Monday, August 29, 2011

Sit, Stay, Come, Leave it....

Eight weeks of a lot of work. Eight weeks of constant training, but Max has finally graduated puppy beginner class with AJ's Canine Academy. The training certainly isn't done and we need to keep up with the training, but the class is done and it really has helped Max a lot.

The first day we walked into class, he was a maniac. He wouldn't listen to anything and was so crazy hyper, I could barely hang on to him. We had to get a head harness just to keep him under control. But then it was the constant, every day battle with him pawing and it and trying to get that thing off. Max is a smart dog. He can learn a command/trick after you just showing him one time, but he is also very stubborn and if he doesn't want to do something, he won't do it for anything. There were a couple classes where I just came home in tears of frustration at this dog!

Now that he has graduated, I definitely see improvement. The class has helped him not be so crazy hyper and I can take him in public now without worrying about him going nuts. The main thing I wanted in this class was for him to walk better on a leash. Before, he would pull and yank and drag me all over the place. In the class we learned loose leash walking. He can still walk ahead of me, but just can't pull. This morning, for example, I got up while it was still pitch black outside to go for a run. Once I started my run, I realized it was too dark for me to feel safe out there by myself so I came home and got Max. I wasn't sure how it was going to go since when I've tried to run with him before, he's been all over the place and my arm hurts from him pulling on it the whole time. But today was amazing....he kept a loose leash the whole hour run. It was a miracle!!! :)

I know I have my ups and downs with this dog, but in reality, he's part of the family. Elliott absolutely loves him and squeals in delight when he gets up from his nap and Max runs to his crib to say hi. The other day there were these girls that I guess were told to come look at the empty apartment next to us. They got the wrong apartment number though and were fiddling with the lock on our door. I'm at the top of the stairs (Zach is gone at the gym) watching the door handle go up and down and freaking out! I called good ole' Max over and even though he's as harmless as a fly, he did his job and ran down the stairs and jumped all over the girls and totally scared them. HAHA! He's a good guard dog.

Here's a picture of the class (two of the other dogs in the class were missing this day).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Elliott, 9 months old

Today Elliott finally pulled himself up on the couch. Yay! He's been getting halfway up for awhile, but finally made it today.

He is so proud of himself and his mobile abilities. He gets around so fast now!

We are so blessed to have such a happy, friendly little guy. He's so easy! Lately he's been in a "mommy phase". While it can be annoying that he doesn't let anyone else hold him right now, it's also pretty cute how he'll randomly give me hugs and kisses and follows me from room to room just checking on what I'm doing and where I am.

Up until now, we haven't had to buy anything extra in terms of food for him. But now he's getting older, he definitely has the appetite of his daddy. Yesterday he ate a whole egg plus 1 1/2 pears for breakfast. For lunch he had almost a half cup of mashed beans with coconut oil. And for dinner he ate a whole yam and almost a 1/2 cup of finely chopped walnuts! He ate all that combined with nursing 4 times and having miscellaneous cheerios and crackers.

I've been using the book Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron to make Elliott's food. Making your own baby food is a lot cheaper and nutritious than buying baby food jars. I highly recommend this book for anyone wondering what and when to feed their baby. Elliott loves everything I've fed him so far. The only thing he isn't too crazy about are green beans.

I've started planning his first birthday party now too. :) I know at a year old they don't remember their birthday, but I like planning parties so it's more my party than his. lol. We're going with a monkey theme.

I wish he'd wear a cute little costume like this for his Halloween birthday, but he hates things on his head, so I'm not even going to try. He'd sure look adorable though!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes

I got the original idea from my friend here. I tweaked it a little bit to make it healthier. Zach has been working the midnight shift so I had a big, hot plate ready for him when he got home. He loved them. :)

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tblsp olive oil
1 large egg, slightly beaten

Cinnamon Filling
1/2 cup butter (make sure it's real butter), melted
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar (or whatever sugar you like to use)
1 tblsp cinnamon

1 banana
1 tblsp coconut oil

Mix all the pancake batter ingredients together an pour into skillet. In separate bowl, make the cinnamon filling. Pour into pancake batter just before flipping.

