Saturday, August 23, 2014

Coffee Date

I'm trying not to nap at only 10 am so I figured I'd have a coffee date with all of you! And by coffee date, you can drink the coffee and I'll sip water :D

I mentioned about two weeks ago that maybe I should try drinking more caffeine? Yeah.. that didn't go so well. I had a full cup of coffee one morning and didn't sleep well at all that night. But I have found if I have less than 1/2 a cup, it's just enough caffeine to perk me up, but not enough to have the detrimental long lasting side effects. It's just right. :)

Life lately...

Judah started his new job last week. We didn't have to move, which was great. Given the circumstances, we are very happy and thankful for what we have. There's been a lot of rain so he has had a few days off, which is both great and not so great. We love the extra time together, but we are trying to save up and pay for the truck we are getting next weekend. I fly up to WI on Wednesday because I need to go with his dad to get the title to the new truck and I need to get my new license :D Judah will fly up on Sunday because his best friend is going to Afghanistan on October 1st and this is Judah's only chance to see him. And then we will drive the truck back together to WV on Monday. It will be quite the weekend for Judah! But totally worth it in the end I am sure :)

I am really excited to finally get my new license. Sadly WI mails out their licenses so I really won't get it for another two or three weeks, but at least the paperwork will be done and I simply need to wait for it to mail to my in-laws house and then they can send it to me. I finally figured out the bank information too so those new cards should be arriving, along with new checks and then other than my passport, everything will be updated :D That has been the toughest part about getting married and living out of state. Judah and I are still trying to figure out our health insurance information so that's a mess, but we have a few months before it becomes an issue.

The McNuggets are doing great! They are doubled in size and are starting to get little bellies. They're so cute.

They are finally eating produce. They try to pull food away from Maple and I think they're crazy for that. She is violent when she eats, but they still try and she steals it right back. And Cocoa loves to hide in the hay when she eats, as you can see. She is by far my favorite, although Judah told me I'm not allowed to say that, but it's true. She has such a sweet personality and she's cuddly. I haven't been able to get a picture yet, but she has one ear that folds down (how we can tell her apart from Brownie) and the other one sticks up and she looks funny. I know I am going to miss them next week when I am gone for six days :(

Other than that... not much else has been going on. My mom has been doing well with her treatments. She was losing a lot of her hair so she chose to shave it all off. I haven't double checked with her, but I think she has about two more months of chemo, but she has finished radiation therapy. It's all in God's hands.

Hopefully if I get around to it, I will do a review of the movie "God's Not Dead", which Judah and I watched this week, and the book "90 Minutes in Heaven", which my friend Caiti recommended to me. Both were great and I highly encourage you to watch/read them!

Well I am going to go eat a snack and then probably nap because I am still tired :P Have a great weekend :D

Friday, August 22, 2014

My Yoga Journey

I still remember my very first yoga class... Seven years ago during my freshmen year of college there was a snow day. Classes were cancelled, but the Recreation Center was going to still have a few fitness classes, including yoga. My friend from down the hall and I decided we should go check it out. I never gave much thought to yoga because I loved high intensity, high energy classes like kickboxing and using the elliptical. I didn't think I would enjoy slowing down for an hour. Boy was I wrong!

What I remember most about leaving that class was how rejuvenated I felt! After the three-five minutes in savasana, where you lie flat on your back with your eyes closed at the end of class, I felt as if I had slept for a full night. It was amazing and I couldn't wait to try it again. Sadly, college was a very busy time for me so I never did yoga more than once every week or two.

Then I became an instructor, teaching kickboxing, and when I found out that there would be a Level One Yogafit Training, I couldn't wait to sign up! I had taken enough yoga classes at that point that I could have taught a class if I needed to, but taking the instructor's class deepened my own practice and understanding of yoga. Unfortunately I never continued with the other levels of instructor courses, but my love for yoga didn't fade. Several times I've considered a 200 hour instructor training, but I've never had the time nor the funds. Who knows, maybe once Judah and I get our vehicles set up and my loans figured out, I can look into it :)

Anyways, when I moved to Texas in 2012, I was searching around for ways to stay fit. I had increased my running and had a small collection of my own hand weights, so I didn't want to pay for a gym membership, but I was interested in joining a yoga studio. Through Facebook I found a Bikram yoga studio in Tyler and they were hosting a free class on Labor Day. I asked one of my new friends, Kacie, to join me. It was quite an experience!

