Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Sometimes it's ok to reward yourself

(I have to admit this photo would be better if she was wearing a cape)

More Wordless Wednesday can be found here.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Change the World Wednesday - more Daily challenges

Playing catch-up, here are some more of the daily challenges being featured over at Reduce Footprints.

Remove one light bulb from your home. Live without it for the rest of this carbon fast. This will decrease energy use and act as a reminder of why we are doing this. In addition, make a point of turning off lights when you leave a room, or that you don't really need to have on. This simple act could save 55 lbs of CO2 emissions a year.

The funny thing is that we went almost a year without the use of one light bulb. Not because we meant to do it but because I was having trouble wiring a switch properly and gave up for awhile because I was so frustrated. Several months ago Husband decided to work on it and together we figured it out and we have use of it now.  However, now we are having trouble with a light staying on in the garage.  So...we are unintentionally doing this one.  

Get a home energy audit from your local utility company. Find out how you can save resources and money by making small, inexpensive improvements to your home. Find out more from NSTAR andEnergy Star.

We actually looked into solar electricity last year and did this.   Unfortunately we would have had to put the solar panels on the front of our house and it took something like 6 months to get the subdivision to approve it.  By that time we weren't eligible for all the rebates towards Solar Electricity and the cost was too much.  We would have ended up paying over $10,000 out of pocket.  The amount of room we had for solar panels wasn't great and it would have only generated about 50% of our usage, meaning this was not cost effective for us. 

The good news, though, is that we do pretty good with energy use in our house.  It's actually not that bad.  I know we could improve with some of the appliances but if they aren't broken, why replace?  They are expensive appliances and old so we know we'll be replacing them within the next 5 years.  Whenever we are at one of the home improvement stores (which seems to be all the time!!) we look at the appliances they have deeply discounted to get rid of but so far the ones we still have to replace haven't been an option. We aren't giving up hope yet!  We've had good luck doing this so far. We bought our stovetop, smooth, for $100 because it had a scratch on it and one of the knobs had a chunk taken out of it.  We grabbed that deal!    We knew these were things we could easily fix.  Let's just keep our fingers crossed we run into similar deals for a double wall oven and a washer and dryer. haha

We have replaced all windows with triple pain windows and that has helped out a lot!  We used to walk into our kitchen and you could feel the change in temperature since one wall is all windows.  Now it feels the same as the rest of the house.  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Help from unexpected places

I recently wrote a post in how I mentioned my struggle with depression lately and finally seeking help and having to be comfortable with the fact that it wasn't a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.  

One of the things that I knew I should do but had trouble with was opening up to people. In my other post I even mentioned how I did open up to somebody and it had disastrous results (for me).  Of course that was all that was needed for me to reside even more inside myself.

Then I had a couple people reach out to me and for some reason I responded.  I think part of the reason I responded was the help I received from the therapist.  Oddly enough the other reason I responded was that they reached out at the perfect time..I was at rock bottom.  I had just been told by the therapist that I needed to talk to people and that most people, true friends, would not dismiss what I was saying or blow me off.  Rather they would care about what I was going through and want to help.  What is weird is that a couple of the people who reached out to me and that I responded to were perfect strangers.

Strangers you ask?  Yeah..I know. It doesn't make much sense.  I knew these people via social media but had never had a conversation with them.   I had made a comment that, while I mentioned depression, I had tried to joke about it.  Both of these people saw through that and sent me private messages.

One person I talk to once in awhile now via email and have met with her to run with.  Running with somebody who is there to listen and help is very comforting.  I'll talk about some of the things bothering me and she listens.   A lot of times we don't even talk about whats bothering me. I think she realized that I had gone from running with others every weekend to running by myself since they didn't want to slow their pace and I had no choice. (Ok..and I can't blame them. It's hard to slow down your pace when you don't have to and I can't expect others to change their training just because I have to change mine.)   So just being able to have a social run again really lifted my spirits.  Here was somebody I had never met before, they realized I was going through some stuff, they said hey..I suffer from depression and we're running about the same pace these days, let's hook up.  For that..I'm extremely grateful.

The other stranger that reached out to me actually got a lot, and I do mean a lot, of very lengthy emails from me just bearing my sole. At least that's what I feel like I did.  There was one specific occasion, soon after they reached out to me, where I had been fighting a break down all morning.  Husband left the house to go do something and within an hour I couldn't hold it together any more. I had been in the kitchen baking and I literally just scooted down to the floor and cried for awhile.  It was bad, really bad.  Then I remembered this person and I was grasping at straws so I got up and got on my pc and just sent this person an incredibly long email about the things that caused this.  I think I stopped crying towards the end of typing it.  I sent the email and I sat there for awhile composing myself.  While it was incredibly hard for me to actually send that email and admit things about myself to somebody, things I don't admit to people, I could actually feel myself starting to pull out of this specific break down. Actually getting it out and talking to somebody, even though that talking was an email and there was no response right away, just the act of doing it helped.

