A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Weight Loss Wednesday: Goals for 2015

I just realized, in looking back at my posts from this time last year, that I never set any real goals for 2014 other than my running goals. I’ll be updating my running goals for 2015 in a post next week (still contemplating them – hints of mojo coming back, which is affecting them a bit). Today, as I close out one year and look to another year, I find myself wanting to define my goals for the year.

I feel like I’m in a different place in maintenance now that I was at this time last year. A year ago, I was in sort of honeymoon phase of weight loss maintenance, where I was actually below my “goal” weight and everything seemed so easy. Somewhere in the last 6 months, things stopped being easy. I’ve watched the scale creep up and up and up and my clothes fit tighter and tighter. Looking on the bright side, I’ve only regained 10-15 pounds of the 110 I lost. On the not so bright side, I’m definitely approaching the outer edge of what works for my clothes and I’m finding myself angry and frustrated with the scale a lot lately. I really don’t want to spend another year living with either of those.

With that in mind, here are my goals for the year:

Stay in my current pants size: When I think about it, I get a lot more upset about not being able to wear a certain pair of pants anymore than I do about the number on the scale (and conversely, being able to fit in certain pants definitely negates the negative feelings about a weigh in). Yesterday, my weigh in was 176.9 which I was not pleased with from a number perspective by any means, but then I was able to slip easily into a pair of pants that had been snug just a week or two ago and was able to remind myself that the number on the scale comes from lots of things, but how my clothes fit tells me a lot more about what my body is actually doing. A size 6 is definitely a lot narrower in terms of what weight works with them than my former plus size clothes. I could range over 20+ pounds in those days without worrying about buying new clothes, but it’s closer to a 10 pound range these days. That’s probably a good thing. I don’t want to buy new pants. I still remember how excited I was to buy all of these smaller clothes when I’d hit my maintenance weight! I want to fit in the pants I currently have, so I’m going to work on letting go of a target number on the scale and focus on how my clothes fit. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop weighing in, because that’s been shown too many times to be a key to maintaining weight loss, but it does mean that I’ll stop stepping on the scale so often and I’ll work on how I let that number control my mood.

I have a lot more skirts in my current size than pants because I got such a kick out of how good I look in pencil skirts now. :)

I have a lot more skirts in my current size than pants because I got such a kick out of how good I look in pencil skirts now. ๐Ÿ™‚

Find a mental and emotional balance in my relationship with food and my weight: No biggie, right? I think this isn’t something achievable in a year, per se, but it’s something I need to keep in the forefront of my mind. On the plus side, I rarely view food as the enemy or something to fear anymore. That’s definitely progress over the last couple of years. As I talked about above, I do find myself getting angry and frustrated a lot though. Yes, it is not fair that I don’t cheat, that I’m eating less than I was back in the “Simply Filling” experiment in the fall and yet I weigh more than I did then (and I weighed more then than I did in the first 6 months of maintenance, on the normal plan like I use now). Anybody who has ever lost weight or tried to lose weight knows that fair has nothing to do with it. There is no “being good” or “being bad”. I really need to work on my mindset about all of this and finding some kind of peace with this process. I think reframing things in terms of clothes will help. I also think keeping my mind on positive things beyond the scale will help. With that in mind, I’m going to use my gorgeous new blank book (Thanks to my brother’s wife!) to make note every week of at least one thing I’m grateful for, at least one good deed I’ve done and at least one non-scale victory. The big picture is key here. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m also going to focus more on the quality of the food I’m eating and it’s value as fuel for a healthy body more than it’s “cost” in terms of calories/Points. I confess I currently think about it more in the latter sense. My weekly wrap-ups will include a reflection on my food quality choices in addition to my work outs, because I’m the kind of person who needs to write things out in order to process them.

I love the sense of possibility in a new blank book.

I love the sense of possibility in a new blank book.

These are some pretty big goals, I know, which could be a way to set myself up for failure. To help wrangle them into shape, I’m going to keep them posted in my new little office (pics coming soon!) and be sure I incorporate them into my monthly and weekly goals.

Now I’m off to buy a new coat for my dog. She likes to be outside with our lab mix, even though she’s a little old lady and it’s below zero, so we need lots of layers for her. Don’t worry, we don’t let her stay out as long as she’d like and they mostly hang out in the heated doghouse when they’re out there. ๐Ÿ™‚ We’ll also work our annual tradition of a canvas with Oliver. We’ve done this for the last few years with Oliver on New Year’s Eve and I love seeing how things change over time!

