Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hopes, Dreams and Plans - Revisited!


I posted this blog over a year ago and just went back to it. I love seeing how things change and improve over time, and I think it's encouraging when you can see real goals that you have actually accomplished. Of course, there are some goals that you set that may change or you just don't actually get to achieve, but I think it's better to look at that as a challenge rather than a discouragement. I wanted to revisit these goals, and fill you in on the year that followed this post. The original goals are in black - the outcome, in red :)

Hopes, Dreams and Plans for the Next 365 Days (originally posted April 23, 2011)

1.) Finish writing and defend my PhD proposal to officially become a "Doctoral Candidate." 
Done! I defended my proposal in February of this year! I am officially a PhD candidate :)

2.) Plan a stunning beach wedding in the Caribbean for next May!
Done! I got to say my vows to my best friend and the love of my life, on the beach in Cozumel, on May 19th of this year. It was more perfect than I could have possibly ever imagined.

3.) To get ALL of our debt paid off.
DONE! AHH! It feels so good to say that on this one, for sure. We successfully paid off over $18K on hubby's truck...I think in August of last year. And we made the final payment on his over $18,500 worth of student loans in May of this year. We are so happy to finally be debt free and working towards bigger and better goals!

4.) Start downsizing on a lot of our stuff before the wedding...gotta make room for the bridal shower gifts, and get rid of some things before we move...I'm hoping to have a really good garage sale!
No garage sale, but we did get rid of some stuff! We got a whole heap of awesome kitchen stuff for our wedding, so we gave most of our old stuff that we either didn't use or got replacements for to his little sister. We didn't end up moving away for good this summer, as we had originally anticipated, so this one kinda got pushed to the back burner. We have some work to do before May 2013 ;) 

5.) Complete the entire 60 days of INSANITY by Beachbody. I've started it two different times before, but I usually get about 3 weeks in and get distracted and get off track. I really want to get all the way through it sticking to the daily workout schedule at least once, hopefully twice over the next year!
Unfortunately I can't say I accomplished this one :( However, I did get through 7 of the 9 weeks, just before the wedding! I felt really good about that, and felt really accomplished. Insanity is a hard, yet amazing, workout program. We actually just started it back up this week, only this time, Husband is doing it with me! I will keep you posted on our progress :)

6.) Plan a nice weekend getaway to Lake Tahoe during the two weeks of my soldier's mid-tour leave in August. Neither one of us have ever been to Tahoe, so we are super excited!
As usual, the Army had other plans in mind. His leave got moved back about 2 months, so by the time he got to come home, I was already back home and not in California. BUT, we did end up having a nice little weekend getaway to Branson, and we got to surprise his entire family because they didn't know he was getting leave...it was so neat! :)

7.) Publish my 2nd journal article over my research, and hopefully get enough data to be working on my 3rd.
Unfortunately, not done. But I did get my graduation pushed back a year after completely changing my dissertation project, so let's try this one again!

8.) Have my dissertation either done or very close to it. I think I have to have it in by May 6th of next year to graduate that semester!
See #7.

9.) Purchase an anti-bark collar for my dog. Random though, I know...but Koda has been awfully mouthy today...
Ha. I think I must have been really annoyed with my dog the day I wrote this. Koda has gotten much better about his barking now that Daddy is home. He still has moments, but shocking him into submission isn't quite as necessary anymore ;)

Whew. Now that those are out of the way (or still in progress), here is a list from another blog post on September 7, 2011:

My 3/4 Year's Resolutions

1.) Run a half marathon.
Done! I did the Route 66 Half Marathon in Tulsa in November. It was hard, but I am so glad I can knock that off the bucket list! 

2.) Finish writing and defend my PhD proposal.
Done! See above :)

3.) Pay off all debt, except for the student loans (when we both have big kid jobs, those will go quickly), and build up a solid savings of 3-6 months worth of expenses.
Done! And we actually paid off the student loans a lot faster than we thought was possible. We also have the solid savings, and we are now focusing on saving up for a down payment on a house when we officially move next summer :)

4.) Complete the entire 60 days of INSANITY by Beachbody.
See above :)

5.) Spend more quality time with my family. After ten and a half weeks this far away, I realize how much I have taken for granted the fact that I am typically only an hour and forty minute drive away. Knowing that I will have about 8 months back home in Arkansas before I return to California next summer, and then another 8-9 months before we move out here for good, I want to take advantage of the time I do still have.
I do feel like I got to spend more time with them, though not as much as I would've liked! I will say this though...one of the coolest things to me was seeing our two families intermingle the couple of days leading up to the wedding in Mexico. So neat!

6.) Plan a stunning beach wedding in the Caribbean in May! (8 and a half months!) 
Done! :)

7.) Do some serious downsizing of our junk and getting rid of things we don't need, particularly in the office/spare bedroom. Maybe even have a garage sale!
Done-ish. See above ;)

8.) Buy a sewing machine and learn how to use it, at least to make simple things.
Ahh. Well, I did buy a sewing machine. Got a great deal on it on Black Friday actually :) And then found out when Walter got home (a week before Christmas) that he was planning on getting me one for Christmas...oops :/ But I haven't learned how to use it yet...haha. That's still on the to-do list. Sewing lessons are in order for the Fall, hopefully!

1.) Get LASIK eye surgery done. 
Not done. Maybe I can convince my husband that this would be a good graduation present ;) But we are trying really hard to save every penny we can to put towards buying a house less than year from now, so that one may have to wait :)

2.) Watch at least 2 of my nephew's football games this Fall.
Done! I was so sad I didn't get to make it to any baseball games in the Spring/Summer though :(

3.) Watch at least 2 of my niece's soccer games this Fall.
Done! She is a little superstar! I can't wait to see her play more :)

4.) Participate in Warrior Dash on September 24th.
Done! And it was so much fun! I posted a blog about it a while back, if you would like the details :)

5.) Run the 10K at the Chili Pepper Festival on October 15th.
Didn't do this one, but I did to the Freakin' Eurekan 15K trail race (less than a month after a car accident I might add...) haha...it was rough!

