February 26, 2018

100 Things That Make Me Happy

I wrote a list of 100 things that make me happy way back in 2011, but when I was feeling really depressed in fall of 2016, I decided to make an updated list. I was sad and I felt like nothing was ever going to get better. It was hard to get excited or even feel joy about anything at all.

So, I started a new list. It was so hard to think of things! It's interesting how my state of mind (depression vs. "normal" me) affects my opinions on everything--even the really simple, everyday things.

So, here is a current list of 100 Things That Make Me Happy:

1. Fresh, clean Brooklinen sheets straight out of the dryer and onto my bed

2. Perfectly ripe watermelon (I could eat an entire watermelon, I swear)
3. Cookie Monster
4. Chatting one-on-one with a good friend
5. A clean kitchen (especially the counters!)
6. Being at my goal weight
7. Watching cats try to fit into small boxes

8. Nailing a super tough run, and getting a runner's high
9. Watching a new Lifetime movie
10. An empty inbox (meaning I've caught up on all my email)
11. Watching our credit card debt go down, month by month, thanks to our budget
12. Spending time with my siblings

13. Spending time with Luke! (I am baby-sitting him tomorrow)

14. The color of the leaves in the fall
15. Wedding cake (with lots of buttercream frosting... none of that whipped stuff)
16. Wearing cozy jeans and a sweatshirt
17. Sitting around a bonfire at night (and watch the bats fly overhead)
18. Getting a refund for something
19. Buying or making a really great gift for someone. I love thoughtful gifts!
20. Watching old home videos
21. Listening to Eminem
22. Inside jokes with friends
23. Ice water after a hot run
24. When my cats sit on my lap

25. Eating breakfast outside on the front porch
26. Walking around downtown Detroit
27. Bantering with Thomas
28. Doing a random act of kindness
29. Putting on a brand new pair of Balega socks
30. Spectating a race (complete with cowbells, signs, and lots of yelling)

31. The smell of fresh laundry (probably my favorite smell in all the world)
32. Tucking my kids into bed at night with a hug and kiss ("Good night. Love you. Have sweet dreams."
33. Being a stay-at-home mom/wife
34. My bright yellow Jeep Renegade

35. Getting a wine buzz with Jerry (I can always tell when he has a buzz because he turns to me and says, "I love wine."

36. Super soft, thick, plush carpet
37. Having very vivid dreams--good or bad
38. Setting a new running personal record
39. Candle light
40. Family vacations (Boston is a month away!)
41. Winning Keno--enough to pay for our food, drinks, and Keno buy-in
42. Eating in moderation--not too much, not too little
43. When my jeans fit well
44. Hugging Jerry when he smells like Curve (it reminds me of when we were dating)
45. Crisp, fall air
46. A lazy Christmas morning, complete with mimosas
47. When my hair and make-up is done, and I wear something other than yoga pants
48. Google Maps. It changed my life.
49. Working on our budgeting numbers once a week or so
50. Playing Solitaire (Grandma's Game)
51. Getting caught up in a good book.
52. When I look good in a photo
53. Watching Naked and Afraid with Jerry and the kids
54. The first bite of a delicious dessert
55. Treating someone else to a meal
56. The Pacific Northwest (Portland, in particular)

57. When Jerry has a day off work and we get to spend quality time together
58. Passing out candy on Halloween
59. Watching a scary movie (I love slasher films)
60. Finding cute clothes in my size at a garage sale
61. Playing board games with friends
62. The smell of a brand new car
63. Eating a crisp apple while going for a walk in fall weather
64. Cuddling with Jerry when I'm cold
65. Getting a good massage from Jerry
66. Paying off a debt
67. Shopping with gift cards
68. Being taken care of when I'm hurt or sick
69. Grocery shopping when time isn't an issue
70. My bedroom--I love the new color scheme and furniture arrangement. And lighting.
71. Sewing
72. My electric heating pad for my back
73. Listening to people tell really interesting/funny/exciting stories
74. Visiting Thomas and not having a clue where we're going or what we're doing until we get there
75. Going for a walk on a cool summer's night with Jerry, the kids, and Joey
76. Chivalry
77. When I write a blog post that I think is really good
78. Chatting with girlfriends over wine
79. My lava lamp. My sister gave it to me about 20 years ago, and I still use it almost daily.
80. Men who play the piano. So sexy.
81. When Jerry leaves me little notes to let me know he's thinking of me. Or just to make me laugh.

82. Finding money. We have a jar that we use for the sole purpose of putting in the change that we find. Today, I deposited two pennies from a walk with Joey.
83. Sitting on the couch in my bedroom and having a real, adult, interesting conversation
84. Things that make me feel nostalgic
85. Spending time with people who don't look at their phones compulsively
86. When I say a funny joke that makes Jerry laugh
87. Carrot cake from Mike's Pastry in Boston
88. Having boudoir photos taken
89. Putting on a comfy pair of pajamas and watching a movie
90. Dark humor

91. Chewing ice. Such a bad habit, but it makes me happy.
92. The nickname "Cookies"
93. Converse shoes
94. The big stuffed teddy bear that Jerry bought me when I was very depressed
95. Finding an awesome clearance sale
96. Browsing a book store, even if I don't buy anything
97. Analog clocks with Roman numerals
98. The scent of lavender
99. Organizing a closet, cupboard, drawer, or almost anything else
100. Writing lists

February 25, 2018

Weekend Wrap-Up: Week 6 of Half-Marathon Training

Almost halfway through half-marathon training! It's actually gone by so quickly, aside from the first week. The first week was the worst but, thankfully, the training has gotten much better. Jerry and I are now done with week 6 of my 13 week plan, and it's been going really well for both of us.

This week, I focused more on my heart rate and trying to keep it low during my easy runs. Ideally, I would keep my heart rate at or under 144 bpm (180 minus my age) for the duration of my easy runs.

I'm not entirely committed to heart rate training right now, because I care more about developing the habit of running four times a week than I do anything else; but sometime soon, I'd like to really take the heart rate training seriously like I did for my 10K training. I've been slowly trying to migrate into it, though.

My schedule for the week looked like this:

Tuesday - Speed work (intervals)
Wednesday - Easy run (3 miles)
Friday - Easy run (3.5 miles)
Sunday - Long run (8 miles!)

