Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Who made dinner? I thought it was YOUR turn!

Okay, so being a mom is hard.  And it's not.  It's like a Cycle class.  Parts of it you're really struggling, but then at the end you're just all joyous and loving life.  It's like that.  And it's also like having a perpetual puppy.  You are always on.  I am all about efficiency in life, and that hasn't changed since becoming a mom.  I still want to do the best, but I need it done quickly.  But I'm also not willing to cut corners.  So, what do you do when you have, like, 4 and 1/2 minutes to make dinner.  You make these recipes.  Don't worry.  I've tested them on the masses(Jeff, my mom, Easton on occasion) so they are pretty much tried-and-true. 

Rosemary Chicken and Red Potatoes

 2.5 lbs Chicken Breast
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Garlic
Salt or alternate seasoning
1 tbsp Paprika
1 tsp Pepper
3-4 Red Potatoes

Heat oven to 425
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Toss chicken and potatoes to coat.  Place in a glass cooking dish, separating potatoes in one and chicken in another.  The potatoes go in first and cook for 15 mn.  Then, add chicken and cook for another 35 mn, or until potatoes are soft and chicken is cooked thoroughly.

This is a delicious dinner, super easy and saves well if you have leftovers.  You can also pair it with rice, add to a salad or pasta.  You can play with the seasonings to your personal taste.  I LOVE garlic and paprika so I add more.

One Pot Chicken Fiesta

2.5 pounds chicken, or however much you want to make!
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 can black beans
1 can corn
1 can tomatoes
Red or green pepper diced
Zucchini diced
Taco seasoning or cumin
Other seasonings you like: salt, pepper, red pepper, etc
Red onion

On medium heat, heat oil and saute onions and peppers for a few minutes.  Add garlic for another minute or so.

Add diced chicken.  Cook until chicken is almost done.  Add seasonings to taste.

Add in tomatoes, beans, corn, zucchini and cilantro.  Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked thoroughly and everything is warm.

This is so easy, delicious and you can't mess it up!  Plus, it's all made in one pot 'cause ain't nobody got time for dishes;) You can serve in a tortilla, pita, on rice, or just eat it as is.  We generally eat this several different ways over a week and we never get tired of it!

I just had to share!  I'm making the Rosemary Chicken tonight and I'm getting hungry thinking about it.  Life is hectic and sometimes cooking is the last thing you want to do at the end of the day.  Add in a new baby, training, working, etc and you have lots of excuses to not eat right.  But I think having a few stand-by recipes that are easy, nutritious and delicious really helps out!  I don't know about you, but I always feel better when I'm eating well.  Have a great day and let me know how you like these recipes!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Ode to Fina...

Most of us don't remember where we were 14 years ago.  14 years ago I was 20 and had some questionable boyfriends, made some poor decisions, and let's just say I am very grateful social media wasn't what it is now.  I don't recall much from that time.  But I do recall that Fina was there...

I got Fina as a puppy from a "breeder" in Alabama.  I didn't know any better.  I was young and dumb and wanted a Yorkie.  She took my money and would call to tell me what flight the puppy would be on.  Then I would drive to the airport and she wouldn't be there, because the flight didn't exist.  This happened several times until I finally got this lady busted and got my puppy.  That was a great day.  I named her Fina-Lee because I finally got her.  I immediately loved her, especially knowing that she had come from a puppy mill and might not have had a very good outcome had she not been sent my way.  From day one, I wanted to do right by her.

She was a hot mess.  She had fleas the size of Texas, she was skinny, she had two rows of teeth, and she was bald from a case of Ringworm that was left untreated.  I fixed it all, and even wound up with my own case of Ringworm.  To this day, I avoid Ringworm at all costs.  But she came around and turned out to be a very beautiful, fun, sweet girl.  She was my friend.  I fixed her and she fixed me.

When I was in my twenties, there were so many things that were up in the air.  You don't know who you are.  You don't know what you want to do with your life.  You don't know who your friends are.  You don't know much.  Things are very unsure.  But through all of that, I had little Fina.  I called her "my heartbeat at my feet."  She was the one thing I could count on.  When you're young, you need that.  I don't know how people survive their early twenties without a "Fina."

I grew up, things changed, but Fina never did.  She was the constant in my life.  She changed the way many people saw little dogs.  She wasn't small, except in her physical size.  Everything else about her was larger than life.  Her heart was so full of love and life.  She inspired me to live life to fullest and find pleasure in simple things like food, sun and sleeping.  She did all of those things better than anyone I know.  Oh, and laundry.  She never actually DID laundry, but would wait anxiously for me to put the fresh laundry on the bed and then she'd climb up the laundry mountain.  If I folded it too quickly, well, that was my bad and Fina would gently remind me by unfolding it for me.  We spent lots of time curled up in this leopard print papasan chair I had.  Drinking wine(me, not her), eating rice and watching comedy or Lifetime movies.  She didn't have a preference, but I know she liked to see me laugh.  When we went to sleep, she always had to be right by my hip or she got very uppity about it.

