Swamp Sludge


I used to call my green smoothies, Green Monsters, but after last week when my sister dubbed them Swamp Sludge, the name has stuck.  And besides, these 2014 smoothies have taken on a whole new personality from the ones I first began drinking back in 2010.

In the olden days, I’d start in the bottom of the Vitamix with some almond milk, add a frozen banana, a scoop of protein powder, and maybe some berries, then a couple of handfuls of spinach.  They were delicious and a great recovery drink after my long runs.


Now Swamp Sludge is a Green Monster on steroids!


Ron invented these and I am so thankful that he takes the extra time and prepares these for us.  If it were up to me and I in charge of getting our protein recovery drink ready at 5:00am on a Saturday morning, it would probably be a tame little green monster at best.

Nothing doing for Ron.  It’s Swamp Sludge or bust!

Ron starts with green juice as the base.  Green juice is prepared in his Omega Vert juicer and has many of these in it on any given day:  kale, SuperGreens mix, celery, ginger, apples, and carrots.

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He puts probably about 2 cups of this juice in the Vitamix and then he adds some fresh blueberries and strawberries.  Next come the powders.  Garden of Life protein mix, spirulina, maca, and chlorella powders.  These powders are not sweet at all so today he added a little of this mix.


This one is super sweet and a little bit will do ya.

After our long runs with Galloway on Saturday, we head to the truck and our cooler.   You won’t find anything this nutritious or delicious ANYWHERE!  You can’t buy this stuff!  In a pinch a Bolthouse Farms juice or a Smoothie King smoothie will get you close but those just can’t hold a candle to Swamp Sludge.

It does sound and look disgusting but I promise you, it is the bomb!  One Mason jar full satisfies me and I’m good to go until well up into the afternoon.   Do yourself a favor and next time someone offers you some chocolate milk after a long run, thank them kindly and go whirl up some Swamp Sludge.

Happy Sludging Friends!  :)


Energy Balls

The other weekend my sister shared this recipe with me and I loved it so much I had to share it with you.  I made them for our 4th of July party and everyone loved them too.

I’m calling them Energy Balls but they are very similar to this recipe that I found online. 



All you do is take 1/2 cup flax, 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, and 1 cup oats and mix them up in a bowl.  Then take the wet ingredients and add them.  1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/3 cup honey, and a splash of vanilla.

I made 2 batches today and I used the vegan carob chips so some of them would be totally vegan.  Ron is getting very picky about anything dairy and I wanted to make sure he would eat them.

That’s coconut in the container on the left and I rolled some of the balls in that.  I love coconut and this was an awesome addition.


Above are the ones with the carob chips.  I used creamy raw almond butter instead of peanut butter.  They were really easy to ball up due to the creamy nature of the raw almond butter from a brand new jar.


These are the ones with the Nestle chips.  I used some regular almond butter from the fridge on these and they were a little harder to ball up.  If you keep your nut butter in the fridge, I’d recommend that you nuke it a little to help it get to a more creamy consistency.

Lydia tasted one before she left for work and she said she liked the ones from the party better and I used peanut butter in those.  I like these just fine.  It took me quite a while to get used to almond butter but now I prefer it over peanut butter.

I can’t wait to enjoy these all week for that needed afternoon energy.

I think the calories are probably around 100 per ball.

In other news, I got some cute new purple hand weights.  I’m loving the 30 Day Shred!

photo (3)


Go make some energy balls and have a wonderful week!


Happy + Hale

Ron joined Galloway with me and we had a great 8 miler on the Black Creek Greenway.  We ran with the 12:30 pace group and they did 1.5 minute of running and 1 minute of walking.  It was “Just Right” which happens to be the group’s name.  The course was very hilly but when we made it to the 4 mile mark, we got to see this pretty view of Crabtree Lake. 10450047_839349916077528_8642070104883620688_o The humidity was down and the temperature was perfect for running.  For the 5th of July in Raleigh, North Carolina, we were very lucky indeed. After the run, Ron wanted to check out a new juice bar that our friend Dan had told him about. We set off to downtown Raleigh in search of Happy + Hale. IMG_1437 Ron was in heaven! This business was started by 2 NCSU students who began by peddling juice off a bicycle.  Click here for a very good article of how their business was born.    They sell salads, smoothies, and cold pressed juice.  IMG_1434 IMG_1435

We both got smoothies.  Mine was City of Oats and Ron’s was Green No Envy.


