Monday, December 22, 2014

Cookies and Christmas gathering #1

It was a whirlwind weekend.

Lots of baking.

Delivering cookies.

The Christmas concert was good and we looked at some Christmas lights when we were done.

Baked more cookies.

Ate cookies.

Then it was Christmas with a branch of the family tree.  We had a nice time even if there was an extra guest that was a little grating.  She's a nice enough girl but as our Christmases with older grandparents become less taken for granted, I'm selfish with the time I'd like to spend as a family with them.  This person is in town for 3 weeks, why do they need to hone in on the one time per year we see this grandma?  This is my haul from her.

I was so glad to get this second set of silverware.  Dante's Peak is one of those movies that I like but don't know why.  Any time it's on, I have to watch it.  Newhart makes me look like I'm 80 years old and should be drinking prune juice cocktails.  I guess I really should've followed my instinct and taken it off my list prior to her shopping because you ever look at something and go...'yeah, that's never getting opened.'  I think I have 8 DVD's in the same boat down in the basement.  Oops!  I may force myself to watch it though because well...this is Larry, this is my brother Daryl and this is my other brother Daryl.

There was apparently some drama prior that I was filled in on but I just roll my eyes and thank God that my contact with them is limited.  I pray for them, I wish them well but I refuse to play the game.  I was given fair warning Christmas Day could be "tense."


As the Mr quoted....'another Christmas in the trenches.'

Maybe we'll just hitch a ride on Santa's sleigh and have him drop us off anywhere but here?  Drop us in Chicago or on the top of Mount Washington please, St. Nick!

But even with all of other people's attempts to poop on the holiday, I am taking in the next few days as they are my favorite of the year.

How was your weekend?

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Crunch time and what I'm reading this week

People!  Can you believe it is the Friday before Christmas!?  This is what I've been talking blink and suddenly you're in crunch time and the time will suck into some kind of wormhole and throw you out on December 26th wondering what the hell happened to this last week.

Today I am baking, baking and maybe a little baking.  Not just the stuff for friends but the stuff for us too.  We have a holiday concert tonight and I must note for future Christmases that going to a Christmas concert the Friday before Christmas is not the best way to take stress off of myself.  I also learned that Jif is weak peanut butter to use for buckeyes and will be reverting back to store brand which tastes infinitely more like peanuts.  Pffft.

But enough of my Christmas crank, let's get to...

Are You Enlightened or a Control Freak? What Your Airplane Seat Choice Says About You  (I'm a first class window person...yep, this nails me.  Except for the pretentious part because I hate nothing more than that awkward point where people are passing you and giving you stink eye.  I'm not traveling to Hawaii in coach, my legs couldn't take it with my muscle issues)

 Forget Calories—Count These Instead to Lose Weight Fast  (Good reminders!)

Former Pop Singer Spills 10 Juicy Secrets About Being in a Failed '90s Boy Band  (I was never a boy band person (unless you count Duran Duran but they were a MAN band) but some interesting stuff in this one)

Five Amazing Things Foil Can Do  (Cool pizza hack!)

21 Photos The Elf On The Shelf Doesn’t Want You To See  (Pretty hilarious and I would probably so traumatize our child with these.)

7 Big Benefits Of Exercising Outside This Winter  ("Make sure you bundle up if you go's a little nippy")

13 Greeting Cards That Mean Well, But Are Just Making It Worse  (#1 made me cry laugh)

Paralyzed Dog Who Learns To Walk Reminds Us Why Everyone Deserves A Second Chance  (Aww, sweet nugget)

10-Year-Old Fan Makes Justin Timberlake Cry During Concert  (I love JT)

16 Cookies That Can Be Thrown Together At the Very Last Minute  (For the procrastinators)

Charlie Sheen to Reprise His Iconic Ferris Bueller's Day Off Role on The Goldbergs   (This should be a hoot.  I said hoot)

The Drinking Mistake That's Costing You Pounds  (Oops, better go grab my bottle!)

How Fat Leaves the Body  (Inhale....EXHALE!)

