Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Kitchen "Essentials"

Jules over at Pancakes & French Fries posted today was talking about a few baking items she always uses. I don't have any superstitions, per say, about which item I use. I do, however, have five items which are used so often in our kitchen that I have come to deem them as "essential". Would we be able to continue creating dishes without them? Yes. Would that process be considerably more difficult. Of course.

The five items we use at least once a week, if not more, are as follows:

  • the 5qt cast iron french oven 
  • the 10" cast iron skillet 
  • the 5qt stand mixer 
  • the 7-cup food processor 
  • and restaurant quality jelly roll pans 
All were gifts in some manner or we'd probably still have most of them on a "someday" list. We have very generous friends and family!

We inherited a Staub Elite Enameled Cast Iron 5qt. French Oven from a friend of a friend that was moving and left a TON of stuff in her house to be donated or otherwise homed. I was helping my friend with the house cleanup and this was among the things we accepted. We use the pot at least once a week - usually more. We love that it can go stove-to-oven. One thing to keep in mind - and consider when cooking - is that cast iron retains heat VERY WELL. So when the soup is done - especially a cream-based soup - it will continue to cook even when you remove it from the heat. We almost always have stuff stuck to the base by the time we put away leftovers. The great thing about enamel is that with a soak, it wipes clean fairly easily.

Sweetie received a Lodge 10" cast iron skillet as a Christmas gift a few years ago. It lives on the stovetop. We don't even bother putting it away because we use it every day, multiple times a day. I grew up with a small one in my parents house that also lived on the stovetop and was used mainly for cooking my mother's eggs in the morning. We use ours for everything. I've used it for pancakes, eggs, breadsticks, pizza (goes directly into the oven!), homemade tortillas, quesadillas, and cooking or searing meats.

I bought the Kitchenaid Artisan 5-qt stand mixer for Sweetie for Christmas about 4 years ago. A year later, she received a second bowl because she uses it THAT OFTEN. She loves making all sorts of breads and baked goods and that mixer makes it 300 times easier. We thought we'd use the meat grinder attachment but the motor really isn't designed for the extensive use we wanted to put it through so we ultimately put that attachment away. We haven't gotten rid of the attachment yet so it's not a definite "never going to use" item yet but we haven't used it since we received the food processor.

I received the Cuisinart Pro Classic 7-cup food processor for Christmas last year. It has a spot to live in the china cabinet but it really only gets put there about one week out of the month. We use it to puree nuts, make smoothies, whip up banana/yogurt treats to freeze for our dog, and to "grind" (finely chop) the veggies, roast & organ meats for our dog's homemade food. The only thing I don't use it for is shredding cheese. It seems more of an effort to clean the unit than to take more time and use the cowbell shredder manually.

Sweetie has accumulated five half-size sheet pans over the years and one quarter-size sheet pan. She also has racks and silicone mats for each of them.  Most of them are Vollrath 5303 from the "Wear-Ever" Collection. We have a restaurant supply store in the area that is open to retail customers. They take a beating and keep on heating! We use them heavily and after four or fives years there is still no warping and no denting. The raised edges makes them ideal for roasting vegetables and seeds, cooking bacon (on the rack), or any other messy baking items. They work just as well as a sheet for baking cookies too! We also tend to pull them out when we need a moveable working surface.

Those are the items we love in our kitchen. Please share in the comments if you have any items you love in your kitchen or home!

Friday, May 10, 2013


Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be great, awesome, naturally gifted at something. To be able to just do that thing without having to work at it to get there. A reality check reminds me that this isn't the case for most of the talent I witness on a daily basis. I completely understand and respect the amount of learning, practicing, failures and repeated attempts that come to most people before their talents are realized by others as greatness. Even then, that person tends to push themselves to be even better. They have a drive to consistently improve their skill.

When I assess myself honestly in regards to that drive - that passion - that is needed to be great at something; I see a lack of a very specific and necessary characteristic. I lack the drive to improve.

I'm sure I'm not the only person who has been posed the question: If you could do whatever you wanted, regardless of money or time, and be fully supported in your endeavors; what would you do?

I've never been able to answer that for myself. I don't have a passion that speaks so strongly, so loudly in my heart, that life would be just AWESOME as long as I was doing it. I wonder if my lack of passion stems from fear of failing or from not pushing through the frustration of failure along the way. Maybe I LOVE art. I collect art supplies, gather ideas, store sketch notes and project ideas with the intention that *someday* I will turn them into reality. Years ago I would write poems, short stories, and song melodies. Maybe I LOVE music. I hear songs on the radio and think, "I want to DO that!". I imagine myself on a stage playing a song for a crowd or laughing and having fun while entertaining friends. It's a very "rose colored glasses" scene (Something to note here: I generally don't like the focus on me. WHY I daydream of being the center of attention is beyond me but there it is.) There is a commonality within these two things; music and art both allow for the creation of something. Maybe I LOVE to create. I get lost in time when building programs, craft projects, posters, taking photos for a specific concept, or building something with my hands. Is that the thing I would do if I could be fully supported? I don't know. It's scary to say "this is the thing I LOVE" because what if I'm never good enough to measure up to my own standards of what that thing should be? Failure is scary.

