An awakening alarm..

I’ve been lucky all of my life. For my size, I’ve never had health problems outside of one broken ankle, which still causes my ankle to pop at random times.

I know people my size can tend to be overwhelmed with a pandora’s box full of problems, and last week, I got hit with a slight one.

I have borderline high cholesterol.

Last week, I went in for my first full check-up with a physician in years. I should have expected something to come of this after the bloodwork was done.

In the bloodwork results, the doctor asked me to exercise 150-200 minutes/week. With that, he wants me to lose 27 lbs. by next year. It’s completely doable, and I actually hope to have lost more than that by this time next year.

So, I now sit here researching low cholesterol foods and recipes, so I can properly educate myself on this. I know it’s just borderline, but I don’t like the idea of that at all. It’s actually pretty scary to me, because I don’t like it when something is wrong with me.

I’m in two weight loss challenges right now, and I’m hoping that you all can hold me accountable here too. This isn’t just for me to fit in cute, regular size clothes anymore; this is now for me to lead a healthier life than the one I’m leading right now.

Skinny Holiday Baking: Snickerdoodle Biscotti

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Since it’s unbelievably less than 8 weeks until Christmas, I’m finding myself more and more in the mood to bake. Be sure to check this blog every Monday leading up to Christmas for some baked goods that are also SKINNY!!

I spent this weekend making another package for Operation Baking Gals, and happened to find this recipe trying to find a spiced biscotti. I was glad to find that I wouldn’t feel too guilty tasting this recipe to make sure it came out fine since this is a recipe from Cooking Light.

That being said, this was a pretty difficult dough to work with. It’s extremely crumbly, and you really have to work it well to get it to form into logs. In the end, though, this was a pretty good biscotti, and it’s definitely worth a try!

Snickerdoodle Biscotti
Source: Cooking Light (found on Recipezaar)

Ingredients:

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large egg white

Directions:

  1. Preheat Oven to 350.
  2. Measure flour into a large bowl and add 1 C. Sugar, Baking powder, and salt.
  3. Mix oil, vanilla and the eggs in a small bowl and add to the large bowl, your dough will be dry and very crumbly.
  4. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead 7 or 8 times. It may take a while, but the dough will eventually come together.
  5. Divide in half. Shape each portion into a roll about 8 inches long, and place them a six or so inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Flatten each roll to 1 inch thick.
  6. Combine the 2 Tbsp. Sugar and cinnamon, then gently brush the tops of the rolls with the egg white and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  7. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove from the sheet and cool for 15 minutes.
  9. Cut diagonally into 1/2 inch slices and lay them cut sides down on the cookie sheet again.
  10. Reduce oven temp to 325 and then bake 10 more minutes, turn over and bake 10 more. They’ll be soft in the middle but will harden as they cool. Cool completely on a wire rack.

The Skinny: per serving, makes 30

Calories: 83
Fat: 1.1 g
Fiber: 0.4 g

Surviving the Holidays: Budgeting

Once a week, I will be writing up some tips to help make the upcoming holiday season as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.  With Christmas being less than 2 months away, it’s good to get a head start and think ahead.

This used to be me. Every year, I usually would just buy gifts for family/friends with really no budget. After Christmas rolled around, I’d stare at my credit card bill in disgust. How did I go overboard?

One of two things would happen. I’d either buy a gift,  but end up keeping it because I want it so badly or I’d stupidly make impulse buys for gifts without doing my research. It was tough, but after years of being in the hole after Christmas, and now being married, I thought a budget would be the best way to go.

It wasn’t difficult at all. The hubs and I sat down one evening and went person by person with a set budget range for them. As far as shopping goes, we’re buying our own family gifts since we know our family members best, but knowing how much we will be spending collectively in advance is going to help us so much.

After making our budget, I looked online to see if there was a better way to do it, but it looks like we got the gist of it.

Sounds simple, right?

Are you planning on making a gift budget for this holiday season?

How I became a Foodie

If you would have seen me two years ago, you wouldn’t recognize me. I thought taking chicken from the freezer to the skillet was ok, and putting it on high heat? All the better. Hamburger Helper and Manwich were luxuries. Pillsbury rolled cookie dough was dessert.

