Friday, January 29, 2016

Kittehs and Boxes

Dooku is ready for the weekend.  It means mommy and daddy are home, which leads to exiting toys and playtime!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Empress of the Night

I just finished a very interesting novel about Catherine the Great, Empress of the Night by Eva Stachniak.  It's a sequel to The Winter Palace.

My Goodreads review is below.....

This novel was very different from its prequel, The Winter Palace.  It's told from the perspective of the main character, Catherine the Great, and is a series of long, disjointed flashbacks of her life.  

I remember my Russian History class and was always interested in this powerful female monarch, mainly because of how people sought to scandalize her.  The book doesn't go into all the rumors, thank goodness, but it does talk about her many loves over the years.  The Romanov family dynamics were very interesting, as well, especially those of Catherine's grandchildren.  

This is a very well written and engrossing read, though I enjoyed the first novel much more.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Week Three: Combat Challenge #3

Seeing the number on the scale go down a bit last week (hallelujah!) was marvelous.  Now, I'm motived to keep it going down with good eating and lots of workouts.  

Monday: Grit #6 + Sh'Bam #17 + Ilyse's Sweaty Fusion

I was off today for MLK so I took the opportunity to work extra hard.  I got my Grit out of the way for the week….unless I get motivated to do another one on Wednesday.  Then, my routine Monday Sh'Bam.  And #17 may just be my favorite Sh'Bam of all.   After that, I wanted something different so I tried Ilyse's new workout which is mostly strength.  It was unique and fun.  So, 60 minutes of cardio and then Ilyse's strength.  Cool!

Tuesday: BodyCombat #62 + Amy's Cardio Intervals

As I began my workout this morning, I realized something really got to my left thigh yesterday.  It hurt more and more as I moved and really screamed at my hamstring curls.  Great.  At least my workouts are making an impact.  Huh.  This Combat was fun and went by quickly.  I then did about 15 minutes of Amy's cardio - always fun and effective.  We had a nutritionist talk at lunch today.  Yay!

Wednesday: Ilyse's Your Best Sweaty Self + Dozois' HIIT - Breathless and Energized + walk

I entertained the idea of doing another Grit today but my body told me that was crazy.  And I listened.  So instead I did Ilyse's very impactful workout, followed by Michelle's HIIT.  Ilyse jogs and jacks you like crazy, then insists on air jacks and tuck jumps.  Fun.  My left thigh was still aching so I downplayed the lunge jumps in Michelle's HIIT, making them less lunge-ful.  Ha!  At lunch, I walked at the rec and did sit-ups.

Thursday:  Amy's Kickin' Cardio and Conditioning

I needed some weights today - and less impact.  Amy's workout was perfect!  It's fun, different, and not easy.  The push-ups almost killed me.  No joke.  Three circuits of push-ups, 45-seconds each.  Ouch!  I should have walked at lunch but my stomach was a bit off and it was raining.  So I stayed in.

Friday:  Flow #67

Even thought my conscience was telling me I needed cardio, my body was begging for a break.  My legs still ache.  Sigh.  And so I did Flow this morning and it was great.  My legs hurt more afterward, of course.  But it was worth it.  After this 30 minute video, I did some serious ab work.  

Saturday:  Cathe's Cardio Core Circuit + Ilyse's Full-On Cardio Blast + arms

Par the course, I was dreading Cathe's workout.  It's just not my favorite - any day.  I got through that 45 minutes and wanted more.  I did the 20 minutes of cardio in Ilyse's workout.  It's one that is so much more difficult than I ever remember.  Right after the warm-up, which I skipped, you jog, jump, and run for 10 minutes straight.  Wow.  After all that cardio, I did about ten minutes of weights for my arms and then a stretch.

Sunday:  Combat 60 - Extreme Cardio Fighter + Ilyse's Your Best Sweaty Self + Dozois' Lower Body Burn for Definition 

So I'm trying to take full advantage of the weekend to get in some long workouts.  Combat 60 really made me sweat but after those 45 minutes, I wanted something a bit more high-impact.  So I turned once again to Ilyse's workout - which I did on Wednesday.  It's so good!  That lasted for 25 minutes, at which point, I tuned into Michelle's workout for legs.  It's hard - but hopefully it worked my legs good!  My stretch and ab work after was a nice way to end the workout.