I wonder about how many opportunities or experiences I've turned down or tuned out because I was afraid to fail. It's easy to assert that I will dare to push myself but quite another to remember to actually do it before the default ego says "no".

I don't really know where I'm going with this. It's nearly midnight and I'm tired and rambling. This started out as a status update on Facebook before I realized I was typing a paragraph and moved over here to hash it out instead. I don't have a solution. The obvious solution is to just do it. Just dare to fail and fail and fail until that moment arrives where I realize I'm not failing anymore and I enjoyed the failures of my passionate talents just as much as I enjoy the successes of my non-passionate talents.

The obvious isn't easy. The obvious is a frightening venture.

Monday, May 6, 2013

100 Push-Ups In 6 Weeks: Week 2 Exhaustion Test

Exhaustion Test after Week 2 of the "100 Push-ups in 6 weeks" program (using the free Android App because I'm cheap and it was out there).

15 push-ups. 

15 total. After I entered that number into the app, I received this message:
Bastards! But really, I did 15! I'm pretty damn proud of my improvement. 
I peeked at the next workout. I'm still technically "Week 2" but the reps are double what I did for the last workout. Eek!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

100 Push-Ups In 6 Weeks: Week 2

Week 2 of the "100 Push-ups in 6 weeks" program (using the free Android App because I'm cheap and it was out there).

Day 1
5 sets with a 60-second rest in between:
5 push-ups
6 push-ups
4 push-ups
4 push-ups
6 push-ups (or more to max out - my max was 6)

Oompf. I'm torturing myself with the obsession of "perfect" form. Between Week 1 and Week 2, I discovered that my elbows should be bending toward my sides, not away from like I had been doing. I'm not sure what difference it make but it's obvious that I'm using different muscle groups and those muscles are not strong enough to do these push-ups! My hips were dipping, I was doing some sort of wave motion, and I was using all my focus to get that sixth one out.

Day 2
5 sets with a 90-second rest in between:
5 push-ups
6 push-ups
5 push-ups
4 push-ups
7 push-ups (or more to max out - my max was 7)

Back to elbows out. I did the first two of the first set trying to keep my elbows in and it's just not happening. My alternative was to start the program over (again) with the realistic baseline at the newly acquired form. I decided instead to go back to the elbows out form for the first 6 weeks, then start the program over for an additional 6 weeks to work on elbows in. I think the main difference is that I'm working biceps versus triceps. That's what it feels like anyway.

Day 3
5 sets with a 120-second rest in between:
6 push-ups
7 push-ups
5 push-ups
5 push-ups
7 push-ups (or more to max out - my max was 7)

In all honesty, I could have maxed out higher but I forgot that was the objective. I saw 7 and I did 7. It wasn't until later in the evening that it occurred to me.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Garlic And Non-Landscaping

Sweetie and I planted both Elephant and regular garlic cloves last November. They were peeking from the ground in December and by the 8th of April, they looked like this!

Elephant Garlic

Regular Garlic

I am excited for July when we harvest these beautiful looking plants! I need to find a spot in the basement to hang the braids because we'll have so much more than we had last year.

I'm honestly a little curious about the brussel sprouts. You can see its progress as of April 8th in the background of the picture above. Just a short 17 days later, it has exploded! As you can see below, the plant obviously wintered well. I'd go so far as to say that the winter enhanced its appearance! I have absolutely no clue what I'm doing and I haven't done any research, so other than being a big and beautiful green, I don't know if this is promising for actual sprouts or if I should be trimming it or something. *shrug*

Brussel Sprouts. I stood my keys up in front as an attempt at some sort of size comparison.

That's the only progress I have to share that was even slightly intentionally started. Everything else in our yard that is blooming is a perennial and requires no effort on our part. This is season two of no mulching and the weeds are already thriving. I confused some dandelions for poppies the other day because their bright yellow heads were so much bigger than I had seen before. The purple deadnettle is making for some impressive ground cover.

Purple Deadnettle as of April 8th. It's already bigger and expanded further.
We don't have the prettiest yard in the neighborhood, but the birds and the bees are very happy for what we provide them! I haven't seen many honey bees but the bumblebees are prolific around the seas of purple. They apparently love the stuff. Far be it from me to take away their beloved food ;-)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

100 Push-Ups In 6 Weeks: Week 1

Week 1 of the "100 Push-ups in 6 weeks" program (using the free Android App because I'm cheap and it was out there).

