Friday, June 30, 2017

The Book of Joy

For June, my book group chose a very interesting read: The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu.  

My Goodreads review:

There are many lessons to be learned from these great spiritual leaders - perhaps two of the greatest we shall ever see in our lifetimes.  To hear them speak on the subject of joy, when they have endured so much hardship and pain, is a lovely read.  

That being said, this type of book is hard to get in to - it's hard to read continuously.  Thankfully, the author includes the anecdotes the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu told.  These were perhaps my favorite parts of the book.  There are also interesting statistics from scientific studies that prove much of the teachings of these two spiritual leaders.

But the lessons of joy, gratitude, and charity to be learned are great and I'm so glad to have read this book.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Hash Brown Egg Bake

Several weeks ago, a co-worker brought in one of the best breakfast casseroles I've ever had: Taste of Home's Hash Brown Egg Bake.

Said co-worker experimented in two different casserole "editions" to find a way to get it seasoned just right.  The first time she made it, following the recipe, she said it was too bland and didn't have enough salt.  So the second time she made it - the "edition" I tried - she used tons of spices of her own choosing.  

I decided to make this Hash Brown Egg Bake for a Father's Day brunch.  Finding the seasoned hash browns that my co-worker used was the hardest part.  I finally found some, seasoned with garlic, onion, and white pepper.  Score!  My other changes....  Skim milk instead of whole; 2% mild cheddar; 1 teaspoon of salt; normal, center-cut bacon; 6 eggs and 4 egg whites; more paprika and more pepper.  I assembled this the night before and left it in the fridge until I took it out 30 minutes before it was to go in the oven (per the instructions).

And it was fantastic.  Amazing.  Everyone loved it.  I think Mr. Higgins ate 2/3 of it.  No joke!  One additional comment - this is way more than 8 servings.  I fed 6, all of whom had seconds, and there was 1/3 left - which Mr. Higgins inhaled the same night for dinner.

This will become a special occasion staple for me!  

Monday, June 26, 2017

STS Rotation #1: Meso Cycle 1 Week 4

I think I'm seeing changes in my body.  My legs seem to be firmer, for sure.  Either way, I'm definitely more confident in my body and I'm telling myself that's enough.  Because I don't want to get on the scale.  Ha!

As this last week of meso cycle 1 approaches, I must say that the recovery week that'll come after this week is sounding really nice.

Monday: Ilyse Baker's Dancinerate: Burn With the Beat + Pauline Nordin's Butt Bible Lower Level 2 + YWA

I started off with a new DVD today!  I loved Ilyse on FitnessGlo and this video made me realize how much I miss her.  She moves fast in this DVD but I had fun, with what I could pick up on the first try.  After that 20 minutes, it was time for 30 minutes of the Butt Bible.  Considering my bum was still sore form Saturday, this did not sound appealing.  And it really, really hurt.  I upped my hip thrust weight to 14 pounds.  Dang!  After that, stretching the bum felt wonderful!  This YWA was a good way to end the day - lots of balancing.

Tuesday: STS Chest, Shoulders, and Biceps + walk

Wow.  All these push-ups are killer.  There seemed to be so many in this 10th STS disc.  But I got through it.  And I'm amazed at how difficult it is to go up in weights with these exercises - except chest flies.  Sigh.  Oh, well.  I got through it and felt stronger afterward!  At lunch, I walked at the rec center and then did some planking.  It always feels good to move and loosen up the muscles at lunch!

Wednesday: Cathe's Intensity Series: IMAX 2

Wednesdays have been reserved for HIIT but I switched it around this week and will do HIIT tomorrow.  Today, IMAX 2 was on the agenda for steady cardio.  Cathe used a step; I did not.  But I got a great workout.  The step sequences weren't too overly choreographed - only one or two completely confused me.  As it was, I got through them and definitely got through the "bursts" of high intensity work.  This ended up being a good cardio workout!

Thursday: Cathe's Cardio Core Circuit Live + weights + YWA

So I had Cathe's Cardio Core Circuit on my schedule for today.  And I just couldn't do it.  I hate that workout.  So I decided to do the live version instead, to try out something new.  The live one was very difficult.  But I think the tiniest bit easier than the original. All the core work was standing, which didn't feel as effective, but I've always hated going to the floor in the middle of a workout for crunches etc.  So, yay!  I did this workout after work, because I'd felt bad in the morning.  So I also missed weights at the rec center.  I did them at home and it sure felt effective.  Dang!   And, finally, I did a nice, calming YWA.

