For the first time ever, the Mitsubishi Mirage comes in a compact sedan version, in additional to the familiar hatchback we all know and love! But don’t worry- the features you love about this vehicle are still there- amazing gas mileage at 35 city/ 42 highway, 10 years/100,000 power train warranty, tons of safety features and upgrade options, and the perfect price starting at $13,995! IMG_8669

The added room that the trunk brings makes this the perfect vehicle for families, but it’s also a fantastic car for commuting around town, road trips, running errands around the city and so much more. Liz, from the blog No Ordinary Liz, test drove the new Mirage a week before I did. I had the chance to ride around with her on some activities we did during that time, and since we’re smack dab in the middle of back to school season, we both kept thinking the same thoughts about this car: this would make a perfect car for the young adult in your life heading off to college! Together, we sat down and brainstormed some awesome reasons why!

First up, it’s spacious. Between the roomy and secure trunk space (12.3 cubic feet of space!) for all of those dorm furnishings and supplies, the amazing gas mileage for those weekend trips home, the 2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 the bill!

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In addition to the roominess of the Mirage compact sedan, worried parents can put their minds at ease with all of the safety Mitsubishi has integrated into the Mirage. The G4 comes equipped with safety features like: 

  • 7 standard airbags
  • wide-angle rear view backup camera with assist
  • tire pressure monitoring system
  • anti-locking breaks with break assist
  • active stability control sensors that monitor the grip of each tire
  • three point seat belts
  • reinforced impact safety evolution (RISE) body utilizing crumple zones that route and absorb energy during high-impact collisions
  • hill start assist
  • great visibility with less blindspotsIMG_8668

In addition, the available display audio with smartphone link offers a smarter and safer way to use your smartphone in the car. This awesome feature supports Apple CarPlay and lets you access music, maps, make phone calls, and send messages through the touchscreen, or with voice command using Siri. The system also supports Android Auto! 

The Mitsubishi Mirage G4 is compact in size but has been rated best-in-class in turning radius, making it the ultimate car for navigating narrow and busy city streets.
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If you’re in the market for a great vehicle for yourself, or the college student in your life, give the Mitsubishi Mirage G4 a try! Special thanks to Mitsubishi and DriveShop for this opportunity. If you want to know more about Mitsubishi, follow all the action by searching the hashtag #DriveMitsubishi!  

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08/16/16

My first Mammogram at 37

Disclaimer: This post covers sensitive medical and wellness related topics involving breast cancer and preventative procedures. If you feel uncomfortable discussing or reading about these topics, please skip this post. I won’t be offended because I know you’ll be back! Additionally, I am NOT a medical professional. I am simply a patient giving my opinion on how to be proactive with women’s health issues. Please consult your own physician before attempting any medical procedure or self-diagnosing. 

Posts like this never get easier. It’s just the nature of the subject. But it’s important for me to continue to write about my experiences in dealing with my own health after losing my mother to stage 4 triple negative carcinoma (the worst case scenario as far as breast cancers go) four years ago. And because some of you may be facing these same high-risk circumstances, my hope is that I can bring you comfort, knowledge and the confidence to take control of your situation with proactive, preventative measures in order to live a calm, happy and healthy life. 

Last January I went in for my annual women’s wellness exam, which included a pap smear and breast exam by the doctor. Because I perform monthly self-breast exams (SO IMPORTANT!), I was ready to talk to her about some changes I had noticed just below the surface of my nipple area. I had discovered something that felt like a hard pimple. She guessed that it was some type of sub-dermal cyst. She had me monitor it and what we noticed is that it seemed to go away when I wasn’t menstruating, then reappear right before my cycle began. This lead her to believe, even more so, that this was a cyst. 

Erring on the side of caution, considering my mother’s history, she ordered a mammogram and an ultrasound to at least investigate what the bump could be, and have a baseline for future screenings. I left that conversation confident that all was ok and that this first mammogram would truly be a precaution and a baseline. 