How Much Your Pregnancy Will Really Cost You  (For the pregger readers)

How to Keep the Magic of Santa Alive For Kids  (Love this)

My Family Love Story by Seth Rogen  (I'm kind of in love with him after his amazing advocacy in this area)

Everything Macaulay Culkin Eats In The 'Home Alone' Movies, Ranked  (Pretty much agree)

Sharon Stone Opens Up About Her Brain Aneurysm  (Whether you're a fan or not, some good insight in this article and most of it is not about her health issues)

7 Simple Ways To Welcome Holiday Guests  (Yay!  I do them all!)

The Truth About Santa (Always a good one to drag out this time of year for those with questioning kids, consider giving this near perfect explanation)

Puppy gets relaxing bath...cutest thing ever

This is the only video you need to watch today  (Did I mention I love JT?)

I know this was a long list but I will likely not be doing links next Friday because I will not have time to brush my own hair much less read anything this week.  So soak it in or read half the list then save the other half for next Friday.

Tonight we have the concert, tomorrow I'm delivering the cookies and eating cookies and Sunday is Christmas with one branch of the family tree and I have a billion things to bake/make for it too.  I'll have Monday to breathe and then the 23rd-26th I'll be in a trance and the 27th I'll be in bed all day long.

What are your plans this weekend?  Any holiday gatherings?  Baking marathons?

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Baking Bonanza

I don't know about y'all but I'm knee deep in flour, baking for family and friends.  (And ourselves this weekend)  I like to keep up on what friends I bake for might like and they shared a pic of cookies with a bear holding an almond.  I couldn't find a bear but we did already have a santa so I used him.

Then I forgot after baking some cookies for my MIL to turn down the oven and santa had a tan.


No worries, I made a new batch.  But they are super cute and I know my friend will love them!

When I'm making mega batches of dough, I like to pre-mix the dry ingredients when I have time earlier in the month.  Then when baking day comes, I can dump all of the dry ingredients in after I've whipped up the wet ones.  Just make sure you list what recipe it's for and what ingredients you added so you know not to re-add them.

In case you need some new recipes to try, here are some of the ones I consistently make for family and friends.

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Cookies  (Recipe I used for the nut holding Santa.  Wow that sounds bad)

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies  (A little messy to make but always a hit and make the perfect vehicle for a whoopie pie with a twist.  They get better with age)

Maple Buckeyes  (Whether you use maple peanut butter, regular or some other flavors, these are wonderful)

Egg Nog Cookies  (A great subtle egg nog taste even the haters will love!)

Snowballs (aka-Mexican Wedding Cookies)

Biscoff Oatmeal Cookies  (These are always a hit because, well...Biscoff)

I like to use impending visits with friends to try out new cookie recipes so this year I gave these a try.

Potato Chip Cookies


Biscoff Criss Cross Cookies

If you have picky people (like my family), don't tell them they are potato chip cookies...I renamed them 'sweet and salty shortbread cookies.'  When I gave the link to a friend I made them for she said "there's no way there's potato chips in there!"  It's a great texture and while they probably won't be in our personal core cookie baking, I will probably make both of those yearly as gifts for others and we'll grab a few out of the batch.  I would blow through those potato chip cookies for sure and since they use chips, that's likely why you can't eat just one.

Our core cookies are cut outs from the old Better Homes and Garden cookbook (decorated with multi-colored icing), chocolate chip M&M (the Mr's favorite), Buckeyes and I usually make gingerbread but sometimes I cheat and use pre-made Trader Joe's Molasses break and bakes to give myself a break which is what I'm doing this year.

If you're looking for more recipe ideas, click here to see all of my 12 Days of Treats links from previous years.  Lots of truffle and fudge ideas in addition to cookies.  I didn't have the oomph to do it this year.  I'll try to do better next year!  ;-)

What are your core cookies your family likes you to bake for them every holiday season?

