Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?!

As you may know, I have started running again after a hiatus of about 3 years. Right now the term running is more like an optimistic description of what I wish I were doing. In reality, I'm shuffling along making running-type movements with my legs. But I pretend that I am actually moving more quickly than a snail on heavy narcotics would, and I keep huffing and puffing along taking (more frequent than I would like) short walking breaks when necessary.

Someone once told me that I was a good paralegal because I was goal-oriented rather than task-oriented, meaning I could see and work towards the big picture. It seems I am that way in my exercising and running regimen, too. I need a goal to aspire to, and I don't mean some nebulous "I want to lose weight and become healthy" kind of goal either. I mean, I need something concrete that I can work towards - more importantly, something that I know I will totally and completely embarrass myself at if I don't commit to training for the next 8 weeks. So...what do you think I chose? A local 5k? Well, not quite.

I signed up for the Warrior Dash. While it is a 5k, it involves obstacles - and mud - lots and lots of mud. The website assures me the Warrior Dash will be the "craziest frickin day of [my] life." I'm pretty sure that is a 100% true assessment. The course is called the battleground, and the obstacles include such fun things as hay bales to climb over, a river to run through, mounds of sand to trek through and a muddy hill to slide down before the glorious finale of low-crawling through the mud under barbed wire. Doesn't that sound like a glorious time?!

If you are wondering how you, too, can train for the Warrior Dash, here is the site's advice:

1.Day one: run as far as you can. Go home.
2.Day two: do the same thing.
3.Find the dirtiest pond in your neighborhood and snorkel in it - in your slippers, without goggles.
4.Practice your climbing and crawling skills at your local jungle gym. Ignore the small children and parental glares.
5.Do not shower or shave for weeks in order to obtain a true Warrior look.
Seriously though, your best bet is to do plenty of running leading up to the race.

Wish me luck...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Good Stuff

Today, I created a layout using one of my new favorite pictures of my oldest daughters as they were sharing a "moment" at Christmas. I knew that I wanted my layout to have a shabby chic look, complete with flowers that were every bit as beautiful as my girls. And when I want beautiful flowers for a layout, I look no further than my box of flowers and vines hand made by Stephanie. As you can see, Stephanie accents her large flowers with goodies like pearls and diamond dust, and her vines contain pearls and accent gems interspersed among the flowers - perfect for the shabby chic look I wanted to create!

You may be asking yourself where you can get some gorgeous flowers like the ones on this layout. Luckily for you (and me), Stephanie has a blog, which can be found here. Her blog not only has a link to her etsy where you can stock up on gorgeous handmade flowers and vines, but it also contains detailed tutorials with lots of pictures so that you can make your own flowers if you are feeling particularly crafty.

And speaking of flowers and tutorials and blogs, please take a few minutes and check out yet another FANTASTIC blog by my friend Alissa, which is found here. She and Stephanie are friends, and she is the person who originally told me about Stephanie's flowers. Alissa's blog is fairly new; but it is already full of fantastic tutorials and creative ideas for cards, stamping and layouts. She includes lots of close-up and step-by-step photos. And if you love Alissa's cards but don't feel brave enough to try making them yourself, don't worry - you can place an order for Alissa to make a set for you. Her cards make terrific, unique gifts and are the perfect present for that person who already has everything!

Finally, I cannot talk about good stuff without giving you the link to the fabulous Alda's website. Alda is what my old high school English teacher would call a true Renaissance person. She makes flowers and tags and butterflies that are truly little works of art. She designs new sketches every Monday for scrapbookers, which I believe are ten times better than the ones found in some of the popular scrapbooking magazines (and Alda's sketches are free!). And, she has a fully stocked online store that carries all of the major scrapbooking brand names and products! Everytime I visit her site, I am always amazed and inspired by all the lovely things I see; and I believe you will be, too!

I hope you enjoy the links to some of my favorite sites, and I sincerely hope they inspire you as much as they do me. Happy crafting!

Friday, January 21, 2011

It's good for me, right?

Two days ago I went grocery shopping. I passed up the potato chip aisle (and the bakery section and the Starbucks counter)and, instead, loaded up on bananas, watermelon, strawberries and blackberries. I also grabbed some pecans and walnuts (plain, not salted or flavored) which my doctor says contain "good fats" that help to make our bodies feel full. I'm not sure how the word "fat" can ever have the word "good" attached to it, but my doctor is a pretty smart guy and hasn't led me wrong yet...

