Monday, October 20, 2014

Meditation Monday - Truth and Giveaways

If you notice two posts today it's because I am not quite skilled at the whole "set to post" aspect of blogging yet and my Sunday post appeared this morning instead of yesterday. Oops! Well, here we are at Monday again. I am now only 50ish posts behind catching up on all of my favorite bloggers and have gotten a significant amount of work done outside the house, inside the house, and for work. I have still not "caught up" on life and know that I never really will. However, in my attempt to get to the point where I truly feel at peace with myself and my place in life, I'm still working on my meditations, my yoga, my fitness, myself.....

Here are some meditation thoughts for you that I haven't yet had a chance to post about:

Days 23-30: The second Yama ~ Satya
 The second yama in the 8 limb path of Raja yoga is Satya or truthfulness. The yamas (if you recall) and niyamas are basically a code of ethics by which you should live. The first 5 (yamas) are restrictions while the second five (niyamas) are observances. Think about them as the yoga 10 commandments because they kind of align with the Christian ones.

In being truthful you need to keep your word, speak only the truth, and abandon all embellishment, minimization, self aggrandizements, omissions, rationalizations, and exaggerations. So, pretty much anything you ever use to tell any kind of story what-so-ever. This is hard for us and even harder if you have children. Think of all of the books you read to them that tell them untruths. Think of all the ways you "protect" them from life with white lies. Satya is so much more than this though, it's avoiding untruths while letting go of your own pretense. It's about humility that you feel when you have balanced your fear with your ambition.

In thinking about these concepts and trying to discover how to live in truth I came to a few conclusions and questions to ask yourself:

  1. Telling the truth about yourself to another is the hardest and most necessary thing to do in life. It may be easier to do to a stranger on a plane or through a blog than to the one you love, but all truth finds you again and if someone really loves you it won't matter to them if you seem "uncool" sharing who you really are. Are appearances more important to you than honesty?
  2. When we truly examine our lives we find that we have misaligned priorities that add to the nontruths in our lives. Saying you don't have time to do something in truth is I am choosing to do something else and not making the time for this. Are you fully connected to the truth you are living?
  3.  It is important to know yourself as a whole by practicing right action day in and day out. Know that you get what you need in life by not selling yourself short. Your journey is something you must discover on your own through hard work that cannot be done for you. And in the end you must let go and realize that there is nothing left to do....just move on. Am I ruled by a desire for pleasure, a desire for success, a desire for community, or a desire for liberation?

My truth is that I'm not perfect. I try to be as open and honest and exposed as possible. I try not to lie to my kids and my friends. I hold back sometimes and that is an expression of me as a nontruth in my life. It hurts me to be that way and I try to move forward and rectify that situation and not repeat it. It's hard work for me every day as it is for everyone who tries to live in truth.

The truth also is that if you post a giveaway on your blog, I'm going to enter to win. So, Kristin Porter, challenge accepted! I totally want to find new ways to use rice in the ways that I eat and I want to win a $500 gift card to Amazon so that I can give my munchkins a swing set for Christmas that I couldn't otherwise afford. If you want to know more about what I'm talking about, check out her post here and I will be talking about my porcupine meatballs some Sunday this fall. See you tomorrow for another installment of Tone It Up Tuesday!

What is the truth in your life? Do you enter giveaways? Do you tell your kids that there's a Santa?

Simple Simon Sundays

Do you remember that nursery rhyme:

Simple Simon met a pieman
Going to the fair;
Says Simple Simon to the pieman,
Let me taste your ware.

Says the pieman to Simple Simon,
Show me first your penny;
Says Simple Simon to the pieman,
Indeed I have not any.

Source: Extraordinary Nursery Rhymes and Tales: New Yet Old (1876)

My topic for today made me think about that nursery rhyme. I think there are a lot of  "rules" out there in the health and fitness industry regarding desserts, sweets, and snacks in general. I've mentioned before two things that are pertinent to this conversation and are my guiding principles for sharing this "feature" on Sundays in the near future.

The first is that I love to bake! You can see my cakes here and know that this post will contain another. I love to bake brownies and cookies and pies and I've even talked about a few of the recipes I've been trying out regarding desserts from time to time. I love to read food bloggers who take a little bit healthier spin on things and those who tell you it's okay to indulge. To me, healthier means using real food and real ingredients. This is the main drive behind my shameless indulgence.