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Our short stint in the fitness band world

The Mr's heart rate monitor (HRM) was on the fritz for the past month or so.  His griping about his  frustration alone probably burned more calories than what would end up showing up on the screen.  It was pretty obvious his strap died and after having it for quite a few years, we can't really complain about it eventually waving the white flag.

Obviously the fitness band market is all the rage right now.  The Mr did a buttload of research before ever proclaiming what he perceived to be the holy grail currently available.

At $200 for the Garmin VivoSmart with the chest strap, I was less than comfortable paying that kind of dough for something I could easily pay half that price for and get what I needed.  All I really need to know is calories burned for my workout and that's as far as I go.  I don't have the time or desire to crunch numbers and scan data.  I'm sure that can be fun in the beginning but I'm simple.  The Mr convinced me that knowing our BMR could be beneficial for us in knowing how much we should really be eating instead of going off of various website calculations.  I surrendered and figured that could come in handy.  One day after going over some finances, I decided to surprise him with buying one for each of us.  I was skeptical but I was interested in seeing calories burned while sleeping and tracking those patterns and such so I was willing to play along.

As we did our initial setup on the website (or app), I was looking forward to seeing it in action so we did a strenuous strength session.  I kept swiping to see where you find the calories burned for the workout alone vs. the whole day, which were the only calorie numbers I could find.  Well, I would be swiping for eternity because this most basic of HRM functions wasn't there.  That's right, I paid $200 for a fancy pants HRM that doesn't even tell me the calories burned during my workout!!  It only tells you the amount of calories you burn the whole day whether you're wearing the strap all day to track for BMR purposes or not.  I wrote down the calories burned for the day before the workout and then what it was after the workout so I could figure out how many calories I burned.  It was half of what I usually burned for that workout.  I figured maybe because it wasn't using a full day's data it was off so I tried not to hold a grudge (I did though) and we got to the other features.

We had various issues with it retaining settings despite setting what we wanted, saving it and syncing it to the band.  Then the calories that were burned during the workout based off my math directly after the workout were different in their dashboard than what the band said I burned after syncing.  I was so ticked at one point, I declared I was sending it back asap.  I knew I had to give it at least a few days but this was not going well.

Before you go to bed, you have to start a sleep timer and then you stop it when you wake up for the day.  When I looked to see how much sleep I actually got, I was an exact match to when I started my timer.  So it doesn't actually track your sleep, it tracks movement during the times your sleep timer is recording.  Given how many times I tossed and turned that first night, I'm pretty sure I got closer to 6 hours of sleep and not the 7 hrs 24 mins it claimed I got.

The Mr was getting more info on his because he created a MyFitnessPal account and he said he was irritated because his BMR was the exact same number by the end of the second day as it had been the end of the first day when we'd only been wearing it for 6 hours before it reset at midnight.  My numbers were different but it was because I didn't have a MFP account and didn't want one.  By the end of the night, I created an account and my numbers changed from what they were prior to the sync to the exact same number.  Basically, all it did was take the info I entered in MFP and guesstimated on their formulas, not actual info like I thought I was getting wearing a chest strap for 2 days straight.  So, I could've used MFP for free to get the info Garmin acted like it was providing and not paid $200 for it.

The move bar is a joke.  The first full day I did this, I was on my feet and moving in the kitchen for well over 90 minutes.  It did not record a single bit of that movement toward my goal because it forces  you to get up and walk continuous steps.  I'm talking you cannot even pause or it won't count and you have to somewhat exaggerate your arm movements as well.  Can you cheat it if say you're on a conference call and can't get up?  Yep.  Just wildly wave your arm in the air for at least 30 seconds.  We did it for testing purposes and were disappointed you could cheat it.  One of the main reasons I got it was because the commercials make it seem like when the move bar goes off when you're inactive for an hour that it alerts more than once.  It doesn't...until an hour later.  Then it only requires you to move more to get it to go off.

The pedometer is also laughable.  You know the thing that counts your steps and is basically what the whole band revolves around goal wise?  When I can go to the bathroom and it counts 30 steps according to the pedometer when I've only walked 5 actual steps in the time I looked at the band, how can I honestly believe the data I'm getting?  Like any pedometer, if you're driving in a car, it counts at least 100 steps even though no steps were taken.

