Monday, June 30, 2014

L.O.V.E. - Part One

I've been working incredibly hard on this post, which is going to be the start of a series that I will write over the next few weeks.

Today, I am going to discuss love and the series will continue (hopefully weekly, maybe biweekly) with a review and discussion of the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. Judah and I had to read this book for our premarital counseling and it has some stellar discussions about how to tackle your marriage head-on. It has some great carry-over for serious relationships, not to mention daily interaction with friends and family, too!

Take a moment to listen to this song, which has lyrics provided on the screen:

And just in case you didn't want to click on the link, my favorite lyric from the song is "I still believe that you'll come knocking on my door when I least expect you to. You give me something I can hold. You pull me through, 'cause that's what you do, that's what you do love"

Throughout this series, I hope you will see the powerful potential of love and make the decision to choose love, each and every day, in every interaction you have with anyone.

Let's begin our discussion with Seth Adam Smith's post, Marriage Isn't For You. I stumbled across this back in November, right after it was published, and it was probably the tipping point for my decision to marry Judah. The point of the article is that marriage is not for you, but rather the person you marry. To approach any relationship with the "what do I get out of this?" mentality is setting your relationship up for failure. Instead, as Smith writes, you marry to make someone else happy and you marry for a family - including your in-laws and your future children. Marriage is about the person you married.

The Bible is very plain about the greatest commandments. First and foremost, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37). Now pause for a second. Do you love ANYTHING with your entire heart, your entire soul, and your entire mind? That nearly seems unfathomable! But that's why Christianity is a life-long commitment to our Lord and Savior; a relationship that continually grows and (hopefully) strengthens.

Now, thankfully God took kindness on humanity and charges us with this second greatest commandment: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39). Phew! Okay God, I think I can manage to do that, love someone as much as I love myself. But if you haven't noticed my point by now, what do the two most important commandants ask? For you to love others. Pastor Francis Chan explains it well, "God's definition of what matters is pretty straightforward, He measures our lives by how we love". Sign me up for that please! 

Smith explains in his article that "the more you truly love that person, the more love you receive. And not just from your significant other, but from their friends and their family and thousands of others you never would have met had your love remained self-centered". So if you feel like your life is lacking in love, don't throw a pity-party. Instead, love others and see what happens. You will be pleasantly surprised!

Jana Kramer's song above discusses the "superficial" components of love that occur in a new, exciting relationship. That's not to say that you can't have romance and butterflies thirty years into your marriage, but let's face it, if what she describes is all love is, when times get tough, you may find yourself alone.

1 Corinthians 13 is known as the "love chapter" and even most non-Christians could quote this Scripture verbatim. Paul explains in verses 1-3 that without love, "I am nothing".  Verses 4-8 are the famous words: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." And the final verse of this chapter: "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Now read that again. It outwardly states that love is NOT self-seeking, and if you consider any of those words, they all regard actions towards another. If every person was capable of loving like this, imagine how the world would be! Wait a second... God tells us to love Him first and love others next... and 1 Corinthians 13 is what love looks like... so then why is there so much hate in this world? Why is the divorce rate as high as it is? Why are so many people stuck in love-less relationships? (And yes, the divorce rate is just as high among Christians as it is among non-Christians! A topic for further discussion...) Smith credits the "Walmart philosophy" - if what you get doesn't make you happy, return it and get something new. We don't approach a relationship with the philosophy of "what can I give", but rather, "what do I get?"

But... I don't love like this... what can I do? Well, that's the beauty of the grace of God. He knows that man WILL fail, but the goal is to work towards achieving love like this; making a conscious daily commitment. One way to achieve this is by changing your mindset and thinking process. The following are great real-life examples:

I had a discussion this past weekend with a friend who found out her husband had been hiding something from her. She asked me, "how can I trust him with anything else?" 1 Corinthians 13:7 tells us that love always trusts. The husband defended that he wasn't hiding anything, that my friend had the opportunity to discover this hidden object at any time. He just hadn't been forthcoming with the information (sound familiar to anyone else?!) I asked her, how would it affect your relationship if you chose to not trust him for anything else? I did explain that if this is a repeated behavior, that is a different situation, because the flip side of trust is you do need to be trustworthy, but we are always supposed to err on the side of trusting versus not trusting. If your mindset is to always look for the breaking of trust, you're going to see a significant strain in your relationship.