Yes people, I was NOT a foodie. When I got engaged to the hubs in March of 2008, I began to think about how I won’t have Mom’s baked shells every week or the luxury of having someone figure out food for the family. It was going to be just me and the hubs.

So, I ventured onto a forum called What’s Cooking and lurked around.  These ladies were about my age, and cooking AMAZING meals for their families. I had to learn. I started watching Food Network, and completely got mesmerized by Alton Brown.

Alton Brown is just awesome. I’m a huge science geek, and his show just reaches out to me, because he explains WHY? It’s so great and refreshing that Food Network has someone like him on the show. I have learned so much from him, cooking and baking wise.

Fast forward a couple of months, I started my food blog. I was proud of my cooking and baking, but I know it wasn’t exactly to par. I thought this picture looked great at the time. ::rolls eyes:: It looks like goop on top of a pathetic cupcake.

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Then, something hit me. I suddenly wanted to take Wilton classes. Before that, my cakes were, well, Cake Wreck worthy, you could say.

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Yeah baby. That’s high quality decorating with funfetti cake mix, canned frosting with liquid food coloring and an aerosol can of piping frosting. That’s how we do it at LSU.

Ok, maybe not. Is this better?

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After taking all four classes, this was my final cake of the courses. :) I think there’s a slight improvement over the Cake Wreck above. Don’t mind the cracking fondant…I didn’t give it enough kneading love. :(

Nowadays, I find myself finding more challenging recipes to try. One of my new goals on the baking list is french macarons. I really love how pretty they are, although I’ve never tasted them. I’m sure someone would like them though if I didn’t!

I’m also improving little by little on my photography, which I’m so happy about. I use a Canon SD1100 IS. It’s a point and shoot, but it works for me!

This picture actually got on FoodGawker! I was so happy when my blog got nearly 500 hits in 1 day!

251x170_alton

I hope that my blog’s success keeps going up from here. I get a little giddy when I see how many people subscribe to see what’s going on in my kitchen, and even more happy when I get a comment! I love being a foodie!

Here’s the Bzz…

I absolutely love freebies and great deals, as you probably can already tell!

A great way to try out new things for free is to become a BzzAgent. BzzAgent is a website that works with companies who are trying to market new products. These companies send products to selected BzzAgents to sample, review and spread the word about. It’s a great thing to be a member of, and most of all, it’s FREE to join!

All you have to do is beef up your profile by taking a few surveys ever so often, and then randomly, you’ll get invites to join campaigns. You can accept or decline them. Most of them are free campaigns, meaning they send you the product absolutely free with coupons to share with others. Some of them cost money, though, and I just reject those. No big deal.

I have sampled things from Max Factor Make-Up to Bic Soleil Razors, and now, I’m trying out Softsoap’s Nutri Serum body wash.

BzzAgent usually sends full sized products, but this time, I got 6 little sample bottles (3 0f each type – infused with Omega 3&6, the other infused with Vitamin E) for free with some $1 off coupons to share. I’d love to share these on the blog, but I’ve given them away to family members.

The claim on these is that they are infused with these nutrient-rich, softening serum pearls, which help to moisturize your skin and feel refreshed. After trying both, I think I can write a pretty good review on these.

This is a fairly priced body wash at about $3.50/bottle, but after using this for a few weeks, I can say that it doesn’t really stand out to me as an outstanding body wash. I usually use Bath & Body Works shower gel, which I stock up on when they are $4/bottle on sale, and this was really no different for me. Just being completely honest here. Unless you find the beads pretty cool looking, this isn’t anything to run to the store for.

This is the first product that was sent to me that I didn’t go nuts over, so I’m not being totally weird here. Like I said, I’m being honest.

I have to thank BzzAgent for allowing me to try the product, and I can’t wait for more campaigns in the near future.

Good Health Guidelines

I’m currently on Weight Watchers, and besides counting points, there are the Good Health Guidelines that help you to stay healthy and get your body in optimum shape for weight loss.