Day 1
5 sets with a 60-second rest in between:
2 push-ups
3 push-ups
2 push-ups
2 push-ups
3 push-ups (or more to max out - my max was 5)

I did them at work when I was feeling restless so I didn't have a video camera with me to check form. They were hard to do though, so I think that's an indicator that my form was better ;-)

Day 2
5 sets with a 90-second rest in between:
3 push-ups
4 push-ups
3 push-ups
2 push-ups
4 push-ups (or more to max out - my max was 5)

I did them just before leaving for the night job and used the video camera to check form since I slacked and let 4 days pass between Day 1 & Day 2 instead of two or three days. Oops. After watching the video later that evening, I searched YouTube for other people who had posted videos of their push-ups at (preferably) the same level as I was at. A few of them used an object under their chest to ensure they went down far enough. That seemed like a great idea to keep me from going down too far! My shoulder was bothering me and after watching the 5th set in the video below, you'll notice my poor form included dipping too low (shoulders below elbows). That would explain the pain. Sweetie also pointed out that my neck wasn't in line with my back. I was probably looking at my hands, thinking they were directly below my head when they were actually below my chest.

Day 3 (with form notes in video below)
5 sets with a 120-second rest in between:
5 push-ups
6 push-ups
4 push-ups
3 push-ups
5 push-ups (or more to max out - my max was 8!)

I did some research on proper form and apparently, I'm supposed to look slightly forward to keep my head in line. Basically, if I dropped all the way to the floor, my chin should touch before my nose does.
As for the shoulder pain, that apparently has less to do with form than it has to do with repetitive movement. The range of motion (45 degrees, 90 degrees, or chest to floor) has to do with comfort & strength level. So my elbows are fine to extend beyond my back *technically*, but I'm probably not strong enough to sustain it, which might explain the pain.
To keep a consistent range of motion, I used a trick I saw in a few videos of others doing the push-up challenges. I placed a roll of toilet paper between the two dumbbells I use as grips (less wrist pain). That brings me at 90 degrees, which I feel is realistic.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Little Things

I referred to Sweetie as "my partner" during a conversation with a client the other day. It felt weird but easy all at once. They might not have understood the context but I didn't leave the conversation feeling like I'd crept into the closet again - which is what I usually do. When it comes to work, I'm just not sure how to navigate conversations that steer into my personal life. Something as simple as discussing a popular television  show can become a mental obstacle to overcome.

Client: "Did you watch Dancing With The Stars last night? I don't know who got voted off yet and it's bugging me."

Me: "I don't know because I don't watch it regularly, but my partner does, and she always votes for that geeky looking guy with blonde hair and glasses. I don't know his name but I hope he's not the one that got voted off because she seems to like him."

My normal reaction: "I don't know. I don't watch it really."

Which is more engaging?

Sometimes I'll just refer to her as "a friend" which is heart breaking and feels like a lie: "I don't watch it regularly but a friend of mine does (heart sinking), and she always votes for [...]".

It's not a lie, of course. She is a friend. She's my best friend. She's also much more than that and it feels wrong to imply otherwise.

I have referred to her as my fiancee before but that just muddies the waters further, because then they want to ask about all the details of the man in my life.

I think I've even referred to her as my girlfriend a few times - which seems silly after 11 years, LOL. 

Plenty of people have suggested I just call her my wife even though we aren't married. Those same people tell us that we're "basically already like a married couple" even if it didn't happen through a ceremony - legal or not. Call me a stickler for details, but we aren't married. I'm not calling her my wife until we are. In my perspective, it's like addressing someone with the title Doctor just because they've been going to med school for four years. We haven't taken the oath yet. There is no legal binding, there is no financial binding, there is no religious binding. We will eventually take those vows and, ideally, they will be taken in the state we live in AND be honored by the law of our state and nation.

I've never, until this recent conversation, referred to her as my partner. We don't like the term. It sounds like a business deal or a sporting duo. However, it seems as though that's the only term that really works for now.

So often, I find myself clamming up on conversations with clients when they turn outside of business matters because I'm not sure how to talk about my life without referring to Sweetie's involvement in it. Sometimes I manage to come up with responses, most times I refer to her as a friend, sometime I just use the "we" and "our" pronouns without explanation, and sometimes I just start talking about her by name without explaining her relationship to me - and no one ever asks. The other day I referred to her as my partner. I look forward with great anticipation for the day I can refer to her as my wife (in the sense of a federally honored and legal wife) and just be done with all of this label and pronoun nonsense.

Side Note:
I'm pretty sure my mom reads this blog. I feel a little contradictory admitting what I have in this post because within the last year or so, my mother and I had a heart-to-heart about how much it hurt my feelings when Sweetie was introduced at family functions as my friend or roommate. Here I am, struggling to do the same thing but in a job setting as opposed to a family setting. My mom has started introducing Sweetie at family functions as my partner. I know this is a huge thing for her and it never goes unnoticed by me, always makes my heart swell up to my eyeballs, even though I try to be cool and natural about it. My mother is pretty awesome, yeah?

Anyway, if she can do it - I can too. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

100 Push-Ups In 6 Weeks: Week 1, Day 3 - Failed

Monday was Week 1: Day 3 of the "100 Push-ups in 6 weeks" program (using the free Android App because I'm cheap and it was out there).

Week 1, Day 3 had the following - each with a 120-second rest in between:
8 push-ups
10 push-ups
7 push-ups
7 push-ups
10 push-ups (or more to max out - my max was 5)

I did the first 2 sets in the bedroom like I usually do. 120-second rests are long and boring, so after I'd picked up the bedroom from the first two sets, I decided to finish the remaining sets in the living room where Sweetie was watching television. Then I had the brilliant idea to have Sweetie watch a set to make sure my form looked okay. I was pretty sure it was good but figured an outside set of eyes might see something I couldn't feel.