Judah and I went through this ourselves. I'm not sure if it had been previous bad relationships and the distance we were facing, but I had a very difficult time trusting Judah in the first half of our relationship. Finally, one day he asked me, "have I done anything to prove to you that you can't trust me?" I thought about it and he never once had done anything to be untrustworthy! So why was I so hesitant to trust him? It took me several months, but not only was he happier that he knew I was trusting him, but I felt considerably less anxiety in regards to our relationship. There is security in trusting and both are important elements of any relationship.

Here's a specific situation for how to change how you approach a situation with your partner: Yesterday at the grocery store, I asked Judah to pick out juice while I looked through the meat section. I've been finding some awesome manager's specials.. 3 pounds of organic beef for $10, yes please! But Judah has no patience to sit there while I search. I didn't double check what he bought (see, I trust him!) and when we got home, I saw he had bought diet juice. I only buy 100% fruit juice. So now I had two choices: I could be extremely frustrated and angry ("I asked you to get one thing and you couldn't even do that") or I could point it out to him and move on ("aww, you bought diet juice"). I chose the later and he said he read the label and it said 100% Vitamin C! Yes, but it only has 4% juice... Anyways, my point is this could have blown up into a nasty fight over juice, but instead it became an opportunity for me to show him love. It seems silly, but how many times have you gotten into a blow-out fight over the most insignificant detail? Or even if it didn't lead to a huge fight, if I constantly put him down over small things, what big effect will that have long-term?

I think I've been coherent throughout this post, but just in case I lost you, let's wrap up. Our country has had an ongoing epidemic of high divorce rates, a mentality of "I want"/"give me"/"it's all about me", and highly dissatisfied relationships. This can be cured by one word: love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 provides one of the absolute best definitions of love. If you find a better one, please share with me! Rather than focusing on ourselves, we need to focus on our partner. Once we can do that, we will see the relationship flourish and we'll receive the love that we need in return! As I said, this is only the beginning of a series I will write about in the coming weeks. Next week I will discuss Chapter One from Sacred Marriage!

Readers: Find one thing this week that you can change in your relationship (if you are in one!) that shows your partner that you love them. Go back to the verse about love and use one of those. See how it goes ;D

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Homemade Pizza

I cannot tell you how excited I am that tomorrow is Sunday!!! That means Judah and I get to finally sleep in! He had to work last Sunday so we have been getting up at 6 am for ten days straight now. That wouldn't be too terrible except that we rarely get to bed earlier than 11 at night. And I need to get about 8 hours every night. I've always been that way. So yes, tomorrow morning when I don't get woken up by his blaring alarm, it's going to feel amazing :D

On the Maple front, she is adjusting well!! I had her out of the cage for about four hours yesterday! She is very skittish around us, but that's to be expected. She has been munching away on lettuce leafs. This morning it didn't take her over an hour to finally start eating when I put a leaf in her cage and she finally drank from her water bottle! I'm gonna take her out a lot again today. I'm not sure that she's pregnant. They say you could feel the babies inside her if she was, and I don't feel anything when I touch her stomach, so I guess we will see :)

The other night I made homemade pizza since my dad finally shipped the bridal shower gifts I received when I was home. Which included this pizza stone from my friend Jen. I was so excited when she gave this to me because I LOVE homemade pizza. :D

Homemade Pizza Dough (Courtesy of my friend, Kacie B.)
     1.5 cups warm water
     2 tsp yeast
     2 tsp sugar
     2 tsp salt
     4.5 cups flour
     2 tbsp olive oil

Start by mixing the yeast, sugar and water together, letting it sit for about ten minutes so the yeast can activate. Next combine the salt, olive oil, and flour.

This time I used 2 cups all purpose flour, 2 cups bread flour, and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and it's the best tasting dough I've had yet! The wheat flour adds a subtle flavor to it and I've found the bread flour works really well in dough recipes. I used it in my tortilla recipe last week with great results.

You don't need to knead the dough too much and you want it slightly sticky but not so much that it sticks to the side of the bowl. Then coat it in a little olive oil and let it rest under a damp cloth for an hour so the dough can rise.

I've gotten into the habit of punching down my dough when it is ready, then letting it rest ten more minutes before I roll it out. To punch down dough, you literally use your fist to push down the center of the dough then fold in the sides to make another dough ball.

To give you an idea how much this recipe makes, that is a 15" pizza stone and I got three pies out of it.  Then top with your favorite sauce, cheese, and toppings :D

We use Ragu pizza sauce and this week we put sausage on our pizza.


Judah also put mushrooms on one of the pies, but I loathe mushrooms. Who wants to eat fungus? Not this girl, sorry.

