Last Week of Elf4Health Challenges

elf4healthThis is the last week for the Elf4Health Challenge. It’s been a fun six weeks and I’ve enjoyed getting to know new bloggers. I have to give a huge shootout and thanks to Elle and Lindsay for putting this together–I don’t know how they do it!

Here’s the line-up for the last week:

Monday, Dec. 31 — Make a healthy dish to bring to your New Year’s celebrations. We’ll be traveling to spend the night with a good friend of M’s (he was one of our groomsmen) in Dayton, so I’m not too sure what I’ll do about this challenge. I’m sure I’ll come up with something, and when I do, I’ll share it with y’all!
Tuesday, Jan. 1 — Clean the house from top to bottom. Again, we’ll be in Ohio for most of the day, but I already got a headstart on cleaning on Sunday–even cleaning out some of the cabinets again. This will be an ongoing project through the week.
Wednesday, Jan. 2 — Set a fitness goal. Done already–I want to complete my second half marathon, and try to get in a few more races in 2013.
Thursday, Jan. 3 — Eat at least three food groups at each meal today. This should be fun! I’m already picturing my scrambled eggs with a piece of whole wheat toast and a banana for my breakfast, and endless possibilities for lunch and dinner.
Friday, Jan. 4 — Walk or run a mile as fast as you can! I’m going to be at a dog agility seminar Friday and Saturday, so I’ll be doing this challenge earlier in the week. I’m excited about this and about pushing myself. It’ll be interesting to see how I do pushing myself in the cold air.
Saturday, Jan. 5 — Get up and move during the commercial breaks while watching TV. I’ll be at the seminar most of the day, but I’m going to try to do this throughout the week–a great idea for everyone to try!

So there you have it…one last week as an Elf for Health! I hope this inspires more people to try new things like this challenge has inspired me!

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A Peaceful Winter Weekend

This weekend was the kind of weekend that you need during the winter some times.

While we were sleeping Friday night, it snowed about 2 inches. Yay! I was supposed to go on my first training group run Saturday morning, but it was cancelled, so I met a running/agility buddy at the gym and got in a little more than 4 solid miles on the treadmill, rather than worry about the slick roads and slush. I stopped by our favorite local coffee shop and bought M and I are favorite drinks (him–camp fire cocoa, me–turtle-dove chai) and woke M up with his drink.

Later that morning M and I bundled up and shoveled the driveway and sidewalk, including our elderly neighbor’s driveway and sidewalk. While M was doing more of the heavy stuff (hey, I had just run 4 miles!) the pups and I made a small snowman:

Our little snowman--it's been a long while since I made one, but at least I found a use for those darn "spiky balls" our tree tends to drop everywhere!

Our little snowman–it’s been a long while since I made one, but at least I found a use for those darn “spiky balls” our tree tends to drop everywhere!

Afterwards I drove out a friend’s place to train the dogs over some drills for agility with my other dog agility friends. We felt pretty lucky that even though there was 2-3 inches of snow on the ground, upper 20s, and still snowing, we were able to get in an hour of training with the dogs because of our friend’s indoor agility ring with soccer field turf. I’m going to have to remember to take some photos of the place to share with you–we really are lucky! I was working LaMesa in preparation for a seminar we’re going to this coming weekend, and Dally was getting the rust knocked off for upcoming trials and Nationals in March.

Saturday night M and I headed out to dinner using a gift card we got for Christmas (grilled salmon at Texas Roadhouse–yum!) and went to see “This Is 40” at the movie theater. “This Is 40” is a great movie–very funny! I totally recommend it.

Today was about being lazy, with a chuck roast in the slow cooker and the Colts game on the television. The Colts won, which is awesome since it was Chuck Pagano’s first game back since he overcame leukemia–it’s been a great year overall to be from Indianapolis and be a (lifelong) Colts fan! No one saw them going to the playoffs, let alone finishing the season 11-5, so this is just icing on the cake!

I hope your weekend was a good one!

 

Recipe: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Mug Cake!