  • Eat at least five servings of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Choose whole-grain foods, such as brown rice and oats, whenever possible.
  • Include two servings of milk products – low fat (1%) or fat-free – each day.
  • Have 2 teaspoons of healthy oils (olive oil, canola, sunflower, safflower or flaxseed) each day.
  • Ensure that you are getting enough protein by choosing at least a serving or two of lean meats, skinless poultry, fish, beans, soy products, and lentils.
  • Limit added sugar and alcohol.
  • Drink at least 6 8-ounce glasses of liquid a day. The best choice is water.
  • Take a multiple vitamin-mineral supplement each day.
  • Get in at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week.

For me, it’s really becoming hard to remember these guidelines. I do follow a few of them, like avoiding alcohol, getting my water in, and incorporating whole grains when I can. However, I want to follow all of them, so I’ll be incorporating the ones I have trouble with, one per week. (My Weight Watcher weeks are Thursday – Wednesday, since I attend Wednesday meetings.)

First, I’m going to aim to eat my fruits and veggies, since I usually have 2-3 servings a day, and it would probably be easiest for me to incorporate into my diet. Here’s what Weight Watchers considers a fruit/veggie serving.

Fruits, vegetables and leafy greens
Serving sizes are 1 cup for leafy greens and 1/2 cup for all other vegetables and fruits. The lettuce alone in a large salad may well count for 2 or more vegetable servings. The default portion for most fruits and vegetables is 1 cup.

Sound too hard? Well, here are some great ways and ideas to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in your everyday diet.

  • Add fruit to your cereal, oatmeal, waffles or pancakes at breakfast.
  • Create your own yogurt flavors with plain yogurt and different combinations of fruit.
  • Snack on raw vegetables or fruits instead of chips or pretzels. Keep sugar snap peas, raisins or carrot sticks in your car, your office or your backpack.
  • Use chunky salsa instead of thick, creamy snack dips.
  • Drink 100% juice instead of addictive coffee, tea, or soda.
  • Going out to lunch? Take a trip to the grocery salad bar. Use lots of dark green leaves and other vegetables instead of piling on all of the extras like eggs, bacon, or croutons.
  • Add frozen veggies to any pasta dish.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables in line of sight. Grapes, oranges, bananas, and apples make a colorful bowl arrangement on the table. If you see them, you will eat them.
  • Dried fruit is just as portable as potato chips — and less messy. Plus, it’s an easy way to increase your iron consumption.
  • When cooking vegetables, makes 2-3 times more than you need and immediately store the extra away for tomorrow. It will save you time later on when you might not feel up to the task of cooking.
  • Dried fruit tastes especially good when added to a basic trail mix.
  • Add your own beans and vegetables (tomatoes, spinach, peppers, cabbage) to canned and quick-serve soups. The beans will add protein while the veggies will pack in some extra vitamins.
  • If you must have pizza, load on extra veggies and pineapple.
  • Try berries, melons or dates for a naturally sweet dessert rather than the usual candy bar, cookie, or ice cream sandwich.
  • Frozen fruit and veggies are nearly as healthy as the fresh stuff, and only take minutes to prepare.
  • Combine fruit with your main meal courses. Raisins, apples and tangerine slices add sweet, crunchy variety to a salad. Apples complement pork and orange slices are perfect with chicken.

Source: SparkPeople

Anyone want to jump on the fruit/veggie bandwagon with me? I can’t wait to take a trip to the produce stand and have some fun!

Planning for Thanksgiving

About two months ago, the hubs and I talked about how the holidays were going to work. We both value time with our families during the holidays and hated the idea of choosing one or the other, because of distance. We came to a resolution…to host Thanksgiving. My family is from the New Orleans area, which is a good hour away from Baton Rouge, where we currently live. His family lives in the Baton Rouge area. So, Thanksgiving with our families is easy for this year!

Now, the house isn’t exactly company ready, so we have some tasks to do to get ready.

Here’s our house from Halloween.
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Since then, the decorations have come down, except for the wreath and a sign that says “Happy Harvest”. Our ongoing project has been painting the house from brick red  to the goldish color it currently is. Our task and goal is to finish repainting the white trim and painting the doors and shutters a dark grey/almost black color.