Friday:  YWA

Finally, a rest day!  This YWA is an earlier one from Adriene, set outside.  But this is the stage in her career when she's hitting her stride so it was good - not too difficult for the morning and flow-y all the same.  It was super nice to get stretched out this morning!

Saturday: Cathe's High/Low HIIT Live + 160 Lunges + STS Legs + abs

Today was tough!  I started off with 160 walking lunges - that got my heart rate up!!  Then, Cathe's HIIT worked me hard.  Dang!  I skipped the weighted exercises - or did them without weights.  But I got a great, 30-minute cardio workout.  After that, STS time!  I was not looking forward to legs and it was not easy - but I got through it!  I even added on some weighted hip thrusts at the end.  Then, about 7 minutes of abs (from Cathe) followed by a lovely, lovely stretch.  I'll hurt tomorrow.

Sunday: Cathe's Cardio Kicks + STS Back and Triceps + abs + STS Extended Stretch

I was looking forward to my last STS workout of Mesocycle 1, let me tell you.  I'm ready for a break.  But first, there was work to be done.  I really enjoyed the 35 minutes I did of Cardio Kicks - an older Cathe kickboxing workout.  It was a ton of fun and I'll have to do it in it's entirety sometime, for sure.  After that, it was time for STS.  I must say that the one area I'm seeing a bit change in, outside of my legs, are my triceps.  So this was a fun 55 minutes of making them hurt - ha!  After that, I did 6 minutes of abs (from Cathe) and then her Extended Stretch, which is very nice!

Calorie Counts:

Not a great week but it wasn't too bad.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hello, Energy!

I'm now two months into my desiccated thyroid medication.  When my doctor first mentioned the possibility of NatureThroid, I was a bit skeptical, fearing, mainly, it would cost more than my generic synthetic thyroid meds.   And it costs a bit more but it's negligible...

And worth it.  Earlier this month, I asked Mr. Higgins, "Have said that I'm tired lately?"  He thought for a second and said, "no."  Amazing.  While I was on synthetic thyroid I had no energy - and apparently complained about it so much that it tested my husband's patience. But somehow, NatureThroid has give me back my energy.  

I went to see my endocrinologist earlier this week and told her, ecstatic to see this change in myself.  She said, when looking at my current labs, that numbers that hadn't moved finally moved!  Yes!  She also increased my dosage just a bit, which I'm hoping will help with my inability to lose weight.  

So if you're considering changed to desiccated thyroid, I highly recommend it.  The energy by itself is enough to make me wholeheartedly endorse it.  I'll keep you posted about my weight!

Monday, June 19, 2017

STS Rotation #1: Meso Cycle 1 Week 3

Last week was good - mainly because I wasn't as sore as the week before.  The one workout that really made me sore was the Butt Bible Lower Level 2 workout - OUCH!  

I'm hoping all of this is making a difference with my body.  I really, really hope!

Monday: Cathe's Low Impact Series: Low Impact Challenge + Pauline Nordin's Butt Bible Lower Level 1 + YWA

I keep trying to do Cathe's low impact workouts and they keep getting me flustered with crazy footwork!  At some point in this workout, I gave up and jogged in place.  It was ridiculous.  Sigh.  After that 30 minutes, I did the Butt Bible, which really, really hurt my already sore butt (from Saturday's workout).  Wow.  At least I know my butt is being challenged!  After work, this YWA was nice - movement, for sure, but not too difficult.

Tuesday: STS Chest, Shoulder, and Biceps + walk

Wow, I felt this one today.  I really challenged myself on weights, especially with curls and overhead presses.  The most daunting thing about these Chest days....the push-ups.  There are so many.  My arms were already hurting so bad that I skipped the last bout of push-ups.  I just couldn't do them with good form.  So my arms were aching on the way into work.  At lunch, I walked the track at the rec center and it felt good to loosen up my muscles after sitting at my desk for so long.

Wednesday: Cathe's HIIT Pyramid + Low Impact Series: Low Impact Challenge

The last of Cathe's HIIT series was on the schedule for me today.  I didn't quite know what to expect....but I survived!  This pyramid style is interesting - you increase the time of the HIIT moves and decrease your rest time as you go along.  It was definitely a challenge so I'm glad I was able to to do it!  After that, I found that my Workout Blender started playing the Low Impact Challenge again (from Monday).  I didn't remember scheduling this for two days.  Sigh.  At least I finally picked up on some of the difficult-to-master combinations.  Work and life kept me from working out any more today.

