December 31, 2015

Top 15 of 2015

I thought this was going to be a very difficult post to write. I thought that 2015 was the worst year I've had, and in some aspects, that's true. I dealt with a running injury for 10 months, my depression was really bad, my anxiety was the worst it's ever been, and I was dealing with a 27-pound weight gain from 2014. I felt terrible about myself, and I put a ton of pressure on myself to get it together.

However, once I started going through pictures from this year, I saw that I had a ton of really great experiences! I started flagging photos to use on this post, and when I was done, I had over 30. THIRTY experiences that could have made my "Top 15 of 2015". It was tough to narrow it down.

In the end, this is what I decided on. Here are my Top 15 of 2015, in chronological order:

1) We adopted Joey! Bringing Joey into our lives has been so amazing. I used to have a big fear of dogs, but adopting Joey and spending so much time with him has helped me to "read" dogs much better. I no longer get scared of them when I see them on a run. Joey has also changed my kids' lives--they've learned that Joey will always be their best friend, and they have a blast playing with him.

2) I traveled to Portland to visit my BFF and see the Pacific Northwest for the first time. I fell in LOVE with Portland, and it is my favorite destination I've ever visited. While on the trip, I went on my very first hike, and I couldn't have picked a more beautiful place--14 miles of the most gorgeous scenery I've ever laid eyes on. It was during this hike that I decided the Pacific Northwest was my favorite place that I've traveled.

3) In April, I ran a race with all three of my siblings for the first time ever! I'd done a race with one or two of them at a time before, but never all three. It was so much fun!

4) In May, I went to the Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini Marathon with seven of my Sole Mates Ragnar team! We had so much fun--tons of laughs, a couple of the teammates showing up as a surprise to everyone, more bonding, fro-yo lasagna, and more great memories of my team.

5) My younger brother, Nathan, and I were the top fundraisers for Justin Verlander's Wins for Warriors Detroit 9K. The money went to a charity that meant a lot to Nathan and me--it provides mental health support to Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and their families. Since Nathan experienced post-war PTSD firsthand; and as his sister, I saw the effects it had; we wanted to do what we could to help. Thanks to so many of YOU, we raised more money than any other fund raiser! We were invited to attend a Tigers game in a suite, and meet Justin Verlander himself. Nathan ran the 9K, and I was a volunteer at the race. It was a great experience overall!

6) When the last person to pass by my volunteer station at the Detroit 9K, something deep inside me told me that I should walk the rest of the race with him (I learned his name was Daron). The sweeper was walking with him, but I just wanted to be there to encourage him to finish. It was an amazing experience--we were dead last to finish, but the Detroit Police were awesome in giving us an escort the whole way, and even giving Daron a bottle of water as needed. He hadn't realized how far 9K actually was, and it was a huge struggle for him, but he FINISHED!

7) In July, Jerry was able to come with me to New York, where I was going to be sitting on a panel for Prudential at the BlogHer Conferences. Jerry and I rarely get to travel alone together, so even though it was a very short trip, we had so much fun!

8) Both of my brothers happened to be in the Pacific Northwest on the exact same day for work, and naturally, I couldn't stand the thought of them being in my favorite place without me ;) Brian offered me a buddy pass to fly out there, and I was able to spend the weekend with my brothers and sister-in-law in Portland!

9) Jerry and I celebrated 12 years of marriage in August, and we returned to the chapel where we were wed so that we could take some fun pictures!

10) I coached cross country for the 2nd-4th graders at Eli's school. I absolutely LOVED coaching the kids, and I hope to do it again.

11) Thomas came to visit in October in order to run the Detroit Marathon. I was originally supposed to run it with him, but due to my stress fracture, I wasn't able to. Thomas, Jerry, and I spent a full day in Detroit, which was my favorite part of his trip--we went to Redsmoke for lunch, lost our money at Greektown Casino, walked on the Riverwalk, sampled coney dogs from the two rival Coney Islands (American vs. Lafayette--Lafayette was our favorite!), had a beer at a dive bar, and then watched the Red Wings lose. It was a super packed day, but I loved spending time with these two.

