Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tasty Tuesday

Things have been going really well here.  I feel like I have been super productive, and I know Hans is thrilled with all the work I've been getting done.  I've cleaned and folded laundry, and I've even been cooking regularly (eggs and bacon with an orange and toast every morning is always a plus).  Part of my cooking has meant that I've been exploring some new recipes, and I've been returning to old favorites I haven't made in a while.  While most of my cooking has been fairly healthy, I've had a few that could be healthier.  That said, the way I see it, it's all healthier than eating out, so it's a plus.

Anyway, I'm hoping to post some of my recipes online regularly.  I'd like to be able to do every Tuesday, but I'm not going to promise anything.  Just be patient, and you'll get a recipe every now and then.

For our first recipe, I'm sharing:

Apple Chicken Stir-Fry
Not the best picture, but still tasty.

- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
- 1 1/2 Tbs + 1 1/2 tsp Vegetable oil
- 1/2 c. onion, vertically sliced
- 1 3/4 c. carrots, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp dried basil, crushed
- 1c. fresh or frozen snow peas
- 1 Tbs water
- 1 medium baking apple, cored and thinly sliced
- 2 c. cooked brown rice

Heat 1 1/2 Tbs  of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add cubed chicken breast and stir-fry until lightly browned and cooked.  Remove from skillet.  Stir-fry onion, carrots, and basil in remaining 1 1/2 tsp of oil in same skillet until carrots are tender.  Stir in pea pods and water; stir-fry 2 minutes.  Remove from heat; stir in apple.  Add to chicken, serve over hot, cooked rice.

Per serving: 330 calories, 8g fat, 1g saturated fat, 65mg cholesterol, 115mg sodium, 30g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 29g protein.  Makes 4 servings

This recipe is courtesy of  It is quite tasty, but I do have to say there are some things I'd like to try.

While the recipe is delicious as is, it was also a little plain.  I'd like to see how it would taste if it were cooked in sesame oil instead of vegetable oil.  I also wonder how it'd be with a splash of apple cider or even a spritz of citrus juice to flavor things up.  All in all, though, it's a great way to get all your veggies in one meal.  Oh, and I think it would be easy enough to add or remove any veggies.  I would definitely add some peppers and mushrooms, because I love peppers and mushrooms.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Well That's A Pain

So, I mentioned a while back that I'd had to stop running for a while because my knee was really bothering me.  And it was!  It hurt when I went up and down stairs, it hurt when I was driving, it hurt when I walked the dogs.  In fact, the only time it didn't hurt was when I was bicycling (curse the flat tire that prevented me from biking more often).  So, today I finally went to see an orthopedist.

As is the case with most things that cause us problems, the knee wasn't acting up today.  There was some tenderness, but nothing too major, and I almost canceled at the last minute, but I decided it had been enough of a problem for long enough that I should go.  A few x-rays and some stretches later, and we have a diagnoses.

Patellar Tendinitis

Basically, it's nothing serious yet, but if not treated it could cause problems.  The doctor said I may also have lost some cartilage, but that's no concern at this point.  For now, I have a few physical therapy appointments, and a patellar strap to wear whenever I'm standing.
This is not my leg, but it is what my strap looks like.
I can tell that strap is going to help tremendously.  Already, I'm able to climb the stairs without wincing in pain, and going on a walk does not leave me limping at the end.  So, I'm excited to get this thing worked out and get back into action!

Oh, and in case you're wondering what could cause patellar tendinitis: It's generally caused by repetitive motions like jumping, running, or biking, but there could be other contributing factors such as wide hips (thank you to my baby-making hips), or hyper-extension (apparently I do this a little too).  Also, don't tell the doc, but I think that having dogs run into your legs multiple times a day could be a contributing factor.  :)  Either way, let's hope I'm up and running again soon!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I Used to Be Independent

Eight years ago I was graduating high school and going off to college.  I was fairly independent back then.  I was independent enough to go to a school that was 1250 miles from home.  I was independent enough to go to parties on my own.  I was independent enough to ask a boy a barely knew for a ride home, and I was independent enough to program the TV and VCR without the boy's help.  Somewhere over the past 8 years, I lost that independence.

