Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goals and Aspirations

I know that many people are spending the day reflecting on the past year. One blogger buddy (Allie), however, got me thinking about a time long long ago. In a recent post When I was a Youngin', she divulged that when she was a child she wanted to be a grocery store cashier as a child. It reminded me of higher aspirations I once had.

When I was about four, my godmother bought me a pair of certified Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader pom-poms. They were as big as me, fluffy, and snow white. I spent hours cheering my little heart out. My mother had been a cheerleader in high school, and I loved loved loved to parade around in her old uniforms (cinched up) with those giant pom-poms. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would cheerfully respond, "A cheeleader." (Yes, the "r" was left off on purpose.) I did manage to attain that goal (though not as a profession). I was a cheerleader in junior high then on the dance team in high school.

Then, when I was in the 1st grade, we were asked to create/draw a book about our lives. We had pages designated to draw in our family, our homes, what made us happy or sad, and even what we wanted to be when we grew up. On the career page, I drew a very exaggerated rendition of a very yellow school bus. Yes, by the 1st grade I wanted to be a school bus driver. Why? I adored the driver on the route of one of my friend's. Her name was Miss King. She was so much nicer than my bus driver. I loved it when I was invited to this particular friend's home after school because it meant riding with Miss King. She would even let us rotate who sat up on the control panel beside her. Oh, certainly not legal now (possibly not then) I'm quite sure. I admired her daughter getting to ride on that bus everyday with her mother.




The bus driver gig was one goal I never did reach. I don't drive anything larger than my husband's 4-door Mitsubishi Mirage. I have a sports car if that says anything. Maybe that should have been my goal - a race car driver.

When I reached high school, I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I went to college and got a degree in Professional and Technical Writing (now an MA in the subject as well). I am a writer, not quite as I had anticipated, but a writer nonetheless (technical and web content). A far cry from the cheeleader or bus driver dreams.

But am I done? No, I think that I also want to be a Personal Trainer. I'm not setting any deadlines for that goal. But maybe 2010 will be a good time to start working on it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Working Out My Workouts

Today was my first day back to work after a straight 6 days off. Man it's hard to get back into the swing of things! I had planned on upper body and spin today, by the end of the day, however, I was starting to think it'd be a rest day for me. I did manage to get into my workout clothes and tried Shock Cardio Hiit 40/20. It says it's 29 minutes, but it's really more like 24 minutes of cardio. Awesome calorie burn for the time though. My heart rate was in the 170's at some points. If you're looking for a short, super intense workout, this one is it. I imagine the other two workouts on the DVD are just as intense. Feeling more energized, I did another round of pyramids f or total upper body.

I must admit that I feel like I have been all over the place with my weights lately. In an attempt to combat boredom and to shake things up, I have been doing weights sans DVDs. I feel like my workouts have been more productive, however, I feel that I have no real schedule rotation in place. This is starting to stress me out a little. This is also why I have relied so heavily on rotations that I have found on Cathe's forum and using her DVDs.

Now I feel like I've hit some sort of weight lifting wall. Not making any gains at this point. I have definitely lost definition in my legs (but by golly I can fit into skinny jeans!). Just not sure what to do now.

A forum friend did send me an 8-week rotation that she used, based on at total-body training method by Chad Waterbury. I will admit that it is very appealing. However, I am not sure how to fit in some of the cardio that I enjoy (like spin) when legs are done with each workout. Ouch. Also, some of the suggested exercises (like decline bench presses) scare the crap out of me. I will have to do some of the exercises at the gym for certain because I don't have a proper weight bench or squat rack. So that takes me back to the "looking like an idiot" fear. I can handle dumbbells, got that one under control, but squat racks and other such contraptions...uh oh.

Here's a very general overview (see the full article for complete details of course)

The How
Exercises per Session: 6
Sets per Muscle Group: 2-4
Reps per Exercise: 5-18
Rest between sets for the same muscle group: 60-120 seconds, and 120-240 seconds (antagonist training)

The Why
The first thing you probably notice with the above parameters is variance. This is the key to your consistent hypertrophy success. A lack of variance is the single biggest reason why trainees aren’t still talking about the continuous progress they received from some of the most popular hypertrophy programs. Without consistent change, results will be anything but consistent.

The Explanation
1) Weeks 1,3,5 and 7 are to be performed with straight sets. In other words, perform one set of the first exercise, rest, perform your second set, and continue for all the recommended sets before moving on to the next exercise.

2) Weeks 2,4,6 and 8 are to be performed as antagonist training. Every session consists of six exercises so antagonist training is simple; all you have to do is perform three antagonist exercise groupings during each workout. For instance, perform quads/hams, chest/back, and biceps/triceps exercise pairings for the recommended sets and reps.

Example: Do one set for chest, then one for back, then another for chest, etc. Then move on to the next pairing, like quads/hams or biceps/triceps.

3) Choose four exercises under the list of compound exercises. Choose two exercises under the single-joint exercise list. Don't leave out any major muscle groups.

4) Constantly rotate exercises from each category. In other words, don’t always start your session with a chest/back pairing. You must keep rotating the body parts and exercises you begin each session with.

5) Don’t perform the same exercise for more than two weeks in a row. For example, if you performed a flat barbell bench press as your chest exercise for Weeks 1 and 2, you must switch to either incline, decline or dumbbell bench presses for another two weeks before switching again.

6) Increase the load 1.25 to 2.5% with each subsequent workout.

7) Perform all three workouts within a seven-day timeframe with 48-72 hours rest between workouts.

8) Be creative! I’m giving you endless options. Just be sure to pick four compound exercises and two single-joint exercises with each session. You can rotate exercises as much as you desire. All you have to do is follow the prescribed parameters.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

C'est la Vie and It's Good

Ok, today was sort of sad for me knowing that my time off is coming to an end. I was, however, giddy to try out one of my new Shock Cardio workouts. I chose The Cardio Core Circuit workout. It says 50 minutes, but it's really more like 42 minutes of cardio. I was hoping for a little longer workout with higher calorie burn, but for 42 minutes, I burned 376 calories. This is definitely not one for the beginners! It was a fun, fast-paced workout. There were a few moves that require diligence in terms of proper form. In other words, you could hurt yourself if you got sloppy. I can't wait to try to out the others. I think the next one on the list will be the HiiT workouts. I'm a sucker for punishment.

I managed to not get one thing one my to-do list done over my break. Good or bad, c'est la vie right?! I did, however, enjoy my time off. I enjoyed time with my family and with my husband. That's far more important than any nit-picky list. I did do the usual chores like laundry, dusting, swiffering (a must with 2 cocker spaniels), vacuuming, the fun stuff. I didn't get any sewing done, and I didn't try any new recipes with the exception of Christmas dinner.