6.) Complete the Route 66 Half Marathon on November 20th.
Done! See above :)

7.) Complete 4 weeks of Boot Camp, using my Groupon :)
Also done! I blogged about it too :)

8.) Start eating bigger meals so I don't wither away with all this running and exercise...haha
haha...this has not been a problem...I should probably cut back on the food! ;)

9.) Defend my PhD proposal by the end of the semester (I was going to try to do it by October, but now that I am changing my project a bit, I'm going to need a little more time).
Done! See above :)

10.) Have my 2nd first-author publication submitted by the end of the year.
Not done. See above :(

11.) Pay off the truck no later than the 1st of November.
Done! Yes! 

12.) Get my wedding dress altered in time to do some bridal pictures when all the trees are pretty colors :)
Done! I got it altered just in time, and my amazing friend Erin did the photo shoot for me on the University of Arkansas campus (I seriously don't think there are many places that can beat Fayetteville in the fall)! They turned out amazing!

Well, that was fun for me :) I feel like I have accomplished most of the things I set out to do. Time to clean up those stragglers, and start verbalizing some new goals! I think I always have ideas floating around in my head of what I would like to accomplish, but I think putting those thoughts into words and claiming them as real goals is really important. I am certainly going to start working on the new list! :)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

G.I. Jane (minus the whole shaved head thing...)

So...my husband and I have this genius idea to start training for what we would each need to do to score a 300 on an Army PT test. Really, it was his idea for himself...and I just decided to join the craziness for moral support....you know, being a good military wife and all. haha.

For me, that means 68 sit-ups in 2 minutes, 34 push-ups in 2 minutes (yep, the real kind, not the girl kind), and a 2-mile run in 17:12...For him, that means 80 sit-ups, 75 push-ups and 13:00 for his 2-mile run. Our goal is to be able to do this by the end of November, which gives us somewhere around 23 weeks, but the sooner the better.

As you probably already know, I am an Insanity fan. I have actually never successfully finished the full 9-week program, but I did manage to make it through the first 7 weeks not too long before our wedding...then I went to China for a conference, we went to Cozumel for our wedding-moon, and moved to California right after...so that's as far as I've ever gotten. Nonetheless, I suggested Insanity as a good starting point for him, because it is an AMAZING way to jump start your cardio. I used this to drag him in:

I broke my PR for my fastest 5K (for those of you that don't know, that's 3.1 miles) time in March at 27:25. Prior to that, my fastest 5K time was 29:57, and I attribute that to my 60 lb. Pit Bull who thinks running is fun...in other words, imagine he was a husky and I was his sled. I had been doing Insanity for about 4 weeks at that point, but had not been running...at all. I was really nervous for that run, because I thought I wasn't going to make it the entire 3.1 miles without stopping, much less do it at a respectable pace. Turns out...Insanity is the best cardio I have ever done. I cut two and a half minutes off my prior 5K PR without running at all!

He bought it. (Man, they should hire me for advertisements or something!)

So we started Insanity on Monday.

All that to say...I think I can get my 2-mile run down to 17:12 fairly easily. Push-ups and sit-ups however...make me want to give up and eat nothing but ice cream. So Walter, being the amazing husband he is, found these workout plans online to help you with those awful things:

200 Sit Ups

100 Push Ups

So in addition to Insanity, we also started these this week. We started with sit-ups on Monday. For week 1, day 1, I started in column 2. I followed their suggestions for sets 1-4, and managed to squeeze out 24 sit-ups for set 5 (I accidentally skipped the Initial Test...guess I probably should have started with column 3, but oh well). Walter did column 3 and his max for set 5 was 25.

We did push-ups yesterday. For week 1, day 1, I started in column 2. I can do right at about 6 legit, good-form push-ups consecutively. And that is pushing it. I am a weenie. I may have needed to start in column 1...but I did column 2. I think my max for set 5 was 6, but they were ugly. Walter did much better than me, but he is a boy. That's my excuse.

Our plan is to do Insanity as recommended by the program (6 days a week) at least for the first four weeks. Then we are going to see where we are with our running. We are also going to alternate days in which we do our push-ups and sit-ups. Today is back to sit-ups. My abs and back are going to hate me (anybody else's back hurt more than anything else from doing sit-ups? I thought it was weird...)

I am hoping to keep track of our progress and see how we improve. Maybe one day I'll be fit enough to pass an Army PT test. For no reason...other than supporting my husband. haha. I will keep you posted!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Return from the blogging hiatus?

I've decided I'm not a very good blogger. 

Sometimes I really enjoy it and just want to post everything...

And other times (like those of late...) I just don't really have much to say and have zero desire to post anything. 

I like the idea of blogging...more for myself than for others to actually read. I used to keep a journal, which I also liked some aspects of, but not so much on some others. My hand gets tired from writing after a while...or my neck from looking down at the pages...or I just feel like it takes too long.  But I really hate the idea of not keeping some sort of record of memories. I love looking back on things or a period of time in my life and either reminiscing over the good, laughing at the stupid, and seeing how far I've come since the bad. I think that's important. 

So...perhaps for my own sake...I should just start blogging random little tidbits about my life. Not to keep everyone else updated, but to give me something to look back on one day :)

Life has been crazy lately. Between going out of town just about every weekend since the start of 2012, spending a week in China, the end of the semester approaching, the wedding just under two weeks away, and planning the summer move across the country, I feel like I don't have time to breathe. I feel like I'm busy all the time, but also feel like I rarely get anything done. It's frustrating.

It dawned on me this morning while I was eating my cereal, that I have been missing out! I have been letting myself become so busy and so overwhelmed, that I am forgetting to soak it all in and enjoy where I am, right here, right now. That's not me.

So here's to a fresh start.

It's time to start finding the joy in life again. In the big things, and in the little things.

-I have until Saturday before I have to say "see you later" to my 4-legged children for almost two weeks while they go stay with their Grandpa Keith on the other side of the state while we go celebrate our marriage in Mexico. I'm going to cheat...feed them scraps and let them cuddle with me on the couch. I'm going to spoil them rotten! 

