Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Goals for 2014: Recap

Remember this post?  I set goals for 2014 - not resolutions, but goals to help me accomplish things without getting bogged down in too many things.

1.  Work on my genealogy stuff (as mentioned before).  Specifically, I want and need to get through the stack of papers my in-laws brought in October - which I haven't touched.  Done! I know have tons of family information in my Family Tree Maker.

2.  Lose my cruise/holiday weight (as mentioned before)....and get stronger while improving my flexibility.  Michelle Dozois, here I come!  I lost my cruise weight - several times, in fact,, my holiday weight....and I got down to my lowest weight in a very long time.  And then came hyperthyroidism, radiation, and hypothyroidism.  Michelle Dozois' Peak 10 Challenge was great!  I did it twice in 2014!  I also started weight training and yoga at the campus rec.  This goal was definitely accomplished!

3.  Read 20 books this year.  Last year I read 16 so surely this is doable.  Done!  I read 23 books and was so close to finishing one more.  Arg! 

4.  Try 20 new recipes (20 seems to be my magic number).  I really want to do more in the kitchen, especially more new stuff!  I love the foods I make....so I want to keep making them!  But I'm going to try new things!!  This is partly inspired by my friend, SK, who set a great kitchen goal last year and met it!  Um....I tried 42 new recipes in 2014.  Wow!  I'm truly amazed by that number!  There's no way I can do that again but I'll try to do some....maybe the original goal of 20.  Ha!

5.  Knit 3 projects this year.  I don't care what they are, even if they're dishcloths....I just want to do more knitting.  Fail.  I finished one project this year.  Sigh.

6.  The biggie: finish my novel.  I'm so close....  Aha!  I finished....with only a few holes to fill in.  The novel is also edited.  It just requires a bit of work to fill in some places .  Still, so close!

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Best Snickerdoodles (2014:42)

My last new recipe of 2014........

While doing some holiday baking with my mom, she mentioned snickerdoodles and how she didn't remember ever making them.  I couldn't believe it until I realized that I've been baking on my own for quite a while now.  It's scary how long I've been baking on my own.  Ha!

I loved the Skinny Snickerdoodles I made at the beginning of the year - so much so that I made them again right after Thanksgiving.  They were even better than I remembered!  But my parents weren't looking for skinny options so I found this recipe for The Best Snickerdoodles.  Mom and I went to work in the kitchen. 

Baking with my mom is so much fun and brings me great joy.  It's saddened me the last few years that we didn't have time to bake together so this year was wonderful!  

I laughed out loud when the recipe said to roll the dough into balls before refrigerating.  Yeah, no.  We refrigerated the dough, rolled it, dredged it, pressed it down a bit, and baked it.  They came out wonderful.  I could taste the butter that was not as present in the Skinny recipe!  LOL!

These were good for the holiday....but I'll stick to the Skinny version at home.  There's not a huge difference - mainly size....and butter content.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Candy Cane Chocolate Fudge (2014:41)

Merry Christmas Eve!  I have a Christmas recipe to share with you today!

I love chocolate and mint.  When I discovered peppermint bark a few Christmases ago, I was in heaven.  A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this recipe for Candy Cane Chocolate Fudge and was instantly sold.

This recipe is similar to my mom's easy fudge recipe - condensed milk, chocolate chips, vanilla...microwaved.  I was determined to make this recipe in the microwave as well.  

The hardest part of this new recipe turned out to be chopping up (er, hammering with a rolling pin) of the candy canes.  Ugh!  From my one attempt at making peppermint bark, I knew to dread this step and I hated it this time, too.  But, once done, this recipe was easy.  I even used low-fat condensed milk.  

The only part that didn't work was the "swirl" part, which I left out of the title.  A co-worker of mine hates cocoa so I had to leave the chips off of a strip for her.  By the time I got them in the rest of it, the chocolate had cooled and didn't melt the chips sufficiently.  

But it still tasted great!  I loved it!  Not everyone I know likes peppermint/chocolate, including Mr. Higgins, so not everyone loved this.  But those of us who like that combination really enjoyed it!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday Workouts: Week 4

Only a week and a few days until I go AWOL for Christmas break.  That AWOL includes no working out because we'll be MIA, or out of town.  Sigh.  I'm ready to go this week - as hard as possible.

Monday: Alex McLean's Unleash Your Inner Strength + Amy Dixon's Skills and Drills + yoga

Even though I wanted to burn mega calories this week, I knew I couldn't do crazy workouts every day.  So after a weekend of high intensity, I brought it down just a bit this morning.  There were still high intensity moves but it wasn't crazy.  This was the second-to-last day of yoga at the rec and it was a good class - a bit more relaxing than other classes of late but still plenty of planking and down-dogging.

Tuesday:  Shape's Bikini Body Camp Transforming + Michelle's HIIT - Breathless and Energized + weights

I wanted some extra cardio this week and this was a good combination.  The Bikini cardio lasted a bit over 30 minutes and then Michelle's HIIT was about 15 minutes.  I made it all into a 50 minute workout with my own cardio and stretching.  At lunch, I forced myself to go to the rec for weights.  I'm glad I went, though I never consider it to be "fun."

Wednesday: Michelle's Cardio Interval Burn on Glo + yoga

This CIB is always tough in the morning.  The cardio is just tough overall - and neverending.  I can't do all of it in the morning so I skipped a different circuit this time - instead of the last one, which I like.  Even with my now normal metabolism and body temp, I had sweat dripping off of me in no time.  

Thursday:  The Firm's Bootcamp: Maximum Calorie Burn

I always do enjoy how different this one is from my other workouts.  The weighted sections aren't crazy hard but they're good.  And the plyometric moves to keep your heart rate up are intense!  Dang!  A good all-around workout!

Friday: Cathe's Intensity

Since I'll be out of town tomorrow, I did this workout today.  It's definitely harder to do in the morning instead of in the middle of the day.  Yikes.  But I got through the step portion and the HIIT part.  It's a crazy workout so I was proud of myself for getting through it.  