I haven't tried it yet, but I read that you can freeze pizza dough. Make the recipe, but instead of letting it rise, immediately package it and place it in the freezer. Then the day that you want to make pizza, let it sit out on the counter all day under a damp cloth and it will rise in about eight hours. I haven't found reason to freeze things for the future yet, but I may try this sometime just to see how well it works!

Oh, and the pizza stone worked pretty well!! I think it might be better to preheat the stone in the oven since our third pizza definitely had the crispiest crust. It also may have been a little better if I had remembered to use the cooling racks Jen had also given me, since the crust softened a little as it cooled on the countertop. Lessons learned for next time :)

Readers: Have you made homemade pizza dough? Do you prefer homemade to take out? What are your favorite toppings?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Welcome Maple!

We have a new addition to our little family!

Welcome Maple Syrup Downey :D Really, we just call her Maple :)

Judah and I had discussed getting a hamster, because it gets boring during the day when he is working and I won't be able to work until we know what/where his next job will be. When I read about hamsters online though, they are primarily nocturnal creatures. However, guinea pigs are awake during the day and also crave lots of attention, so we felt that a guinea pig might be a better fit for us.

We went to Pet Supplies Plus on Wednesday since Judah rained out around 11 am and they had five different pigs in their cage. This little girl was hiding in her house, and I liked her the most. The worker told us that she thought their two female pigs were pregnant. Uh oh! But Judah and I held her and she was too cute to pass up. The woman explained that if she does have babies, we can bring them back to the store once they are 6 weeks old if we don't want to keep them.

I'm really hoping she isn't pregnant, since if you read online, pregnancy is not easy on guinea pigs. They have a rather high mortality rate :( So although babies would be so cool, I don't want Maple to have any complications. I've had three guinea pigs before and she doesn't seem any larger than any of those ones, but I'm going to keep a close eye on her to be sure. They say she won't really start to "show" until six weeks, but their gestation is only about nine weeks. This could be interesting!

Maple is settling in nicely. She finally started to eat yesterday. I'm not sure that she has eaten any of her food pellets or drank any water, but she has been munching on her hay and I've fed her lettuce leafs, and she's eaten those. I'm hoping today she will finally start to eat more. Today I am going to try to get her out of the cage. I've already spent twenty minutes petting her and trying to make her grow accustomed to me. I didn't want to take her out right away, because I don't want her to get scared every time I move her house. Side note - fail on our part, Judah and I got a cage that doesn't open from the top! It only has a large front door, so hopefully Maple won't give us too tough of a time getting out of her cage. I also wish her cage was bigger, but we can always upgrade in the future.

I'll keep you all updated as our Maple saga progresses :D

Readers: Have you ever owned a guinea pig? What's your favorite small pet?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Kettlebell Swings Anyone? How About 10,000?

So I was browsing Tony Gentilcore's blog post about kettlebells a few weeks ago and somehow stumbled upon this post. It's called the 10,000 Swing Kettlebell Workout.

10,000 KB swings? That sounds a little intimidating. And it's meant to! Dan John, the author of the post, claims that after completing this challenge, you can expect to see a drop in pants size (or two), visible muscular improvements, increased grip strength and athletic conditioning, as well as improvements in your regular lifting program. Who doesn't want that?

So after about two weeks of nagging, Judah finally agreed to try this program with me after the wedding. :D

The Program

Men are supposed to use a 53 lb. KB and women use a 35 lb. KB. Unfortunately our gym only has 25, 30, and 40 lb. kettlebells so we had to modify.

You complete five "clusters" of 100 reps, with four sets in each:
     Set 1: 10 reps
     Set 2: 15 reps
     Set 3: 25 reps
     Set 4: 50 reps

In one workout, you complete 500 reps. Since there are 20 workouts total (500x20), you get the 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge :D You are supposed to complete two workouts, then take a day of rest, and repeat until you complete all 20 workouts.

If you have no idea what a kettlebell swing is, this video is EXTREMELY helpful in explaining proper form and technique so you don't get injured.

Our Experience

Judah and I have completed three days of this challenge.

Day One kicked our butt!! He has used the 40 lb. kettlebell and I attempted to use the 30 lb. but was not prepared for that. We felt exhausted by the end of the workout, not even able to complete the sets as suggested (by the fifth cluster I was doing sets of 10, 15, 20, 25, & 30). Needless to say, the next day we were sore. My entire back and traps were tight, but I also felt it in my abs and my arms. Judah said his legs hurt the most. We decided a rest day would be more effective than trying to gut through 500 more reps.