Today’s Elf4Health Challenge was to create a mug cake (either in the microwave or oven) and treat yourself and someone special to something sweet. I’d never made a mug cake, but had seen some recipes, so I did some digging and tried to find something on the healthier side. (And a recipe that included the ingredients I had–it was hard to find some without eggs, since I used the last for my breakfast this morning.)

I stumbled upon this recipe on the Elf4Health Facebook page and changed it up a little bit to suit my perimeters.

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So here it goes: Megan’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Mug Cake

1 tbsp, + 2 tsp of unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp flour (I used 2 tbsp of whole wheat and 1 tbsp all purpose)
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 packet of Splenda (or any stevia/sweetener)
2 tsp sugar or other sweetener (I used honey for my first attempt)
2-3 tsp of unsweetened applesauce
3 tbsp milk (original recipe says “milk of choice”, I used non-fat)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Handful of dark chocolate chips (however many you’d like)
1 spoonful of nut butter (I used JIF creamy peanut butter)

1.) Combine all the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Once combined, add the wet ingredients and mix well.
2.) Scoop half the mixture in your mug, then place spoonful of nut butter in the middle. Scoop the rest of the mixture into the mug.
3.) Place mug in microwave and heat for approximately 50 seconds

It doesn't look pretty, but it's pretty tasty!

It doesn’t look pretty, but it’s pretty tasty!

The combination of the gooey melted peanut butter and melted dark chocolate chips is fantastic! I’m going to work with this recipe more because I feel like it needed a little work, but feel free to give it a try and tell me what you think!

Here are a few recipes I’m going to try later:

Winter on the Farm

I was lucky enough to spend four days at home on my parents’ farm for Christmas. It also just so happen to be the start of winter, and it really came in with a bang. There were about 3-4 inches of snow already on the ground. So I figured I’d share a little about what winter on the farm entails.

Saturday morning I had to dig out the heated water buckets for the horses’ stalls–even inside the barn, if the temperatures drop water will freeze in the buckets, and horses won’t drink frozen water, which can cause a lot of health problems, so it’s best to have a way to prevent the water from freezing. So I climbed up to the hay loft and threw down four heated buckets, washed them, then replaced the regular water buckets in each of the mares’ stalls.

Then I got out their blankets and brushed them off from dust, cob webs, and just a general look-through to make sure there wasn’t anything that would make them uncomfortable. As long as they’re not being shown, we want the horses to have nice thick winter hair coats, so I try to wait until colder temps (teens) before they wear their blankets 24-hours. Some times night time, when they’re not able to move around a lot, we’ll have them wear their blankets.

We’ll still put the horses outside, as long as it’s not freezing rain or bad winter storms. It’s better for them to be able to get out to stretch their legs, get a good roll in, and graze a little. Horses are a lot like us–if they’ve been cooped up in one place (in this case, their stalls), they are not happy. Most people leave horses out 24/7 because that’s how horses are–they weren’t meant to be indoors all the time. Because the grass has died, horses do need something to eat to keep their “self-supported furnace” running to keep their bodies warm. (If you’d like to read more about keeping horses warm in the winter, check out my publication’s website and read this article: Keeping Horses Warm.)

When it snows, it can be hard to keep things running in the barn. Now that my parents are older, my dad will ask a neighbor to come plow the driveway. The horses still have to be taken care of at least twice a day, no matter the weather, so it’s important to be able to go down there to keep their buckets filled, plenty of hay, and just to make sure they’re all in one piece.

Just a short note on spending winter on a horse farm. It’s definitely easier to just worry about winter in town with dogs, but I still miss those snow rides and watching the horses run and play in the snow.

Despite her sticking her tongue out at the camera, Dally actually loves the snow.

Despite her sticking her tongue out at the camera, Dally actually loves the snow.

The horses enjoy getting outside, even if it's freezing cold outside because the sun warms them up and it's good to stretch their legs.

The horses enjoy getting outside, even if it’s freezing cold outside because the sun warms them up and it’s good to stretch their legs.