The final straw for me was when I did my second workout and it was a hard one.  I wore the new band and my old HRM which was working fine for me.  I did update my old HRM with the most current info for my maximum heart rate which is based off of my age and activity level (I always list as sedentary).  I checked both devices throughout the workout and any time they didn't match  perfectly heart rate wise, they were within 1-2 beats either way so I considered that accurate.  What wasn't accurate?  My calories burned!  The VivoSmart said despite me being in high zone 3 for most of the workout and dripping with sweat afterward that I burned 465 calories and my old HRM said I burned 866 calories!  Uh...pardon?  I have tested my old HRM and another brand we have as a back up and they match.  So now I really can't believe what I'm seeing.  The Mr's numbers were also off by about 25% which is a lot for him.

We were completely unimpressed on too many levels to be able to justify keeping it.  The fact that you can't even look down to see what calories you burn after a workout much less not knowing if the numbers you're seeing are right, is just too much for me to keep it.  In addition to that it wouldn't stay paired with our tablets and it was all way more trouble than it's worth.

I will stick with the HRM I have and the Mr has ordered a new strap for his.  For cautions sake, I will maybe subtract 200 calories off super high burn workouts for me even though I feel I earned every calorie burn and see if I get better results after the first of the year when weight loss over maintenance becomes our goal again.

I was irritated but not for myself, for the Mr.  He did so much research on this and to have it fail so completely for our needs is a real bummer.  There are some people who love it but ultimately it gets 3 1/2 stars on most review sites and that's no higher than our current HRM's get.  Given how much more it is, not worth it for our purposes and how we use HRM info.  If others like it and it helps them, good on them.  It just doesn't meet our needs and that money is better in my pocket than theirs right now.  If they fix quite a few things and drop the price, then we might give them another shot but until then, we'll stick with what we've got.

I'm a basic info person, I don't need all of that data and moreover I don't need data I don't feel I can trust 100%.

I will stick with traditional heart rate monitors because they get the same ratings as these fancy, expensive brands.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mall walkers, English rose and Grinch time

Yesterday we had some pretty mild temps so I figured we'd better catch some walks when walking weather presents itself.  This time we thought we'd tackle the local outdoor shopping plaza.  Yes...we were mall walkers.  Anyone remember that craze in the early 90's of the elderly walking malls before the stores opened?

I cannot tell you how nice it was to be among the throngs of people darting in and out of stores with their must purchase gifts knowing I've been done for 6 weeks.  I know that for some people shopping closer to Christmas is half the fun but I am just not built that way.  I need to be able to leave if people start to annoy me.   Which always never happens.

We walked about 2 1/2 miles around the perimeter and then backtracked and hit a few stores.  I did have one gift I wanted to pick up in Anthropologie and since I knew we'd be there, I left my hands feeling like sandpaper.  (Anyone else feel like they could sand an old wooden bench with their hands?)  I love to sample their sassy lotions and oh my Lord I put on their English Rose lotion and couldn't stop sniffing my hands for 4 hours!  Heavenly.  I'm gonna have to wait for a sale because I just can't bring myself to pay $22 for it given the size.  Either that or I'm going to just go there every day and use their sample.  You don't think they'll catch on, do you?  Hee hee.

We came home and I made dinner...spicy orange BBQ mahi burger and potato wedges.

Then it was time to settle in with a cup of decaf tea and two egg nog cookies I budgeted for to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas .

The real version, not that atrocity with Jim Carrey.  I caught a glimpse of it before bed the other night and thought I would have nightmares!

I solidified my final Christmas visit and now I need to get to menu planning/deciding what restaurants to go to if the culinary muse doesn't strike.  Luckily there's a whole slew of restaurants opening in our area so I don't think we'll be at a loss.

We have to really soak in all of this week because from Sunday to Friday, it is going to be crazy cakes around here!  I can't believe in 10 days it's all going to be over.  :-(

Do you ever walk non-conventional places for your workouts?  What is your favorite scent of lotion?