Fina hated walks and leaving the house.  I bought her several carriers, all of which she hated.  Also, forget about the walks.  She would give me this look like I was out of my mind.  If I did press the issue, she would only walk in the middle of the street on the yellow line, where it was softest as to not mess with her perfectly soft pads.  To this day, she has the softest pads of any dog I know.  She has always been content to just chill on the couch, on the bed, on a throw pillow, or on one of her beds in the sun.  Fina has more beds than any one dog requires, but woman needs options!

Speaking of options.  The clothes.  I love to dress Fina.  It brings me joy to look through her wardrobe and find something for her to wear.  Someone once had told me that dogs don't like to wear clothes so I believed them and stopped dressing her for a minute.  It was the minute I found her sleeping on her clothes.  She loves getting dressed and after every bath we pick out something to wear and I tell her, "Fina, you look great."  And she does.  Poor Caiden now has to endure the dressing shenanigans.  Sorry, not sorry. 

When I met Jeff, he was pretty open about the fact that little dogs weren't his favorite.  But he at least seemed open to the idea of having her around so I didn't count him out.  Then, Jeff's dad passed away.  Honestly, I had no idea how to make it better for him.  And what he needed was space and time.  So I dropped Fina off and he stayed to help heal his heart.  Because Fina could just be there for you.  She could just be in the room and not say anything, but you would feel better.  Because she would be sitting there in some little dress or other ridiculous outfit and you would smile.  For a brief minute, your worries would go away.  Fina gave you courage.  The courage to fall apart completely, and then the courage to rebuild yourself.  After Jeff and I got married, Fina slept with him.  At first I was a little jealous, but then I realized that Fina goes where she needs to be.  And, also, where it's warmest.

Fina was always a priority to me.  She was my first child.  I have a loyalty to her, as she has had to me.  When I found out that I was going to have a human baby, I worried about her since she was getting older.  I took her in to get a blood panel and found out she had early renal insufficiency.  It didn't concern me.  Then, about four months later, she was doing very poorly and I took her in to find out it had quickly advanced.  So, no big deal.  We would give her some special food, and maybe some fluids.  But when she started turning her nose up at food, I started to worry.  But we added in some meds to help and I really was hopeful that things would turn around. I went and bought things I never thought I would ever buy like ground pork(bleh), turkey and ham gravy baby food(yuck), and anything else that Fina ever liked or I thought she'd like.  Some things would work for a day or maybe two, but that was it. She would have a good day or two, but then revert back to feeling awful. Every day I sat with her, trying to get her to eat.  Trying to get her light to shine again.  She tried sometimes, for me.  When she saw me crying.  I know she worried about me like she always has.

The decision to say good-bye isn't easy, but it is, at the same time.  Fina lost her light and would lay laterally just glancing up at me.  She didn't come to visit me anymore.  She stopped eating.  I woke up every day hoping that today was the day she would rally, but with each passing day I was more convinced she was ready.  And so, with bacon in hand, and Fina looking AH-MAZING in a Martha Stewart party dress, we said good-bye to little Fina in true Fina fashion.  It was so hard to try to be so strong, but I would've done anything for that little girl. I held it together until she was gone and then I immediately wanted to take my decision back.  Because for a brief moment, you think that maybe you could somehow stop her on her way to Heaven.  But she was already there.  I guess in some ways, she had always been there, just on loan to me.

I don't want to go on about saying good-bye.  It was awful, yet beautiful, and it was everything that Fina deserved.  Thank you to everyone who kept us in your thoughts and prayers, came to say good-bye to Fina, and made letting my little angel go somewhat bearable.  You all know who you are and I am forever grateful.

Fina will live on.  I still see her when I do the laundry.  Easton saves a bed for her in the sun daily.  Sometimes, I still go to get her before I leave.  Mornings are much quieter.  But, mostly, Fina lives on because of everything she instilled in me.  Fina taught me that life is nothing, unless it's shared, and preferably in the sun! She helped me to be a mom.  She was the first little one that I had and she was so patient and kind to me.  Thank God I had Fina before anyone else!  She paved the way for everyone else, leaving her tiny footprints along the way.  So, thank you Fina, for always being the heartbeat at me feet and relentlessly taking care of me for so long.  It was my pleasure to return the favor.  Thank you for leaving your footprints on my heart so that I may never be lost.  Until we meet again...

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Wildflower Adventure!

I don't know who talked me into doing the Wildflower Long Course.  ALL 70.3 miles of it.  I think it was mostly Jeff.  I outta...give him a huge hug and kiss!  Man!  What an experience.

That's the thing about Wildflower.  You don't get out of it with out the experience of it.  It's not just a race you show up to, race it, and go home with a shiny medal and a T-shirt.  You walk away with so many memories, not just of the race, but of the entire event and all that surrounds it.  Wildflower was one of the hardest races I have done, but it was also one of the best races I have been to.