12) Jerry, the kids, and I ran a 5K together in November. It was a fun, active family thing to do together. The kids enjoyed it, and asked if we could do races together more often.

13) I did something I'd always wanted to do--a boudoir photoshoot! Even though I wasn't at my goal weight, I embraced the body I had at the moment. I had my hair and make-up done, and the photoshoot was so much fun!! I felt beautiful and girly, and the pictures turned out amazing. It was one of the best experiences of my life--honestly.

14) In November, I went to NYC with Purina. Purina hosts some amazing blogger events, and I've met some really great people at them. On this trip, I also conquered my fear of the subway system--I used Google Maps and actually figured out how to get around on my own! I even took the subway and a bus to get to the airport, saving myself about $40 in cab fare.

15) Just before Thanksgiving, I got back to my goal weight!! I switched from Weight Watchers to calorie counting on My Fitness Pal, and it was a much-needed change. I stopped feeling obsessed with food, and the weight pretty much fell right off. It happened quickly and without feeling deprived. I am thrilled with the results!

As you can see, I had a pretty awesome 2015... and I look forward to 2016!

Some fun facts for 2015: 
  • I ran 457 miles (down from 1,151.86 miles in 2014). I spent much of the year injured, which is why my mileage is down so much.
  • The day of the week I ran most often was Thursday; the least often was Wednesday.
  • The month that I had the highest mileage was July, with 77.3 miles.
  • My average pace for the whole year was 10:31/mi (up from 9:51/mi in 2014).
  • I burned 49,752 calories from running... that's equivalent to over 14 pounds of fat (or 638 chocolate chip cookies)!
  • My most memorable meal was at McMenamins in Portland--I had a Chicken Caesar Wrap and Cajun Tots. Very simple, but SO very good! 

  • My current favorite breakfast is a Larabar with peanut butter, and tea.
  • My current favorite evening snack is a couple of cookies.
  • The thing I am most looking forward to in 2016?  Focusing on the 10K distance. I'm really excited to see my potential when I work my hardest at it! 
Happy New Year, Friends!!

December 30, 2015

Week 20 weigh-in

With the kids being off of school right now, I almost forgot to weigh in this morning. It feels like it should be a weekend! I was pleased when I got on the scale, though:

I weighed in at 132 today, which is the exact same as last week; and still one pound below my goal weight!

I thought for sure my weight would be up a little this week, because I ate more calories this week than I have since I started counting in August. My average daily calorie intake was an even 1,900. So far, maintenance is looking pretty good! I think I just have to make sure that I continue to count my calories; in the past, whenever I've tried to keep the weight off without counting, I get way off track and end up gaining.

Over the past several days, with the kids being home, I've had a hard time with wanting to snack. I know I'm not physically hungry between meals, but I get the urge to eat anyway. I started doing puzzles again, which has helped tremendously! The time passes so quickly when I'm working on a puzzle, so it has helped keep me from snacking. The current one that I'm working on is actually really difficult, which I enjoy.

A few people have asked me what 10K training plan I'm following. I don't have to fully commit to a plan just yet, because I still have about 14 weeks until my goal race. However, I'm pretty sure I'm going to end up using this plan by Run Britain:

This is my modified version so I can run on the days I choose

As of right now, I'm following the last five weeks of that plan to see if I like it; if I do, and I think it's working well, I'll start with it in full on January 31st. The "F" stands for "Fast", and on this plan, that means faster than race pace (my race pace will be 7:55/mile or better). The "T" stands for "Threshold", and on this plan, that means 85-90% of my maximum heart rate (approximately half-marathon pace, 8:20/mile). The "E" stands for "Easy", of course, and for those, I'll keep my heart rate at less than 145 bpm.