Saturday: rest

Sunday:  Peak 10 Cardio Strength Remix

I did this after getting home mid-afternoon from my parents' home.  I was not at my best after having eaten too much on Saturday.  Ugh, the holidays are killing me!  So I felt more than little clumsy during this workout but I got through it.  I'm just glad I wasn't due to go through a tougher CS.  

Calorie Counts:

We're just not going to go there.  I spent all of Saturday baking cookies.  And there was so much food at work that it was just appalling.  I'm happy I was able to workout and let's leave it at that.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Homer's Odyssey

I packed Gwen Cooper's book, Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale…., on the cruise, and started it on our flight home.  I'm so glad I did for it's given me much pleasure these few weeks. 

Here's what I posted to Goodreads:

This has been sitting on my bookshelf for many years.  I never touched it because I thought it would be sad.  But I love cats so I picked it up….and it wasn't sad at all!

This is a wonderful book for any cat-lover or owner to read.  It was a joy to hear someone talk about that one cat that hates everyone but you or the one cat who loves everyone immediately….and all the quirks in between.  Homer's story is so lovely and I truly enjoyed reading about this cat who reminds us all that if we can just be brave enough to take a leap of faith, we just might discover what it is to be fearless in life.  

Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Workouts: Week 3

I woke up feeling a lot better on Monday so I hope this means my body is done aching.  That would be a lovely thing!  Who knew that taking 10 days off from workouts could have such a drastic effect on the body.  That and moving nine recliners up and down the stairs.  Oy.

Good thyroid news: I'm sleeping better and no longer starving 24/7.  That means the radiation has done it's job of killing my thyroid.

This week was the week for bloodwork to check the thyroid, thank goodness, since I started noticing an abatement in my hyper symptoms.  And....I'm now hypo.  My thyroid is dead.  On Thursday, the doctor prescribed the thyroid replacement hormone.  This also explains why my cruise weight is not coming off as quickly as usual.  Hypo means you gain weight.  We'll see about this medication.  All of this comes at the worst possible time, of course - the holiday season.

Monday: Ilyse Baker's Easy to Follow Dance Moves + Amy Dixon's Kickboxing Skills and Drills on Glo

After three days of intense workouts, I decided to take it down a notch, which is never a bad idea on a Monday morningMy goal was to do mostly low-impact moves and I succeeded with these two workouts. And I had fun doing them!  I had a meeting at lunch so working out at the rec did not happen.  I did, however, get tons of steps today from walking all around campus!

Tuesday:  Firm's The 500 Calorie Workout + weights

I've been feeling so much better this week; it's such a relief!  I woke up and did the Firm's workout, skipping most of the weight sections.  I think I did 10-15 minutes of the weights, but all the cardio sections.  It got my heart rate up in no time!  At lunch, I finally felt ready for weights after all these weeks so off I went.  And it felt good!  No (unexpected) pain!

Wednesday:  Peak 10 Cardio Interval Burn Remix + yoga

Since I'm doing some Peak 10 workouts in the morning, it's nice to do ones that I enjoy, like the CIB Remix.  So much fun!  I had to skip 1.5 circuits but it's still a great workout.  I keep hoping for a nice, relaxing stretch at yoga....but, no.  We were at it again today - down dogs, planks, and chair poses.  My ache-free body was suddenly aching again.  Oy.

Thursday: Michelle's Total Body Cardio and Strength on Glo

Since there would be no workout at lunch today (we were meeting a retired colleague), I hit it hard this morning with Michelle's Glo workout.  It's very similar to a Peak 10 cardio strength - without the peaks.  You alternate cardio and weights.  There's also quite a bit of core thrown in.  I was aching by the time we had to walk to the car at lunch.  

Friday:  Michelle's NEW BodyFit 360 Vol. 3: Athletic Conditioning + walk

I wanted something a bit more than a light barre workout today, since I'm still not dropping my cruise weight.  Michelle's new BodyFit 360 seemed the ideal choice - it's about 35 minutes of cardio; 5 minutes of arms/abs; then a 20 minute stretch routine.  I ended up doing only about 5-10 minutes of stretching but it was very nice!  The entire thing was so different - like the original BodyFit but more vigorous.  I wore shoes, for instance, when I normally just go barefoot.  At lunch, I walked, also a bit more vigorously than usual, at the rec at work for 35 minutes.

Saturday: Cathe's Cardio Core + Michelle's Calorie Burning Cardio Blast + the stretch from BodyFit 360 Vol. 3

After a night of bad eating on Friday, I wanted to work it hard today.  Cathe's workout is one I dread but I pushed through it - 45 minutes until the stretch.  It actually wasn't quite as bad as I remembered.  At that point, when I didn't feel as dead as I expected, I went through Michelle's recently posted Glo cardio blast - which was a fun 15 minutes.  The stretch from BodyFit 360 had seemed so much fun that I did that for my end stretch.  It was lovely!  All in all - an hour and 20 minutes of working out today.

Sunday:  Peak 10 More Cardio Strength

I don't know why I dread this one…until I pop it in and remember that there's only one 10 minute circuit that does not go to the floor.  Sigh.  That's what makes this one so tough for me.  I got through it but I can't say I ever enjoy it as much as Michelle's other workouts.

Calorie Counts:

Monday - 1393
Tuesday - 1284
Wednesday - 1284
Thursday - 1311
Friday - BAD
Saturday - bad
Sunday - bad

Outside of Friday, the weekend wasn't actually as bad as I would expect during the holidays.  But it wasn't great.  It is nice to not be starving 30 minutes after I eat.  That's why I tried to scale back on my calories a bit.  Once the new year begins, I'll try to keep my calories below 1300 - instead of below 1400 as I've been doing.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Baking List

There is never enough time at the holidays to do everything I'd like to do.  In the past few years, with cruises in December, my baking has fallen behind.  I hope to do better this holiday season, but I'm already feeling behind. 

Here's what is on my baking list:

1.  gingerbread loaf - a new recipe for me!
2.  pumpkin bread - a yearly must!
3.  fudge - this one hasn't happened in years.
4.  gingerbread cookies - these did not happen last year.  So sad!
5.  Victorian tea cakes - so delicious!
6.  mint chocolate cookies - another new one I want to try!
7.  pumpkin pie - because this never got made for Thanksgiving.  Done!