Thursday: Cathe's Body Blast: Kick, Punch, and Crunch + weights + YWA

Yay, cardio!  I was excited about this kickboxing workout today and it was a lot of fun.  In the Workout Blender, I was able to pick and choose the chapters I wanted to do and the order in which to do them. So I did: high-impact, kickboxing, and then intermediate impact.  That was a good format because I gradually cooled down.  At lunch, I did weights at the rec center - not fun but I got it done.  And after work, I did this lovely 16-minute YWA to combat anxiety.  I wasn't anxious, just worn out and it was a nice way to end the workday.

Friday: Cathe's Yoga Max

I was a bit disappointed in Yoga Relax, which I did two weeks ago, so I had high hopes for this yoga workout.  It was alright.  It was more intense because you went down and up from the floor more....but I didn't love it.  YWA is now my favorite yoga and she's hard to compete with.  

Saturday: STS Legs + Pauline Nordin's Butt Bible Lower Level 2 + 140 lunges + YWA

Another painful Saturday for my legs.  I started off with STS, knowing anything else would burn my legs out before the hardest part.  And my legs were literally shaking after this STS workout.  So I went and did 140 walking lunges.  Ouch!  Then, 30 minutes of the Butt Bible.  For the hip thrusts, I upped my weight to 13.  Ouch.  I can't tell you how much these hurt.  I stretched a bit afterward and did my sit-ups...  And then used the last bit of energy I had for a short YWA.

Sunday:  Cathe's Tabatacise + STS Back and Triceps + abs

I can't say I was looking forward to my second run-through of Tabatacise but I needed to burn some serious calories.  I got through this, huffing, puffing, and happy to be exhausted. My legs were so sore from yesterday and, unfortunately, after that 40 minutes, there was still work to do.  STS Back and Triceps was good - and it really burned out my triceps.  Ouch!  I like this one, though, because there are always few push-ups and nothing crazy to dread (like in the leg workout).  After that, five minutes of abs and then a stretch.

Calorie Counts:

I had a few good days of around 1250 calories, but the others were a bit higher.  We're trying to have fun this summer, which means more food than usual.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Amish Bread

Another birthday at work meant another baking opportunity this past week.  Cool!  I'm not getting to bake nearly enough lately!

I searched around for recipes and had almost decide on my scones when I saw this post about Amish Bread.  Growing up, Amish Friendship Bread was very popular in my mom's kitchen and, though I didn't remember the exact taste of that bread, this one sounded good enough to try.

I made no substitutions except for using Splenda for half of the sugar for the loaves.  My one recommendation - put enough cinnamon/sugar in the insides of the loaves as you can do without more on top.  This make it extra appealing when you cut into the bread.

Mr. Higgins loved this bread so I though it safe to take to work.  And everyone seemed to really enjoy it.  It's not quite what I expected but I still liked it and will keep the recipe.

Monday, June 12, 2017

STS Rotation #1: Meso Cycle 1 Week 2

So considering how sore I was ALL last week, I think that STS is going to be a very effective system.  I just hope I'm not sore for it's entirety!  

I'm looking forward to week two!  It's amazing how changing up one's workouts can really keep you motivated and excited!

Monday: STS Chest, Shoulders, Biceps + DanceFit + XTrain Core Bonus 1 + YWA

I was still sore from my Butt Bible on Sunday - my inner thighs were aching - so it was good to focus on the upper body today.  I did all this at the end of the day so I started with DanceFit - which I did last week and really enjoyed.  Then, STS - which was much more challenging than last week.  I upped my weights, as directed, and that really made a difference.  Ouch!  And so many push-ups!  After that 55 minutes of pain, I tuned into Adreine's Upper Back yoga - lovely!  And to finish off, ten minutes of abs (Cathe's XTrain) - ouch!

Tuesday:  Cathe's Low Impact Step + Pauline Nordin's Butt Bible Lower Level 1 + walk

So I'm waking up 15 minutes early on Monday and Tuesday to get in either an STS workout or a Butt Bible. Today, I started with 30 minutes of Cathe's step - it was alright.  Then, Butt Bible!  Level 1 is so much easier than level 2!!  But it's still painful, especially since my inner thighs still hurt.  I got through it and had a nice 5-minute stretch afterward.  At lunch, I walked at the rec center just to get some steps and feel more active.  Life interfered after work, which meant no YWA.  

Wednesday: Cathe's HIIT 30/30 + Hardcore Series: Low Max

I was a bit nervous about this HIIT....but it wasn't too bad.  In fact, it was a bit easier that last week's 40/20 HIIT.  Cool!  I'm glad I'm not getting out of shape since I've decreased my cardio!  After that 30 minutes, I finished off my workout with Cathe's Low Max - an oldie but a good one.  Of course, I have no step but that didn't matter!  I moved and jumped just a bit and got a good workout!

