Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Clean slate.

I took down the Christmas tree and village today.  What a letdown.  I like the clean feeling in the house, but now the festive feeling is gone.  

 However, maybe it will stop me from eating cookies as one of my meals every day? I hope so.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Too good to wait.

I really was hoping more people would see my last post because I had such a good time last week --and there's pretty pictures :) But I can't wait to put this up here --I've been saving it too long already.  We drove up to Jeff's parents' house for a few days later last week, and we have to drive through some pretty small towns (and LOTS of desert) to get there.  We see this billboard, and I literally make Jeff turn the car around so I can take a picture. 

After you look at it for a while, you can tell the people are standing on a couple of hands, but I swear I thought it was a giant exploded colon with people popping out.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Salt Lake City Christmas

 Jeff and I got to go for a night away this week courtesy of my brother and sister-in-law who watched our kids for us.  We love to go to a certain Hilton downtown because of the great gym.  The problem is the rooms aren't super nice.  Nice, but not fantastic.  I wish I had a picture of that gym.  The hotel website only has a picture of the cardio machines --which as we all know are the LAME part of a gym (but they do have tv's on them (yay).  Anyway, we decided to go to the other Hilton this time because the gym looked pretty good (are we nerds or what?) and the rooms looked much better.
The cable machine was gone when we got there, and some of the free weights were missing, but we got in some great workouts anyway.  I'm voting for the old Hilton next time. We were a bit further away from the city center, and so we got some nice walks in.  I've always lived in the suburbs, except for a brief time in South America, and so I love walking in the city because I feel like I'm in a romantic comedy.  Have you noticed they all seem to take place in New York City?  Except "While you were sleeping" -Chicago. Last time we stayed downtown, we witnessed a drug deal within a few feet of us.  That wasn't so romantic comedy-ish.

Every year the LDS church lights up Temple Square in the center of downtown Salt Lake, but this was the first time in a few years I got to see it.  Can you see me?  I'm the little dark shadow in the foreground.  That's the big LDS temple on the left --all made of hand carved granite. They light up all of the trees, running the lights up and down each branch.  I think I'd kill myself if it was my job to light up all even one tree.  Look:
 Can you IMAGINE?!? Hours and hours.

I've got the crappiest digital camera in the world, but I wanted to show you a little of our walk downtown. This is Main street.  All of the sidewalks are made of granite, and there are these cool clocks, and the trees are lit up too.  I could almost imagine the jazz soundtrack in the background.....

Monday, December 20, 2010

What do you think?

How do you feel about wrist straps? weight belts? arch supports and good running shoes? spf 30?

Mixed feelings on all of them for me. I can deadlift 40 more pounds for higher reps with wriststraps, and the only things not working harder are my hands and forearms.  Not super excited about getting bigger hands or forearms.

Weight belt? Never use it, but then I've had a couple of times I maybe should have when my lower back has had a weird twinge for a couple of days after a heavy lift. However I haven't had anything like that for over a year -so maybe I've built up the strength I need in that area.

I ran ran ran for years as my main form of exercise and was ALWAYS careful to wear arch supports and good shoes, and never had an injury.  I started training for some races this last summer, and granted, this was the first time I've tried to increase distance AND speed at the same time (a big no no in running), but trying to do a few barefoot training runs and getting lighter shoes gave me my first injury -plantar fasciitis, and later tendinitis.  I thought I had built up my foot strength with barefoot kickboxing for a year or so first, but maybe it wasn't enough.

What about wearing sunscreeen everywhere, all of the time? Have you heard about the big vitamin D buzz going around right now that says vitamin D can reduce cancer risk? Do you wear the sunscreen all of the time to not get cancer, or do you get lots of sunlight and avoid sunscreen because it can block vitamin D absorption/production?

Jeff and I talk about this a lot. It's the use a crutch/be safe conundrum and it applies to a lot of things in life.  Do you protect yourself, or do you expose yourself in order to build up your strength? Do you never do external rotator cuff shoulder exercises because it's so easy to injure those little muscles, or do you do them specifically BECAUSE it's so easy to injure those little muscles, and so they need to be strengthened?  Do you jump in and "save" your kids when something bad is going to happen to them, or do you step back a little in order to let them solve problems themselves?

What do you think?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas crazies. Or, how to make your own snowflake cookies.

 Yep.  I did them again this year, but it's the laaaaast time. We ended up making 12 batches of gingerbread dough, and I didn't bother counting how many cookies this year for neighbors.  They're all done (although not all delivered). Sigh. 
 I couldn't find any more white nonpareils this year, so we were a little skimpy on those kinds.  On the plus side, I was finally able to figure out how to keep my blue flood icing glossy --but not until the second day.  See how shiny my blue ones look?  They're dry and everything!