So, here's the rundown of the week's training...

Tuesday - Speed work

My intervals were:
5 minutes easy
6 x (2 minutes hard; 3 minutes walk)
5 minutes easy

The last time I did intervals, I only had to do 60 seconds at a time--so I did them at 7.6 mph. Since this time, I was doing 2 minutes at a hard pace, I decided to try 7.2 mph (an 8:20/mile pace). Let me tell you, two minutes is a LONG time when you're running at a hard pace! I literally didn't think I was going to be able to finish the workout, but I wanted to try. Jerry had done his intervals at 8.0 mph, and I was frustrated that I couldn't keep up with him!

I managed to do all six intervals at 7.2 mph. I was completely spent after that. It took everything out of me! It's so hard to believe that used to be a fairly easy pace for me. I did a half-marathon at at 8:30-ish pace, and now I can barely do two minutes at a time? I'm not complaining... I just find it unbelievable.

Anyway, I was thrilled to have finished this workout without dropping the pace. I really felt like I gave it my all.

Wednesday - Easy run (3 miles)

This was an interesting run for me. Since the foot pod was SO accurate when compared to the treadmill, I was curious to see if it was actually accurate by using it outside on a known course. So, I turned off the GPS on my watch, and the only thing that was measuring my distance was my foot pod. I decided to run a familiar route that I run all the time, so I would know if the foot pod showed the same distance as the GPS did on previous runs.

Well, I kind of screwed it up. I got distracted by a dog that ran up to me, and I waited for the owner to come get the dog. Then I started running again, and I forgot to turn right instead of left. I realized it a couple of minutes later, and I was bummed. So, I just did a different route, and when I got home, I measured the route that I ran onto my Footpath app (you can trace roads and measure routes).

Using the foot pod, my Garmin showed a distance of 3.12 miles. And measuring the same route with the Footpath app? 3.12 miles. I couldn't believe it! The foot pod is just a little plastic thing the size of a quarter that hooks onto my shoe. I can use it on the treadmill, on the indoor track, etc, and now I know just how accurate it is. Pretty cool!

I felt fantastic on this run, too. Just very energized and the run felt very easy. My pace was 11:10 and my heart rate was 146, so that's really good compared to the usual.

Friday - (Easy run - 3.5 miles)

I did this run outside with Jerry, because he was off work. The weather app showed the temp at 43 degrees, but it felt SO COLD. I focused on keeping my heart rate low again, trying to aim for 144. I actually managed to finish with a 144 bpm heart rate. My average pace was 12:12/mile, and it just kept getting slower and slower through the run. The last half mile, I had to run at 12:37 to keep my heart rate at 144! My legs felt very tired and heavy, though.

Sunday - (Long run - 8 miles)

I was nervous for this run. Eight miles feels so long right now! When I first started this training, running eight miles again seemed impossible. The last time I ran this far was over a year ago when I was in San Diego. The weather app showed winds of 20 mph, so I knew today would be challenging.

Thankfully, Jerry was able to run with me! It's much more fun than running alone. I planned out a route for us at the State Park, and considering the park is right on the lake, I figured it would be crazy cold with all the wind. I wore the really warm pants I'd bought at Salvation Army, and a long-sleeved top (actually, the same top I'm wearing with the pants on the post I just linked to) with a wind breaking jacket over it. I wore a Buff over my ears, and warm gloves. I was prepared for the cold!

Once we got there and started running, I immediately realized that I dressed too warm. The sun was out and the trees were blocking the wind for the first few miles of the run. I was super whiny (poor Jerry). I took off my jacket, but with everything in my pockets (cell phone, key fob, chapstick, and a little tub of Aquaphor) my pockets were heavy and flopping around. I just hoped that when we got out into the open, instead of in the trees, it would get much colder and I'd need the jacket.

That's exactly what happened. When we hit the three-mile mark, we got a headwind, and it was COLD. I was very glad I didn't ditch my jacket somewhere (which I'd thought about doing). One we hit the halfway mark, I felt much better.

The run was harder because of the headwind, but knowing we were more than halfway done helped. We talked non-stop, and the last four miles went by very quickly. The whole run did, actually!

When we got back to the car, we stretched (which felt SO good) and we were both really proud of ourselves for running eight miles. We were thrilled to have gotten it done!

Overall, this week went really well! I still can't really believe I'm up to running eight miles already (again). It feels good :)

At Jerry's suggestion, I decided to start doing a "long run treat" again. On the days that I do my long run, I'll get a special dessert or something that I don't get to eat often. Today, I decided to get a cannoli from Monica's Bakery. I am going to eat it when I'm done with this post. It looks delicious!


February 23, 2018

A Six-Month Marathon Training Plan to get from 5K to 26.2 Miles

For a few years now, I've been asked why I don't write a marathon training plan--I have the other distances covered--1 mile, 5K, 10K, and half-marathon. Why not a marathon?

Honestly, when I training for the Chicago Marathon using Hansons Marathon Method, I thought the plan was pretty flawless. I trained per the schedule, and I had an AMAZING race--I never hit the infamous wall, and my legs felt fantastic the entire time. I was running just "for fun" that day, but because I had trained as if to run a 3:55, I believe I could have run a sub-4:00 marathon if that had been my goal. I really believe in the Hansons Marathon Method.

And that is why I haven't written a marathon training plan. I always direct people to Hansons.

However, I understand that not everyone has hours to run every day. There were two months in a row that I ran over 200 miles while training! For someone who has a family and a full-time job, I just don't see Hansons being a plan that would fit into his or her life very easily. Also, not everybody wants to run six days a week.

So, while I still think that Hansons is a fantastic plan if you are a dedicated runner that has the time it takes to fit in all of that running, I think there should definitely be other options for those of us that can't or don't want to follow that plan. Which is why I finally wrote a plan that I believe will be worthwhile.

This isn't necessarily a plan for "beginners", because there is a fair amount of speed work involved (a true beginner should work on building up a solid base of easy running before adding in speed work).  However, runners who are familiar with using training plans and have been running for a while could certainly do well with this plan, even if the most they've run is a 5K.