It took me months, MONTHS, to schedule those appointments. I wasn’t emotionally ready to face my first mammogram at the young age of 36. It was something I didn’t think I had to do until I was well into my 40’s and the thought of it terrified me. Not only the process itself, but the possibility of the bad news it could bring.

The prescription was burning a hole in the drawer it was in. Every day I would walk by it thinking to myself “I need to make that appointment and get it over with.”  But each time I would sit down to finally rip the Band-Aid off, dread would set in and take over. This happened daily for those months. It was all-consuming and no matter what I tried, I couldn’t overcome it. 

I watched my mom die. I was there, in the room, and witnessed her taking her last breath because of breast cancer. I watched her suffer, for a whole year, because of breast cancer. I was in the hospital room when the doctors came in and told her there was nothing else they could do for her. I will never forget the look she had on her face. 

I can’t help but think those same things are going to happen to me. I can’t help but feel that same fear and terror. I can’t help worrying and stressing over it. It is the ugly side of grief that I rarely talk about because I know it’s not good for my mental health. And it’s certainly not good for those of you reading this. But it’s my truth, and it’s something I struggle with daily. 

Last Friday I received a phone call from my doctor’s office. I let it go to voicemail. They wanted to know why they hadn’t received my mammogram results. I was embarrassed and ashamed. It took me 20 seconds to dig out the prescription and make the appointment. 

Deep breath…Start from where you’re at Stephanie…

I couldn’t change the months that had gone by. I couldn’t change my fear and my anxiety during that time. But I could take what I had, and start from there. So I did. 

Today, 4 days later, I walked into Tower Diagnostics with my loving fiancé by my side to do one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in quite a while. As I waited, I thought about anything and everything except the “c word.” And when it was my turn to head to the back room, I dug deep into the bravest parts of my soul and did what I know I needed to do. 

The mammogram itself only took a few minutes. The technician wasn’t very talkative and got straight to work. I wanted to tell her about my mom. I wanted to tell her about my fears so that she could calm them. I wanted to ask her if Brian could come back here with me. But instead, I listened carefully to her directions and did exactly what I was told- focusing only on her words and counting as the machine imaged each of my breasts. When she was done, she left for a bit and returned telling me she needed to redo my right breast. That was a bit unnerving, but again, I went through the motions and it was done within 6 seconds. unnamed (9)

I was then moved into another room and waited for the ultrasound technician. It took a bit longer, and after 20 minutes, I was directed to a dimly lit room. This technician was a bit friendlier and walked me through the process of what she was doing and had me point out the small bump of concern. This too only took about 10 minutes and before I knew it, I was almost ready to go home. The ultrasound tech said that before I left, she was going to take these results to the doctor so that he could compare them to the mammogram and see if there were any additional areas to scan while they had me there on the ultrasound table. 

Those five minutes felt like forever. I had been so brave and calm up until that moment. I thought about the results. I thought about my mom. I thought about how drastically life changes for someone who gets those three little words “you have cancer.” I prayed for them, for me, for my mom.” As I waited for the technician to return, I couldn’t control the tears.

There are times when I think I’m done with the grieving process, but then I’m reminded that grief is something that becomes a part of you. Forever. 

When the technician returned, she informed me that the doctor didn’t see any reason to have to continue the ultrasound, and that my regular gynecologist would receive the scans and read them as well. She had me get dressed and sent me on my way. I walked out of the building feeling a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. I had done it. I survived my first mammogram. It was over, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had thought it would be. Yes it was an emotional moment for me, however the process in itself was easy, and that’s what we need to focus on.unnamed (10)

This simple, fast and painless diagnostic tool can be a life saver. Between annual mammograms and monthly self breast exams, we can catch cancer early- which increases chances of survival drastically.

Facing something like breast cancer is scary. But it’s important to stay proactive and positive. To know your body and recognize changes if they occur. To trust your doctors as the experts. And to never, ever lose hope that everything IS and WILL be OK.