One down, six to go!  I think this was the first time I've made a pumpkin pie outside of my mom's kitchen, without her supervision.  It turned out to be quite delectable.  Wish me luck on the rest of them!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Holiday Workouts: Week 2

As most people are likely to do, I ate way too much at Thanksgiving.  This week, I was super motivated to burn off some unwanted fat. 

Monday: Jari Love's Get Ripped! 1000 + yoga

I wanted lower impact today so this workout seemed attractive - strength interspersed with short cardio bursts.  I hadn't done this one for a while so the squats and lunges really got me.  My legs were protesting throughout the remainder of the day.  Planning on doing weights on Tuesday, I did not lift weights today.  I added them only to add weights to lunges, squats, etc. Yoga at lunch was difficult - since I had two weeks off.  Ouch!  Stupid down dog!

Tuesday: The Firm Bootcamp: Maximum Calorie Burn + walk

This is the perfect morning workout for non-Peak Challenge weeks. It's 50 minutes in length and combines weights and cardio.  The instructor and the music are not my favorite but it gets the job done.  My already achy legs screamed in protest throughout.  At lunch, I intended to do weights but forgot my weight chart.  I walked the track instead - until some students started filming something which blocked the track.  So I walked on the treadmill, which is an activity I wholeheartedly despise.  Sigh.  But I did it for 30 minutes.

Wednesday:  Michelle's Cardio Interval Burn on Glo + yoga

In an effort to work off some of these cruise pounds, I did Michelle's Glo CIB this morning.  It was tougher at 5:30am and I had to cut it a bit short to fit into my 50 minute workout time-slot, but it was worth it.  My muscles were screaming near the end.  Yoga at lunch was again difficult - but fun.

Thursday: Michelle's NEW BodyFit 360 Dance Conditioning + walk 

I had some unanticipated work at home the last two days - moving recliners up and down the stairs.  After 5 hours of work on Wednesday, I was feeling it this morning.  I opted out of a heavy workout, and certainly no weights today, which gave me an excuse to pop in Michelle's NEW BodyFit 360 (Vol. 2) workout, Dance Conditioning (there's also an Athletic Conditioning), which I got in a pre-sale last week.  I was so excited and Michelle did not disappoint.  This is still a workout and my already tired muscles let me know they did not appreciate the harder moves.  But I felt a bit better afterward, having had a good stretch at the end of the workout. After another run-through, I'll post a review of this video.  At lunch, I walked around the track - no weights.  No, no, no.

Friday: Tip Top Shape by  Michelle Dozois on Glo

I thought I could handle weights today.....and, ouch!  I love this workout from Michelle - short and effective cardio and strength.  But my arms were still sore from the recliner fun - sorer than I thought.  I used some lighter weights when the heavier ones got to be too much.  So I got through the workout, but it was a challenge.  At lunch, I worked.  Sometimes, I need a break from the rec center.

Saturday:  Cathe's Intensity

Part of my holiday workout resolution is to get in 3-4 Cathe workouts, which are so different than Michelle Dozois' style.  I always dread Cathe's videos but this one is the easier one of the two I own.  It was a good warm-up to her style.  And I sweated buckets!

Sunday:  Michelle's Cardio Strength 2 on Glo

I can't remember the last time I did this one - over two months ago, at the very least.  It's in my rotation of non-Peak 10 Challenge workouts.  And I'm just going to say it: this is the hardest of all the CSs.  The cardio is the hardest; the strength contains more compound exercises than any other CS….  It just never stops.  It was tough but thankfully the peaks were not a challenge for me….or else I'd still be gasping for breath!  At some point in the last circuit, my thigh had an odd twinge/pain.  My muscles are clearly still coming to grips with daily workouts.  When Michelle went into lunge jumps, I did ski jumps instead.  Sometimes, you really just have to listen to your body or risk injury.  I listened.

Calorie Counts:

Monday - 1361
Tuesday -1386
Wednesday - 1385
Thursday - 1370
Friday - BAD!
Saturday - bad
Sunday - bad

My goal for holiday eating is to be good Mondays through Thursdays.  I want to do some holiday baking and, while not going overboard, enjoy my baked goods.  This weekend I made a homemade pumpkin pie since we somehow did not get one at Thanksgiving.  It's one of Mr. Higgins' favorite things.  While I didn't eat bad over the weekend (except for my usual Friday splurge), I ate a bit too much….and pie.  Oh, well.  That's why we have Januaries and Februaries…to lose our holiday weight!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Decorating Fun

It's that joyful time of year again, when the cats find, once more, a tree in the house, that is the perfect warm, cozy place under which to nap.  We, their feeders, re-discover the forgotten stress of watching them nap under the tree, chewing on the tree, and finding bits and pieces of the tree throughout the house. 

And we hope, as with every year, that they do not climb the tree.  Ha!  But the pictures are just too cute....so we'll forget again all this stress once the tree comes down.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sweet Corn Spoonbread (2014:40)

After a lovely cruise, from which we returned on the Monday of Thanksgiving week, it was time for some inevitable stress.  Every other year, my mother hosts Thanksgiving for my cousins.  Though we begged her to defer this year, she refused to listen to reason. So, off we went on a merry dance of Thanksgiving stress. 

I thought I would get off easy this year, but no.  In the end, I brought an appetizer and two sides, one of which was a slightly new recipe for corn casserole: Sweet Corn Spoonbread.

This came together easily enough.  I subbed plain fat-free yogurt for sour cream...because I forgot sour cream at the store.  I also added 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Having learned hard lessons from corn casseroles in the past - overdone, underdone - I baked this in a shallow dish for the shortest time possible. 

It turned out great - which was good since I could not taste it before it was served.  This will be my new go-to recipe every year!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Holiday Workouts: Week 1

This week marks the beginning of the Holiday Season.  

It's also my first week back from the cruise.  We arrived home on Monday and I attempted to get back into the workout groove on Tuesday.  

Having Thanksgiving come so quickly after a cruise was stressful in many ways, especially in the diet department.  I did the best I could and am proud of it.  Though I missed Thursday, which was not a surprise, I worked out every other day after Monday.  I gave myself the week to skip calorie counts, though, knowing that all but two days would be bad and, if not bad, not up to my usual amount of script dieting.

