May 31, 2021

COVID Diaries : From two incomes to zero in only two hours

I have another heartfelt perspective to share of how COVID-19 lockdown has affected people. This guest post is written by a woman named Anna who lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two children. Both she and her husband have demanding customer service jobs: Anna is a hair stylist and her husband is a server at a busy restaurant.

During the lockdown last summer, I kept thinking about how lucky Jerry and I were not to have lost our income. There were so many people getting furloughed (including people that Jerry worked with), it was scary at first. While we were lucky, I know that many people were not--especially people who work such jobs as hair stylists and restaurant servers. Every time I drove past a closed restaurant, I would think about the the people who worked there and how scary it must have been to have lost their jobs indefinitely without even a moment's notice.

This is wonderfully written, and I'm grateful that Anna is sharing her experience. Here it is, in her words...

I can’t remember when I first heard people talking about coronavirus, but I remember the last day I cut and colored hair at my salon before the national shutdown. My coworkers and I talked in the break room about changing our cleaning procedures. We wiped down every single surface in the place. Once our clients started coming in, the worried conversations started. No one knew what was going to happen. We got through our day and went home to our families.

I walked back to the home my husband and I had bought just four months prior. We had been living in Philadelphia together for nine years and were so grateful we’d been able to purchase a home in which to raise our two young sons. The two of us probably discussed our concerns and just went about our weekend.

My husband was scheduled to work the dinner shift on Monday evening. He had been waiting tables at a busy restaurant in Center City for over ten years. Sometime in the late morning, he got a call that the restaurant would be closed until further notice. The salon owners called me with the same news soon after. In the space of two hours, we went from both being employed to having no source of income whatsoever.

We went to a nearby park with our kids. They ran around, being silly and chasing each other with sticks. We watched them, wondering what our future would hold.

Thankfully, the federal government quickly offered aid to those whose industries were affected by COVID-19. I spent time each day searching for any form of assistance that was available. It was emotionally tough to take money from the government, knowing that some people were in much greater financial straits than we were. However, I think most readers of this blog can relate to the feeling of wanting to hold onto whatever savings you have in case things get even worse.

As the shutdown continued, I tried to find ways to occupy my mind. I tried guided meditation and creative visualization. Like many others, I baked bread and cooked some elaborate meals. I finally picked up reading novels again after a long dry spell. My kids watched screens much more than they ever had before. Our plans to send my older son to kindergarten were put on hold for a year.

I realize others might envy our position of not having to work from home while managing virtual school with our children. But the most important thing I learned during this time is that we all sacrificed something. We all suffered in one way or another. Talking about our struggles doesn’t minimize others’ difficulties. It unites us and allows us to support each other.

Did anyone else reading this watch the news each night with a sense of sadness and doom? That’s what we did for a while. We couldn’t believe the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths in Philadelphia. All of the stress of the shutdown started a wave of shooting deaths in the city. The mounting cases of police brutality across the nation sparked protesters to gather all over Philadelphia. Seeing the businesses in Center City (just two miles from our house) looted and destroyed live on CNN was probably the most surreal thing I’ve experienced. I love Philadelphia and want more integration and equality for our city.

Our salon reopened at the end of June. My furlough of nearly four months was the longest break I’ve had from work since I was 16. I didn’t miss doing hair as much as I missed talking with my clients and sharing their triumphs and losses. When we got word that salons would be able to open, I was both happy and concerned.

My coworkers and I went back to work with fearful hearts. We diligently disinfected, sanitized, socially distanced, and spaced out our appointments to keep everyone safe. It felt like working on an alien planet. I took longer to complete services and it was tiring doing all of the extra cleaning. All of the anecdotal evidence pointed to salons being safe, but it didn’t feel good to put myself and my clients at risk in order to pay my bills.

Restaurants reopened later that summer and my husband’s work environment was pretty stressful. The guidelines changed almost weekly, with everyone scrambling to keep up. The restaurant’s staff was decimated, first when many servers didn’t feel safe coming back, next when many employees were let go to keep costs down. My husband worked in a mask and face shield, waiting on some understanding guests and some people who were less than pleasant. 