My goal for this plan was to keep it regular-runner friendly (people who have families and/or full time jobs or otherwise busy lives), but to also contain the necessary work it takes to run a good race. (This plan is five days a week, and the weekday runs are under 60 minutes.)

It's a six-month plan so that it doesn't have to be so fast-paced to prepare one to run a marathon. Life happens--we get sick for a week, we go on vacation, etc. I've written in a "step back" week every third week throughout the plan and, if necessary, that can be used to help out in those circumstances.

I also wanted it to be fun. I've included a variety of different workouts--in addition to the token (although necessary) easy runs, I've scheduled short sprint intervals, longer intervals, tempo runs, tempo interval runs, race pace runs, and a touch of light speed work thrown into some long runs to keep the double digit miles from getting boring.

You all know I'm a fan of the 80/20 running method (check out Matt Fitzgerald's book, 80/20 Running). So, I've actually done all the math for you in this plan! Believe me, I spent more time doing that than I did losing 125 pounds. It's super important to do your easy runs at a very easy pace--then feel free to let loose on the speed work ;)

So, if you can run a 5K, you can run a marathon... in six months. I wish I could say that I was going to sign up for a marathon and test out this plan... but I'll leave that to you, hahaha. I am not in the mental place to train for a marathon right now (or probably ever). If you do use the plan, though, I welcome your feedback.

If something in the plan isn't clear, please feel free to ask. Best wishes on your training!

Click here for the printer-friendly PDF of the Runs for Cookies Marathon Training Plan

While you're at it, check out some other posts that may be helpful while you train:

The Importance of the Easy Run (A *must* read!)
My Favorite Running Things
50 Tips for Running
All About Fueling During Runs
Tips for Running (and training for!) Your First Marathon
First Marathon: A guest post by my sister
Final Thoughts on Hansons Marathon Method

February 21, 2018

Making Bold Statements to Reach Goals

While it's true that I haven't been nearly as concerned about my weight over the last year as I was for years my whole life prior, the recent gain I've had is starting to nag at me a little.

I'm usually cautious about announcing, "Okay, my weight loss/maintenance mojo is back, and I'm doing great!" because I know how easy it is for my motivation to go up and down about as quickly as my bipolar episodes. A couple of weeks ago, I was very confident that it was my turning point as far as the weight goes because my mood has been pretty stable. But I may have spoken too soon. (I know, a real shocker, right? Hahaha)

My weight has seemed pretty steady for the most part, too--at least compared to the past, anyway. Over the years, I'd gotten so used to gaining weight SO quickly--it wasn't unusual to put on 20 pounds in a single month. Now, putting on 2-3 pounds a month feels like nothing. It feels like I'm maintaining.

But those months add up!

It's been about four months now since I started gaining little by little. I haven't been tracking my weight much lately--I actually didn't even weigh in today, on "Weight Loss Wednesday", so I can't even tell you the exact number, but it's been roughly 142-144 lately. And 144 is the very top weight in my "healthy BMI" range, so I really don't want to gain any more.

A 10-pound gain spread out over four months' time seems to go almost unnoticed compared to what I'm used to. I didn't think much of it at all. But what's been bothering me lately (more so than the actual weight gain) is that my eating habits have gotten out of control.

(About the photo: The way I felt over the Fourth of July weekend last year was the best I felt in SO long. Totally in control and happy--and it actually wasn't even about my weight (I don't remember how much I weighed in this pic). I just felt... healthy.)

I haven't been binge eating, so I have that going in my favor. But, I've been eating more than my body needs, and more frequently than necessary.

The number one most helpful habit that I implemented when I was losing and/or maintaining my weight was eating four times a day--no more. I ate breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a bedtime treat. That alone helped me to cut back drastically on calories, because no matter what was in front of me or calling out to me from the pantry, etc., if it wasn't time to eat, I didn't eat it. I never even took a taste of something between meals. That method may not work well for everyone, but it was crucial for me.

And starting at the beginning of the holidays, my schedule got all screwed up and I just never seemed to get back to it again for the long term.

BUT, I am now declaring here for the entire internet to see: I AM DONE. I am going to focus on changing the bad habits I picked up and getting back to what worked so well for me all last year. I'm not ready to start counting calories or anything again just yet; I'm going to first try to get back to what I was doing last year (a little like intuitive eating, but with some other guidelines that I made up for myself--such as eating four times a day on a schedule).

I have a few things in the next several months that I'm looking forward to, and I'd love to be at my goal weight for those: Jerry, the kids and I are going to Boston for vacation next month; I am running the Martian Invasion half-marathon in April; I'm going to visit Andrea with Caitlin and Bonnie in May; and Thomas is most likely coming to visit in May (as an incentive for me to get back into running, he said that if I complete my whole training schedule, he'll come visit--so believe me, I'm not going to quit!).

There are 35 days until my family leaves for our vacation, so it's possible (although not very likely) for me to get to my goal weight before we go. But even if I don't, I'll be happy if I can just get back into my good eating habits. When I traveled last year a few times, I was able to manage my weight very well--even while enjoying all the foods I wanted on my trips.

A couple of days ago, I dusted off my old bullet journal and made some blank food plans. I'm not going to be measuring out food or counting anything, but I thought it would be a good idea to plan out my meals each night for the following day. Hopefully, that will help me get back in the habit of not thinking about food all the time--only at meal times. When I know what and when I'm going to eat, it's easier for me to shut off that little switch in my brain that always wants to think about food.

(I will write my plan down the evening before, and stick to it the next day!)

Another big motivation for me is that I'm race training right now. I want to feel my best for my runs, and going for a run when I feel full or gassy or bloated is miserable. Now that my long runs are getting up there in mileage (on Sunday, I have to run eight miles!), I need to make sure that I'm feeling as good as possible.

Finally, I started working on a "vision board" (or my version of one, anyway). When Oprah talked about vision boards on her show waaaay back in the day (I believe it was when the book The Secret was published), I decided to make one. Only I couldn't come up with anything that I wanted to put on it except that I wanted to lose weight. So, my entire board just had a copy of the cover of People Magazine's Half Their Size issue (before my blog, before I was on The Dr. Oz Show, before I even lost the weight, I had dreams of being in People's Half Their Size issue).

