Friday, November 30, 2012

Elf 4 Health week 1

signed up for Elle and Lindsays Elf 4 Health challenge that started Monday and runs for 6 weeks over the holiday season and into the new year. It's a great way to stay just a little (or a lot!) accountable for your health, fitness and general well-being. There's certainly plenty of us out there that could do with a little help in that department - after all around 600 signed up! Every weekday there are fun daily challenges to help you along the way. 

Every 2 weeks you get assigned an 'Elf', and in return you're their 'Elf'. The idea is simply to mentor each other through the 2 week period, supporting them with their holiday health goals and the daily challenges. (then after 2 weeks you switch partners - so it's also a great way to meet 3 new cyber-buddies during the challenge).

I've been paired with Kelly over at No Sugar Sweet Life. She's been an awesome buddy giving me lots of great tips and sharing recipes - we're emailing back and forth every couple of days. Funnily enough we've both flunked on the same challenge so far (We're obviously not writers!) There's also a very active facebook group and we're using the hashtag #elf4health to tag photos on our instagram feeds. So far so good!

My goal is simply to stay AWARE this holiday season.

I don't really need to loose weight, but I would like to maintain it (the last 2 years I've had a habit of getting to an 'ideal' weight for me towards the end of the end and then slowly it creeps back on from Xmas through till Easter, at which point I go through the cycle again of slowly shedding blah, blah....  Right now I'm back at pretty much my 'ideal' weight - and would really like to not see a spike up again - I know Christmas is just the start of that slippery slope for me.

I stay in pretty good shape so I'm not too worried in that department.
For the actual Christmas period we're heading back to England. This is sure to be a food and drink fest. What with all the regular festivities, different family 'homes' for variations on the Christmas celebration (and all the food to go with it) There's also all that food that I've missed that we don't get here - English Sausages, a GOOD Indian Curry, Real English scrumpy cider, various Chocolate bars, snacks, pork pies, Cornish pasties.....oh the list goes on. (Oh, and even though I'll pack my running shoes I can almost guarantee they won't see the light of day for 2 weeks!! - Exercise and vacations just don't mix in my experience) - that will be my tough 2 weeks. So with all that said, I want to head back to England in the best possible state of mind when it comes to feeling healthy.

So really I want to stay aware of what's going on...mainly in regard to the choices I'm making - choices in food, exercise and general well-being. Chris and I are keen to start changing our diet and make better choices. We don't eat that badly - most everything is home cooked from scratch but with his coursework (currently studying to be a health and nutrition coach at IIN) our eyes are constantly being opened wider and wider to even better choices for our food particularly.

This weeks challenges have been fun;
  • Monday - go meatless! We had a Baked Potato and Salad
  • Tuesday - Write a handwritten note (OK I flunked this one!)
  • Wednesday - Try a new workout (I actually did this one on Thursday, but I checked out the Nike Training Club app on my iPad to find a different and new workout - I did a 45 min strength routine - with a HECK load of squats and pushups - ouch!)
  • Thursday - Start the day with a 15 minute meditation - check! This is pretty new to me - having just dabbled in Dr Deepak Chopra's 21 day meditation challenge - I had a few days left over that I had'nt listened to, so I used one of those. It really is a lovely way to spend 15 minutes at any time of the day.
  • Friday - How many colors can you eat?! Tonight we'll be having veggie stir-fry - I've had it planned out all week. Got red cabbage, yellow and red pepers, zucchini, fresh parsley, carrots, green onions, broccoli, mushrooms and whatever else is in the fridge come this many is that?!
I'm linking up to Jill's Fitness Friday today.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Currently: November