Monday:  Home from the cruise

Tuesday:  Rockin' Body Cardio by Michelle Dozois + walk

This is usually my go-to video right after a week off from working out.  It's effective cardio and keeps you moving relentlessly, but it's not crazy hard.  Michelle's enthusiasm is so addictive, even in her earlier videos.  She's one of a kind.  At lunch, not wanting to tackle weights quite yet, I decided to get my heart rate up a bit with a walk around the track. I did 30 minutes and 11 laps.  Not bad.  I finished off with some ab work and a stretch.

Wednesday:  Shape's Bikini Body Camp Transforming + Michelle's HIIT - Breathless and Energized on Glo

I did Michelle's cardio from Shape's video, which runs 30 minutes.  It's like a low-key Peak 10 workout and it was perfect for a harder workout….but not too hard yet.  I finished off with a challenge - Michelle's HIIT on Glo.  Running only 15 minutes, it definitely gets me sweating in no time.  This was a good workout line-up for the morning, leaving me 5 minutes of stretching.

Thursday:  Thanksgiving

Friday: Michelle's Peak 10 Cardio Interval Burn Remix

After eating way too much at Thanksgiving, I needed a good workout today.  I chose this CIB because I think it's the easiest, overall.  And I love it, which definitely helps me to actually do it when out of town and under pressure to eat more instead of working out.  Sigh.  I got through it surprisingly well, after last week's vacation.  Yay!

Saturday: Firm's The 500 Calorie Workout

Home again - yay!  I chose to tackle some weights today with the Firm's workout.  I  don't know if I've ever done the entire thing, since I usually reserve this one for a weekday morning.  But I did it all today and it's a challenge.  But once again, I surprised myself at how easy some things, that should be hard after a vacation, were.  Amazing!  Total workout was about 65 minutes. 

Sunday: Michelle's Peak 10 Cardio Strength Remix

I know I shouldn't have done two days of weights in a row, but oh, well. I was looking forward to this one so I went ahead and did it.  And I do really like it.  It challenges me in different ways, especially today since I was achy from yesterday's workout.  I got through it, and all the peaks.  Awesome!

And so I got almost a week of workouts in.  Good, good.  And….  

I got a free FitBit Flex from work after completing the wellness program a few weeks ago.  I'm loving seeing my steps and sleep patterns.  Surely the novelty will run out but I'm still hooked after almost a week.  And I've gotten over 10,000 steps every day except Thursday.  Cool!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


On the cruise, I managed to finish one book - but it was a big one!...  Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  Yes, I'm the last one on the planet to read this book, but I had my reasons. 

Here's my Goodreads review....

Having heard about this series for years, I was amazed that it took me at least 100 pages to really get into this story.  Claire was not a character with which I initially felt any sort of empathy.  The character just didn't appeal to me.  Frank did - but his character leaves much to be developed. 

Enter the the time traveling...  Gabaldon's writing style was clunky to me for quite some time until I got used to it.  When Claire is settling into Scottish life, I finally found the appeal of this story.  Jamie's character is interesting, though it took me some time to like him. 

The antagonist is exceedingly unlikable but he is the glue that ties this story - and the two times in it - together.  It's an interesting concept and, by the end of the novel, I was anxious to read more to answer all my questions.  Gabaldon still has some very interesting tales to tell.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thoughts and Conclusions: Peak 10 Challenge #2

My second Peak 10 Challenge is officially complete!  I continue to love this program.  It's the most effective way I've found to shed pounds and get into the best shape ever.  No joke.

As you know, in the midst of this Challenge, I was treated for hyperthyroidism.  Near the end of it, my thyroid levels were finally going down a bit.  I was worried about gaining weight...but that sure didn't happen!


There's nothing like hearing your doctor say "yeah, treatment for hyperthyroidism will really screw up your healthy, fit lifestyle" to keep you motivated.  During this time, I also enrolled in a wellness program at work, which kept me plenty motivated as well.  My beginning and end measurements proved that I had worked hard and lost inches as well as pounds.  Yay!


I won't go through all the numbers, but I lost 5 pounds.  I could not believe it.  My weight is the lowest it's been since before marriage - three years ago!  It's safe to say that I'm in the best shape of my life.  I'm not in the best shape of everyone anytime ever, but I've built upon the previous Challenge and made significant gains.   Here are some numbers (how many I can do in the time allotted in the Fit Test).

                                   Before          After

Squats                           53                58
Lunges                           43                47
Burpees                         25                28
Tuck jumps                    55                66
Pushups (knees)            30                38
Ankle Grabbers              20                23
Sit Outs                          28                38
Frog Jump                      32                38
Fence Hoppers              73                 80
Jump Shot                      32                37

Compare those to those of the last Challenge.  Wow.  And I did this concluding Fit Test at 5:30am, which I've never done before.  I'm super pleased with the results. 

Going Forward

Right now, I'm on a cruise.  I got into the best shape of my life and now I'm lazing around, eating too much.  Ha!  But that's why we live, right?  To have adventures with loved ones!  Besides, if I stayed at the level I was at, by the end of the Challenge, it would be tougher and tougher to find challenging workouts.  After the cruise, I'll be starting over, ramping up and up.

Between the end of the cruise and Christmas, I'll do a Pre-Holiday Workout Challenge - just to call it something.  I'll try to lose some cruise weight and stay in shape before I take a week off at Christmas.  After that, I'll do another Peak 10 Challenge.  Yay! 

At the end of this Challenge, I was exhausted.  I did not take a day off from working out in a very long time.  Sure, I did some very light workouts but I always wanted to move.  Plus, since I started doing weights and yoga at work, that added in even more workouts that just tired me out after a while.  It'll be good to have a week off. 

One of greatest things that helped me the most through this Challenge was FitnessGlo.  I was able to change up my workouts, try new things, and stay motivated instead of getting stuck in a rut.  If you find yourself bored with your workouts, give it a try - you can do that for free for 2 weeks! 

And if you want to get into great shape, try PeakFit.  You won't regret it!