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Cookies, brunch and almost minus a digit

Twas quite the weekend!

As I mentioned Friday, our friends had to cancel our Saturday gathering because they were both sick as dogs.  I turned around and made plans right away with another friend for a Sunday brunch.  She's a super sweet girl who almost married into the family but that didn't work out.  Thankfully we have kept in touch and get together on occasion.  She mentioned my baking and I decided to bake up her and her boyfriend some non traditional cookies.  I don't know how but I saw a recipe for potato chip cookies and I was totally intrigued.  I decided I had to make some and I'd let her be the guinea pig, we'd eat a few and the rest go to work with the Mr.  I followed this recipe and man, they were GOOD!  If you're a fan of sweet and salty, they are awesome.  I told her they were 'sweet and salty shortbread cookies' because I don't know if people will weird out when they know the ingredients.  So I dipped mine in chocolate and sprinkled a little French fleur de sel I had on hand.  That extra little kick of salt was perfect.

I made quite the spread because she likes my cooking so much.  I made challah egg nog French toast and billionaires bacon.  (Spicy brown sugar bacon)

That was pre-coating them in a little brown sugar.  Yes, I made sure to remove the calories ahead of time.  ;-)

Luckily I bought extra of everything because something told me she might bring her boyfriend this time and I was right.  Just as she was leaving she asked if it was okay to bring him.  He is so nice and we had such a good time.  They also made us feel so old like when they learned our wedding pics were taken on film.  Yep, that's right.  We all had to stand there for 20 minutes while the man used the fire stick and kept the shutter open to get our expressions and hoped the black plague didn't kill anyone in the wedding party while we waited.  HA!

She's a budding photographer and I saw this cute mug with a vintage camera on it so I picked it up for her and when she mentioned my baking, I made 6 different kinds of cookies for them and a packet of my not yet patented perfect cup of hot cocoa.  Here's a sneak peek into one of their boxes of cookies.

The hug I got was worth it.  Might I say those 'Delightful Fudgies' are friggin' awesome?  Just follow my ChocoRolo Cookie recipe but instead of using Rolos use Delightful's peanut butter chocolate chips.  Holy Lord.  I mean they were all good but those were some of our favorites.  We skipped a traditional dinner that night for trying each kind of cookie.  Quality control calories don't count, right?

Oh yeah, if you'd like to know what true horror is, you can do what I did to make me think I'd be losing my 2nd toe...

It was more red than that when I peeled off my compression socks after a day full of baking.  It actually looked like it had cut completely through my toe.  I felt about halfway through the day what felt like my toe knuckle rubbing pretty bad.  I thought it was just rubbing against the material but didn't have time to tend to it.  Finally after 6 hours of this feeling I couldn't take it and pulled off the sock to find somehow one of MY HAIRS off of my head got wrapped around my toe and stuck to the left over Blister Blocker adhesive in there and it had been slowly cutting off the circulation to my toe all day.  I looked in horror and between almost fainting and almost screaming in terror from it looking like it was going to fall off, I had the thought to get peroxide.  "I'll dump peroxide on it and if it bubbles then we'll see if I need stitches and I'll scream to alert the Mr and then faint."  Thankfully there were no bubbles.  It took about 3 hours to return to normal.  And yes, even with stitches in my foot...brunch would've gone on.  I'm that dedicated of a host, y'all!

After they left, we both got hit by a wall of exhaustion and took a 30 minute nap.  I got up and nudged the Mr to get up for a walk around the historic district.  I think we were able to make it another 30 minutes before feeling like we wanted to cut our legs off so I think the walks are working!  The lights were all lit up and it was almost dusk when we were done.

Then it was off to the grocery store to pick up some fruit and veggies.  Then home for dinner and since my sassy Pottery Barn Santa Mugs came 2 days EARLY, we were able to enjoy our Sunday hot cocoa in them whilst watching Home Alone 2!

