Thursday, January 31, 2013

30-Day At-Home "Jump-Start Your Exercise" Challenge

Need to get started with some kind of exercise routine?

Been wanting to exercise but don't know where to begin?

This 30-Day At-Home Exercise Challenge is for YOU!

All you need is 15-20 minutes per day and a desire to get up and move. This is a beginner level challenge, with workouts that include a mix of cardio and strength training. If you want more of a challenge, add some weights or do more sets. At the end of 30 days, you'll feel better and look better. More importantly, you'll want to do more to continue your journey to better health. What are you waiting for? Let's get started!

Click on the link to see how to do the exercise. You can modify as needed, and many of the links suggest modifications. I have Day 4 as the one day off for the week, but you can choose whatever day you want to be your day off. Feel free to mix up the exercises or the days, but don't cheat! Challenge yourself - you'll be glad you did. Have fun!

WEEK ONE - Let's Get Started

Day 1: 25 jumping jacks, 5 push-ups, 10 crunches, 10 standing static lunges (each leg; with or without hand weights), 10 squats (4 rounds)

Day 2: 5 frog jumps, 15-30-second plank, 15-30-second side plank (both sides), 10 walking lunges  (4 rounds)

Day 3: 20-30 seconds mountain climberspush-ups, 8 sit-ups, 20 bridge lifts (4 rounds)

Day 4: Rest Day!

Day 5: 25 jumping jacks, 8 push-ups, 12 crunches, 10 rear lunges each leg, 10 squats (4 rounds)

Day 6: 5 burpees15-30-second plank, 30-second side plank (both sides), 10 side lunges each leg (4 rounds)

Day 7 - WEEKLY CHALLENGE: 10 frog jumps, 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups  (How many rounds can you do in 10 minutes?)

WEEK TWO - Upping the Ante (a little)

Day 8: 35 jumping jacks, 10 push-ups, 15 crunches, 15 standing static lunges (each leg; with or without hand weights), 15 squats (4 rounds)

Day 9: 8 frog jumps, 30-second plank, 30-second side plank (both sides), 20 walking lunges  (4 rounds)

Day 10: 30 seconds mountain climbers, 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups, 20 bridge lifts (4 rounds)

Day 11: Rest Day!

Day 12: 35 jumping jacks, 10 push-ups, 15 crunches, 15 rear lunges each leg, 15 squats (4 rounds)

Day 13: 8 burpees30-second plank, 30-second side plank (both sides), 15 side lunges each leg (4 rounds)

Day 14 - WEEKLY CHALLENGE: 10 frog jumps, 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups  (How many rounds can you do in 10 minutes? Compare with last week's results.)

WEEK THREE - Keeping It Going

Day 15: 50 jumping jacks, 10 push-ups, 15 crunches, 15 standing static lunges (each leg; with or without hand weights), 15 squats (5 rounds)

Day 16: 10 frog jumps, 30-second plank, 30-second side plank (both sides), 20 walking lunges  (5 rounds)

Day 17: 30 seconds mountain climbers, 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups, 20 bridge lifts (5 rounds)

Day 18: Rest Day!

Day 19: 50 jumping jacks, 10 push-ups, 15 crunches, 15 rear lunges each leg, 15 squats (5 rounds)

Day 20: 10 burpees, 45-second plank, 45-second side plank (both sides), 15 side lunges each leg (5 rounds)

Day 21 - WEEKLY CHALLENGE: 10 frog jumps, 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups  (How many rounds can you do in 10 minutes? Compare with last week's results.)

WEEK FOUR - Home Stretch

Day 22: 50 jumping jacks, 10 push-ups, 15 crunches, 20 standing static lunges (each leg; with or without hand weights), 20 squats (5 rounds)

Day 23: 10 frog jumps, 45-second plank, 45-second side plank (both sides), 20 walking lunges  (5 rounds)

Day 24: 45 seconds mountain climbers, 10 push-ups, 15 sit-ups, 25 bridge lifts (5 rounds)

Day 25: Rest Day!