The only thing that makes me nervous about this plan is that there aren't any segments longer than 6 minutes that are done at race pace. Even the tempo portions are just 12 minutes. I'd like to try a "test" 10K in the last week of January to see if I can break 52:00. If I can, then I'll use this plan to continue on to (hopefully) PR with sub-49:23. If I can't... well, I'll probably still use this plan, haha. Let's just hope I can run sub-52:00 by January 30th ;)

Speaking of running, I was honored to have been interviewed a couple of months ago for the Runners Connect podcast. I love their website, and I had no idea there was a podcast! I chatted with the podcast's host, Tina Muir, about everything from my weight loss, to my blog, to running, and advice for newbies. I haven't listened to it (I don't like hearing my own voice!) but if you're interested in giving it a listen, here is a link. I adored talking with Tina, and I was surprised to learn that she is an elite runner--SUPER fast! I was a little intimidated until I learned that she loves sweets just as much as I do. Anyone who will eat frosting right from the container is a friend in my book! ;)

December 29, 2015

Dinner and bowling

Last night was the night we were supposed to get together with some of my childhood friends, like I do every year around Christmas, but we ended up having to cancel because we couldn't figure out a day that worked for everyone. I was super bummed, because I look forward to it every year!

We still ended up having a fun night, though. Jerry and I met Nathan, Kendall (his girlfriend), and Becky (my sister-in-law) for dinner. We went to Public House, a newish restaurant that Jerry and I have grown to love over the last year or so. We don't go there often, but when we do, we always love it.

I wasn't very hungry by dinnertime (I usually eat super early, at 4:00, and we had plans to meet at 6:30--so I'd snacked a little too much while I was waiting to head out, and spoiled my appetite). I ended up ordering half a Michigan salad (greens, dried cherries, candied walnuts, cherry vinaigrette, and blue cheese--I ordered it without the blue cheese, because I am not a fan of it).

The salad was delicious! I adore dried cherries, and the cherry vinaigrette was awesome. I also ate a few bites of Jerry's food, because he ordered my favorite dish on their menu--chicken and waffles.

After dinner, we went bowling. My back as been really painful lately, so I chose not to bowl (but I still like to go hang out while others bowl). I played Keno, and my numbers were doing pretty well--I thought I was going to hit all four a couple of times, but no such luck. I ended up winning $19 (after paying $20 to play, so I technically lost $1--but it was worth it, because Keno is fun!)

After doing easy runs all weekend, I was a little nervous about today's run. I had 4 x 6:00 at "faster than race pace" on the schedule. Six minutes is a long time to run at a fast pace!

We had terrible weather all day yesterday (freezing rain all day, and then just a downpour of rain last night). I was hoping that today would be nice enough to run outside, but it was super windy--and the wind would have made running at a fast pace really difficult. Jerry went out for a run before I did this morning, and he said he wished he'd run on the treadmill, because the wind was terrible.

Anyway, I headed out to the garage to run on the treadmill. I set up my Garmin for a 10:00 warm-up, 4 x 6:00 at fast pace with recovery between each interval until my heart rate got down to 136 bpm.

I started out with the easy warm-up. I did that for 10 minutes, which ended up being just under a mile, and then I bumped the speed up to 7.7 mph (a 7:48/mile pace). I was expecting it to be super hard, like when I run 400-meter intervals, but I was surprised at how good I felt. My heart rate got into the correct zone (about 95% of maximum). It wasn't easy, but it wasn't half as bad as I imagined.

Once I hit six minutes, I switched to a slow walk (3 mph) until my heart rate dropped down to 136 bpm; then I bumped the pace up again and ran another interval. I felt surprisingly good throughout the whole run! One of the benefits of taking easy runs TRULY easy is that you save enough energy to hit your goal paces during speed workouts. So, while I felt like I was running way too easy over the weekend, I think it will pay off when I do speed work.

I did four intervals total, and then stopped my Garmin. I had done 24 minutes at a 7:48/mile pace! Even though I had three short walk breaks during those 24 minutes, I was really happy with how good I felt. Now, I just have to work on running that pace for a total of 49 minutes without any walk breaks--haha ;)

Several people have emailed me to ask about whether I'm going to host the Runs for Cookies Virtual 5K again in January. This year snuck by so fast! It's hard to believe that it's past the time I should have posted about it. I've done the virtual race for the last three years, so it would be a shame to stop now. Yes, I will be hosting it--it will take place on January 25th, as usual. I will hopefully get all the details up this week!

December 27, 2015

Easy runs

Yesterday was my long run, and it was the longest run I've done in a very long time--nearly seven miles. I say "nearly" because it was actually 6.84 miles. Like I mentioned, I'm checking out a 10K-specific running plan that lists each run by time instead of miles. Yesterday's long run was a scheduled 75 minutes.