City of Oats had strawberry, banana, steel cut oats, peanut butter, almond milk, cinnamon, and dates. Green No Envy had coconut water, spinach, mango, avocado, ginger root, pressed lemon juice. City was delicious but Green will only be loved if you are a true connoisseur of juice like Ron. Downtown Raleigh is such a pretty place to me.  We had a very nice time walking around.

IMG_1438   IMG_1439 And how did they come up with the name Happy + Hale?      Take a look. IMG_1433

Here’s to you and wishing joy and health always!

4 Ingredient Chia Seed Pudding


I really love desserts as I’m sure any long time reader has deduced.  However, on Sunday’s when Andie, Jonathan, and Mason come over for dinner, I have to be really careful about what dessert I serve.  They let him have sweets an all but they really are much more strict than I ever remember being.

That’s a good thing though.  Mason is a great eater and it is important that he eats his veggies before he fills up on sweets.

Today I’ve come up with a winner I think.

4 ingredient Chia Seed Pudding!  I got the inspiration from Daily Garnish and from Oh She Glows.  Hop on over to their great blogs for the exact proportions.  I followed Daily Garnish pretty closely but I took Oh She Glow’s advice and stirred in a little cacao powder.

Here are the 4 healthy ingredients:

Almond milk, chia seeds, maple syrup, and cacao powder


Here is is all whisked up.


I plan to serve it tonight with fresh fruit, maybe some sliced bananas, and some coconut.


I cannot wait!  I hope Mason likes it.

I’ll post some more pictures tonight and let you know Mason’s verdict.

I’m very happy to report that I got my run in BEFORE church again this week.  I love getting it in early so I can have the whole day wide open.  I also love that I only have to take one shower.

My workout today was a 1.0 mile easy run to the track, 4 repeats of .5 mile fast followed by .25 mile easy, and then the 1.0 mile easy run home.  These repeats are called Yasso’s and I’ve got to do it religiously to help me get faster.  My fastest Yasso was 4:20 today!  I was thrilled because if you can do a Yasso in 4:20 you can supposedly do a marathon in 4:20:00.

4:30 Thunder Road Here I Come!

Oh, and I’ve got to give a shout out to the book I’m listening to right now.  A Prayer for Owen Meany is sooooooo good!  I love Owen!  I’ll try to do a good review of it when I finish but don’t wait on me.  You just have to read it. (or listen Smile)

Happy Running Friends!  Happy Eating!  Happy Week Ahead!

Rock-n-Roll Raleigh Race Recap


This is a very hard race recap for me to write. I’ve waited almost 2 months to write it and although I am feeling better, it still is very hard. On Palm Sunday, Ron and I ran in the inaugural Rock-n-Roll Raleigh Half Marathon.

We were ready to Rock!


Ready to Rock

However, for 2 men in their early 30’s, this race would be their very last. They both collapsed and died. One man collapsed with the finish line in site and the other man collapsed around mile 10. Both men were reportedly in great shape and had run half marathons before.

I have heard about this phenomenon of people collapsing and dying in races but I took solace in the fact that statistically, running marathons was safer than any other active sport. Usually the people that lose their lives are men in their 30s and they most often have an undiagnosed heart conditions. This time the 2 people that lost their lives fit the profile to a T. However, on the same weekend that Ron and I were running the Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon, a 16 year old girl collapsed and died just after crossing the finish line in the Virginia Beach Half Marathon. This 16 year old was a student athlete and played softball and was on her high school swim team. It was seeming to me that you just couldn’t tell anymore. This was happening to more and more people of all walks of life and was happening much closer to home.

Ron and I did not see the men on the course and had no idea anything had happened. In fact we were at home eating Chinese Veggie Combo Plates when I noticed the news alert on my phone. I was in shock!

My heart broke for the 2 men and their friends and families.