Also note that the cinnamon filling will expand the pancakes. My first try was a failure.

Make all the pancakes and put on a pretty plate.

Melt the coconut oil in the skillet and cut up bananas. Fry for about 2-3 minutes. Top over pancakes and drizzle pure maple syrup over everything. Enjoy!

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Ultimate Tea Diet

It all started when I was at the library renewing some books for Zach and realized I had some time to kill since both Zach and Elliott were taking naps and would be sleeping for another hour or so. I went over to my favorite section, the cookbooks. That is where I found this book. It should have been in the "diet" or "weight loss" section, but the author does have almost 100 pages of recipes to cook with tea, so I guess it could be considered a cookbook. I started by skimming the first couple chapters, but found it very interesting and brought it home and read the whole thing. (Ah, I just love the library.) I thought it was really good and, despite the name, it isn't really a diet. He briefly mentions somewhere in the middle of the book about having a lean protein, complex carb, and healthy fats at every meal and he says exercise is good, but just do whatever you can. Rather, his book is about what you can add to how you already eat and live. If you haven't guessed it, the thing you should add to your diet is TEA!

I love it because it's inexpensive and all natural. What is it in tea that helps you lose weight and curb cravings? Tea is made up of 3 ingredients: caffeine, L-theanine, and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). The EGCG is a great antioxidant that actually stimulates your metabolism. You're actually burning fat as you're sitting there drinking it. (I couldn't resist putting down the book at this point and making myself  cup of green tea.) The caffeine stimulates your body to lose weight. It acts as a thermogenic (which is the process in which your body & especially the fat cells, heat up and therefore helps you burn more calories), but unlike over the counter thermogenics like Hydroxycut or Lipo6, it's all natural! Now, caffeine alone is not good for you. Like sugar... and drugs, it can be addictive and it gives you a high and a crash. That's where the wonderful ingredient L-theanine comes in. This ingredient isn't release in our bodies right away. The caffeine hits our brains first and gives us that "wake up jolt". But then the L-theanine is released into our blood systems and stimulates alpha brain waves (which is responsible for putting our bodies in a relaxed and effortless alert state) that cancels out the caffeine. L-theanine content is in 1-2% of the plant and the caffeine content is only 0.5%. The book explains all these 3 ingredients in much more detail, but I'm just summing it up.

One more important thing to note is that the weight loss benefits in tea are from the teas that are made from the plant, Camellia sinensis. From this one plant, green tea, black tea, oolong tea, and white tea. They are all processed and dried a bit differently (which the author explains in more detail), but they contain the "TEA-3"- caffeine, L-theanine, and ECGC. What I didn't know, is that the other drinks labeled as "tea" such as chamomile, peppermint, lemon verbena, etc, are really just herbal blends, aka tisanes. You certainly can drink them all you want as they are all herbs, but those teas just won't have the fat burning effects. Just read the label. For example, there may be two different tea boxes labeled "Vanilla tea." One might list ingredients like spearmint, lemon grass, french vanilla, rosebuds, etc. That is a tisane. The second one would say white tea, spearmint, lemon grass, french vanilla, rosebuds. It has white tea, from the Camellia sinensis plant and therefore has the TEA-3.