Here's the thing.  This person might not have had the answers to all my problems but they replied.  They responded to my emails and they gave me words of encouragement and they made me feel like I wasn't alone and I wasn't going crazy.   They touched on some of the issues I was dealing with and helped me to come to terms with things and help me work through them.  They also encouraged me to continue to open up to them and use them as a sounding board.  See..I usually ended each email by thanking them for listening and apologizing for the length and just venting.  So to have them not only do what they could to help me with my issues but to also put me at ease and let me know it was ok to reach out to them and that they wanted me to.   And you know what?  This person even sent me their telephone number so that if I was having a break down I could call or text and they could help me right then.  That was a huge turning point for me. It's hard to share that kind of info with people, you don't know all the crazies out there.  So we actually started to  "talk" via text a bit.  We are both runners, so when not dealing with my mental issues we started talking about running and supporting each other with that.  Then we found out that we work in the same field and do very similar jobs.   Slowly we've became pretty good friends.  I actually talk to this person almost daily.

In fact, even though I hadn't had issues for almost 4 weeks, I had one really bad day recently. This person realized I wasn't logged into any chat sessions like I usually am and contacted me. I told them that it was a bad day and I just didn't want to talk and they assured me that they were there if I needed it.  So you know what. in the afternoon I checked in and asked if they had time.  We got on chat and I told this person what was going on and it really helped.  They really helped me out and let me know that what was bothering me, which was something that had happened the night before, was not just me being all pregnancy hormonal but my feelings were valid and anybody would have reacted the same way.  I think having the confirmation that I wasn't just crazy and that it wasn't just the hormones causing me to feel the way I was really helped.

Then, lastly, one other person really made an impact. I had made myself invisible on one of the chat sessions I'm usually logged in to because I was doing so bad and couldn't handle just dealing with most people.  When I started to pull out I took myself off of invisible status.  I kid you not, within an hour this person contacted me.  They had been worried because they hadn't seen me online for awhile.  Now, why I didn't open up to this person is beyond me. I actually helped him through some serious issues last year and he really opened up to me.  So I should have known that if I had done the same to him, he would have been there.  So I explained to him that things have been bad and he readily told me that I could talk to him.  I could open up, he wouldn't judge me. He reminded me that he has opened up to me and shared things with me that he hasn't shared with most of his friends.  I've discussed some things with him but still not a whole lot.  Knowing he is there for me, that helps though.  Realizing that he is somebody I can open up to and not be judged, helps a lot.   We actually talk a lot during the week too and he's having some issues with stuff going on in his life that he's talking to me about and I'm helping him with.  What I love, though, is that even though some serious things are going on in his life and I'm helping him with it, not a day (that we talk anyway) goes by that he doesn't ask me how I'm doing and asks me if I'm doing ok.  He makes sure that him getting some help from me was not making my issues worse or that he wasn't putting himself above me.  You know what, that makes a world of difference in my book.  He's going through some major stuff but taking time out to recognize that I might still be having problems and being willing to put his aside to help me if I needed it that day.  That, that's what it's all about folks.

So that's another lengthy post from me where I talk about my problems.  Well, I don't really tell you about my problems, but admit to having them.  It shows, though, that one of the hardest things for me (us) to do, opening up to others, is actually probably the best thing that we can do.  Sometimes it's not going to be your best friend who helps you out but rather somebody you barely know who recognizes that something is wrong and says " don't really know me but I'm hear for you, I want to help."  If you're like me, you might even respond to that because the person doesn't "know" you, they might not even live in your town, and for some reason that seems safe.

So if you take anything away from this, take this.  If you are having a rough time of things and opening up and talking isn't something you normally do, the next person that offers, take them up on it. It might just be the light at the end of the tunnel you've been looking for.  That being said, knowing that I struggle with this too, I want you to know that you are more than welcome to send me an email and I will listen and I will help as best I can without judging you.  I will obviously understand how hard it was for you to do that and you know that I'm "safe" and will understand.  Shoot..I won't even send you a bill. :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Change the World Wednesday - daily challenges

This week Reduce Footprints started posting daily challenges on how we can better our lives and the environment at the same time.  It's hard for me to do the daily ones just because I don't have a ton of free time, I do follow them and figure I'll post once a week or a couple times a week regarding the different challenges.