Side note: One of the requirements to be in the issue is that your story cannot have been featured in the media before; and when I was contacted by The Dr. Oz Show to be a guest, I was having a hard time deciding what to do! If I did the show, I wouldn't be eligible for the magazine (not that there was any guarantee of the magazine anyway); but I (obviously) chose The Dr. Oz Show.

Regardless, the point is that it worked for me. I lost the weight and became the "*Results not typical" success story. Whether the board had anything to do with it, I have no idea; but I like the idea of making a board with goals (not just weight loss, but in several areas of my life--financial, mental health, physical health, etc.).

I bought a poster board today and started jotting down some ideas for it in a notebook. I'd like to make the board roughly the size of the console on the treadmill so that I can prop it up over the console when I run--hahaha! I usually cover the console with a towel so that I can't see the numbers creeping so slowly by; looking at my goals in a visual way will be much more entertaining.

Well, this whole post boils down to this: I don't normally like to make bold statements on my blog, because it's embarrassing when things don't go as planned or I change my mind or whatever. But sometimes, those bold statements are what I need to get my ass in gear.

Take my 10K personal record, for example. I talked about that for MONTHS, saying that I was going to PR my 10K. Deep down, I didn't really believe it at first; and there were countless times that I wanted to quit training altogether! But I would have been horribly embarrassed to write a post saying that I quit the goal I boldly announced that I was going to crush, so I kept going.

Right now, I want to get back into my good eating habits and get my weight back down in the low 130's (my actual goal weight is 133). So, here I am, boldly announcing: This is it! I'm going to drop 10 pounds this spring before the 10 pounds I gained becomes 30 or 40 pounds. I will get back to weighing in regularly and even doing mini goals here and there to give myself smaller things to achieve in the midst of a big goal.

Now, I'm going to fill in my meal plan for tomorrow and then go to bed. Anyone want to join me in boldly announcing your goal to the internet? ;)

February 20, 2018

RECIPE: Salisbury Steak & Roasted Potatoes

I have always loved salisbury steak, even if it is just a gravy-covered hamburger without the bun ;) For years, I've been making a very simple version using cream of mushroom soup. Today, I planned to make that for dinner, and I realized I didn't have any cream of mushroom soup in the pantry. So, I just decided to wing it and make my own version as I went along.

It turned out SO good--and from now on, this will be the way I cook it. The gravy was amazing!

My family prefers ground turkey over ground beef, which is why I use it in my recipes, but you can certainly use beef here. This makes six average-sized patties, or four hearty ones. Jerry and the kids loved this recipe, too--hope you enjoy!

Click here for this recipe's printer-friendly PDF


For the Salisbury Steak:

1 lb. 93/7 ground turkey
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. dehydrated onions
2 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

For the Gravy:

4 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. flour
2 cups of beef broth (I used 2 cups of water and 3 beef bouillon cubes)
2 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet
1 (4 oz) can of mushrooms, lightly drained

For the Roasted Potatoes:

1.5 pounds baby gold potatoes
1.5 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
salt & pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 425 F for the potatoes. Clean the potatoes, but don’t peel them. Slice each potato in half, and spread on a baking sheet. Drizzle 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil over the potatoes, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Using your hands, toss the potatoes in the olive oil until they are all coated. Lay them out on the baking sheet with the cut side facing up. Bake at 425 F for about 25 minutes until they are soft in the center and the outsides are just starting to brown.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the turkey, egg, water, onions, Kitchen Bouquet, garlic powder, salt, and pepper until well mixed. Stir in the bread crumbs until the mixture is thick but does not stick to your hands (using more or less bread crumbs if necessary). Using your hands, divide the meat mixture into six portions and form into patties. Set aside and start making the the gravy.

In a medium size sauce pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and stir until uniform (it will be thick). Gradually add the broth, a little at a time, whisking constantly so there won’t be any lumps. When all the broth has been added, bring the mixture to a boil. Add the Kitchen Bouquet and mushrooms, and reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally. (The gravy should be salty enough from the broth, but you can add salt/pepper to taste here.) Allow the gravy to simmer on low while you cook the patties.

Heat a large skillet over med-high heat, and add 1-2 Tbsp. of olive oil. Carefully place the turkey patties into the pan, and brown on each side for about 4-5 minutes, until cooked through. Pour the gravy over the patties and let simmer for 3-4 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

February 18, 2018

Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 5 of Half Marathon Training

Let me start by saying that this week was everything that last week was not. Last week, I was bitter and dreaded running like you wouldn't believe. Thankfully, this week was much better!

I've made it through five whole weeks of training, and I haven't strayed from the schedule even once :)

My schedule for this week was as follows:

Tuesday - Speed work (Tempo Run)
Wednesday - 3 miles easy
Friday - 3 miles easy
Sunday - 7 mile long run

The roads were still very icy at the beginning of the week, and I was just praying that they would clear up before my long run today.

Tuesday - Tempo Run

10 minutes easy pace
15 minutes at tempo pace (hard enough to want to slow down, but not so hard that I want to die)
10 minutes easy pace

I always get a little nervous for tempo runs, because they are uncomfortable. They are the most helpful runs as far as training goes, though (at least for me), so they are necessary.

I started with 10 minutes at 5.0 mph (12:00/mi pace). Then I switched to my tempo pace--last time, I ran at 6.0 mph (10:00/mi) but I felt like I probably should have gone a little faster. So, I decided to run at 6.2 mph (9:40/mile) and see how I felt.

Surprisingly, I felt pretty good! It was tough enough that I was slightly uncomfortable, but I knew that I would be able to finish it. My heart rate was in the low 160's, which was right where I would like it to be for that run. Next time, I may try 6.3 mph.

After the tempo portion, I switched back to 12:00/mile. Finished!

Wednesday - Easy Run

3 miles at an easy pace

This run, I got fed up with the heart rate monitor. It was giving me erratic readings, probably because the battery was low. And I still have no idea how the HR monitor affects the pace on the watch (I remember reading about it a long time ago, and never really got an answer). But the pace was off as well, so while I was running, I just took off the monitor completely.