Calorie Counts:

Monday - 1185
Tuesday - 1197
Wednesday - BAD
Thursday - 1186
Friday - 1229
Saturday - 1197
Sunday - 1266

I was glad to have a few days of eating less than 1200 calories this week.  It's not easy, for sure.  

Friday, January 22, 2016

Roasted Carrot Soup

A few years ago, a friend made me Carrot Top Soup.  I remember really liking it - especially since I've never been fond of carrots.

Fast forward to the present day when I make tons of soups in the winter to freeze for easy meals.  I'd dreamed of that Carrot Soup and wanted to try one myself.  After looking around, I settled upon this recipe for Roasted Carrot Soup.  

This is not a difficult recipe but it's time consuming - requiring almost two hours of cooking time.  Granted, you're not actively doing stuff for that long but it takes time out of your day.  I followed this recipe exactly - except I left out the celery and put more onion instead.  It was fun getting to use my immersion blender again; I love that thing!  

After blending it up and tasting the soup, I was super happy.  But I wanted to add....something.  So I put a bit more pepper and two dashes of cinnamon.  Oh, boy.  Mr. Higgins was highly dubious of a soup made almost entirely of carrots.....but he loved it!   

This is going to be a staple in our house for years to come.  My only suggestion - double the recipe.  The servings are small.  Heck, I may quadruple it next time!!!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Arches: 2015

With a new year comes the wrapping up of the old one.  It's that time again: time to reflect upon a year gone by and what we did during that year.  It's time again for The Archies!  This idea came from Donna and it's something I've really enjoyed doing.  It's basically a list of my 50 favorite things from the year.  Every year you compile a list, you add an additional item, so I'm now up to 56!  See also 2014,  2013,  2012, and 2011.  Okay, here we go (in no particular order)….

1.  "Outlander" - the TV series.
2.  Oreo Brownies.
4.  the soundtrack for TOMORROWLAND.
5.  Chewy Molasses Cookies.
7.  John Williams' score to TFA (above).
8.  omelets.
9.  Estes Park, CO in winter.
10.  The Martian.
11.  theme song (The Skye Boat Song) and score to "Outlander".
12.  Orange Muffins.
13.  Bermuda - never thought it would be so beautiful.
14.  spiced whiskey.
15.  The Wright Brothers.
16.  Butterscotch Bars.
17.  hike to Flattop Mountain and Hallett Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).
18.  Fern Lake, RMNP.
19.  Into Thin Air.
20.  New Fat Blaster DVDs from Michelle Dozois. 
21.  New Orleans, for a conference.
22.  Salata - new salad bar near my work.  yum.
23.  Shoal Bay, Anguilla.
24.  Odessa Lake, RMNP.
25.  Voyager.
26.  Colorado Springs, with friends.
27.  Les Mills On Demand.
28.  Unbroken.
29.  bacon jam.
30.  gradient yarn.
31.  AAA insurance rates.
32.  surprise parties (for others).
33.  Saltan Falls, Dominica.
34.  "Friday Night Lights" on DVD.
35.  Devil's Bridge, Antigua.
36.  Del Taco.
37.  Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua.
38.  "Lost" - seasons 1 and 2.  
39.  Miss Babs yarn.
40.  a good departmental change for my work group.
41.  climbing Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, Bermuda.  
42.  nixing our Escrow account - best thing ever.
43.  working 7:30 to 4:30.
44.  a new friends at work.
45.  50 cent party items at Taco Bueno.
46.  St. George's, Bermuda.
47.  El Zarco silver tequila.
48.  Buc-ee's. 
49.  jambalaya and red beans and rice in NOLA.
50.  Gino's East.
51.  Laura's Candies, NOLA.
53.  inclines on the treadmill.
54.  Glen Haven General Store (CO). 
55.  Antonio's Pizza, Estes Park, CO.
56.  seeing the Milky Way in RMNP.