Yesterday the challenge was to say no to bottled water and yes to a re-usable bottle.   If you know me, you know that this isn't hard for me. I have several re-usable bottles and always seem to want more (in fact I'll be ordering a new one within the next week or so haha). I don't really see the point of bottled water. I know people who keep it stocked in their fridge and use it at home. Um, why? Our fridge has a water filter in it so when I want water I just grab a cup and use that. If I'm headed to the gym or we're going to be doing errands for awhile, I grab a re-usable bottle and fill it up with the water function on (in?) our fridge. Problem solved.  I also keep one bottle at work during the week that I fill up and use all day, no buying bottled water for me. If I forget to pack a bottle in my gym bag I usually remember this while at work and just take the work one with me. Problem solved.

Today the challenge was to limit the use of your laundry machine.  Here's what Reduce Footprints has to say:

Only use your washing machine when you have a full load, and run it on cold whenever possible. Run at maximum spin to reduce drying times and avoid using a tumble drier, opting instead for a clothesline. A typical washing machine uses 90% of its energy to heat the water. Generally, cold water gets your clothes just as clean and saves about 2 pounds of CO2 per load.

Now, I actually feel like I do a lot of laundry for two people yet I know the loads are full.  The only one you could argue could be fuller is the workout clothes, but come on, I only have enough to get through 1 week so I have to do those once per week. Due to the type of clothing (boy does it hold in stink) I use a detergent specific for sports clothing so that's why I don't mix the clothes in with others.    Even so, it's still a decent sized load.    I also always use cold water.  As far as drying, we do use our drier for each load. I've touched on this before and the reason I don't try to dry outside is due to my allergy issues.  However, I make up for it by having 2 laundry lines hung up in my laundry room. If the item is not dry the first time through the dryer, I hang it up instead of running it through again.  This helps out immensely!  

Monday, February 20, 2012

Peanut Butter Cereal Treats Recipe

I was going through an old copy of a cooking magazine I had laying around the house and tore out recipes I thought Husband would enjoy.   They were sitting in a stack on the kitchen table and when eating breakfast on Saturday he pushed this one towards me with a grin.  It didn't take genius to learn this is the one he wanted me to make next.

This is different from what I usually make but man it's pretty darn good.  I'll list the recipe and instructions as it comes and then put my comments below.

Peanut Butter Cereal Treats

30 large marshmallows
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp peanut butter
6 cups peanut butter cap'n crunch
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate m&m's

In a large saucepan, combine the marshmallows, butter, and peanut butter.  Cook and stir over medium-low heat until melted.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in the cereal an M&M's.

Pat into a 13x9-inch pan coated with cooking spray.  Cool. Cut into bars.

I actually followed the recipe as indicated except I used multi-grain peanut butter cheerios instead of cap'n crunch cereal.  I figured the cheerios had to be a bit healthier and we would be more likely to eat what was left over that way.

After making this there are a couple of things I would change.  30 large marshmallows isn't exactly one whole bag but it's somewhat close.  I would just add the entire bag next time, minus the ones I eat.  Is it just me or do others forget how good marshmallows are until you have a bag in front of you and decide to snack on one?  Also, the m&m's was almost an entire bag so this is one that next time I would just dump in the entire bag instead of measuring. Ok..and minus the ones that I decide to eat because who can resist eating m&m's?  Although I suppose if you buy one of the large sized bags you would want to measure. or not.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Triathlon marked off the bucket list

My facebook status read this on Sunday afternoon:  I swim. I bike. I run. I tri. Pregnant

Sunday morning I officially completed my very first triathlon.  Now, it was a sprint tri which means the distances were very low. It was a 400 yard swim, an 8 mile bike ride, and a 2.5 mile run.  This is compared to the Ironman 70.3 that Lance Armstrong competed in on Sunday. The distances for that one were a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and 13.1 mile run.   Everyone has to start somewhere though right?

I had decided I wanted to get into triathlon's last year.  At the point I did strength training and I ran. I have a pool in my yard but don't swim in it (who would when you could float around on a raft and nap?) and I don't own a bike.  So why would I think it would be a good idea to do a triathlon when it had been years since I did the other two sports?   I think it was because of the challenge.  Why would I think I could possible do a triathlon?  The more I thought about it the more I felt it was something I wanted to prove I could do.

giving Husband the thumbs up before I started
I talked to Husband about it and he didn't really want to spend the money on a bike when we own a pool and I don't even swim.  So we made a bet that if I could prove I could swim the distances for a sprint tri I could get a bike.  Not long after that I was able to join a gym that had a lap pool inside.  I slowly started to work on swimming and started to take spin class.  I could do the swim for a sprint tri but not very fast.   I couldn't ever get Husband to get to the gym to prove it though.  Still no bike.  I didn't push it though because by then I was training for my fall half marathon and I cut out swimming to focus on the running again.  