I also found these cute gable boxes to pack them in.  We had some fun doing them this year --mainly because Tia helped (and Wendy for an hour or so -Thanks!).  But yeah, this is the last time.  Hopefully Jeff gets a million dollar an hour job before next Christmas's neighbor gifts and I can give everyone their own pony instead.  Haven't you always wanted a pony?
So I decided I ought to share my recipes so you can make your own cookies -since I'm giving out ponies from now on.

First, the equipment.  I bought a set of snowflake cutters here. ;a good rolling pin; a good mixer (-I recommend a Bosch since I burned out my Epicurean Kitchenaid twice before I gave up and switched over), cake decorating tips and bags (you need a #2 size, and maybe a six, or a flat one -like a 101) three cookie sheets; powdered sugar (try to get C&H --when I get the bargain brand I regret it when I taste it), meringue powder, lemon juice,chocolate sprinkles (Guittard are the best. I eat them by the handful when I'm feeling weak -made of real chocolate; White non-pareils (I should have ordered them there -I forgot to and looked in Funfinity --they usually have them, but DIDN'T this year), sanding sugar, and blue food color (this is me --I like the light blue with the chocolate sprinkles).

OK, here goes: the recipes. for the cookies I use a version of Mrs. Field's but add a little more spice.

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 T. ground cinnamon (I buy the cheap cinnamon though, maybe that's why Mrs. Fields only uses a t.)
3 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground cloves (I really do about 1/2 t. --but try this first, since I really like it spicy)

Mix all of this together in a bowl.  In your Bosch add:

1 cup softened, salted butter
3/4 cup DARK brown sugar (packed)

Cream it together. Add:

1 large egg
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses.

Add your dry ingredients, and mix just until moistened.

There's your dough.  Now do that twelve times if you're me :). Roll out using more flour if needed, to 1/3 an inch, cut out, and bake at 350 for 8 minutes.  check them, and if they still look wet, put them in for another minute or two, but they should be really soft when you pull them out --and NOT browner around the edges. If you're fast enough, you can roll and cut out a pan's worth in 5 minutes, and then rotate three pans around between the racks of your ovens and the counter.

For the drawing icing:
1/4 cup meringue podwer
1/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup lemon juice

beat together in a bowl (with your Bosch --see how handy they are?) until soft peaks form --just like egg white soft peaks, and add:

1 lb. powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time until medium to stiff peaks form. I really like a lemony-icing on gingerbread, but if you don't, you can use all water.

For the flood icing:
Take 1 cup of the icing you just made, and add 2 T. water, 6-8 drops blue food color, and 2 T. corn syrup (hence the glossiness), and mix together well.  You might add half of the water and half of the syrup first and see if you have the right consistency (draw a knife through the icing, and if it comes back together between 7 and 10 seconds.  If it takes longer, and more water/syrup, if it's too fast, add more powdered sugar).

For both of your icings, keep them covered with plastic wrap right up against the icing, and in the fridge.  If it dries out even a little around the edges, those edges can get into your decorating tip and cause you to curse and run around breaking things.

Use your drawing icing in your decorating bag with a #2 tip for making outlines of the things you want to "flood" or fill in.  Do these first, as they need to dry before you can flood.  You can also do the snowflakes you want to just draw on at this time, and then dip them in sanding sugar, nonpareils, or sprinkles right away before the icing dries.  Just fill a saucer with your topping, and turn the cookie upside down in it.  Sprinkling on top DOESN'T work.  Brush off excess.
 Outlined, and then not flooded --design instead.

When your outlines dry, you can fill in with your "flood".  Use the #6 or #101 tip, and fill in the outlines, using the tip to spread it around.  Don't do too much in there, or it will spill over the sides.  Let it dry all of the way --it takes a while-- then you can do another design on top if you want.  I love the look of a chocolate sprinkle design on top of the blue.
 Flooded without design.

 Flooded and design on top with sanding sugar.

For design ideas, I use these books:

Or look at this blog  (but you're really not allowed to compare my skill with this lady's.  She's amazing).

Good Luck! (And bring me a few while you're at it.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Full body compound workout.