So I really liked RMNP this year, apparently.  It helped that we went twice, I guess!  This year, I travelled more than any other year.  One Caribbean cruise, a Bermuda cruise, New Orleans, Colorado twice, Nashville.  2016 will not compare, I assure you!  But every year is unique and good in its own way!  

Monday, January 18, 2016

Week Two: Combat Challenge #3

Considering the number I saw on the scale last week (I knew I should have waited longer to get on the blasted thing), I'm super motivated to work as hard as possible this week.  I'm even going to try to shave a few calories off my diet a few days this week when possible.  Anything to make a dent in that number on the scale!!

Monday: Sh'Bam #18 + Dozois' Calorie Burning Cardio Blast

I had a rough night so it was tough to get going this morning.  Thankfully, the music in Sh'Bam is so much fun that it got me moving.  I'd done #18 in the last round of Combat so it was familiar - and fun!  I finished off the morning with Dozois' cardio circuits - effective and challenging.  Meetings today meant no lunch workout.

Tuesday:  BodyCombat #63 + Scott's HIIT - Sports Inspired Intervals + walk

This morning was traumatic.  Somehow, despite being an emotional wreck, I got this workout done: Combat and HIIT.  Wow.  This Combat had floorwork, which I've never seen in the cardio of a Combat routine.  I skipped it in favor of real cardio.  Scott's HIIT is always different and fun.  At lunch, I walked at the rec, trying to burn more calories!

Wednesday:  Grit #5 + Dozois' Burn Calories, Release Stress

Ah, my dreaded Wednesday workouts.  This Grit was tough - like all the rest.  At one point, I just had to stop and breathe.  Wow.  It's just insane.  After that torture session, I turned to Dozois' level 2 workout because it can easily be taken up a notch if you want to work harder.  I alternated, trying to give my body a rest while also staying active.  It was a good morning.

Thursday: Amy's Complete Strength and Conditioning + walk

Today was a good day.  I wanted something different with weights and since I hadn't done this workout by Amy, I decided to give it a whirl!  It was fun, different, and effective.  I hope.  Ha!  Either way, it was a nice change!  At lunch, I walked the track at the rec center with a co-worker.  It was good to break a light sweat!

Friday: Dozois' BodyFit 360 Vol 3: Athletic Conditioning + walk

I was so ready for a light morning…but my weight was bugging me.  So I did about 20-25 minutes of the cardio from Athletic Conditioning and then all the 20 minute stretch.  I always forget how intense this cardio is, so I was yearning for an end.  The stretch is superb and it felt so good after all my hard work this week.  At lunch, I walked around outside for 25 minutes - the weather was lovely!

Saturday:  Cathe's Intensity + Amy's Total Body Sculpting

Last night, I dreamt of this workout… Intensity was very familiar when I got to it this morning.  So strange!!  I did all the cardio - step and Low-HIIT and High-HIIT.  It's rough but at least the HIIT gives you a break between each move.  I added on my own cardio to get in a full hour of work.  Then, Amy's 20-minute sculpting workout.  I was able to use my new 12lbs weights for some of this - yay!  Then, ten minutes of stretching and ab work.  

Sunday:  Combat 60 Live - Ultimate Warrior's Workout + McLean's Bodyweight Assault Challenge

It's so nice not dreading a weekend workout!  Combat 60 Live is a lot of fun, but a challenge as well.  The leg section is super hard and my arms rarely do not hurt afterward.  But it's still a good time!  The cardio lasted for 45 minutes, at which point I tuned into McLean's HIIT for 15 more minutes of work.  Then, a stretch and sit-ups.  I would have preferred another 15 minutes of cardio but we had too much to do today.

Calorie Counts:

Monday - 1181
Tuesday - 1259
Wednesday - 1194
Thursday - 1165
Friday - 1245
Saturday - 1146
Sunday - 1202

I tried - and succeeded - in shaving off another 100 calories most days.  After seeing the scale on Tuesday morning - desperate measures were called for.  And, thankfully, my suffering and starvation paid off: I was down almost three pounds on Saturday morning.  Thank goodness!  