In fact, I remember the day my independence left.  It was shortly after Hans and I got married, and I had bought a bathroom shelving unit.  I wanted to surprise Hans by having it assembled and set up by the time he got home, so I got to work.  Three hours later, it was mostly assembled, but I couldn't get one crucial part together.  I pushed and shoved and squeezed, but those puzzle pieces would not fit.  When Hans came home I was still sitting in the middle of the floor with pieces of shelves around me.  I asked for some help, and Hans, being the builder that he is, had that thing completely assembled in about 30 minutes.  To add insult to injury, the whole unit didn't even fit in our bathroom, and we had to disassemble it and return it to the store.  Anyway, that was the first time I realized how much faster Hans could handle certain things.

Over the years it's gotten worse.  Hans was the best at building things (he is a carpenter after all), painting things, and making decisions.  I can't seem to program the VCR to save my soul, and my ability to go to a party on my own is barely existent.  I'm much more comfortable with Hans.

Here's the thing, though.  While I often lament my loss of independence (and scream at Hans, "I used to be able to do things before I met you!"), I'd much rather have Hans around.  I definitely prefer having Hans here to chat with and cuddle with and share dinners with than to have the ability to paint and build and program VCRs. 

Maybe some day I'll regain some of my independence, but for now I'm quite happy to be codependent.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Fighting the Winter Blues

I am on my second week of greatly decreased / no processed sugar, and things are going well.  The stomach bug was a great jump-start, but that doesn't mean things have been easy.  While I feel my cravings are passing, earlier this week was particularly bad.  I think a lot of it had to do with the cold, but all I wanted was cake.  I didn't want anything cold...just cake.  Luckily, Hans and I had picked up some fruit-filled bread last Saturday, and that helped to satisfy my needs.  Otherwise, I've been doing OK.  I'm feeling good, but aside from all that cutting sugar does for me, there's one other side effect I hadn't anticipated.

I feel like I've accomplished something.

One of the worst things about the winter blues is that I end up sleeping a lot.  When I sleep a lot, nothing gets done.  When nothing gets done, I feel bad.  When I feel bad, I want to sleep a lot.  Do you see the vicious cycle?  By cutting sugar, I didn't have to really do anything (other than fight urges).  It was something I wanted to do, and it really didn't require a lot of work.  Now I feel like I've accomplished something.

Since I accomplished one thing, I now want to tackle other things.  I've done the dishes.  I've folded laundry.  I've even cooked a few meals.  I'm going to they gym this afternoon, and I think I'm going to set up a pretty awesome work out plan.  Tackling one hard thing has made it easier to tackle other easy things, and that's pretty cool.  So, for now, I'm keeping processed sugar to a minimum. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Great Falls National Park

Two dogs excited to be on a car trip.

Hans took a painting!

Cody, Ollie, Ippa, Lollie

The two bullies.

Scenery along our hike.

Everybody chase Ippa!!!

Did someone say, "Ippa?"


Tired puppies

A very tired Ippa.

Yesterday, Hans and I took Cody, Lollie, and their friend Ippa to Great Falls National Park.  There, we met up with Oliver and a good time was had by all.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

How A Stomach Flu Can Be Good

As you know, earlier this week I was suffering from a stomach flu.  It was awful!  I had a fever and chills.  Everything made me nauseous, and I didn't eat for 4 days.  Yes, in the last post I joked that I had dropped 6 pounds, but it wasn't very fun, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.  That said, there was some good that came from it.

I have already discovered that processed sugar is awful for me.  I don't just mean it's bad physically.  I mean, it really messes with my head.  It makes me depressed and lethargic.  It makes me cranky and sad.  All in all, it makes me feel like I'm the shell of a person struggling to get by.  The problem is, I am kind of a sugar addict.  All it takes is the bite of cookie or the sip of a milkshake to send me spiraling back.  The one cookie will make me crave a second cookie.  That milkshake (and the justification of that milkshake) will make me crave more milkshakes, or hot chocolate, or a banana chocolate-chip coffee cake, courtesy of Starbucks.  Stopping is easier said than done.  I can come up with a million excuses as to why I deserve more.  I've had a hard day.  It's cold outside (particularly good for hot chocolate).  It's only one, and one is fine.  I need a pick me up.  I'm tired.  I'm worried about xyz.  I'll say anything to have another bit of sugar.  The problem is that each bite makes me feel worse, and each bite makes me crave more.