Business all over the city closed for good. Restaurants tried to pivot to take out and delivery only. Salon traffic was down because many clients were not comfortable getting their hair done. We tried to work hard and be grateful for everything we have.

The real turning point came when we were able to be vaccinated. FEMA set up a mass vaccination site here and we both met the guidelines to go in March. It took a huge weight off of me to know that my husband would be protected while serving unmasked guests and that I wouldn’t infect any of my clients.

The restrictions are now lifting and numbers are going down here. Everyone can’t wait to get back to normal, but this has changed us all. While my experience was hard, others have lost so much more than I ever will. 

The other lesson I learned is that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. That’s what we talked about that day at the park. Today might be your last, so make the most of it. Planning for the future is important, but being present in the moment is essential. I try to extend more kindness to everyone, including myself.

Thank you so much, Anna, for sharing! I'm so glad that everything has been working out for you--you've seemed to have maintained a great balance between keeping a positive attitude, but also being realistic and acting with caution. I'm so glad you and your husband were able to get vaccinated--my family is now vaccinated and the peace of mind alone is amazing.

Your boys are adorable, by the way! I miss when mine were that age.

If any of you have a unique experience in which COVID-19 has made a very big impact on your job and/or way of life and are interested in possibly sharing, please send me an email! Katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com. 

May 30, 2021

HERITAGE RECIPE: Nan's Coffee Cake

So, as I mentioned yesterday, I really messed up the heritage recipe I'd chosen to make this week; I wanted another try, though! I was pretty sure I knew exactly what I did wrong (even as I was doing it). I tried again today, and I'm pretty sure I got it right this time ;)

I picked this recipe from my grandma's recipe book. It's called "Nan's Coffee Cake" and when I saw "Nan", I was very curious of who that was. (When I hear "Nan", I immediately think of "Nana", a term of endearment for grandmother--so I thought it sounded like an old recipe!) I asked my mom and she told me that "Nan" was actually her dad's brother's wife.

This led to my learning some very cool stories about my grandfather and his family, but I'll share that at the end of this post in case you are just here for the recipe. I am going to share how I screwed this up, though, because it was pretty funny!

As always, I followed the recipe exactly as written, interpreting the unclear parts to the best of my knowledge. I will write out the recipe here exactly as-written by my grandma, but I'll decipher it it for the printable copy so that it's clear.

If you JUST want the recipe, then just click on the printer-friendly version link below.

Here is a printer-friendly version!

Nan's Coffee Cake

Dissolve 2 yeast cakes in 1 C. water
1 C. milk heated to scalding.
Add 1 stick margarine, 2 tsp. salt
2/3 C. honey
Beat 2 eggs--add liquid and yeast
Add 3 C. white flour and 2 C. WW
Double in bulk
Divide in 4 and roll in rectangles.
Melt margarine. Sprinkle with sugar
and cinnamon to taste. Roll and cut
to put in pan that has been greased,
spread with nuts, syrup (maple).
Place in 9" cake pan--double in bulk.
Bake 10 to 12 min. in 400 degree oven.

Soooo, there you have it! That's the recipe as written by my grandma. Below, I'll write out the steps that I did and then reveal the mess it turned out to be. And finally, how I corrected it the second time around.

I bought fresh yeast after learning my lesson with the sweet rolls I made (when I substituted dry yeast and the rolls did not rise AT ALL). This is what the fresh yeast looks like. It's in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, near the biscuits and butter and all that.

Note: There are two different sizes of yeast cakes. I am glad that I looked at the label before using it! I bought two cakes (as shown above, which are 2 oz. each), but each is the equivalent of three smaller ones. A small yeast cake is meant for a recipe that uses about 3 cups of flour, so it made sense that the recipe called for two small cakes. I used 2/3 of one of the (2 oz) yeast cakes that I bought.