Elf4Health Challenge — Thankful Thursday

Today’s Elf4Health Challenge is to write down 20 things you’re thankful for…almost like a Thankful Thursday. It wasn’t very difficult to think of 20 things, after all I did a post last month on what I was grateful for, so it was easy to just add on.

Gratitude1

Gratitude2

 

While there are days we might complain and wish things were better in our lives–we had better clothes, a different brand of cereal, a different job, etc.–we have to take a moment to be grateful for what we have now and at any moment.

Your turn: What are your 20 things you’re grateful for?

Elf4Health Challenge — 3 Things

This week is the start of Round 3 of the Elf4Health Challenge–our last round. It’s been a lot of fun so far–I’ve even won one challenge with my cheesy broccoli quinoa casserole I made last week! But besides the win, it’s been fun getting to know other young women from different walks of life.

This round, my elf is Christina, a (newly turned) 24-year-old with her masters in communication (you go, girl!). She’s lost 55 pounds in the past two years, which is awesome! I can’t wait to hear more about her weight loss journey. I lost about 25 pounds two years ago and struggle everyday with keeping it off.

Here are our challenges for the next round:

Monday, Dec. 24 — Call a friend, just to chat! I tried to get in touch with a couple of friends, but with the holidays, it was hard to meet up in person, so we chatted back and forth via text and planned for some phone dates later in the week when things die down.

Tuesday, Dec. 25 — Go for a walk with a family member. We spent most of Christmas on the road, but I did sneak in a couple of walks with our dogs at my in-laws’ gathering, and they’re part of our family, so that counts, right?

Wednesday, Dec. 26 — Look at yourself in the mirror and find three things you love about yourself. This was a little difficult because I’ve been feeling pretty down about myself lately, so I guess you could say this came at the right time. I’ll get to more of this later…

Thursday, Dec. 27 — Make a list of 20 things you’re thankful for. I can’t wait to do my blog post on this!

Friday, Dec. 28 — Make a healthy mug cake in the microwave. I’m looking forward to trying this out for both M and I. Recipe will be forthcoming.

Saturday, Dec. 29Take some time for yourself. I got a facial mask from a friend who’s a Mary Kay consultant, so I’ll definitely be using it, and hope to get my hair cut soon!

3 THINGS

I’ve been feeling pretty low about myself lately. It doesn’t help that it’s been the holidays, so there’s never a lack of treats and junk food and opportunities to not be a healthy eater. Add that I have hardly any self-control, and that’s a bad combination. So this challenge came at the perfect time.

1.) My legs — I’ve always been complimented on my legs by my mom, but it wasn’t until I was older that I came to appreciate my long, muscular legs. They’ve gone through many different modes of being too big in the calves (which makes buying hunt boots difficult) when I played volleyball, and needing more bulk for the hills while running. I don’t wear dresses or skirts, but I’d like to try to branch out in my wardrobe to show off my appreciation for the strength of my legs. They’ve taken me places like showing my horses, jumping up for a block in volleyball, and finishing 13.1 miles in my first half marathon.

2.) My stubbornness and tenacity for certain tasks — I’m a Scorpio, and German, and my father’s daughter–I’m stubborn. When I set my mind to something, I want to see it through. I will go through the struggles when I know that on the other side is something fulfilling. I don’t give up easily on things that I believe in, whether it’s running, my relationship, my friendships, etc.

3.) My drive to try new things — I never used to like trying new things, but lately I’ve been wanting to try many new things: new foods, new workouts, new styles. I’m working to embrace this new bravery by leaping in and trying it–no second guessing here.

I’d like to spin this and also point out three things that I love about my husband, because I believe some times everyone needs to be reminded.

1.) He embraces his inner child — As with every adult life, there are always serious moments. But M is never afraid to embrace his inner child–from taking the dogs to the park and playing in the snow on the playground, to talking in funny voices just to make me laugh. He reminds me that you can’t be serious all of the time.

2.) He’s got a soft heart — Even though he’s been through the military, there are times his brick wall breaks down and he shows his emotions. I loved (in a good way) seeing him tear up while I was walking down the aisle. He celebrated my big championship with Dally and I even caught him holding back some tears when he came up to hug and kiss me.