Friday, November 21, 2014


The last stop on our cruise this week is Royal Caribbean's private "island" in Haiti - Labadee.  It's a fun place to spend a day because RC provides you with everything you need....including a signature drink of the day, the Labadoozie.  It's quite tasty and I'll be enjoying several this day.  Ha!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Curacao in 2010

When Mr. Higgins first took me to Playa Porto Mari (Curacao) in 2010, I was in love.  Great snorkeling, calm seas, and picture-picture views.  There was even hiking in the hills behind the beach - affording even more perfect views of the area.

My first thought upon leaving this place was that we needed to come back with my parents.  They would love it!  This week we're doing just that - with the addition of Mr. Higgins' parents!  It's going to be a fun day!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Week Ten: Peak 10 Challenge #2

Really, only half a week to go!  We leave for our cruise during the dark morning hours of Friday, so only four more workouts! 

I must say that I'm really feeling an overall sense of exhaustion now that the challenge is coming to an end.  The break will be good.  And, once I get back, I'll hit it hard again, though not with another challenge until after Christmas.

Monday: McLean's HIIT - Bodyweight Circuits

It's been a few weeks since I did this so I subbed it for Anytime Anywhere, which I'm glad to shelve for at least 8 weeks.  Ha!  McLean's HIIT, interspersed with Tabata, is difficult - but it's gotten easier for me, which is amazing.  I love seeing progress!  Yoga did not happen today as I had meetings all afternoon.  I hate missing yoga!

Tuesday: Cardio Strength 1 on Glo + weights

Wow.  I did the CS at 5:30 in the morning, which was a bit of a shock.  I made it through and even managed to do every peak.  The last circuit was skipped, however, since I ran out of time.  At lunch, a co-worker and I did weights; I had to force myself.  Sigh.

Wednesday:  Amy Dixon's Skills and Drills +  Alex McLean's Unleash Your Inner Strength + yoga

I wanted low impact today before my Fit Test (!!!) tomorrow.  And so I opted for these two workouts, doing 25 minutes of both.  Alex gets my heart rate up and keeps it up; Amy has great kickboxing with some jacks and jumping rope.  A great workout!  I was sweating!   My plans changed at work and I was able to go to yoga today - yay!  We had a sub, though, who was not nearly as good as our normal lady.  I got a tiny bit sweaty but also got stretched out so that made me happy!

Thursday: Fit Test + Michelle's Total Body Blast for When You Are Short on Time

My concluding Fit Test was completed at 5:30 this morning.  Yikes!  I was amazed at how well I did, considering the time.  That took 25 minutes so I then did Michelle's new weight training workout on Glo.  It was tough!  But it kept my already pounding heart in overdrive so I liked it!

Calorie Counts:
Monday - 1357
Tuesday - 1382
Wednesday - 1353
Thursday - 1604

Cruise time!  Bad eating will follow.  I'll have a re-cap and conclusion next Monday regarding the end of my second Peak 10 Challenge.  I'm so happy with results!  Now I'm off to wear my bikini in the Caribbean!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fresh Herb Spoon Rolls (2014:39)

I make a lot of soup in the winter.  It's great: I make a large pot and freeze tons of servings for lunches (after we eat some for dinner after I make it)!  Mr. Higgins eats soup practically every night in the winter so I've found some good recipes.

But I'm always on the lookout for a bread/roll to go with our first serving of soup for a dinner.  Mr. Higgins love cornbread, as do I, but sometimes something different is good. 

When I needed to use up some fresh herbs, I found this recipe for Fresh Herb Spoon Rolls.  It had two advantages over its competitors: no rising time and no kneading!

These were super easy to make and the yeast combined with self-rising flour meant they were light and fluffy!  This recipe will be added to my collections a go-to roll option!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

One Week

A week from today we'll be here, at Aruba.  I keep reminding myself, while at the gym, doing weights, that I want to look good in my bikini.  Ha! 

It's been four years since Mr. Higgins and I were at Aruba.  I can't wait!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Week Nine: Peak 10 Challenge #2

Only 1.75 weeks to go.  I can do this.  Right?  Right.

I have to eat well this week.  My one "splurge" will be Friday but with 1.75 weeks until the cruise, I really need to buckle down and be good.  I'm continuing my weights at the gym whenever possible...though I really don't enjoy it. 

Monday: Ilyse Baker's Barre Blend - Body and Mind Workout + yoga + Peak Fit Cardio Strength 2

Oy, my marathon day.  I began with Ilyse's barre at 5:30am.  It was, basically, ballet and, thankfully, the "mind" part of it was non-existent.  I'm not so good at meditation.  Yoga at lunch was truly lovely - lots of sun salutations followed by a good stretch.  CS 2, after work, was tough.  My energy stayed up throughout, though - amazing!  I crashed afterward, spending the rest of the night reading due to pure exhaustion.

Tuesday: Body Fit 360 + weights

I haven't touched Body Fit 360 in a long while so it was fun to get back to it.  It's such a unique workout - and a lot tougher than it seems.  At lunch, I went to the rec, though it was raining, and did 30 minutes of weights.  Do not like.

Wednesday: Pure Cardio + yoga

I enjoy Pure Cardio more when I don't do it every week so this was nice.  It also nice that the house has finally gotten cool so it was easier to stop sweating after this workout.  Yay, hyperthyroidism.  Sigh.  Yoga was nice and relaxing.  I really enjoyed it.

Thursday: Anytime Anywhere No Excuse Workout

Since I knew this would be my only workout today, I decided to do my hardest workout - AA.  Ugh.  How can it be so hard after doing it so much?!  I got through it but it was not easy.  It's never easy.

Friday: Ilyse's Easy to Follow Dance Moves + Amy's Kickboxing Skills and Drills + weights

I wanted low-impact today since I've done enough high-impact this week so I chose to do these two workouts from Glo. Ilyse just makes me happy so it was fun dancing with her.  Amy's workouts are tolerable and this one is less repetitive than some.  Since I missed weights yesterday, I went today.  I was glad to get it done!