Today, Jason and I debated over going to a movie. That didn't happen. Instead he took me to DSW. He really does love me! LOL. Yep, found some shoes. It's almost impossible to not find something you NEED from that place. Dinner was Sweet Potato and Black Bean Stuffed Poblanos. This time I did mash the beans and potatoes and omitted the cream cheese.

Oh, and for fans of Clif Bars, if you haven't tried their seasonal flavors, you really must seek them out! Thank you Anna for reminding me to post product reviews. I keep meaning to, thinking about it, and forgetting. Jason and I found these tasty treats a few days ago at Whole Foods:  Cranberry Orange Nut Bread and Spiced Pumpkin Pie. Yum, Yum, Yum. Not much else to say!


And for those who love Kashi brand, you must try the new GOLEAN Crisp, Toasted Berry Crumble.I couldn't find the product on their site or I would have posted the direct link. This one is tasty, but not as filling (to me) as their whole wheat biscuits. It is, however, divine sprinkled over Greek yogurt or over Sweet Tofu Yogurt


Monday, December 28, 2009

Decompressing and Shock Cardio

Jason and I both took today (and tomorrow) off to continue to decompress from the holidays. We went to a noon spin class. It was short and intense. I also did abs after class for good measure. After the gym we made a much-needed stop by his office so I could pick up a very important package. I've been waiting for this package since around March - Shock Cardio! It was due to arrive Christmas Eve (of course), and Jason's office was closed (of course). So I have had to learn some patience, a virtue I am lacking. I am so excited to have the new cardio options that I don't even know where to begin. I think it's safe to say that I'll be trying out one of these babies tomorrow. I'm thinking Cardio Core Circuit.



The rest of the day was mostly about piddling and just enjoying having the day off together. After getting cleaned up post-gym, we went and ate lunch. Nothing fancy, just a little spot we enjoy. They offer a few vegetarian options, which sure beats most restaurants around here. Jason and I both had gift cards to Barnes and Noble so that was the next stop. I browsed the recipe books, but we both left empty handed. Then it was Target, White House Black Market (sorry honey), and The Container Store (a neat-freaks mecca).

Not sure what we'll be doing for dinner. Feeling very lazy. I cooked off some lentils earlier in the day with full intention of making lentil burgers. Those are still sitting in the fridge and will likely remain there until tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow's post will be more exciting or food filled at least. I think it's safe to say there will be some sort of post-workout report on the new DVD! ;-)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

One More "Christmas" Meal

Christmas celebrations were still in swing for us today. We still had not had Christmas with my dad and my sister's kiddos, so that was today.

Before heading to his house, I did get in a workout. I did Step Blast and a full upper body workout using a pyramid style rep pattern of light weights at 12 reps, medium weights at 10 reps, heavy weight at 8 reps, then back down. Each muscle group was worked in a superset (e.g., chest flys into chest presses).

Next on the agenda, another meal. Dad makes manicotti for Christmas lunch. Jason and I brought sauteed green beans with red onion, red bell peppers, and slivered almonds and homemade French bread rolls (I substitute some of the all-purpose flour with wheat flour and add ground flax seeds). My sister put together a very yummy, healthy salad. I'm happy to report that my niece (she's 5) likes my rolls so much she requested that I make some just for her to keep at her house. Melted my heart of course. You know that means I'll be making a double batch too!

Jason's parents live about a mile away from my dad's house, so we made a quick stop by their house. At Thanksgiving, I had mentioned that I really needed an apron. Guess what I got today!? Yep, an apron. I was sooo happy. It's a vintage apron she hunted down on eBay. She even got it to match my kitchen - blue. If I wasn't so full right now, I would be sporting the new apron making something for dinner. Right now, I'm back in my sweats!


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Day After Over-Indulgences = Exercise and Shopping

So I feel like a total slug after the past two days of over-eating and, yes, over-drinking. I got up this morning and had no desire to cook anything. Breakfast was Kashi Island Vanilla. After breakfast, I made my way to the mall. It was totally over hyped (I hyped it up myself of course). I found a few things at The Limited, but other than that, wasted gas. I was not to be deterred, so I made my way to Barnes & Noble to pick up the January issue of Oxygen Magazine. Then it was on to Michael's Crafts to find holiday decorations for next year. My kitchen is a deep blue with toile accents. So next year I believe the color scheme will be silver and blue (Jason actually requested this; he's a decorator at heart). So I scouted out some blue and silver bulbs, blue lights, and hurricane vases with silver bottoms. Can't wait to put it all together next year. In fact, it was all I could do not to pull it all out to give it a test run!

After Michael's, I thought I might strike gold at Ann Taylor Loft and/or White House Black Market. Nope, nada. That was my cue to take my rear to the gym and stop procrastinating.

Today I ran for 25 minutes then did my leg workout (that's been put off far too long). I also did abs and stretched. It was good "me" time.

Lunch was scrambled egg whites with sauteed red and green bell peppers, onions, and left over Gimme Lean "Sausage" patties in a whole wheat wrap. No pictures, I was far too hungry to even think about taking the time to take photos.

Hi, my name is Heather, and I am a shopaholic. So after refueling, I headed back out. Yes, sad. I had two gift cards to Bed, Bath, & Beyond that were screaming to be used. I ended up buying a new hand-mixer - Cuisinart 7-speed Chrome-Plated. The one I have is about 7 years old (at least). My sister bought it the first year we started having our "Cookie Day." When I was making dough this year, I thought the poor thing was going to burst into flames or start smoking at the very least. It is definitely on it's last leg. Now I suppose I need to find a recipe that requires the use of a hand-mixer.

I needed a post-shopping snack, so I made some Pumpkin Hummus (thank you my blog friend enablers for the suggestion). I wasn't sure if I should flavor towards the sweet or savory, so I went savory. I blended 1 can of chickpeas (rinsed/drained), 1/2 can pumpkin puree, unknown amount of fat-free plain yogurt, sea salt, pepper, cinnamon, cumin, red pepper, lemon juice, and tiny drizzle of olive oil. Turned out quite nicely actually. Again, no pictures. I think I may be "pictured" out (temporarily).