3.) His tenacity for finances — Not everyone is good with numbers and good with finances, and I’m one of those people. M, on the other hand, is obsessive about the finances and he’s trying to teach me and help me with everything for my finances. He’s worked very hard to help dig me out of some trouble I had, and he has goals he’s working towards. I love him for being patient with me when it comes to the finances, because I know I’m not easy to work with.

Now it’s your turn–list three things you love about yourself. And, if you want to flip it around, pick someone close to you and list three things you love about them and make their day.

Snow in Indiana = Peaceful Eve of Christmas Eve Horseback Ride

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you are able to celebrate the holidays with your loved ones. M and I arrived at my parents’ Friday evening and have been relaxing, and baking.

Indiana got more snow than we did in Kentucky, so it’s really gotten me into the Christmas spirit–it’s funny how some times you’re just missing one little piece like snow. But it’s also weird to think that just a week ago I was able to run in capris and short sleeves with no worries.

To celebrate the snow, I hopped onto Lark, my most favorite horse (when we bred her mom, my parents said the foal would be mine…that was 20 years ago and we’ve grown up together) bareback and rode around the farm in the snow. There’s something about the peacefulness of the winter–it seems so calm and quiet.

Riding horses in the snow = peaceful.

Riding horses in the snow = peaceful.

And then there’s something about the sound of hooves going moving through the snow. It’s a muffled sound…a little hard to explain, but it’s still something that just makes you smile.

If you’ve never felt the freedom and happiness that comes with riding horses, I’m sorry. It’s a feeling I wish everyone could feel at least once in their lives. When I’m on my horses, I’m a totally different person–my cares expire and my heart expands with love. I can’t imagine life without that wonder now. I can tell when I just need to go for a ride because I start to feel frustrated with life and everything else.

I thought it’d be fun to try to do a video to show you what it’s like to lope around in the snow on Lark:

With that, I wish you a Merry Christmas!

Christmas on the Road

The Christmas countdown is on. Which means finishing the wrapping and starting the packing.

This weekend we’ll be starting the trek to celebrate the holiday with our families. We like to say we’re fortunate that our families are so close (2.5-3.5 hours from Lexington), but it’s also a curse because we have to make appearances with both families for holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, which means we have to do a lot of driving.

One thing I’ve learned about going into a relationship and then marriage is that you have to learn to readapt to everything. The days of the Christmas traditions from when you were a child of spending countless hours gathered in the living room, watching Christmas movies and reveling in your gifts with your family has changed. Now it’s a day of shortened celebrations, hoping to not disappoint anyone with your brief stay. You stress about how much time you have to spend with one family and how much time on the roads you have to  drive on. You pray for clear skies and clear roads so you aren’t delayed in your next destination.

Traditions, such as getting in a Christmas ride, some times have to be re-scheduled or changed for the times.

Traditions, such as getting in a Christmas ride, some times have to be re-scheduled or changed for the times.

I’ve had some tell me, “Just wait until you have kids…then you can force them to come to you…” But in the back of my mind, I can’t imagine a Christmas spent away from the farm. I cherish those Christmas Eve nights of baking until time for midnight mass at the Catholic church I grew up in, and I love those mornings of almost skipping down to the barn with a bag full of apples and treats for the horses and barn cats, hoping to squeeze in a Christmas morning ride on my favorite horse.

I’m thankful for every moment I spend with my family, and I always hope that M is able to cherish his time with his family. Due to my work schedule, Christmas will be a little shorter than one would like. We’ll be spending the weekend with my family, and Christmas morning, before heading to M’s family for a late lunch and gifts, then head back to Lexington so I can be at work the next day.

I know we’re lucky to be able to spend our holidays with our loved ones–there are many who are not as lucky as we are. Be they in the military serving overseas, working the holiday to protect and serve the rest of us, or grieving the loss of another. So we will cherish the limited time with have with both families and enjoy our first Christmas as a married couple.