Second is that I don't feel guilty when I eat these things because I use the principles of Mindful Eating that I learned during my internship at Green Mountain at Fox Run. I encourage you to pop over to their blog to learn more.

My only rules regarding sweets are as follows:
1. Eat only what you really want.
2. Enjoy (experience it with all senses) what you're eating.
3. Don't judge yourself for eating it.
4. Stop when you're full.
5. Try to keep it real (real ingredients that you know what they are and where they come from).

Thursday I mentioned that I was working on a 4-day cake for my niece and yesterday was the big reveal day. She loved it! Here are some pics regarding the cake:
This was the inspiration for her cake....and if you thought it was the cake I made, you were wrong, because I'm just not at that level yet....
Main reason this wasn't the cake - I don't work with fondant....or rather, I hadn't yet.
This is the version we got. So, how did we get through 4 days of cake making?

Day One: Color Flow
First I made leaves and the duck commander symbol out of color flow icing. It needs 2-3 days to dry really well, so Wednesday afternoon it was made so that it could go on to the cake on Friday night or Saturday morning (depending on my schedule).

The duck broke and originally looked EXACTLY like the image above, so that was disappointing. Color flow icing can be very difficult to work with if you're not careful as it is VERY fragile...even when dry.

Day Two: Fondant
The bow is made of fondant that I bought at Hobby Lobby. Normally I do not buy pieces of the cakes I make, unless necessary, but I haven't made my own fondant and needed it to work. I rolled it out on Thursday and cut it into strips. Then, I folded the strips into loops and pinched the ends together. I set them on their sides to dry as they take 1-2 days to harden.

Day Three: Baking and Icing
I took some left over color flow icing and tinted it pink and put the ribbon together following these instructions. I intended to let it dry overnight as I attempted to make the rest of the cake.

I made Betty Crocker's Silver White Cake recipe with a few tweaks (3 batches of it to make 10" and 2-8" cakes). I sub unsweetened applesauce for the shortening and often use vanilla almond milk for regular. This time I was out of almond milk and used whole milk and the cakes came out way too dense and a little rubbery. This could also be a result of the dark colored pans I baked them in. I need to invest in some real cake pans instead of using my spring form pans for rounds. Things just don't rise as well in them.

The icing was Betty Crocker's Vanilla Buttercream recipe again using usually almond milk. This time doubled the recipe then split it in half again to tint different colors. I did the bottom half in a khaki green made with the brown Wilton tint and kelly green Wilton tint. You can't tint frosting properly with food coloring. Just an FYI. The bottom was then covered with crushed Oreos and then the leaves. I stacked the top layer on and originally planned to frost and then sprinkle with pink sugar crystals, but decided instead to mix them in....big mistake! I mean HUGE MISTAKE!

This made the icing way too thin for some reason and it started to "fall off" the cake to the bottom layer. This made me very nervous and I kept "pushing it back up" until it dried enough to stick. I should have stopped there for the night, but wanted to push on so that I could enjoy Saturday instead of working on the cake more before the party. Instead I grabbed the duck and it started breaking into a million pieces. I eventually got it "stuck on" to the best of my ability, but had ruined the most perfect piece of the whole cake.

I took the last of my pink icing and my tinted color flow icing and mixed them together to make rosettes, but my heart was sad and my body tired, so they are not the best ones I've ever done. Finally, in desperation to see the final product, I picked up the mostly dried bow and slapped it on the top. Surprisingly enough, I felt a little better at that point.

Day Four: Delivery
This day was supposed to be both assembly and delivery, but hey, just getting this heavy cake across town on one of the hottest days of OCTOBER with my husband driving was feat enough for one day. The cake was not as light and airy as it usually is, but everything tasted good and the niece was happy. So, overall a win in my book.

This week we will be attempting some fall cookies to send to the in-laws while I travel to Boston. Check back in next Sunday to see if we score another win.

What is your favorite thing to bake? What was the hardest thing for you to bake? Do you have any rules about eating sweets?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thinking About Thursday

In my attempt to come up with some themes for the days of the week to help my writing, I decided that Thursdays are going to be a lot of whatever is going on in my head. Enjoy!