My heart was also very heavy because this race was actually a very hard one for Ron. Ron and I don’t usually run together. Ron likes to listen to music and he is about 1 minute per mile slower than me. For this race, I had decided that I was going to stick with Ron the whole way. I knew he wouldn’t talk to me but since this was a very big race and the course was sure to be crowded, I wanted to stay together. We were doing great until around mile 5 when Ron asked me about the hills. I teased him and told him that the hill that we were on was the last one. I thought he could tell in my voice that I was teasing but he didn’t. Raleigh is one of the hilliest places you could ever imagine. Durham is hilly too but Raleigh comes in right behind them. When the hills just kept coming one right after another, Ron got a little freaked out. I told him that I was just joking and that I was very sorry but it was too late. Running is a very mental sport and Ron was getting so discouraged.

The hills were coming a lot easier to me because I have been doing hill repeats as part of my weekly training. I encouraged Ron to slow down and take short steps. Around mile 8, Ron took off his hat and his headphones and I knew something was up. He told me he was getting dizzy. We walked to the next aid station and he stopped and let the medics check him out. His pulse was perfect so the medic just offered him some Gatorade. At that point Ron cheered up a little but I suggested we run intervals for the rest of the way in. I set my Garmin to run 2 minutes and walk 1 minute. That went along pretty well for most of the way until around mile 12. Ron was really losing steam and walking more and more.

We were run/walking near a group of 3 other people. There was a guy and 2 girls probably in their early 20’s. One of the girls was having a very tough time of it and was just like Ron. Her 2 friends were sticking with her and encouraging her to run to the next block and stuff like that. I was doing the same for Ron but really trying to just take all the cues from him. If he needed to walk, we walked. In fact, I turned my Garmin completely off so we wouldn’t hear the interval beeps anymore.

We made it to the finish line, got our medals, grabbed some food and water, and proceeded directly to our car. This was one race that Ron was very glad was over.

After I heard the news of the 2 men that had lost their lives, I started feeling really guilty. Where do you draw the line between encouraging someone and just not saying anything?

What if our Ready to Rock selfie from above was the last photo I ever had of Ron? You can see, I was a bundle of nerves.

I’ve had several weeks to think about everything and I’m more at ease now. Only God knows the day and time that you’ll be called home to heaven and we just can’t get all caught up in that. I do believe in being careful and not reckless but I have to let it go. I love running marathons and I train for them. Statistically, running distances does make the heart grow stronger.



Here’s a few shots of the Rock-n-Roll Raleigh expo. It was a very well-run race and loads of fun. The expo rocked and was truly the very best one I’ve ever attended.



The course was pretty but like I mentioned, very hilly. Raleigh is my town and I’m getting more accustomed to her and I don’t get freaked out as much over the hills. Funny how training hills will do that for you. Imagine that. Hard things become easy if you practice. LOL Now if push-ups and dare I say pull-ups could ever become easy!

Everything about the Rock-n-Roll series was awesome. I’d highly recommend this race. I really liked the corral start. It was the largest race I’ve ever run in and with the corral start I never felt crowed at all.

The only negative that I can think of is the parking. That was horrible. I know they will work on this for next year so it shouldn’t be an issue in upcoming races. Just know that even with the 7:00am start, don’t panic. The last corral probably won’t even take off until around 7:45 so you’re not going to miss it.

I was thinking about doing a lot of half marathons over the summer but I’m leaning more to just volunteering at them instead of running. I have found a 50k that I can run before my marathon and I’m almost ready to bite the bullet and sign up for it. It is actually a 12 hour race and you just run as much as you can in the 12 hours. Surely I can do 50K in under 12 hours. This might be the very best first ultra for me. I’ve heard about Hinson Lake and it looks cool too but the registration is already closed for this year.

I also just got an email about the Run the Valley race that is coming up in September. I really get sucked in. Just when I say I’m not going to run as many races and email will come and now I want to see if I can tackle Morrow Mountain again. It was a very cool race. Maybe I’ll have to do it.

Happy running friends!



Banana Birthday Bonanza

I got up early and got my motivation on at the Jeff Galloway Marathon Training kickoff meeting.  This was my second time hearing him speak and wow!  Best running motivational speaker ever!  I’m already signed up for the Thunder Road Marathon in November but after today, I’ve got my sights set on a 50k as well.  Look out Google.  I’ll be searching you soon and seeing if I can find a 50K race to coincide with my training schedule.