To be brave, even when you think you can’t. #TeamJudy

Update: The results of the mammogram and ultrasound came back perfectly clear! I’m very relieved!
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Additional resources

What to expect during your first mammogram
Self-breast exam how-to
Know what you have part I
Know what you have part II

08/10/16

Starting from where you are

So often I hear people speaking of regrets. 
How if only they had done x, y or z, life might be a little different, a little better, etc. 
How they’ve waited too long to make a decision, and now it might be too late. 
How they’re too old, or too out of shape, or too <enter excuse here> to reach a goal, try something new or fix a problem they’re experiencing. 

And when they do consider moving past those regrets, they’re often stricken with a bad case of the “what if’s.”
What if I can’t do it? What if it won’t work? What if I give up? What if it turns out badly? 

We’ve all been there. I’ve been there. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in those mind games and even harder to pull yourself out once you’re in that mode. But it’s important to live in and appreciate the awesomeness of right now. Because living in a past of regrets and fearing a future of “what if’s” messes up your present state of mind. And in the end, what is happening right now is what will directly impact your happiness and what you can (and will) achieve. 

So how do you live in the right now? 

First, allow yourself the grace to start from where you are.

So 5 years ago you lost 50lbs and now you’ve gained it all back (and then some). So what? Now what?! Don’t fixate on the person that you used to be. Focus on who you are now and start from there. Don’t beat yourself up over choices, events or actions of the past that brought you to where you are at this moment. You’re a different person today than you were yesterday, or 10 years ago. Your physical body doesn’t live in the past, so why do you allow your mind to live there? Grant yourself a fresh start without feeling guilty thinking “but I’ve given myself X number of starts in the past” and focus on where you are right now. 

Grab a piece of paper and a pen and write down a goal you’d like to achieve at the top of the sheet. Now, make a list of the tools you have and the actions you can take right now to accomplish that goal. Don’t worry about how you tackled the goal in the past, don’t worry about why you are in the place you are in at this moment, and especially don’t play the “what if/excuses” game. Just focus on the present and go from there. 

For example: 
Let’s say your goal is that you want to cross the finish line of a 5k race (whether it be your first time or you’ve taken a hiatus and want to get back into it.)

Don’t fixate on the fact that in high school you couldn’t finish the 1 mile test so there’s no way you’re going to be able to do this (what if’s) and don’t think about how 10 years ago you were running marathons, but you haven’t run in years and how you wish you didn’t have to start from scratch (regrets). 

Instead, throw on whatever sneakers you have in your closet and go for a walk around your neighborhood. Time yourself and start with 15 minutes of walking, fast-walking or even jogging if you feel so inclined. Don’t worry about mileage, just focus on duration. If after 15 minutes you’re feeling like you could do 5 more, then go for it. Start from where you are at- not the end result. If you want to complete a 5k and you start by walking 3 miles and aren’t able to complete it, you will likely call it quits because you had a taste of failure… and failure is easy.

Little by little your goal will unravel. Be patient, persistent, and positive with yourself. Once you get up to 30 minutes, start measuring your distance (there are lots of free apps like MapMyRun, etc). You’ll be surprised to see how far 30 minutes will get you, and you’ll be that much closer to crossing the finish line of that 5k you’ve set your sights on. 

I’m writing this post because, like many of you, I feel as though I need to allow myself a start. I have so much to look forward to this year, with a new job and an upcoming wedding. And in order to feel my best on my wedding day and beyond, I need to bring my goals back into focus and grant myself a start without feeling guilty or defeated from past efforts. Running has been placed on the back burner due to a struggle with Plantar’s fasciitis, and my nutritional choices haven’t been what I know helps me reach my weight loss goals. So this is my start. I have a followup appointment with my doctor next Tuesday to check on my foot issue, a pantry and fridge full of clean, healthy options, and scheduled workouts at Orangetheory booked and ready. I am also bringing out my PIYO dvd’s so that I can get back to working on flexibility, as that too has lost its priority. I’m meeting myself where I’m at, and moving forward from here. unnamed (6)

We are so unnecessarily hard on ourselves. If you need a start, gift yourself with one. You don’t need to explain yourself, nor do you need to justify your start. Set your sights on what you want to accomplish, change or grow into, and go for it!