  • Current Book - NOTHING! It just took me 3 months to read Anne Franks diary and I finished it this weekend. I'm giving myself a well deserved break - that book was enough to turn anyone off reading for a while (sorry!)
  • Current Drink - Coconut Water
  • Current Excitement - Chris's newly renovated / relaunched business 'InSpiral Coaching' with a new facebook page and website (designed by moi!) 
  • Current Favorite Blog/Website - Facebook. Only not my personal page! I'm currently social media editing for 2 different sites right now - which means I'm always on facebook flipping between pages, and updating throughout the day
  • Current Love - Supreme 90 (Actually think I might be seeing some small changes in my body - love that!)
  • Current Food - Kale - trying to appreciate all that is good about it. Sneaking it in our smoothies right now because I know it's good for me, just haven't acquired the taste for it yet!
  • Currently Pondering - should I do the Rock n' Roll Seattle Half Marathon or the Vancouver Tough Mudder next year - both on the same weekend so have to decide (and there's a deal on that you get $13 off registration if you register on the 13th of the month for the R'n'R - so I need to decide by 13th December)
  • Current Indulgence - Nutella, straight from the jar
  • Current Mood - upbeat
  • Current New Find - Bragg Liquid Aminos Seasoning - a healthy no salt, gluten free, non GMO alternative to soy sauce
  • Current Outfit - Lulu casual pants, long sleeve tees, and my Icebreaker Bliss wrap
  • Current Peeve - That stupid thing on Facebook where it keeps suggesting pages I may like at the top of my newsfeed
  • Current Song - Carly Rae Jepson 'Call me Maybe' (loving the video circulating the interwebs right now of the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders and the copycat version from the Troops in Afghanistan - hilarious!)
  • Current Triumph - Meal planning and 'once a week' grocery shopping = a big cost saving 
  • Current TV ShowModern Family. So we're late to the party having only just finished Season One on recommendation of friends. But loving it!
  • Current Wish-list - Lululemon capris and new scuba hoodie, Photoshop Elements v11, a juicer
  • Currently Delaying - going for a run. OK, not RIGHT now. But this seems to be a fairly recurring situation around here lately! (It's dark, it's cold, it's rainy - whine, whine!)

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Non-Thanksgiving run

So here in Canada we are SO over thanksgiving!! It was, like, a month ago already! And since I'm English we don't celebrate a 'thanksgiving' anyway (I don't think it's because the English aren't thankful, just we don't really have a day to celebrate!)

However since most of my cyber-buddies, plus a splattering of family are down in the good ole' US of A the holiday doesn't escape unnoticed! (and our retailers readily jumped on your Black Friday sales madness) With all your turkey trotting I was utterly guilt-tripped into heading out on my own little run of thankfulness yesterday morning!

So darn it, I did. Actually my first run in, oh, eight days. I know the shock, horror of more than a week going by without lacing up my runners. But head out I did. The pup had to wait for her walk this morning coz the priority of the day was Mama's run.

And it was good. I had hoped to maintain a level of running fitness over this winter with my long runs being in the region of 10 milers. But actually I'm not sure that's going to happen.

Because what I thought about, on what turned out to be my 8-miler today was this.....

My name is Helen. And I am a seasonal runner.

There. Said it.

It's that whole post goal race, dark evenings, winter blues. For some reason, at this time of year running just isn't quite as pleasurable for me. And it should be. I know, because for the most part, in the summer months I truly do love it, and for some inexplicable reason I have no problem leaping out of bed before the sun rises.

2 winters ago, I officially 'retired' for the winter months. I spent too long feeling guilty about not going out and it started sitting heavily on my shoulders to the point that I was getting down about it forever being on my mind. Last winter I sprained my ankle so I was (conveniently?) out of action anyways.

This year.....

I'm still not completely sure what I'm going to do. I think it's important to not force it, otherwise I'd fear I'd start hating it - and I can't assume the love would return with the warmer weather.

I kind of made a deal with myself before....that I'd run till the snow came. But actually...what if the snow doesn't come?! It's not just the snow. It's the dark nights, the cold, the rain. The fact that indoors is way more cosy and frankly I should be sitting by the fire supping cocoa or something! (I know, I know first world problems right?! - I'm such a whiner!)

What I have been doing is tonnes more strength training and toning. It's indoors, it's 45 minutes, it's the convenience of being at home. I've been using the Supreme 90 set of DVDs for a couple  of years now. In the summer months, with my running taking priority I'd maybe only do 2-3 videos a week. Now I'm back to 5-7 a week - and most of the time Chris and I do them together so we encourage each other. We've got a great little set-up in the basement, and with a few new hand weights and an extra stability ball we've got quite the little gym area.

