My favorite exercise gear

There’s a bit less than a month left of the weight-loss competition I’m participating in.  I’m going to be bummed with it’s over–I love working out with my team and having such a great support system has been a big help.

Above are a few of my favorite pieces of gear.  This post isn’t sponsored; these are just things that I bought myself and like a lot.

Polar FT4 Heart Watch – This comes with a transmitter that you wear on a chest strap.  When you set up your watch you enter your height, age, weight, etc… and it calculates your heart rate and calories burned.  I like being able to track how hard (or not hard) I’m working. And it also syncs with the fitness machines at the gym which is nice if you want to keep your heart rate at a certain pace.  The only con I’ve found is that my model doesn’t have a stop watch function which would be useful for running. 

Enell Sports Bra – I always thought I hated running but it turned out I mostly hated being busty and running with a crappy sports bra. I remember doing laps in junior high with my forearms pressed against my chest to minimize the bouncing–ugh!  This last time when I wanted to get into running I researched options for full-busted women and the Enell brand kept coming up so I bit the bullet (they’re about $60) and ordered one.  It’s not the prettiest bra but once it’s on I’m locked and loaded and can run and do jumping jacks without any uncomfortable bouncing. Love, love, love.

Compression Sleeves – Since I’ve started running my shins have been bothering me and these help a lot. A friend at the gym who runs marathons recommended them.  I’ve only had them for a week but I wore them when I ran 5k with my team last Saturday and afterwards my shins didn’t bother me like they normally do. I actually enjoy how they feel and would happily wear them all the time but even though mine are a sensible black I don’t think I’m quite ready to go down that road yet 🙂

Ice cup – If my shins are bothering me after a run I’ll take one of these and use the edge to massage out any knots.  It hurts like a mother but really helps. To make one, fill a styrafoam cup with water and freeze it.  Next, take a knife and score the cup all the way around the middle and peel off the styrafoam up to the line–voila! A giant ice cube complete with a insulated handle so your hand doesn’t get cold.

So there you go.  These are a few things that have been useful to me in my get-in-shape efforts.

How about you?  Do you have any fitness tips or gear that you love?

Korean-Themed Gift Ideas

Korean-themed gift ideas: toys, books, art, jewelry

I put together a few gift ideas for kids and adults with ties to Korea. 

1st row
Custom gold and silver Korean necklaces – a few different styles available
Musical soft doll – It plays Arirang.  Maybe next year there will be a model that plays Gangnam Style 🙂
Korable blocks – These lovely blocks are nice for kids or adults who love design. (my review)

2nd row
Bee-Bim Bop! – This was E’s favorite book for a 4 months straight.  Cute illustrations, catchy rhymes.
New Clothes for New Year’s DayBeautiful illustrations.  I’m contemplating getting a second copy just to cut out some of the pages and frame them.
Korean Blocks by Uncle Goose – I like the vintage style of these colorful blocks.  They should last forever.

3rd Row
Howon and Uman by Hosang Park.  I love these photographs of Korean parks. Prints are available in a few different editions, framed and unframed. I’ve bought a few prints from 20×200 and have been happy with every one.

Review: Korable Block

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some holiday gift ideas, mostly for kids because the man in my life mostly wants obscure music CDs and a list of those is unlikely to be helpful to anyone else 🙂

First up is this set of Korean alphabet blocks, Korable Block.

Korean language blocks -  Korable Blocks

I know I’m biased, but I think the Korean alphabet is incredible.  It was invented in 1444 by the Korean king Sejong and consists of vowels and consonants and is basically phonetic.  This means that unlike character-based languages like Chinese it is fairly simple to learn to read and write Korean.

(As I found out during my two years studying Korean in college, understanding what you’re reading is of course a whole other matter.)

Korable Block was invented by Si-Yeon Min, a father, to help his son study the Korean alphabet in a fun way.  These lovely blocks are handmade made in Michigan by Uncle Goose.

You can arrange the blocks to make over 120 common Korean words like numbers, days of the week, foods, body parts, etc…  Below on the left I spelled the Korean word for “door” and the word for “one” is on the right.

Korean language blocks -  Korable Blocks

The full Korable block set ($41.50) comes with four blocks, a wooden tray to house them in, a booklet containing different words you can make, and a signed artist card.  There is also an option of just purchasing the blocks themselves ($17.50).

I like this product a lot.  E doesn’t know how to read Korean yet (we’re working on English first) but I think these blocks will be a fun tool when he starts to learn Hangul.  And they’re so lovely that I think I’ll keep them out for display on my coffee table until then.