Saturday: Peak 10 More Cardio Interval Burn

I was a bit sluggish this morning but after the warm-up and one peak, I was good to go with this one.  It's a good one, too, though it never lets you rest.   I finished off my workout with five minutes of abs.

Sunday:  Peak 10 Cardio Strength

This one was tough for me as I wasn't quite 100% today.  But I got through it.  I'm definitely getting tired so the cruise and a break from these tough workouts will be very welcome.

Calorie Counts:

Monday - 1355
Tuesday - 1355
Wednesday - 1389
Thursday - 1355
Friday - 1616
Saturday - 1440
Sunday - 1445

When I weighed on Thursday, I was the lowest I've been in recent memory.  I couldn't believe it!  Peak 10 works; it's amazing!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pumpkin Cheesecake Squares (2014:38)

Mr. Higgins loves cheesecake - especially pumpkin cheesecake.  In lieu of going to Costco and getting a huge, unhealthy pumpkin cheesecake, I decided to try this recipe, which I finally found online.  It took a while to find a recipe for cheesecake bars made in a 9x9 or 8x8 pan - but that's what I wanted in order to control portion sizes. 

To begin, I made the crust from these delicious Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Squares - super easy and low on butter. Then on to the first layer of the bars - the cheesecake layer.  Notice that the recipe says 11 oz of cream cheese.  I bought only one brick of the stuff, meaning I had 8 oz.  So, I threw in a bit more sour cream, tasting as I went, until the filling tasted cheesecakey-ey enough. 

The pumpkin layer is super easy and quick.  However, spreading both the layers on top of the crust proved to be a bit tedious - so much so that next time, I'm tempted to just blend it all up together. 

The result was fabulous.  Delicious.  Yummy.  Amazing - and low fat!  These were 120 calories when cut into 16 squares.  I'll be making these every autumn!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Boys in the Boat

I finally finished The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown, which was chosen by my book group for the month of October.  Yes, I was a little late in finishing it, but non-fiction always takes me a bit longer than fiction. 

My Goodreads review:

When my book group chose this book, I was underwhelmed. Non-fiction is not usually my thing and I know nothing of rowing. But almost immediately, Brown caught my attention and held it.

This book tells the story of one young man and his rowing crew that won gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Joe Rantz is such a superb choice for Brown to follow: his story is so immensely powerful because of the many obstacles he overcomes. I'm a history major; I know my 1930s history…. But Brown captures the emotions of that era with gut-wrenching clarity, all through the eyes of Joe and his family.

If nothing more than to see exactly what our grandfathers and grandmothers went through, everyone should read this novel. And in so doing you'll learn what kind of work ethic it takes to win a gold medal - and survive the Great Depression. This book reminded me just how spoiled, undisciplined, and soft we have become. There's a reason why Joe's generation was the Greatest Generation.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Week Eight: Peak 10 Challenge #2

And, here we go!  Another week!  But this is not my last week of the eight-week challenge, since I had two "off" weeks in the middle.  

Because of my birthday last week, I'm super motivated to burn some extra calories.  You may think I'm crazy for working out so much and I may be.  But because of my thyroid issues, I want to be super active since my metabolism is gradually slowing down as my thyroid is slowly dying.

Monday: McLean's HIIT - Bodyweight Circuits + yoga

I was not feeling super rested this morning but I got up and did McLean's HIIT workout before I could talk myself out of it.  This takes the place of Pure Cardio this week; I need something different.  At lunch it was time for yoga at the rec.  Last week's relaxing stretch was no more.  Today, we got a tough workout and I sweated more than I ever have. The class culminated in handstands against the wall.  Wow!

Tuesday:  Dynamic Flexibility + Cardio Strength 1 on Glo + weights

Wow.  I got up this morning after another restless night of little sleep and went through Dynamic Flex, which felt great.  At lunch, I did 35 minutes of weights at the rec.  Ugh.  There's nothing like working out next to 18-year-olds to make you feel slow and weak.  After work, I got in my extra CS for the week, going through CS1 on Glo again.  It's fun but super hard.  Afterward, I was so tired.

Wednesday: Ilyse's Ten Minute Lower Body Sculpt + Michelle's Barre Fusion + yoga

After yesterday's workout marathon, I needed something lighter today.  I started with Ilyse's leg workout, which was tough.  Then came Michelle's 30-minute Barre workout....which was also tough.  Michelle doesn't do anything light and easy - ha!  I was looking forward to yoga at lunch...and it was tough.  Who knew holding lunges for an extended period would be so dang difficult?!  I left the class with shaky legs and aching shoulders - stupid down dog!

Thursday: Ilyse's Dance Intervals 101 + Michelle's HIIT - Breathless and Energized + weights

I was really looking forward to Ilyse's workout, done now for a third time.  But I forgot that this one is more cardio than dance.  Wow, my heart rate was up and I was jumping and jogging like crazy!  Michelle's HIIT is fun.....as HIIT can be.  Ha!  Weights at lunch did not sound appealing since my shoulders were still aching....but I powered through.  It helps that I go with my co-workers; accountability is good!

Friday:  Anytime Anywhere No Excuse Workout

Every time I do this workout, I get better at it.  It's so hard, because within every peak circuit you do jumping jacks of some kind, push-ups of some variation, and a peak.  It's non-stop and crazy.  

Saturday: Peak 10 Cardio Strength + Michelle's Strength Lower Body

This was a tough morning of working out.  This cardio strength always get me.  Because I have a cruise coming up - and probably because I'm a masochist - I finished off my workout with Michelle's lower body circuit on Glo.  I skipped the warm-up and got right into it after my CS.  It makes my thighs burn like nothing else.  Ouch!  I took extra time to stretch after all this.

Sunday:  Peak 10 Cardio Interval Burn + abs

I always think of this CIB, the original CIB, as being the easiest.  There's no floor work, which is a blessed relief.  But this is still a very challenging workout.  Especially on mornings like today, when I woke up with a headache.  Thankfully, I think the workout helped it, in the end.  I felt a lot better afterward.  I finished it off with five minutes of ab work.