I found a couple of new blogs to follow and it's funny how my tastes have changed.  I used to follow religiously a girl that taught cardio classes and talked about what she ate all of the time, then I followed a runner/triathalon girl, now there are a few lifting girls I'm following.  One isn't too careful about swearwords so I won't post her link here ( although I think she's just young or something), but here are the other three:  Foods of AprilMother Fitness and Nia Shanks  (and yes, that is the author down the side of the page on Mother Fitness) . So this Nia lifts HEAVY --girl can deadlift 300 pounds (and she weighs 122), and bench 145.  She advocates doing full body compound exercises only --not focusing on and burning out specific muscle groups. Think pull-ups versus biceps curls, or squats versus quad extensions. I'm not positive about doing this exclusively, but it's VERY interesting --and makes good sense to me.  These are functional movements for the most part. You're always going to want to pick things up off the ground for example (actually --I think Nia USED that example ).  So I've done two workouts so far like this, and I'm FEELING it.  Here's Wednesday's:

Barbell squats 135 pounds (a small note here: I "thought" I was able to do a lot more weight squatting, but I wasn't going all the way down.  It's so easy to trick yourself! This is down to where I can feel the tops of my thighs touching up against my pelvic girdle): 6 reps, 6 reps, 6, 8 (I got the hang of it here).

Deadlifts 95 pounds (note --these aren't "straight leg deadlifts" --they are conventional deadlifts) 8,9,9,7

Pullups (note --I was doing assisted by putting my feet on the bar and trying to do as much as I can with upper body, but I never felt like I was making any progress.  I tried "negatives", but found I ended up doing assisted without noticing --like I'd trick myself.  Finally, I asked Jeff to spot me, and finally I feel like I'm getting closer and closer to doing them on my own.  He says he's only pushing up about 20 pounds worth of me and I don't know about that, but I really feel like I'm maxing out finally.) 3 1/2, 3, 2 1/2, 3

Shoulder Press -25 pounds each arm: (note: standing is what Nia recommends.  I usually would do these sitting and one arm at a time so I could spot myself with the other arm -- and I could do 35's this way.  Standing, with both arms at once, your whole body is working to stabilize.  Much more "neuromuscular stimulation" --core, shoulders, legs, etc.) 7,7,5,4

Inverted Row: (here's a link in case you don't know what these are --I didn't, and they aren't on ) 10, 10, 10, 8

That's it.  I did another workout today, (Nia advocates three times a week, but I didn't see her program until Wednesday) substituting "step-ups" for the squats.  These (I think --I asked her to send me a link to a video) are where you start on a step --like 4 inches --with a barbell, and step back down into a lunge.  So hard to keep balance and form!  I started with 115 for the first set, and had to go down to 95 to keep the form without Jeff holding my torso.  I'm the kind of lifter who always seems to start out heavier than I can really do!

Anyway, here's some tips if you want to train like this for a few months. Pick 4-6 compound exercises, and do somewhere between 3 and 6 sets.  Pick a weight that you can do for 5-10 reps, but that should be all you can do by the last set.  Go until your muscles give out. Be safe! Have a spotter there, or make sure you have a place to drop the weight safely if you need to.  If you can do more reps at the end, do them, but pick a heavier weight next time.  You need to get adequate rest in between workouts, and get enough protein into you: 20-25 grams within 45 minutes after your workout, and 100-200 grams every day.  This doesn't have to be meat or dairy! Good sources include beans, nuts (higher in fat, so watch these a little), quinoa, oats, and protein powders like rice, hemp, soy, or yellow pea. This allows your muscles the rest and raw materials to rebuild stronger after you break them down working out.  That's the whole point of your workout!
 Do this three times a week if you can, or at least twice, until you can build up to three.  If you notice that you aren't able to increase reps or weight every couple of workouts, it's time to change things up.  Either change the number of sets, the number of reps (or both), or the exercise.  This is how you push through a plateau, but make sure first that it isn't an issue of not getting adequate fuel or rest. 

If you find that you'd like some help, feel free to contact me, I'm a trainer, and would love to work with you.  You'll find that you get addicted to the feeling of lifting just like you did with cardio, and I really believe it does more things, and better things for your body (although I'm not above getting an extra kickboxing session after a cookie binge party!).

Monday, December 6, 2010

That's why they call them skullcrushers.

So, I finally got around to doing bi's tri's, and shoulders on Saturday.  All last week I focused on big muscle groups, because I know that they will work things like shoulders and arms anyway, and I felt like I've lost some muscle mass in the last couple of weeks.  But then toward the end of the week I noticed some definition and mass loss in my arms too, so decided to hit them up.