Ok, so I have been doing the majority of the cooking over the past few days. Jason was kind enough to take over the cooking duties for this evening (with the exception of an impromptu dessert). We had picked up some butternut squash ravioli from Whole Foods on Thursday. We've both been liking the flavors of the squash combined with black beans. So he wanted to do a black bean sauce, but I thought that would be too heavy. We also had some crimini mushrooms that needed to be used, so I suggested a mushroom sauce. He decided to try both. I don't know all of the ingredients so I won't even pretend to post as a recipe for anyone to replicate. But the mushroom sauce consisted of criminis, onion, spinach, and vegetable broth. The black bean sauce consisted of black beans (obviously), skim milk, and spices (not a clue what he used as I sat back and let him cook for once). We started with a salad of leaf lettuce, mandarin oranges, walnuts, feta, and a balsamic vinaigrette. Then the main dish(es) with a side of toasted homemade ciabatta bread.




I always have a major sweet tooth after I eat dinner. I have been trying to find healthier desserts to satisfy said sweet tooth. Lucky for me, in the issue of Oxygen Magazine that I picked up today, they had a recipe for "Sweet Tofu Yogurt." Sorry, they don't have it posted or I would link to it. But basically it's tofu, fruit, lemon juice, vanilla extract pureed. I added cinnamon and honey as well,. Jason agreed with me that it's more of a pudding consistency. If you are one that likes a bit of a crunch in your dishes, you may want to add toasted nuts or granola. But, it was a very tasty treat.


Friday, December 25, 2009

More Food - Christmas Dinner

After brunch I was thinking I may never want to eat again. Stuffed! I had to put on my Christmas PJs the minute my mom and sister walked out the door. If you can recall the Friends episode where Joey wore maternity pants for Thanksgiving and called them his Thanksgiving Pants, well that's how I was feeling about the PJs. I'll definitely be hitting the gym hard tomorrow!

Of course the stuffed-to-the-gills feeling finally passed...after many hours of course. It was time to figure out exactly what to do for our special Christmas Dinner. I had originally wanted to do a cranberry chipotle sauce/gravy for the Quorn Turk'y Roast. However, Jason ate the cranberries in his cottage cheese yesterday as a snack. Oops. So I had to go to a Plan B. This is why we always keep a very well-stocked pantry!

I had originally planned to start with salad of spinach, leaf lettuce, mandarine oranges, and toasted walnuts with a balsamic vinaigrette. We were still entirely too full for a starter. So directly to dinner.

I made the Quorn Turk'y Roast and the sauce ended up being a fig sauce. I sauteed finely diced yellow onions and garlic, then added diced dried figs, and simmered in a Pinot Noir and vegetable stock. I let it reduce for about 30 minutes.

The side dishes included the Kale with Currants, Lemon and Olives recipe I found in Food and Wine magazine. I didn't have currants so I substituted with white raisins instead. I also used low-sodium vegetable broth instead of the chicken stock. Oh, and I pretty much halved the recipe. I also made roasted new potatoes with thyme, sea salt, black pepper, and rosemary and homemade French bread rolls.




    Christmas Breakfast and Brunch

    Thankfully it finally stopped raining here. Now it's just really cold - but sunny at least. I had really hoped to sleep in this morning as a Christmas gift to myself. I suppose 7:50 is better than 7 am.

    While hubby snoozed, I made Pumpkin Oatmeal for the both of us for breakfast. I used steel cut oats, stirred in pumpkin, cinnamon, vanilla protein powder, and topped with toasted walnuts. I topped mine with just a drizzle of agave nectar while Jason stirred in brown sugar into his.


    After breakfast it was time to open our goodies to each other. I am now a proud new owner of a high step, new weight gloves, 6' resistance bands, plus jewelry (2 necklaces, bracelet, earrings), and gift cards to DSW (oh he knows me so well), Bed Bath & Beyond, and Amazon.

    My mom and sister showed up around noon for our Christmas Brunch. I was very excited to have them over again this year. I wanted it to be special so I made sure the table would match the food. I found the place mats, napkins, and napkin rings at Pier 1, and I snagged the gold chargers from Michael's (on clearance because they were considered Christmas goods).

    The menu was:
    • Whole wheat bagels with cream cheese (as starter snack)
    • Greek style frittata (red & green bell peppers, onions, sun dried tomatoes, artichokes, feta)
    • Fresh fruit salad (apples, strawberries, bananas, blueberries with honey and cinnamon)
    • Gimme Lean "sausage" patties
    • Mimosas





    Thursday, December 24, 2009

    Beautiful Blogger Award - 7 Random Things

    Anna at Newlywed, Newly Veg kindly honored me with the Beautiful Blogger Award. My duty is to name/list seven random things about myself, and then pass the award on to seven other beautiful bloggers.
    1. I've never had red velvet cake (Gonna have to try it thanks to Allie
    2. I love rap and hip hop
    3. I marched in the 1993 inaugural parade for Clinton
    4. My first concert was Def Leppard
    5. My favorite flower is the rose
    6. I have a tattoo of a ring of roses (and I do want more tattoos, sorry mom)
    7. I've danced on a table top more than once
    Now that I have admitted random tidbits, it's time to pass on the award and learn about some of the other beautiful bloggers out there!
    1. Jessica
    2. Jolene
    3. Alyson
    4. Alicia
    5. Allie
    6. Stephanie
    7. Kelly

    A Soggy Christmas Eve

    Another rainy day here. I decided that I actually had time to make a real breakfast. I usually just eat oatmeal with blueberries and protein powder at my office. I decided to make Blueberry Protein Pancakes for Jason and myself. It's a super easy recipe, but I apparently need to practice flipping pancakes. Got a little messy here and there.

    Blueberry Protein Pancakes
    • 1/4 cup low or no fat cottage cheese
    • 1/4 cup rolled oats
    • 1/4 cup egg whites
    • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
    • handful of blueberries (or other fruit of choice)
    Mix all ingredients in blender and voila, pancake batter.



    After breakfast, we made a soggy trip to Whole Foods for some last minute food items for tomorrow's meals. Then we went up to the gym for a noon spin class. It was short and sweet. It was done in a tabata style, and we also got off the bikes and did kettle bells. Intense, but the time flew by!

    Still raining...I was in my Christmas PJs by 3:30. While hubby wrapped presents, I tried a new recipe: Cherry-Almond Bran Jingle Balls from The Healthy Apple.