Calorie Counts:

Monday - 1532
Tuesday - 1341
Wednesday - 1354
Thursday - 1586
Friday - bad!
Saturday - 1395
Sunday - 1477

I had to go to social things on Monday and Thursday and though my calories were up those days, I'm happy I didn't completely blow my diet.   Next week will be better….we only have 1.75 weeks until our cruise!  Eek!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Chai-Spice Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins (2014:37)

This is one of those recipes - when I saw it, I had to make it ASAP.  Chai, pumpkin, oatmeal, not much sugar.....these muffins sounded delicious.

I decided to make them on a Sunday to take to work on Monday.  As delicious as they sounded, I did not want them in the house for too long.  Ha!  I had no almond milk or quick oats so I bought those ahead of time.  The glaze was just not going to happen; I'm not buying a vanilla bean!

These muffins were relatively easy to whip up and they smelled amazing while in the oven.  I took them out, let them cool, and then made an easy glaze of 3 Tbsp powdered sugar, almond milk, and vanilla extract.  

When I finally tasted one....they were alright.  They are definitely not sweet and I guess that's why they didn't blow me over.  If I ever make them again, I'll add a bit of real sugar.  That being said, Mr. Higgins and my co-workers ate them and like them.  So maybe I'm just weird.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lentil Chili (2014:36)

Until recently, I had never tried a lentil.  Growing up, we never ate them and I, therefore, never saw them or tasted them.  A co-worker, though, was talking about them several months ago and I was intrigued.  I made a batch - simply spiced and with onion - and I liked them.  Mr. Higgins liked them!  And so I started pinning lentil recipes.

Considering how much I love chili, you know Lentil Chili caught my eye.  This recipe, especially, since it has beans (so many of them omit the beans).  Last weekend, wishing it felt more like fall, I made this chili recipe.

I had to change a few things…  For the beans, I used one can of Ranch Style Beans (the best beans) and one can of red beans.  Another tablespoon of chili powder was required, as was red pepper flakes - we like things hot and spicy here.  When it came time to serve the chili, it was super thick, so I added another cup of water.  I omitted the cheese and tortilla chips; we don't need the calories.  

The chili turned out great!  It definitely satisfied my chili craving and impressed Mr. Higgins, who is not so easily impressed by chili.  It made the 12 servings it said, so I had tons for the freezer and lunches.  Yay!  I love finding great new recipes!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Week Seven: Peak 10 Challenge #2

This is going to be a rough week as far as eating goes.  It's my birthday week which means too much food all the way around. 

But I'm excited to get in some good workouts.  I know it sounds weird but I genuinely enjoy working out.  It makes me feel great - and productive! 

Monday: Ilyse Baker's Easy to Follow Dance Moves + Amy Dixon's Kickboxing Skills and Drills

I'm really trying to balance out my workouts this week and so I wanted something a bit lighter today after a weekend of tough Peak workouts.  This combination fit the bill.  I did 25 minutes of each workout.  Ilyse is my new favorite on Glo and I'm finally learning that the one type of workout that I like from Amy is kickboxing.  So, this was a fun morning workout!

Tuesday: Cardio Strength 1 on Glo + weights

Trying to figure out when to add in this additional workout, which becomes necessary in the latter half of the Peak 10 Challenge, has been difficult since I'm doing weights at work.  I decided to do it today instead of tomorrow, so I would have tomorrow as a break from weights.  Thankfully, the CSs are not intense weight training.  I did four sections of this workout, having to skip the last one due to my morning time constraints.  But I did it at 5:30 with peaks and all - a first!  Weights at lunch was not necessarily fun but it was productive and I'm glad I did it.

Wednesday: Anytime Anywhere No Excuse Workout + yoga

Anticipating a lot of bad eating today, on my birthday, I woke up and did AA.  As you know, it's my least favorite of the Peak Fit workouts.  It's definitely effective, though, which keeps me coming back.  It was nice to go yoga at lunch, to let my muscles re-group.  Ah!  The instructor basically just stretched us out, which was lovely.

Thursday: Pure Cardio + weights

This morning was tough after eating too much last night.  But I got into this cardio relatively well, given the circumstances.  I think I'll try a different cardio next week to give this one a break.  Weights at lunch....well, I was still aching from Tuesday so this was a bit painful.  But I got through everything I was supposed to, which takes about 35 minutes.  Yay!

Friday:  Michelle's Conditioning for Long Lean Muscles on Glo

This was my second time through this Glo workout by Michelle and wow, it's tougher than it seems.  It's essentially another BodyFit 360 - on the surface it looks easy but you work hard.  I was spent after this "light" workout.  And for some reason, I was exhausted today so I decided it was best to skip hard yoga at lunch.  My body clearly was trying to tell me something and I listened.

Saturday:  Peak Fit Cardio Strength 2 + Michelle's Strength Lower Body + Strength Upper Body on Glo

My energy was back this morning so I decided to get some serious work in.  I went through CS 2, which always leaves me exhausted.  But since I had the weights out, I decided to do two 15-minute strength workouts from Michelle on Glo.  The arm one wasn't too bad but the legs - ouch!  That got me.  I followed all of this with a good, nice 10-minute stretch.  

Sunday: Cardio Interval Burn Remix

I still love this one….and I always forget how difficult it is!  Wow!  I rewarded myself with a nice stretch, and then five minutes of core work.  Ha!

Calorie Counts:

We're just not going to go there this week.  It's been bad.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ellen Barrett: Grace and Gusto (Review)

I loved Ellen Barrett's Crunch videos back in the day (those are ten years old now!) so it was exciting to see that she recently released some new videos.  I received Grace and Gusto for my birthday.

Like her older Crunch videos, Ellen sticks to low-impact moves.  You move in many directions but never vigorously.  This workout is live and is done on a mat and barefoot. 

Many of Ellen's moves are recycled from her previous workouts: side arm/leg lifts, plies, ballet legs and feet...  One new move in the workout is an arm twist that Ellen does several times throughout - and though it isn't difficult, you begin to feel it after a while! 

This fusion flow workout barely made me break a sweat but it was a lovely alternative to the more rigorouls fusion/barre workouts in my rotation.  Ellen's style is truly unique and can be done by women of all ages. 