Day 26: 50 jumping jacks, 10 push-ups, 15 crunches, 20 rear lunges each leg, 20 squats (5 rounds)

Day 27: 10 burpees, 60-second plank, 60-second side plank (both sides), 20 side lunges each leg (5 rounds)

Day 28 - WEEKLY CHALLENGE: 10 frog jumps, 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups  (How many rounds can you do in 10 minutes? Compare with last week's results.)

LAST TWO DAYS - You can do it!

Day 29: 50 jumping jacks, 10 push-ups, 20 crunches, 20 lunges of your choice (each leg; with or without hand weights) (5 rounds)

Day 30: 10 burpees, 60-second plank, 60-second side plank (both sides), 25 squats (5 rounds)


So, what's next? 
If you are up for a bigger challenge, check out my 30-Day At-Home Cardio & CrossFit Challenge.

Disclaimer: I am not a physical fitness expert; just a woman who is trying to stay in shape and encourage others to do the same. Know yourself and your limits and don't do something if it doesn't feel right.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bay Cioppino

Tonight, I made Bay Cioppino from my favorite soup cookbook - Cuisine at Home: Splendid Soups & Spectaular Sides in my 8-quart dutch oven. Both the recipe and the cookware exceeded my expectations.

Being somewhat landlocked, fresh seafood is hard to come by. I found some small clams and wild caught prawns at Yoke's and used frozen Wild Alaskan Pacific Cod from Costco. Using roasted cherry tomatoes from last summer's garden and fresh herbs (thyme, basil, parsley) from my Aerogarden helped make this recipe a success.

The basic recipe follows:

  1. Sweat the following veggies in 2 Tbs. olive oil: 1 C onion, 1/2 C each of carrot, celery, red bell pepper, fennel bulb, 1 Tbs. garlic.
  2. Stir in: 2 Tbs. tomato paste, chopped fresh thyme, oregoano, basil, basil, and 1 tsp. red pepper flakes, salt, bay leaf. Deglaze with 1 C white wine. Simmer down 5 minutes or so.
  3. Add: 1 qt. tomatoes, 2 C chicken broth, 1 Tbs. lemon juice, 1 tsp. sugar. Simmer 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in 1 lb. clams or mussels, 3/4 lb. cubed cod. Simmer 5 minutes. Add 1/2 lb. shrimp. Simmer 5 more minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Bay Cioppino

Homemade No Knead Bread, Salad, and White Wine rounds out the meal.

Homemade Chocolate Mousse make a rich and delicious end to the meal.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Getting Closer

I like taking pictures and I want to become a better photographer. I finally have a decent camera (Nikon D3100 with a couple of basic lenses - 18-55mm, and 55-200mm zoom). I discovered a free online course called the Photocritic Photography School, which sends a lesson via email about every 3 weeks that teaches about a particular aspect of photography and gives an assignment. You can then upload a photo to Flickr and a real person provides feedback based on that lesson. For free! Really. So cool.

So, one of the assignments was called "Getting Closer" in which you were supposed to move in closer and closer to your live subject (person, cat, chimp, whatever) until you both were perhaps a little uncomfortable, even scared. The idea was to get a better portrait and tell a better story. The author asserts that, if you want to take better pictures, you almost always have to get closer to your subject. Of course, it helps if you get it perfectly in focus, especially the eyes. This is one of the hardest parts for me, especially when working with a subject who likes to move a lot, and one who wears glasses.

Here is my latest photo portrait using this approach. It is not perfect, but is much better than my first attempt, and I feel that I am "getting closer" to understanding a little bit more about photography.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dutch Oven Chicken in Milk

The second recipe I made using my new enameled cast iron 8-quart dutch oven is Jamie Oliver's Chicken in Milk recipe via the Food Network

Here it is fresh from the oven.

I served it, as suggested in the recipe, with mashed potatoes and spinach. For the potatoes, I first baked two large russets for an hour, then mashed them with about 1.5 cups skim milk, 1/3 cup greek yogurt, 1 tsp garlic salt, 1/2 tsp white pepper, and a little of the leftover butter from frying the chicken. I put the mashed potatoes in a baking dish, topped with a couple of pats of butter and sprinkled with paprika. I put it in the oven with the chicken for the last 45-50 minutes. I simply steamed the spinach for a minute in water and a little fresh lemon juice (from the lemons I zested for the chicken).

The whole dinner was declared delicious by everyone in the family! And the dutch oven has served me well so far.