Oliver drawing circles on his New Year's Eve canvas in 2013

Oliver drawing circles on his New Year’s Eve canvas in 2013

Anybody have exciting plans for New Year’s Eve? I confess that I’ll be asleep. I have no exciting plans or intention to see the ball drop but have every intention of getting a good night of sleep to start my year.

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Year of Running 2014

Last year, I did this reflection on my year of running thanks to the model laid out over on Miss Zippy (check her 2014 update out here) and found it really helpful, especially now that I think about how my running looks this year in comparison. The Tuesday on the Run link up was also about reflecting on your running year, so this was the perfect topic for today!

Last year’sย favorite race was my 10K, which definitely still stands out in my mind as a highlight just in terms of the feeling of accomplishment I got as a result of that finish line. This year, I’m torn between the Princess Half Marathon, as my first half marathon and such a unique event, the Peak to Peak 10 miler, because I felt so vindicated by finally sticking with my plan to push until the end of a race, or the 400 meter run with Oliver, which was such pure joy. Really, it’s been a fantastic year of races.
ย Oliver and Jessica 5.26.14 4
I think my favorite run this year was the first mile I ran with Oliver, where we ran up and down the street in front of our house for a mile. It was so nice to see how much fun running could be and should be.
Is this the future of Run Disney?

Is this the future of Run Disney?

I would have to say my favorite piece of running gear would be either my Under Armour Cold Gear tights (which are currently getting quite the workout – below zero here this morning) or my new Brooks Ghost running shoes, which I adore. I’m actually excited that I’m going to break in a new pair of Brooks today!

 

My favorite piece of running advice this year was to embrace the easyย run, just because it made running so fun during a really busy year professionally. It was nice to just put one foot in front of the other and knowing I was actually doing good things for my body (and my mind!) instead of pushing and worrying about how fast (or slow!) I was going every time I hit the road. Did I embrace it too much? Sometimes I think so, just in terms of my pace during the Des Moines Half Marathon but then I remind myself how busy and how tired I was surrounding that race and how happy I was with my paces at the Peak 2 Peak 10 miler (sub-10:45 per mile!). I suspect my Des Moines performance (which was still a PR!) had more to do with everything else going on in my life than with my training, which was solid enough to get me to that Peak 2 Peak performance just a few weeks before the half marathon.

 

My running role model and inspiration in the last half of this year has definitely been Oliver. Every time I dread heading out to run or hate that first mile (always hate the first mile), I remind myself of the look on his face whenย he runs and how he thinks any runner is just like his mommy and how he asks when the weather will be good enough to run again. He’s been a great inspiration in keeping the joy and fun in running this year.
Every finish should be celebrated!

Every finish should be celebrated!

The phrase that described my running last year was “making huge strides,” which was perfectly appropriate given how new I was to running. This year, “Keep on keepin’ on” comes to mind. I’m pleasantly surprised that I’ve stuck with running all of this time and that I can’t imagine dropping it (barring injury) in the future. That’s pretty awesome, particularly since I’ve never been dedicated to any sport (or even any hobby other than reading) in the past.

 

Looking back at my mileage for the year, I logged 617 miles for the year (plus a theoretical 4-5 more this afternoon). That’s amazing to me, considering I had big chunks where I didn’t run at all due to illness and injury and considering the fact that it’s only my second year of running. Not only that, I’m about to run my third half marathon in less than 365 days (between the Princess Half Marathon in February 2014, the Des Moines Half Marathon in October 2014 and the Star Wars Half Marathon in January 2015). That’s nothing to sneeze at!

 

Of course, also in looking back I can see clearly where I fell off the wagon and lost my mojo in October 2014. I had a stellar run at the Peak 2 Peak 10 miler but between crazy travel in October, tweaking my hip, getting seriously sick in November and then the holiday crazies this month, things have seriously slowed down in terms of speed and “oomph.” I’m thinking about my goals for next year in terms of my running, but I know I definitely want to find a way to reclaim that oomph.

Join up with Miss Zippy’s link up to share your experiences!