I scalded the milk and then added 1 cup of cold water to it, which would make it warm rather than hot (in order to dissolve the yeast without "killing" it? I don't know--in most yeast recipes, it says to use warm water, so that's what I did.) I added the yeast and stirred it until it dissolved.

In my mixer, I beat two eggs, then added the margarine, salt, honey, and milk/yeast mixture. It looked kind of gross at this point, but I knew it would look better after adding the flour.

I measured out the flour carefully. I tend to use too much flour when baking, so I wanted to be very careful that it wasn't too packed down in the measuring cup. I added the flour to the mixer, and after stirring with the dough hook, the dough was still VERY sticky. See photo below:

I knew there was no way I was going to be able to roll this dough out at this texture, so I figured that when making the recipe, maybe "Nan" just added flour to get the right consistency and estimated the amount when she gave my grandma the recipe. I know when I cook, there are a lot of things that I can't accurately tell you the measurements--I just have to see how it looks or feels as I am cooking.

Anyway, I added some more flour, about 1/4 cup at a time, until the consistency was more like bread dough--where I could knead it and roll it out. It ended up taking 2 extra cups of flour!

I let it rise for a while (and thankfully it did!).

I wasn't sure what type of pan to use--it says a 9" cake pan, but I didn't know if that meant a round pan or a square baking dish, or something else. When I saw how much dough there was, I decided to go with a square baking dish because it's taller. There was a LOT of dough for such a small dish!

I divided the dough into four and rolled each into a rectangle. Then I melted 4 Tbsp. margarine in the microwave and brushed it onto the rectangles. Then I sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar (I can't say how much, but I made sure that the whole surface was coated.

Then, I rolled up each rectangle. This was another thing that wasn't super clear in the recipe--but I guessed that I was to slice it like you would when making cinnamon rolls and then put the slices next to each other in the pan. Well, this is where I definitely doubted myself.

With all of that dough, I was going to have to CRAM it into the pan. But I decided just to go with it and see what happened. I made the slices very wide so that they would stand up tall in the pan, giving more room across the bottom to squeeze in more slices.

I chopped up about 1/4 cup of pecans and sprinkled them on, and I drizzled about 1/4 cup of maple syrup over it. It looked like a disaster waiting to happen when it went into the oven:

But I put it in the oven at 400 F, and set the timer for 12 minutes. When the timer beeped, I could clearly see that it was nowhere near baked through. I kept resetting the timer in 10 minute intervals, and it took over an HOUR to bake! When I pulled it out of the oven, I literally laughed out loud.

Jerry saw it and said, "Holy shit! What happened? Noah, come see this!"

Noah comes in and says, "Ohmygosh, what the heck did you do?!"

Eli (the sweetheart) came in and said, "I bet it tastes good!"

He was right--it actually tasted really good.

But I clearly had done something wrong, because I was sure it wasn't supposed to look like that. Since I had another fresh yeast cake, I decided to try it again today.

I guessed that what I was supposed to have done was to make four separate cakes out of the four portions of dough. Slice the rolls thinner and lay them out in the pan so they aren't crammed in there, but close enough to bake into each other, making one cake instead of several cinnamon rolls.

I followed all the same steps as before, but I was heavier handed with the four (I ended up needing to add 1 cup to the recipe, plus the flour that I sprinkled on the counter when rolling it out). Once I had rolled it into a log shape, I sliced it on the thin side (maybe 1/2 to 2/3 of an inch?) and placed the slices in the (greased) pan. Oh! And I used a round cake pan this time. It made more sense to me.

Popped it into the oven for 12 minutes, and it was perfect! I cut it like a cake rather than pulling it apart like cinnamon rolls (I think that's how it's meant to be done). The slices aren't very tall, so I would say you would get about 4-6 servings out of one cake pan. With a full recipe of dough, you'd get four cakes, meaning 16-24 servings.