I ran at 5.5 mph (11:00/mile) for most of the run, until the end when I bumped it up just a little to get it done faster. When I was done with my run, I started looking online for a new heart rate monitor for my Garmin. I had looked before, but they are so expensive to replace! After lots of reading, I decided to go back to the old school monitor that I wore when I had the Garmin Forerunner 305.

It arrived in the mail in time for my next run! There is no monitor to snap on and off from the strap. It stays in one whole piece.

The front half (the part that goes under your boobs) of it is a rubbery/plastic material, which I find more comfortable than the newer version.

The clasp is nice--instead of sliding the elastic into a hook, you clip this in place...

The difference between the two (as far as the features go) is just that the newer model (it's commonly called the "soft strap" version) gives you readings such as ground contact time (how long your foot touches the ground when running), vertical oscillation (how high your body goes up in the air as you run), and it supposedly has an accelerometer in it so that you don't need a foot pod when running indoors.

Those features mean nothing to me--even though I absolutely love numbers and data, the ground contact time and vertical oscillation just don't turn me on. I never, ever look at those numbers. I also remembered the old school strap being more comfortable--I didn't get any chafing from it. And the battery is ten thousand times easier to change out.

As I mentioned last week, the soft strap HR monitor has four TINY screws to open the battery compartment, and it is nearly impossible to unscrew them without stripping the screws. I've "ruined" three of them that way. The old school strap is super easy--you just use a coin to turn the backing and it pops right off.

After using this again, I am so glad I made the switch! It's MUCH cheaper to buy, too--I got this Garmin strap for $16, versus $43 for the premium version I was using before. From the reviews I've read, these old school ones are better quality and last much longer than the newer ones, too. Sometimes old school is just the way to go ;)

Anyway, onward with my training...

Friday - Easy Run

3 miles at an easy pace

The ice melted!! I finally, finally got to run outside. This was the only run that I was procrastinating this week. I just didn't feel like running. I was super tired (I hadn't slept well at all) and I wanted to be lazy. I nearly talked myself into waiting until Saturday to do it, but I don't want to get into that habit of pushing my runs to the next day for no real reason.

I headed outside, and running outside was SO nice. I was absolutely freezing, though--the wind was strong, and it was really cold out. I should have dressed warmer, but it was only three miles. I stopped at my mom's house about a mile in because she asked me to feed her cat, and then finished the run.

I hadn't looked at my watch the entire time I ran, because I was truly curious to see what my outdoor pace was compared to the treadmill. I ran at a pace that felt similar to what I typically run on the treadmill. Nothing feels SUPER easy these days, treadmill or not, but I certainly didn't feel like I was pushing the pace too hard.

I was shocked, then, when I saw that my average pace was 10:01 for the three miles! I was thrilled that the treadmill at least wasn't making me get slower (not that it would, but it's hard to know how it will affect my outdoor running when I don't run outdoors for a while).

Anyway, it was a good run!

Sunday - Long Run

7 miles at an easy pace

This was my best (and favorite) run of the week! Last night, we got snow--and I was so bummed when I looked outside and saw the roads were covered. I thought I'd be doing my long run on the treadmill, and that was totally disheartening. The temps were supposed to warm to the mid-30's, so I hoped it would be enough to melt the snow by the afternoon.

I was in luck! I headed out at 1:30 pm, and the roads were clear. I really focused on running an easy pace, so that I didn't end up going too fast and hating it. I listened to a podcast while I ran, instead of music, so that I would be more likely to run slowly.

I also ran a route that I don't do very often, because I thought the change would help the mileage go by quickly. And it worked! I felt like the whole run went by so fast. I really enjoyed the run itself, which is rare for me. It felt amazing to be running outside again!

This run was a big confidence builder for me, too. When I first started training again, the thought of running even five miles was daunting. Running seven today means I ran more than half the distance I'll run on race day--exciting!

Next week's long run is eight miles, and that has always been an infamous distance for me. When I was a beginner running, it took me three tries to finish my eight-miler. When I finally did it, I was thrilled! And I have a fondness for that distance now ;)

So, the recap of the week in general is that I got in all my runs and my attitude was much better than last week. I'm going into next week with enthusiasm.

February 16, 2018

Flashback Friday: What I Gave Up for Lent in 2010

Flashback Friday is a series I started recently where I share an old blog post--I have been writing a blog since 2000, and I thought it would be fun to go through past posts and share them here.

Keep in mind, always, that my thoughts and viewpoints have certainly changed over time. I may have written things that no longer apply, or aren't "politically correct", or whatever. I just mean these to be light-hearted posts that are fun to read and make fun of (or relate to, if it's a more serious post). These posts will be unedited, and my writing style probably embarrassing, but life would be pretty boring if we stayed the same all our lives.

This post that I'm going to share is from April, 2010. I am not Catholic, or even particularly religious, but giving something up for Lent was a way to challenge myself--and you know I love to challenge myself! Considering Lent just started on Wednesday, I thought this was a good time to post about it.

For Lent in 2010, I decided to give up white flour. I had been losing weight for about seven months at the time, and had slowly started to develop healthier habits. I loved Dr. Oz then, and he was always talking about choosing whole grains over white flour, so I wanted to challenge myself to try it for 40 days, just to see what happened (if anything).

Here is a picture from just before Lent started in 2010...

I had always hated whole grains because they were... well, grainy. And back then, it wasn't like it is now--there were very few choices at the grocery store for things like 100% whole grain bread, bagels, pizza crust, pasta, or all of the things they have readily available now.

So, this was definitely challenging for me! When I was done, I wrote down some reflections of the 40 days I'd given up white flour...

Week 33, Day 5 (of my weight loss) -- A reflection on Lent

I just wanted to write a little about Lent. As you know, I'm not particularly religious or anything, but I chose to give something up for Lent this year. I wanted to pick something that would be really difficult, but also beneficial to give up. So I chose white flour.

I've always been very anti-whole-grain-stuff, because I just thought it tasted horrible. I ate white bread, white pasta, white rice, etc. I tried whole grain stuff years ago, and it was nasty. But since it's the "healthy thing" to do, I decided to eat only whole grains for Lent.

First of all, it's actually kind of difficult to find 100% whole wheat pasta. The name brands like Barilla have BLEND pastas, not the 100% whole wheat (where I live, anyway). The only brand I could find was the Kroger brand and also the Aldi brand. So I bought those and even after Lent started, I was really reluctant to try them. I avoided pasta for a couple of weeks because I "knew" I'd hate the whole wheat stuff!