Bikram yoga is practiced in a heated 105 degree room, with about 40% humidity for 90 minutes. It consists of 26 postures, including two breathing exercises at the start and end of class. It may be intense, but it has been by far my favorite type of yoga. The challenge of it is addicting. That first class I was absolutely drenched in sweat and definitely did not bring enough water with me, but I couldn't wait to try it again! I signed up for three months and dove right in. I made the drive down to Tyler two-three times per week and my boss was flexible, allowing me to leave in time to make the 7 PM class on Mondays/Wednesdays. He joked I should just turn off the AC in my house or go outside instead to do my "hot yoga", but that didn't deter me.

In November, they had signs advertising free yoga in exchange for cleaning so I inquired. Sure enough if I cleaned the studio once per week, I'd receive the monthly $80 membership free. Why not? I was paying my way through grad school on a menial salary so any bit of money saved helped! Finally in April, with summer right around the corner and various work commitments, I had to walk away from the studio and when I returned to Texas in the fall of 2013, I was unable to make the trips down to Tyler to restart my practice.

As I've already said, I really enjoyed Bikram. Not only did my flexibility improve, but so did my stamina, and mentally I felt great. It takes a great deal of concentration and determination to remain in that warm of a room for 90 minutes, trust me! But literally pouring out all my sweat felt like such an accomplishment and to feel the cool air of the studio when you left the practice room at the end of class was so incredibly refreshing! I wish I could still practice, but there are no studios near us out here :(

But thankfully that's where MyYogaPro comes in :) I signed up back in February and the website launched at the end of April. I've completed five courses already, with ten more to go! My practice definitely has not been consistent, but in this past week I have found motivation to commit myself to practicing every other day. I love the benefits of yoga, but always make excuses to not do it. Not anymore!

 Erin Motz is an incredible yoga inspiration. My favorite part about here is her compassion. She claims to respond to every single email she receives and she is very connected through Instagram and Facebook with her audience. She has also supplied several FREE yoga series and is always sharing videos and information with her followers. She is a self-proclaimed "bad yogi", which I love, because yoga tends to get a bad rap for having high demands of its participants, but the truth is ANYONE can do yoga!

I do have a second access code to MyYogaPro for anyone who will actually take advantage of it! Just leave a comment and I'd be more than happy to share :)

Readers: What different types of yoga have you tried? What's your favorite type?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Enough of Social Media?

I'm thinking about staying away from Facebook and Instagram for a while. It has become so draining and time consuming! As much as I love the gift of the Internet and this technology that allows you to connect with friends, I find that more often than not I am not using it in a constructive fashion. Most of the friends I want to stay connected with don't check Facebook. Few of my close friends are on Instagram. So why waste my time here? But then every once in a while I see a post for a prayer request or get to see pictures of my nieces and nephews. I hear about my friend's latest new job and see that so and so competed in that race.

But then there is the negativity, political rants, left-side/right-side/all over the place comments on hot issues, posts to support pro-choice, posts to protect our second amendment rights. Again and again and again. Then the ice bucket challenge! Don't get me wrong, that is a huge success story to the positive use of social media but after two weeks now, I've had enough of the ice buckets. Just go online and donate. You don't need to show the entire world you contributed. The only thing that matters is you did. (Yes, I made my donation this morning despite never being "nominated" for the challenge")

I read an article posted by a friend the other day about a woman who chose to stop using the "like" button on Facebook and instead made herself comment on posts. What a great idea! I know personally that I can easily go through and like half of what I see on Facebook, but what am I accomplishing? Instead, let's actually interact!! I can't tell you how many times I've found myself wanting to post on a blog and have it fully written out, only to delete it. I think "that person doesn't care what I share here" and I move on. But I know from having this blog, I WANT to hear from you guys! Even if it's "great post!", I love knowing that you were here and got something out of what I write. So I have been trying not to "like" posts on Facebook, but instead leave a comment or kind word. It hasn't been easy, lemme tell you that! But with practice, I'll find a way to connect more with people on Facebook than just a "thumbs up" and I challenge you to do the same!