-I get to watch my little cousin, Derek, (who's not so little anymore...) graduate from high school this weekend. Other than my baby sister who still has a few years, he's the last one of us (the kids I grew up with on my mom's side of the family) to walk across that stage and start a new chapter of his life. We are growing up :)

-Speaking of growing up...the final year of my "mid-twenties" starts tomorrow. Yikes. I'm probably going to ditch the "easy-on-the-sugar-before-Mexico" diet and take a special trip to Braum's tomorrow to celebrate! ;)

-This weekend I get to celebrate with the best sisters and best girlfriends a girl could ask for before they see me off to get married. Most of them I don't get to see nearly enough. I'm going to cherish every minute :)

-Over the next week and a half, I get to decide exactly what I'm going to say in my vows to the love of my life, pick out which quotes and pieces of scripture which best define the meaning of our marriage, and finalize the song choices that are going to be played at my wedding. Instead of worry about getting these done in time, I'm going to embrace them, and thank God profusely for letting me share the adventure we call life with  the best friend and truest love I have ever known!

I am extremely blessed. I don't want to forget or lose sight of that. I also don't want to get so busy planning my life that I don't take the time to LIVE it.

So here goes :)

I can't promise I'll be back soon. If I had to guess, it will probably be after I officially become Mrs. Merriman! :)


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Zoodles & Squoodles Pizza Casserole

Since my last update, we have actually been doing really good in keeping with our New Year's Resolution to try at least one new recipe each week. I have just been failing miserably at posting any of them. So here goes!

Have you ever heard of the "Paleo Diet?" I hadn't (either) until we went to visit Jesse & Patrick for Spring Break. I am not a believer in diets...I think "diets" are dangerous, because they are something you do for a short period of time, and then you quit and you likely will gain every bit of weight back that you lost...and then all that stress you put yourself and your body through while on said diet...absolutely worthless. I don't believe in diets...I believe in lifestyle. Eating healthy (most of the time), controlling your portions if you want to lose weight, and making sure you get the necessary nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. 

I don't know a whole lot about the Paleo Diet, but I do know this: you're not allowed to eat bread/pasta/rice or dairy. That pretty much knocks in completely off my list of diets to try, by the way (if I actually had said list...). Fiber is very important, and most of your fiber comes from grains. And well, I just love milk (they do allow soy milk, but I like cow milk)! And ice cream. And cheese. Yeah...I couldn't do no dairy. But I do see some benefits of the Paleo diet...namely high protein, and lots of fresh veggies. Veggies are good for me. They also tell you not to eat anything that's processed or has added preservatives, which is also good (although sometimes impractical, for me at least). But Jesse made and fed us a couple of different "Paleo-allowed" meals while we were in North Carolina, and while I would never do a strict Paleo diet myself, I found a recipe that actually sounded pretty good when I got home, so I decided to make it:


I'm not going to write out the entire recipe and ingredients because they are listed directly on that blog, but i will share a couple tips I discovered: For the pizza sauce, I used Classico brand. It was really good, and they actually don't use preservatives, which is nice. And for the sun-dried tomatoes, I do have a recommendation: make sure they are buried in the sauce somewhere. The ones embedded within the casserole were delicious, but the ones that just kinda landed on top were burnt to a crisp...not so yummy. 

Here is how mine turned out:

It was pretty yummy! We are glad we gave it a shot! But I'm pretty sure I made a glass of milk later that evening, so I definitely don't do all Paleo...haha :)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Break Adventures

I mentioned in my last post that we just got back from a nice little vacation to North (and South) Carolina over Spring Break. I thought I would give a few more details of our adventures and post some pictures (of course)!

So last week was Spring Break...which really, for a grad student, doesn't typically translate to much. But fortunately the timing worked out and my advisors were kind enough to let me disappear for a couple of days. I had been running my 60 hour 'round-the-clock experiment the week before, and finished it up the first Saturday of Spring Break week. I had already released the Better Half the afternoon before (Friday) to go down to Longview, Texas, to visit a buddy of his and have some guy time for a few days (he definitely doesn't get enough of that). After my 5K and finishing up that experiment on Saturday, I spent the remainder of the weekend  relaxing with my 4-legged children who were feeling very neglected, enjoying the rainy weather and getting somewhat caught up on all that recorded TV on my DVR that I don't have time for. It was nice :)

I got a little bit of work done Monday and Tuesday, and then got to leave for North Carolina on Wednesday morning! I got up dark and early to finish some last minute packing and take the puppies to the kennel to live in doggie jail for a few days while mommy and daddy went on vacation. They were so sad. But I must say...I am really excited about the new place I found to keep them while we are away! Normally I really hate having to board the dogs...they are super spoiled (to say that least), and I always feel really bad leaving them in a nasty kennel. I also always worry that they are not going to get enough attention or exercise and I am going to have to take them on a 5 mile run when I get home from a vacation just to burn off all that pent up energy. But a couple weeks before we left, I happened to find a great kennel just a few minutes away from my house! It was nice, with large kennels (with small dog runs attached so they had room to move around), and there was a large fenced-in play area that they got individual playtime in during the day. The dogs seemed to be in really good spirits when we picked them up on Sunday...and the completely crashed the moment we got home and slept all evening and all night! It only took Koda about a day to get over his separation anxiety, which I'm pretty sure was a record (yes, my 60 lb. Pit Bull has emotional issues...haha). Anyways...I digress!

Since Walter was already in Texas with the car, he drove to Dallas early Wednesday morning and I flew out of Arkansas and met up with him at the airport. We flew to Raleigh, where we were greeted by the other half of my heart (Jesse) and then we headed to Fayetteville, NC, for a couple of days! Jesse's husband is currently stationed at Ft. Bragg, so we got to see the post...which to me was huge. Patrick (a.k.a. Patty) is very busy with training, but we did manage to get to spend most of Wednesday evening and part of Thursday evening with both of them, which was nice. Walter enjoyed having a dude to talk to while me and Jesse got all caught up :) Jesse also took us to work out at the Crossfit gym on post, and my butt was hating me for it for the next two days. Then she took us on a little road trip to Myrtle Beach, SC, on Friday! Patty had to work (duty calls...), so he didn't get to go with us :( But we had a great time! 

