Thursday, June 26, 2008

Baking Experiment

A couple weeks ago, Steph came across the Deceptively Delicious cookbook while I was working. (Apparently she'd been unaware of it, and the whole concept of deceptively delicious cooking, even though it's been a hot topic of discussion for several months now.) She thought it was a fabulous idea, and suggested that I make something from the cookbook and bring it to the next staff meeting. And today was our first staff meeting in ages, so I accepted the challenge and made the Brownies with Spinach and Carrots from the book. I did a little research on the World Wide Web before hand to find other people's thoughts on the dessert. After all, I have my reputation as a good baker of brownies to protect. I came across this website, and she gave the brownies high praise, along with a couple of tips for making them. As I was short on time, I had the bright idea of using baby food for the pureed carrots, but unfortunately they don't make spinach baby food, so I had to make my own. (Fyi, in case you ever make it, it takes almost 3/4 of a bag to make 1/2 cup of pureed spinach.) I also made the mint icing and chocolate glaze from this recipe.

Overall the reaction from staff members was very positive. They all commented on how moist and chocolaty the brownies were. I could smell the carrots in brownies, but I've always hated the smell of carrot baby food (next to green beans it's my least favorite). And no one else seemed to notice. I think the peppermint icing helped cover the smell. I thought the brownies tasted pretty normal for the most part, very chocolaty, but with a hint of ...something... different. But if I hadn't known what was in it, I probably wouldn't have thought anything of it. Karrie was the only one who was critical of them, and she said she thought they were too chocolaty! As if there is such a thing!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Diet Starts Tomorrow

Yeah. Right. That's what they all say. In fact, didn't I say that before? And look where I'm at now: six pounds heavier than I was then! That's right. Six pounds. Between Chinese food on Friday and pizza on Saturday, I managed to gain three pounds (I was down a pound from my vacation weight gain somewhere this week). I am officially the heaviest I have ever weighed. I don't even want to think about it.

So I'm getting out the food diary again. Actually, I got a pretty new one. It's shiny and red, with lined pages. (The unlined pages is the real reason that I stopped using my other one--seriously!) I am not going to try to set any official weight goals at this point; I'm just going to keep exercising and pay a little more attention to what I put in my mouth.

And in other news, my friend Kari from Washington has started a workout blog! Whoo hoo! Check it out!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Working Out is Hard To Do!

I have gotten back into my regular workout schedule, though it hasn't been easy. Evidently, taking a week off for vacation (though really it's more like three, since I didn't do much in the couple weeks leading up to my vacation either) has turned me into a wuss again. I was slightly stiff and sore after BodyCombat on Monday, and then I totally overdid it in BodyPump on Tuesday by increasing my weight for the squat track to a large and two smalls. That's the heaviest weight I've ever done, and I don't know what possessed me to attempt it after such a long break. My legs have been sore since then, almost as sore as they were after my first BodyPump class. Then I met Karrie at the gym Wednesday morning for a good cardio workout. And tonight I went to BodyPump again. It was tough because I'm still sore from Tuesday, but I didn't want to back off too much, so I just did a large and one small for the squats and increased to a large on the back track. I know I was doing the back track with a large at some point before I left, but it certainly wasn't easy tonight. By the end of the class, my legs were pretty wobbly. All in all, though, I'm glad to be back, and I'm hopeful that I'll be able to get back to where I was before vacation quickly (including dropping those four pounds!).

Something that one of the instructors from Group Power in Washington mentioned was that when doing biceps, you should keep a grip on the bar with all your fingers. When you release the bar, you lose tension in the bicep and therefore you're not really working as much. I had been doing this because Mary the instructor does this all the time. But the past couple times I've really focused on not doing it. I had gone up in the bicep track on Tuesday to a medium, and tonight I just did two smalls, and it definitely felt almost easy--emphasis on almost.