Then I was happy to find myself finally pregnant and kinda put doing a tri out of my head because I knew money would be spent on things getting ready for the baby and medical costs etc.  However I started to have Achilles issues and had to take time off from running, hello cross-training.  I started to build up the biking and swimming again.    I also realized that part of my depression was being upset I couldn't do any of the winter races I had planned on.  So I did a quick search and found an indoor triathlon.  This wouldn't required me to own a bike since it's all inside at a gym.   Now I had something to train for.

Proof I can do the swimming! Now when can I get that bike
You might think I'm crazy for deciding to do my very first triathlon while pregnant.  I'm sure many who found out I was training for it thought so.  I even felt crazy sometimes.  I waited until the last week in January to sign up for it, waiting as long as I could to make sure my body was ok and baby girl would approve.  I got worried the week leading up to the tri though because it was my worst week yet and I wasn't sure how I would feel that day.  That morning, though, I awoke excited and ready to go. Baby girl was cooperating.

While I was nervous, I wasn't too bad. I was more nervous about how it would work and what it would be like than anything else. I actually think it helped for me to do my first one while pregnant. I knew I had to watch my heart rate, which means I couldn't go as fast as I could or want to.  This means I had no placement goals, I couldn't try to be first in my age group.  I knew I didn't want to be last but also knew it was a strong possibility and told myself not to be upset if I was.  This was my first triathlon and I was completing it while 26 weeks pregnant.

During the swim portion I knew I was slower right away.  I was doing breaststroke while everyone else seemed to be doing freestyle, which is just naturally faster.  I kept it steady and did what I could.  Husband said that I was behind the first lap but after that I started to gain on people and finished before 2 others..although barely.

Just getting started on the bike
I was last getting to the bike area though due to a required restroom break. Shrug. It happens when pregnant. haha!    Normally I can keep my heart rate down and push it on a bike but due to doing the bike right after the swim I was at my max heart rate within 5 min of pedaling.  At times I would get it too high and have to back of but I tried to keep it at a steady pace, the fastest I could do.  I believe I was last off the bikes for those in my heat but not sure.

Then the run was next.  This is where I felt the most comfortable. After all, I rarely stop a run at 2.5 miles and that was all I had to do. My legs were very tired and fatigued from the swim and bike though, during the bike I was actually worried about the run portion.  However the minute I started to run that all went away.  My legs felt strong. My breath was even. I felt GOOD.  When my 2.5 miles was up I didn't want to stop. I wanted to run faster and I wanted to run further.   That was one of the best feelings.    It also felt good that I know I passed up two others on the run portion. I admit, since we were on treadmills I would sneak glances at the two ladies on either side of me and I could tell that my pace was faster and I slowly watched as I gained on them.  Man did that feel freaking good. I was doing a tad over an 11 min pace. My normal pace for my non-long runs is under a 9 min mile.  I can't even imagine how well I would have done had I been able to run a normal pace. Plus, knowing I only had 2.5 miles I would have pushed the pace and gone faster than normal.

Not a good picture but the best of the runs
I was putting on my ipod since running on
a TM is boring as heck
As for how I did in my very first sprint triathlon?  I wasn't last!  Woohoo!  I was 91 out of 108.  I am so freaking pumped about that. I wasn't even the bottom 10.  I came in 11 out of 15 for my age group. Another  happy surprise.  In my specific heat I was 5th out of 8.   I cannot believe how well I did.  I realize that the people who competed were, for the most part, just doing it for fun and first time triathletes.  However it was my first time too and I was 26 weeks pregnant, that has to count for something right?

I cannot wait to do this same triathlon next year.  I won't have to watch my heart rate so I know I can go faster and push pace.  After completing only one triathlon I know I want to do more and I realize that these distances aren't going to be the challenge I need.  I also feel that I want to do several more of the sprint tri's though just to get comfortable with the sport and to watch myself improve.  Of course, until I get a bike I also have to stick to indoor tri's and most of those are of a sprint distance.    

All finished!!!
 In fact, I'm signed up to do a triathlon at work in early March. It's their first one (I work for a University and we have a gym on campus where it will be held) and instead of having people do a distance it will be a time. It's a 15 min swim, 15 min bike ride, and a 15 min run.  Your place will be figured out based on the distance you can do in that time.  I have no idea if there will be more students than faculty/staff, so I have no idea what to expect as far as my placement.  However I'll be even further along at that point and figure just completing it will be awesome. Plus, if I'm not last, I'll feel on top of the world.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Change the World Wednesday - non-curbside recycling

This week's Change the World Wednesday challenge at Reduce Footprints is as follows:

This week create a recycle bin for all the non-curbside recyclables - batteries, CFL bulbs, misc. plastics, etc. - and then find out where to recycle them.