We got there, and of course the first stop was food. And since we were at the beach, what better food to get than sushi? So thanks to Yelp, we found this place :)

The service was a little slow, and since we sat on the patio, I had (unknowingly) already gotten a little bit of a sunburn before we ever got to the beach...

But the food was still delicious!
We could see the ocean from the restaurant, so we drove a few blocks down the street and found a place to park and walked down to the beach!

Myrtle Beach

I am used to the west coast, so coming to the east coast is a nice treat. I had only been to the east coast once before, on my senior trip the summer after I graduated high school...which oddly enough was also at Myrtle Beach! I love that the water is warmer and there is little to no seaweed! Walter was kinda a baby and thought the water was cold...

so he had me worried because I am a weenie when it comes to cold! But when I went out there, all I could say was, "If you think this is cold, you are going to hate the Pacific ocean..." It was perfect! We played in the water for a bit and then laid out and got some sun :)

Here are a few more pictures:
Us rockin' our fancy shades ;)
The other half of my heart and me. I just love her :)
 We had such a great time! Jesse is truly one of my very best friends. We are two kindred spirits, and it is nice to have someone that really understands you :)

After the beach, we drove to a little town called Clinton, NC, to meet up with my Little Stevie for the rest of our time in North Carolina! Jesse dropped us off and went home to her hubby, and Walter and I spent some quality time with Little and Baby Little (Easton, Stevie's beautiful little boy). I did not get a picture, but we stopped at this little diner called Kaleel's City Grill for dinner...it was amazing. Then we drove to Goldsboro, NC, where Stevie lives at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base (no really, that's what it's called). Unfortunately Mr. Little (Chris) was on TDY for the Air Force while we were visiting, so we didn't get to see him. But we spent the rest of Friday and all day Saturday hanging out with Stevie and the Little man and it was so nice to sit and relax. I'm pretty sure all we did was watch TV and eat. It was fantastic. haha. We got to finally give Easton his birthday presents (his 1st birthday was January 10th!)...here he is modeling one of his new shirts:
How can you not love those faces? :)
He absolutely adored Walter and it was precious. Walter was pretty fond of Baby Little too. Oh, and I'm thoroughly convinced that I want boys when we finally decide have children. haha. 

We also had to take a trip to Target to pick up a few things, and Baby Little got his very first bean bag chair :)
Can we buy this? Please? :)
I just love that kid :) And his momma. And I miss them like crazy! Stevie was a trooper and drove us to the airport at like 4am...we flew back to Dallas and drove the car home...it made for a long day. I was a big fat loser and didn't get any pictures with my Little :( 

The trip was definitely not long enough, and I miss all of them more than words. But it was so nice to get away for a bit and get to visit some of the people that I love dearly! And it didn't hurt my feelings that, thanks to airline miles, I paid a total of $12.50 for both of our plane tickets to go out there :D 

Happy Spring! I know we didn't have much of a winter, but I am glad it is finally Spring and the trees are blooming again. Kinda like vacations, it makes things feel fresh....which was just what I needed :) 


Monday, March 26, 2012

Long time no post...

My life has been a little chaotic lately. I haven't been posting...at all. I thought I would give you a little update on what is new in the wonderful world of Lauren (and Walter) :)

  • We are officially less than 8 weeks away from our beach wedding in Cozumel! We actually leave to go down there exactly 7 weeks from this coming Thursday. When we started planning it over a year ago, it seemed forever away...and now that we are approaching the big day, it seems like these last couple of months have flown by. I couldn't be more excited though. I am planning on posting an update on how the wedding plans are going within the next week, so stay tuned!
  • I successfully defended my PhD proposal almost exactly 1 month ago, which means I am officially a PhD candidate, and also means I am one step closer to graduating! It is so nice to have that load off. I have been busy in the lab and it has been nice to get away from the computer/writing and do some research. This is how I feel most of the time: 
 

...but this is sometimes what it really looks like:
 

Yep. That's a sleeping bag...in my office floor. Last week I was running a 60 hour experiment that I had to monitor every four hours. Which translates into practically living in my office, so the sleeping bag (and the foam mattress topper) were absolute necessities. The joys of trying to become a rocket scientist...don't act like you're not jealous... ;)
  • On that note...7.5 weeks until the wedding also means about 7 weeks of school (6 weeks of classes, 1 week of finals...Walter is ecstatic!), which also means about 9 weeks until we return to the lovely Ridgecrest, California, for "Internship: The Sequel"...get excited. We are working on trying to get Walter an internship out there so he doesn't die from boredom and leave me forever. Say a little prayer for us :) The good news is, we are incredibly blessed with a great house to stay in this summer, thanks to Kristin - a coworker friend of mine that I met while I was there last summer that is renting one of their houses to us! We already have a Budget truck rental booked for the week of the move. Now if only I could get motivated to start on some of the packing... :P
  • Spring Break was last week, and after my week of sleeping on my office floor, we got a nice treat and got to go visit some of my friends that live in North Carolina for a few days. We left Wednesday and got back yesterday. I got to visit the other half of my heart (a.k.a my dear friend Jesse who is one of my bridesmaids in the wedding) and her husband for a couple of days. We went to the beach :) And I also got to go visit my amazing Little Stevie and her gorgeous baby boy, Easton (a.k.a "Baby Little"). Unfortunately Mr. Little was on TDY for the Air Force, so we didn't get to see him, but we had a great time and a much needed vacation! That's all I'm going to say about it for now because it deserves a blog post all it's own :)
  • Wow. I just realized by looking back at old blog posts that it really has been FOREVER since I've updated. I quit P90X. I didn't enjoy it, and decided to switch back to Insanity about a month ago. I started week 4 as of this morning. I am actually repeating week 4 this week to make up for the fact that I only did the workouts 2 of the 6 days last week since I was in North Carolina for the rest of the week. This means I have 5 weeks left after this one, which will mean I will have time to finish the complete 60 days about a week before the wedding! :) 