I also think I've solved the problem with my shoulder. It had been popping on the chest track and, though it wasn't really hurting yet, I know it was headed that way. But I discovered that if I keep my hands just slightly closer together (another tip from the Group Power instructor) and don't let my arms go any lower than brushing the mat on my bench, my shoulder doesn't pop. This means that I have a shorter range of motion and it's more of a challenge because I can't rest the bar on my chest for a little break. But I have been able to increase my weight back up to a medium for this track. So this means that I've probably been doing this exercise wrong all these months, and now I'm finally doing it correctly.


I seriously need to start paying more attention to the weather forecast. This afternoon was lovely, and when I got home at one point, I left the window down in my truck so it wouldn't be so hot when I drove to the gym tonight. Well, I convinced Alana to go to BodyPump tonight with me, so she drove instead. Since it was still sunny, I didn't think to put my window up. But in the hour that we were in BodyPump there was a huge rainstorm, and my truck seat got soaking wet, for the second time in a week. Yep. I left my window down Saturday night, and it got a thorough soaking in the deluge on Sunday morning. So I suppose the real lesson is this should be: never leave your car windows down!

Anyway. I will leave you with a couple pictures of the fun I had with my nephew this morning. He loves to come play with the hose at Auntie's house and he soaked me pretty good this morning, my whole backside was wet. He's just so darn adorable though, I can't even get mad.

Look at that innocent face. He'd never do anything naughty!

He loves these "poppers"!

An important summer skill: learning to drink from the hose!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm Back!

Okay, I know I've been back in town for a few days now. Today was my first day back at work, though, so my vacation is officially over. Sigh.

I had a great trip to Washington state and spent a fabulous week with my friend Kari and her new husband Dave. The weather was cool, often windy, and sometimes rainy, but I'd take that over the 101 degree heat they had a couple weeks before my visit.

Kari and I made a trip across the state from the Tri-Cities area to Seattle, and I got to experience Washington state's diverse geography. The southeastern part of the state looks eerily similar to western Nebraska, and just west of Kennewick is wine country with lots of vineyards. And then we got into the mountains, where everything was still blanketed in snow--in mid-June!

We spent a little more time in Seattle this time, though I think I'd have to spend a whole week there to really get to see all that I want to see. We went downtown to the central branch of the Seattle Public Library, which I wanted to visit since I made two knitted hats that were based on the lattice design of the building. The building was interesting, and I picked up a couple things I want to try at my library. But I must admit that my overall impression of the building was less than favorable. The fourth floor, which is where the meeting rooms are located, I found most offensive, actually. It is dimly lit, with no windows, and winding halls, and the doors are distinguishable only by the fact that they have handles protruding from them. And all of it, floors, ceilings, and walls, are painted a bold red, except when you round a corner at the end of the hall, the wall directly in front of you is stunningly purple. The stairs throughout the building are metal, so your footsteps clang not matter how gently you step. The escalators are neon yellow. And the thing that bothered me most, which is probably supposed to be one of the most notable features of the building, was the "book spiral," in which the fifth through tenth floors slope upward (or downward, depending on which way you're headed) in one continuous, well, spiral. I don't know why, but this irritated me. Maybe I was just in a bad mood from all the wind and rain. And the whole library seemed rather dimly lit for having so much glass, but maybe that was just due to the overcast skies.

Anyway. We also visited the Space Needle and went all the way up to the top. It costs $16 to get up there, so we figured we'd better get our money's worth out of the stay. The view really was spectacular, as the clouds finally did let up a little, and Kari took lots of pictures. We went down to the waterfront, and walked along the piers. Everything was closed by the time we got there, so we didn't stay too long.

After spending the night in a tiny little town called Eatonville, we started the drive up to Mt. St. Helen's. But alas, our trip was cut short, because after only twenty miles, the road was closed due to snow.

So we had to turn around and head back down the mountain. We decided not to turn back and go all the way around the mountain and see if we could get up the other side, so we just headed back to Kennewick. It was still a very beautiful drive through the mountains, with lots of picturesque vistas. We stopped at every scenic viewpoint on the way down to get out and take pictures. A couple places had little hiking trails that we followed. Hiking is excellent exercise, especially in snow!

There are more pictures over at my Flickr account , and I'll add more next month since I maxed out my upload limit for the month. I wish I'd taken more pictures, but I didn't have a lot of room on my memory card.