To find healthy, low-calorie, 100% whole wheat bread is a struggle too. I finally found one that I liked that was just one point per slice, so I was happy with that.

I tried the Kroger brand 100% whole wheat pasta, and was floored that it tasted good to me! My tastes have changed a lot over the last 7 1/2 months. I can truly say that I don't miss the white pasta one bit.

The only thing I've really missed over the last 40 days is pretzels! I used to eat pretzels with mustard as a snack, and I've NEVER seen 100% whole wheat pretzels, so I just had to forget about them for Lent.

For "Pizza Fridays" at my house, we used to order pizza from a different pizza place every Friday. However, nobody makes 100% whole wheat crust, so I had to start making my own for Lent. I got a recipe for whole wheat pizza dough, and it was FANTASTIC. The whole family loved it.

I threw the ingredients into my bread machine and ran it on the dough cycle. The dough was ready and I could throw together a pizza very quickly. Jerry and I both agreed that it was much better than pizza from any pizza shop. And it was only 6 points for two slices of homemade pizza, versus 10 points for a crappy restaurant pizza.

If it weren't for Lent, I never would have given 100% whole wheat pasta a second chance. I never would have experimented with pizza dough. I would still be eating only white bread. I wouldn't use quinoa in place of rice now. Lent opened up a whole new lifestyle for me! There are a few things I'll go back to--like pretzels!--but I'm definitely going to be eating whole wheat pasta and whole wheat bread and whole wheat pizza from now on!

Just a few noteables (about my current diet and exercise stuff):

DIET: Still on track with Weight Watchers. It's been 236 days since my last binge. I haven't even gone over my points in 236 days! I've been eating so much healthier than I ever imagined... without even consciously doing so. I eat mostly unprocessed foods. And I've discovered that my sweet tooth has all-but vanished :) Never thought that was possible, but it proves that you can change your taste buds. Some things that I used to love are now sickeningly sweet to me.

EXERCISE: I'm still training for the half-marathon. I walked 7.6 miles yesterday for my long walk (I was supposed to do 7 miles, but I accidentally went too far, lol). I do a long walk on the weekends, and then during the week, I do a few runs. I need to train for the Warrior Dash in June, which is 3.3-ish miles of RUNNING + obstacles. Today I ran 1.6 miles. I've been increasing a little each week or so.

And here is a photo from just after Lent ended in 2010...

It's kind of amazing what a difference can be made in 40 (or, in this case, 50) days. This difference is not just from eating whole grains--I was counting Weight Watchers Points, which accounts for the weight loss.

I got away from eating whole grains somewhere along the line, but reading this inspires me to give them a try again. I still eat the whole wheat pizza crust, because I love it, but there are some other things I could switch up!

February 15, 2018

Making Some Quick Cash (and Tax Refund Plans!)

As most of us parents know, kids grow like weeds. It seems like we buy them clothes and two weeks later, the clothes are too small. Right?!

This past year, my kids have shot up like rockets. This first picture is from May 2017. The second picture is from January 2018. A nine month difference!

Noah needed some new shoes a couple weeks ago, and we went to the running store. You know what size shoe he wears now? ELEVEN. (The running store had their 2017 models on clearance, so he got a pair of Brooks for $58! They were normally $120. I was pretty excited about that.)

Anyway, Eli has grown just as quickly. The boys wear the same size clothes, which is convenient, except they each have completely different styles. Last summer, I went through their closets and pulled out all of the stuff that was too small for them, and bagged it up to take to Goodwill.

Except it just sat in my garage, because I am terrible at remembering to do stuff like that.

This month, I realized that I haven't saved much of my allowance at all lately. I have been treating Jerry and/or the kids to things here and there, and when I looked in my envelope, I had less than $100. I was used to having at least $300 or so.

I started thinking of ways I could make some cash, and I remembered the Buy & Sell page on Facebook that I belong to. It's basically a page where people who live locally can list items to sell, and then people can make arrangements to buy it. Unlike E-bay, there is no fee.

The first thing I thought of was the bag of clothes in the garage. I decided to go through them and pick out the nicer things to group into lots (based on size) and list them on the Facebook page. It took a couple of hours, but I washed and sorted the clothes and took pictures of everything. I listed two lots--one for boys' size medium (10/12) and another for boys' size large (14/16).

I wasn't looking to make a ton of money on them--I figured anything at all would be better than just giving them to Goodwill. I listed the larger lot (the size medium clothes) for $65, and the lot of large clothes for $35.

I sold them both within 24 hours! I arranged to meet the buyers in a public parking lot--one the following day, and one the day after that. And just like that, I had $100 cash.

A lot of people sell clothing items individually, but that just seems like much more work than it's worth. I prefer to group a bunch of things together and just deal with one buyer for the whole lot.

Now, I've been looking through my stuff to find other things to try and sell. I wish I had starting doing this a long time ago--we've donated or thrown out a ton of stuff over the years! Anyway, if you have things lying around that you don't want, you may want to check into a local Buy & Sell page. There are tons of them on Facebook.

My friend Andrea (the Andrea from the film From Fat to Finish Line, not my local friend Andrea) invited me, Caitlin (from Boston), and Bonnie (from Virginia) to visit her for a girls weekend in Kansas City in May. We had such a fun girls weekend at my house in 2016 that I thought it was a great idea to get together again!

Andrea, Bonnie, and me (Caitlin had to leave early, before we got a pic of all of us.)

I looked at flights, and found one for 21,000 SkyMiles... and lo and behold, I happened to have 22,000 SkyMiles in my account. So, I booked a ticket, which only cost me $11.20 (for taxes)--I love getting tickets using my SkyMiles! And now I have a fun trip to look forward to. I haven't seen Bonnie or Andrea in a long time, and I can't wait to catch up.

If you are interested in learning about the Delta SkyMiles American Express card, you can read this post. I LOVE my card! (I am not affiliated with them in any way... I just happen to use the card and fly for free frequently. If you are interested in applying for one, I would be thrilled if you would use this referral link! I believe we both get bonus SkyMiles if you do.)