Enameled Cast Iron Cookware

My husband and I have had a cookware epiphany over the past couple of months. Tired of our "professional" quality hard anodized aluminum pots and pans with nonstick coatings, which inevitably peel and chip away even with the most careful attention to use of proper utensils and hand-washing, we opted to give enameled cast iron a try. In his extensive research, my husband declares this to be the best, most even-heating, durable, cleanable stovetop-to-oven cookware available. He is an expert at review-based product research and seldom steers us wrong with his results, so I trust him with this. I also consider myself flexible and somewhat easy to please, although I often lean toward liking more expensive products.

In a flourish of prompt response to our decision, my dear husband removed the whole set of cookware from the cupboards and return them to Costco, where we had purchased them several years ago. Good ole Costco took them back! In their place, he bought a Le Creuset 12-inch skillet and pulled from the recesses of our cupboards the stainless steel pots that we had bought from Costco in a previous anti-nonstick coating cookware revelation. In that case, he decided he didn't like how much everything stuck to the stainless set and reverted back to nonstick, but upgraded to the "professional" quality set previously mentioned.

We have been using the Le Creuset skillet for a month now and love it! Naturally, it is expensive. Needing a larger pot for stews and roasts, and desiring the Le Creuset dutch oven but knowing that Costco sold a similar, made-in-France one at a fraction of the cost ($80 compared to $385), we bought the one from Costco (knowing, of course, that we could return it if we ended up not liking it). If you are interested in this product, here is the link: 8-Quart Oval French-made Dutch Oven from Costco

The first dish I I made in this dutch oven was a Texas-style Chili and it came out just right. Tonight, I will test the pot with a roast chicken using the following recipe: Jamie Oliver's Chicken in Milk recipe, via the Food Network.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sweet Pea's Eye Muscle Surgery

Role-Playing "Dr. Reznik"

My daughter's eye muscle surgery was scheduled for November 15, 2012. About a week before, I listened from the other room while my husband talked with Sweet Pea about the upcoming event. He explained that we would visit with the doctor first, then she would lie down and a doctor would cover her nose and mouth with a mask to help her fall asleep. Our daughter is very curious and already enjoys playing doctor, dentist, and orthodontist, so she was intrigued. They role-played a little bit, then it was bedtime.

I think my husband initiated this discussion to help prepare all three of us for the surgery. Indeed, he and I were probably more anxious about it than she was. Little did he know that playing "Dr. Reznik" would be Sweet Pea's favorite activity that she would want to play with each of us several times a day up until the date of surgery (and for several weeks afterwards). I just hoped we were being accurate enough in our play that she wouldn't be too upset by any changes in the game when it happened for real. I could just imagine her telling the doctors that they weren't playing properly.

Pre-Op: Parents Nervous; Daughter Cool as a Cucmber

We drove to Portland on the evening before the surgery. Luckily, my in-laws own a condo within a five minute drive to OHSU. We could even take the streetcar and the aerial tram right from the front door of the condo directly to the hospital. It was not an option for immediately following surgery, but Sweet Pea and I had taken that route during an earlier visit.  

We arose early on November 15 and were at the Elks Children's Eye Clinic by 7:45 am. An orthoptist examined Sweet Pea's eyes and recorded the data regarding her current vision and percent of inward crossing. We proceeded up one flight to the surgery center, where we registered and waited. 

We were all as prepared as we be. I had heard an explanation of the surgery twice already, so we knew the doctor would be cutting through the lining of each eye, secure two of the inner muscles on each eye with sutures, use a scalpel to cut these muscles from their attachment sites, reattach each to a new location using dissolvable sutures, and finally suture the eye linings. We knew that a pediatric anesthesiologist would comfort Sweet Pea and put her to sleep before they did anything else. We knew it might take a while for her to wake up after surgery and that she would likely be confused, upset, maybe even angry when she awoke.

When her name was called, we followed a nurse to the pre-op area where there was a roll-away bed, a cart of medical equipment, a small table, and a glider. This small area was separated from many other similar pre/post-op areas by sliding curtains. Not exactly spacious or private, but efficient I suppose. The nurse took Sweet Pea's vital signs and gave her some liquid medicine containing a sedative. We changed her into some hospital pj's and I sat in the glider with her on my lap. When the anesthesiologist came in, she asked if we thought the sedative was having an effect. Baba responded that he had never seen our daughter sit so still for so long. I was treasuring every cuddling moment as I tried to push away my fears of the worst things that could happen during surgery.      