 I have always said I keep social media for myself, and really for the most part it is true. Granted, I try to stay connected so my friends can see what is going on in my life, but I like to look back at my timeline or previous tweets or posts to remember those times. Honestly, I began this blog to keep myself entertained and to stay connected with friends. If no one read this, I'd be okay with it. I've always been better at writing my thoughts down (Judah has dozens of notes and long, novel-like text messages from throughout our relationship to prove it lol) and I used to keep several handwritten and online journals in my adolescence. I see this as no different. I am able to think, reflect, and write out my thoughts on certain topics. I plan to share the articles I write for Christian Sports Today magazine and provide some insight when I find there is a topic that needs addressing.

I have actually "unpublished" my Facebook page for this blog because I need a break. Maybe in a week or two I will change my mind and put it back up, but for now, I'm happy keeping this "private" and linking it through my own FB profile. Just bookmark the page and keep coming back :) I hope you do!

Readers: Does anyone else feel like they need a break from social media?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Morning Yoga

I have been trying to increase how often I practice yoga lately and it hasn't been going so well. Anyone else having that problem? You say you will do something and then.. it just.. never.. happens. Yeah, we've all been there. But this morning I wanted to do a 30 minute session before I laid outside to tan, so I took out my mat and did it! Now if only I can do a session tomorrow or Monday to follow it up ;D

Back in February, I learned of the opportunity to sign up for a yoga website called MyYogaPro while completing Erin Motz's 30 Day Yoga Challenge. The 30 Day Yoga Challenge is an entirely free, Youtube based yoga workout series that you can sign up for here. It's got a little bit of everything and each workout is emailed daily to you for 30 days. I saved them all in a special folder in my email, but you can also search for the workouts on Youtube.

Anyways, they were announcing this soon-to-be-finished MyYogaPro and I couldn't resist signing up! You can read more about it here. I purchased Two Lifetime Access Warriors, convinced that Judah would join and do yoga with me, but let's be real here... he is never going to do that. So much for wishful thinking :) But now I have this extra passcode and no one to use it... I'll figure something out for it.

You may be wondering why should we practice yoga? Interestingly enough a friend asked me on Facebook today a very similar question. She asked:
"How do you like it? Is doing yoga really showing you results that equate to the hype, or would you prefer old-school cardio/strength training? Im considering trying [it]... but I want to know it's actually going to be worth the investment"
I was so glad to see that when I was writing this post :D I replied that absolutely it is worth the hype, when you practice consistently. If you do yoga only 4-5x randomly per month, I doubt you will see much results, though even that may not always be true. I was going to Bikram Yoga - performed in a 105 degree heated room for 90 minute sessions - only once, maybe twice a week, and still saw results. But 90 minutes in one day can be equal to three 30 minute sessions spread out throughout the week. So if you are only doing yoga for a total of 2 hours a month, I doubt you will see many results. However, it you begin to commit 6-10 hours a month, there may be more noticeable differences in your body.

Yoga is certainly an integral piece of a balanced training regimen and it has so many versions/levels/whatever you wish to call it, that truly anyone can participate! Never judge yoga by one bad class, even if it was your first class ever. Try different instructors and types of yoga to find what you like and don't like. If you're new in a live class, don't hesitate to let the instructor know of any health problems you may have or just the fact that you're a newbie to yoga! I once had an instructor start her classes by asking you to place your hand on a body part that was giving you problems so she could be sure to incorporate poses to target that muscle group. My experience has always been that instructors are caring and compassionate and want to provide the best class for their participants so don't be afraid to talk with them before or after :)

One of the best benefits of yoga is it teaches you to know, understand, and respect your body. It doesn't matter where you were yesterday or where you will be tomorrow, but focus right here, right now on what you can do and do it to your best ability. There is so much more to yoga than flexibility. It can be a cardio workout, it can be a strength workout, and you don't have to be flexible to do yoga! That is by far the number one myth concerning yoga. I would challenge anyone "new" to yoga to try the 30 day challenge above (even if it takes 45-60 days to complete) before you make up your mind on this type of exercise.