Friday, January 15, 2016

Hello, 2016

In case you haven't noticed, I'm a bit behind this year.  I haven't posted any goals for this year or my Archies for last year.  The Archies are in progress, I just haven't finished yet.  The goals.....may not happen.  

I seem to never meet any of my goals (outside of the cooking ones) so they don't really seem relevant. My goals last year.....

1.  Lose my holiday and cruise weight.  Along those lines, do Les Mills' Combat program, which I received as a Christmas gift, and complete at least one Peak 10 Challenge.  Continue to utilize my rec center membership for weights and yoga.  Sure, I lost my weight eventually....but my thyroid continued to play havoc with my weight.  Any future goal should be "maintain my weight within this 10-pound range."  Sigh.  But at least I did two Combat Challenges, two Peak 10 Challenges, and yoga at the rec for the first five months of the year (before my favorite teacher left).

2.  Read 22 books this year.  At least 5 of those need to be non-fiction.  I read 18.  6 of those were non-fiction, so at least there's that!

3.  Try 10 new recipes.....not as many as last year but there's only so many great recipes one can find, especially considering how little cooking I actually do.  I tried 21 new recipes last year.  Hurray!

4.  Knit my first adult sweater.  I'm getting there, knitting on the last part: the body.  It feels good to be done with the sleeves, shoulders, and neckline, for sure.  But I'm not done.

5.  The biggie: finish my novel and contact publishers.  I'm done....but I haven't contacted publishers because I can't find good readers.  Sure, I know tons of people who would happily read my novel, but they're all extremely busy.  

And so I guess I'm just disillusioned by not meeting ALL my goals for the second year.  I'll keep doing all of these things, but I'm not setting goals.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Conqueror's Wife

Over Christmas, I read a fantastic novel by Stephanie Thornton: The Conqueror's Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great.  

I have no love of Alexander, though I love ancient history.  The man does not intrigue me.  But his wives (yes, plural) and the women around that's interesting!  Most people know of Roxana, his Persian bride, but few people know that he had two other wives.  He also had a powerful mother, Olympia, and a half-sister, Thessalonike, both of whom have prominent roles in this novel.  

The story is told from various perspectives, most women, but also Hephaestion, Alexander's boyhood friend, adult confidante, and, some believe, lover.  Somehow, Thornton makes me like Hephaestion, though I did not think such a thing possible.  His story is very interesting both because of his love of Alexander and the differences that separate them.  

Thornton is a good historian and relies heavily upon the primary texts.  She fills in the gaps with fiction - which is what a good historical fiction writer does.  And she's extremely good at it.  I highly recommend any of her novels.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Week One: Combat Challenge #3

I'm starting the new year with a familiar friend: Les Mills' Combat!  This will be my third Challenge using both the DVDs and On Demand videos.

It's going to be fun!

Monday: Sh'Bam #19 + Ilyse's Dance Intervals 101

I was really looking forward to my workout today!  Sh'Bam is a lot of fun.  The moves are easy to follow and the music is (mostly) fun.  This Sh'Bam had a few trendy moves that I skipped in favor of jumping rope....but it was mostly good. After that ended (25-30 minutes later), I tuned into Ilyse's workout which is much more high-impact.

Tuesday: BodyCombat #64 + Michelle's HIIT- Breathless and Energized + walk

Back to the original today - Combat!  And dang, this one was tough!  Lots of jump kicks and lunges.  My legs were not happy!  I finished off the morning with Michelle's HIIT - so much fun and super effective.  At lunch, I walked the track at the rec with a co-worker.  By the end of the day, my arms and shoulders were aching from all those punches and jabs in Combat.  Ouch!

Wednesday: Grit #3 + Ilyse's Groovy Dance Party

To say I was dreading this workout is a severe understatement.  I loathe Wednesdays during Combat Challenges because of Grit.  I hate it!  This one was a bit less intense which helped since it was my first one in a long time.  Afterward, I rewarded my body with Ilyse's low-impact dance workout.  Nice!