My family LOVED it. Noah and Eli ate a whole pan of it right after I took it out of the oven. It's an interesting recipe, too--the only sweetener in the dough itself is honey. I've never seen a recipe like that. Of course there is sugar when you roll it up, but even that was probably only a couple of tablespoons. 

Because I'm counting calories, I entered the info into FatSecret, and it has about 200 calories per piece if you slice each pan into 6 pieces or 300 calories if you slice it into 4. Not bad at all! It was tempting to make cream cheese frosting for it, but I restrained myself ;)

Below, I've written the story I mentioned about my grandfather's family...

Unfortunately, I never got to meet my mom's father. He passed away from a heart attack on Father's Day, June 21st, 1970 (my mom was only 18; and coincidentally, my dad had asked her dad for her hand in marriage that day!).

From everything I've heard about my grandfather, I really wish that I'd had the chance to know him. His name was DeLand, but was affectionately known as "Pippi" in my family. And I could do a whole series of posts just about the things I've learned about him--he was very well-known in the area where I grew up and did a ton for the city and community (I just learned today that he even purchased the very first firetruck for the Rockwood Fire Department).

I have some very cool stories about Pippi, but I'll save those for another post. When I decided to make "Nan's Coffee Cake", I learned about Pippi's brothers, and my mom showed me a very interesting news article about one of his brothers that I'll summarize here.

Pippi had three brothers: Donald (who passed away at just 17 months old); LeGrand, who was 10 years older than Pippi; and Ronald, who was 10 years younger than Pippi. LeGrand married a woman named Nancy--which is where the "Nan" comes from in regards to the coffee cake. I don't know anything about her (LeGrand married her and lived in Georgia, but my grandma would go visit them sometimes).

Here is a photo of LeGrand, Ronald, and DeLand (Pippi):

This story has nothing to do with Nancy or LeGrand or Nancy's coffee cake; but I still wanted to share it. It's about Ronald, Pippi's younger brother, as well as their father, Daniel. There was a write-up in the Monroe Evening News on February 22, 1935, but I'll summarize here...

Daniel had arrived home from work in the late afternoon when he learned that Ronald (who was 10 years old at the time) needed help on a bridge. So he brought DeLand (Pippi, who was 20 years old) with him. Ronald had been out walking with his dog, Rex, and they were crossing a bridge when the dog slipped. Rex didn't fall, but was he then too scared to move and go back to Ronald, who was on an adjacent bridge tie. Ronald balanced on on the tie and steadied the dog for more than half an hour. If either of them moved, they would have fallen into the river. (I'm not sure how Daniel heard of his son's predicament).

Daniel and DeLand arrived and together they laid narrow planks out to Ronald and Rex, allowing them to be able to safely get back on solid ground. The boys' mom, Gertrude, had driven over in another car, and arrived just after Ronald made it across. Daniel told her that they were lucky to still have their son. He and Gertrude got into one car, while DeLand drove the other car home.

They had joked about the heavy snow and how slippery the roads were, but Daniel assured her that he would get them home safely. They drove only a short distance when Daniel slumped at the wheel. Gertrude shut off the motor and brought the car to a stop so it wouldn't go into a ditch. Daniel was carried into a nearby house (I'm assuming by passers-by) but never regained consciousness--he'd passed away from a sudden heart attack just after rescuing his son and dog. He was only 56 years old.

Isn't that a tragic story? Ronald must have felt terrible after that--it was not at all his fault that his dad suffered a heart attack, but I can imagine that he may have felt that way. When I read this article, I wanted to learn more! So I'm actually getting together with my mom and my Aunt Mickey on Wednesday to learn what they can tell me about my family.

Anyway, like I said--not related to Nan's Coffee Cake! But the coffee cake recipe is what led me to learn of this story of how my great grandfather died.

May 29, 2021

Heritage Recipe FAIL

Well, I really failed at the heritage recipe I made today... but I really want to try it again tomorrow! I was so excited to make it, especially because of the familial connection to the recipe. So, I'm going to try again. And I can't wait to share about the "heritage" part of it!