Fitness Continued
I'm still planking every other day and so glad that today is not my plank day. Yesterday I planked in my son's bedroom while trying to get him to fall back asleep. Sometimes just my presence in his room is enough to help him shut his tiny eyes and drift off. However, yesterday it was more of a feat in sanity to try and plank through his pleadings to get out of bed. I eventually gave in and got him out of the crib and abandon the rest of my plank. I am fairly proud of my effort considering that I had just finished making about 30 leaves and a Duck Commander symbol out of icing....more on that at the end.
Playing Catch Up
This week, in my "down time", I am trying to catch up on the different blogs that I love to read. As of this moment I have at least 70 posts to read to get caught up from last Friday. This tells me that I have underposted in the last 7 days and also spent more time away from my computer. That's not necessarily a bad thing and I will only be concerned with that when my laundry starts to pile up for a week at a time...

Random Mom Thoughts
Don't you hate that moment when you're changing a diaper and it looks like peanut butter is in there and then you feel some left over crunchy peanut butter between your teeth from the lunch you just ate? Yeah, that just happened to me this afternoon and I think I'll be taking pbj sandwiches out of the lunch rotation for a few extra days.

Throw Back on Books
A lot of bloggers do a Throw Back Thursday special and this week mine is going to be about books. My husband's niece (also technically my niece) is turning 9 tomorrow and we always get her books for her birthday or Christmas. This year she has really started to read more chapter books and has not read (nor heard of) most of the books I enjoyed as a child. Therefore, I chose two that I thought were good for her age:
Charlotte's Web
Pippi Longstocking
Each of which features a female character that I find to be impressive. Granted the spider (Charlotte) is not a human, but Fern does her share too of being a strong lead.
Which books do your 9 year old selves wish you were still reading?

Wait for it....CAKE!
That's right....because it's my niece's birthday I am making another cake. This one is a challenge as her "theme" this year is Duck Dynasty and the cake she picked out has A LOT of fondant on it. I don't regularly work with fondant, so this week I am teaching myself some new techniques, creating a cake that I can manage, and hoping to impress a bunch of 9 year olds with my caking skills. Be prepared for the photos next week.

So, what are you doing this Thursday? How do you spend your last day before the weekend? Did you plank yesterday?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tone It Up Tuesday

I'm trying out a new concept today for my Tuesday posts....talking about one specific exercise that I've been working on and why you too should be incorporating it into your regular workout. A lot of my favorite bloggers use Tuesday as "Search Term Tuesday" and unfortunately, in the whole of 9 months that I've been doing this, there have only been 3 terms used that led people to this blog:

amberlynn pappas
amberlynn shout house
i pee myself a lot don't make me laugh

So, there's that. And that's why I've taken this a totally different route and hope that it brings you all a little something new from the same old exercises.

Week One   -   The Plank

There are a million different variations on the plank that make it just about the right exercise for anyone. You can even do it standing up if you don't want to (or unable to) get down to the ground. Here are some photos to show you some different variations:

Standard Full Plank with arms extended. I don't recommend the ankle weights and here you are looking for a nice straight line down the outside of the body from the shoulder joint to the hip joint and ending in the heel. Keep the elbows "soft" or not locked out while the heel of the hand is directly under the shoulder. Remember that your head is an extension of your spine, so your gaze should be pointed slightly in front of the hands to keep the neck is not flexing forward nor hyperextending and compressing the cervical vertebrae.
If you have wrist issues you can modify the plank by lowering down onto the forearms. All of the same principles listed above should apply, so this guy should not be looking off to the side so that we get a good face shot during the exercise. Now the elbows are placed directly under the shoulder joint.
Another way to reduce the stress on the upper body is to bring the knees down to the ground. This can then be performed with either the extended arm position (shown) or the lowered arm position resting on the elbows and forearms. However, the principles for head/neck alignment still apply and now the side line should run from the shoulder through the hip and end at the knee.
Here is a standing version with the lowered arm. You can also do this with an extended arm or placing your arms against a stable chair back pushed up against the wall. Just remember that side line as you step back away from the wall to align the body.
A Side Plank is another great option which can be varied in many ways. Here he shows a version with the bottom arm resting low instead of extended and the top arm extended. The top arm could also be lowered to the hip, the bottom arm could be fully extended with soft elbow, or the knees could be dropped down instead of the legs extended. No matter which variation, our straight line should now extend diagonally through the center of the body (crown of head to between heels or knees if lowered). Watch for hips popping up or drooping down to one side and the head leaning to one side or the other. This exercise requires a lot more balance and stability on the part of the exerciser, so practicing one of the other variations first will help.
Incline Plank is another advanced planking move and is sometimes called Reverse Plank. The straight line here is also shoulder-hip-heel, but requires a lot more chest strength and pulling up of the backside of the body while not allowing the head to fall backward. The only variation for this plank exercise is to do Table Top by walking the heels back until they are directly below the knees and allowing the top of the body to look like a four legged table with a head sticking out of one end.
Balancing Plank Options can occur by adding any kind of balance product under either the upper or lower body and choosing some variation of the plank to increase the balance work. Here are just three examples using a medicine ball, physio ball, and balance disk. A Bosu, foam roller, or any other balance equipment would be equally as effective.
The plank is one of the most versatile exercises because there are so many variations. It also sets you up for moving into so many different exercises....especially variations of the push-up. It engages almost every muscle in your body and is most effective at working your CORE. Core can be a dirty four-letter word in the fitness industry because it so misunderstood. The short story on your core is that any muscle that is not moving one of your appendages is probably part of the core and it's main goal is to keep you upright, your organs protected, and increase your stability, balance, and coordination of most of your movements necessary to complete your activities of daily living.