Right at the start of my first push-up, Sweetie guffawed. My back was dipped, my arms were too far in front of my shoulders, and I wasn't going down to a 90-degree angle. Well shit. So I corrected and tried to finish the set. It was a struggle. I barely eked out the last push-up without dropping.

After another rest, I felt confident that I could push out another 7 with no problem. I got 2 done and then started struggling again. It took almost a minute to get the last 5 done and my form started to break on the last one.

I was doubting myself for the final set. The 120-second rest alarm sounded and I got into position. Right off the bat I was having trouble pushing back up. I managed to get 5 finished before I really could not do another push-up.

I was pretty down about this "failure". I set the program to repeat the day for the next workout.

On Wednesday, I attempted the sets in Week 1, Day 3 again. That time, I did the first set of 8 in front of a video camera and watched the playback during the 120-second rest. My back was dipped again but otherwise my form was good. I concentrated on keeping my back rigid (which felt high and humped but I knew it wasn't) and couldn't complete more than 5 in the second set. I decided I'd already "failed" the workout again so I thought about what to do about it.

I came to realize that my entire workout plan is based on the program's input that I could do 10 good form push-ups, but this was incorrect. Those weren't 10 good form push-ups. I tried a final set and found I can realistically do 5 good form push-ups. Granted, this was after 18 push-ups with rests but I still felt like 5 was my max number without stopping. So I reset the program and set the new Initial Test result as 5.

I will do Week 1, Day 1 (with the new baseline number) on Friday.

Monday, April 15, 2013

100 Push-Ups In 6 Weeks: Week 1, Day 2

Saturday was Week 1: Day 2 of the "100 Push-ups in 6 weeks" program (using the free Android App because I'm cheap and it was out there).

Week 1, Day 2 had the following - each with a 90-second rest in between:
6 push-ups
7 push-ups
6 push-ups
4 push-ups
7 push-ups (or more to max out - my max was 10)

My arms were noticeably sore on Sunday, which was a nice change.

I  noticed today that I was off on the Week/Day count. I counted the initial test as Week 1, Day 1 - but I'm seeing now that tonight's scheduled workout is labeled "Week 1, Day 3" which is what I thought I did on Saturday. However, the numbers are higher so it's definitely not what I did on Saturday. This bugs me to do a workout labeled "Day 3" on the first day of the week so I'm going to skip some rest days until I'm caught up. By Thursday I'll be back on track and I'll take my recommended rest days. Or maybe I won't. Heck, if I don't feel it causing any muscular issues, I might just stay on it as an every day program until it gets too difficult to do so and the rest days will be required instead of just recommended.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

100 Push-Ups In 6 Weeks: Week 1, Day 2

Wednesday was Week 1, Day 2 of the "100 Push-ups in 6 weeks" program (using the free Android App because I'm cheap and it was out there).

Day 2 had the following - each with a 60-second rest inbetween:
6 push-ups
7 push-ups
4 push-ups
4 push-ups
5 push-ups (or more to max out - but 5 was my max anyway)

So I finished the workout in 5 minutes. I did it just before changing for bed. This is so weird.

Today (Thursday), I found myself to the point of stress where my heart was pounding in my ears. I needed a release. I was at work, so I didn't want to break into jumping jacks or high knees or any other high intensity cardio (although that's what I Really wanted). It was drizzly and cold outside so I didn't want to walk around the building. Instead, I did squat holds and wall sits until I couldn't any longer. It was enough to elevate my heart rate and cool off my brain - even if just for a few minutes.

Push-ups and squat holds were my two weakest areas in the Insanity workouts so it makes sense to me that I work toward improvement in those areas. I think I'll continue the squat holds and wall sits on my off days from push-ups. Maybe by the end of this 6-weeks I'll see a drastic improvement in both areas!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

100 Push-Ups In 6 Weeks: Week 1, Day 1

Last night was Week 1, Day 1 of the "100 Push-ups in 6 weeks" program (I'm using the free Android App because I'm cheap and it was out there).

Day 1 was the "Introduction" and Initial Exhaustion Test which demonstrated the proper form and then asked me to input how many push-ups I could do right now until exhaustion. I assumed that meant without any rest breaks so I did push-ups until I couldn't push up another without breaking form. That number was 10. Felt kinda like a cop-out for a workout because that was literally all it had me do. I was done with my workout in about 2 minutes.

Nothing else scheduled until Wednesday (which I peeked ahead and has me doing multiple sets of push-ups with rests in between).

It's kind of nice not having to change into workout clothes and wear the heart rate monitor. It's also kind of weird not to spend an hour exercising and not being soaked in sweat when I'm done. I definitely miss the endorphin high that came with Insanity workouts, but I don't miss the time commitment!