    Cherry-Almond Bran Jingle Balls
     Ingredients
    • 2 cups bran flake cereal
    • ¾ cup dried cherries (I used a mix of cherries, blueberries, and cranberries)
    • ½ cup almonds, toasted
    • 3 Ttbsp honey or agave nectar (I used agave nectar)
    • 2 Tbsp silken Nasoya Tofu
    • 2 tsp freshly squeezed orange juice
    • ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes (I accidentally bought sweetened)
    • 1 Tbsp wheat germ
    Directions
    • Place bran cereal, cherries and almonds in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add honey, tofu and orange juice; pulse until a stiff dough forms.
    • Scoop tablespoon-size portions and shape with greased hands into balls. Roll each ball in coconut and wheat germ.
    • Place on wax paper. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving or storing.

    I am normally not a fan of coconut (other than the Samoa Girl Scout Cookies of course), but the coconut is so subtle because of the fruit flavors. This recipe is a definite keeper!

    Wednesday, December 23, 2009

    Time Off - Plotting and Planning

    I am so excited to be starting a mini-vacation. I am off work until the 30th! Hopefully I can get caught up on so many of my projects that I have let fall to the wayside. If not those, I'm sure I'll manage to come up with some more. I'm also thinking that I may feel more like myself when it comes to exercise because I won't be exhausted from working all day, then trying to force myself into a workout. I am hoping I'll be much more relaxed all the way around. I'm sure my husband is hoping for the same!

    I'll have plenty of chores to catch up on, but will actually have time to get them done for a change. I am really hoping to get to visit with a dear friend of mine as well. We so rarely get time to catch up, and I miss her dearly.

    I am also hoping to get the chance to try several new recipes. I have so many that I have been wanting to make and try but not the time. Speaking of recipes, after perusing an issue of Food and Wine, I think I have decided that the side dish for Christmas dinner with my husband will be Kale with Currants, Lemon and Olives. We'll make sauteed green beans, red bell pepper, and almonds for dinner with my dad (now moved to Sunday).

    After work I fought the crowds in pursuit of red charger plates. Seriously - it's Christmas, no red plates? Um, apparently not. I did, however, find some red and gold place mats from Pier 1 as well as matching linen napkins and funky napkin rings. So, battling the traffic, rain, people, and skipping the gym paid off. Yes folks, I allowed an unscheduled, but very necessary rest day for myself (huge gasp, checking pulse, doing fine). I had planned on going to spin, but I am listening to my body for a change and am not going today. Hopefully I'll feel more rejuvenated tomorrow and will hit the noon class then work legs. I know I can't make a habit of missing workouts, but I think there is a difference in missing because I'm just feeling a little blah versus missing because it would do me no good to go.

    Anyhoo, I hope to have a pretty table for Christmas Day and a lot more energy. Of course, I have it all planned out in my head how it'll look. Somehow that never pans out quite the same way. Hopefully it'll be even better than expected though! If nothing else, it'll be good food and even better company.

    Tuesday, December 22, 2009

    Christmas Day Menu Planning

    It's so hard to believe that Christmas is really almost here. I'm sure I say that every year. How do I let it sneak up on me though? I mean, aren't the reminders there as early as June? We can't even get to Halloween before seeing Christmas decorations.

    I didn't try to decorate the house all in one day. It's been a slow process where my husband and I do a little here, add a little there, another strand of lights, oh, more garland please. The only problem is that we don't realize just how much we've pulled out until we have to put it all away in a few weeks. Oh, and the house is a disaster. But it's sparkly and festive.

    This year my sister and mother are going to come up on Christmas Day for a noon brunch. I'm very excited about this. We'll be doing Christmas dinner with my father the day after so no Christmas Day travel for us. Last year was the first year we had company to our house for a holiday. It was the first time we were able to show off our tree, decorations, etc. I hope it becomes more of a tradition to have brunch at my house either on Christmas Eve Day or Christmas Day. Even without company, Jason and I do always plan our own Christmas dinner. 

    Since my sister's confirmation this morning, I have been planning in my head fast and furiously as to what the menu will be - I have been reading too many recipe postings lately and food magazine! I have even been thinking about how I want to decorate the table. Even though it'll just be the four of us, I really want it to be special. Breaking out the good china and crystal! I've also been trying to plan what Jason and I will be having for dinner. We always try to make it special. Probably go a little over board, but it's fun. Of course, all of this means one more trip to the grocery store. Guess that beats the mall though! Oh and who would have ever thought I'd prefer grocery shopping over the mall.

    Brunch (tentative of course)
    • Fruit salad - bananas, strawberries, pineapple, apples and blueberries with cinnamon and honey
    • Frittata - possibly Greek inspired with spinach, roasted red bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and feta 
    • Waffles - this is if hubby wants them as I am not a big fan
    • Mimosas

    Dinner (tentative of course)
    • Salad - spinach, leaf lettuce, mandarine oranges and toasted walnuts
    • Quorn Turk'y Roast with some type of cranberry sauce/gravy (or I have been wanting to try a lentil loaf)
    • Roasted asparagus with lemon pepper spices or fresh green beans with red bell peppers and almonds
    • Roasted new potatoes (or possibly new and sweet potatoes or butternut squash)
    • Homemade French bread roll or ciabatta bread
    PS - other suggestions and recipes are welcome!

      Monday, December 21, 2009

      Pre- and Post-Workout Ramblings

      Thoughts Pre-Workout
      I'm not sure what's going on with me, but my motivation level is waning in a major way. Like today, I want to go do spin, and I also really want to get biceps, triceps, back done. But, I'm sitting here thinking I'd much prefer to do absolutely nothing. Not even mess with turning on the TV. My great grandmother called days like this her "Blue Day." I've been having a few more Blue Days here lately. Shouldn't I be really happy this time of year? I have a great deal to be thankful for. I have a wonderful husband, great job, fabulous boss, loving family, roof over my head, my health, and so much more. I keep blogging about being grateful, finding motivation, etc. Apparently my body and mind are not connecting very well. I'm a total hypocrite.

      I just keep thinking that I really have no valid reason to not go workout. I know I'll feel better, or that's usually what happens I should say. It's not even that I'm super sleepy. I just don't want to do a darn thing...period. I'm pretty determined though and plan on getting it done. I know that once I get to the gym and get going, it'll all be OK. It's just the getting there that's starting to get to be difficult. I thought part of the problem was boredom with my routine. Maybe it's much more.

      Thoughts Post-Workout
      Well, as I assumed, once I got going with the workout, I was fine. I pushed myself pretty hard with weights. I did the same Slow & Heavy rep patterns as yesterday for biceps, triceps, and back repeating each exercise 3 times.