Months ago, my sister Michelle had started raising money for me to do another big event.  Thanks to her, and some very generous donations I was able to sign up for Wildflower.  Jeff must have been feeling very generous, because he donated himself as well.  He signed up to do the Long Course too!  And then we were off to train!  It was a huge help that we were both training for it.  When I had done Ironman, it had strained our relationship some, as I was always gone training.  Everything had revolved around Ironman.  But with us BOTH doing it, we were able to support one another and share it every day.  We encouraged each other, we understood what the other was dealing with.  Overall, it really grew our relationship for the better.  Oh, and Easton.  He trained us both.  He ran with one of us almost every day.  He made me a better runner, for sure!

Coach Easton making sure I log those miles!

There were obstacles along the way.  I separated my shoulder in a bike crash.  I had no desire to ride outside for months.  Thankfully, Jeff was very supportive and helped ease me back into road riding, but it has been a journey, and I am still a total chicken downhill.  Along with the reluctance to ride outside, I also couldn't swim.  Going into Wildflower, I hadn't done more than 2000 meters, and even that was a struggle.  But what I have learned about myself is what I lack in physical ability I make up for in mental strength.  So I was really banking on some heart and courage out there!

Heading up to Wildflower, I was nervous but excited.  I am a real creature of habit, so it's hard for me to leave my home, my animals, my controlled environment.  But I was really looking forward to whatever Wildflower had in store for us!  Our friends had showed up on Wednesday, so we had a spot saved for us to camp right next to them.  Upon arrival, we realized that we had no idea how to set up our tent.  It was one we hadn't used before, and thanks to some help we did manage to get that beast up, but quickly discovered the door's zipper was broken!!  HA!  For the rest of our trip, we had to crawl out of the tent.  But when you get there, a lot of things just don't matter any more.  You are surrounded by all this beauty.  And the people we were with were just awesome.  In fact, everyone you meet up there is awesome.  I'm not sure how that works, but it's a true statement.

The day of the race, surprisingly, I was not that nervous.  I think I know that by the day of the race, all I needed to do(or needed to do and wasn't able to do), is done.  Now, all I can control is HOW I live the day.  I know I will struggle.  I know I will not give up.  So you just get in the water and you don't stop until you finish.  You break it off into small portions and that's how you get through it.  So, I got in the water, and despite my lack of training, I managed to pull off a 34 minute swim.  1.2 miles.  Not too shabby.  The lake was gorgeous.  I never got uncomfortable.  No one beat me up or swam over me.  And when someone grabbed my legs, I kicked.  Hey.  Don't grab my legs.  We all have a fear of drowning, on some level!  Out of the water, you run up a huge ramp and you get your shoes on to run to your bike transition.  It's a weird feeling, and it makes the race that much more challenging, but that's what Wildflower is about!

 Jeff and I pre race

I felt great getting on my bike.  I knew this would be my favorite part.  Cycling is my thing.  I LOVE it.  And I LOVE hills!!  Uphill, that is.  And Wildflower is known for being extremely challenging.  I was up for it.  Let it be known, that I have never, once, gone on to my small ring.  And, yes, I only have two in the front.  Big and small.  Never.  Not once.  I have done Great Western Loop on my big ring.  I have done Cabrillo, and Soledad, and Alpine, and Honey Springs, and Fury, and all those challenging hills in San Diego on my big ring.  And so I knew I was prepared.  But I was not.  Wildflower smacked me right across the face and handed me some of the biggest hills I have faced.  And I had no idea how to get into my small ring!  I had to pull over to the side of the road to figure it out!  But, thank G-d for that small ring!  I'm not telling you about the big ring to brag, I'm not.  I'm telling you so that you know exactly HOW hard that bike is.  It is a humbling, rewarding, challenging bike course.  If you don't have hair on your chest, you will grow some after that ride!  But it's really hard to feel like you are struggling with the beauty you are surrounded by.

So, you get off your bike and your legs are toast and then you are presented with a run.  And it's not a "run."  It's a trail run.  And after that bike, it's hot and you are depleted.  I decided to eat some pretzels while I walked out of transition.  Poor life decision.  And at that very moment I hear Bob Babbitt screaming, "Go Coeur!!"  And I am walking.  Major fail.  I got my butt in gear real quickly after that!  But despite the fact that I am a trail runner, not a road runner, I found myself walking up most of the hills.  I have never walked in a race.  But this is Wildflower, my friends!  I ran into a girl a couple miles in.  We chatted and then vowed to finish the race together.  She was a G-dsend.  We pushed one another, supported each other and we crossed that finish line together!  What a win for women in triathlon.  That's how you do it.  You stick together!!  And when we crossed that finish line, they put a nice cool towel on your back and they give you strawberries.  Best strawberries ever.  Ever.