Also be sure to check out the Tuesday on the Run link up with April, Erika and Patty to see what everyone else has been up to this year. What’s your year been like? Are you making goals for 2015? Am I the only one who actively skitters away from the word “resolutions” even in my own head? ๐Ÿ™‚
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Weekly Wrap-Up: Three weeks until race day!

It’s less than three weeks until the Rebel Challenge and despite all of the holiday events and a Christmas cold (complete with pink eye for Oliver – ugh), I’m happy to say I got the workouts in! It’s a relief to check workouts off when you get this close to race day, in a weird way. You know there are only a few tough ones left and you don’t have much wiggle room to procrastinate because the race is so close.

We had a lovely holiday, complete with some great new running gifts and other gifts, plus some wonderful family moments. We dismantled the tree last night, which is normally a little bittersweet, but not so much this year. I suspect that’s because I’ve got Disneyland to look forward to in a few weeks plus a family vacation in a couple of months. That definitely eases the Christmas letdown a bit. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m also hoping now that Christmas is over, some of the amped up crazy toddler behavior we’ve seen in Oliver simmers down a bit. The last two days are already better than anything the ten days before that, so there’s hope my good boy is coming back.

Workouts

Monday Lots of insane running around at work, but no real workout

Tuesday Last full day of work, which was absolutely nuts, so no workout yet again (but lots of steps). It was such a relief to be done at 6.

Wednesday After my husband got off work at 2ish, I got O down for a nap and headed out for a hill workout without a Garmin. It was nice to run hard intervals for a bit, but finish the workout without worrying about distance or pace. I did 8-9 hill repeats (I always lose track of counting!) and ran easy for a while afterwards to finish 30 minutes. It felt good to sweat after a day cooped up in the house with Oliver. I used those calories on a glass of wine before we tackled assembling Oliver’s toy kitchen, which I definitely needed to make that task easier.

O's big gift was a toy kitchen, which we didn't wrap and just left in the corner waiting to see when he'd notice it. He absolutely loved it and we ate lots of salads and tea and soup as he cooked all day.

He’s still in love with this thing, so totally worth the effort to assemble it. We’re still eating pretend food several times a day that he’s cooking for us.

Thursday No workout, unless you count taking lots of loads of wrapping paper to the recycling bin.

Friday The weather was really icky (rain/ice combo) so I decided to wait to do my back-to-back runs until Saturday/Sunday and did a couple of circuits of strength training instead while Oliver napped. Yet again I’m reminded how easy it is to get a little strength work in and wonder why I keep putting it off?

Saturday I had a lovely cold run in my new Under Armour Cold Gear (thanks Darrell!), covering 5.5 miles. It felt remarkably easy, even with occasionally dodging icy patches.

Love having an extra set of Cold Gear so I don't have to wash my current one pair of pants so often this time of year.

Love having an extra set of Cold Gear so I don’t have to wash my current one pair of pants so often this time of year.

Sunday As good as Saturday’s run felt, I expected Sunday to be easy too. 10 miles on the schedule and the temp was around 30 instead of 20 (big difference, I assure you), plus the icy patches were all easing away. I picked a slightly different route than I’ve been doing, heading across the street into a neighborhood full of horses and farms. This means a lot bigger hills than I do in my already hilly neighborhood. I spent 4+ miles traipsing through that neighborhood (including getting lost once and pulling out my phone to get back on track) and then headed back into my own usual paths. I think those hills took more out of me than I realized because by mile 6, I was exhausted! My legs just felt done and my breathing felt raspy (my throat is already irritated thanks to O’s cold). Looking at my paces on the Garmin after the run, I go from 12-ish paces in the first 5 miles to a 14 minute mile 6, so that wall was not in my imagination. I had to do a lot of mental arguing with myself. I had to do ten miles and if I kept running instead of stopping to walk for the rest of it, I’d get done faster. It was good practice in mental toughness, in sticking with it, and mile 6 ended up being the slowest as I picked it up again after that. I won’t deny that my legs felt much more tired and tight after that run than they have after any of my other back to back runs. I ate immediately after the run to refuel, drank a big glass of water with a couple of Nuun tabs and foam rolled before bed, all of which made it possible for me to get out of bed this morning.

 

Cold but gorgeous day!

Cold but gorgeous day!

This is my last week of runs before tapering. I’m planning on strength training today, running on the treadmill Tuesday to test out the new Star Wars shirt I’m considering wearing for the 10K, a 5K at my gym plus an extra 2.9 miles Thursday (total 6) and then 11 miles Friday for my last big back to back run before the race. Hopefully the weather will cooperate for the Thursday and Friday runs!