      Exercises:
      • Assisted pullups 
      • Double arm rows - 6 up, 2 down
      • Dumbbell pullovers - 2 down, 6 up
      • Seated triceps extension - 2 down, 6 up
      • Lying triceps extensions - 2 down, 6 up
      • Double arm kickbacks - 6 up, 2 down
      • Dumbbell curls - 6 up, 2 down
      • Hammer curls - 6 up, 2 down
      • Barbell curls - 6 up, 2 down
      • Wrist curls (over and under handed)
      Spin today was with a new instructor, so it was completely different and VERY leg intensive. He had us get off the bike to do static squats for 1 minute (3 times). I probably didn't push quite as hard as I could or should have, but I still pushed myself nonetheless.

      So, maybe it's just the winter blues? Maybe it's over training on an intensity scale rather than a time/amount spent scale. I really don't know for sure. Right now I'm feeling pretty good, a little exhausted, but that's to be expected. It's been a long day. Work at 7am, weights, and spin. Haven't been home for more than about 30 minutes all day. Time to eat and relax.

      Sunday, December 20, 2009

      Trying to Get it all Done

      Today was another long day for me. Trying to get it all done. Christmas is sneaking up fast! I spent most of the day trying to play catch up on chores. I also finished wrapping presents, made and jarred spaghetti sauce (family recipe I make and give as gifts), baked bread, and of course manged to squeeze in a workout.

      The Workout
      Today I stuck with the no DVD weight work. I did choose exercises, rep numbers, and rep patterns from Slow and Heavy for chest and shoulders. You do each exercise 3 times with a slow 8 count speed. It's hard to be disciplined enough to not speed up and rush through. Of course, it's the slow tempo that makes this workout so effective. So, I will say that with this one, it's a major perk having the DVD to keep you on track. Here's how it went:
      • Bench press flat bench - 6 up, 2 down
      • Chest fly flat bench - 6 down, 2 up
      • Bench press incline bench - 6 up, 2 down
      • Chest fly incline bench - 6 down, 2 up
      • Front raise - 6 up, 2 down
      • Lateral raise - 6 up, 2 down
      • Posterior rear delt raise - 6 up, 2 down
      • Overhead press, seated - 6 up, 2 down
      I did cardio from Step Blast (too many cookies yesterday to skip) and abs from Step, Jump, Pump.

      The Food
      The sauce is an all-day event. It literally takes 8 hours or more to complete from start to finish. But, it's worth the effort. I know, you're thinking, "just another jarred gift." Oh, but it's not. Friends and family who get the sauce as gifts actually return their jars to be refilled for the next year. It's thick, rich, and one of a kind! Yum. I'm not partial or anything LOL. I also made French bread rolls and ciabatta bread. I mean, while I'm at it and all.





      Saturday, December 19, 2009

      Cookies and Friends

      Today my sister and I got together for our annual cookie baking day. We used to make the dough and bake the cookies all in one day, one very long and tiring day. We've gotten wiser over the years and pre-make dough now. So we just get together to bake everything off. It's much more enjoyable to bake cookies with your best friend!

      This year we made:
      • White Chocolate Cherry (I use Cranberries) Chunkies
      • Yummy Peanut Butter Cookies with chocolate/peanut butter swirled chips
      • Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies
      • Spicy Oatmeal Cookies
      • Russian Teacakes (my mom's favorite)
      • Dipped Pretzels




      I brought over a salad for lunch: leaf lettuce, spinach, roasted red bell peppers, artichokes, sundried tomatoes, sauteed portobello mushrooms, cannellini beans, and balsamic vinaigrette.


      After baking with my sister, we went over to a friends' house for another annual tradition. A very dear friend was killed in 1996. I am still very close to her parents though. So her parents, two other girlfriends (and their families), Jason and I, always get together near Christmas to enjoy an evening of catching up. It was a good day. A special day.


      All Dressed Up

      My husband and I don't typically get a chance to get all decked out - cocktail dress, sparkly shoes, suit and tie. So it's fun when we do get invited to an event that requires such attire. One such event is called Mistletoe Madness. It's a fairly hoity toity (black tie optional) affair at a country club. A group of couples (some singles) get together each year and host the event. Each couple is allowed a certain number of guests to invite. There is live music, food, and a cash bar - and lots of quality people-watching entertainment.

      Now, my husband and I are by no means rich. We work hard and live a decent lifestyle, but both of our vehicles are more than 8 years old. We finally actually purchased a TV for the first time in our 14 years together this year. Our first TV was a 13" I got as a 16th birthday present. The 2nd was a TV I received for my college graduation back in 1998 (and went kaput about a month ago). Oh, and we only own the one new TV. So we really are out of our league at this party. The shiny, sparkly necklaces these women wear are real diamonds. Unlike my Claire's Boutique knockoffs (or The Limited if I really splurged). The coats, real fur (not that I approve, but you get the point) unlike my $15 faux fur eBay find. The parking lot is full of brand new BMWs, Audis, Mercedes, etc. And then there is my husband's little green machine, a 2000 4-door Mitsubishi Mirage with bike rack on the trunk. I assume you're getting the picture at this point.

      We are fortunate enough to be friends with one of the hostesses. We met her back when my husband was in the restaurant business working at a high-end French restaurant. She was friends with the owner and started working in the kitchen after a divorce (not that she needed the money). Anyhoo, she was kind enough to start including us lowly folk on her guest list about 5 years ago. It's a little intimidating, but it really is lots of fun.

      The only downfall in my opinion is that this shindig doesn't get started until 9 pm. That's WAY past my PJ time. Yawn. Kind of messed up this year by going to a spin class after work. My legs were so sore from Thursday's workout, but Jason REALLY wanted to go to the Friday spin because he likes the instructor. That class is short and intense. Ouch. After class, we scrambled to get ready. I was trying to do something new with my hair. In the end, I ended up ready before Jason, but it was already after 7:30 and we were supposed to be at our friends' house at that time. Long story short, no dinner. No dinner is not good! I am NOT one to skip meals either. Apparently the recession has hit the hosts of this party too, because the food was beyond sparse this year! So, let's just say I did not drink but a couple of glasses of wine, because no food plus wine is all bad. But that's OK because it meant I bounced right out of bed this morning! So, even though we didn't get out and dance or party hard, we still had fun visiting with friends and getting all dolled up.

      Today is a rest day for me. First Saturday rest day I think I've had in years. It's going to be a mental challenge. I am going to my sister's to bake cookies then a get together with friends. Another long day ahead so I must get going.