I'm on the fence about whether this program alone will be enough to stave off my dark moods. I've been pretty down the last few days but until last night, I hadn't done any exercising for almost 2 weeks except a couple short walks with Max & Sweetie. Now that I'm on another regularly scheduled program, I'm hoping to see some improvement. This morning was already better than recent mornings. If my mood isn't consistently better within a week, I'll add a cardio or leg strength workout from the Workout Trainer App. Obviously, once the weather is cooperating, I'll be walking more often and this will all straighten out on its own!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Switching It Up

I am bored with Insanity. This has happened with every other workout that runs on a repeat schedule but I thought it would be different with Insanity because it was always difficult. There was always a new challenge to meet. Can I do more reps? Can I do this round without resting? Can I get through the entire workout without my heart rate exceeding 185? Can I finish the entire workout without extra resting? Can I do all of that with high intensity throughout?!

In the end, those challenges didn't matter after a too-long-break. I don't have the excitement to meet those goals anymore. I took a work trip and brought the DVDs with me but they wouldn't play on the laptop. I hadn't thought to test that out before leaving...oops. So, including the rest day, I had missed 5 days by the time I'd gotten back home. I did the Spartacus workout in the hotel's fitness room so I wasn't completely dormant but it was not an hour-long high-intensity Insanity workout. I mean, I sweat but I wasn't drenched. If you've done an Insanity workout, you feel kind of robbed when you don't emerge from a workout looking like you just jumped into the shower with your clothes on, LOL

On Friday, I kept putting off the workout until I ended up not having time to do it before going to work for the evening. When I skipped out on Saturday as well I decided it was time to admit that I'd moved on.

So (because I hate starting things in the middle of the week) I will begin the "100 push-ups in 6 weeks" program that I had slated to start a week after finishing this round of Insanity. It's also warming up so I'll be walking with Max & Sweetie again!

I've got the Spartacus workout slated for MWF after I finish the 100 Push-ups program and then I found an Insanity/HipHopAbs 30-day hybrid which I slated for October or November (whenever I can't walk the trail with Sweetie anymore due to daylight loss). I think by then I should be ready to jump back in with Insanity - and the hybrid will be a welcome switch-up.

I'll try to remember to keep updating on what I'm doing.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Insanity Update - Final & First Fit Test

Last night was the final Fit Test (I skipped the 3rd & 4th because I didn't want to do a Fit Test AND a workout). Last night was also the first Fit Test starting another round of Insanity (but starting on Day 15 so I'm in sync with the Shaun T Bday Challenge.)

Here are my results:

I'm a little disappointed with some of those numbers. My endurance definitely improved but my strength could use more focus. My heart rate only exceeded 190 once. That was after Power Jumps, which always result in a skyrocketing heart rate.

I recorded myself with our flip cam to watch my form. Here are some things I noticed:

Switch Kicks:
Amazing form, consistency, and speed

Power Jacks:
I don't squat as deeply as I think I am. A mirror would be helpful. I don't want to bend too deep and cause injury!

Power Knees:
Good form, good speed - just need to work on endurance

Power Jumps:
First 10 were pretty good with height and form. I look like I land a lot harder than I feel. The people in the video look so much more graceful. Something to work on.

Globe Jumps:
My lower half looks good - butt out, knees bent in squat position. My arms however, holy crap. They were just flailing all over the place! It's funny because I always feel like I'm in control and have steady arm swings. Apparently not, LOL

Suicide Jumps:
Great form and speed for the first 10, then my butt starts coming up. I remember being super exhausted at this point.

Push-Up Jacks:
I was really looking forward to seeing this one. I always feel like my form is complete crap on push ups. I was surprised. My arms actually do come pretty close to 90 degrees and my back doesn't sag (until about 15 reps).

Low Plank Oblique:
No real surprises here except endurance. I've never had an issue with my form or speed on Low Plank Oblique. I had to stop a couple times though and not because my heart rate was high. My arms and legs were just jello. I still increased in reps but my goal is to get through these without stopping next time.

As for other measurements, my weight went up .6 pounds - so an even 145 now. No biggie. My inches reflect a loss around the calves, forearm, and hips. I've been eating kinda crappy lately (fried foods, ice cream, etc) so the surprise was that I hadn't gained more! (hmm, that might also have something to do with my performance on the Fit Test, lol)

A total of 3.75 inches are gone around my body. One measurement that was particularly interesting to me was the 1.5 inch increase around my bust/chest. I don't know if I measured in a different place that last time, or if I gained muscle mass, or what happened.

Here's the breakdown of inches:

Bust/Chest   +1.00
Waist -0.50
Hips -1.50
Thigh +0.50
Calf -1.75
Bicep -0.50
Forearm -1.00

In the round I just finished, I did the Recovery workout once - I think maybe it was week 2 - and noticed the pain had returned to my shins the next day. I noticed that pain again this last Sunday - after I had held a minute-long squat on Saturday. So I think it's the squat-holds that are causing my shin pain to flare up. This would make sense since the first couple times I did the Insanity program, I'd start flaking out due to pain on Friday or Saturday then eventually flaking out for good because the shins never had a chance to recover.