Readers: Have you tried yoga before? Do you like it? Do you practice consistently or wish you did it more often?

Friday, August 15, 2014

TGIF with some Taco Dip!

With Judah working Saturdays, Fridays are no longer as "special" as they used to be, but I still love it when Friday comes :D This week felt like it went by really fast! Granted Judah only worked half a day Monday and not at all on Tuesday, but time still flew by!  I actually made Judah wake up early this morning so we could put a French Toast Casserole in the oven to bake for breakfast. It was delicious so the recipe will soon follow, don't worry.

The McNuggets are doing very well. They are eating hay and running around like crazy! They are still incredibly adorable and are starting to show their personalities. Brownie is much more reserved, whereas Cocoa is loud and chirpy. I'm afraid that Brownie might actually be a boy :/ I'm waiting til they are a little older to know for sure, but at three weeks he would have to be separated if he is actually a boy. They're so little it's difficult to tell and know for sure. Also, Cocoa's ears unfolded so it's difficult to tell who is who by looking at them, haha.

My friend Molly asked about this recipe a few weeks back and I am finally getting around to sharing! We got this recipe through one of my mom's friends years ago, but it is so good that it makes an appearance at every Pierson household event, no lie! Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, random summer party, you'll be sure to find Taco Dip.  The proper name for it is "Sh!t Dip" (lol), but I guess we can rename it to the PG-approved "Taco Dip". Either way you call it, it's delicious and super easy to make!

Taco Dip
     8 oz cream cheese
    16 oz sour cream 
    1 pack taco seasoning of choice
    2 cans Hormel chili or homemade recipe (below)
    2-4 cups cheese
    black olives, optional

In a 13x9 pan, spread the cream cheese along the bottom. (I made a slightly smaller version for Judah and myself so that's why I have it in a round pie tin in the pictures!) It would help if you leave it out of the fridge to soften first. Then mix the taco seasoning with the sour cream and spread that on top of the cream cheese.

Next spread out the chili. I highly recommend using chili with beans, but it's your choice! I personally hate how many additives are in canned chili so I finally tried this recipe with homemade chili and it was soooo good. (See below). Top with cheese - feel free to put as much as you want, but I recommend not putting on so much you can't see any sour cream underneath it. Too thick of a layer will make it very difficult to dip the chips through without breaking! And I will admit that the amount I put on the pan in the pictures was too much :( still tastes good! You just really need to dig through that cheese!
Finally, you can top with some black olives if you like them. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is fully melted. Serve with your favorite chips (I recommend Tostitos' multigrain scoops) and enjoy!

Clearly Judah and I were enjoying this dip for dinner!

Now, if you're like me and hate artificial ingredients, you can use this simple homemade chili recipe instead of the store-bought canned version! I have to give credit to my mother-in-law for this recipe. It's the first homemade chili recipe I have tried and absolutely loved! Funny story... I shared this recipe with my roommates in Texas, a couple that I had recently moved in with, and I didn't realize that Kacie had been in the habit of portioning out leftovers so all you had to do was reach in, grab and go. Well, I had made a double batch of chili and divided it between two LARGE containers. Her husband, not knowing I didn't portion, took the full container to work that day and managed to eat his way through the ENTIRE thing! I didn't find out until I got home from work and Kacie explained, "Schyler probably won't eat dinner, he is really full from the chili!" Ooops... He claims there were no ill effects to so many beans, haha. Unfortunately we didn't have leftovers for lunch all that week either. Anyways, on to this easy recipe...

Homemade Chili
    1 lb ground beef, optional
    1 can tomato paste
    1 can tomato sauce
    1 can diced tomatoes
    1 can dark red kidney beans
    1 can mild chili beans
    1 packet chili seasoning
If you are using ground beef, cook that up in a large pan and drain. Then add all the ingredients (I drain the dark red kidney beans, but not the chili beans) and mix together.

I personally don't like diced tomatoes, so I blended mine in the food processor first. 

Mix it all up...