The author's "diet" is simple. "Find the tea you like, and drink it all day". Doesn't sound hard. Doesn't add much more to your day than just brewing a big pitcher of tea, keep filling up your water bottle and sip it until bed! If the little bit of caffeine does affect you, and you aren't able to go to bed, he goes on to explain that if you get the loose leaf tea, all you have to do is make one batch and throw it out. You can reuse the leaves for 5-8 more batches, depending how strong you like your tea, but they lose 98% of their caffeine content after the first seeping. I find no problem sleeping after having a cup of green tea before bed so I just get the "pre-bagged" teas at the grocery store. I just started incorporating teas throughout the day for 3 days now so we'll see how it goes in the long run!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Last weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to go to a farm and pick vegetables for free. The lady who owned the garden is a friend of a friend and she said she literally had more squash than she knew what to do with and we could pick as much of anything that we wanted. I filled up two big boxes with summer squash, spaghetti squash, zucchini, eggplant, and all different peppers plus, a full bag of fresh herbs. I had so much fun! When I got home, I suddenly realized I had no idea what to cook with all these veggies before they went bad. Of course, I made a lot of baby food, I cut up some of them and froze them, but what about the rest? Well that just meant I got to find new recipes and experiment in the kitchen. Yay! That's one of my favorite things to do! Thankfully I also have a wonderful husband that is willing and eager to try everything I, he's a pretty amazing cook too.

First off, I tried a couple saute recipes and stir fry. Those are so easy because you can add anything to it and just a couple different spices and seasonings make it a completely different meal.

Next I tried Ratatouille. Zach doesn't normally like eggplant, but he loved this dish!
Heat 1 tblsp olive oil in skillet. Add garlic, onion, diced eggplant, chopped zucchini & bell peppers, and tomatoes. Cook until tender. Add some basil, parsley, salt, and black pepper.
Delicious! Since I was cooking for Zach too and he needs a meal that contains more than just veggies, I found a recipe called Pasta Rolled Ratatouille Baked. Follow the directions above, but also:
Cook lasagna noodles. Roll Ratatouille in noodles. Top with Parmesan cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Another winning squash recipe is Vegetarian Lasagna. Zach said he like this lasagna better than the lasagna I usually make! I followed my same lasagna recipe, but used long slices of zucchini instead of pasta.

Next, you layer the lasagna. Start with the zucchini, pour half a can of tomatoes and half a can of tomato sauce. Add garlic, onion, basil, parsley and oregano. Mix some cottage cheese and Parmesan cheese in a bowl (Zach did say the one thing that would make this even better is some mozzarella cheese. I'll do that next time.) and add a layer of that next. Also, since Zach was coming home from the gym when he was going to eat this, I added some kidney beans to his side to give him the protein and complex carbs. Yes, I made each of us two different sides. LOL

Repeat the layers one more time and top with Parmesan cheese and more garlic if you like garlic like we do. :)

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes and dig in!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Thoughts on Sugar

There are so many opinions, options and ideas about sugar out there right now. It makes it hard to know what a good sugar to get is! I've done a ton of research on this subject. The reason sugar is seemly just now becoming an issue is because a century ago, the average American consumed about 5 lbs of sugar or less a year. Just 20 years ago, the average American was only consuming 26 lbs of sugar a year. Today, the average American consumes about 175 lbs of sugar a year!

White refined sugar, which is used in all processed, packaged foods, desserts, and found on the tables in restaurants, is a poison. It causes a whole list of diseases such as suppressing your immune system, tooth and bone decay, alzheimers, cancer, diabetes, and gallbladder, liver, and kidney problems. White sugar is a drug. When you have it, you get a "sugar high", a crash when it wears off, and it has been proven to have addictive qualities that makes you need more of it! Refined sugars have no vitamins, no minerals, no nutritional value and actually draws nutrients out of your body. This has been shown especially with the B vitamins and the overall mineral balance of your body. This is just a short list of the horrid affects of sugar.

I love baking, and I must admit, I have quite the sweet tooth. Here are the sweeteners I use:

Honey: I buy local honey from the farmers market for the best benefits. When cooking with it, it is good to know that 1/2 cup of honey= 1 cup of sugar.

Maple syrup: I get the organic kind that I know does not have chemicals added to it. I haven't really baked with it, but I have used it a few times in an ice cream recipe or two. I mostly just use it on pancakes or french toast. It's so sweet that you really don't need to use that much!

Molasses: Be careful not to use too much of this as it can be bitter tasting. It is a great oatmeal topping. This sweetener is so rich in minerals such as manganese, iron, calcium, and B6.  