I knew I needed to cut the sugar.  I needed to "sober up" if you will.  I've done it before, but it's extremely hard.  For me, it's even harder in the winter, and most of my sugar cuts have happened in the summer.  I'm happier in the summer, and I'm more active in the summer, so I can usually fight off silly cravings.  Cutting the sugar was going to be really hard this time.  I hadn't been feeling great emotionally, and things have been kind of stressful.  I was trying to succeed, but I kept getting in my on way.

That's where the stomach flu comes in.  Not only could I not eat sugar, the thought of anything sweet repulsed me.  I would think of saltines or very simple soup and be OK, but the thought of one of the Oreos sitting on our counter made me ill.  Smelling something sweet was even worse.  Heck, even the smell of our caramel-scented candle gave me pause.  I didn't enjoy being sick, but even at the time I could recognize that this was a good thing.

I started eating real food again on Wednesday, and I started eating colorful food (not plain rice and chicken) on Thursday, but I've done well with the no sugar thing.  I haven't really wanted any sugar.  My mentality seems to be, "I've gone this long without sugar, what's another day?"  It was something I recognized right away...I no longer needed all the sugar.  So, yesterday when Mom and I went to Starbucks like we often do, I let her buy coffee, but I had nothing (I already had tea that morning, so I really didn't want more).  I didn't have hot chocolate even though it was chilly out, and I didn't have that delicious banana chocolate-chip coffee cake.  Sure, the thought passed through my mind that I deserved one, but it was easy to squash.

Oh, and how has this paid off?  Am I feeling better?  You bet!  I'm sleeping better and requiring less of it.  I'm spending more time at the gym.  I'm cooking dinner (which makes Hans extremely happy).  I'm a happier person all-in-all.

Now, I know, realistically, that I can't hide from sugar forever.  There are some treats I refuse to give up (like Culver's custard), but I don't need those treats on a regular basis.  I can get by with only having them once or twice a year.  They will be more special because I did get by.  For now, I'm just thankful that my stomach flu ended with a happy outcome...or maybe that's just the lack of sugar pointing out the positive.  :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

10 Step Diet

Step 1: Invite a friend over for pizza.  This will THE LAST DAY you will eat junk food. 

Step 2: Call the husband and ask him to pick up ice cream and candy, because you're going to make milkshakes.  In the absence of a husband, get them yourself.

Step 3: Consume nearly an entire pizza and a lot of chocolate before entering a sugar coma and going to bed.

Step 4: Start the day with a healthy breakfast.

Step 5: See the chocolate from the night before and decide to finish it off.  There wasn't a lot left, and it's better to be rid of it so it's not tempting you.

Step 6: Immediately curse because you just ate chocolate!

Step 7: Move on with your life and begin your day.

Step 8: Eat a healthy, hearty lunch because you've been working hard.

Step 9: Catch a stomach bug with fever and chills included.  Stop eating for 3.5 days because the thought of food makes you ill.

Step 10: Lose 6 pounds!

Yes, I've been sick.  After Sunday I was functional, but my stomach couldn't seem to digest any food.  Today I am feeling much better, and I'm starting to eat some proteins and cooked veggies.  I hated that stomach bug, and I felt miserable, but it was nice to lose 6 pounds.  That said, I don't recommend that diet for anyone!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Husband

One of the first things Hans learned when he met me was how much I love dogs.  Really, I love any animal, but dogs top the list.  Early in our relationship, I made it clear that dogs would in some way be a part of my life.  Hans didn't even flinch.

Five and a half years ago, we did not get a dog.  We were both still and school, and a dog was, unfortunately, not an option.  We did, however, find a cat.  I don't mean adopt.  I mean we found a cat.  My roommate's dad raised a sheep, and as is common on farms, there were cats.  One of those cats had kittens.  I'm not sure how or why, but somehow one of the young kittens became separated from its mother.  At only 4 days old, we think it had spent at least 12 hours away from its mother when we found it.  The mother wouldn't take her back, so we decided to raise her.  My roommate, myself, and Hans all too turns feeding her and cleaning her and doing other gross mommy-like things.  Hans was great.

Four and a half years ago we were married, and yes, we got a dog.  Cody was everything anyone could wish for in a puppy, and Hans was great with him.  He got up in the middle of the night to let Cody out.  He didn't yell when Cody had an accident.  He calmed me down when Cody ate my brand-new, never-been-worn pair of shoes (I said Cody was great, not that he was perfect).  He didn't even get mad when Cody had his first counter-surfing episode and ate all the waffles that Hans had just made.  In fact, he just laughed along with me as he realized that things could never be left near the edge of a counter again.  He made a great Cody-daddy.