I ended up skipping on Thursdays during this round of Insanity (not because I noticed the connection; it just happened to work out that way) and was able to complete the entire 60-days. I am determined to complete all SIX days each week on this new round. I'll see how the pain is next Friday and adjust as necessary the following week.

The schedule has two more Fit Tests before the final, but I probably won't do it again until the end. It's really tough on the body and it seems unnecessary to do it on a day when there's another hour-long workout scheduled. Its purpose is to track progress and I'm okay with waiting until the end to see that. However, if I remember, I'll take my body measurements on May 3rd. It is my birthday weekend, after all ;-)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Almost There

There are only 3 days remaining of my most recent attempt of the Insanity program. I've skipped at least once every 7 days, sometimes skipping up to 3 days a week. I missed the entire "Core Cardio & Balance" week because I was sick. I still wanted to finish it though. I didn't try to make up the days I skipped. I didn't get down on myself for it either. Even with the skipped days, I've stuck with this longer than I have with any other attempt. I've also performed better.

Tonight I will do Max Interval Plyo. Saturday I will do Max Cardio Conditioning & Insane Abs. Then Monday is the final Fit Test.

The final Fit Test will also mark the first Fit Test of another round of Insanity for me. I'm starting on Day 15 so that I can be on the same schedule as Shaun T and his "Shaunterage" for the Shaun T Bday Challenge.

Shaun announced on his Facebook page in February that he was going to go through his own Insanity program* starting March 4th so that he would finish on May 5th - just a few days after his 34th birthday. Well, May 5th just happens to be MY 34th birthday and I decided it sounded like a good day to finish what I hope to be a strong and solid push through the program. An intense workout program like this would strongly recommend that I take a week off before going through another round to prevent injury. I don't think this will be an issue for me though, since I had so many skips and breaks throughout this round.

*interesting side note: This will be Shaun T's first time going through the Insanity program from Start to Finish.

This most recent round of Insanity was the round that got me over the heart-monitor hump. My heart is finally strong enough to get me through a workout without exceeding my 185 bpm max rate. I now find myself taking breaks due to muscle fatigue rather than some stupid beeping alarm. Muscle soreness has reduced as well and my overall energy and attitude are excellent.

I will post my Fit Test results next week. It's quite possible that my numbers won't fluctuate much because my form has improved and therefore the moves are more difficult. Form > Speed!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Self-Portraits of Plyometric Cardio Circuit

This might be something that I'm alone in finding fascinating. Maybe.

I was doing the Insanity Plyometric Cardio Circuit and took a self-portrait during a rest period about 20 minutes into the workout. I didn't like the pic but the rest period was almost over so I decided I'd take another after the next round. When I saw the difference in face flushing & sweat, I thought it would be interesting to see how the changes progressed throughout the rest of the workout. Here is the progression!

Friday, February 1, 2013

How Our Dog Got Us Hooked On Walking

Sweetie and I started walking in March of 2012. Our dog, Max, needed an energy outlet. He cannot visit dog parks because he is not dog friendly. We decided we’d walk him around our neighborhood - generally not more than a mile or two. It wasn't ideal. There are no sidewalks, almost every other house has a dog in a fenced yard, and we encountered at least one loose dog on every walk – some more obedient to “stay” and big arm flapping than others. We changed our route a few times to no avail. Loose dogs were popping out everywhere (usually from someone’s front porch, *sigh*). This was especially frustrating because we live in a city with a leash law and these loose dog owners didn't seem to understand that it had nothing to do with their "friendly" dog and more to do with our not-so-friendly dog. "Oh, don't worry! He's friendly! He just wants to play!" GRRRR ...

Max was stressed. He loved his walks and got excited when we got his leash, but he’d start whining as soon as we started walking. He was tense and ready to lunge at everything. This was not what we wanted for him. We wanted him to burn energy, not be frightened every step of the way. In August, about 5 months in, Max injured his back. There’s no absolute way to know exactly how it happened, but we were certain that the constant lunging and barrel rolls at the end of his leash were not helping. He was on bed rest for a week.
Sweetie and I decided to start trying out other trails around town while Max was resting. This way, we could find out if it would work for him without the stress of finding out *with* him if it wasn't going to work. We walked a different trail every day of the week and found 2 do-able locations.

One was only an eighth of a mile so it would work great to ease him back into walking again. It was small enough that we would be able to see upon pulling up to the lot whether there was another dog there.
The other was a half-mile, so also short, but with hills. Ironically enough, it was right next to a dog park. This actually worked out to our favor because any dogs that came to that area were going to the park, not the trail. We were dog-free 90% of the time. It was sketchy though. Neither of us really wanted the other walking out there alone.

The week after Max had begun walking again, I had a work trip and Sweetie would be walking him on her own. She was texting me before and after each walk so I knew she was okay. One day, she didn't feel comfortable going to either of the trails and decided to try another one we’d talked about but hadn't previewed yet. That was Little Blue Trace Trail. I was very upset that she tried that alone, not knowing what kind of loose dogs she might encounter or what the clientele was like in that area. However, it turned out okay. They did encounter a few other dogs that were on leashes walking with their owners but the trail offers a wide strip of grass on either side of the pavement so she was able to give ample space.