What my grocery haul means is that yesterday when I wanted a muffin, I had a small cupful of strawberries and blackberries. I took the time to savor the flavors in my mouth and delighted in how VIRTUOUS I felt for not eating something packed with empty calories. Later in the day, when I really, really wanted my vinegar and salt potato chips, I grabbed a handful of pecans. A handful is all you need so says my wise doctor. I was doubtful it would satisfy my craving for something salty, but apparently the crunchiness of the pecans (and who knows, maybe even the "good fats") did the trick, and I was feeling just fine and not missing my friend, Mr. Pringles.

I may not be able to keep this up all the time. But I figure if I can make fruits and nuts and veggies my go-to snacks MOST of the time, I will be doing my body a huge favor!

On the running front, my second running group session was Wednesday. We met at the track of one of the local middle schools. I "ran" a mile, so the coach could establish a baseline, in 12:46. I know, that's pretty bad. But I look at it this way: 1) I did it, and 2) it can only get better! Then, we did sixteen intervals in the grass, in which we ran from one football goalpost to the other, and then walked back. I was feeling super motivated so I ran back during the final interval rather than walking. After running, we did 15 minutes of core exercises which consisted of planks, planks and more planks. I do not like planks. I think I would almost rather give birth than do planks. What happened to good, old-fashioned crunches?

Tonight, I will be running on my own. It's going to be cold. I don't want to head indoors to a treadmill at the Y, but I'm not really looking forward to running in the cold. If anyone has good tips for this, please share!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

This Looks Yummy

From time to time, my friends share really fantastic recipes that always taste delicious and that are, sometimes, even healthy. My friend, Alissa, recently sent me this recipe for Zucchini Lasagna. You may have guessed that the zucchini is used in place of the pasta, so your carb load is significantly reduced and you are adding an ingredient that is good for you!

Did you know that zucchinis are very low in calories and contain no saturated fats or cholesterol? They are a source of folates, a very good source of potassium (which means good for your heart, and they are good sources of Vitamins C, A and B-Complex.

The most important thing about this recipe, however, is that it TASTES good. And the leftovers are even better! It's a wonderful dinner idea when you have company over. You can also freeze individual servings and heat them up for lunch or a last-minute meal.

Zucchini Lasagna

1 lb ground Italian sausage
1 lb ground beef (or buffalo, elk, deer…)
1 medium onion chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic minced
1 – 14 oz can of tomato sauce
1 – 14 oz can of diced or crushed tomatoes (partially drained)
4-6 medium mushrooms sliced (optional)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar or honey (optional)

Spices (choose your own preferred flavors):
-2 tablespoons fresh Italian Parsley finely chopped
-1 tablespoons fresh oregano chopped (or 1.5 tsp dried)
-2 teaspoons fresh basil chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
-1 teaspoon fresh thyme chopped (or 1/2 tsp dried)
-1/2 teaspoon dried fennel seed (optional)

1.5 – 2 lbs of zucchini squash (sliced and peeled nets about 1-1.5 lbs total)
2 eggs
1/4 cup of grated parmesan (romano or parmigiana reggiano)
16 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
16 ounces low moisture mozzarella grated

Brown Italian sausage and ground meat on medium to medium high heat. Drain if needed. To the meat mixture add diced onions and allow to soften for 5 minutes. Add in garlic, stir for 30 seconds. Incorporate tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, mushrooms, salt, and Italian seasonings with meat. Reduce heat and allow to simmer stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes.

Slice zucchini into thin horizontal sheets similar to lasagna pasta. Lay out and pat dry on paper towels. Set aside.

Combine ricotta cheese, grated Parmesan and eggs in a bowl until mixed well. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Check meat sauce for flavoring, adjust if necessary (adding sugar to reduce acidity per taste preference). Once the meat sauce liquid has reduced remove from heat and line up all ingredients to assemble the lasagna.

In a 13×9 glass baking dish combine a third of each ingredient in layers as follows:

Zucchini slices
Ricotta mixture
Meat sauce

Repeat two more times.

Bake for 45 minutes or until bubbly throughout and cheese is dark golden brown. Rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Why don't you try it and tell me what you think?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hello New Year

I have been away all winter, mostly feeling like my life was a little (okay, a lot) out of control. But it's a new year and just like the song, "I get knocked down, but I get up again. You're never gonna keep me down!"

The New Year is about new beginnings, new friendships, new connections, new things. One new thing I am scrapping about is my lovely little niece, Audrey. Although she turned three last October, I never had a chance to meet her before this past Thanksgiving. I got to spend a week with her - and my brother and sister-in-law, too - and just fell in love with the tiny, adorable, keenly intelligent, curious, sweet bundle of pure energy that is my niece. Of course, I took lots of pictures (and filched a few from her parents)! And now that the hustle and bustle of Christmas is behind me and all the lights are taken down and the decorations are put away, I have devoted the past two days to scrapping my favorite niece. What do you think?