When you finish Wildflower, if it doesn't finish you first, you are in a little blur.  Maybe it's part dehydration, and part disbelief of what you just accomplished, but I was just in my own little world for a bit.  Did that just happen?  How did I not die?  Is this a real thing?  Where am I?  Where's Jeff???  I wandered around the expo for a while where everyone you meet is your best friend, and then did manage to partially stumble/float my way to the finish line for the best part of the day: Jeff crossing the finish line!!  Proudest wife.  That man trained every day he planned to.  He was so determined and he is proof that if you set your mind and heart to something, you can do it!
After the race.  Wine never tasted so good!

My Coeur kit was awesome and I hardly notice it at all.  I was thankful for the pockets to carry my stuff and the material kept me cool(as cool as you could be on a hot day!)  There was no chafing and everything stayed put.  I have the tan lines to prove it!  Along with the Coeur kit, there was a great support system of Coeur girls!!!  They really are the best and you automatically feel like they are your sisters.  I used Picky Bars and my own homemade granola bars on the course, along with Osmo for hydration.  All in all, I was very happy with my race.  It was my first 70.3(I've done Sprints and an Ironman) and it was a distance I really enjoyed.  I finished in 6:37, and placed 19th in a group of about 65 women.  I am looking forward to doing it again, training appropriately, and kicking some Wildflower butt next year!!
Coeur kit was a huge part of ensuring a great race.

 I'm seeing that this is turning into a novel, so let me wrap this up.  I could write so much more, because so much more happened.  I will say this, Wildflower is no joke.  Not for the faint of heart.  If you are physically a strong triathlete, this is a great challenge for you.  But what you need to pack a lot of is heart and courage.  You will need to be physically strong, but you will also need to be stubborn, relentless, and tough.  It will be one of the hardest tris you ever do, but you will walk away with great friends, great memories, and the experience of a lifetime.  Oh, and a sunburn.  You will walk away with an awful sunburn.  Wear your SPF!

Yes, I wore sunscreen.  No, it wasn't enough.
After a luxurious swim in the lake.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ask, and you shall receive...A few of my FAVORITE recipes...

If you know me, you know I LOVE to bake.  But, I also love to cook.  The thing is, I am much less inclined to try challenging cooking recipes.  But, I have come a long way in both areas and now I get a lot of questions about recipes, both of the sweet stuff and the whole-food-good-for-you type.  Last year, my resolution was to make my own soups for lunch.  So I tried out a bunch of different kinds, and found a favorite.  I can eat it every day.  I also have become more adventurous with cooking.  The requirements for cooking is that it be easy, healthy and delicious.  The requirements for baking is that it be fun and amazing.  I wanted to extend some of my favorites to you.  The cooking recipes are, for the most part, whole foods only, nothing processed, gluten free, dairy free, sugar free and nutritious.  I hope you enjoy some of these!!

Rosemary Chicken and Red Potatoes

 2.5 lbs Chicken Breast
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Garlic
Salt or alternate seasoning
1 tbsp Paprika
1 tsp Pepper
3-4 Red Potatoes

Heat oven to 425
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Toss chicken and potatoes to coat.  Place in a glass cooking dish, separating potatoes in one and chicken in another.  The potatoes go in first and cook for 15 mn.  Then, add chicken and cook for another 35 mn, or until potatoes are soft and chicken is cooked thoroughly.

This is a delicious dinner, super easy and saves well if you have leftovers.  You can also pair it with rice, add to a salad or pasta.  You can play with the seasonings to your personal taste.  I LOVE garlic and paprika so I add more.

Black Bean Sweet Potato Soup

1 Carton Veggie Broth, or Chicken Broth.  Low sodium preferred
1 Large Can of Diced Tomatoes.  Fire roasted works well.
1-2 cans of Black Bean.  Low sodium preferred.
1 Sweet Potato, roughly peeled and diced
1 Green or Red pepper, chopped to your liking
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 Red Onion, diced to your preference
Cilantro, chopped.  As much or as little as you want!
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Cumin
1 tbsp Taco seasoning, or whatever seasonings you like.  I sometimes use Chili Pepper, Cayenne, paprika...

In a large pot, add olive oil and and onion and cook down for about 5 minutes, then add garlic for another minute.
Add sweet potato and green pepper for and cook for 5 minutes.
Add balck beans, tomatoes, broth and seasonings.  Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are soft.  Add cilantro towards the end.

Super easy, very satisfying and makes enough for 1-2 weeks worth of soup!!  I have also added kale, carrots, and different kinds of beans, or even chicken!  Make it your own!

Homemade Granola Bars

1 2/3 cups rolled oats
1/3 c wheat pastry flour, or use gluten free flour if desired
1/3 c raw honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 c coconut oil
1/2 of a chocolate bar roughly chopped
1/2 cup nuts
1/2 cup dried fruit.  I love dried cranberries!

Heat oven to 350.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Mix coconut oil and honey together.  Add in oats and flour.
Fold in chocolate bar, nuts and dried fruit.
Spread mixture onto baking sheet.  I only use about half of the baking sheet, so the granola bars are thicker.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until desired texture is reached.  I prefer mine softer.