Or ...

If you're already a recycling "guru", please tell us about your toughest items to recycle and how you've managed it. And, of course, any tips and ideas you have for recycling would be wonderful!

This is actually an easy one and one I should have thought of doing long ago but haven't.  I try to save things that I can't recycle curbside and take them to alternate locations but a lot of times it's easier to just throw them away because I have no where to put them until I have the chance to recycle them.

I have lots of storage in my laundry room, it's on the main floor between the garage and kitchen so it's a convenient location.  I can easily put an empty box in there and start throwing everything in to it.

My concern, though, is when will I remember to take this stuff to the store or specific location to recycle them?  I know local hardware stores can recycle batteries and bulbs. I know Whole Foods will recycle wine corks.  However that doesn't mean I've managed to bring in the two wine corks currently taking up residence  in my kitchen.  They've been there for months because I know I can recycle them. I just keep forgetting to grab them whenever I go to Whole Foods.

I suppose that is going to be the real challenge.  It's easy to throw these things into a box with the good intention of actually recycling them.  The challenge comes in remember to take them with me when I go to these places so I can recycle them.    I've thought about just putting them in the trunk of my car, but even then it isn't always a reminder since I don't look in my truck before heading into the store and sometimes not even when I leave.

As far as something tough to recycle, I've got one for you.  Do you have tennis shoes that are so old you can no longer wear them and it wouldn't be right to donate them?  Either shoes you wear in the yard or shoes you work out in or just every day tennis shoes.  Did you know that some of your local athletic stores might have a recycle bin for you to drop off the shoes? 

I go through running shoes pretty fast, well, fast compared to a lot of people.  I switched them out once I hit 400 miles.  To give you an idea, my current pair have about 210 miles on them and I've been wearing them a little less than 4 months.  This is actually somewhat low mileage too because I've had to take breaks due to injury and also really limit my running due to the pregnancy status.   When I hit 400 miles my shoes don't look like they need to be replaced but I know they are broken down and it's time.  Normally what I do is then rotate shoes. These shoes become my weight lifting/cross-training shoes, the shoes I was wearing for that become yard work shoes.  So then what do I do with the yard work shoes?  Recycle them!!!

Nike has a recycle drop off box in all their stores.   You can also mail them to them, you have to pay shipping though.

What I prefer to do, however, is find a location for Shoeman Water Project.  This is a local project, so unfortunately those of you in other states won't be able to use this.  The Shoeman Water Project has several donation boxes all over, all I have to do is enter my zipcode and it gives me a list of the closest ones. I just have to remember to take my shoes there.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

Asking for help is not a weakness

I've helped several friends through some tough times and I've told even more that when things are rough, you need to talk about it and it's ok to see a therapist. It is NOT a sign of weakness to reach out.    Yet when I started to hit rock bottom I resisted asking for help. I didn't want to open up to friends and I didn't want to seek out a therapist.  I felt it was a sign of weakness and while I know I'm not always a strong person I like to pretend I'm strong.  If I admitted to how bad the depression was it meant I was weak.  If I had to ask for help instead of working through things on my own, it meant I was weak.

Taking our own advice is the hardest thing to do sometimes.

I suppose I'm starting to use this blog as a big of self therapy.  I don't run the risk of running in to any of you in my day-to-day activities, I don't think anybody I know in my home town actually reads this.  For some reason it feels safe.

I admit to having a lot of problems, a lot of things that I've never worked through that have been with me since my teenage years.  Normally this is not an issue as when I feel myself starting to get depressed and the old insecurities and crap start to creep up I can work through it before things are bad.    I suppose all the extra hormones kept me from being able to do that this time.  I started to get bad in August and it just got worse and worse until I was having a major break down at least once a week.  I tried to hide it, I don't think most knew what was going on or if they did notice a change they didn't realize it was as bad as it was.   If I happened to mention being depressed people would comment that it was the hormones and it was common to be upset over nothing.

I wasn't upset over nothing.  Everything that was depressing me were things that bother me a lot. This time I just couldn't fight it.

I tried to take my own advice and I reached out to somebody that I thought I had a connection with and was close to.  I misjudged that one big time.  Yet like an idiot a little over a month later this person seemed like they were reaching out to me and I opened up again, thinking the first time was a fluke.  Bad move.  It's really hard for me to open up to people so for me to open up to somebody and to be ignored and treated the way I was, not good.  At least I can use this as a learning experience.

Now, you might be wondering where Husband was during all this. I have to say he was great. There were nights I woke up him at night because of the crying and he would be there for me.  There were days he would get home from work and see how bad I was and lay down with me.  The problem was he didn't know what was going on, I wasn't talking. If I did talk I would skirt around the major issues and mention some things but not the major things. I wasn't ready to admit my problems.