 If you are putting this directly into the taco dip, you can skip heating it so it doesn't start to warm the sour cream and cheese early, but otherwise let it warm in the skillet for 10-15 minutes and then serve. 

  (I said above, but this was just a little too much cheese...
We had trouble getting the chips to go through!)

Yum... This recipe is great, but be warned, it is HIGHLY addicting! Football season is right around the corner, I'd recommend trying this dip out with some friends over to watch a game :)

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Change of Pace

I love how when I check the weather radar, there is nothing, yet it has been raining for nearly half an hour now... I'll blog until it ends and I can walk to the gym. I had to walk the two miles home in pretty much a full downpour on Monday and don't feel like repeating that anytime soon.

So I have found lately that I am struggling with this blog. I'm not really sure what I want to do with it. I think since I feel out of place with life in general, I feel that way about the blog right now too.

I have finally come to terms that I won't be returning to Texas, as sad as that makes me. Those two years served a critical purpose in my life (finding God, finding Judah, growing as a person, meeting incredible people), but it is now time to move on. There is that whole concept of hating change... I guess I am feeling that right now.

I definitely have mixed feelings on not working. In one sense, I love being able to plan my day the way that I want. I can do whatever I want around the house, I have plenty of time to workout, read, watch TV. On the other hand, I hate feeling bored and the days I never even go outside seem to kill me. But now that the guinea pig babies are born, I know how important it is for me to be here. I am able to keep up with our house, something I know every woman wishes she had more time to do! I thought maybe God was preparing me to start a family, but I know I am a longggg way off from being even remotely comfortable with that idea, haha. I could hardly handle the McNuggets being born, no way I could handle the stress of a human baby!

I think once I start to write articles for that magazine, I will find some sort of flow. Also, I am still waiting to hear back from the WVATA to get more involved with their projects. I know soon enough I will find other ways to stay busy.

Most of you who know me personally know that I am not a fan of caffeine. I have always been pretty sensitive to it (Thanks Dad! :P) and try to avoid it whenever possible. But I've been finding lately that I am always sooo tired. I've been sharing drinks with Judah from Starbucks and have found that the caffeine hasn't had as profound an effect on me as it used to, so maybe I need to start having coffee everyday? That may help me a bit in the motivation department too. I'm generally pretty productive in the morning, but once the afternoon hits I get that slump. I've been better about not napping when Judah is at work, but I seem to always nap the days he is home. Go figure! haha

In other news, Cocoa and Brownie are doing very well!! They are running around all over and have started to nibble on hay :)

On the top right corner, Brownie is to your left and Cocoa is on the right. The only way we have been able to tell them apart is Cocoa's ears are more folded than Brownie's. On the bottom center pic, Brownie is the one on the left again, whose face you can see, and Cocoa has her back turned to us. They are so adorable!!

It seems the rain is finally starting to taper off so time to head to the gym! Catch you all later!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Welcome Cocoa and Brownie!

Well Sunday night was eventful around here. I was giving Maple a carrot and next thing I knew there was a baby coming out of her! Wow!! I actually thought I may have been so desperate for her to give birth that I imagined it because she spent the next two minutes eating out of her food bowl and I didn't see any contractions. But then she went back to reaching between her legs and next thing I knew we had a little baby!!!

Say hello to Brownie!!

I've been saying I was positive she had two babies inside her and sure enough about 15 minutes later we had baby #2!! She gave birth to them in two different locations and after Cocoa was born, Maple went back in with Brownie so I had to move Cocoa back in with them. After 30 minutes I was sure Maple was done and that two babies would be it.

So cute!!! We actually aren't entirely sure which baby is which... They are literally identical. No distinctive features whatsoever. So Brownie and Cocoa may be generic for a while.. I like to call them McNuggets right now :D

We are thinking they are girls but it is extremely difficult to tell when they are this little. It does appear that whatever gender they are, they are the same, but who knows! Males need to be separated at three weeks of age so we have some time to figure it out.

They slept most of the day yesterday, but today they have been pretty active and moving much better. Those coordination and fine motor skills are developing :P I think it's adorable how much Judah is enjoying them. He still has no patience for Maple, but he loves to hold the babies :D Who could resist these precious little fuzz balls anyways?!