I hope everyone has a good week and gets the New Year off to a good start!

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Friday Favorites: Christmas moments

I hope everyone is having a great weekend! Daycare is closed from Christmas Eve through Monday the 29th, so we have a really long weekend here at home. I thought I’d share some of my favorite moments from our Christmas day. We had a lot of fun and a lot of family time, which is all I really ask for. ๐Ÿ™‚

Oliver insisted on reading his books as we opened them, including this incredibly cute book about peanut butter looking for his perfect playmate - jelly of course. :) I love how much he loves books!

Oliver insisted on reading his books as we opened them, including this incredibly cute book about peanut butter looking for his perfect playmate – jelly of course. ๐Ÿ™‚ I love how much he loves books!

We also put puzzles together as we opened them, including this awesome one from Pinhole Press that was actually made from one of our family photos.

We also put puzzles together as we opened them, including this awesome one from Pinhole Press that was actually made from one of our family photos.

O's big gift was a toy kitchen, which we didn't wrap and just left in the corner waiting to see when he'd notice it. He absolutely loved it and we ate lots of salads and tea and soup as he cooked all day.

O’s big gift was a toy kitchen, which we didn’t wrap and just left in the corner waiting to see when he’d notice it. He absolutely loved it and we ate lots of salads and tea and soup as he cooked all day.

I spent quite a while contemplating which new book I wanted to dive into first. I decided to save the Oatmeal and As You Wish for my trip to California in a few weeks and have started with Dinner: A Playbook (am I the only one who reads cookbooks like any other book?)

I spent quite a while contemplating which new book I wanted to dive into first. I decided to save the Oatmeal and As You Wish for my trip to California in a few weeks and have started with Dinner: A Playbook (am I the only one who reads cookbooks like any other book?)

Hubby got lots of new board games, which meant the two of us got some quality time in playing a couple of new versions of Ticket to Ride. Maybe tonight we'll tackle Settlers of Catan? Board games are our favorite at home date night!

Hubby got lots of new board games, which meant the two of us got some quality time in playing a couple of new versions of Ticket to Ride. Maybe tonight we’ll tackle Settlers of Catan? Board games are our favorite at home date night!

We had a great Christmas dinner, with the best turkey I've ever made - Williams Sonoma Dry Brine rocks! - and Oliver saying our prayer before we ate, giving us a chance to talk about why we celebrate and how important it is to remember that it's about more than the presents.

We had a great Christmas dinner, with the best turkey I’ve ever made – Williams Sonoma Dry Brine rocks! – and Oliver saying our prayer before we ate, giving us a chance to talk about why we celebrate and how important it is to remember that it’s about more than the presents.

I hope you guys had a great holiday! Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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Merry Christmas!

Thank you all for your support and advice and friendship! Whatever you’re celebrating today, I hope you’re having a joyful day.

 

Merry Christmas! May it be filled with lots of real and metaphorical warm hugs.

Merry Christmas! May it be filled with lots of real and metaphorical warm hugs.

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Christmas Eve Snack-a-thon

When we got married, my husband and I decided to establish some new traditions of our own to celebrate our new little family. My favorite of those is our Christmas Eve Snack-a-thon, a day devoted to watching our favorite Christmas movies all day and eating all of our favorite snacks all day rather than worrying about any real meals. In the “old days”, we’d consume literally thousands of calories in cheese and chocolate and other treats. Now, we try to balance things a little more.

This year’s menu includes fondue (hubby’s request), shrimp cocktail (my lighter option to balance things), veggies with ranch Greek yogurt dip, homemade cheese straws, meatballs and pigs in a blanket. Sweet treats include Rice Krispy treats, oatmeal fudgies and a gorgeous fruit salad. We’re trying to balance our indulgent choices with some healthier options. Fondue is definitely on the more indulgent side, especially when you consider that Darrell’s favorite thing to dip in cheese fondue is chicken nuggets (which horrifies my friend who got the recipe for us from her time in Switzerland).

Isn't that fruit salad gorgeous? I intentionally put the healthy things in my prettiest serving pieces to dress them up a bit.

Isn’t that fruit salad gorgeous? I intentionally put the healthy things in my prettiest serving pieces to dress them up a bit.