From Facebook user that tagged the trail

When I returned from my work trip, we decided to take the trail that went in the opposite direction. Little Blue Trace Trail is 14 miles. The mile marker posts start at #1 out of the city, dare I say – the country, and the trail weaves its way to an end near a shopping center. Sweetie had started at the end, near the shopping center, on the paved section. We read some reviews from cyclists on the trail that there were less dog walkers and baby strollers further from the shopping center, on the crushed limestone surface. We figured it was worth a shot. It was probably the best decision we’d ever made. We have been walking on Little Blue Trace Trail ever since.

Native wildflowers
On support under the bridge
From Facebook user that tagged the trail
From Facebook user that tagged the trail

This trail is beautiful! The short 2 - 3 mile section that we started with is close to civilization but you wouldn't know it unless you sat quietly and listened. There are mini-forests of trees and wild grasses lining either side of the trail. When there aren't trees, there’s a wide expanse of native grasses or neighboring farming fields. You get the impression that you really are taking a walk out into the country. We saw deer within 10 feet of us, more squirrels than warrant counting, blue birds, cardinals, eagles, hawks, cranes, and turkeys. That was actually the first time I’d ever seen a wild turkey!

This was not the deer within 10 feet.
They tend to stand still longer
the further away they are.

About a month after starting this trail, we decided to see what laid further out from our 2 mile marker. We eventually went from parking lot to parking lot (4.84 miles). Then we decided to drive a little further and start at the parking lot we’d walked to. It wasn't our favorite. There’s a sporting field complex along that section of trail which brought some trash and not as much nature. There was even a loose dog that was playing fetch with its owner in an unused soccer field.

In November it started getting dark before I got home from work so Sweetie was walking Max on her own again. They began exploring the trail further and further out. She was sending me beautiful pictures of mini-waterfalls and long expanses of grass fields.  I would walk with them on Sundays if the weather cooperated. I was up for going wherever they wanted to take me and for however long they wanted. I’m not great when it comes to jogging or running, but I can walk pretty much all day as long if I have the right shoes. At some point while I was gone, they improved their pace to about 3 mph, which is more of a speed walk that I wasn't ready for but that’s a different post.

Cue January.

The weather this year has been ridiculous! We've even had thunder snow! I didn't believe that was a real thing until it happened. It’s warm, it’s cold, it’s windy, it’s balmy, it's below freezing, it's in the 50's. Sometimes all in the span of one day, LOL!

We think the railroad is an abandoned one
but neither of us can figure it out for certain.
Still, it's beautiful!

Sweetie has declared 40-50, sunny, with a light-to-no breeze as the perfect walking conditions. I agree completely. Last Sunday (Jan 27th), I came home from work around 1:30 and immediately changed into walking shoes, exercise pants, a tshirt, and hoodie to go on a walk with Max & Sweetie. She suggested the trail section she'd just walked the prior week and I agreed. When we got there, I changed my mind and suggested we walk the opposite direction and explore more. We were 5 miles from the beginning of the trail. Neither of us were up for a 10-mile round trip walk but it sure was temping being that close! There were more structural beauties on this stretch of the trail. Abandoned rail power stations, bridges, and the overpass like you see in the above picture. About a mile in, I took off my hoodie and tied it around my waist. I couldn't believe it. Short sleeves in January! Missouri weather was officially INSANE! It had been in the low 20's just two days prior - and it was snowing two days later. *sigh*

If it weren't for Max, we wouldn't have been likely to explore trails. If we hadn't found this trail, walks wouldn't be nearly as peaceful and pleasurable as they are and we probably wouldn't mind as much missing them. These walks are both energizing and calming. They seem to help center us. When we walk together, it's an opportunity for us to just BE together. I love our walks and I love that our dog is who got us hooked on them!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Insanity Update - Fit Test #2

Last night was the second fit test (2 week mark) for the Insanity workout program. Here are my results:

I'm not entirely sure how I managed to decrease reps in Switch Kicks - or maybe I'm not sure how I managed to do so many on the first test.

Everything else saw a drastic increase. An even bigger accomplishment is that my heart rate monitor didn't alarm at me even once!

I took my body measurements when I finished the Fit Test. I use the Wii balance board with Wii Fit to weigh myself since we don't own a scale. Scales are evil and deceptive - it's best to just keep them out of the house. My weight didn't fluctuate at all. I showed a 0.00 weight change. I was pretty excited about that because I didn't gain! The last few times I've started the Insanity workouts, I gained weight in the first two weeks. I don't follow the meal plan that is provided with Insanity. I don't have a huge food budget and I don't eat horribly to begin with (mostly Tiers 1 - 3 on Michi's Ladder). The struggle is figuring out how much to eat. I started using the FatSecret calorie/exercise tracker app on my phone which has helped a lot.

As for inches - a total of 2.75 inches are gone around my body. The fact that I lost inches and not pounds just goes to verify that muscle really does weigh more than fat!