      Thursday, December 17, 2009

      Legs and Stuffed Poblano Peppers

      Well, my shoulders and biceps are sore from my gym workout yesterday. Guess I pushed myself harder than I had thought. My quads were a little sore from spin, but they loosened up over the course of the morning. I was still debating about whether or not I was going to take my leg workout to the gym or just do it at home (or take a rest day). Well, we have a fancy schmancy party to attend tomorrow night, so Jason had to get his hair cut at lunch (of course he put it off until the last minute). But, I took the opportunity to go home and do my leg workout before I talked myself out of it entirely.

      I did the weighted leg exercises from Pyramid Lower Body, but I did not rely on the DVD even though I was home. I honestly felt like I was able to better concentrate on the moves since I wasn't focusing my attention on Cathe. I brought a mirror into the room - it's a spare room that was just cleared out for my weights. I feel like I was able to really work on my form as well. I am definitely going to have to invest in a large mirror for that new "gym" room.

      Leg Workout
      Pyramid Rep Pattern
      lightest weight for 12 reps
      heavier for 10 reps
      heaviest for 8 reps
      heavier for 10 reps
      lightest for 12 reps

      Leg Exercises
      Leg presses
      Static lunges
      Squats/plie squats (a superset)
      Deadlifts
      Calf raises (I used weights and alternated turning out for 30 reps, parallel for 25 reps, out for 25 reps)

      Dinner
      I also added on narrow stance squats, an additional set of narrow stance squats and plie squats (increasing heaviest weight by 10 lb), and donkey kicks with 5 lb.

      With my workout done for the day, I more free time to cook dinner. I cook most nights, hubby cooks the other nights. What I mean is that I had time to try something new that I have been putting off because I knew it'd require more than 30 minutes. 

      This idea came from the fact that I love to stuff poblano peppers coupled with my recent obsession with butternut squash. I found that I really like the combination of butternut squash and black beans and thought the two would make a perfect filling for poblano peppers. Well, even though I had a little extra time to spend cooking, a single sweet potato cooks up much faster and works just as well with black beans. So I took the easier road on this one for Sweet Potato and Black Bean Stuffed Poblano Peppers. Rather than cooking something like Spanish rice for the side, I like to make pearled barley in the same dish with the poblanos. I think the flavors from the peppers seep into the barley. So, this isn't an exact science recipe, and you may have to tweak it with a little more or less water or spices, etc. But this is the basic idea I started with and use. And yes, I tweak my own recipes as I go. Sorry.

      Ingredients
      Olive oil (just enough to cook onion and peppers)
      1 sweet potato, cubed
      1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
      1 small white onion, diced
      minced garlic (to taste)
      1 chipotle pepper in adobo, minced (or small can of green chilies if you have on hand)
      2 poblano peppers
      To taste: salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder
      approximately 2 oz non-fat cream cheese (can easily omit)
      shredded Mexican blend cheese (I used 2% or you can omit)
      1/2 cup pearled barley
      1 1/4 cup water
      1 can no salt added diced tomatoes (can also use Rotel or Mexican style tomatoes)

      Directions:
      Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

      Prepare the peppers and sweet potatoes first:
      Prepare your poblano peppers by removing the end with stem. Discard stem, but save the pepper to dice up and add to filling. Make a slit down the length of the peppers and remove ribs and seeds. Place in small casserole dish and cover.



      Place sweet potatoes on non-stick baking sheet (or spray pan with non-stick spray).

      Put peppers and squash in oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes. The peppers should be ever so slightly tender but not soft, the potatoes may need to cook longer until they are tender.

      In medium saucepan, cook barley according to package directions. I used 1/2 cup dried pearl barley with 1 1/4 cup water. You can add seasonings and/or broth.

      In skillet, saute onion, diced poblano from cap, and garlic until soft. Add in the beans, potatoes, chipotle pepper, spices, and cream cheese and let heat through (approximately 3-5 minutes).


      Spray the casserole dish used to pre-bake the peppers. Add in pearled barley, diced tomatoes with liquid (I ended up needing to add about 1/4 cup extra water so barley did not dry out). Add in garlic powder, cumin, salt, pepper, chili powder to taste. Stir together.

      Stuff poblanos with mixture and return to casserole dish. Top with shredded cheese if desired and bake covered for approximately 15 minutes, then uncover and bake until cheese is melted.

      Wednesday, December 16, 2009

      Baby Steps to Change

      I have gotten into a huge rut lately with my workouts. When the weather was nicer, my husband would go run with me outdoors. Otherwise, I just did Cathe's step DVDs. Running on the treadmill is just so incredibly boring. But, the weather isn't going to improve until spring, so I have been reluctantly going tot he gym to get in short runs. If I'm only going to run, then I'll do a HIIT workout or possibly tempo drills. It's the only way I can stay distracted from watching the time. But you shouldn't do those every day, so I finally decided to take my husband's advice and try a spin class.

      We went together, so it was motivation for the both of us to go. I ended up enjoying it enough to start going consistently. So for the past month we have been taking the spin classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. It really has helped to remotivate me in the cardio area. However, on days when I don't have spin and on the weekends, I'm back to my Cathe DVDs. As much as I love them, I have hit a point where I just can't do them any longer. I know them backwards and forwards and need a break.  Oh, but there might be some good news! The new Shock Cardio is due to ship Friday. I can hardly wait to get those workouts in. I'm hoping that'll shake things up a bit more for me as well. I can let my other DVDs rest a bit.

      But it's not just cardio that I've gotten bored with. It's the weight training I've been doing as well. I absolutely loved doing STS and enjoyed the October rotation (did for 6 weeks). I also did a heavy strength rotation for 8 weeks at the end of the summer. It's time for something new though. I've been wanting to try to do some sort of rotation sans DVDs. The idea sort of puts me in panic mode though. I'm just not confident in myself I suppose. I have no problem with pushing myself. It's more about putting together the exercises correctly (reps, rep patterns, etc.) to be effective. With the DVDs and pre-made rotations, it's done for me. 

      However, there are some advantages to foregoing the DVDs that I have been using as a crutch. 1) I can listen to my own music and 2) I can take the workout to the gym and lift heavier because I will have a squat rack, barbells, and more dumbbells to choose from. The disadvantages are 1) lifting in front of others and 2) lifting in front of others.  

      But I need to get out of my comfort zone in a major way. I think the best way for me to do this is by taking baby steps. Today was a big test for me. I took my workout sheet that I created that lists the exercises and reps from Cathe's Pyramid Upper Body workout to the gym. These are done in supersets with a basic 2:2 pattern. Not complicated. There would be no reason to have to watch someone else demonstrate. I put on Black Eyed Peas and got to it. I am already feeling the DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness). Oh, and if people were watching, I didn't notice. I also did spin after my weights, so I am officially spent. Very glad that I had put together a vegetable soup in the crockpot during lunch.