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08/10/16

Summer adventures

Hello from Philly!13524396_10154354176277474_4827096404118096982_n

We’ve had an amazing time up here visiting with family in Delaware and enjoying a few days in Philly while the Dave Matthews Band is in town! To top things off, yesterday was our 5th anniversary and today is my 37th birthday! What better way to spend both of those special days than on an epic vacation! Continue reading

08/9/16

Delicious baking & snacking with Simple Mills! #Giveaway

#Brought to you through a partnership with Simple Mills and Orangespoken. I was provided compensation in the form of product for this post and giveaway. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

A few months ago I was wander the aisles of my local Fresh Market when something caught my eye in the baking mixes section. B0176XXD8E_LEFT_jpg_1024x1024

Almond flour cake mix? Made with just 6 simple Paleo-friendly, gluten-free ingredients including coconut sugar? 

It was too good to be true. 

After experimenting with recipes using these same ingredients, and failing at oh-so-many, I was SUPER eager to plop this into my shopping cart and see if this was going to be my new baking go-to. 

I easily whipped up a batch of vanilla cupcakes as soon as I got home and they were perfect.

Moist, sweet, flavorful cupcake perfection. I was sold and could not WAIT to try the other products. Simple_Mills_BM_-_1.0_74e0503e-0a37-4464-b4db-a5620c931ee8_1024x1024

Let’s just say I’ve made the rounds. 😉PicMonkey Collage

From chocolate chip cookie mixes and bread doughs, to muffin mixes and even ready-made crackers for snacking, Simple Mills has it all and all of their products are certified GLUTEN FREE, SOY FREE, GUM FREE, NON-GMO, PALEO FRIENDLY!Simple_Mills_Cracker_Box_Dining_Room_1.1_1024x1024

All of the ingredients used are intentional and none are artificial. When you purchase a Simple Mills product, you can be sure that you are putting something healthy and nutrient-packed into your body. Their recipes are low-glycemic, low carb and low sugar. But never to fear- flavor is NOT sacrificed! I have officially tried all of the products and each one is absolutely delicious and satisfying. You CAN have your cake an eat it too! Simple_Mills_BM_-_1.1_1024x1024

I’m excited to announce a blogging partnership with Simple Mills and would like to invite you to follow us on social media for product updates, recipe ideas and so much more (see links in the giveaway below).

In addition, I would love to offer 2 lucky readers a chance to try Simple Mills for yourself!

Use the Rafflecopter below and be entered to win a box of Simple Mills cake mix (1 chocolate- pictured below and 1 vanilla- pictured above) AND some coupons to use on your next purchase! B00B3IKEWW_LEFT_jpg_213db204-fc81-447b-ad16-09c63a63ea21_1024x1024

Good luck and happy baking!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

07/4/16

Sweet, sour and spicy quick pickles

Happy Fourth of July!

Need a last minute summer snack to whip up for a party or picnic? Try these SUPER simple sweet, sour and spicy quick pickles! 
ddc6df9b-fb92-4edddddddb5-b142-50632b0c4c52These pickles are SO flavorful, with just the right balance of sweet and sour- with a little kick at the end from some spice. They can be ready is as little as 2 hours and will last 2-3 weeks in an air-tight container in the fridge. You can use whatever type of cucumber you like- English, mini-pickling, etc. OR try using onions, sweet peppers or even carrots! The pickling possibilities are endless!
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06/12/16

Light and fresh shrimp salad

Yesterday I attended two parties.

Right? Party animal, right here. 😉

The first was a bridal shower for my cousin Jake’s lovely fiance Michelle and the second was an engagement party for the same happy couple. Aren’t they the cutest? I used to babysit Jake back-in-the-day and cannot believe he’s about to tie the knot! Where does the time go? 10255808_10205521843789353_4478302339785795183_n Continue reading