So, after my disappointment in gaining weight after being so good at Thanksgiving (and the scale still reading 175.9 this week), how I handle prepping all of these treats without going overboard in tasting and nibbling before I get to the main event?

My to do list for today (I love crossing things out on a list)

My to do list for today (I love crossing things out on a list)

– I prepped my normal breakfast to eat while I was starting the kitchen fun, both to start the process without being hungry and to start things on the “right foot” as a mental reminder of how I’m supposed to eat.

Somehow eating my usual breakfast always helps to keep me in right mindset about food choices for the rest of the day.

Somehow eating my usual breakfast always helps to keep me in right mindset about food choices for the rest of the day.

– I make sure that I’m prepping something healthy like the veggies or fruit salad at the same time as the most tempting thing for me in terms of nibbles (oatmeal fudgies on this year’s menu). Just having that visual reminder or even better, the taste of a fresh veggie in my mouth while I’m looking at all of that chocolate and peanut butter helps dull the cravings.

Oatmeal fudgies are my husband's favorite. It's blasphemous to him, but we'll also be testing out a healthier version today, with bananas and applesauce. I'll let you know how they turn out!

Oatmeal fudgies are my husband’s favorite. It’s blasphemous to him, but we’ll also be testing out a healthier version today, with bananas and applesauce. I’ll let you know how they turn out!

– Making the menu ahead of time means that I’ve had plenty of time to plan my choices so that I save points/calories for the things I really want rather than wasting them along the way.

– As you can see from my to do list, I’ve also got activity on the menu today both as a reminder that I have healthy goals in life and as a way to balance some of those tastes and bites along the way.

Now I’m off to make the Rice Krispy treats on the list with Oliver. We’re going to spread them out thinly and use cookie cutters to cut them into fun shapes before adding sprinkles. It should be quite the adventure! Rice Krispy treats are surprisingly low in points, so it will be a fun treat to share with my guys today.

What are you Christmas Eve traditions?

PS Wish us luck – O woke up with pinkeye today and it’ll be a Christmas miracle if he can keep his germy 3 year old fingers to himself enough to keep Darrell & I from getting it.

 

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My year in pictures

Today the lovely ladies at Tuesdays on the Run (April, Patty and Erika) are hosting a link up all about your year in pictures and I have to say that looking back through all of these pics was exactly the boost I needed on this grey Christmas Eve-Eve (am I the only one who considers this a holiday?).

Without further adieu, here is my year in pictures:

I still remember and love this moment :)

I still remember and love this moment ๐Ÿ™‚

How can I not start with Princess? It certainly dominated the first of the year, with planning, running and basking in the glow of my first half marathon and my first Disney race. It was really such a feeling of accomplishment and joy and I love looking at those pictures again to relive those moments.

March 2014 had us entering the world of worm farming (going strong by the way!).

March 2014 had us entering the world of worm farming (going strong by the way!).

In March, I eased back into the less glamorous world of non-Disney running with the Diva Dash. We also started our worm farm, which has quadrupled in size since that time! It’s amazing how much of our produce leftovers they consume.

Okay, maybe the Diva Dash was only a small step down in "glamour" from Disney. It was definitely more festive than your average race!

Okay, maybe the Diva Dash was only a small step down in “glamour” from Disney. It was definitely more festive than your average race!

April had me crossing Illinois off my “50 states to run in” list

Running along the lake in Chicago

Running along the lake in Chicago

April also brought the huge NSV of finally resizing my engagement ring!

Every day I am reminded of how far I've come when I touch this ring.

Every day I am reminded of how far I’ve come when I touch this ring.

The highlight of May was definitely running with Oliver in his first kids race at BoysTown here in Omaha. It was such a blast and I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Oliver & I running his first 400 meter race

Oliver & I running his first 400 meter race

I also took a big road trip with Oliver down to Oklahoma to visit my parents. O got to go fishing for the first time and had a fantastic time. He actually eats fish now because “GrandDad took me fishing.”

O's first fishing trip

O’s first fishing trip

June brought our first family race, including Darrell! We did a one mile family run/walk at our local park. Darrell said he’d just buy the t-shirt next time. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now that I think of it, I haven't seen Darrell even wearing this shirt this race. Maybe a more positive experience for Oliver & I than Darrell?