  • I have also ran a couple of races since my last post! I actually ran my first 5K of the season last weekend! My sister and I have done the St. Patrick's Day 5K in Tulsa together for the past 3 years. We get to dress up in all green and run 3.1 miles. It's a good time. One of these years I am going to remember to take a "before" picture instead of an "after" picture where I just ran 3 miles and look disgusting. One of these years :) On an exciting note, I finished in 27:25, which just so happens to be my personal record for a 5K. I was pretty excited considering I hadn't ran pretty much since the Freakin' Eurekan 15K Trail Race back in February...which I also don't think I ever posted about. But let's just say this...it was really cold, my knee was killing me after about mile 4...I would have completely stopped running after mile 6 if it weren't for the fact that I was on a trail and the only way out was to finish it. haha...I may never do a trail race again actually. But it was still a good time...I had fun with my friend Christie, we got free soup after it was over, and they gave me some really awesome running socks that I would've never bought for myself (too expensive)...so all in all it was a good time! :) Here's my sister and I after the 5K:
 
  • I have been a complete slacker on my New Year's Resolution by the way. We were doing so well at first...but then school got crazy and our slow cooker died. Bad combination. I have, however, been sticking to making menus. We have just had a lot of repeats of things that we tried earlier in the year and liked. haha. But I added something new this week...hopefully it turns out well and I can post a yummy recipe again soon!

Well, I think that is a pretty decent update for now. I am really hoping to get back into the swing of things and post at least a little more regularly. We'll see... Last week was really good for both of us...gave us a nice break and a bit of a fresh start. It feels good, and I am hoping to regain a little bit of control in my life and conquer the chaos. Happy Monday!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Grain and Nut Whole Wheat Pancakes

I am really excited about this week's Tasty Tuesday post :) It has been one of my favorites so far! 

Have you ever tried the Harvest Grain 'N Nut Pancakes from IHOP? If you haven't, you are missing out...they are crazy delicious! If you have...you know exactly what I mean :) 

The bad news is...they are probably not really all that healthy if they come from IHOP (c'mon, let's face it...it's IHOP...). The good news...I am about to share with you a pretty dang awesome substitute recipe :)

I found this recipe at allrecipes.com, and read some of the reviews and decided to give it a shot. I was actually a little nervous at first because I have never made pancakes completely from scratch. The best I have ever done is adding an egg to the Aunt Jemima mix that comes from a box...of course! The scary thing is...Walter LOVES Aunt Jemima...like seriously, one time I bought Hungry Jack pancake mix and he looked like a little kid that just lost his puppy. So not only was I trying something new for the first time, I had to live up to the queen of pancakes. Yikes!

Here is the recipe:
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal (I just used instant...worked fine)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup milk (I used skim milk)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I substituted 1/2 cup applesauce!)
1 egg (I used 2...)
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts (optional - I definitely used them!)

I had read some of the reviews for the pancakes, and the only complaint really was that some people found them to be pretty dry. That is why I added an egg and used applesauce instead of vegetable oil. I also added a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and I think that added some nice flavor too :) 

Directions:
1. Grind the oats in a blender or food processor until fine. In a large bowl, combine ground oats, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
2. In another bowl, combine buttermilk, milk, oil (applesauce), egg(s), (vanilla and cinnamon) with an electric mixer until smooth. Mix wet ingredients into dry with a few swift strokes. Stir in nuts, if desired.
3. Lightly oil a skillet or griddle (I used a little I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray), and preheat it to medium heat. Ladle 1/3 cup of the batter onto the hot skillet; cook the pancakes 2 to 4 minutes per side, or until brown.

I think my stove is a little slow (I hate electric stoves, by the way...), so I actually heated my skillet a little hotter. Mine worked great when I had it set around medium-high heat and cooked for about 4 minutes per side. One thing I would recommend anytime you are making pancakes: try to only flip them once; they will stay more on the fluffy side instead of the flat side :)

They were probably some of the best pancakes I have ever had! One bit of warning though...that recipe makes a whole bunch of pancakes! haha. I think I ended up with 11 pancakes total...and they were not small pancakes...they were pretty good size!

Nutrition info:
(*Note: this is what was on the website, so I don't know if it's exact since I changed the oil to applesauce and added an egg*)
Servings: 6 (2 pancakes)
Calories: 383
Total Fat: 15.5 g

Unfortunately they did not give anymore information than that on the website, but I'm going to bet there was a lot of fiber! ;) 

In addition to the 3 tablespoons of walnuts, I also added a tablespoon of chopped pecans, and I will probably add a little more next time (I guess I'm trying to say I like the nuts...). I will also probably cut the recipe in half so that I don't have a freezer full of pancakes when I'm done next time :) Another thing I would recommend, as I did with the French Toast, is real maple syrup...none of that pancake (high-fructose corn) syrup stuff! It was delicious! I actually just ate one pancake (okay, okay...and half of another one while they were cooking...), with my real maple syrup, and cut up a banana to have with it...it was delicious! Also, they were very moist - I think it was the applesauce! - so I really didn't even need much syrup to make them taste good!



Enjoy!



Friday, January 27, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The good: I have made a little progress with some wedding things this week!

We officially have a wedding website:


And thanks to my awesome sister who bought us a domain name, it is just our names and not the long one that the actual wedding website gave us :)

I created it at mywedding.com. It was really simple to use, and free, which of course I liked, and it doesn't have obnoxious ads or anything like that. It has a place to list information about you as a couple, the wedding party, other details/events, as well as provides a place for RSVP (since I'm pretty sure nobody sends in those response cards anymore...) and a place to list your registries!