So far Maple has appeared healthy. It seems she has had no complications since the birth, which went very well for her too. What I've read online says to keep an eye on her for up to two weeks following birth, but I'm not worried. She is extremely skittish, even more so than when she was pregnant, but now that we can handle her I plan to work with her daily so she becomes less frightened. Hopefully interacting with the babies will help her see that we mean no harm :D

My Instagram will be loaded with pictures so if you wanna stay up to date with them, just follow me :)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Are You Getting Enough Exercise?

I told myself I was going to start writing more fitness-related posts, so here we go!

I think it goes without saying that exercise is a good thing that we all should be doing, in some form or another. But how much is enough? Work, family obligations, just life in general likes to get in the way and we find ourselves pushing off going to the gym or getting outside.

Before I go any further, I can't even begin to emphasize the importance of exercise enough! It is true that focusing on our bodies can be selfish, but when having energy, stamina, and strength enhances your life and decreasing stress improves your relationships, how is that selfish? If exercise consumes your life and you are more focused with how you look than spending time with your loved ones, then you may have tipped the scales too far, but otherwise exercise can be a healthy part of achieving balance in life.

So how much is enough? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults should be getting 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise (ex. walking) OR 75 minute of vigorous aerobic exercise (ex. running) and 2 days of total body strength training each week.

Think of it this way... you can spend 30 minutes per day Monday-Friday performing an activity where you can talk (walking, easy biking, elliptical with light resistance) or you can spend 15 minutes per day Monday-Friday performing an activity where talking is difficult (running, biking or elliptical with heavy resistance). I can guarantee you that with the time you spend reading this article, checking Facebook/email/Instagram and whatever else, is the time it would take to go run for 15 minutes! So don't say you don't have the time to exercise ;P

Now I will admit that getting in proper weight training workouts could take a little more creativity, especially for those of us without gym memberships. But let me tell you, this is one area where social media has become an incredible tool! Pinterest, Facebook, and Youtube have literally thousands of workout resources. Just now I typed in "total body workout at home" in the Pinterest search tab and found these three workouts, all of which would work every muscle group of the body:

But I don't know what a squat press is in workout #1... Guarantee you that Youtube can show us! And sure enough..

Even if you don't have dumbbells at home, you can improvise with cans of soup, gallons of water, cinder blocks...anything you can grab a hold of! And honestly, it really doesn't take that much money to invest in a small gym equipment supply. A yoga mat, 5-, 8- and 12-pound dumbbells, and a 20 pound kettlebell will cost you a total of $70 at Walmart. Considering the average gym membership is $20-30 per month, that equipment will pay for itself in two to three months, and except for the yoga mat, that equipment will last for years too!

Today's focus was simply to tackle the question: are you getting enough exercise? We've established that in as little as 2 hours a week, total, you can accomplish what you need to reach minimum health goals! This week I will address the different types of exercise (flexibility vs. cardiovascular vs. strength), motivation for finding the time to exercise, and some common technique mistakes people make in the gym. Stay tuned :)

Readers: Did you know about the CDC guidelines? Are you reaching minimum guidelines for achieving physical activity? What changes do you need to make? Do you use social media to find new workouts?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My First Recipe!

I'm pretty excited because today is Judah's last day on this job and hopefully he will be home a few hours early :D He doesn't start the next job until Monday so that means three day weekend!! We don't have any big plans since three days isn't really enough time to go anywhere, but it'll be nice just to have the three days together. He hasn't had that much time off since the wedding. :)

And sadly no, still no guinea pig babies :( I was sort of hoping she would have them last night/this morning since I had to wash her bedding yesterday, but nope, nothing. I did catch a cute pic of her sleeping yesterday afternoon... such a cutie!! I cannot wait to meet her little ones :D

So on to my first original recipe! Last weekend Judah and I had made the decision to buy a Sam's Club membership, but we had to wait until Sunday to go so on Saturday we were very, very low on food in the house! Taking a peek around the kitchen I had a lot of half used items that needed to be finished off. I combined them all to make a surprisingly delicious, easy meal for dinner...