Now that I think of it, I haven’t seen Darrell even wearing this shirt this race. Maybe a more positive experience for Oliver & I than Darrell?

In July, I ran a 10K for my birthday and went running Montana to cross it off of my 50 states list. Montana was so gorgeous! I confess I enjoyed the hiking (complete with a coffee in my “water bottle”) on those cool mornings as much as the running.

Gorgeous morning hike

Gorgeous morning hike

August brought a lot of crazy humid training runs, including big hair and awkward sweat stains, and Oliver’s 3rd birthday. I can’t believe my guy is getting so big!

This was after a particular rom-com worthy kiss on the mouth from my guy. We're normally kiss on the cheek types but Amy asked him to kiss me on the lips and he took it very seriously, which made me and Darrell nearly die laughing.

This was after a particular rom-com worthy kiss on the mouth from my guy. We’re normally kiss on the cheek types but Amy asked him to kiss me on the lips and he took it very seriously, which made me and Darrell nearly die laughing.

September brought a highlight of the second half of my race year, the Peak 2 Peak 10 mile race. I set a goal to finish that race strong, without slacking at the end like I tend to do in races, and I’m proud to say I did it! As a bonus, I was able to sustain a fast (for me) pace through that race, so I know I can do it when I put my mind to it. I just need to work on putting my mind to it more often. ๐Ÿ™‚

Not a great picture, but it makes me remember how hard I pushed up that little hill to finish!

Not a great picture, but it makes me remember how hard I pushed up that little hill to finish!

October brought lots of travel, including running in Pennsylvania and Maryland on the same day, and the Des Moines half marathon. I highly recommend the Des Moines half marathon – awesome race organization, crowd support and a lovely flat course!

Official time 2:32:48, which I'm happy with! New PR! Plus, I met my A & B goals -- had fun & ran strong!

Official time 2:32:48, which I’m happy with! New PR! Plus, I met my A & B goals — had fun & ran strong!

In November, I got admitted to the hospital for the first time as an adult, which was an eye opening experience and a challenge for our whole family. Thankfully, I recovered uneventfully but it definitely feels like it threw a wrench in the whole month. I also started my back to back training runs for the Rebel Challenge coming up in January and had a great time visiting family for Thanksgiving.

Loved checking out Christmas lights at Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday season!

Loved checking out Christmas lights at Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday season!

Now December is here and it feels like the month (and the year) have just flown by! It’s been so incredibly busy all year and looking back at all of the pictures, I’m reminded of how many good times I’ve had this year. Thanks for this Tuesday on the Run topic ladies! Be sure to go join the link up to share your own photos of the year!

Here's hoping we all have a lot of fun over the holiday weekend!

Here’s hoping we all have a lot of fun over the holiday weekend!

 

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Chocolate Class: Definitely a worthy indulgence!

This weekend, Darrell & I went to a chocolate production glass offered by one of the best restaurants in Omaha, The Grey Plume. I signed up for the class a couple of months ago, with the plan to give it to Darrell as an early Christmas present but I was so excited about it that I told him as soon as I got home that day! Despite the surprise being ruined, I think it’s still a great gift because we had a fantastic time.

We arrived in the class space, to pick up our aprons and the recipes we’d be making for the day: fudge and truffles.

Doesn't he look cute? Bonus: We got to keep the aprons.

Doesn’t he look cute? Bonus: We got to keep the aprons.

We each had our own work space, with pre-measured ingredients, supplies and an individual burner. There were two instructors and 10 people in the class, which was a really great ratio for asking questions and getting lots of hands on help.

The very front of the space is a shop for buying professionally made versions of the things we made in class.

The very front of the space is a shop for buying professionally made versions of the things we made in class.

They explained tempering chocolate, but the instructor did the hands on work for that one since it takes forever. I appreciated all of the science of it all, Alton Brown fan that I am. We made the ganache (filling) for truffles first, which I’d done before (heating cream, honey and a vanilla bean until simmering, then pouring over chocolate to melt). This whole class was a good exercise in patience for me, because you really have to pay attention to little details in candy making like texture and temperature. Darrell, who is definitely the more patient of us, was a much better student in chocolate class naturally. After the ganache was melted, it went off to the fridge to cool and solidify to make truffles later. Then it was on to fudge:

Notice that Darrell's is much lighter than my caramel version.

Notice that Darrell’s is much lighter than my caramel version.