Casserole Love – Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

For today’s Elf4Health Challenge we were to fix a (hopefully healthy) casserole for dinner tonight. Fortunately it is a blustery day here, so a casserole sounded perfect!

I found a broccoli quinoa casserole on Pinterest a while ago, but I hadn’t tried it yet. I did make a few changes from the original recipe. We paired the casserole with baked chicken, and it was exactly what we needed to hit the spot!

Here’s my version:

Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

1 10 oz. can of low sodium, low fat/fat free cream of mushroom soup
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 1/4 cups reduced fat finely shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp Splenda/sugar
1/4 tsp black pepper
A shake of nutmeg
2 cups cooked broccoli (I just used a bag of SteamFresh broccoli in the microwave)
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
Finely grated parmesan cheese

Just a couple of fixins for the casserole.

Just a couple of fixins for the casserole.

1.) Cook the quinoa (includes: 3/4 cup quinoa, 1 1/2 cups water, & 1/4 tsp of salt) by bringing the quinoa to a boil, reduce to low heat, cover, and cook 18-20 minutes.

2.) Preheat oven 350* and coat the inside of an 8×8 casserole dish with cooking spray.

3.) In a large bowl combine the cream of mushroom soup, Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, pepper, sugar/Splenda, and nutmeg until mixed well. Then add the broccoli and quinoa, stir until well combined.

4.) Pour into casserole dish and sprinkle with parmesan cheese, bake in oven 35-40 minutes. (Makes 8 1/2 cup servings.)

So yummy and delicious! Perfect for a cold winter night!

So yummy and delicious! Perfect for a cold winter night!

Enjoy!!

The Southern Lights

First a quick update on my foot/ankle: I went to the doctor Monday and had X-rays pulled on my foot. The X-rays didn’t show anything (except for a heel spur, which explains the tightness I always feel in my Achilles after a run), Then as the day went on I noticed that the pain was mostly coming from the outside of my ankle, and only when I was stepping forward (weight-bearing was alright). I have an appointment with a new orthopedic doctor, but not until Jan. 2. Meanwhile, after a few painful days, today I was able to walk my dogs the 3/4 mile loop in our neighborhood with very little pain! So we’ll wait and see. I’ve been on the elliptical twice, but mostly going backwards and for 10-15 minutes at a time. I’m afraid to push it, though.

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Now, back to the subject in the title. It’s hard to imagine that Christmas is now less than a week away. It’s been hard to get into the Christmas spirit because of the uncommonly warm weather, events such as Connecticut, and M’s stress of waiting on a phone call on a job interview he had last week.

Dally and I at the Christmas light display at Buffalo Trace Distillery in 2009.

Dally and I at the Christmas light display at Buffalo Trace Distillery in 2009.

But Tuesday night we took the dogs to go so the Southern Lights at the Kentucky Horse Park, a cool drive-through Christmas light show that ends with different booths and activities in the International Museum of the Horse (if you’re in the area, I totally recommend going). Yes, that’s right…most families take their children to go see the lights, but we take our “fur-children”. When M and I were first dating, we took Dally to see the lights at the Horse Park and all around Lexington. She was enamored with Christmas lights.

Dally looking out the window during the Southern Lights this year. (I couldn't get LaMesa to stay still long enough to take her photo.)

Dally looking out the window during the Southern Lights this year. (I couldn’t get LaMesa to stay still long enough to take her photo.)

I know dogs are color blind, but I think they can captivated by the movement of the twinkling lights. And Dally is definitely one of those that loves it. When she sees the lights, she stands up at the window in the back seat and stares at it until we roll the window down. She’ll then hang her head out and just watch the lights. Last night I brought her up to the front seat and she laid on my lap and rested her chin at the window and just watched.

LaMesa seems to have learned to love the lights, too, because last night she would run across the back seat of the truck between the two windows, as if to try to get in as much of the lights as possible.

We finished off the evening with a late dinner and finishing up some shopping. I think the evening relieved some of the tension and stress we’ve been feeling, plus got us both into the holiday spirit.

How are you getting yourself into the holiday spirit?