I'm loving it! I'm grateful that I am not completely wallowing in my own self pity about temporarily loosing the love of running but getting up and finding an alternative to staying fit and healthy.Already since my marathon I am looking and feeling more toned and I've slimmed down just a little - and I've got rid of a couple of extra pounds I was looking to shift all year (didn't expect to loose them with the marathon training - lots I'd read suggested that some people gain weight so I was happy to at least maintain mine)

And so there you have it. The tale of woe from this self-diagnosed Seasonal Runner.

I'm linking up to Jill's Fitness Friday

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Today is not that day

When I ran in Chicago there was a sign I saw a couple of times that got me quite emotional (like I didn't have enough seesaw emotions at the time!!) it said,

One day your body won't be able to do this. Today is NOT that day!

How very true. And how very humbling. Yes it was hard going. But it sure did boost me to shut up and get on with it. And to be very thankful of what I have - a healthy body and a wonderful family who were there to support me.

Thank you. And Happy (American) Thanksgiving

Monday, November 19, 2012

Crockpot BBQ Apple & Bacon Chicken

Ingredients (serves 2)
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 slices smoky bacon
  • ½ cup BBQ sauce
  • 2 Tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 apples peeled and chopped

  1. In the crockpot combine the BBQ sauce, brown sugar & lemon juice
  2. Wrap each chicken breast with 2 slices of bacon
  3. Place chicken in Crockpot and gently scoop sauce over chicken
  4. Add the chopped apples
  5. Cook on low for 6 hours (check once during cooking and scoop sauce over chicken)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Washi Paperclips

OK, it's so easy it barely qualifies as a 'project'. But at the end of the day a few strips of washi can personalize and cutify (yes it's a word!) any boring old office supply paperclip. See...

Project #5 of 10 done from my little manifesto challenge (we'll see how I get on with the other 5....with 6 weeks to go till year end and I admit it's not looking favourable!!)

My first 4 projects are here; washi bathroom makeover, washi chevron wall art, washi tea-lights, washi shelf makeover

Sunday, November 11, 2012

More Menu Planning..

Love, love, love this challenge. I'm still completely buzzed about it. We've used this same old method on and off over the last couple of years probably. But this time it seems different - nothing like sharing in the process with friends and being just a little more accountable than usual.
Last week looked like this;
And it basically worked out...the Spaghetti squash meal was postponed till this coming week. And once again as predicted planning for 6 meals was the way to go. Meal 7 was an impromptu invite to our neighbours for a lovely unhealthy -'fry-up' brunch on the weekend - sausages, eggs, beans, hash browns, tomato (probably the only healthy thing on my plate!) and mushrooms.
We LOVE this meal - thank goodness we don't do it often - but I'll sure as heck enjoy it when I do!! I can recommend it heartily - especially if you're looking to get yourself into an early grave through coronary failure!! ;-) .....sorry was this menu planning about healthy options?!!
On to this week;
Spaghetti Squash was back on the menu after it got skipped last week. We're slowly making our way through our own very special little crop of squash straight from our own garden, so I'm trying to get the right balance of savouring them and making our stash last as long as possible without risking that they go bad (how long does a spaghetti squash last anyway?!). The meatballs planned to go with them last week got skipped and replaced with another gardening success - our cherry tomatoes.

These pickings were from just one plant!! We've got them indoors ripening now and so this week I chopped a batch of ripe ones in half and just simmered them up with a little garlic and seasoning into a sauce then put the mixture straight into mason jars and sealed them - I'm hoping they'll last for a few weeks. For this weeks meal I added some fresh basil and goats cheese to a jar of the sauce base and served over the spaghetti squash. Absolute success! 

Linking up once again to Jill and Laura's Menu Planning Challenge.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Instagram love

Gotta love me some instagram. These days I think it's my preferred social media platform - yes, even over and above facebook!! And now finally Instagram now has their own platform for viewing photos online. My Instagram web profile is right here:

The photos on the header rotate around randomly. It’s pretty cool! - you'll notice that I'm only a little obsessed with photographing my pup Meli!!