All in all, it was a practically perfect vacation. I ate a lot of delicious food, watched some great movies (and one supremely bad one), did a lot of knitting, and some exercising, and best of all, spent quality time with a great friend. I am already planning my next trip out there!

And I have been busy since I got home, too. After spending a couple days at my parents' house, and helping them rearrange practically two entire rooms, I finally got back to Lincoln on Saturday evening. I brought with me a couple of arm chairs that my parents were getting rid of. I planned to put them in the tv room, along with a loveseat that I recently got from my friend Lisa, to make a more comfortable seating arrangement for my roommates and I when we all watch movies. What I didn't anticipate was how perfectly the three pieces would go together. After arranging the furniture, I spent a couple days scouring thrift stores for the perfect pieces to match. And this is the result:

It's totally cheesy, but I love it for the cheese factor! It kind of reminds me of my grandmother's living room. And it's way more comfortable than that old futon.

I've been getting back into my workout routine again also. I gained four pounds(!) in the last two weeks, so I'm anxious to undo that. I went to BodyCombat last night, and BodyPump tonight. Tomorrow morning I'm meeting Karrie at the gym for a workout before work. So on that note, I need to get to bed. I am still trying to readjust to the time zone, and my sleeping schedule is all out of whack.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Wish You Were Here

My vacation is going at just the right pace. I'm catching up on sleep, doing lots of knitting, and just generally relaxing. And I've been doing some normal vacation things too.

Today Kari and I ventured into Oregon and visited the McNary Dam. It was pretty cool.

There was a fish viewing room, where you supposedly could see salmon and other fish as they traveled on their way to the sea. But the water was so green and murky that all I could see was a couple of sucker fish that were right up against the viewing windows. There was a larger visitors center that had more information about salmon than I ever really wanted to know. They have a salmon holding/transportation station there to help the juvenile fish get out to the sea. They separate the smaller fish and hold them in a big holding tank for a while, then load them up on a barge and take them downriver.

There were some beautiful rhododendrons in the park next to the visitors center. Rhododendrons are the state flower of Washington.

After a birthday celebration at Kari's grandma's house, Kari, Dave, and I went to the Court Club to hang out in the hot tub for a while. I managed to do a few laps in the pool--that is quite a workout! Tomorrow morning Kari and I plan to go back to Group Power and then stick around for a good cardio workout. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, June 6, 2008

You're Not Gonna Believe This!

I can hardly believe it myself. I am on vacation!

But that's not really the unbelievable part. I am going to the gym while on vacation! That's right, I actually got up and went to the gym this morning, instead of sleeping in. In fact, I was excited to go to the gym! My friend Kari just joined the Tri-City Court Club and they have a new class called Group Power, which is a close cousin to BodyPump. So I dragged Kari there this morning, and we tried it out. The class followed the same format as BodyPump and did a lot of the same exercises, but had different music and combined the exericises in a slightly different way. For example, we did clean and presses really slowly, and followed each one with five rows. I liked the abs track we did, though it was really challenging. We did real reverse cruches, sitting up with knees bent in front of us, and then leaning about halfway back and then coming up to the top again. Sometimes we would lean back and then twist to one side. It was tough!

After Group Power, Kari and I did about ten minutes on the stationary bikes. I've never used the bikes at home, but I don't think they're probably as cool as these were. They have a video screen attached, and you can choose different courses, and you race other people on the screen. The handlebars even swivel! It's just like one of those car race video games at the mall. You can even log in to record your time and distance. It was really neat!

I hope that I'll be able to make it back to the gym a couple times this week. There were a couple other exercise machines that I wanted to try, and they also have a really nice pool. I know that I won't be making many smart food choices this week, so working out can help balance that out, maybe.

Well, I'm off to shower and figure out what we're going to do today. I think we might be sewing with Kari's grandma. We also talked about driving down to Oregon just for the fun of it. Did you know that you can't pump your own gas in Oregon? I've never seen that, so we might do that. Plus, there's no sales tax on clothes in Oregon, so maybe we can do some shopping!