Spinach Baked Pasta Dish
     15 oz. ricotta cheese
     1 cup mozzarella cheese, plus extra for topping
     1/4 cup parmesan cheese
     ~8 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
     1 egg
     1 tbsp italian seasoning
     salt and pepper to taste
     1/2 jar spaghetti sauce (ideal for leftover sauce!)
     1/2 pound pasta, cooked

Simply combine all the ingredients while the pasta is cooking. Rinse the pasta in cold water to cool it off and stir in the cheesy sauce mixture. Place in a greased 13x9 pan and top with mozzarella cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove the foil and let bake for 5 mores minutes. Serve and enjoy!

So although my ingenuity wasn't super impressive (it matches pretty much any lasagna recipe you can find) and I will admit it looks pretty gross before baking with the spinach mixed in and the pale red appearance from the sauce, it tastes GREAT! Start to finish this recipe took me 70 minutes. You can easily put together the recipe a night ahead of time or in the morning and then simply pop it in the oven when you get home from work!

I was so excited after we went to Sam's Club the next morning:

They didn't have everything I wanted to get, but this certainly stocked our pantry pretty well!

Readers: What's your go-to recipe when you have a lot of half used items in the fridge?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My Fitness Routine Lately

Any of you that know me personally know that fitness is a huge part of my life. My fitness journey began nearly twelve years ago (I was a freshman in high school) and it has been quite a winding road! At some point I will give you all an in-depth story, but for now we'll just discuss what I have been up to lately!

I remembered to take a picture! :D

I truly enjoy running. But this summer I haven't been finding myself doing a whole lot of it. I lift three days per week, which I'll get to more in a moment. The days I don't go to the gym on my own, I try to wait for Judah in the evenings and we go to the gym together. Even though we don't do the same workout, it's fun to both be there, rather than me staying at home while he goes by himself. I think it also takes the pressure off him to cut his workout short so he can get back home to me sooner. I'll either run on the treadmill or ride the spinning bike.

Back/biceps day! 

I've mentioned before, but right now I am using Cathe Friedrich's Shock Training System for my lifts.  In total, it is a 12-week program with three separate phases: endurance, hypertrophy, and strength. I am currently using the hypertrophy phase. Although this program is designed to build muscle, I also like to use it to build strength all around and I find the set up more enjoyable than the endurance and strength phases of the program. During the endurance phase you perform exercises with ~15 reps every 30 seconds. It's quick, intense, and you see results, but I've found it's not ideal for a gym setting. I enjoy those workouts better when I am at home with no one to disturb me and I don't have to run all over to set up the equipment I need. The strength phase is great, but the workouts are broken down to only a select few exercises since the goal is to build strength and that is best accomplished with only a few sets and reps, but high, high weight. So you don't want to be doing lots of different exercises and the rest time is very long (90-180 seconds).

I find the hypertrophy phase to be an excellent middle ground. Each exercise is performed for 8-12 reps using decently heavy weight. Rest time is only a minute long, which is just enough to let the body recover, but long enough to allow you to grab a drink of water or stretch if needed, as well as set up for the next exercise when switching between. The workouts are divided into chest/shoulders/triceps, legs, and back/biceps. I just began the second half of this phase yesterday. I knew I didn't want to do just a four week phase, so I have been repeating each week. So technically I am on week three of the program, but this is the fifth week of my training period.

Many of you may wonder, if I was an aerobics instructor for four years, why would I not write my own programs? Truthfully... it's a LOT of work! I'd spend at least ten hours a week working on my four hour-long classes that I taught. It's not that I can't do it, but when I can pay a one time fee for someone else to do it for me, why not?

I came across Cathe when there used to be FitTV on cable television. I believe the channel still exists but they have renamed it. Cathe was the only instructor on there that I found challenging and enjoyed working out with. Her DVDs are slightly pricy (about $23/workout), but I assure you that they are TOP quality. She has been in the fitness industry for nearly 30 years now and she hasn't stayed there by sitting back and doing the same old stuff. She constantly is improving her workouts to meet the latest crazes and to make the workouts most EFFECTIVE for her clientele. I own her STS series, XTrain series, Low Impact Series, and three or four single workouts. I have also preordered her Ripped HiiT workout that will be completed and shipped this fall. If you follow her on Facebook and subscribe to her weekly email updates, you'll find out first when she is releasing new material and you can usually preorder for over 50% off the selling price when the product becomes available.