I play with this one a lot!  Sometimes I just get trail mix from Sprout's and use that.  As long as it is about a cup, use whatever excites you!!  I eat these as a snack, or as fuel on long rides or runs.  If you make them crispy, you can break them up and use them as cereal or a topping for yogurt, fruit, etc.

PERFECT Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt.  I use Kosher.
2 sticks real butter, softened.  Important!  Use REAL butter!
2 eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups chocolate chips.  Semi-sweet, milk chocolate, butterscotch, white chocolate.  Whatever you like!

Heat oven to 350.
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, vanilla and beat until completely smooth.
Mix in flour and baking soda until combined.  Do not over mix.
Fold in chocolate chips.
Drop about 1 tbsp of dough, about 1-2 inches apart onto cookie sheets.  Each cookie sheet will hold about 12 cookies.
Bake for about 10 minutes, until cookies begin to look golden on the bottom.  Take them out before they are too brown.

I have played with so many different cookie recipes, until I finally figured this one out!  It makes the perfect soft and chewy cookie.  It really doesn't get much better then a fresh cookie, out of the oven, all soft and chewy and PERFECT!

....And now.  If you have come this far...I am about to disclose two recipes that I receive a lot of compliments on.  The Fruit Crisp, and the Pumpkin Cheesecake.  I was reluctant to share, but I think that you should be able to enjoy these with out me, if you want.  Or, feel free to bake them and bring me your version.  I promise I wouldn't mind!!!

Fruit Crisp

6 cups of fruit.  Apples are my go-to, but berries, peaches, or any other fruit can work too!  Apple and cranberry is a great combo, and so is strawberry blueberry!
1/2 cup sugar.  If you use apples, try brown sugar.
1 tbsp Cornstarch
1 tsp Lemon Juice.  Meyer lemons are perfect if you can find them.
1 tbsp Cinnamon if using apples

3/4 c flour.  For gluten free, use gluten free flour.  Cup For Cup is a great one.
1/2 c Rolled Oats
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter
1/3 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 375.
For the filling: Mix fruit, lemon juice, sugar and transfer to an 8" baking dish.
For the topping: Cream softened butter and sugar.  Add in oats, flour, baking powder and salt. Mixture will be a rough texture.
Sprinkle the topping onto the fruit.  You can make little clumps so it's kind of a streussel topping.
Bake until bubbling in the center, about 1 hour.

This is super-easy, and not as high-calorie as a pie with a crust.  It's easy to serve, and if you add ice cream, everyone will remember you until the end of time! it is.  I have been making this for years now.  It started as a recipe I stole from a doctor at work.  Then, I got adventurous and started playing with it.  I think I have perfected it.  It now stands alone amongst any dish.  When Thanksgiving arrives, we all start talking about it.  When you eat it, you just melt.  I have never seen so much love for a cheesecake, as this one.  It is worth the time, and the energy, to see people eat this.  I swear I have more friends now, just because of this cheesecake.  You might think, "It's just a cheesecake."  No.  It's not.  It's pure magic, I promise.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Graham Cracker Crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs.  Don't buy the already crushed crumbs.  Go big.  Buy the graham crackers and crush them yourself.  More love, more flavor and more fun to crush them!
1 stick melted butter
3 tbsp sugar.  Brown sugar brings more flavor and makes it chewier.  If you like a crispier crust, use white
Cinnamon, to taste.  You don't HAVE to, but come on...

Crush crumbs, add sugar and cinnamon.  Mix in melted butter and combine.  Press into a cheesecake pan, making sure to come up on the sides.  I dump it all in the pan, get my hands wet, and work my way out.  Set pan aside.  Move onto the magic.

Pumpkin Cheesecake:
1 1/4 lbs of cream cheese(about 3 boxes) softened to room temp(leave out of the fridge for about 4 hours to soften)
1 1/4 cup sugar.  I use about 1 cup of brown and 1/4 white.
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp Allspice
Nutmeg, if desired
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
4 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350.
Place cream cheese in large bowl and beat with a mixer for 1 minute.  Use a spatula to scrape down the sides.
Add sugar and mix for another minute.
Add in flour and spices and beat for 1 minute.
Add in vanilla and sour cream and mix until incorporated.
Beat eggs in a separate bowl, then slowly beat into the mix.
Add pumpkin last and mix until combined.
Pour into the cheesecake pan and put in the oven, on a baking sheet, in the middle rack.
Bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the middle looks set, and not liquid.  Then, turn oven off and leave the cheesecake in the oven for another 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, open oven door, and let sit for another 15 minutes.  Remove and let cool.  Refrigerate for at least four hours, to over night.  The longer you let it cool in the fridge, the more "set" the cheese cake will become.  Ideally, it's the best when refrigerated over night.