It took Husband to tell me several times that I needed to call my OB and tell them what was going on and get on medication for me to make one of the hardest decisions in my life. I called a therapist and made an appointment.  See, you might not see that as being such a hard decision.  For me, I felt like I was being weak.  I wasn't strong. I had to admit that I wasn't strong.  I didn't like how that felt.

It took a lot for me to convince myself that asking for help WAS the strong thing to do, not the weak.  I wasn't showing weakness by admitting that I couldn't handle these things myself. I showed strength in admitting I needed help and taking the necessary steps to get that help.   As you can see, I am talking about this. This is a huge step for me, something I'm working on.  I  have come to realize recently that talking my own advice and talking about it really is the best medicine.  I found help in some very unlikely places, something I'll be touching on in another post.   If nothing else..I think I wanted to talk about this because this might reach somebody who is in a similar situation I was.  Maybe it'll  help somebody else in a time of need. If so, then it was worth it for me to open up with this post.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Astrology - is there some truth to it?

I'm not somebody who follows my astrology or puts much stock in it. Yet sometimes it comes up in conversation with people and I always look up what I am, Libra, and while not everything describes me it's pretty crazy how much does.

Recently I was talking to somebody about Chinese Astrology and how we're both going to have kids born in the year of the dragon. I had to look up with that sign even meant.  While I was at it I decided to see what my sign was and was rather surprised.   This shit is just crazy.

My Chinese astrology is the horse.  Sure there is a lot in the description that I don't feel fits me (I could be wrong) but I was shocked by how much was on point.  It was also weird how I realized a lot of the issues I've been having lately are kinda summed up in this sign, maybe me feel a bit better and like I'm not completely off my rocker.

According to, "Horses are the nomads of the Chinease Zodiac, roaming from one place or project to the next. All the Sign's incessant activity and searching may be to satisfy a deep-rooted desire to fit in".  Um..yup. It also says that Horses tend to feel "inferior to their peers, a misconception that causes them to drift from group to group out of an irrational fear of being exposed as a fraud."  I can't say the last part is correct but I definitely feel inferior to almost everyone in my life.  It doesn't matter what it is, I always feel like I'm a step behind and not as good as the other person.  So this one is so very true.

One part I found funny was that "Horses crave love and intimacy, which is a double-edged sword since it often leads them to feel trapped". God that is so freaking true.  I crave the intimacy part of a relationship but then I'll turn around and want to be left alone to do my own thing.  It then says "Love connections tend to come easily to Horses, since they exude the kind of raw sex appeal that is a magnet to others. This sign tends to come on strong in the beginning of the relationship, having an almost innate sense of romance and seduction".  Really?  This is so not me.  Somehow I missed the whole sex appeal thing.  I doubt anybody has ever looked at me or thought of me and thought I had it.  Me and sex appeal have never been in the same sentence, at least not with a positive spin. I'm sure somebody has mentioned how I don't have it.

If you haven't looked up your Chinese Zodiac in awhile, give it a shot. If nothing else it might surprise you how eerily accurate it is.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Change the World Wednesday - No Power Exercising

This weeks Change the World Wednesday challenge is:

This week unplug your exercise routine by using no power. No treadmills, ellipticals, gyms, TV, music, or anything powered to assist in exercise. Make your workout Eco-friendly ... and, as always, let us know all about it.

Or ...

If you're not really into exercise, please consider it. In the meantime, take a look at your daily routine and choose one activity which uses power and accomplish it without power. Some examples might be preparing a meal without the use of the stove, washing dishes by hand instead of using a dishwasher, visiting friends and family instead of watching TV, etc. And oh yes, we want to know all about it (you'll get points for creativity).

Now THIS is a challenge you know I'm all about. Treadmills are so incredibly boring, I had to do my long run on one several weeks ago and stopped at 8 miles (my goal had been 12) because I was going to shoot myself.  As long as it's not raining I will do all my runs outside.  In fact, up until May 2011 I didn't even have a gym membership. So I either did weights at home or ran outside.   Now that I have a gym membership I do go several times a week for cross-training (swimming and bike).

While normally this challenge would be easy and fun, at this time it's actually one I won't be able to really participate in right now. I have a good reason for that though.  At 26 weeks pregnant I have to play things smart.

Running is starting to become an issue, a lot of ligament pain during and after my runs.  This means I've had to finally convince myself that no more 8 mile or longer runs on the weekend.  I'm trying to convince myself 4 miles is my max. I've also told myself that to keep from running as often during the week (normally I'll try to get in a run outside 3-4 days a week) I need to cross-train more with things that don't cause me as much pain.  This means swimming and biking and that requires my gym.  I haven't figured out exactly what I'm going to do yet but I think I'm going to drop my runs to 2 days per week and cross-train 3-4.  I've already dropped weight lifting as I realized I tended to still push the weight I was using, or I would say I could do that at home without the use of any devices. 