Three and a half years ago Hans came through again.  He supported me when I decided to become a dog trainer.  He bid me farewell, as I headed off to school, and he patiently waited for my return, all the while living with my dad.

Almost two years ago, we moved into our first house.  We expected things to stay fairly calm and quiet with 2 dogs and 2 cats (we had regained custody of my cat from high school and were sponsoring a Humane Society dog), but Henrico Humane Society and God had other plans.  Instead of calmly enjoying and getting used to our new house, we were raising a litter of 3 week old pups (Lord, help us).  It was long before we were fostering all sorts of dogs, some big some small (most of them big).  We would have anywhere between 2 and 11 dogs in the house at once.  I know Hans didn't and doesn't love it all the time, but he's always been fairly patient.

This weekend, though, kind of topped the charts.  Saturday, Hans woke early with me to care for the dogs.  We fed them and let them out, and then we took two of them for bike rides.  After that, Hans joined me at HHS adoption stand.  There, he walked dogs, talked to people, loaded and unloaded crates, and was an all-around good guy.  Then, he took me to lunch and afterward we ran a quick errand.  It was during this errand that things turned rough.  I got sick...really sick.

We came home, and I went straight to bed with a fever, chills, and a stomach bug.  Hans let out all the dogs, and then cared for me.  That night, he fed everyone, and let me sleep.  Sunday morning, he got up early and let me sleep in while he cared for everyone again.  At some point on Sunday, though, Hans started to feel sick.  He won't admit it, but I think he was fighting off what I had.  Still, though, he refused to let me help.  That night, as I made my way from the couch to our bed, I discovered that I was not the only sick one in the house.  Our cat, Mo, was sick too...all over our bed.  Hans, though not feeling well, stripped the bed and changed the sheets.  He cleaned up where Mo had been ill, and he did it with little complaint.

Last night, I still wasn't feeling great, and I wasn't sleeping well, so when one of the dogs woke up at 3:00 am, Hans got up to let him out.  This morning, I let the dogs out, but Hans was right there with me.  I haven't eaten much since Saturday, but Hans has gotten me anything I've asked for...anything that might make me feel better.

I have to say, I have a pretty awesome husband.  He's kind, generous, caring, handy, and an all-around great guy.  Yep, I have an awesome husband.  Oh yeah!  And he's kind of good lookin' too! 

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Newest Member of the Family

Meet Lollie!

Lollie is the newest addition to our family, and we are super-thrilled to have her with us.  So, let me tell you a little about her, and how she came to join our little pack.

Back in October, around the time that I got sick and everything, Steven Spielberg (that's right, the movie guy) came to Richmond to film a movie.  The city was all a-tither.  Yes, I did audition to be an extra, but I figured I'd be fine either way.  I had a small claim to fame because one of my friends works for the casting company that was casting extras, so I was happy to hear all her tales of woe and her tales of celebrities.  What I was not expecting, though, was for her to tell people tales of me!

Apparently, the director of photography (DP) had a dog, and this dog needed help.  She was scared.  Her tail was tuck, she trembled, and she wouldn't take treats.  She was a mess.  She was a new addition to the DP's family, and he wanted to help her in any way he could.  Other people wanted to help her too, though.  She was pretty pathetic.

So, one day, a publicist for the film saw my friend, and she asked her if she knew of any dog trainers in the area.  She specified that this person had to be a really good, fantastic dog trainer because this dog didn't need anyone setting her back.  My friend gave her my name.

Before I knew it, I was meeting with a 2-time Oscar winner and his dog.  I knew from the get-go that if things didn't work out, that he would try to rehome this dog.  He wasn't being mean.  He was being realistic.  His life was not beneficial for a timid dog.  It would not help her.

I worked and worked and worked with Lollie, and she showed huge improvements.  She started to snuggle, and she stopped hiding in her corner.  She even started playing at the dog park!  However, she was still easily overwhelmed, and often had trouble with minor things like loud sounds and a lot of people. 

When the DP came to see her again, the improvements were there, but I think we both knew they were not going to be enough...they might never be enough for this little girl.  He was looking for a happy-go-lucky Lab, and Lollie was a timid bulldog. 