Today was crazy busy so I'm not going to write a "real" post. This morning, I went to the hospital to have all the tests that the rheumatologist ordered. Holy smokes, she wasn't kidding when she said she was going to be "thorough".

See all those tubes? Yes, there are THIRTEEN vials of my blood!

She ordered a urinalysis as well. I wasn't about to take a photo of that, so here is a mirror selfie in the hospital. I wore make-up today for the first time in probably a year! And I totally forgot that I'd be wearing a mask, so the make-up was kind of pointless. Since I've been doing this DietBet, however, I feel better about myself--even if I don't look any different. So that's a plus.

Anyway, I also had nine x-rays: two angles of each hand, two angles of each foot, and a single x-ray of my pelvis (the sacroiliac joint is where I have the most pain; my hip joints are very painful, too).

So, I feel like after all of these tests today, I'm sure to find out SOMETHING about what's going on. And if not, well, I'm pretty sure there aren't any tests left to do (or enough blood left in my body) ;) 

Well, hopefully I'll have better luck with the heritage recipe tomorrow!

May 28, 2021

Friday Night Photos

What a week! We went from leaving the windows open to let the warm breeze freshen up the house, to shutting the windows and turning on the air conditioning when it got too hot, to going back to open windows, and today we turned on the furnace.

Pure Michigan.

Eli finished baseball on Wednesday, got his first COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday (yay!), and finished school today. I had two doctor's appointments this week--my psychiatrist on Wednesday (just a regular check-in), and the rheumatologist today.

I didn't get answers from the rheumatologist today, but I didn't expect to just yet. She went over all my symptoms and ordered a ton of blood work, along with x-rays of my hands and pelvis. She prescribed a pain reliever (not a narcotic--it's something I've never heard of, used just for arthritis). Tomorrow, I'm going to go get the x-rays, lab work, and pick up the prescription. I'm am REALLY hoping that the tests will give me some answers. And maybe the medication will give me some relief--I can't even remember what it feels like to be pain-free!

Anyways, I don't have very many photos from this week, but here goes...

Jerry and I watched the Friends Reunion show yesterday, and we were totally excited (that's what we were trying to show in the photo, anyway.)

I was actually disappointed in the reunion, though. I felt like their continued "friendship" seemed forced--like they were trying too hard to sound nostalgic. Matt LeBlanc (Joey) was the only one that seemed (to me) very genuine during the reunion. I felt so old while watching it--I can't believe it was 17 years ago that the show ended! I really liked Joey in the "fashion show" at the end; I loved the episode where he put on all of Chandler's clothes!

I made Chicken Broccoli Lo Mein  earlier this week and it was SO GOOD--I used rice noodles instead of spaghetti noodles like I used to, and it was delicious.

Remember when I had a problem getting the dough to rise when I made sweet buns? Well, the recipe called for yeast cakes; after a quick Google search, I read that a cake was equivalent to a packet of dry yeast. Well, the dough didn't rise at ALL, so I assumed I'd done something wrong. This week, I chose another recipe that calls for two yeast cakes, so I looked at Kroger to see if they actually sold fresh yeast cakes. And they did! (I was surprised.)

I was excited to make the recipe--until I got home and opened them up. They smelled TERRIBLE. I wasn't sure if that was normal for fresh yeast, but then I checked the expiration date--they were over a month expired! So I'm going to see if I can find some to make the recipe tomorrow; Kroger didn't have any that weren't expired.

(When I returned the yeast cakes to the store--they were expensive, so I wanted a refund--I bought a box of CLIF bars. When I got home, I opened the box to eat one when I realized that they, too, were expired!)

I discovered a folder of photos in an app on my phone and I had no idea they were there (they were pictures that I'd collaged together for one reason or another, most from 2017). I found this one of Jerry and it cracked me up. I always tell him that when his hair gets too long, it reminds me of that feathered look from the 80's. He didn't know what I was talking about, so I pulled up this photo of Scott Baio to show him, haha.