It's also winter, which means if there is any chance of ice or snow on the sidewalk/street or the weather is misty/rainy, my butt is headed to the gym because it's safest for me right now.    

I would say that I would do this challenge halfway and not use my ipod or my garmin (which tracks my distance, time, pace) however I can't do that either.  Sure, I don't need the ipod and I'll actually keep from using that for a week.  However the garmin I can't give up.  My heart rate monitor is attached to it and I have to monitor it to make sure I don't go over 155 for baby girls health.  

So while I love this challenge and am totally behind it and support it, for obvious health reasons it's not one I can participate in right now.   I can tell you this though.  I love to trail run and I can't do that right now. It's also frustrating to go so much slower that some days the beep telling me I went over 155 and to slow down drives me nuts.  Therefore when I'm given the ok to start running after baby girl arrives, you can bet I'll be outside on the trails as much as possible and I'll probably leave the garmin at home several times.   You can bet I'll be revisiting this challenge later this summer. 

I do have one suggestion for all of you.  While thinking of this challenge keep in mind that one excellent way to be eco-friendly and get in a good workout is to drop your car off for an oil change and run/walk home.  Then when it's ready to be picked up, run/walk to go get it.  I do this almost every time the car gets an oil change. It's a great way to get in a short run and it saves on somebody having to pick me up/drop me off. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - One of us already had the baby

My Mom took this photo in early December. I'm the one in green, with a due date of early May.  My cousin is in the cute dress (give me a break..I still didn't have any maternity clothes at that point and had very little I could  still squeeze in to).  My cousin had her daughter on January 24th.   We look like we could have been very close in due dates.

More Wordless Wednesday can be found here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Cherry Stollen or Cherry Bread Braid Recipe

This recipe is an old family favorite.  Well, it's not a family recipe but it's a family favorite.  My paternal Grandma used to make this for Christmas every year when I was growing up.  A couple years ago I remembered it and asked her for the recipe, we hadn't had it in years.   It was at this point that she mentioned she got it from one of her friends.  I figure I don't care, as far as I'm concerned it's a family tradition now.  Husband and I took over having Christmas at our house a couple of years ago and I have made this a staple. I don't really make it at any other time of the year, but it makes 4 so I always bake two and freeze two.  The reason you are getting this recipe now is because I needed room in the freezer and pulled one out to bake.  I've been in a happy cherry stollen coma for a couple of days.

I don't have pictures of what mine look like, because they do not look great. They test great, appearance is something I'm working on. Instead I've just posted a picture I found online.   In fact, I found a posting for a different braid bread recipe on reliable answers and the photo's show you exactly how to do the dough part.

Stollen or Braid Bread Recipe

Makes 4

1 lb butter, softened (4 sticks) (I ALWAYS use salt free butter when baking)
1 lb smooth cottage cheese *
4 1/2 cups flour
pie filling of your choice (1 can makes 2 stollens, or use fresh fruit)

*I haven't been able to find smooth cottage cheese so I just puree normal cottage cheese until it is smooth

Mix the butter, cottage cheese, and flour together until well mixed.  I have a habit of combining the butter and cottege cheese until well mixed and then adding in the flour.  I'm not sure it matters though.

Divide dough into 4 parts.  Place in the refrigerator until cold or over night.

When you are ready to make the stollens, remove one piece at a time as you don't want it to get too soft.  Roll dough out on parchment paper into an oval shape.  Size depends on you, I always treat it like a pie shell and do about the same thickness.    If you are going to cook right away, it's easier to then place this on a cookie sheet before doing the next step.

Pour fruit down the center of the rolled dough.  Half a can per stollen.  Cut the dough on the sides into strips and twist over the fruit.  If you are going to freeze any of these, now is when you would freeze it (before baking).

Bake at 350 for about 30 min.

Once out of the oven, while still hot, make a thin icing to drizzle on top.  I don't measure this,  I just mix powdered sugar with a bit of vanilla and a tad of milk.  I get the consistency I want and then drizzle.  You don't have to use vanilla, I just love the flavor of it so I always do.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sometimes we need motivation

I never really thought I was the type of person to really "get" motivational posters or sayings.  Sure I read them and some I would think "that's cool" but never thought of them again.

Lately I've found that I really like them. I'm not sure why this happened all of a sudden. Of course most of them are running related or deal with working out in general.  I have also found some that are really funny and have been sharing them with a friend I run with once a week or so and it at least makes the work day a bit easier to get through.

