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!