There it is!!!  In all it's glory.  The best cheesecake.  Ever.  The original recipe calls for heavy whipping cream instead of sour cream.  I prefer the sour cream because it gives the cheesecake more of a sour, tangy flavor, while the heavy whipping cream seems flat.  Also, the brown sugar is a recent change, because the molasses of the brown sugar really gives it a nice, rich flavor and pairs really well with the pumpkin.  The original recipe called for ginger and cloves, but I find these spices really overtook the cheesecake and made it taste too much like a cookie, and less like a cheesecake, so I prefer cinnamon, Allspice and sometimes a dash of nutmeg.  But, play with it to find what you like.  I sometimes add a whipped topping, mixing heavy whipping cream white sugar, and cinnamon.  You don't need it, but it sure is good!

Well, phew!  There it is!  A few of my favorite recipes.  As you can probably tell, I'm all about balance in life.  I eat pretty well, but I also believe in enjoying the sweet things in life on occasion.  I really hope you can try some of these, and share them with your loved ones, friends, and family.  Let me know how it goes for you!!!!  And if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!  Enjoy! 


Thursday, November 27, 2014

I love Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Well, okay, my birthday is my favorite holiday, but that just sounds kind of selfish to say. Thanksgiving is my favorite non-selfish holiday. There. But I got to thinking today of why it's my favorite and it was like being slammed in the face with a million memories. So, I decided to try to write it out. We all have such vivid memories of Thanksgiving, and here are some of mine....
When I was younger, Thanksgiving meant Gammys house. Which meant, family. And lots of noise, chaos and jovial times. My immediate family would crowd into whatever van we had at the time. Usually a Previa, which resembled an egg. It was cool when we were young, but by the coming of the second one we were pretty much over the minivan thing. We also had a larger van, that had curtains and a bed in the back. Of course, this van would be dubbed the "child molester van" and with good reason(it fit the bill), but man, it was comfy. My brother, Kyle always seemed to get the bed, while my sister Michelle and I were left in the captains seats. Probably best, as you never know what three hours in a van could do to you. No matter the vehicle, we were always guaranteed some memories would be made, just in the journey of getting to Thanksgiving dinner at Gammys. We had troll dolls that would put on little plays. They would discuss their favorite foods. They always preferred mashed potatoes. Tommy was the main troll, with Melissa coming in a little later. By the time we got to Joey, who was by far the coolest, rockerish of them all, we were over the trolls.
We listened to music of varying genres. My poor parents had to endure New Kids on the Block, Wilson Phillips, Paula Abdul. All in a tape deck, mind you.  It was also a time for the parents to introduce us to some of their music and it was then I fell in love with Marc Cohn, Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen.  We sang along.  We argued.  We bonded. 
On our way to Gammy's house, we were allowed to have fast food.  We never got fast food, but lucky for us, In N Out was the halfway point and we would stop and indulge.  Nothing ever tasted better to me.  We would get so excited to pull up and choose from the menu, like it ever changed.  But we learned the special things on the menu like "animal style" and neopolitan shakes.  We got our little lap mats and a wad of napkins and we were in heaven.  Usually by the time we got there, it was a breaking point/meltdown point/pee in your pants point, but In N Out solved all these issues.
Gammy's house was always like walking into a theatre production.  We had so many characters there!  It was so loud, and it was so calming at the same time.  It was home.  And we just knew that was the way it was.  Gammy was always so busy, with everyone taking turns pestering her over some minor detail.  "No, no.  Do it THIS way."  Grandpa Bob was discussing some world event in his loud, dramatic tone.  Don't get him started on Michael Jackson, and by the way, OJ Simpson is innocent because he went to USC.  He would ask me, "To be, or not to be, that is the question."  I never knew the answer, but it peaked my interest enough to get into public speaking.  Uncle Randy was into music and his booming voice, and husky vocals were so impressive.  He could play anything on the guitar, and he could do it well.  His wife, at the time, was the "fun aunt" and she gave me my first leopard print, sexy bathing suit.  I thought I was pretty hot, but wow...  Uncle Clark was the guy who was intimidating, intelligent and if he spoke, you listened.  He always seemed larger than life and even his impromptu speeches seemed as if they had been planned and rehearsed.  Aunt Marla and Uncle George were like my second parents and seeing them always warmed my heart.  Until Uncle George and my dad ganged up on us and tickled us to death, dubbed "Tickle Torture."  My cousins were my best friends and over the years we had so many memories in that house, at Thanksgiving.  Since we had to sit at the kid's table well into our teens, we got into so much trouble there.  I shouldn't even go into it, but let's just say there were a lot of firsts, despite our parents being in the next room.  Hey, what can I say?
Dinner was always a production.  I remember one year, my grandma tried to get us to sit boy-girl-boy and I lost it.  I ran crying to my mom's room and refused to continue with Thanksgiving.  What a brat!  I finally returned, embarrassed, but we never did assigned seating again.  We loaded our plates with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls.  No one ever left hungry.  No one ever left, period.  We all stayed the night, and the fun continued all weekend.  We had fun times, playing in the pool, walking around the neighborhood, being kids.  No idea it would ever not be that way.  No clue that things change.  But they do.
These days, Thanksgiving is different.  Now, it's just our immediate family.  Gammy, Grandpa Bob, Uncle George all celebrate in heaven.  But despite several people being noticeably absent, we have a great time.  There's still the chaos, the loudness, the unique characters, the laughing, the stories, the experience of sharing.  Thanksgiving has evolved, but it is none the less meaningful.  I now get to bake a pumpkin cheesecake.  I still indulge in stuffing like a ravenous crow, or something like that.  I get to sit at "The Big Kid's Table."  I get to be surrounded by the ones I love.  I get to be thankful for everything Thanksgiving is, was, and will be.  Happy Thanksgiving!   