Why a 50k you ask?  Well, Jeff says that one of the best things that can help you get faster is to run longer.  Jeff already has a 26 mile training run in his marathon training schedule.  And he says veteran runners shooting for time goals will benefit greatly by running even longer.  29-30 miles or more!  Jeff mentioned one person took over a half hour off his marathon time by running longer training distances.  Oh, no!  Has the ultra bug just nibbled at my toe?  I sure hope not!

My friends, I’ve just looked it up and 50k = 31.0686 miles

If you’ve been a reader here at A Handful of Spinach for long, you know that I am obsessed about getting faster.  I want to qualify for Boston and to do that, I’ve got to drop over 47 minutes off my best marathon time.  Hey, if Matt can do it, I can too right?!  I’m not really trying to hack my way in to Boston, but I am looking at doing all I can to get there.  So here we go.  This is my plan.  This year at Thunder Road, I need to run a 4:30!  There.  I’ve said it.  It’s out there.  Now to put in the work and get it done.  4:30 won’t get me to Boston this year but it will move me in the right direction.  Next year I can shoot for 4:15 and then before you know it, I can sneak in under 4:00 and qualify.  Jeff Galloway is almost 69 and he just ran a 4:09 and qualified again and ran Boston last month.  And, he did it by running insanely short intervals.

My plan is as follows:

Can you tell I’m motivated?  It might have been the Galloway meeting.  It might be because it’s my birthday and I feel better at 49 than I did at 29.  Or it might have a little something to do with this awesome Banana, Peanut Butter, Chia Seed Smoothie.  Wowzer!  Who needs Cook-Out?  I tell you this is it.  Probably the best smoothie I’ve ever made!


Start with one cup of un-sweetened almond milk.  Add one frozen banana, 1 TBSP PB2, 1 TBSP chia seeds, 1/3 cup Old Fashioned raw oats, and a few ice cubes.  Whirl it up and enjoy!

Here’s to a great day everyone!  In just a little while Ron, Andie, Jonathan, Mason, and Lydia are taking me to Fiction Kitchen for my birthday dinner.  I hope I don’t jump out of my seat and embarrass everyone with the ultimate natural high I’m on.

I’m going to have to check out that PB2 and make sure Ron didn’t add any secret ingredients to that powder.  LOL

Happy Running Friends!

A Day at the Tower

One last blog post from our awesome trip to Florida the other month.

I grew up in the small town of Lake Wales Florida. One of Lake Wales’ biggest claims to fame is the historic Bok Tower Gardens.

the reflection pool

The gardens were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., the son of the famed architect of Central Park and Biltmore Gardens, Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. The Singing Tower is 205 feet tall and houses a 60 bell carillon. I played in these gardens as a young girl and listened to the bells time and time again. I can remember going to the tower with my grandmother and having wonderful family picnics. More memories are going to the Tower every Easter for the Sunrise Services. I’ve taken Andie and Lydia every time we’ve visited Lake Wales over the years. It truly is one of my favorite places on the planet.

One of the perks for graduating from Lake Wales High School is you get to go inside the tower and go to the top and see the bells. This is an honor only given to graduates, donors to the tower, and volunteers that work at least 40 hours. A very prestigious club indeed.

I graduated from LWHS but unfortunately that June they were doing renovations to the tower and all tours to the top were cancelled. I think they let the class go up later that summer but I moved to Virginia right after graduation and never got my chance.

I’ve always dreamed of going inside so this trip, I clicked on the Contact Us button on the Tower website and asked. I explained that I didn’t get to go back in 1983 and that we would be in town for our 26th wedding anniversary. I wondered if there was any way an exception could be made.

Here’s the awesome response to my email. When I got the response, I totally expected to see something like, “Sorry but we can’t help you.” I about died when I realized they were saying YES!

“Dear Melissa,

Thanks for your email.

I’m sorry to hear that you never had the opportunity to tour the Singing Tower as part of your 1983 graduating class.  That doesn’t seem quite fair, does it?