What I love best about Cathe is she has definitely grown with technology too. I believe every single one of her workouts is available for download so you can use your ipod/phone/ipad. You're no longer tied to a dvd player and TV! She now has Cathe OnDemand Streaming, which allows you to view ANY workout for only $20/month and right now if you sign up, you can also view Cathe Live, which is a weekly viewing of a live class from her gym in New Jersey! I can promise you that when I have a complete home gym, that is what I will be purchasing.

Some of you may be wondering if I was paid to promote Cathe's products, but I haven't! I so strongly support what she has been doing and she is my go-to fitness resource that I wanted to share all the great opportunities available to you! And honestly, if I can look like her when I'm 50, that'd be amazing!

Dang girl!

She definitely promotes towards the female fitness realm, but if you watch any of her live class previews, there are men in the audience and she also includes men in some of her workout videos because ANYONE can benefit from her programs. If you check out her DVD website, pretty much every single DVD has a YouTube video preview so you can see exactly what it is like! It also explains what equipment you need and if there are premixes for the video, what those entail.

Definitely check her out :)

Last week I purchased the Lean and Lovely Program by Neghar Fonooni, because she had a 50% launch sale, so I figured why not? I know she focuses a lot on kettlebell work, which I have little experience with and figured I could definitely learn a lot. I will be starting that program in September and I'll be sure to share how I like it :)

Readers: What is your favorite type of exercise? Running, yoga, lifting, kettlebell work, playing a sport? What motivates you to exercise?

Monday, August 4, 2014

The PERFECT Peanut Butter Cookie Recipe

I set a personal challenge to you: make the following recipe and tell me these are not the BEST peanut butter cookie you have EVER tasted. That is how strongly I feel about this recipe.

I stumbled upon it about a year and a half ago when Judah and I had first started dating. AMAZING! Check 'em out.

Yes please!

M&M Peanut Butter Cookies from Six Sister's Stuff
     2 sticks butter
     1 cup brown sugar
     1 cup granulated sugar
     2 eggs
     1.5 cups creamy peanut butter (15 oz. container)
     2.5 cups all purpose flour
     1 tsp baking soda
     1 tsp vanilla extract
     1 medium sized bag of m&m's, or chocolate chips

If you have a mixer, I highly recommend using that, otherwise you may want to slightly melt the butter and peanut butter to aid the mixing process. Add ingredients, in order, until a smooth, creamy dough forms. I use a tablespoon to measure out my cookies when I bake them, and that size is perfect for this recipe. The dough won't puddle out, so you can place them closer together on the tray than normal cookies. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. They should look slightly underdone. Allow to cool on the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

You can see I use a tablespoon and a knife to transfer the dough

This is how they look before baking:

And as you can see they hardly spread out during baking!

These cookies freeze wonderfully! If you overcook them and they dry out, they obviously don't taste as good, fresh or frozen. Definitely err on the side of taking them out too early than leaving them in too long. If you accomplish that, then even when frozen, this cookies will be delicious and soft!

I've already ate two during the writing of this post. I will warn they can be highly addicting! But I find that usually after three I am satisfied and can move on :)

I know that usually the type of peanut butter you use can make a difference with taste and texture in baked goods. But I have used JIF, the type of natural peanut butter that doesn't need to be refridgerated and the kind that does in this recipe and they all have tasted great and have had the same texture! You could substitute crunchy peanut butter if you wanted, but you'd have to add a significant amount more to make up for the lack of moisture. You'd be better off placing some roasted peanuts in a food processor and adding the bits to the recipe along with the m&m's or chocolate chips than using crunchy peanut butter instead.

Finally I will leave you with this adorable picture I saw on Facebook this morning:

Guinea pig split anyone? Awwww.... And yes, we are still are on baby watch! I feel like any day now Maple will have her little babies, but then again I have been saying that for at least a week now. One day I will eventually be right! ;)

Readers: What's your favorite type of cookie? Do you have a go-to recipe you use every time?