      The Workout:
      Pyramid Rep Pattern:
      lightest weight for 12 reps
      heavier for 10 reps
      heaviest for 8
      heavier for 10 reps
      lightest for 12 reps

      The Supersets Included:
      Chest flys/chest press
      Pullovers/double arm row
      Rear delt flys/lateral raise/front raise
      Kickbacks/overhead extension
      Hammer curl/bicep curl

      I am now thinking that I may take the Pyramid Lower Body workout to the gym either tomorrow or Friday. Talk about a breakthrough! Ok, time to eat now!

      Tuesday, December 15, 2009

      Why is Change so Hard?

      Ok, so I'm beginning to feel like a hypocrite. I'm having a really hard time following through with my little goals like being grateful for annoyances and accepting deviations from the norm . I am such a schedule freak that any little blip throws me out of whack. I am really trying to work on this because it produces so much unnecessary (unhealthy) stress.

      I thought I was doing pretty well after this weekend. I made myself do my workout on Thursday because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do anything Friday. With my sister staying with me, I knew I couldn’t get up and do the weight and cardio workouts I had scheduled. But, spending time with her really was top priority. She used to rush back home, so it was almost like she was never here with me. Now she is able to stay longer and just enjoy the time together. No rushing, no time schedules, no hard and set agenda. Ok, so that is throwing me off a bit too. In the past she would have left so early that I could have just gone on with my business like normal. Don’t get me wrong; I am not complaining that she stayed. For that I am very grateful. It also forced me to rearrange my set-in-concrete schedule. It forced me out of my comfort zone, which I need.

      After she left, I did a short bit of cardio and no weights. My muscles did not immediately atrophy folks. Shocker. But, then I was thrown off about my new weight rotation. Um, I don’t have one. Freaking me out. What to do, what to do???? I ended up opting for a full-body workout. I haven’t done that in ages. So I have this mental block now that they aren’t as effective, so that of course is stressing me out. Always something isn’t it? So now I have no plan of attack for weights. Also, this upcoming weekend is going to be very hectic. Of course, I am plotting and planning like an obsessed fool trying to figure out how and when to fit in my workouts along with everything else that needs to get accomplished.

      I know that I (just me, myself, and I) am making this all far more complicated than it should be. I used to be fine with weight workouts on the fly, no 6-week rotation plotted out, no workout sheets printed up. I guess because I saw such significant results with these planned rotations, I now feel like I am going to lose any and all gains immediately when I deviate. I know it’s absolutely ludicrous. Rationally I know that changing things up will be very good for me (on so many levels). Oh, but why is change so hard?

      New Mantra: Be grateful for annoyances, be grateful for change, be grateful for deviations, just be grateful.

      After getting in my cardio workout (and it felt like a major chore today), I wanted something that has become sort of a comfort-food dinner. Homemade lentil burgers with homemade sweet and regular potato "fries."

      I pre-make lentil burgers and freeze them on a regular basis. I like the combination of sweet potato and regular baking potato so I cut up one of each, spray with pan spray, and season with a pre-mixed season that I mix up and keep on hand (cumin, salt, pepper, red pepper, chili powder, garlic powder). I bake the "fries" for about 20 minutes at 425-450 then when I flip them, I put in the lentil burgers. They reheat as the "fries" finish cooking. Works out perfectly every time. I top the lentil burgers with fresh spinach, roasted red bell peppers, and provolone cheese.



      Monday, December 14, 2009

      Something to Look Forward To - 2 Beach Vacations

      This is definitely the time of year when I start to dream about a warm beach vacation. Summer feels like a distant memory. You begin to forget what being warm felt like.

      To help ourselves mentally, we typically book our condo some time during January. This gives us something to look forward to and also ensures the time slot we want. Christmas came a bit early for me this year though. It looks like 2010 may include not one, but two beach trips for us!

      Some good friends have decided to get married just after Christmas next year. Even better, it’s a beach wedding in Progreso, Mexico. Now, granted I hate to fly, but I think it’ll be worth it. It’s been three years since my last flight, so I think I have sufficiently recovered. The last trip that required flying was the catalyst that got me to go to the doctor and talk about optional medication to help me manage. I will never fly without taking something now. In fact, my husband probably will not allow me to fly without taking something!

      So, I am already mentally preparing for a flight, but I am trying to keep the bigger picture in mind – the beach. I had never heard of Progreso, so I looked it up. It’s a bustling port city in the Yucatan situated on the Gulf of Mexico. It’s about a half hour drive from Merida. There is shopping and dining of course. They also have tourist attractions such as an ecological preserve and Maya archeological sites. Oh, and then there’s the beach. Now it’s time to start saving.

      Sunday, December 13, 2009

      Going with the Flow

      Saturday was a day of going with the flow and trying to enjoy every part of the day. So, for dinner I decided to make pizza. I hadn't had my weekly pizza fix yet. I have a bread machine whole wheat dough recipe that I like to use. I add a teaspoon of ground flax seed to it as well. I like a Greek style pizza, so my half was topped with artichokes, sundried tomatoes, spinach, banana pepper rings, roasted red bell pepper, Morningstar Farms Chik'n Strips Meal Starters, and feta cheese (2nd picture). My husband likes to do a buffalo wing style pizza. His half was the meal starters, sauteed green and red bell peppers and onions, hot sauce, barbecue sauce, and blue cheese (3rd picture). I top the whole thing with mozzarella (1st picture).






      I was inspired by Newlywed, Newly Veg's post "Pizza Date Night." Typically my husband and I eat on TV trays while catching up on DVR'd shows or watching a movie. With so much going on, I thought it would be a really good change for us to sit at the dinner table with no TV distraction. We turned on music, poured some wine, and ate together at the table. Even pizza can be a romantic dinner! I think this is something we need to do more often. After dinner we played a few rounds of cards then watched an episode of True Blood with some popcorn for a snack (tossed in peanut butter chips and cranberries, yummy).

      Today ended up being another day of going with the flow. I had meant to make and jar more spaghetti sauce. It really is an all-day event. Things didn't work out quite as planned so no sauce. I did manage to run a few errands and finish more Christmas shopping. I also got in my workout: Step Blast, Pyramid Upper/Pyramid Lower full body, plus abs. I'm working my way through laundry and also made some cookie dough.