So… since it’s your 26th wedding anniversary, I would be happy to make this dream a reality for you and give you a VIP tour.

How about we set a time for Tuesday, February 25…  Will that work for you and your husband?

Please let me know and I’ll schedule it.  Best wishes…. and see you soon!”

I couldn’t believe it! We were going to get to see inside the tower after all these years.

When we drove up to the gate on that Tuesday, all we had to do was mention the Marketing Director’s name, Brian Ososky, and they waved us right through. We felt like VIPs from the very beginning.

Brian met us in the visitor’s center and was the nicest person ever. He was all smiles and I could tell from the start that he loved Bok Tower as much if not way more than I did. Brian told us that it really was a fluke that he was able to grant us this awesome opportunity. Evidently, many calls are received every single day from other graduates that somehow missed their opportunity to go up in the tower. So many calls in fact, that they have to always say no and offer their apologies. However, all emails from the contact us button, get sorted. My email ended up in Brian’s in box and he had never come upon a request such as this. I guess since it was our anniversary and we caught him on a good day, Brian said yes.

Brian walked us up to the tower and when he reached in his pocket to get the key to unlock the iron gate I felt like I was in a dream. This gate had remained locked to me for 48 years and I couldn’t believe that a simple key and a regular person could unlock it. Brian held the gate open for Ron and me and we walked across the bridge over the moat. Each step I took crossing that moat felt so surreal! I’ve been by this moat thousands of times and fed the Japanese carp that live there but never did I think I could cross it.

Then, in the blink of an eye, Ron and I were standing at the Great Brass Door. This awesome door is a work of art and has 30 brass panels depicting the Biblical story of creation. It was breathtaking.

The Great Brass Door

Ron and Me at the GBD

Click here for a close up of the door and more history.

I am very sad to report that days before we arrived, a vandal somehow slipped into the gardens, crossed the moat, and carved their name into one of the panels. Can you believe that?! Here I am mesmerized by the opportunity to stand so close to the door and someone else had so little respect that they would do such a thing. Brian said they weren’t sure how they were going to repair it. This door is over 85 years old and it will be hard to find a metal worker that will have the skills to attempt the repair.

the great brass door from the inside

Once we got inside, we toured 7 of the 8 levels of the tower. We didn’t go to the tip top due to safety reasons but we got very close.

the top

One of the things that was so funny to me was when Brian let us go out on the balcony where the preacher stands when he delivers the Easter service. We walked out and right there across the moat were other visitors. They were standing where I have stood countless times and it felt so funny to be looking in this direction. I imagined that they thought we were some dignitary or famous person.

looking up from the door

I also was surprised to learn that the bells don’t swing. They stay stationary and the clappers hit up against them. The actual instrument that is used to play the music looks very similar to a piano. However, you have to use the side of your fist to play the very heavy bells.

how you play

the instrument


The smallest bell weighs 16 pounds and the largest weighs nearly 12 tons.

the largest



Click here to listen to the bells.

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When we got to the top, Brian pointed out Edward Bok’s old house in the distance. It’s the smaller one to the left and above the large home.

Bok's home


Bok Tower Gardens purchased one of the neighboring houses when it became available and now you can tour it too. It’s called the Pinewood Estate and is a beautiful example of the Mediterranean-style mansions that are similar to Bok’s home. Brian gave us free tickets to Pinewoods and we loved stepping back in time and visiting this lovely home.

My favorite thing about the mansion was that every window was framing the garden. It was almost as if the garden was the focal and the home and extension of it.

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Bok Tower was in peak bloom during our late February visit and I really got to practice with my new camera.

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My niece commented that this flower doesn’t even look real.

my favorite

Ron and I had a wonderful morning and it was the best anniversary present I could have ever received. And, to top it off, the day was not over. We had 5:00pm dinner reservations at The Chalet.

I love you honey so much and I thank you for this trip and my new camera. It really wasn’t a manly man sort of trip and I know it didn’t mean as much to you as it did to me. I love that you got into the spirit of the history and had so much fun too. Now, next year, let’s go to California and you can show me your old stomping grounds.  We could run the San Francisco Marathon, drive the Pacific Coast Highway, and see the Redwoods!