Here's the breakdown of inches:

Bust/Chest   -0.50
Waist -0.50
Hips -0.75
Thigh -0.50
Calf +0.25
Bicep -0.50
Forearm -0.25

My belt is back at the second notch and I'm feeling better both physically and mentally. I don't have any weird leg pains and my feet still feel good. I think I might just make it the entire 60 days this time! I'll update all my measurements again after the next Fit Test (Feb 18th).

Sunday, January 27, 2013

#365 Day Projects - January update

I was going to update on a weekly basis in an attempt to keep myself accountable. I obviously didn't. So instead, I'm updating now.

I've been doing well with the #365BODY portion of the project. I was sick for 3 days and didn't do anything - not even meditation - so a bit of a fail on that one but otherwise I've stuck with it. It helps that I'm doing the Insanity workout program again. Sweetie and I walk together whenever we can as well. I love that the Missouri weather is holding nicely in the 30-40 degree range!

As for the other portions of the project (#365MIND and #365SPIRIT), I'm lacking considerably. I am reading *most* days but I feel like I'm cheating to consider it as a step forward to increase my knowledge. I am going to change #365MIND to consist of one chapter a day of Anna Karenina. It's completely do-able and the reading is difficult enough to make my brain work even though it's an enjoyable story line. 

I have no reasoning or excuses for falling off the wagon with playing a musical instrument. I mean, come on, it's freaking 5 minutes a day! Still, I haven't played at all for about 2 weeks now. I think I played seven days in a row and then just quit. I didn't intentionally quit. One day I just noticed that I hadn't done it in awhile and I didn't want to. *sigh*

So where do I go from here? 

I think I pick up and try again. I'll try to update on Sundays about my progress. Hopefully I'll have some accomplishments to share rather than woes of falling out of practice. 

Monday is the 2nd Fit Test for the Insanity workout program. I will try to update my results with a comparison summary from the 1st Fit Test. 

Please let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions for sticking with this! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Insanity: Take Three!

This is my third (or fourth? I lost count...) attempt at the Insanity workout program with Shaun T.

In previous attempts, I had not gotten further than the 3rd week of this 60-day program. The first two attempts were thwarted by injuries. The third attempt was just good ole' lack of dedication and motivation.

This time around, I'm with a group on Facebook. I am tracking my calories to make sure I'm eating enough - and not too much. I have the heart rate monitor and have recalculated my max heart rate as 186.

This is a huge time drain on my already cramped schedule but I finally came to terms with what I needed - both physically and mentally. The winter months are especially difficult for me. I discovered years ago that complete and utter exhaustion after strenuous exercise usually helps keep me in good spirits.

Last night (Monday) was the first day. I did the Fit Test. I actually completed every move on the Fit Test! This is a first for me, so I was pretty excited. Something to note, however: after 4 Globe Jumps, I literally could not physically attempt another jump. My heart rate monitor hadn't beeped at me yet, and I was waiting on the next move, so I checked to see what I was at. I expected to see somewhere around 180 since it's supposed to beep at 185.

It was 203.

Holy crap! Obviously I did something wrong and didn't have the alarm turned on. In any case, I figured I'd gone this long without adhering to the monitor that I'd go ahead and finish without worrying about exceeding my max heart rate range. This is probably the only reason I was able to complete every move. I do remember on previous attempts at this program, the monitor had me resting throughout entire rounds sometimes.

Anyway, here are my results for Day 1: Fit Test

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

#365 Day Projects

Jules over at Pancakes & French Fries planted a bug in my brain to do a 365 day project. She broke hers into 3 sections: Mind, Body, and Spirit. 

I spent the first day of 2013 pondering what I wanted most to improve about myself that wasn't superficial. I've had the same goals every year for about 5 years or so and they never work out. This is not due to the fact that they are unattainable. I honestly can't pinpoint an exact reason why I let them fall to the wayside but I decided maybe it was time to try something different. I will keep the intentions on goals of years' past, simply because they are, realistically, something I should be doing anyway. In addition to continuing to work on those goals though, I am embarking on my own version of Mind/Body/Spirit. I will be using the Instagram hash tagging as accountability. My user name on Instagram is shainarue

#365MIND / #365BODY / #365SPIRIT
#365MIND: At least 5 minutes a day increasing my knowledge in some way or reading. I threw reading in there because I'll be honest, some days my brain is just too exhausted to think. I will likely always spend much more than 5 minutes but on those days when it's hard to focus on anything, 5 minutes seems like an attainable goal.

#365BODY: At least 5 minutes a day exercising and/or meditating. I will be starting the Insanity workout program on January 13th, and hopefully this project will keep me active when that program ends in early March. Again, 5 minutes because there are those days when it's just hard to sit up, and I don't want any excuses available for failure.

#365SPIRIT: At least 5 minutes a day playing any instrument. This was a tough one for me to pin down. Music feeds my soul. I remember a time when I would get lost in hours of playing guitar or piano, and felt so renewed. I haven't touched my guitar in almost 2 years, and only played about an hour total on the piano in as much time.

So here I go! I'll be working toward self-improvement a bare minimum of 15 minutes every day.