The anesthesiologist and opthalmologist both took time to thoroughly explain the procedures, answer all our questions, and set us at ease. Sweet Pea has always been very brave about going to the doctor, getting shots, and even having her blood drawn. She exhibited no fear during the entire preoperative proceedings. Finally the dreaded moment came when we set our daughter on the bed, gave her a kiss, and watched as they wheeled her away from us down a hallway to the operating room. That was definitely one of the scariest parent moments either of us have experienced to date. 

There was nothing left to do but walk away and go find something to do for the next 90 minutes. Naturally, my husband suggested food. We made our way from the eye clinic over to the main hospital, where we found a big cafeteria where we ordered whatever we wanted for breakfast and ate it overlooking trees of fall color and the Willamette River. Odd feeling to go about such normal activities when your daughter is undergoing an operation. 

Post-Op: All is fine, but find that sock!

Before long, we were meeting with the surgeon who explained that the surgery went well and Sweet Pea would be waking soon. Her only discovery of note was that our daughter's eye muscle anatomy was slightly unusual. The inner muscles were thinner than normal and the rotator muscle curvature was opposite of normal. She did not express concern about these findings and could not confirm whether or not this contributed to her strabismus.

When it was time to go see our daughter after surgery, all cautionary advice proved to be well warranted. She cried and screamed and wailed, and arched her back when the post-op nurse put her in my arms. I held her as tight as possible, hummed, talked, sang, and mostly just tried not to drop my inconsolable child. The focus of her frustration became the fact that she was missing a sock on her left foot where they had inserted the IV. She cried, "My sock! My sock! I want my sock!" In our confusion, Baba looked around for the missing sock until the nurse pointed out that it was on top of the sock on her right foot. For some reason which made no sense to me, the needle end from the IV was still in her foot. Sweet Pea would have grabbed it and ripped it right off of her foot if we hadn't gotten the nurse to remove it promptly. Baba had to hold her kicking legs and I held her flailing arms and body while the nurse tried to stop the bleeding. Unfortunately, even after the sock business had been resolved, Sweet Pea remained very upset, refusing all attempts at placating her, including a popsicle. Finally, we just carried her out in her hospital pj's crying all the way down the elevator and out to the car.

She fell asleep during the five minute ride back to the condo and proceeded to sleep in bed for the next three or four hours, and most of the night too. She awoke long enough to let us give her some pain medicine and eye drops, to eventually eat some dinner and watch a little movie, then for a couple of hours during the night since she had slept so much of the day.

We returned to see Dr. Reznik the next day, who determined that Sweet Pea was recovering as expected and the crossing, although not eliminated, was reduced from 25-30% to about 5-8% as a result of the surgery. It was not the perfect result I had hoped for, but was a significant improvement. I was glad we had decided to have the surgery done. I am thankful for Dr. Reznik and her team at the Elks Children's Eye Clinic for their professionalism and care. I am glad it is over and look forward to looking into Sweet Pea's beautiful dark eyes and having her look straight back at me.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Christmas Almost-Paleo Pumkin Spice Bundt Cake

My in-laws came to celebrate Christmas with us this year. My father-in-law has celiac disease, but I really wanted to make a nice dessert for Christmas Day dinner. I found a recipe for Paleo Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Coconut Cream Glaze at a blog I follow called Clean Eats in the Zoo. I have attempted other gluten-free dessert recipes in the past that have not turned out so well, so I was a little anxious about trying this one for a special meal. Luckily, my in-laws are very forgiving and are good subjects for experimenting with new recipes.

I did not have coconut cream on hand, so I made a simple (but decidedly non-paleo) powdered sugar icing made with leftover coconut milk. Aside from putting the icing on too soon, which caused it to melt more than it should have, I must say that it turned out beautifully. And it was oh so yummy! One secret ingredient that gave it that extra something was pureed pumpkin that I had in the freezer from the fall harvest. Every one of my very health conscious family members had seconds. I just love it when that happens.