Speaking of...I also finished setting up our honeymoon registry, which was a lot of fun :) We had already registered for some gifts for the home, but since we are 25, have lived on our own for so long and already have the essentials for a house, I thought a honeymoon registry would be a good alternative in case people wanted to add a little adventure to our lives ;) 

When I started researching honeymoon registry websites, I couldn't believe how much the website itself was charging the gift givers/wedding couple (depending on how you look at it)! Most of them kept 7-10% of the amount that people gave as gifts before it actually gave the gifts to the wedding couple. Umm...no thank you. I  contemplated doing lots of work to set up one on my own and just use PayPal, but then I found Honeyfund. It is a free honeymoon registry website, but it uses PayPal as an optional payment method - so the only kicker there is that PayPal does charge some small fees (2.9% of the payment + $0.30 per transaction). BUT it gives gift givers the option to give the wedding couple the gift as a cash or check gift, which is of course fee-less. It does have a few ads on the page, but I like free, so I can live with that :)

I honestly don't anticipate a lot of wedding gifts considering we do have a lot of things we need already. Not to mention, the people that are coming to our wedding are already sacrificing more than we could ever ask to be there and I am completely and overwhelmingly honored by how many people are actually coming to share our big day with us! But I have had a few people ask me where we are registered and what we need, so I thought having some registry options would be beneficial :)

The bad: Though I have made some progress with the above mentioned items, I am falling behind on the invitation details. We did send out Save the Dates a long time ago, which had all of the information about the resort and how to make reservations through our travel agency...and I think most people that are planning on coming have already booked or at least told me they plan too...but I still want to send out the official invitation. I am just trying to plan a few more details ("rehearsal" dinner, reception, etc.) before I have them made. I need really need to get on that...I also have my PhD proposal draft due a week from today...so I kinda have my hands full. This has been a bit of a hectic week...which leads me to...

The Ugly: 

Tax returns.

Ugh. 

I have been working like a madwoman all week on getting my taxes done. I really miss the days when I could just file the simple little 1040EZ form and call it good. With the way my scholarship pays me, they don't automatically deduct my taxes from my paycheck, which means I have to pay them myself, directly. Also, with my internship this summer, I had a whole heap of travel expenses that qualified as deductions. I miss the days of "standard deduction," which I could still take, I would just have to pay more taxes, and who wants to do that? So I've been hunting down and sorting through receipts all week and finally got it all settled. Fortunately, I was warned that I needed to make quarterly tax payments to the federal government in order to avoid penalties and interest for late tax payments. Unfortunately, I did not know that also applied to state taxes (I know, probably should've used a little deductive reason there, but I didn't). So the good news is I get a decent little chunk of money back from the federal government, but the bad news is I do owe the state a small fortune. Thanks to some advice I got last year from my friend who is an accountant, I saved 25% of every paycheck I ever got for the sole purposes of using it on taxes if I needed it...which is significantly more than I actually had to pay in after all my deductions...so even though I owe the state some money, it is still kinda like getting a tax refund :) 

My take-away here is mostly just that filing taxes can be an ugly process. Plan ahead. If your employer doesn't take them out for you, be sure to pay your quarterly tax payments (both federal and state). If you can get your employer to just take them out for you, please do. And know that I'm super jealous of those of you that have that ability. Also, I highly recommend taxslayer.com if you are doing your taxes yourself. It is super handy and walks you through every detail and helps you take every deduction properly.

Now onto brighter things...like wedding invitations and becoming Dr. Woods someday. 
Well...actually it'll be Dr. Merriman by then! :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tasty...Thursday :) - Slow Cooker Lasagna and eating healthy on a budget

Since I missed "Tasty Tuesday," I thought I would just opt for Tasty Thursday instead.

I told you here about our New Year's resolution to try at least one new recipe each week. We have actually been doing more than one each week...maybe we should slow down so I don't run out of ideas before the end of the year ;) But no, really it has been kinda fun, although time consuming (and money consuming...) at times...trying new things, finding out if we like it enough to make it again, and expanding my cooking repertoire beyond boxed and frozen dinners.

We are really enjoying our new slow cooker, and so far, we've probably been doing at least one meal a week in it. I like lasagna a lot, but had never made it homemade before. I am a big fan of the Stouffer's Lasagna in my grocer's freezer...I actually really like it (Walter makes fun of me for it even...), but I thought I should maybe venture out a bit and try something new. I found "Chef Meg's Slow Cooker Lasagna" recipe on my SparkRecipes iPad app, and it was a hit.



Ingredients:
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 2 cups eggplant, diced (no need to peel it)
*Note: I had never eaten eggplant before, much less diced it myself. I found this YouTube video to coach me through it: Cooking Tips: How to Dice Purple Eggplant)
- 1 jar low-sodium marinara sauce
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 15 oz. ricotta cheese, part skim
- 1 Tbsp parsley, chopped (I used 1 tsp of dried parsley)
- 1/4 cup egg substitute (or 1 egg white - I used egg white)
- 1 cup shredded Italian blend cheese
- 6 lasagna noodles, dried, no boil variety (I didn't know what no boil variety meant and just used plain ol' Great Value lasagna noodles...they worked perfectly fine!)

Directions:
1.) Brown the ground beef in a skillet over moderate heat; drain.
2.) Stir in red pepper flakes, thyme, sauce, eggplant and water.
3.) In a bowl, combine egg, ricotta, Italian cheese blend and parsley.
4.) Place enough meat sauce to cover the bottom of slow cooker. Top with 2-3 noodles, broken to cover the meat sauce. Repeat layer.
5.) Top second layer with cheese mixture and finish with a top layer of the meat mixture.
6.) Cover and set slow cooker on low. Cook for 3.5-4 hours.

Nutrition Info:
This makes 8 servings with 271 Calories, 10.2 g of fat, 56.6 mg cholesterol, 283.8 mg sodium, 145.2 mg potassium, 18 g carbohydrate (1.6 g dietary fiber), and 24.8 g of protein per serving.

It was really yummy, and it was definitely 'lighter' than most lasagna I have ever had, which we liked. I think next time I make it I am going to try ground turkey instead of beef!

Onto the next topic...

We are discovering that eating healthy is not cheap. I really like the idea of trying to make more meals from scratch and eating more fresh vegetable and fruit, but it is definitely not easy on the pocketbook. It is definitely more frugal to just buy the pre-made/boxed/frozen stuff, especially when cooking for two. It's crazy to me to think that I was spending about $150 a month on groceries (sometimes less!) when it was just me, but now that my soldier is home, we are spending $350+ a month on groceries just for the two of us and it is a stretch to even do that. He definitely eats more than me, but it's also that we have been trying to do more things fresh and homemade. Another thing that sucks is that even coupons don't really help us that much because you can't get coupons for produce (at least not to my knowledge...if I am missing out on a hidden wealth of information, please enlighten me!). But I wanted to share a couple of things that are helping us to at least keep the spending down as much as we possibly can:

1.) Make a menu!