Stevia: I love this stuff! It's part of an herb plant that is zero calories and has no affect on your blood sugar. A pinch of stevia= a spoonful of sugar. Some people think it has a licorice aftertaste, but I haven't experienced that. I use stevia just for sweetening teas, coffee, or homemade lemonade.

Coconut palm sugar: It tastes just like brown sugar, can be used in a 1:1 ratio with anything that calls for sugar, has a low GI (meaning it will not spike your blood sugar), and has good vitamins and minerals that your body can easily digest.

Unbleached, unrefined sugar: I really only use this if I'm making a bunch of cookies for a party or a dessert for a group of people or something like that as it is cheaper than any of the above listed sweeteners. It will still cause your blood sugar to spike and you want to make sure you have this moderation because it still is empty calories. Unlike the refined sugar though, it will not draw nutrients out of your body.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Do a little less cardio

First I just have to vent that it's so hard to lose weight!!! Consistency and patience are key, but it can get so frustrating. My goal is to have flat abs. Genetics do play a big part in body type, but it's really only 10% of the equation. Exercise coming in at 20% and nutrition with a whopping 70%! (Obviously, my nutrition is a bit off.) Anyway, I can't even remember the last time I had a flat belly...when I was 10 maybe? Everyone has different body types, different "trouble zones". Genetics for me has always been to store extra fat in my abs. I've always been thicker-waisted (is that a word? :P) The last 5-10 lbs are always the hardest to lose. Why? Because they're the pesky pounds that have been around for awhile and your body starts to think that it needs them to survive. Your body will start slowing down your metabolism in order to hang on to it! I will conquer this though. ;)

A common misconception is to lose weight you have to do hours and hours of cardio. In fact, most women only workout doing cardio.

Does your gym look like this too?

A lot of women are afraid to weight lift...thinking it'll make them look bulky or like men. I know this was my first thought:


This WILL NOT happen to you if you weight lift. It is not possible. It is not in our genetics as women. Men have 10x the testosterone women have and that's why they bulk up, women do not. This picture, and the other ones you may have seen of masculine looking women, are women on steroids. Again, you CANNOT achieve this look by weight lifting matter how much you are lifting.

So why should women replace some of their cardio workouts with weight lifting workouts?

1. Muscle increases your resting metabolic rate which increases how many calories you burn each day. It's estimated that for every pound of muscle you add, you burn an extra 50 calories a day...just sitting there!

2. Weight lifting will give your body a tighter, more toned looking body than endless cardio.

3. It keeps you healthy! Weight lifting reduces your risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, and back pain, plus, it makes things like picking up kids, groceries or heavy boxes a lot easier. 

4. Weight lifting releases endorphins in your body that spike your energy levels and put you in a good mood.

5. Muscles need fuel to keep them replenished and growing. That translates to getting to eat more! (Still, that does not mean to eat whatever you want. Stick to clean eating and a calorie deficient- most women need about 1,500 calories a day, for optimal results.)

There are a few different ways to add in a weight lifting program to your routine. You could do 2-3 total body routines a week. Personally, since I like to run and do the HIIT routines I posted previously, doing a full body weight lifting routine 3x a week would be too much for me. If you don't do any other workouts, than doing a 3x a week full body routine would be perfect.

I split up my routines into either a 3x a week weight lifting like:
Monday- Chest & triceps
Wednesday- Back & biceps
Friday- Legs & abs

Or recently since it's hard to get to the gym with Elliott, I've been doing a 2x a week routine like:
Tuesday- "Front half", chest, biceps, shoulders, abs
Friday- "Back half", back, triceps, legs/glutes

The options of routines you could do are endless! For the sake of not making this post the size of a book, I'm going to have to post specific routines in another post on another day. For starters, you can check out this website for some GREAT workouts and demonstrations of the exercises. That's where I got started. And don't be afraid to lift heavy!!