I've been reading a ton about 10K-specific training, and something that I really struggle with is running my easy runs at an easy pace. There are two very beneficial zones for improving as a runner--the "easy pace" zone, which does all sorts of great changes for your body (I'll have to write a whole post about it soon); and the "aerobic threshold" zone, which is pushing yourself pretty hard. If you tend to run in the middle of those two zones, you're not doing much for your body as far as improving speed.

I am one of those people that does nearly all of my running in between those two zones. Yes, I can improve a little just by running regularly, but I should be running different paces to hit my full potential as a runner. Running at an easy pace is actually far from easy! Most runners (including me) actually run their easy runs too fast, which causes them to hit that in-between zone. (Again, I'll write a whole post about this later.)

So, in this 10K training period, I really want to focus on doing it right. Easy runs should be run at about 60-70% of maximum heart rate. My maximum heart rate is 182, and my resting heart rate is 60, so I calculate the percentages using the Karvonen formula:

Maximum heart rate minus resting heart rate; multiply that number by the percentage; then add the resting heart rate back on.

182 - 60 = 122
122 x 70% = 85
85 + 60 = 145

So, I should be running my easy runs with a heart rate of 133-145 beats per minute. My aerobic threshold runs should be done at 85-90%, which is 164-170 bpm. Based on my run data from the past few months, my heart rate for easy runs is typically 155-160 bpm--right in that "dead zone" that really isn't doing much for my running potential.

Yesterday's long run was the first run where I decided to try and keep my heart rate in the 133-145 range. I set the alarm on my watch to beep if my heart rate went over 145. Then I headed outside for a 75-minute run, not knowing in the slightest what kind of pace I'd be running. It was interesting! I knew I'd be going much slower than I'm used to, and I was okay with that. In fact, I was actually looking forward to running at a slower pace, because it's so much more enjoyable than huffing and puffing!

I realized that my "happy pace" (easy pace) was right around 11:00/mile. There were a couple of sub-11:00 splits, but that was when I had a tailwind. I felt really great the whole time, though, and it felt like I could run forever.

My average heart rate was 141 bpm and my average pace was 10:58. Much different from my previous outdoor long run, which was a pace of 9:12 and a heart rate of 160!

Twice per week, I'll be running in the aerobic threshold zone, which is when I do intervals or tempo runs. The rest of my runs will be at an easy pace like this one was. I'm very curious to see how it pans out!

We got some very sad news yesterday. On Christmas day, Jerry's uncle apparently woke up with a severe headache. He went back to sleep, and later, his wife found him unresponsive and not breathing. It turns out that he had an aneurysm and a heart attack, and because of the lack of oxygen to his brain for so long, the brain damage was severe. He was on life support all day, and then at around 1:30 in the morning yesterday, he passed away. He was only 48 years old.

Aside from how sad it is for the family, Jerry and I were especially struck by how suddenly it happened. Jerry had the same complaint a couple of weeks ago--a severe headache--and because of what I'd read about aneurysms, I took him to the hospital. I'm so thankful that he turned out to be okay, but now I feel very reassured that we did the right thing. As we've started getting the medical bills in the mail, Jerry was thinking that it was stupid for us to have gone to the emergency room; but now we are sure we made the right call. I just wish that Jerry's uncle had been able to get to the hospital in time. He was a very fun, nice guy, and Jerry always enjoyed seeing him. The whole family was really shocked by it.

This afternoon, my mom and I took Noah and Eli to a Harlem Globetrotters game. I wasn't sure if I would like it, but it ended up being really fun and entertaining!

Don't all basketball players jump up on the rim and take pictures
with a selfie stick? ;)

The kids had a lot of fun--they are at the perfect age for a Globetrotters game. (My mom had gotten them the tickets for Christmas.)

Don't forget, tomorrow is Motivational Monday! I have plans with friends tomorrow evening, so I'll be putting the post together in the morning (here is how you can submit a photo). I know it's a busy time of year for everyone, so if I don't get many submissions, I will just hold off until next week.