I cannot stress this enough. This is the part that can be a bit time consuming, especially when trying to come up with new recipes, but I can only imagine how much we save by doing this. We make a menu at the beginning of every week for 3 meals each day. We normally just do smoothies in the morning during the week...they are best for our workout schedule, and the ingredients we use in our smoothies go a long way. Usually one day a week we do oatmeal with fruit and protein powder, and one day a week (usually on the weekend) we actually make a nice breakfast. Making a menu helps us to plan ahead and think of which meals will probably have leftovers...which leads me to my 2nd tip...

2.) Save and take advantage of leftovers!

If I know I am making a meal that has enough servings to last for a 2nd or 3rd meal, we can plan on having that for lunch the next day or so. I know some people don't like leftovers...and can I just say that I think you're crazy? haha. I love leftovers. I take my lunch to work almost every day, and sandwiches just get old sometimes. Plus, on those long days where I get home and just don't feel like cooking, I love being able to just take something out of the fridge, warm it up and call it dinner :) Not to mention it saves money because you can get 2-3 meals for the price of one!

3.) Make a grocery list!

This kinda goes along with tip #1, but when you make your weekly menu, make a list of everything you need to make those meals before you go to the grocery store. This will help you avoid wasting money on things you don't really need.

4.) Use items you already have!

Before I make our menu/grocery list every week, I look in the cabinets/fridge to see what I already have. There are times (like those lazy evenings where I come home and heat up leftovers) that I don't stick EXACTLY to the menu every week. That is going to happen! BUT if you didn't make it last week, go ahead and add it to the menu for the upcoming week! This will also save you a little bit of time while making your menu because you already have one of the meals covered :) Also, a lot of times you may buy something (like cheese, pasta, etc) and not use it all at one time. Pay attention to things that you have and pick out recipes that require ingredients you already have on hand. This will also help you to use up stuff before it goes bad...one of the most frustrating things to me is when I clean out my fridge for trash day and find things that went bad that I could've used if only I would've paid attention before they spoiled!

Well that's all I can think of for now. I am going to try to find more ways to cut grocery costs while still maintaining healthy eating habits, and as I do, I will share them with you :) If you happen to have any tips I didn't mention, please send them my way!

Happy Thursday! :)


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Training AND Wedding Update! :)

Okay. I have to admit. I've been a slacker.

In my defense, I was in a car wreck, and my neck hurt for most of the week. Not to mention the drugs...(prescription of course)

I still have some once-in-a-while spasms in my neck and back, and I'm starting to think the knots (a.k.a. "lymphnodes") are going to set up permanent residence in my neck...but for the most part, I am feeling much better, and am ready to get back to it.

Here is what Week 2 was supposed to look like:                                         

Week 2 Mon
AM Chest & Back, Ab Ripper X
PM 3 mile P
  Tue
AM Plyometrics
PM 2 mile F
  Wed
AM Shoulders & Arms, Ab Ripper X
PM 4 mile P
  Thu
AM Yoga X
PM REST
  Fri
AM Legs & Back, Ab Ripper X
PM 3 mile E
  Sat
AM Kenpo X
PM 2 mile H
  Sun
AM Stretch X
PM REST


Here is what it really looked like:
Week 2 Mon
AM Skipped out...
PM Didn't even go into work...
  Tue
AM Stayed home from work again...
PM Stretch X 
  Wed
AM At least went to work...
PM Came home and took drugs...
  Thu
AM Met with lawyer.
PM Wasted my time with mono doctor...
  Fri
AM Legs & Back, half of Ab Ripper X (hurray!)
PM Got a good run in: 3 mile H (2 of 'em F)
(hurray again!)
  Sat
AM Watched nephew's basketball game...
PM Hung out with family & friends...
  Sun
AM Went to church. Took nap...
PM Played an indoor soccer game!
 
So yeah. I pretty much blew it as far as the training schedule goes. I did the P90X Stretch workout on Tuesday, and that really did help a lot with the stiffness, but after that I was pretty much spent for the day. Wednesday was my first day back to work, and after that, I came home, took some pain meds and totally vegged out on the couch. Thursday was the first day I felt like I could probably do something resembling a real workout, but I was 1) busy and 2) scared of making the pain come back.

Friday was a good day! We got up early and did the P90X Legs & Back workout, and attempted doing the Ab Ripper X...but I made it into the first 5 minutes or so, and then my neck couldn't handle the strain anymore...so I quit and got ready for work. Friday was such a nice day, and I was determined to attempt running at least ONE day this past week. I set out to do 3 miles...and managed to do the first 2 at a pretty brisk pace (about 9:10...which is fairly fast for me), plus it was a hilly run...so by mile 3 I just ran it kinda slow because it was mostly uphill...but I managed to finish the full 3 miles in 28:34, which is a pretty good time for me. I was proud of myself! :) Then we went to eat swordfish for dinner at Powerhouse (Thank you LivingSocial)!

Saturday we got up really early and drove to Oklahoma to watch my 8-year-old nephew play some little league basketball. Very entertaining, if I do say so myself :) We hung out with my sister, brother-in-law and the kiddos that afternoon, and then came home and spent the evening with some good friends...Not exactly productive in the workout arena, but enjoyable nonetheless! :)

Today I had really good intentions of doing the Kenpo X workout, since I skipped out yesterday (and most of the rest of the week for that matter)...but it didn't happen. We got up, went to church, came home and took a nice afternoon nap...woke up, ate some leftovers for lunch, and then it was time for my indoor soccer game. We lost, but I can definitely say I ran a lot!

This week is supposed to be a repeat of the P90X schedule, and my goal is to get up every morning and stick to that this week. The Freakin' Eurekan is exactly 3 weeks from yesterday, and I need to kick it in gear. My running schedule for the coming week (Week 3) looks like this:

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Total
3 4 mile E 3 mile F 5 mile P REST 3 mile P 3 mile H REST 18 miles


My plan is to stick to it for the most part. Wednesday is my "long" run for the week...5 miles...so if I can accomplish that, I will be happy, and hopefully pretty well back on schedule. If for some reason I don't make it to 5 miles on Wednesday, I am just going to keep trying until I make it that far at my race pace goal of about 9:30-9:45 per mile. I will keep you posted :)

On a completely different note, I have some other exciting news! 