For Valentine's Day yesterday, Jerry and I had a hot date with our tax guy. (If you're local to the Monroe area, his name is Bobby Zimmerman, at Mathewson's Tax Service in Carleton, and he's amazing! He's been doing our taxes for three years now, and has been super helpful. He also does financial planning, so I think Jerry and I will go see him when we get our debt paid off.)

We're getting a large tax return again this year, which is always exciting--$4800! We usually like to use this money for a family vacation and/or home improvements. On our list this year:

Our Boston family vacation:

- Flights (I used SkyMiles, so the flights cost a total of $44.80--the taxes--for all four of us)
- Hotels (for six nights, it'll be a total of $936 including taxes and fees)
- GoBoston cards (cards that cover the entrance fees for a ton of different things to do--$424--these are already paid for)
- Rental car ($95) and gas (roughly $100)
- Spending money (Undetermined, but we'll just need money for food; the GoBoston cards cover the activities that we plan on doing)
Total is about $1600 (but a little under $500 is already paid for) + spending money

Home improvements/repairs:

- A new front porch. The one we have is very old and warped, and needs to go. So while we're at it, we'd like to make a bigger one so we can put chairs on it. The scenery is so pretty, and it would be nice to enjoy it more often. I usually just sit on the steps. This will be roughly $1000 for the materials (Jerry and my brothers can do the labor).

- A new gas range (if you remember, our oven died in the summer). We've been using this countertop oven, and I actually really like it! It preheats in about two minutes, and we can fit almost everything in there that we could put in the regular oven. I've made everything from casseroles to toasted sandwiches to pies in it. But, it's probably time we replace the range. We don't need or want anything fancy, and the gas ranges I priced out were roughly $400-500.

- The rest will either go into savings or we may knock another thing or two off of our list of home improvement projects.

I like deciding where all the money is going before we even get the return. It's nice to remember exactly what we spent the money on, instead of spending a little here and there and having nothing to show for it.

We've got some exciting stuff coming up! :)

February 13, 2018

RECIPE: Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

I never thought I would like whole wheat pizza crust, but in 2010, I gave up white flour for 40 days, and I was forced to try new things. This pizza crust is amazing! As a fan of white flour, I never thought I'd like this, but I still use this recipe when I make pizza.

whole wheat pizza crust

Click here for the recipe's printer-friendly PDF

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust


1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup hot water
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. yeast (one packet)


Combine in a bowl until a ball forms and cover with plastic wrap. (Or you could use a bread machine, which is what I usually do). Let the dough rise for 15-20 minutes.

Spread out dough on a pizza pan (you may need to add a little more flour to keep it from being too sticky) and bake at 475 F for about 5-8 minutes.

Then add your toppings, and bake again until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown. Makes 4 servings.

Notes: I like to divide the dough into four small balls, and then we each get to make our own mini pizzas with the toppings we like. My favorite is green pepper and feta cheese! Below is a margherita pizza with fresh mozzarella and basil.

homemade margherita pizza

February 12, 2018

Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 4 of Half Marathon Training

Wow, it's been a while since I've written! Jerry was off work Friday-Sunday, so I spent very little time on the computer. I've also been doing a lot of sewing in my spare time--not making anything in particular, but doing clothing alterations (my latest "hobby", I guess! ha).

Anyway, I'm not even going to try to catch up on everything, but I'd still like to post my training wrap-up for the week.

Week 4 was a step-back week, meaning the mileage was cut down instead of increased. For this plan, I've included three step-back weeks--one every fourth week. This was the schedule for my Week 4:

Tuesday - 30 minutes easy (this is usually a speed work day)
Wednesday - 3 miles easy
Friday - 2 miles easy
Sunday - 4 miles easy (this is usually a long run day)

I wish I could say that this week was fantastic, but I cannot. We have gotten SO much snow, and then a bunch of freezing rain on top of it yesterday; I surely would have broken a hip if I tried to run outside. Actually, I almost fell when I stepped out the door yesterday.

I don't hate the treadmill. I like it, in fact, most of the time. But I do feel the need to run outside here and there (ideally, at least for my long runs).  I'm very glad that my long run was only four miles this week, but because of the weather, I had to do all four runs on the 'mill.

The schedule doesn't look like a lot of running, and it's actually not much at all in the grand scheme of things. But my mindset just wasn't where it needed to be. I need to get outside! I'm hoping that the snow will melt this week (at least enough to where I can get in a couple of outdoor runs.

Anyway, this weekly recap is going to sound whiny and annoying, but half-marathon training isn't all sunshine and flowers, so I'm just going to be honest about my thoughts each week.

Tuesday - 30 minutes easy

This run felt like forever! I think I was anticipating it to fly by because it was only 30 minutes (now that I've been running so slowly, 30 minutes would only be about 2.5 miles). I set the treadmill at 5.0 mph (12:00/mile) and left it there the whole time.

Again, the Garmin's pace was completely off throughout the run because I wasn't using the foot pod. (I could make the pace very fast or very slow just by swinging my arms fast or slow). So, I got out my foot pod and decided to try it for Wednesday's run and see if it would make a difference.

Wednesday - 3 miles easy

Used the foot pod for this run, and experimenting with that actually made the run go by quickly. This was my best run of the week, because I was in a good mood. I couldn't believe the difference in accuracy when using the foot pod!

For the first two miles, I kept the speed at a steady 5.5 mph (11:00/mi). The first mile ended up at 11:08, which made sense because I started the Garmin when the treadmill was at a stop, so it had to come up to speed. The second mile was 11:02--so, pretty much spot on where I would expect (11:00).

During the third mile, I tried speeding up and slowing down a few times to experiment with the foot pod. I wanted to see if the pace changes registered as they should when I changed speeds. Again, it was nearly perfect. I was excited to have found a solution--I really wanted my Garmin to match what the treadmill was reading.

Friday - 2 miles easy

Two miles easy... is there anything at all to complain about? Well, I surely found enough. I just did not feel like doing another treadmill run, and I was really resentful of it. Jerry and I had plans with my friend Andrea for appetizers and Keno at the bar and I really needed to dye my hair because my roots had gotten bad--my random gray hairs were no longer subtle.