I’ve never seen fudge made this way. We cooked the sugar mix over the heat to 240 degrees, which was a minor problem in that my temperature probe was screwed up and I overcooked my sugar. That’s why it’s so much more caramel colored than Darrell’s. Then, we sprinkled chocolate and fondant on top of the sugar:

That looks good enough as it is, right?

That looks good enough to eat as it is, right?

And mixed it all together. The instructor and Darrell mixed theirs with a bench scraper until it had cooled and reached the texture they wanted:

That required lots of forearm muscles!

That required lots of forearm muscles!

Because mine had cooked longer and was almost caramel, I ended up mixing mine by hand like kneading bread dough. It was fun but slippery and I almost dropped it when I was rolling it up at the end!

That's a very slippery little log!

That’s a very slippery little log!

The fudge was really awesome. The texture of Darrell’s is much better than the cheater fudge I made Saturday morning with sweetened condensed milk and chocolate chips. ๐Ÿ™‚ I confess that we haven’t tested out my fudge yet to see how the overcooking affected the texture.

We then got a small snack break, with awesome homemade salami, bread and local honey. Delish! Then it was back to work on truffles. They brought out our cooled ganache and we rolled our truffles. This is where being the family meatball maker served me in good stead, as my truffles turned out much more round than Darrell’s (finally part of this I was better at!). They popped back in the fridge to firm up again before we got them out again to enrobe in the chocolate the instructor had been tempering all day and cover with extra goodies, like sea salt, roasted white chocolate, smoked cocoa nibs, lemon/lime zest and chilis:

I did one with each topping and two with sea salt (because I LOVE salted chocolate).  I can't wait to try them all!

I did one with each topping and two with sea salt (because I LOVE salted chocolate). I can’t wait to try them all!

I’ve tested out one of the sea salt topped options and OMG it’s great! It is such rich, decadent chocolate. I can’t believe I made that. More importantly, we had a great time learning something together and it was a really great exercise in patience for me. Candy requires time and attention to detail, both things I have a hard time giving to tasks in my life.

We’re going to try out the bread making class next and who knows how many of the offerings we’ll work our way around to. We’re debating sausage making because a) sausage = yum but b) do you really spend much time thinking about how it’s made? We both grew up in the rural South and are a little scarred by the pig slaughtering/sausage making of our youths apparently. I am grateful we did this class because a) loads of fun and now we have really fantastic chocolate to show for it and b) it motivated me to get out and run my 5 miles on Saturday so I could earn that truffle.

I just want to point out how much cleaner Darrell's towel was than mine - not because he was neater, but because he'd just lick the chocolate from his fingers. :) Thank goodness they always kept the chocolate labeled for each person.

I just want to point out how much cleaner Darrell’s towel was than mine – not because he was neater, but because he’d just lick the chocolate from his fingers. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank goodness they always kept the chocolate labeled for each person.

All in all, a totally worthy use of those activity points! Have you ever taken a cooking class?

 

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Weekly Wrap-Up: Excuses, excuses

I’m confessing right off the bat that I have just officially decided that this week I am skipping my back-to-back runs. Maybe not the best plan with 4 weeks until the Rebel Challenge, but I admit defeat. The last few days have had some lovely moments but they have sapped every ounce of oomph out of me, leaving me nauseous and exhausted and dreading the idea to head out to run for two hours in the dark (because it would 5 pm before I could even start). In the moment I realized I need to head back out to buy a fruit tray for a party at work tomorrow, I stopped trying to mentally shuffle things to find the energy and time for 10 miles. Thankfully, this week I was planning a 5 mile/10 mile runs and next week a 5.5 mile/10 mile set, so I’ll still get the 10 mile in next and plan for a 6 mile/11 mile the week of New Year’s. It’s all excuses and rationalization, I know, but today my gift to myself is accepting those excuses and letting it go. ๐Ÿ™‚

This week, we started off by all three getting that nasty stomach bug. We’re all recovered now, aside from still feeling the effects of lost sleep. It’s been the usual pre-holiday crazy at work and we had a lovely but last minute visit from my parents this weekend in the midst of it all (and a really fun date with hubby yesterday that I’ll tell you all about tomorrow!). As far as workouts are concerned, all I really have to show for it is a nice 5 mile run yesterday and some squats today (because I didn’t want today to go to waste completely). At least that 5 mile run kept from going two full weeks without a workout, right?