Thursday, July 31, 2014

This is how we do it!

Hey, I'm just like you.  I put my Coeur running shorts on one leg at a time.  And just like you, I struggle with motivating myself at times.  Sometimes I struggle with the Gemini in me.  One twin wants to be ambitious and workout for hours, while the other thinks that baking and watching E! News sounds pretty dang good.  But over the years, I've got it pretty much figured out.  And while I still struggle at times, and I totally empathize with the posts about how you just couldn't manage to get that workout it, I have figured out how to work around that evil, less-than-ambitious twin.  So I wanted to share some tips I use to motivate myself and get that workout in!

Even Easton has to find motivation sometimes!

1. It's in the "plan."  Just like you plan to go to work, and you plan to go to that bridal shower, you have to put it in the plan to workout.  It's not an option, it's on the list of Things To Do.  And you know you want to check that box off!

2.  Set goals on Sunday.  Write it out and then commit to it.  I learned this while training for Ironman.  I HAD to get my workouts in and knowing that I needed them all, I was less likely to talk myself out of them.  Don't take No for an answer when it comes to getting to your goals.

3.  If you know that working out after work or a long day probably won't happen, then bite the bullet and wake up early to get it done.  You won't be sorry when you get off work and you don't workout, because you are FREE!  You already worked out. 

4.  Along the lines of waking up early to get it in...set your alarm to a random number.  For example, I have to be ON my trainer by 5am to get my workout in.  So I set my alarm to 4:53am.  This somehow tricks me into thinking I was going to be up at this time anyway, since it's a random time.  IDK why this works for me.  But it does.  Also, I wake up to the song, "Happy."  Come on, how could you not be? 

5.  Set your clothes out the night before.  You don't need to make these decisions in the dark when you are half asleep.  Set out your adorable workout gear(ummm, Coeur, right?) in the bathroom so all you have to do is put them on and go.  If they are cute, bonus.  I workout better in cute clothes.

6.  Make a playlist that you can only use when you workout.  Make new ones every so often to keep it interesting.  Be fun.  I'll do a throwback playlist, and think about where I was when they were popular.  I'll make one with just gangster rap and pretend I'm super hard-core, because, well, duh.  Or, if I am feeling kind of down, I'll put a bunch of sappy love songs on it and just call it therapy.  Whatever it takes, man.

7.  Find things to look forward to.  When I couldn't run, I went to the gym and did the elliptical.  And I watched the Cooking Network.  I learned all about broccoli one day, and honey the next day.  I got all inspired and made broccoli with a honey Dijon dressing.  I also subscribe to Glamour, but the deal is I can only read it on the trainer.  Workout AND learn what the best hair products are?  Uh, that's called multi-tasking, friends.

8.  Go with a friend.  If you don't have anything you are training for, find someone who does have something.  Be their cheerleader.  Be a part of their journey, and get your workout in at the same time.  Also, you are less likely to bail on a friend.

9.  Change your mind.  So often we think of working out as this awful chore.  We are always stoked when we do it, but we go in to it thinking it's this necessary evil.  Well, let me get real.  That attitude sucks.  Life is what you make it.  I have lost the opportunity to workout on a few occasions and it has made me really grateful for what I am able to do now.  You say, "I HAVE to go for a run."  I say, "You GET to go on a run."  Change your mindset.  Be grateful.

10.  Recovery is a discipline too.  As much as I encourage working out, I also encourage balance.  Plan the day you want to consider your recovery day, or your "cheat" day or whatever you want to call it.  Do what you want.  If you want to workout, do it.  But if you really just want to bake and watch E! News, then live it up.  You are more likely to want to workout and workout well if you do take the time to recover and enjoy some well-deserved time off.  You don't want to push yourself so hard that you end up despising working out and you break down.  Your body and mind deserve a break once in a while!

These are a few things I am happy to share with you all.  Please, let me know what you all do to get yourself motivated!  No excuses, right?!

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Art of the Interview

Most of my blogs revolve around health and fitness, but I have other things that I am passionate about...I swear!  So this is a blog of a different type.  You've been warned!

Years ago, I was in the corporate world and I had the honor of hiring and training for the company.  I loved it!  Well, the corporate world was not for me, but I was lucky enough to find a job that combines my love of animals with my love of interviewing people.  Combined, I have been interviewing people for about 10 years on and off, and have learned a great deal about what makes a GREAT interview. 