There is one saying that I saw that I actually printed and taped up in my closet. I wasn't going to admit this to anybody. I felt embarrassed by it, in a way I kinda of still am.

The above really stuck with me for some reason.  I have it taped to a container that my sports bras are stored in, so I see it every time I go to either change into my workout clothes or gather them to go in the gym bag for a workout later in the day.

One day at work I was talking to a co-worker/friend who also works out and we were talking about insecurities with our workouts.  I mentioned the quote and told him how I had it taped up in my closet.  I told him not to make fun of me.  He said he never would, he has a motivational word written on the inside of his gym bag so every time he works out he see's it and it motivates him to work out harder.  It was great to see that somebody else understood where I was coming from.  Sometimes a word or a saying will really hit a nerve and stay with us and mean something to us.

Why this one specifically?  It's because I always feel like I'm not good enough. My pace is slow, my runs are just ok. I know so many people who run faster, and further, and better than I do.  I was running with a group on Sunday's for our long runs.  The pace was slower for all of us, only for them it's 2 min or more slower, for me it was either less than a minute or 1 minute slower.  I felt like I was somehow always struggling to be as good as they were.  I didn't even realize this at first, but late last year noticed how their race times were so freaking fast. It's awesome, I'm happy for them. I started to get upset about my race times though when I realized just how much better they were than me. How these slower runs must seem really slow to them, when I sometimes struggle because of the distance, the heat, etc. I enjoy the challenge, I know that it helps me to push myself. It doesn't mean I don't get upset about it though.

I know I improved a lot with my running last year. I worked my butt off for it and it paid off. I know I can get back to that once I'm able to really train again.  However right now I am forced to go at a slower pace and take things easy. While I realize this is for the best and I don't mind doing it, it can also be frustrating.  I've also been dealing with a lot of depression issues and feeling inferior in my running played in to that.

Then I came across the quote above.  It hit a nerve.  I felt it was true for me. I strive to be better, I work on it (when I'm able).  That's what really matters.  That I don't give up.  We all have bad days, there will always be somebody better.  What matters is that we strive to be the best that we can be, in whatever that is.  For me, that's in running, in my over-all fitness, and my goal to start doing triathlons.

I read this almost every day, sometimes twice. I'll read it sometimes in the morning when dressing for work but always when I'm getting my workout clothes together.  I'm a bit embarrassed to say it, but it's helped. I'm much more confident in myself as an amateur athlete. I know the level of fitness I'm at now, or rather what I was in before becoming pregnant, and I know what I want to be at after baby girl arrives.  I know it'll take a lot of dedication and hard work to make it happen. On those days when I read about everyone else's workouts and I see them getting in mileage I've never even attempted, and I see people doing mileage I can do but at a much faster pace than I've been able to do, I remind myself of this quote.  For me, it's making a word of difference.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Change the World Wednesday: National Heart Month

This Week's Challenge:

This week (and throughout the month), experiment with left over fruits and veggies by either blending them into smoothies or making soups. Fruits and veggies are very heart-healthy and finding creative uses for them instead of tossing them out is very earth-friendly (especially the ones which are slightly tired - check your refrigerators for these culprits). Be sure to come back and tell us about your efforts ... and offer recipes if you wish.

Hmm...what to do with this one.  The thing is that for the most part Husband and I do really well not letting fruits and  veggies go to waste.  We don't buy a lot at one time, which helps.  

We usually only buy enough fruit to get us through a week, or what we assume we'll eat in a week. Obviously sometimes we don't get to it but it rarely goes bad.  OK, fine, I'll admit that sometimes I let bananas get too ripe so I can make banana bread.  I'm guessing that doesn't really count though.  So for the most part fruit doesn't go bad. If I notice something beginning to go bad I usually will throw it in a smoothie, which isn't a big deal since I make them at least once a week for breakfast. 

Veggies are a different story.  Usually when we buy them fresh it's for a specific recipe. I admit, otherwise we usually buy frozen so we have them when we want them for a meal.  The problem with buying fresh is that a lot of things you can't buy just what you need.  For example, carrots and celery. You have to buy the entire bunch when normally you only need a couple pieces.   This is where we run into problems.   I know I'll need help when it happens again. 

It is winter here, even if the temps have been around 60 recently (boy do I LOVE that).  I imagine this means we'll be making stew and soups several times within the next two months.   I'll have to keep this challenge in mind and try to be better about using the left-over veggies.

On the flip side, now that I can and do compost at home, at least I know they will get used towards something and not go into the trash. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Practicing

I have to admit that pretty much as soon as this picture was taken Husband looked at me and wanted me to save him, he has no clue what he's doing. Oh his time is coming.

More Wordless Wednesday can be found here.