So, how long should you plank for and why have I chosen it to go first? You can plank for as little or as long as you like. I like to set my goal as one song that I'm listening to on Truffle Shuffle to get through my plank. If I need to rest, I rest and then get right back to it. A good beginning point could be a goal of 15 seconds with about 1 minute rest, repeated 3 times. Saturday and Monday I spent some time planking and thinking about the concept of pushing myself to true fatigue. I have found that I quit some exercises long before I actually fail to be able to perform them correctly due to muscle fatigue. So, I am planking every other day this week to find out how long my body can go for over my mind. Give it a try and see which gives in first for you. Which muscle is the strongest...your body or your mind?

Monday, October 13, 2014


I continue to be away from blogging for the time being for a few different reasons.

I am overwhelming myself with projects.
If you read all the way back to when I began this blog in January, I deemed this the year of de-cluttering my life. I've done a fantastic job of getting a lot of things out, including discarding a multitude of items prior to our move to the new house in March. I have not filled our new house with more junk and have continued to clear out at a time.....and to finish projects started. However, I am finding that the last three months of the year are making me feel more rushed to complete projects and therefore leaving me less time with my blog. 

I am uninspired by the things around me.
Usually my life inspires me to write about something amazing that is going on. If not my life, then something I am reading in a blog, a book, or see on the news will do the trick. My lack of inspiration lately probably has somewhat to do with my first reason for being absent in that I'm finding less time to read blogs, books, and watch tv or the news. I am also finding less time to devote to one of my projects for this year which is my meditation each day. And, even more heartbreaking, my physical exercise on a daily basis.

I have been severely under the weather in more ways than one.
In the last two months I have spent several weeks battling women's issues, minor injuries, illnesses, and the weather. Each of these four things has prevented walking and running as well as yoga and Pilates from being as regular a part of my daily life as they were in the months prior. This inability to drive forth could be discussed further in another whole post about the differences between lapsing and relapsing into old and sedentary habits, but I will save you the misery.

I come to you today with a hope that I will be here again tomorrow and the day after to start up again with the stories and the tips, the guidelines and the gossip that filled these pages for the past 9 months. Today, despite the lack of voice from a weekend training combined with the common cold, I got out of bed reluctantly, ate breakfast, dressed myself and the kids, and went for a walk. I titled today's post Breathless because that is the only word that could possibly describe that walk. It took all that I had to put one foot in front of the other and to make that stroller roll over hills and flats for 2.11 miles. It was, by far, one of my worst paces (16:48/mile), but it's done and I'm still breathing. And each day I will keep breathing and not let the little things in life keep me from it.

So, if you too have been overwhelmed, uninspired, and fighting something of late.....just know you're not alone. Take a deep breath in, exhale the bad, and forge on.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Now What?

Have you ever in your life asked yourself, " what?"

I think that it's a very common thing to ponder, but most of us wait until we are in a position of loss to ask that question. We may have lost someone, a relationship, a job, money, our home, or just simply our way. Wouldn't it be great if instead of waiting until that moment when we're at our low we could just ask that same question when we're at our high? Think of the outcome!