December 25, 2015

A very warm Christmas

Today doesn't really feel like Christmas! It feels like just any other day, really. Jerry had to work today, so we did all of our Christmas stuff yesterday.

Bright and early yesterday morning, we opened Christmas gifts. The kids were happy with everything they got, and it was fun to watch them open their gifts. Jerry gave me a nice suitcase (a couple of days early, actually), which I was thrilled with! I have been traveling quite a bit the past couple of years, so I'm sure I will get a lot of use out of it.

It's super light weight, so I can pack more stuff in there without exceeding the airline's weight limit ;)

I gave Jerry a Keurig coffee maker. We used to have one, but it broke and we never replaced it. Jerry loves his coffee, and lately he's been saying that seeing the Keurig at the store makes him feel nostalgic for it. So, it was either going to be a ladder (something he really needs) or the Keurig for Christmas--I figured he'd enjoy the Keurig more than a ladder!

After we opened gifts, I made what is quite possibly the most indulgent breakfast EVER. I found the recipe on Pinterest, and it's called Apple Streusel French Toast Bake. It was AMAZING. It wasn't healthy in the slightest, but it was perfect for an indulgent Christmas breakfast. It basically tastes like a Cinnabon with warm apples and pecans.

It was 549 calories for 1/12th of the 13x9 pan! Totally worth it, though. I had Jerry take the leftovers to work with him today, so that I wouldn't be tempted to plow through it.

After breakfast, I went out for a run. On the schedule:
-1 mile warm-up
-6 x 2:00 fast with recovery walk to heart rate of 136
-4 x 1:00 fast with recovery walk to heart rate of 136
-Cool down

I've been trying some workouts from a sub-50 10K training program I found online, and the workouts go by time rather than distance. It seems like a nice, solid plan, so I may end up using it exclusively for my PR training. I still have about four weeks before I have to make a decision on a training plan, so I'll try it for a couple of weeks and see what I think.

I ran the one mile warm up, and then went right into the 2:00-fast intervals. It was tough! Last week, I'd done 45-second intervals, so 2 minutes felt like forever. I walked very slowly in between the intervals, so that my heart rate would get down to 136 as quickly as possible. As soon as it hit 136, I started the next interval. It was tough!

After the two-minute intervals, I had to switch to one-minute intervals. Those went by really quickly, because I'd gotten used to doing the two-minute ones. I was tired, though, and by the time I finished the last interval (at mile four), I was ready to be done. My splits were good! I've improved since the last quarter-mile intervals I did outside:

These are the splits from two weeks ago:

The average of the 2:00 minute intervals was a 7:30/mile pace yesterday; two weeks ago, it was a 7:40/mile pace for roughly the same amount of time. Not a super drastic improvement, but definitely noticeable.

After my run, I took a quick shower and then we went to Jerry's parents' house to exchange gifts with them. The rest of the day, we just took it easy. We watched movies in our pajamas and the kids played with their new toys.

Today feels nothing like Christmas, as I said--not just because we did "Christmas" yesterday, but because it's so warm outside. This morning, Eli and I went for a run. The kids had asked for hydration backpacks for Christmas, and he wanted to take his on a run. I was planning to do a 30-minute easy run anyway, but I took Eli along for the first mile (we stopped at my parents' house, and he stayed there). He looked so cute with his new storm trooper running shirt and hydration backpack!

After I dropped Eli off at my parents' house, I continued on. Running past the lake, I simply couldn't believe that it is actually December 25th. Look at the lake!

It was 43 degrees, but felt much warmer outside because it was so calm. My parents' next door neighbor was actually on a stand-up paddle board on the lake this morning... wearing shorts. Crazy!

Anyway, today is another relaxing day. I started working on a new puzzle--it's been a while since I've done a puzzle, and I kind of miss it. I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas!

December 23, 2015

A quickie weigh-in (week #19)

Just a quickie post for a Wednesday Weigh-in...

I was 132 today, which means I am up 1.5 pounds from last week--but I'm still 1 pound below my goal weight, so I'm happy with it. Last week's weight was abnormal, because I'd had such a crazy week with Jerry being in and out of the hospital, and my calories were low. This week, I ate a "normal" amount of calories, and wound up at 132. My average daily calorie intake was 1,749.