Our house is also pretty cluttered from doing random fix-it projects around the house. We plan on cleaning it out and making it look like more of a home than a construction zone. :)

I’m secretly hoping the hubs embraces the idea of decorating the house for Christmas a week BEFORE Thanksgiving so my family can see the house completely festive. I know it’s a little early, but the last time my family saw the house was a little over a year ago when they evacuated here for Hurricane Gustav. Not the brightest of times, I promise you.

Are you taking on any house projects before you host your holiday party?

 

 

$367.86…lesson learned

That number shows how much of a wedding junkie I was. This number is how much money I’ve made (so far) from selling things that I originally bought for the wedding that ended up ultimately being useless for our wedding. Included in that number is the Gocco, which I sold for $185 after using it MANY TIMES though.

I know I spent more than what I sold the items for, but this serves as a great reminder to brides. Please don’t make the ring kill your wallet. Just because something says “wedding” or is in your colors, does not mean you will use it. Chances are, if you are like me, you will put things in a basket and forget they existed until 5 months post-wedding.

However, if you were like me and you have things to sell, here’s some of the services I used to help get rid of the items!

First of all, I gathered everything and put it in a basket in our craft room. That way, when I sold something, I knew it would be right there, in the basket, with no need to worry about where I put it last.

Then, I made a Google site. Very simple to use and format. It doesn’t need to be pretty…it just needs to show pictures and descriptions!

I posted the link on my signatures for websites that I post on, including  the Nest. Make sure your community allows you to post a link for classifieds before doing so.

Then, I used classified boards specifically for leftover wedding items to make people aware of what was available.

The Knot/Nest’s “Trash to Treasure” Board
Weddingbee’s Classifieds

I reposted/bumped my posts in hopes of selling things and that helped a lot.

After a week or so of posting, I would reduce prices, sometimes by $1 or by $3. I did this continuously with reposting until the item sold. Also, you can write things like “Willing to take offers on multiple items”, and that can help multiple things sell quickly!

Now, I will say that I still have some things left, so I’m not an expert, but I think these will help a fellow past bride get rid of that junk with a nice chunk of change in your wallet! :)

A day late, but hey, I need a challenge

After reading so much about NaBloPoMo on Twitter lately, I decided to join it today. Technically, I needed a post yesterday, but the prizes don’t appeal to me anyway. This is more of a challenge for me to see if I can indeed do 30 29 blog updates this month! Now, to ponder some things to blog about. I wonder if I’m that interesting or if you will get bored of me by November 30th!

Progress

You might remember when I made a vow to myself. A very important vow…to get healthier and lose weight.

You might even wonder how I’m doing, well, it’s fairly going well, but could be better. I’ve lost about 5 lbs. in total so far. This is my fifth week on Weight Watchers, and I’ve averaged about 1 lb./week. It’s good, but at my weight, I feel like I could pull bigger numbers.

For this week, I’m re-introducing exercise. I will be doing Couch to 5K 3 days/week for now until my body is ready for more (aka The Shred for the other two days in a work week).

So, to reinvigorate the lifestyle change, I’ve joined this holiday challenge! I’m still doing the Healthy Train challenge, but since that’s a longer term goal where I could probably convince myself to not care as much during the holidays and try extra hard afterwards, I feel that this extra challenge will help me!

On the scale this morning, I was 258.4…is it possible to lose 18.5 lbs in 3 weeks to reach my Thanksgiving goal? Chances are slim to none, but I’m aiming for 10 lbs. and hoping for more!

For this challenge, I need to make two of these bullets my goals daily. I chose the bolded.

  • 80oz of water a day, every day – ONLY water counts!
  • 320 minutes of exercise per week – works out to be just over an hour a day, five days per week – you can DO this!
  • Journaling EVERY morsel that crosses your lips – including the chocolate chips you sneak when you make cookies (Please tell me this is NOT only me…?)
  • Trying something new every week – food or exercise counts but you must tell us what it is!!
  • Weighing in only once per week
  • Volunteer an hour a week at a local organization or to doing something good for someone else.
  • On December 1st, I will have to change one of the two goals to a new goal to meet. I’ll surprise you with that one later.

    I feel that this will really help me beat the holiday weight gain. I love a good challenge, especially one for prizes!!

    How are you avoiding the impending weight gain of the holiday season?