      My sister and I always get together and have a cookie baking day just before Christmas. We each take on 3 or 4 cookie recipes and pre-make the dough. So, today I made the dough for:
      1. Paula Dean's White Chocolate Cherry Chunkies - I substitute dried cranberries for the cherries.
      2. Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies - This is a new one. Found some mint and dark chocolate chips. Just followed the Nestle Toll House recipe for chocolate chips cookies. Hope they're good!
      3. Peanut Butter Cookies - I add chocolate/peanut butter swirled chips.


      Saturday, December 12, 2009

      Earth Still Turning

      So, as I had promised myself, I was going to try to do better about rolling with the punches so to speak. Not freaking out if and when my rigid schedule goes off track. Some things are more important than sticking to a timeline that is pretty much meaningless to anyone but me.

      My sister is going through a really tough time right now. She was able to come stay with me last night so I got in my workout on Thursday and took Friday as a rest day to spend time with her. We had a great time as predicted. I hate it that we don't live closer. Anyway, Saturdays are typically cardio and weights days for me. I get up and get in my workout done, have my egg white omelet and move along with the rest of the day. But, with my sister up, I had to do some revision. And you know what, it was fine. The world as I know it did not split in half. Again, spending time with her was much more important. So I just relaxed and enjoyed the time with her. We did the girly shopping thing of course. Hit the mall, Target, and DSW (shoes...shoes...more shoes!). We had lunch together, and I enjoy my cheese dip wholeheartedly! Oh, and I bought and wore another hat today!

      After my sis left, I did briefly contemplate letting my workout for the day slide. But, I couldn't stray that far from my schedule. I mean, there are limits and all. I did end up forgoing weights, but did do a step workout (Imax 3) that includes plyo blasts and tacked on pushups at the end. So, no weights on Saturday and the earth is still turning... Who would have thunk it? I didn't have my egg white omelet either. Guess what? Yep, earth still turning.

      Thursday, December 10, 2009

      Plyo Legs and Pumpkin Soup

      While we haven’t had snow here, it’s been cold nonetheless. Although, if it’s going to be this cold, some snow might be nice. Anyway, I was very glad that my workout was an at-home workout this evening. I made it through STS Disc 35, Plyo Legs. It consisted of alternating between weighted exercise like squats or static lunges and plyo exercises like lateral jumps over a step or plyo jacks. Legs are sufficiently fried thank you Cathe.

      After the workout, I really didn’t want anything too heavy or too labor intensive. And with it being cold, I’ve wanted cold-weather dinners like soup and chili. I had some leftover roasted butternut squash from my Butternut Squash and Black Bean Quesadillas. I also had a can of pumpkin puree. So, what do you get? A pumpkin soup of course.

      Here’s how it went:

      Pumpkin Soup


      Ingredients:
      • Olive oil (just enough to sauté onions
      • 2-3 carrots, chopped 
      • 1/2 white onion diced
      • 1 cup roasted butternut squash (cubed)
      • Minced garlic to taste
      • 1 can pumpkin puree
      • 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
      • 1 1/2 32 oz boxes low-sodium vegetable broth* (approx. 48 oz.)
      • Spices to taste: salt, pepper, nutmeg, parsley, red pepper, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon 

      Directions:
      In large pot, sauté onions with drizzle of olive oil and garlic until onions are translucent. Add butternut squash, pumpkin, cannellini beans, broth, and spices. Let simmer approximately 30 minutes or until carrots are softened.

      Transfer soup into a large bowl. In small batches, puree until smooth in blender or food processor and transferring back into pot. Once all of the soup has been pureed, simmer on low for approximately 15 minutes. Remember to retaste and reseason if needed.

      I had some leftover homemade ciabatta bread as well. So I toasted that up and served on the side with a small salad of leaf lettuce, fresh spinach, and baby Roma tomatoes.



      * Note: you may need to add additional broth if soup becomes too thick. Another option would be to add a splash of milk or soy milk.

      Wednesday, December 9, 2009

      Being Grateful - Even for Annoyances


      Why does it seem like the time of year that is meant for giving, sharing, friendship, thanking, etc. is the most hectic? It’s easy to become a Scrooge if you aren’t careful. There are trees and mantels to decorate, cookies to bake, parties to attend, potlucks to cook for, family to visit, places to go, and oh the shopping that must get done.

      Lately I have found myself pretty stressed and a bit snappy because I feel like there simply isn’t enough time in the day to get even half of it all done. Tuesday I thought that if I just didn’t workout, then that would free up some time. But I refuse to succumb to that thinking. If I do it once, I’ll do it again. I try to view my workouts like my job in a way. It’s part of the routine, just like waking up on time or going to bed on time. Holiday parties, potlucks, shopping for gifts are not (well, maybe the shopping part is).

      I’ve mentioned before that I have two very dear friends affected by cancer right now. As my husband and I were dragging out the boxes of Christmas decorations, I had to think about my friends. I was taking it all for granted. Annoyed at the mess, annoyed at how long it was taking, etc. I should be relishing every moment because I may not get another one like it.

      So I have decided to take everything in smaller portions. I don’t have to have the entire house decorated to the hilt…period. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever really. My family and friends won’t really think less of me. If they do, then perhaps I should rethink the friendships.

      I also don’t have to have all the shopping done and gifts wrapped at once. Yes, I may end up having to fight some crowds. But if that is what has to happen, then so be it. I’ll go home and have a glass of wine afterward! As for the parties and get-togethers, it’s ok to say no, or it’s OK to only drop in briefly if that’s all the time you have. Sometimes those get-togethers are the only time you get to see certain friends or relative, so you make those a priority. Enjoy the moment essentially. And yes, I realize that it’s one of those “easier said than done” types of things, especially for those who tend to stress out easily.

      I have a tendency to get ahead of myself. I'm a list-maker, so I start making a list of all the things that I HAVE to get done. Then I stress out about it. Ugh, need to get the dough going for cookies (my sister and I do a cookie baking day), crap, forgot to pick up the work-party Dirty Santa gift, dang, got another dish to make…etc. I psych myself out and start to not look forward to things, things that are actually enjoyable. I LOVE the cookie day with my sister, the work-party Dirty Santa game is actually a lot of fun, and I like to cook. So what’s the deal?! Why make good things bad?

      Anyone who really knows me knows that this won’t come easy to me (so stop rolling your eyes Jason). I am an all or nothing kind of person. I think that for my sanity, however, I need to keep myself in check a little better. I need to learn to appreciate the small things, even the annoying things. I know that there may come a time when I will actually miss them.

      So, here is my plan of attack:

      • Remember to be grateful and appreciate even the annoyances
      • Try to maintain a normal routine or accept that it’s not going to kill me to deviate slightly.
      • Take baby steps and do one task at a time. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.