This coming week is going to be a challenge for me. Tomorrow, Jerry and I are celebrating Christmas with the kids because Jerry has to work on Christmas day. I'm going to make an indulgent breakfast (Apple Streusel Baked French Toast--a recipe I found on Pinterest), and Jerry and I will probably have a glass or two of wine tomorrow afternoon. With the heavy breakfast, I'm going to try and keep dinner on the light side.

On Monday, Jerry and I invited some friends to a "Mystery Dinner & Bowling"--we posted the date and time, but not the location. We only disclosed the location to each person as they RSVP'ed "yes". It drives me crazy when people don't respond to an invitation, so I thought it might be a fun way to know for sure how many people to expect ;)

Renee's family invited Jerry, the kids, and I over to their house on Tuesday, so I'll need to plan for that as well. I'm going to enjoy all the stuff we have planned over the next week, but I'm going to try my best not to overindulge and to keep my weight in my goal range!

Sorry for the short post... Jerry and I have lots to do tonight to get ready for the kids' Christmas tomorrow morning :)

I hope everyone has a fantastic holiday!

December 22, 2015

Winter Solstice Runs

I happened to join Smashrun just in time to try and earn the "Shortest Day" badge. The badge can be earned by running twice on the day of winter solstice: once starting before sunrise and finishing after sunrise; and the second run must start before sunset and finish after sunset. I have no idea how the creators of Smashrun came up with that badge, but considering I only have once chance per year to earn it, I wanted to do it!

Here, winter solstice started at 11:49 pm on December 21st--so I was a little confused whether to run on the 21st or 22nd. Thankfully, Smashrun clearly listed the date on the badge, so I knew that I had to do the runs on the 21st (yesterday). I asked Siri (on my iPhone) at least a dozen times what time sunrise and sunset would occur, so I could plan my runs.

Sunrise was at 7:57 am, and sunset was 5:04 pm. I decided to do a three-mile run for each, starting about 15 minutes before sunrise/sunset. I normally do a three-miler on Sundays, but I skipped it in order to do it yesterday instead. Since I had intervals scheduled today, I decided to do an interval run last night for the sunset run.

Of course, it would be pouring rain yesterday morning! I didn't want to do the solstice runs on the treadmill, so I decided I'd run in the rain, even if it was a total downpour. After I got Eli on the bus, I had about 10 minutes to kill before heading out. It was still raining--not a downpour, but not a drizzle, either. Once I started running, I was pretty soaked within a quarter mile, and my feet were squishing in my shoes.

I took a quick picture at 7:57 (the "official" time of sunrise). Then the rain slowed to a drizzle, which made the last mile much nicer. Once I got home, I saved the run and immediately checked to make sure that it "counted" toward the badge ;) One run down, one more to go!

I took a shower, even though it was pretty much pointless--I'd be running again later. What do people who work out twice a day do? Do you shower twice? Sometimes, I think I'd like to be an evening runner, but I like to shower in the morning, so it wouldn't really work out. I'm curious how other people handle it.

For my second run, I wanted to do the speed work that was scheduled for today. I decided to try out a different speed workout, just to shake things up a bit: 10 x 45 seconds, with recovery walks until my heart rate dropped to 136 bpm. I like the idea of recovery until reduced heart rate--sometimes, I feel like I don't get enough recovery after tough intervals. And running hard for just 45 seconds sounded nice! ;)

I headed out at around 4:40 for the second run. I didn't want it to be too dark when I finished. I ran a one mile warm-up before starting the intervals, and I felt really good--my legs didn't feel tired from running earlier in the day. Running fast felt good, too, and knowing that it was for just 45 seconds made it much less painful (mentally), haha. I was planning to jog between the intervals, but after jogging for about a minute, my heart rate still hadn't lowered enough; so, I slowed to a walk. Then a super slow walk. Still, my Garmin didn't beep to signal a run again.

I switched the screen to see my heart rate, and for some reason, my heart rate wasn't even reading! I pressed the strap to my chest, and then it showed up. The Garmin beeped to signal the next interval, so I started running hard again. It was interesting to see that the recovery intervals were growing longer (meaning it was taking longer each time for my heart rate to drop). I was walking very slowly to get it to drop faster.