We went to a chocolate production class in this cool space with mirrored doors on the ceiling!

We went to a chocolate production class in this cool space with mirrored doors on the ceiling!

As weird as it seems, the next two weeks will actually be easier from a workout perspective thanks to lots of days off from work. I’ll have the added incentive of testing out the new running gear that is hiding under the tree (I suspect). It’s a good thing I’m approaching the Rebel Challenge with the goal of finishing period rather than finishing quickly, but that’s all the last couple of months of training have me ready for. Still, I have no doubt I’ll finish upright and happy, so I’m ready. (And who knows – I may still head out for at least a couple of miles later tonight, which counts for a least little training)

It’s making me laugh a little that I’m really looking to the fitness things hiding under the tree, instead of just anticipating the pounds of candy that are in the GIANT stocking my mom gets me like I did in the old days. That humongous collection of chocolate used to be my “breakfast” while opening gifts on Christmas morning. I’ve definitely come a long way (and every at work will enjoy having our candy drawer stocked for months to come thanks to my mom’s insane over-purchasing of candy for her 37 year old daughter’s stocking).

Darrell & I each have one, about 3 feet tall, and full of candy. That's about a million WW points right?

Darrell & I each have one, about 3 feet tall, and full of candy. That’s about a million WW points right?

Do you still get candy in your stocking? What’s your favorite?

 

 

 

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Giving gifts to myself . . .

The last three months are some of the most exhausting of my professional life. With illness and the usual mom and wife duties and the holidays thrown in the mix as well, it’s no wonder I’m running on fumes. It didn’t help that yesterday in the midst of an Ebola drill on campus, my parents texted me to ask if it was okay for them to come visit this weekend instead of next weekend like we’d planned. Of course I said yes because we want to see them, especially because O gets so little time with his grandparents, but we had a weekend full of plans that we now have to shuffle to fit in things like finishing wrapping their gifts (and buying the gifts in my dad’s case!) and planning for dinner that’s more than pizza since they will be here. It’ll be great to see them but it definitely added to the chaos of the last 24 hours.

This morning, I thought I was going to finally have a little time to relax with Christmas music playing, a cup of coffee and time to make Christmas treats with no distractions.

I forget sometimes just how much I enjoy baking.

I forget sometimes just how much I enjoy baking.

Of course that isn’t how it worked out. Within a few minutes, there was crying for no reason from Oliver, who I suspect is a little overstimulated by all of the holiday events at school this week coming on the heels of his stomach bug and resultant lack of sleep. So instead of happily toodling in the kitchen, I found myself supervising time out with a brewing headache (whining progressed to tantrums and other mischief).

Right now, in this moment, I’m promising these gifts to myself between now and January 2 so that I can start the new year on a fresher foot and reward myself a bit for all of the hard work I’ve put in this year (and this morning – oy!):

– As soon as my husband gets home (out finishing shopping for my dad before my parents get here at 2 – nothing like the last minute right? Thanks babe!), I’m heading out for a 5 mile run (my first in almost two weeks between work and the stomach bug!) with a new-to-me podcast loaded. I’ve heard great things about Serial and am starting it today!

– I need one more purchase on my Starbucks card before 12/27 to keep my gold status and I’ve already decided it is going to be Starbucks peppermint mocha as a reward after tomorrow’s 10 mile run. Even better, it’s going to consumed while at Starbucks reading a magazine, not on the run to my next task.

image– I always get books under the Christmas tree, so I’ll be sure to spend an evening in the bathtub with a new book and a cup of tea.

– I’m converting the giant walk in closet in my basement into an office so I have some dedicated work space here at home (instead of the dining table). I’m going to actually take the time to get that done over this holiday weekend instead of just daydreaming about it. I’ll be sure to share pictures!

Honestly, it helps just to sit here with a cup of tea, running clothes on, writing about these things. This ten minute break feels like its own kind of gift. ๐Ÿ™‚ It helps that I told Oliver that if there was anymore whining today, he wouldn’t get to open the presents Nana was bringing with her today and would have to wait. He’s been cheerful and helpful ever since then. It’s funny how those things work out. I definitely feel re-centered now and ready to tackle divinity again (which I’ve already failed once today – candy is tough!).

What gift would you like to give yourself this holiday season?

 

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