I like to superset everything because time is always of the essence for me, so I did a cool rotation between the three:

bi curls with triceps overhead press (dumbbells for both)
shoulder press with preacher curls (dumbbells again)
(shoulder) dumbbell side raises with triceps kickbacks
biceps cable curls with triceps cable extensions
shoulder front raises with biceps hammer curls (dumbbells)
internal and external rotators on shoulders (i've had injuries in the past and I'm trying to build them up) with Skullcrushers for triceps ---and here's where I had a problem (so glad it was the last superset)

We've got a bench that has a pin that only goes halfway through the adjust holes.  That's how it's made.  There's a plastic sleeve that fits inside to keep it from shifting from side to side and letting the pin drop out if its hole, but that plastic sleeve has been broken for10 of the 14 years we've had the bench.  I guess I didn't double check the pin, and when I was a couple of reps into my skullcrushers (see the link if you don't know what these are), the pin shifted out and the bench collapsed.  Taken off guard, my arms must have given way, and one20 lb. dumbbell hit me in the head (thank goodness it was a high-rep lower weight rotation!).  Here's a shot of it 2 days later:

No biggie right?  It was scary looking at the time.  You know how head wounds bleed a lot?  Yeah.  My ten year old ran downstairs when she heard me yelling for my husband and started screaming "I don't want my mom to die!!" That was encouraging.  My husband did a spontaneous Jacob Black imitation and ripped off his shirt to hold to my head, but it was completely lost on me and he was a little disappointed I think.  "How come you didn't say 'I'm sort of beautiful'?"  Riiiight.  Just so everyone knows, when you're bleeding and hurting, you don't CARE how anyone looks.   Jeff didn't let me finish my last sets or let me do the Christmas tree that day.  I just laid in bed until his work Christmas party that the devil and all his angels couldn't keep me from (someone else cooks for me?  I'm there). It was still oozing blood at the dinner table, but was so worth it for that dinner.  Plus, I got to wear my sequin fancy top.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Two I went running again!

 My last sister in Utah moved to Washington this month. Sigh.  I've got my brother left here, and a great sister-in-law he's married to, but now, of my three sisters, one's in Boston, one's in California, and the last one's in Washington.  Pretty lame for family get-togethers from now on: only 30% of the family is left.  Anyway, we had our family Thanksgiving (before she left) at my house so I could be "the hostess with the mostest".  Really, I love to host(ess).  We had a great table set-up (which I didn't get very good pictures of),

 A great meal (which I didn't get very good pictures of), favor bags with Thanksgiving quotes and pumpkin pie spiced truffles (which I didn't get good pictures of), ....and pies which I DID get pictures of! (priorities friends. priorities.)
 French crumb apple pie.

 Two layer chocolate-orange cream cheese pie with Oreo crust, chocolate bark, and intense orange coulis.

 Sweet potato pie  ---per request from my Dad, who's birthday we were celebrating.

 Raisin-sour cream pie, which I'd heard about in old novels, and wanted to try.  The sour cream is cooked into a type of custard with egg yolks and sugar, and then there's a brown sugar meringue on top (which I almost mastered this time; one more pie should do it).  It pulled away from the edge, and I had to add a garnish of cream and raw sugar.
 On Thanksgiving-Thanksgiving, we went to my in-laws.  I have to tell you, my mother-in-law is famous for keeping you well fed and coddled.  However, the last few years have been kind of hard on her taking care of her mother --who lived in the house, was 100 years old, and was bedridden until she passed away last summer.  I came still expecting the worn-out mother-in-law, and was prepared to cook everything.  We got there, and she already had everything done and the table set.  She did let me mix up the sweet potatoes so my feelings wouldn't be hurt. :)  What a sweet, sweet lady. 
 I was stuffed over the course of two and a half days with thick cream, pie, Parker-house homemade rolls, hand dipped chocolates, homemade waffles.... anyway, I was dying for a good workout.

 My in-laws live in Redlands, a part of Grand Junction Colorado, and it is one of my favorite places to run.   So....after a hiatus of 5 (?)  months, I RAN again and it felt pretty dang good.  I purposefully left my Garmin at home so I wouldn't be tempted to pace fast, and just did an easy, maintainable pace --I'm guessing 9 1/2-10 minute miles, and and enjoyed myself so much I ended up going for about 70 minutes.  I was a little cold to start, but it warmed up a bit, and the scenery was breathtaking.

Right down the street from my in-laws' house is Rigg's hill, where a paleontologist discovered a brontosaurus (or something) a hundred years ago.  We took the kids out there for a hike late Friday evening.
 It got kinda dark and cold. OK, really really cold.

The reason I like that hill is because it's where Jeff and I did our engagement pictures.  Isn't he cute with his longish blond hair?  I always thought he looked like Brad Pitt in "A river runs through it" (although I never did like Brad Pitt's mouth).  Now my guy's even cuter --aged like a fine wine....not that I've tried a fine wine or any wine for that matter, and not that he's even aged that much.  You know what I mean.