The other day I realized that interviewing is becoming a lost art form.  Which is really a bummer because it is such a vital tool in life.  So I put together a list of things that can help you when you are interviewing.  Please spread the word.  Let's bring back the Art of the Interview!!

The Art of the Interview

1.  Show up early.  Your interview time is not approximate.  It is not a party where being fashionably late is acceptable.  Being on time shows that you are punctual, reliable, and you respect other people's time.  It also shows that you are capable of arriving on time to your job.  When you arrive(early) be kind to everyone.  I will ask the reception team how they viewed the person who came in.  It says a lot about someone's character if they are kind to everyone, not just the interviewer.  Be present, be kind, and be on time. 

2.  Always dress professionally, whether you are interviewing for a job on Wall Street or Jack in the Box.  Professional wear includes: dress slacks, blouses, button up shirts, blazers, skirts, ties, suits, dress shoes.  Women: Makeup and hair should be conservative.  An interview is not the place to try your new glitter sparkle cat eye and red lip.  Do not show cleavage.  Do not show too much leg.  Do not wear jeans, flip flops, t-shirts, or anything that you would consider wearing to a club, a gym or a BBQ.  This is an impression you are making, so dress to impress.  You want the interviewer to see that you are dressed professionally and not be distracted by your attire.

3.  Practice shaking hands.  You might think this doesn't matter, but it does.  You want a firm handshake.  Not weak, not aggressive.  You want to shake the interviewer's hand, and look them in the eye.  This says a lot.  So while it might sound funny, try to practice your handshake.

4.  Bring a copy of your resume and 3 professional references.  Your resume should be well organized, easy to read, and on nice paper.  Have someone help you with your resume if you are unsure of how to format it.  And always, always, proof-read it before you print it!!  I could write a whole blog on resume writing, but honestly if you need help, feel free to reach out to me!

5.  Know the company you are interviewing for.  This day and age, everyone and everything is online.  Look up the company you are interviewing for to get an idea of what they are all about.  If they have a mission statement, learn it and try to bring it up in the interview. 

6.  Watch your posture and realize that once you sit down your body language will speak volumes.  Don't close yourself off, open yourself up!  Sit tall, lean forward, make eye contact, and smile.  Do not cross your arms, lean back in your chair or avert eye contact.  Be engaged.

7.  Be personable, but professional.  I want to get an idea of who you are.  Every company wants to see that you are the right "fit" for the job.  So, while you need to be professional, it is totally okay to let your personality shine through.  On the other hand, do not go too far with this.  The person interviewing you doesn't need to know that you get really bad cramps, your boyfriend really failed on Valentine's Day, or that your mom hasn't talk to you in two years.  Keep on topic. 

8.  Shine!!  This is your time to tell me all about yourself.  I know some people feel uncomfortable talking about themselves, but this is a requirement.  You have to sell yourself in an interview.  Why should they hire you?  Based on what?  The person who interviews you needs a reason to hire you, so give them lots of reasons!  Before you go in to an interview, spend some time writing out your best qualities.  Remember them.  What are your strengths?  What could you improve on?  What do you love about the field you are interviewing for?  What do you bring to the position?  What sets you apart from others?  Why do you want the job?  Elaborate on things.  A good interview will turn into a conversation, not just a question/answer session.  Try not to answer with blunt, short, simple answers.  Give them all you've got!

9.  Ask questions.  Some people think that an interview is just the interviewer asking questions, but an interview is an opportunity to get to know each other.  Come prepared with a few questions to ask.  Try not to focus too much on the salary though.  Obviously, this is important, but tread lightly and try to ask it professionally.  You don't want it to come across that money is your only driving factor in the quest for a job. Some questions that I enjoy are:  What's a typical day like here?  How many years has the company been around?  What do you enjoy the most about your position?  Is there room for advancement?  Try to connect with the interviewer.  Ask, ask, ask! 

10.  Ask for the job!!  Asking for the job is so important, yet it rarely happens.  It shows that you want the job, and you are assertive enough to just ask.  I want to hear that you want THIS job, not just A job.  I love when people want the job they are interviewing for.  It really makes the person WANT to hire you.  If it came down to two candidates that were both equally qualified for the job, but one person asked for the job, the person who WANTED it would probably be the one who got it. 

11.  At the end of your interview, always thank the interviewer, shake their hand, and smile.  This is the last impression you leave with the interviewer, so make it pleasant!  It is appropriate to ask, "When can I look forward to hearing from you regarding the position?"  It plants a seed that there will be further communication and you are already looking forward to it!  Thinking ahead is a great quality.

That's it for now.  I hope you got something out of this blog.  Please share with others that you know so we can bring back the Art of the Interview.  We all know we need a job, but sometimes we don't know exactly how to go about getting the one we want.  Interviewing is truly an art, but done correctly can land you with a great job!  You'd be surprised that even if you might not be the most qualified, if you can interview well, most places will be willing to train you.  So put yourself out there, be YOU, and go get that job!