I am on top now, so what do I do to stay here?! How much easier would that be than digging yourself out of a whole, building your life over, or starting anew? Tuesday night I went for a run with my little boy and stayed within the confines of the cul-de-sacs of our neighborhood while pondering this question for a good thirty minutes of smiles while running. I was thinking about how I'm feeling pretty good about where I am at in life right now.
  • Did I hit my 30 runs in 30 days of September? No, female problems, rain, and travel all had their hand in preventing that from happening.
  • Have I posted here a lot lately? No, but that's probably because I haven't been inspired by much in the fitness/yoga world of late.
  • Am I posting any new photos of late and am I meeting every goal I've set for myself in 2014? No, because my camera is broken and I'm just taking things one day at a time and enjoying life.
This past 9 months of blogging has taught me one great doesn't matter if I hit every mark all of the time; the only one who cares if I'm a perfectionist is me. So, I'll be back again soon with some of the amazing things that I'm learning about and great fitness to share. But for now, I'm asking myself what next and how do I stay on this high?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


It's not that I want to eat sweets or to stay inside today, but there are a lot of things that are making that happen.....

Yesterday was the first day of fall and on Monday I was saying to my mom how much I hated that I was still dressing my children in pretty much the same outfits they've worn since March. Yes, MARCH! I despise living at the beach. Then came Tuesday and my prayers were answered...sort of. There is rain and the temps have dipped down into the high 60's and low 70's. This is cool enough for me to justify putting them in pants and t-shirts instead of shorts. And they get to wear their new tennis shoes instead of the smelly old sandals that need to find their way into the trash.

However much I love the fall, there are a few things that I am not in love with, so here is a pro-con list for you for Autumn:

  • It is far easier to go for runs at any time of day if the sun is not scorching the skin off of your body
  • You also don't smell as bad after a run
  • Your house can be opened up so that it doesn't smell like stale air
  • The leaves change color and it's almost as exciting as spring blooms....minus the pollen, so add that to plus column
  • Jeans. They're cute, they go with anything, and it means you don't have to shave your legs.
  • College football has started up and despite my team (Go Cyclones!) losing their first two games of the season, they pulled off a win against in state rival, U of I, and that made the rest of my family miserable. I have a lot of love-hate with college sports, but that's for another post.
  • Pumpkins are in season and that means a lot of good eats with a lot of good vitamins mixed in.
Okay, so I know I have more pros than this, but I'm getting stumped at the moment....this is why I need a more thorough writing process than just my trusty pastel note cards.

  • The rain. Have I mentioned how much the rain makes me sleepy? My family suffers from a lot of SAD and I am not immune. It seems to zap the energy to run, or do much of anything, right out of me. It's gotten worse over the years, but I still remember struggling with going to cross country practice in high school on rainy days.
  • The smells. The smell of fake cinnamon in particular is the one that I cannot stand. One good night of fun in freshman year of college with a bottle of Fire and Ice has ruined the smell of fake cinnamon for me FOREVER! I hate going into Fresh Market this time of year because of the pine cones and cinnamon brooms that fill the entry way. It's a mad dash for me to get my kid buckled and into the store before I throw up.
  • The smells of baked goods. This is a big trigger for me. I am not particularly an emotional eater. I'm not much of a big eater at all. But I am driven by texture and smell more than anything. If I smell sweets baking I immediately get the urge to eat ANYTHING that is within arms reach and edible. Kind of like that weird Tina Fey commercial where she chows down on the potpourri.
  • Holidays. Now, don't get me wrong, I love spending time with my family, but that's the part that gets me. My mom, two grandmothers, two brothers, two nephews, all of my aunts and uncles, in Iowa. That's a 23.5 hour drive from my house and that's a long way to go when you just want to check in and have some family time. I will be home for Thanksgiving this year, but 5 days there and 2 days in a car (each way because I have kids) is not enough to last a whole year long. The holidays make me sad in the fall because it reminds me of how far away I am and how much I'm missing out on.
I guess my pro list is longer, but my con list is deeper. It talks to the reasons that many of us give up our training programs and good eating habits when fall rolls around. That's why there is such a boom at the beginning of the year to start anew. So, I am going to take today in stride. It's rainy and I don't want to run. That's okay. I will do something indoors that is good for me. I baked some brownies for some friends who have a new baby, but I am upstairs away from them and the pantry so that I'm not tempted to gorge on things that I don't need or even really want. And I almost forgot that I have one more great pro to look forward to....MY BIRTHDAY! It's Saturday and my family (hubby and kids) is going camping this weekend to celebrate. Why camping? Two reasons: It's something that I did with my family growing up and have missed doing the last few years. And Which doubly helps my agenda. Wish me luck!

So, what are your triggers? What are you going to do to stay active and healthy throughout the fall and holiday seasons?