The following day we completed workout #2 and it went considerably better! I used only the 25 lb. KB and was able to complete all the clusters and sets correctly. We also have completed workout #3 but we have been taking a day of rest in between each workout. In the third workout I completed the first three sets of the first two clusters with the 30 lb. KB (using the 25 lb.  KB for the 50 rep set) but then my back began to tighten up, so I used the 25 lb. for the remaining clusters.

We will try to complete the rest of the program as intended now that we have been through the initial soreness and adaptation phase. In our defense, we each took about ten days off working out for our wedding and that's bound to make any new workout more challenging!

The program does allow you to add in strength exercises between your sets, for an added bonus. The author recommends the overhead press, dip, goblet squat, and chin up. I'm not sure if we will incorporate these extra moves or not.

Benefits So Far

Despite how intimidating this challenge may sound, it's extremely effective and you'd be surprised how quickly your body adapts to this new workout. Neither Judah nor I had completed KB swings prior to this challenge, and as I've said, by workout three we both were noticing significant improvements and our bodies were better adapting to the exercise. The body has muscle "memory" so that it can learn and remember new movement patterns. With the high number of reps in each workout, the body gets a lot of practice and that's why we are seeing such quick improvements. If you only performed 10 kettlebell swings a day, it may take two or three weeks before you notice great improvement.

The kettlebell swing truly is a total body workout. You feel it everywhere! The primary action of the KB swing is hip extension, but still need your core (abs and back), arms, and legs to make the exercise work. And although we are completing five clusters of 100 reps, Judah and I have taken less than 40 minutes to complete each workout. Not to mention, when you are doing 50 reps at a time, you will notice some heavy breathing! Meaning, not only does the KB swing condition your muscles, but also your heart and lungs!

For any stay-at-home moms reading this, maybe I've convinced you to purchase a kettlebell? ;) I'll discuss kettlebells more extensively in another post, but for the at-home exerciser, they are one of the most versatile tools you can have! And the kettlebell swing is merely one example of the countless possibilities.

I'll keep you all updated as we continue with the program and discuss our results at the end.

Readers: Have you ever used kettlebells? Have you done kettlebell swings? What is your favorite high-intensity workout?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cowboys and Oatmeal

I am a huge country fan.

My favorite radio channel is SiriusXM On the Highway and I am in love with Randy Houser's "Like a Cowboy" - his latest hit on country radio.

It's an incredible, emotional ballad and it probably gets to me since Judah and I were in a distance relationship for over 75% of ours. Thankfully I wouldn't only get one night with him and then he'd have to leave again, but anytime you have to overcome distance, it's not easy. So if you haven't heard the song yet and haven't clicked the link above, do it now! You won't regret it :D

On Sunday, I made Cinnamon Roll Baked Oatmeal for the week, finding the recipe on Chocolate Covered Katie's Healthy Dessert Blog through Pinterest.

I adapted her original recipe to fill a 12-muffin pan:

Cinnamon Roll Baked Oatmeal (makes 12)
- 2 cups oats (I used old fashioned)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 cup applesauce
- 1 cup 2% milk
- 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Line muffin pan with paper liners and pour mix into each one. Cook for 15-20 minutes until firm then broil for 3 more minutes for a nice "crunch". 

I then used this Cream Cheese Glaze from The Recipe Critic for the topping:

Cream Cheese Glaze
- 4 tbsp butter
- 2 oz. cream cheese, at room temp
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the butter over low heat in a small pan. Whisk in the cream cheese, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly. Drizzle over the top of the "muffins" when they are cool.

These baked oatmeal "muffins" are so easy to make, and most people will find the necessary ingredients in their cupboard - Katie's original recipe offers a variety of substitutions for the sugar and liquid component of the recipe.
I personally love them cold! I have them stored in the refrigerator and we simply take them out and put them right on the plate in the morning, but obviously you can eat them fresh from the oven or pop them in the microwave quick. 
I am not the biggest fan of oatmeal (it's a little too mushy for me), but these baked "muffins" are a great way to eat the fiber-rich, heart-healthy oats in the morning.  

Also, I realize I need to improve my picture taking skills, and remember to take pictures in the first place. I promise to make that my new goal :)

My next post will discuss the new workout challenge I found for Judah and I to complete this month :)
<3 Shelby

Readers: What's your favorite breakfast food? Are you a fan of oatmeal and have you ever tried a baked oatmeal recipe? What are your favorite oatmeal add-ins ?

Monday, June 23, 2014

ALL About Me

I'm not even sure where to start!

My name is Shelby and this is my small corner of the internet. From my blog you can expect to see posts related to baking, fitness, wellness, Christianity, household chores, and everything in between!