The only improvement I would suggest would involve price.  I understand that making small batches of quality toys inherently costs more but I wish that difference between the blocks alone and the full set wasn’t so quite as much.  I would like to get a few of the sets for some of my nieces and nephews but sadly my Christmas budget won’t stretch that far.     

All in all, Korable Block is a great gift for children in your life interested in learning Korean or adults who love design or Korea or both 🙂

Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary Korable Block set for the purposes of writing a review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

I Heart Art: Sarah Jane

I’ve been a fan of illustrator Sarah Jane’s work ever since I saw some of her fabrics at a quilting shop. To me, her work is sweet but not saccharine. I like how she captures the magic of childhood in an endearing and classic way.

I was browsing the Sarah Jane blog over the weekend and saw that she had some new inspirational children’s prints:

This was my favorite print in the new collection. There are versions for girls and boys. You can also personalize the print to match your little one.

You can see a few more of her new inspirational prints here.

Sarah has a number of other art prints; this family tree is another favorite of mine.

Wouldn’t it make a sweet gift for a new niece or nephew? This print also comes as a fabric panel; I love the idea of making Mimi a quilt with it.

If you like Sarah’s work, check out the Sarah Jane blog and shop.

(All images in this post are from Sarah Jane Studios)

Extended Warranty, FTW!

I’m not much of a Black Friday shopper but this year I’m looking forward to hitting up the sales because we’re going to be getting a new TV–for FREE! (Well, almost free.)

Almost five years ago we bought a new TV on the day after Christmas. We were upgrading from the old CRT model that N had bought when he was in college. At the time it was the most money we had ever spent on anything, other than our house, so we also got a 5-year extended warranty for about $200.

For the most part the tv worked great until the last few years when it’s been having problems. We’ve had the repair guy out several times and he’s replaced various parts but it still kept breaking. Our warranty expires this December 26th so I was getting anxious to get the TV fixed before it ran out but we just got word that the store is replacing our set with a new one because it’s more cost-effective than repairing it. Yay!

So we can either take this set or we can pick out a different model and get the equivalent cost in store credit. On Black Friday we’re going to head to the store and see what the deals are so we can get the most out of our store credit. It almost feels like we’ve won a sweepstakes or something.

Kindle Lending Library

Amazon just launched a lending library for the Kindle. If you have an Amazon Prime membership and a Kindle you can borrow one book a month. It looks like they have a pretty good selection.

I have a Kindle but my free one-year Amazon Prime subscription through their Amazon Mom program sadly just ended. It’s only been a few weeks but I miss it already.

This lending library just might be the excuse I need to renew my membership.

Olliegraphic Custom Bowls

Last week the custom bowls I ordered for E and some of his cousins came from Olliegraphic! I love how they turned out.

They’re normally $21 a piece + shipping but I had snagged some discount vouchers at Zulily which brought them into niece-and-nephew-Christmas-present range (we have a lot of them). I still have one voucher left which I’m going to use to order Mimi a bowl, but I’m holding off until we have a better idea of what color the little baldie’s hair is going to be. 🙂

If you’re interested in ordering, there are a few things you should know. The bowls are dishwasher-safe but not microwave-safe which makes them great for cereal but bad for, um, foods you might want to microwave. The custom plates, which I assume you also can’t put in the microwave, might be more inconvenient.

Also, I found the skin tones to be a little lighter than they looked on my screen. I picked the lightest shade (“fair”) for E and the next darkest shade (“light”) for his half-Korean cousins but with them side by side I have a hard them telling the difference and while they look super cute I think the next shade darker would have been better.

All and all, I’m really happy with how the bowls turned out and can’t wait to send them to my nieces and nephew. As gifts go, they’re cute and a little out-of-the-ordinary. Since they’re custom-made it takes about 3-4 weeks to receive your order so don’t procrastinate if you’re want to give them as Christmas gifts.

I Heart Art: 20×200

20×200 and Tiny Showcase are two of my favorite places online to browse for affordable art. I’ve bought a few prints from Tiny Showcase over the last few years, mostly work by Scott C and Jen Corace, but I haven’t bought anything from 20×200–yet.

I have a voucher to 20×200 that I bought on one of those deal-of-the-day sites burning a hole in my pocket and these are some prints that have caught my eye.

Vogue JUL07:pg145 (Ripeness is All) by Lauren DiCioccio
(I LOVE these pieces by DiCioccio.)

28 Camera Drawings by Christine Berrie
(The vintage Polaroid camera N gave me earlier this year is the same model as the one in the upper right.)

Memories of Festivals by Tatsuro Kiuchi
Squeeze by Gary Petersen

What do you think? Do any of these (or anything else on 20×200) strike your fancy?