Bottom Line: If you're a beginner or have trouble with high-impact moves, Ellen is for you.  She's also great for those recovery days when you just need a break.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

That Time Again

Another year down, another year to ponder life's lessons.  Today marks my 33rd year of being in this world.  

Last year was a big year.  I finally found a new job, a real career, and learned about happiness and fulfillment in the workplace.  This was incredible!  At this time last year, I was interviewing for that job, not knowing what would happen.  I'm so thankful my boss decided to choose me over the other candidates.

And it's interesting to reflect on last year when I had my first real health issue.  Thankfully, my new, wonderful co-workers supported me when I had to stay home for a week because I was radioactive.  But that entire process reminded me of just how fragile our place truly is in this world.  

But looking at 33 from a different angle, Mr. Higgins was this age when we met.  Ha!  That's too funny!  I am so grateful that we found each other and no matter what the next year brings, I know he will make me happy, as always.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Week Six: Peak 10 Challenge #2

I'm back into my challenge - no more health restrictions! 

There's going to be a change this week, though.  Instead of the Pure Strength workouts, I'm going to utilize my free time with a trainer at the rec center.  This should be interesting!  I don't like working out in public but a co-worker has volunteered to go with me.  We'll see how this goes!

I'm still trying to keep my protein up as well!

Monday:  Ilyse Baker's Dance Intervals 101 + Michelle's HIIT - Breathless and Energized

I was excited to do something different this morning.  I started off with the lighter of the workouts, Ilyse's dance workout (30 minutes).  Last week was my first attempt at this one and it's fun - definitely more cardio than dance.  I like it!  I then went on to Michelle's short, 15 minute HIIT workout.  I like this kind of HIIT...  Two moves put together rather than one move over and over.  I finished off my 50 minutes with some lunges and a stretch.

32% protein - wow!

Tuesday: Ellen Barrett's Grace and Gusto + weights

A dear friend of mine just gave me Ellen Barrett's Grace and Gusto DVD and I couldn't wait to try it!  Today seemed the perfect day since I knew that weights were in my future at lunch.  Ellen's style hasn't changed much since her earlier Crunch DVDs but that's alright.  Her workouts are always unique and light for days when you need a break.  I'll post a review of her DVD soon.  At lunch, I met with the trainer to learn how to do all these fancy weight machines.  We didn't get through them all but my arms and legs were shaking after 35 minutes.  Wow!  I'll go back for more torture on Thursday.

27% protein

Wednesday: Pure Cardio + yoga

I was ready to get in some good cardio this morning and also ready to get back into my Peak 10 Challenge schedule.  Pure Cardio was so nice and familiar - especially welcome since I hardly slept last night.  Yoga at lunch was fun after a two week break.  I always enjoy the Mon/Wed class - which is lighter - and the friendly teacher.

27% protein

Thursday:  Alex McLean's HIIT - Bodyweight Circuits + weights

I'm finding myself faced with a dilemma on days I do weights at lunch, like today....  I can't do weights any other time during that week at home, if I'm doing them at work, so that means more cardio at home.  Yay, in a way, but I also miss my weighted work outs.  Sigh.  I also, amazingly, miss all the Pure Strengths.  This was my third time through McLean's HIIT workout and it's not any easier.  Thirty mintues of HIIT + tabata, a cool down, some low-impact moves, and some core work finish out my 50 minute workout.  Whew!  I added more machines to my weight circuit at lunch.  Ouch!  35 minutes of torture!  Even more to come next week.

27% protein

Friday:  McLean's Unless Your Inner Strength + Dixon's Skills and Drills + yoga

Once again in search of cardio, I wanted something not quite so intense this morning, after three mornings this week of high impact work.  I settled on two workouts which I did for 23  minutes (each ran for 30) each and finished with my own cool downs and stretch.  Both workouts were a level 2 (out of 3) - but I still sweated and worked hard.  McLean is always tough, even in a level 2 which consisted of burpies and lots of running.  Dixon's workout was a kickboxing one, but between kicks and punches, she had jumping rope and jack intervals to keep up the heart rate.  These two were a great combo and I'll probably do them again!  At lunch, I went to the rec center for hard yoga.  Wow.  The one thing I love about it is the great stretch, which always feels good after a long week of hard workouts.

Saturday: Peak 10 Cardio Strength

This was my very first Peak 10 workout so I know it well.  But it still kicks my rear-end every time!  Whew!

Sunday:  Peak 10 More Cardio Interval Burn

Every time I do this CIB, I really enjoy it.  It's one of the tougher ones as far as non-stop high-impact moves, but it feels great.  

Calorie Counts:

Monday - 1398
Tuesday - 1345
Wednesday - 1365
Thursday - 1345

Friday - bad
Saturday - bad!
Sunday - bad!

We celebrated my birthday with my parents over the weekend - and also celebrated my dad's belated birthday.  So there wasn't much healthy at all this weekend - but at least I got in some good workouts.  That's something, at least!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Skinny Pumpkin Spice Bars (2014:35)

Fall is finally - finally - in the air here in Texas. What that means is that the highs are now in the upper 80s most days. Ha! Gotta love the Lone Star State.

I've been yearning to make all things pumpkin and when Boss' Day came around, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try a new pumpkin recipe! When I was browsing Sally's Baking Addiction, I noticed her Skinny Pumpkin Spice Bars and pinned the recipe. Since it was easy, it was perfect to make on a weekday to take to work - for Boss' Day!

I made the recipe as is, though I used egg substitute instead of real eggs. Alarmingly, I almost forgot the brown sugar since I was so enthralled with the smell of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Ha! But I got the sugar in on time and spread the mixture into the pan.

Once in the oven, I set the timer for 25 minutes. At the halfway mark, I turned on the oven light and was distressed to see no change in the batter. I tried not to panic. By the 25 minute mark, the cake was looking good but needed a bit longer. Next time, I will bake these for 30 minutes. I let them cool and cut them into 12 squares. That makes them 133 calories each.

I split one of the bars with Mr. Higgins - wanting to make sure they were good for work. And they were delicious - spicy, moist, and full of pumpkiny goodness! Mr. Higgins promptly wanted to know when we could have our own batch! Yay! Success!!