Thursday:  Cathe's Keep the Cardio Coming + weights + YWA

The times I've looked at this live workout, I've written it off because Cathe uses the stability ball for a cardio sequence - and some light weights.  I did it without either one and got a great workout!  It's good to do intervals on Wednesday and sustained cardio on Thursday - the variety is good.  At lunch, I did weights at the rec center - whew!  Glad that's over with for the week!  After work, this YWA got me all hot and sweaty!  Nice!

Friday: Peak 10 Dynamic Flexibility + Cathe's Xpress Leaner Legs Abs 

Rest day - yay!  I started off my morning with Michelle Dozois' Dynamic Flex, which I love!  You move in every direction and really get your muscles nice and stretched out.  After that, almost 10 minutes of abs with Cathe - ouch!

Saturday:  STS Legs + Pauline Nordin's Butt Bible Lower Level 2 + 120 lunges + YWA

OMG.  Talk about a tough morning.  I started off with STS Legs - which was 60 minutes of leg torture.  In a good way, of course.  Then, to move for a bit, I did 120 walking lunges with cardio interspersed to keep my legs happy - that took 10 minutes.  Next up - Butt Bible level 2, which is not easy.  Ouch!!!  I got through it but let me tell you - the lunges at the end were a special kind of torture.  I then did some sit-ups, stretched a bit, and finished off with Adriene's short hip routine.  Nice!

Sunday: Cathe's Hardcore Series: Kickmax + STS Biceps and Back

I was ready for cardio this morning and Kickmax was fun!  I did 35 minutes of the kickboxing which included a high impact blast.  Fun!  My thighs were definitely tight after yesterday's leg torture session.  At the end of that nice little cardio session, I was good and sweaty!  I then moved on to my STS workout for the day.  Triceps are always painful and today was no exception.  But I felt super accomplished after this hour of weight work.  I did a nice stretch to make my muscles happy!

Calorie Counts:

I had a few good days but it was Mr. Higgins' birthday week which meant some bad eating.  However, I'm doing my measurements every Sunday and I was done - again - in all areas except arms this week!  Awesome!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Morning Workouts

When I switched jobs about four (!) years ago, I switched up my workout routine.  I went from working out in the evening, as soon as I got home, to working out five minutes after waking up every weekday.  

That's a big change.  And it was for the better.  Let me tell you why...

--I have no time to dread my workout or talk myself out of it.  I just jump out of bed and do it, purely on auto-pilot for the first bit.  On the rare occasions that I wake up before the alarm, I dread working out only if I hate my workout for the day - and that's rare.

--I never miss a workout.  Nothing comes up - except the rare illness - at 5:30am to keep me from working out.  I love it!  

--It limits the time I can dread a workout.  As stated before, I rarely dread a workout, but if I do, I don't have time to talk myself out of it because by the time my brain is fully functional, I'm already jumping, jogging, or punching.  

--I never overthink a move or a step - I just do it.  My brain is simply following the moves for the first 15-20 minutes.   

--My workout is over and done with before I know it.  No more dreading going home and NOT relaxing - and working out instead.  I hated those days and now they're no more.

--By the time I get to work, my workout is like a bad dream with no influence over the rest of my day.  I love getting it over and done with before I can think about it.

--I have more energy in the morning than after a long day at work.  On the rare times I do an evening workout these days, they exhaust me.  I'm literally a zombie afterward.  Morning workouts are energizing and give me the confidence to feel strong and powerful throughout the day.

If those aren't enough reasons for you to give morning workouts a try, then I don't know what is.  That being said, I've never hit a snooze button on an alarm.  If you're a snoozer, morning workouts may be difficult.

Monday, June 5, 2017

STS Rotation #1: Meso Cycle 1 Week 1

STS (Shock Training System), here we go!  

My rotation is based loosely upon 2 Lazy 4 The Gym's Glute-focused playlist.  I don't have all of her DVDs and some are just too expensive or me.  But I'm going to do what I can with what I have.  Wish me luck!

And I'll need luck as I'm on the tail end of a cold.  Ugh!  The challenge will be keeping my snot to myself.

Monday: STS Chest, Shoulders, Biceps + DanceFit + YWA

I started the morning off with light cardio - Dance Fit, which is a Latin and Retro dance workout led by Tracey Mallett.  I hadn't touched this in years and it was more fun than I remembered.  After that 30 minutes, I did my first STS workout.  Wow.  50 minutes of push-ups and lots of weights.  My arms and shoulders were aching.  This is going to be an effective system, for sure.  After that, and a stretch, I did Adriene's quick yoga ab workout.  