I didn't want to get sweaty and then dye it, but I also didn't want to dye it, shower, and then have to run. So I basically just procrastinated until I couldn't any longer, haha. I decided that I'd run, then dry my sweaty hair, and then dye my roots and hope for the best.

I was feeling so resentful of having to run at all that I just angrily got on the treadmill and ignored that I was supposed to run "easy". I didn't watch anything on my iPad or listen to music--I just stared at the screen and increased my speed to get it over with.

I got notifications that both my heart rate monitor and my foot pod had low batteries, which just added to my great mood. Surprisingly, the two miles went by pretty fast despite not having anything to distract me.

When I was done, I tried to replace the battery in my heart rate monitor, and I accidentally stripped two of the screws. Ugh! The screws are SO SO SO tiny and very easy to strip. I used a size 000 screwdriver, which is the correct size, but after stripping the screws, and therefor not being able to remove them, I wasn't able to get the back casing open. And now I have no way to replace the battery.

(From what I remember, there is an accelerometer in the heart rate monitor, so maybe that is why the pace was so incorrect without using the foot pod. Just a thought.)

Sunday - 4 miles easy

A "long" run of four miles? Again, what could I possibly complain about?

I procrastinated all day long. Jerry did his run in the morning, and I was even annoyed at his good attitude about it. He said he likes to get it done early because it puts him in a good mood for the day. Sometime last year, I became a night owl and definitely NOT a morning person. Which is so odd, because I've always been a morning person!

So, I've been doing my runs in the afternoons or evenings. Seeing Jerry do his in the morning made me feel like I should have done it then, too. A little before 4:00, I finally made myself get ready to run. I was cold, and even though I knew that I would warm up quickly when I started running, I dressed in long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. I also didn't turn on the fan before I started running.

Out of spite (for what, I don't know) I didn't distract myself with TV or music or anything. I covered the console of the treadmill with a towel, and just ran. I knew I was running too fast for an easy run, but I didn't care. And again, the time seemed like it went by so much faster than it does when I watch a show on my iPad, which is so odd.

When I finished, I was SO hot; I went outside and sat on the porch steps, which were coated in ice. Jerry had been cleaning the garage, and he came in just then. So I talked to him, and after a few minutes, I was in a much better mood. I finished up with one of my physical therapy stretches for my back.

So, I got my runs in this week. While my attitude sucked, I did feel much better after each run. I wish I could bottle that sort of enthusiasm to open when I really need it.

Just to add a little positivity to this whiny post, the kids had a snow day on Friday, and we got even more on Saturday. With the temps being fairly decent (in the 20's), Jerry, the kids, and I played outside in the snow. I hadn't really played in the snow like a kid in years! We had so much fun.

Joey LOVED having the kids chase him. And it was impossible to catch him!

Jerry and I always joke about that scene in Forrest Gump where Forrest and Bubba sit like this while it's raining, and Bubba says, "I'll lean against you and you just lean right back against me... this way we don't have to sleep with our heads in the mud." We were reenacting that scene here, haha. 

February 07, 2018

Actual Weight Talk

Sometime over the holidays, I stopped doing many Weight Loss Wednesdays. It's hard to come up with new weight loss topics, especially when I feel like I've said it all before. But now that I started running again, I think it would be helpful for me to at least keep tabs on my weight (again).

It's been about a year since I stopped counting calories, Points, or anything else to lose/maintain my weight. It actually wasn't even really a conscious decision--I just sort of fell away from those things, and when I saw my weight was dropping the pounds I'd packed on through my depression, I just kept doing what I was doing.

I wrote recently a timeline of my weight ups and downs, and while I was doing that, I noticed that my weight frequently parallels my bipolar phases--I gain weight when depressed, and lose weight when hypomanic. I tend to maintain for a little bit when I'm not in either extreme.

...Which is where I am now. I was feeling a little depressed through the holidays--nothing like my past depressive episodes, but definitely not my happy self. I didn't want to do much, I lost interest in the things I usually enjoy, and my emotions were very sensitive. During that time, my weight started climbing up after having been very level for months.

A few weeks ago, I had an appointment with my psychiatrist, and I told him what was going on. He made a slight medication adjustment, and within a week, I was feeling better. Not hypomanic, either--just happier, with a nicer outlook on things, and more interest in the things I enjoy.

And now, my weight has been very stable ever since. I wish that I was back at my goal weight before leveling off, but I'm still within my "happy range" (I want to stay under 144, which is the highest weight in my "normal" BMI range). I had been staying between 131 and 134 for a long time until I started feeling a little depressed, and gained a little each week.

Today, my weight was at 142.6--so I'm up roughly 10 pounds (I've been hovering in the low 140's for about four weeks now).

Thank God it's not the usual 30-ish pounds I gain when I have a depressive episode! And I feel pretty confident that this is the "peak" for me this time--I'll probably either stay at this weight for a while, or I'll start losing again.

I noticed that when I was feeling kind of depressed over the holidays, my appetite went up a lot. My hunger level was also up, and I felt legitimately hungry all the time. And once my mood leveled off, my appetite and hunger did, too. I find it so interesting that I never saw the pattern before!

It really helps me to know what's happening and why. I used to just beat myself up for "losing control" and gaining so much weight. But now that I see the patterns, I don't feel like it's completely my fault. Also, I now know a little of what I might expect to see happening in the near future. I also realize the importance of keeping my mood as stable as possible.

In addition, I started running again three and a half weeks ago, so that may play a part as well. One of the biggest things I've noticed since I got back to running regularly is that my body composition is changing. My clothes fit better and I can see a difference in the mirror (nothing major, but definitely noticeable) compared to a couple of months ago, even when I was at a lower weight.

The best part is that I feel good about my body again. Remember when I wrote about how I was feeling fat at goal weight? Now, I'm 10 pounds over my goal, but I feel much better about my body because I'm running. Running regularly makes me feel more confident and happy that I'm doing something good for myself!

Speaking of weight patterns, I completely forgot to post the winners of the Happy Scale code giveaway! I meant to post it last Wednesday--I'm so sorry. Anyway, I used Random.org to choose four winners, and these were the winning commenters:

Congrats! Please send me an email at Katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com, and I will send you a code for the premium version of Happy Scale! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do :)

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