I posted this picture of Joey on Instagram and it somehow accidentally posted to my Runs for Cookies Facebook page, too--I didn't even realize it until the next day! So you may have already seen it. But Joey sheds twice a year, and this is what happens each time. Crazy, right?! (Several people asked about the brush--it's called a Furminator. It's kind of expensive, but it clearly works well. Here is an affiliate link to it on Amazon.)

Below is another photo that I found in the collages album. It was my first time playing seven numbers in Keno--and I matched SIX of them! (In Keno, you pick up to 10 numbers between 1 and 80; 20 numbers are drawn, and you win prizes based on your bet. I usually choose 4 numbers because it has the best odds of winning, but I played 7 that day.) I paid $10 to play and was thisclose to winning $2,000 (I still got $100 for matching 6 numbers.) I don't play Keno very often--it's actually been a couple of years!--but it's fun.

I wanted to print out a little fill-in-the-blank chart (I made a spreadsheet) to use as a habit tracker since I've been doing this DietBet, but my printer will not connect to my computer for some reason. It was driving me crazy! So I got out all my old bullet journal stuff and made one with colored pencils and markers. It was actually kind of fun to work on! (And of course, I forgot to take a picture of the finished tracker.)

And I saved the best for last... these two. How stinkin' cute are they?! Can you believe it's been over FOUR YEARS since I became an aunt? Luke turned four in March and Riley will be three in August.

Funny story... you know how I mention sometimes that we have a party store in walking distance? I always try to remember to call it a "convenience store" or "corner store" or something like that because I know that Michigan (or maybe the whole midwest?) is the only place that really calls it a "party store". To a Michigander, a party store is usually a little store that sells overpriced candy, snacks, pop, beer, cigarettes, newspapers, and a few token convenience items like milk and bread. From what I understand, the rest of the country thinks of a party store as a place that sells balloons and streamers and things like that for a party.

Anyway, my mom decided to go on a walk with Luke and Riley (they were staying the night at her house) to the party store. They'd never been to one before (or at least not that they remembered). She let them pick out a snack and they walked home. Later, Luke was trying to remember what the store was called, and he called it a "birthday store". Haha! Becky (his mom) is from Minnesota, where a party store probably IS more like a "birthday store" ;)  But I just thought that was cute!

Okay, I'm going to try to read some of my book tonight--I only have three days left to finish it, and I'm struggling. I'll write about it when I'm done. Have a great weekend!

May 27, 2021

Cookies' Summer Challenge 2021

It's only May 27th, but summer kind of begins for us tomorrow--it's Eli's last day of school! He normally would have to go for two more weeks, but the school said that any of the kids who are passing with good grades (he has all A's and B's) have the option to be out on May 28th. The kids that continue to go will be going simply to try to improve their grades enough to pass.

Anyway, summer "officially" starts on June 20th this year... and you know what that means. Cookies' Summer Challenge!

I've done this Summer Running/Walking Checklist since 2016. I tweaked it here and there over the past couple of years, but this year, I'm going to go back to the basic checklist. I want to keep it simple!

This challenge is for those of you who want to run or walk through the summer, but you aren't going to be training for anything big, and you're not sure you want to do a strict schedule. You may just want to loosely follow a plan in order to get you moving through the summer.

Most importantly, exercise should be FUN! Summer is all about fun, but I used to completely dread summer runs. Michigan gets very hot and sticky (the humidity is terrible here, despite what you may think about Michigan weather). And what is more fun than challenging yourself and sharing about it with others? ;)

The object of the challenge is to complete as many of the runs/walks on the checklist as you can. These are all items that just about anyone can do--whether you run or walk. You can go as fast or as slow as you'd like, because these workouts aren't based on speed or distance. They are just lists of things to make your walk or run a little more interesting!

To make things even more fun, I created a Facebook group just for people who want to give the challenge a try. In the group, you can post photos from your runs/walks, write about each experience, tell us about whether it was a good or bad run/walk, etc. Brag, complain, ask questions, whatever you'd like! But it's basically an accountability group for those of us who want to attempt to complete the challenge list this summer.