It was kind of fun to see that I actually had some intervals in the 6:-something pace! Although, it was only for 45 seconds, so I shouldn't get too excited ;) I really liked this workout, so I will probably do some shorter intervals like this in the future, too.

I was thrilled when I got home, and saw that I completed the challenge and earned my badge!

The commentary that comes with the badges always cracks me up! Yep, I certainly didn't take the easy way ;)

Stephanie sent me a text in the morning to say that she had gotten up to run in the rain in order to earn the badge as well. She didn't realize it until afterward, but the Shortest Day badge is only available to "Pro" (paying) members of the site. I didn't know that, otherwise I would have mentioned it before! It's not one of the available badges for the free members--so if you were looking for it, and couldn't find it, that's probably why. Sorry!

For Taste Test Tuesday this week, I tried a recipe for Crock Pot Cashew Chicken. I normally don't like crock pot recipes that require browning the meat before putting it in the crock pot, but this one looked really good, so I gave it a try. It was amazing! The sauce didn't thicken up as much as I'd imagined it would, but the flavor was really good. My kids even liked it (except they picked out the cashews--crazy kids!).

I made the recipe exactly as written, and divided it into six servings. Each serving ended up being 365 calories (not including rice). I will definitely make this again in the future!

My pets are hilarious with my electric blanket. Ever since I brought it out of hibernation, I can't sit on the couch without this happening:

Today, I'm spending the day wrapping Christmas presents and watching movies! The kids' Christmas break starts tomorrow, so I may not get a chance to enjoy the quiet for the next couple of weeks ;)

December 21, 2015

Motivational Monday #133

Happy Motivational Monday! Isn't it crazy that Christmas is THIS Friday? This year is almost over! Each year just goes by faster than the last.

I had a pretty fun non-scale victory this week that I wanted to share. I was looking for something in my closet when I came across this bridesmaid dress that I wore in my brother's wedding in September 2014. I'd been meaning to donate the dress, and just kept forgetting about it. I decided to try it on, just to see if it zipped much easier than it did on the wedding day.

I remember it feeling very tight the day of the wedding! I had just gotten home from vacation in Punta Cana, where we ate and drank all week long. I was actually worried I wouldn't fit into the dress--thankfully, I could zip it, and I squeezed into it for the wedding.

It was quite different a couple of days ago, however--not only was it loose, but I actually had to hold it up so it didn't drop to the floor! (Sorry for the bad pic, but I was home alone, so I couldn't have Jerry take a better one)

When I see the number on the scale, I can clearly recognize that I've lost a lot of weight recently. But it doesn't really register in my mind until I see pictures like this or try on old clothes!

Here is a Motivational Monday story submitted by Jen. If this doesn't motivate you to get active, I don't know what will ;)
"Today, I completed the Hot Chocolate 15K for the third year in a row.  The difference this year is that in August, I got sick. I had severe joint pain everywhere that landed me in the ER when I crawled to the bathroom. Do you know how many joints are in your feet?! The pain was so much I couldn't walk. After many tests and many weeks of pain, I remain undiagnosed. I was sick for several weeks and was unable to even walk any distance for about 4-5 weeks, much less run! It was really hard to get back into shape. I signed up for the 15k well before I got sick (in May) and was really sad when I realized that I might not be able to do it. 
As I started feeling better I made it goal to somehow get across the finish line.  Luckily, I was able to start training and while the weather (unseasonably warm temps, wind and rain) wasn't what I'd choose, I shaved 52 seconds off of last year's time. My official finish was 1:47:06 (11:30/mile). And I want to share this because I want to encourage everyone to be proud of all your fitness accomplishments. No matter how big or how small... don't take your health for granted and be proud of every achievement. It doesn't matter if it's 1 mile or 10.  It doesn't matter how fast or how slow. There are people that wish they could do what you do, and there were many weeks when I was one of those people!"
(Jen blogs at I Like Warm Hugs) A huge congrats on getting back to running, Jen!