Tuesday: STS Legs + walk + YWA

My first STS Legs went well!  I had to improvise some of the riser movers with a step stool....  And there was no improvisation for one move (stability ball wall squats)...but that's okay!  I was able to do the rest!  And OUCH!  This is going to be a challenge, for sure.  At lunch, I walked outside for 30 minutes.  Then, I did a nice, short stretch after work with Adriene.  I meant to do a longer video but it wouldn't load.  First world problems!

Wednesday: Cathe's HiiT 40/20 + Low Impact Circuit + YWA + Cathe's STS Ab Circuits

Back to cardio.  And I couldn't believe how sore my arms and shoulders still were from Monday and then, a new ache today: my bum.  It made some of these HiiT move difficult!  But this was a good HIIT routine with an appealing run time - 25 minutes!  So, afterward, I did 20 minutes of a Cathe step video.  Some of the steps (on the step) were a bit too complicated for me but I still moved.  After work, I was inspired to do more so I did this 27-minute YWA - though it's not my birthday - and then 15 minutes of Cathe's yoga ab workout on Ab Circuits.  Ouch!

Thursday: Cathe's Solid Cardio Plus HIIT + weights + YWA

This was my second time doing Solid Cardio and it was fun - despite a headache this morning.  Ugh.  I just can't get well, it seems.  But at least I got a good workout in!  At lunch, I did weights at the rec center.  I even changed something up - for good.  I'm back to doing leg presses - though our trainer took me off of them for reasons unknown - and I'm NOT doing calf raises anymore. I like my skinny calves, thank you very much!  I was super proud of myself for getting through weights - because I was still sore from Monday AND Tuesday's STS workouts.  YWA was alright - that one is not my favorite and I need to remember that next time.

Friday: Cathe's Yoga Relax

Rest day - yay!  I've never done a Cathe yoga video so I was curious to try one today.  This one was definitely more stretching than actual yoga but that was fine by me.  I was still sore - every part of my body ached - so this was a nice way to get moving on a Friday morning.  I can't wait to try her other yoga video!

Saturday: Cathe's MMA Fusion + STS Back and Triceps + STS Extended Stretch

I was looking forward to more pain today!  Ha!  But to start off, I did 30 minutes of cardio with Cathe's MMA Fusion.  Her MMA workouts are boxing and I'm curious to try them.  This one was a bit slow at times but the combinations were good and complicated.  I wanted low impact and this fit the bill.  Next up: my first STS back and tricep workout.  Dang!  I'll be feeling my triceps tomorrow and for days to come!  My only modification was pull-ups/chin-ups because I have no way to do these.  I pulled on my band instead.  After that (55 minutes), the Extended Stretch - very nice!  And then some sit-ups!

Sunday:  Cathe's XTrain Tabatacise + Butt Bible Lower Level 2 + Lunges + YWA

Lots of firsts today!  This was my first time doing Tabatacise. I was dreading it...and though it almost killed me, I got through it without hating it.  Too much.  Ha!  That was a good, solid 45 minutes of cardio.  After that, I did 100 walking lunges.  Oy.  My heart was pounding.  Next up: the 30-minute long Butt Bible Level 2.  Ouch!  I don't remember my bum ever hurting so much. I skipped the jump lunges and had to do a few less side lunges near the end.  And to finish it off, a 14-minute YWA.  That was nice.  Anything to stretch my bum was awesome.  Ouuuuuch.  

Calorie Counts:

Monday - bad
Tuesday - 1302
Wednesday - 1837
Thursday - 1259
Friday - 1152
Saturday - 1361
Sunday - 1407

So I was bad for Memorial Day but other than that, I did pretty well, considering.  And only one day of eating my minimal calories - and on a good day, my rest day.  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Russian Winter

On our cruise, I read a really good piece of historical fiction: Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay.  It was one of those novels you can easily escape in to...perfect for vacation!

My Goodreads review:

Daphne Kalotay has written a beautiful novel about life in Stalinist Russia. Through the lens of a Bolshoi ballerina, the reader is taken on a journey of hardship, starvation, tragedy, love, and hope. Nina rises to the top to become a principal of the Bolshoi but just as her career peaks, Stalin's harsh grip on Russia finally becomes inescapable for Nina. As she witnesses tragedies all around her, her world collapses.

Told from the perspective of an older Nina, now bound to a wheelchair, who is selling off her gorgeous Russian jewels, we learn of the many secrets of her past. Included in those secrets is Grigori, a Russian poetry professor who assures older Nina that their lives are intertwined.

I really enjoyed this novel but my one complaint is the abrupt ending. You come to love these characters and to have the story stop so suddenly feels wrong.