Below is my background history to give you an idea of the person I am today (June 23, 2014). I hope you enjoy what you find here and I'm excited to begin this blogging journey :D

**Warning: This is a very long post giving you my full backstory! Feel free to read through it if you'd like, otherwise I'll catch you in my next post :)

Let's start with why I'm here!
Rewind two years ago. I had just graduated college from Quinnipiac University with my degree and certification in Athletic Training.

I still did not have a job despite sending in countless applications and even flying out to the University of Oregon and Stanford University, but nothing was working out. Then I randomly applied to a clinic outreach job in East Texas and got a phone call the next morning. Eight days later in my friend's kitchen I accepted the position and would be moving to Texas the end of July. (Funny thing: I had never even set foot in Texas prior to any of this!)

At the time I was completing my MBA through Quinnipiac but entirely despised it. Business is not for me. I got a random email on my phone when I was traveling to the NATA (National Athletic Trainer's Association) convention in St. Louis about a master's degree in Wellness and Lifestyle Management. They should have just had my picture on their advertisement because that is right up my alley! I worked as an aerobics instructor for four years in college and was on my own personal journey of nutrition and fitness. I applied and was accepted, so I dropped the MBA, and had a new online degree to pursue while in Texas.

I LOVED Texas. I never really enjoyed Connecticut (I was born and raised there) and was ready to leave. I didn't think I'd enjoy Texas quite so much though! The people are nicer, the Mexican food is amazing, and sports and church are a way of life down there. Friday Night Lights? Yes, it's real.

After many unsuccessful attempts at dating in college, I put that on the back burner, and focused on work and school. Then one night in December of 2012, I went out with my coworkers to a dance hall. "Two-step" is the type of dancing they do in Texas and I had done it a few times before that night, but my roommate pulls over this poor guy saying "he's gonna show you how to two-step!!" umm... okay. Well we danced, and he wasn't all that great at it, but there was something about him... (we all know how that goes!) He offered to get me a drink and we spent the entire night talking and dancing. I found out he had only been in Texas a few months, like me, and worked on the pipeline. We had such a great time we decided to meet up for coffee that following Monday.

I'll spare you all the details, but sure enough that guy is now my husband, as of June 14, 2014!

It's been a long road for us because after dating only three months, his job ended in Texas and he was headed back home to Wisconsin. For those of you not familiar with it, pipeline is a 60-hour week, move all across the country, type of job. In the two years he had been working in the field when we met, Judah had been to five different locations! A pipeline job can be as short as three weeks and as long as eight months. But despite the demands of his job, we made the decision to stay together and I spent the summer of 2013 traveling to see him at his next job in the PA/OH/WV region.

My contract in Texas was only two years and that influenced the timing for Judah and I getting married. We made the decision early in our relationship that if we remained together, we would follow his job. So on a visit to meet my family, Judah asked my dad if he could marry me. We were engaged in January 2014 and as I've said, just got married! I'm sure I'll occasionally post about married life and offer my own tidbits of advice (or more likely the amazing things I learn from Judah)

Another important date in my life was April 26, 2013. After Judah left in March, I began attending church. I didn't grow up in church and have always been turned off from religion. But this non-denominational church took me in and I professed my faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I see exactly how God was leading my life - taking me to Texas, meeting Judah. Finding God has been like seeing for the very first time. You were finding your way around alright beforehand, stumbling and falling down, but now that you can see the world around you, it's a whole new, better, experience. I will never force my beliefs on you, but it is an integral part of who I am today and I will provide testimony to my faith, in the hope that God can change your life too!

Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that I did finish my master's from Rowan in May of 2014! There are no current job prospects for me, since Judah and I will most likely be moving again in August or September, but I hope to find something to keep my hands fresh in Athletic Training since our long term plan is to settle down in about four years and I can find a permanent job. We'll see where God leads us :)

And finally, I have spent the past decade improving my own health and learning about nutrition, fitness, and wellness. My family has a history of heart disease and diabetes and I wanted to prevent these health issues. It has been a very long journey, but I feel I have finally crested the highest peak. I have found a great balance between eating and exercise and constantly make changes to my lifestyle. Anything I promote on here is to make healthy, long term changes for your health. You'll find that I eat dessert everyday and the only foods I avoid are the highly processed ones. No low-fat, sugar-free, artificial crap for me and my husband! I LOVE to work out - I've been out of touch with running lately, but I make sure to weight train 3-4x/week, and I'm trying to practice yoga more for flexibility. It's all about balance! Hopefully I can encourage you on your own journey and offer solid advice along the way :)

So that's my story! I hope I was halfway intriguing :D