The challenge starts on June 20th and ends on September 22nd--from the start of summer (the solstice) to the end of summer (the fall equinox). I really hope that you'll join in and follow along with others who are doing it as well!

Here is a link to the (closed) Facebook group (note: You must answer the two questions when requesting to join--it helps to weed out spam accounts):

I chose a closed group so that only other members can see what you share. You will have to request to join, so please be patient with me. I will approve you as long as you don't look like a spam account (also, please plan to participate in the group--even if it just means "liking" other peoples' posts--to keep it active).

As much as I try, I will not always be around in this group--which is why I need your help to keep it interesting. Share things with each other! Make friends! Once in a while I might do a giveaway or some sort of prize for people who are actively working on the challenge as well as posting in the group (last year, I gave away a Kindle Paperwhite). This is not meant to be super competitive, however--just fun.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the challenge checklists (you can click on the photo to view/print the PDF). They are essentially the same list, but the wording is different between runners and walkers:


Once you join the Facebook group (if you want to; obviously, you don't have to), then print out either your walking challenge or your running challenge sheet. Then, starting on June 20th, start working on each run/walk on the list in any order you choose.

There are a few that have to be done on certain days... there is one that has to be done ON June 20th, because it's the summer solstice--the first day of summer. Summer officially starts at 11:52 PM ET, so if you run between 11:51 PM and 11:53 PM, you will have run from spring to summer! . (This is explained on the challenge sheet.)

Like I said, do them in any order you'd like. And then if you're in the Facebook group, it would be great if you posted pictures of your completed runs! The only rule is that you cannot count multiple items for a single run--each item must be completed in its own run/walk. For everything else, if you're not sure what "counts", just use your best judgment. Nobody is going to police the challenge ;)

Okay, and there you have it! I hope you are as excited as I am to knock some things off this list this summer :)  (Every year, I say I am going to complete the entire list, and I've yet to even finish 75% of it! So maybe this will be my year.)

May 26, 2021

Starting Strong

Well, so far, so good. The DietBet I'm doing is going well--it's funny how seeing the scale on Monday scared me straight immediately! The actual challenge didn't start until Tuesday, and normally I would have waited until Tuesday to start. But when I did my official weigh-in, I decided to start right at that moment, haha.

I've been counting calories and as much as I thought I would hate it, I actually don't mind it. The fact that I have all of my recipes already entered into the Fat Secret app is a huge help. I used to get stressed out when it was a busy day, time to cook dinner, and I still had to figure out what to make along with how many calories it has. Planning and getting the tedious stuff done ahead of time is super helpful.

I even took the time on Sunday to plan out our meals for the week, then I wrote a grocery list and went shopping. I included lots of grapes, because those were the secret to my success last time ;)  I made chicken burrito bowls on Sunday, beef stew on Monday, chicken broccoli lo mein yesterday, and grilled cheese with bacon and tomato today. (We didn't get home until 9:00 pm from baseball, so it was a LATE dinner!)

I also started the Couch to 5K plan on Monday. I hadn't actually *planned* to do so, but after my weigh-in, I didn't even change out of those workout clothes I'd weighed in on--I went right out for the first workout. 

There are three runs each week; this week, the workouts are: 8 x (run 60 seconds, walk 90 seconds). That totals 20 minutes, and I added on a warm-up and cool down walk as well.

I can't remember if I wrote this before, but last month when I did the first week of Couch to 5K, I couldn't believe how hard it felt. Each time I did the 60 seconds of running, I was super relieved to hear the beeping on my watch to signal me to walk. But then it seemed like the walking portion flew by much faster! I was barely able to catch my breath before the watch started beeping for me to run again. It felt the same for the second run, too.

Well, after that second run, I was looking at my splits on the Garmin app, and I realized a big mistake I'd made. I had set my recovery walk intervals to 60 seconds instead of 90 seconds! So it's no wonder that it felt so short when I was walking, haha.