Yes...I made those snowman marshmallows.  I saw their pricier brother at Williams Sonoma and made some for us and friends.  :-)   I'm the original Christmas nerd, what can I say.

What did you guys do this weekend?

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Get off my lawn and what I'm reading this week

Yesterday's visit with the chiro went well.  He told me no high impact the rest of the year since I had such great results laying off this week.  I don't mind and he said it'll just help me heal that much faster and I'm all about that, yo!  Must make him some cookies for next week too.  I's a sickness.  When I know they're for someone else, I'm not tempted by them so no worries.   Yet.

On a doing mama proud note, the Mr caught one of the little bastards that has been molesting our curbside lighted Christmas trees yesterday!  Like IN THE ACT.  He gave him a good little 1970's style tongue lashing that will mean absolutely nothing because his parents likely would do nothing if confronted with his misdeeds.  He even broke the one he pulled out of the ground and we just bought those damn things 2 1/2 weeks ago!  NOT happy!  We think he was one of four that have been yanking it out of the ground as I saw three others walk by a few minutes later to stop and read the "Smile!  You're on camera!" sign we have posted by them.  I alerted the Mr and he ran to the door like Scrooge minus the cane to whack them all with.  So we are settling into the "get off my damn lawn" phase of life quite nicely.  He made me proud!

But enough of all of that, let's get to...

8 Ways to Lose Weight While You Sleep  (Sign me up yo!  Actually that new fitness tracker says I burned 700 cals whilst sleeping.  I think I'd have to subtract 50 calories for the laughing I did in the first few minutes of tracking.)

12 Things You Might Not Know About "The Twelve Days of Christmas"  (That's a lot of friggin' birds is all I know.  I'd be eating well for the first half of the year!)

Time Your Strength Training and Cardio for Better Sleep!  (I don't know if there's any truth to this voodoo but might be something to try if you're in a plateau.)

30 Homemade Food Gifts for the Holidays  (Give the gift of yum!)

WestJet Christmas Miracle: Spirit of Giving  (They did it again!  *sniff*)

2014: The Year Seniors Put Our Gym Routines to Shame  (I wanna be them when I grow up)

Time capsule homes from the 1930s to the 1980s  (Flippin' awesome!)

How to Stop Internet Ads From Ruining Your Holiday Gift Surprises  (Good info to know this time of year!)

'Biggest Loser' Star Rachel Frederickson on Life After Controversial Win  (Poor thing couldn't win for winnin')

Dad Speaks Out After 21-Year-Old Sues Him to Pay College Tuition  (Oh man, this chaps my arse)

10 Adorable Free Holiday Printables  (SUPER cute tags!  I've printed a few mahself!)

Playing With My Son:  An experiment in forced nostalgia and questionable parenting  (Courtesy of the Mr and we both agree this would be us.  Actually if we had a kid, it would be forced to watch old school cartoons and TV shows until it went to school and would ask other kids if they saw Tom & Jerry Saturday or watched the new episode of Mork and Mindy)

19 Secrets of UPS Drivers  (Stop trying to seduce them...they have a schedule to keep)

Why the Holidays Smell So Good (According to Science)    (Makes a lot of sense!)

'Comfyballs' Underwear Denied Trademark Because 'Balls'  (I still can't imagine sitting on balls all day.  But sorry even that or a soft grazing bringing a dude to his knees doesn't compare to monthly visitors, pushing humans out of your hoo-ha and menopause.)

Well, we got the word last night that our friends we were getting together with tomorrow night are both sick with two kinds of creeping crud between them.  The Mr talked to the male half and said he sounded like crap and it's definitely something we don't want to catch this holiday season so we'll get together in January.  But a few minutes later I made brunch plans with a friend for Sunday morning so we'll be having egg nog French toast.  I have to bake some cookies for her so I'd better make a few more doughs today and choose what I'm going to make.  She mentioned my baking specifically so it's not optional and I'm glad for it because when you get a rep from someone who appreciates it, you like to deliver.  Well, I do.  :)

Whatchu got planned this weekend?  All business or tomfoolery or a healthy mix of both?

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