After a bit of a conversation, I told the DP and his assistant that she was more than welcome to live with us.  She gets along well with Cody, she's quiet, and she's a great source of heat on a cold winter's night.  The next thing I knew, I had a new dog!

Lollie has been a joy to have here the past few months.  She's a lovely little girl, and her place in our family and our hearts just grows stronger every day.  I can't wait to see what the future holds for her!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

First Run Of the Year

Tuesday morning, I decided that it was high time I got off my rear, so I went for a run.  More accurately, I took Cody and Hans took one of our fosters (Lollie was not built for running), and we went for a run together.  We jogged down a local fitness trail, did some strength exercises, and jogged / walked back home.  Some things were good.  Others...not so much.

My last run was back in October.  Fitness-wise, I was not in a good place.  So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could run as much as I did.  Granted, my pace wasn't great (very slow), but I didn't become too winded, and for the most part things went fairly well.  This is good!  All that said, there was one concerning part of my run.

When I stopped running last October, there were two main reasons.  1) I had thrown my neck out, and simply lifting my head was painful.  2) I got very, very sick.  Once both of those things passed, I just wasn't motivated anymore.  However, I never really discussed the third reason with people: running just wasn't feeling good.  I don't mean that I couldn't get into a groove.  I mean that it hurt.  It started by hurting in my left knee.  Usually it would go away, but the more often I ran and the farther I ran, the more it started to hurt.  I suppose this ended up changing my stride (I was probably limping a little), because shortly there-after it started to hurt in my hips and neck and back.  Instead of coming home happy and devoid of stress, I'd come home in pain.  I actually wonder if that's not why my neck started hurting so bad.

So, I decided to take some time off.  I missed running the entire time, and I know Cody missed it too.  I walked a little, and I could have spent more time at the gym, but I really wanted to go for a run.  Tuesday's was a trial run. 

It felt good at first, but it didn't take long for that left knee to start acting up again.  That knee is the reason I walked a good portion of the way back home.  It hurt during, and it still hurt yesterday (and a little today).  So, I'm still taking a break from running.  I do not, however, want to take a break from physical activity altogether, though.  So, I have a plan:

1) Walk with the dogs every other day.  This is more for the dogs than for me.  They need the extra exercise.

2) On mornings that Hans and I don't go on walk, we'll go to the gym.  This generally means time in the pool or on a bike.  There will also be the occasional morning where we'll take the dogs for a bike ride around town instead of going to they gym.

3) Go to the doctor.  I already have an appointment with my GP for an annual checkup, and I'm hoping for a referral to an orthopedist.  Maybe I'm doing something wrong, but I'd rather catch it and fix it than just let it get worse.  That said, if anyone in RVA or the surrounding areas has an orthopedist they recommend, let me know.  I'm more than happy to speak with anyone.

Anyway, that's the update for now.  I'm hoping things get better soon!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A New Year, A New Bed

It is officially 2012.  How did you spend your New Year's Eve / Day?  Ours was spent quite nicely.  For New Year's Eve, we did two very special things.  First, we celebrated the marriage of two of our friends.  It's the first time I've been to a wedding on New Year's Eve, and it was a lot of fun.  As an added bonus, the bride was from MN, so one of the treats at the reception was lefse.  Hans was thrilled, and both of us had way more than we should have.  If you're not sure what lefse is, I highly recommend you check out this link.

The next thing Hans and I did, though, is one that will affect us throughout the year.  We spent the first night in our brand new bed!  I can't believe what a difference it made sleep-wise.  I had a lot more room to move which means I didn't wake up whenever I wanted to roll over.  On top of that, this bed, while quite similar to our old one, was designed a bit differently, so things that were problematic in our old bed are no longer problematic. 

Anyway, I got an amazing night's sleep, but what's even nicer is that Hans got an amazing night's sleep.  This, of course, means I don't have to deal with a tired, grouchy Hans.  Life is much better this way.  :)

I am hoping that this new bed will also mean some other changes in my life.  Maybe with better sleep I'll be more productive.  Maybe waking up to work out won't be so difficult.   Maybe I won't get so stressed out so easily.  Maybe things will improve overall.  Maybe.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, our new bed is a Sleep Number.  I've had one since I was 13, and I love them.  If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!