December 19, 2015

Christmas Winers

Last night was my annual Christmas Winers meeting (if you don't remember, Winers is the name of a wine club my friend Renee and I started for our girlfriends). Christmas Winers has always been extra fun, because we do a white elephant gift exchange. Yesterday, my friend Melissa hosted, and made the theme an "Ugly Christmas Sweaters" party. I went to the thrift store and bought the only Christmas sweater I could find--thankfully, it was pretty hideous, even if it was ginormous on me.

It was kind of funny, actually... I had to drop Eli off at a birthday party at 6:00, and it was near Melissa's house. I had an hour to kill, because Winers didn't start until 7:00, so I planned to just pick up a couple of things from the store or maybe just browse before going to Melissa's. I could have sworn that I grabbed my coat when I left the house, but I realized that I hadn't; and it was FREEZING outside. All I was wearing was a long-sleeved t-shirt with the hideous Christmas sweater over it! I was too embarrassed to wear it into the store, so I just hung out in the car until going to Melissa's ;)

It was fun to see my friends--it's been a while since anyone has held a Winers meeting (we used to do it every month, but now it's been just a couple of times a year). Unfortunately, I couldn't drink any wine! This is so odd, but I have turned into a total lightweight. The recent weight loss, combined with the fact that I usually only drink once a week or so, has lowered my tolerance so much that even one glass of wine would have been too much to responsibly drive home. Jerry had to get up early to work today, otherwise I could have had him pick me up. But anyway, I was happy to be able to chat with my friends!

Amanda, Jessica, me, Renee, Shawna, and Kerri (there were actually 12 of us total,
but we didn't have anyone to take a group photo, so we did two separate ones.
The white elephant gift exchange is always fun. We draw numbers to determine the order we choose gifts. The first person chooses a gift and opens it, and then the second person can either steal that one away, or open a new one. Then the third person can steal one that's already opened, or open a new one. And so on. Then, at the end, the first person can steal any of the gifts.

Renee ended up with my gift, which was this wine glass that says "I love my cat" on it (and Renee is actually allergic to cats, so she doesn't have any!). I also threw in a wine trivia game.

The last person to take a gift ended up stealing mine, so I ended up being the last person to choose. I could either open the last gift, or I could steal someone else's. I decided to open the last one, and I nearly died when I saw what it was.

First, the back story: Several years ago (I believe 2009?) I wound up opening this gift of some ceramic bunnies. Everyone cracked up at how perfect a white elephant gift they were, and I decided to hold onto them for a year and then regift them at the next Christmas Winers. Somehow, I managed to get them AGAIN, so they spent another year at my house. Eventually, I gifted them away, but they still made an appearance each year at Christmas Winers!

So, it was hilarious when I opened the gift and saw bunny ears sticking up:

Why yes, I do have shoulder pads in my sweater!
Now the bunnies will be taking up residence in the Foster household until next Christmas Winers ;) Super fun Winers!

This morning was my long run. I wasn't feeling confident after my failed tempo run on Thursday. It actually snowed yesterday, and the roads in my neighborhood were icy, so I decided to run on the treadmill. The best part about 10K training (versus half marathon or full marathon training) is that my long runs are short--so the most I'd have to run on the treadmill is eight miles or so. Today's run was a scheduled 6 miles, but I decided to go for 6.2 so that I could earn my 10K badge on Smashrun. (When you join Smashrun, all of your previous runs don't "count" toward the badges... so everyone is on the same playing field.)

I set the treadmill at 6.5 mph, and left it there the entire run. Almost immediately, I started getting those weird ab muscle cramps again. I have no idea what those are from! But I have realized that when I breathe deeply, they ease up, so I spent all of today's run breathing in for four steps, and out for three steps. My legs and lungs felt great, but the ab cramps made the whole thing a little uncomfortable.

I did earn two new badges on Smashrun, though!

I'm going to try and earn the Shortest Day badge on Monday... to get it, you have to run during sunrise and sunset on the shortest day of the year (Winter Solstice). The runs have to start prior to sunrise and sunset, and finish after sunrise and sunset. It only happens once a year, so I am looking forward to doing it! Any of my fellow Smashrunners going to go for it?

Don't forget to send in your Motivational Monday submissions this weekend!

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