I've updated my instagram icon (in the 'stalk me' sidebar) to send you straight to my photo gallery! Click on it any time you fancy a peek into my life (ok, probably more like a peek into Meli's life!!)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Meal planning...

This is working out so well for us....this whole meal planning malarky! They say it takes 21 days to make a habit....and we're past that now! That's not to say we haven't made effort to meal plan before but it's never really stuck. Honestly I think a big reason it's working well for us right now is that since our trip to Chicago we have been making a concerted effort to eat out less.

Once again we pretty well stuck to the plan. This was how last week looked;
Last week - Oct 25-31
That Crockpot Mongolian Beef was a hit. I'd made it once before and it was awesome, but I always reckon on trying it out a second time before it's official. And it is now official!! I posted the recipe here.

Crockpot Chicken Teriyaki got traded out for a Crockpot Chicken curry that my husband was inspired to cook up - ain't never gonna complain when I get the evening off when I wasn't expecting!

Cedar Plank Salmon is one of our favourites - and with company last Friday it was the perfect meal to prep and cook up on the BBQ - it got the thumbs up all round - even from Rick who'd never eaten Salmon before!!

Love a good homemade pizza - I have a great pizza dough recipe that I'm super happy with - then we load it chock full of veggies, and a little cheese - and my dough recipe makes enough for 2 meals so guess what's on next weeks plan?!

Now on to next weeks plan.
This week - Nov 1-7
I made the most of what we had building up in the freezer - I've run out of tupperwares and freezer dishes so it's time to start eating up!

I love working with 'what you have'. I find it a fun challenge, a great way to 'tidy up' your pantry and freezers and a good way to have a 'cheap week' at the grocery store! Plus it's interesting reading to see just how long you're supposed to be storing stuff in the freezer - here's a great easy to use chart listing just about everything and the recommended storage periods in both fridge and freezer. I had no idea that bacon is really only good for a month - even in the freezer (Think ours goes a while longer than that sometimes!).

Turkey Cannelloni is taking up freezer space and has been for probably a couple of months - time to eat up!

Pizza Dough is already in the fridge from last week - add to that any random toppings lurking in the veggie drawer of the fridge that need to get used up!

Minestrone Soup - now isn't that an excuse to throw whatever veggies, beans and grains you've got lurking and calling it done?! (because every recipe is different - there IS no recipe!!)

And Pasta Ruccola is one of my own creations - basically wholewheat pasta mixed up from fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, baby arugula & spinach, pesto and a little Parmesan and black pepper - it's an absolute go-to quick and easy meal for us and great way to use up tomatoes (Specially the slightly soft ones). Since we've got 3 flats of tomatoes from the garden slowly ripening in the utility room it's time to up the tomato usage in the coming weeks - we can't eat them fast enough!

Once again I'm linking up to the Meal Planning Challenge hosted by Jill and Laura.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Crockpot Mongolian Beef

This dish is so good you'd think it was served up in a restaurant! Don't be put off by the long ingredient list  - it's a bit of faffing around collecting it all together and measuring out but the directions are very simple - just chuck it all in, mix and put the lid on...this is exactly why I love crock pot cooking! 

Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 800g Flank Steak
  • 2 Tbsp Cornstarch
  • 3 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 sliced Green onions
  • 1 tsp dried Onion
  • 1/2 cup Soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup White Wine
  • 1/2 Tbsp Wine Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Molasses
  • 1 Tbsp Ginger
  • 1 Tbsp Black pepper
  • 2 tsp Chili flakes
  • 1 Tbsp Peanut or other nut butter
  • 3 Tbsp Brown sugar
  1. Finely slice the meat and sprinkle with the cornstarch to coat
  2. Put all other ingredients in the crock pot and mix well.
  3. Add meat and stir to coat
  4. Cover and cook on low approx 4 hours
This meal did however spark a conversation about how hideous soy sauce is - our low sodium version still had over 30% of the Daily Value - yikes! After a little research into alternatives we are switching to Bragg Liquid Aminos - comments? opinions? I'm looking forward to trying it and seeing if the taste is different and how it works as a direct sub!

Adapted from the recipe originally posted on Notes from the Heartland
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