This time, I made sure to set the intervals correctly. I brought Joey with me both times--he's gotten as out of shape as I have. To keep from dreading my runs, I am making sure to run at a moderate effort (it feels hard, but I'm only pushing myself to about a 7 on a scale of 1-10). I'm not worried about my pace at all--I'll be thrilled just to be able to run 3 miles comfortably again!

I still like to wear my Garmin and look at all my data after my runs, of course ;)  So it will be interesting to see if my pace improves naturally, even if I maintain the same effort. I like looking at my heart rate data the most. I think that's a big indicator of whether I'm improving my fitness.

This is the data from just the first two runs, so there is nothing to conclude by it... but it's still fun to look at. The first picture of each set is run #1 and the second one is run #2.

Anyway, even though the running feels hard right now, I actually really enjoy it. It feels good to be sore for a *reason* (not just the random chronic pain). It helps me to stay on track with my eating throughout the day, too.

Between the better eating habits, feeling prepared for what's ahead, and working on the Couch to 5K plan, I feel a lot better about myself than I did just a week ago. I have hope that I will really see some progress.

I haven't felt this motivated and determined in longer than I can even remember. Let's hope it continues!

By the way, I saw that some of you joined in on the same DietBet I'm doing--make sure you let me know how it's going for you! I'd love to hear it.

May 25, 2021

Transformation Tuesday #28 - Porch Makeovers!

I still have several Transformation Tuesday posts in my inbox--thank you!--so I'm trying to group a few each week with a common theme. I noticed that there are a few transformations about porches/decks/outdoor living space. There are just three transformations here, but lots of pictures!
Even though I have enough for a couple more weeks, please keep sending them--as I always say, I'd rather have a back-up of submissions than have to keep begging for them! ;) To submit a transformation, just send a before photo and an after photo to me at: katie (at) runsforcookies (dot) com. And don't forget to include your name and a description of the transformation!

Last spring/summer during COVID, we finally decided the backyard and our sunroom-turned-storage-room should be updated. After being at home for two months we got started.

Backyard: We took down the old fence and cleaned up all the junk in the back. Husband then built a small patio, a shed attached to the house and a tree house play set for the kids. We also have a zip line in the back in the woods.

Sunroom: We had a sunroom (three season) room built off our basement seven years ago. It was concrete floor with a frame attached to the stucco. We used it for junk storage until last summer! Husband took the old fencing and used it to line the entire room. Painted, installed a light/fan and an outdoor TV. Add a rug and furniture and now it's one of our favorite places in the house!

Even though these were pretty big projects, it's made being at home so much easier and gives us so much more space.

- Nicole

[It was hard to post a side-by-side of this transformation because it's more of a progression series, so here are the photos in order:]

We added a deck onto our home a couple years ago, which is when We bought the patio table and chairs and conversation seating area. I never really liked the red color but, since it came with that color, I dealt with it. I never could find a rug that I liked to match.

Fast forward a couple years and I decided to spend the money on new slipcovers, rugs, and pillows. I also flip flopped the patio table to the other side of deck and I like it much better. I still want to add more plants and flowers!

- Jennifer, Illinois

At the start of the pandemic I needed a project and decided to strip and repaint my porch. Well, like all of my projects I underestimated the time, talent and treasure needed to accomplish it. I started stripping the paint and it was slow going. I worked on it for a couple months then decided to hire someone to finish it. I am so happy I did. They did a great job--way better than I could ever do.

- Amy

Nicole, what a cozy little nook! I LOVE that your husband used the wood from the fence to line the walls. When I first saw the picture, I thought, "Damn, all that lumber could pay for a brand new car!" ;)

Jennifer, the deck looks great! I adore the rug that you chose. I can't believe what a difference adding a rug can make on a deck. And I like the blue covers, too. Nice!

Amy, I really admire you for attempting such a big project by yourself! It turned out beautifully--and I love the new door color!

Thank you again for sharing your transformations--and please keep them coming! 

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