Thursday: Cathe's Intensity

This workout was a bit traumatic this morning.  Cathe's step in Intensity is always hard for me to follow, but especially at 5:30am.  And she really gets you going!  I did the Lo-HIIT which is challenging but not too bad.  Really, what got me in this workout were the lunge jumps and air jacks.  Ugh!!  I had every intention of doing weights later in the day but I was so sore....I decided against it.  

Friday:  BodyFlow #68 + abs

I was so looking forward to yoga today.  This week, my muscles have ached and been so sore and tight...  My only gripe with Les Mills' Flow is that it's a bit hard to follow.  Sometimes the instructors are hard to hear and understand (some have accents).  This one had a very fast warm-up which was hard to get in to.  But the rest was good.  After that, I did some sit-ups and planks.  A good, restorative morning!

Saturday:  Combat 60 - Extreme Cardio Fighter + Dozois' Quick Lower Body Shape Up

It's nice not dreading a workout and today was one of those rare days.  Combat 60 is fun and always makes me work, though it never feels like a crazy cardio workout.  My arms were aching by the end, though.  Wow!  I then tuned into Michelle's leg workout, since I haven't done any weights or strength training this week.  And this one is tough - but great.  My legs were screaming!  It was nice to finally get to stretch afterward!

Sunday:  Cathe's Cardio Core Circuit + arms

And I've been dreading this one all week.  Ugh!  I hate this workout!  It's gotten easier over the years but some of the moves really get me, which is good.  After it was over, I cooled off - so about 50 minutes of cardio total, and then did weights to work my arms.  I tried out our new 12lb dumbbells.  Whew!  After 10 minutes of that, I finally stretched.  

Calorie Counts:

Monday - 1274
Tuesday - 1239
Wednesday - 1269
Thursday - 1257
Friday - 1371
Saturday - 1262
Sunday - 1221

I weighed for the first time since the holidays on Sunday…..and it was bad.  I'm trying not to panic since it's only been a week…..  Sigh.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

January Page #2

Last year, I decided to re-do the monthly pages for our 12x12 frame.  It was fun - and challenging at times - to come up with new designs.  But I got to use some papers I love but can't find a use for - like this one of wintry trees.  

Love it!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Thoughts and Conclusions: Peak 10 Challenge #4

Last week I finished my fourth Peak 10 Challenge.  I love this program!  Even after four go-arounds, it hasn't gotten old or tiring.  


I'm always motivated to work out and stay in shape but Peak 10 Challenges sets goals, which is always good and motivating.  This Challenge coincided with a period of uncertainty regarding my thryoid dosage (for hypo).  And with Christmas on the horizon, I wanted to keep my workout intensity up!

If anything affects my motivation, it's not seeing results on the scale.  I did see results this time, but I still couldn't get down to my pre-thyroid-issues weight.  That's very frustrating to me.  I like control and to not have control over my own body is....terrible.  All I can do is keep working...and working.


At my lowest during this Challenge, actually a few weeks before the end of it (due to Colorado), I'd lost 2.8 pounds.  I lost 1.5 inches from my chest, 0.25 inches from my waist, and an inch off my hips.  Everything else didn't really change.  

But my Fit Test numbers did change!

                                              Before       After

Squats                                       61            76
Front Lunges                             47            52
180 Jumps                                 52            61
Tuck Jumps                               59            68
Push-Ups                                  39             42
Ankle Grabbers                         21             24 
Sit Outs                                     39             45
Plank to Frog                             35            40
Fence Hoppers                         76             84
Side Lunge to Jump Shot         34             37 

I subbed 180 jumps for the burpees the program called for.

It was a great relief to me that most of my "before numbers" were higher than my "before numbers" from the previous Challenge.  Some were even higher than my "after numbers."  Wow!  I like knowing the my fitness level keeps rising.

Going Forward

I won't lie: the holiday is going to set me back a bit.  But in January, I'll start another Combat Challenge.  Those are so much fun!   I haven't really planned my next Peak 10 Challenge but it'll probably be in April and May.  

As always, I can't recommend PeakFit/Peak 10 enough.  Michelle Dozois is a great teacher and motivator.  She'll get you up and moving, no matter what!