Our beach wedding ceremony is officially less than 4 months away! I am currently working on all kinds of fun stuff to prepare for that...finalizing details for our passport invitations (I told you about them here), completing our gift registries and setting up a honeymoon registry (I will tell you more about that in a future post!), etc. As of Thursday, all four of my bridesmaids are booked for the trip! Our guest list is growing, and as of right now, we have 19 rooms booked at our resort for the wedding...which means we are one room away from qualifying for the free wedding package that the Iberostar Cozumel offers! :) :) :)

I can't wait to get some more of the details finished and get to post an update with pictures...it's going to be fun :) But for now...it's almost 10:00, which means it is bedtime for this girl, and P90X in the morning!

Goodnight!

Friday, January 20, 2012

A pain in my neck...

My neck and upper back is still a little tight from the car wreck we were involved in almost a week ago.

But this is about a different kind of pain in the neck...

The wreck happened on Saturday evening, and Sunday night we were sitting on the couch and I lifted my hand to rub my neck where it was the most sore and I realized I had a couple of knots on the right side of my neck. At first, there were just two, and they were only tender to the touch. As Monday came, I realized there were two more knots in my neck, right next to each other, and a little lower than the other two. So I now had four knots. And they were starting to ache a little bit, no longer just tender to the touch...

Tuesday comes. I feel yet another knot in my neck...but this one is farther down, kinda where my neck attaches to my shoulder. Wednesday comes, and they are starting to not just hurt when I touched them, but were achy almost constantly, and sometimes throbbing.

So, of course, I do the thing that any intelligent human being would do, and I call the doctor to schedule a follow up appointment on Thursday. Since I am a graduate student, I have a medical insurance policy through the University. In order for the insurance to cover all of the expenses, they make you go to the University Health Center on campus...otherwise you have to pay out of pocket, and depending on which doctor you go to (in/out of network), you could end up having to foot the majority of the bill, even if you have insurance. 

So of course, I call the University Health Center. I explain over the phone that I had been in a rear-end collision, was checked out in the ER right after the accident, have some neck pain and stiffness, and am now starting to notice some lumps in my neck. They schedule me an appointment for yesterday afternoon, and I explain, first to a nurse, then to a doctor, exactly what I had stated over the phone. She asks me a few questions that seem to me to have absolutely no relevance to my neck injury, but I play along anyways.

Then she proceeds to tell me that she thinks the knots in my neck are lymphnodes, and suggests that I probably have mono...

I honestly wanted to laugh...but I kept my composure...and tried to refrain from telling her I thought she was crazy (although I must say, usually my face says exactly what I think...so I'm sure that was a worthless effort...).

The nurse takes me back to the lab area to have blood drawn to test me for a virus...

10-15 minutes later, they call me back and the doctor informs me that my blood counts are perfectly normal, and I do NOT have mono (shocker, I know...). She then tells me she thinks my neck is fine, and doesn't know what's wrong with me, but if I would like for her to do a chest x-ray to ensure that I don't have anything in my chest, she will. I respectfully decline, at this point, completely annoyed that I have just wasted an hour of my life to find out that I don't have a virus...because I was sooo concerned about that to being with? 

All that to say...I have lost all faith in the University Health Center. The five knots are still there...and they are pretty achy most the time, and throb occasionally.  I am pretty sure I have a torn muscle or tissue of some kind, and I'm hoping it doesn't get any worse. If it does, I'm thinking I would rather pay for some real medical advice than go back to the Health Center. 

Please excuse my rant. I'll stop now.

Happy Friday everyone!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Workout Update and Tasty Tuesday

I have been asked to update on my progress for P90X and my 15K training...so here goes :)

This past Saturday marked week 1 down on the P90X calendar. I did every day, Monday - Saturday, without skipping. 1 down, 12 to go. Week 2 isn't starting off so great, but I will explain that in a bit.  So far, I have learned that I am a wimp when it comes to upper body strength, but I have pretty strong legs. Out of the first 6 days of P90X, I think the Plyometrics and the Kenpo are my favorite ones (go figure, the ones with the most cardio...). The "strength" ones, like shoulders, arms, back, etc....not so much my strong points. But hey, that's why I'm doing it right? To improve what is weak. I have been doing all of the "strength" ones with resistance bands and 5 & 8 lb dumbbells. That is working well for me, and I don't think I will ever reach the point where I can do pull-ups with the bar. haha. Not to mention, light(ish) weights with more reps is what is going to help tone me up. I have no desire to look like a muscle woman. Yoga is also not my favorite. It is the longest video (about an hour and a half long), and it is supposed to be "relaxing"...but really, I mostly find it boring. haha. I sometimes think I have ADD or something. Twisting my body in weird formations and focusing on "breathing" for an entire 90 minutes is a chore for me. Maybe as I get better at it, I will come to enjoy it more. I will keep you posted ;)

The running has been going okay. I ran at least two 3-mile runs last week, and last Friday when it was pretty cold outside, we even managed to force ourselves to go to the HPER (the University of Arkansas fitness facility). I was reminded of how much I hate running on a treadmill. There is something to running outside for me. It's freeing, relaxing, scenic, and I feel like I'm actually going somewhere. I also like that I can slow down a bit when I get tired and speed up a bit when I feel more energized (without pushing a button)...rather than on a treadmill that makes me go the same speed the entire time. I manage to pace myself pretty well while running outdoors at around at 9:30-9:45 per mile pace...but for some reason, running constant at 9:40 on the treadmill was a bit more difficult for me. I think it has something to do with the air...it was warmer inside the HPER, and the air just seemed thicker than the fresh, outdoor air. I only managed to do about 2 miles at the 9:30-9:40 pace (I really don't like having to push buttons when I feel the need to slow down or speed up...), then I walked about a quarter of a mile at a brisk pace, and then jogged another half mile as fast I could manage without flying off the treadmill...so I got in about 2.75 miles total for my first treadmill run in a while. I wish I could've gotten farther, but I do feel like I was pushing my cardio out of it's comfort zone, so that's good, right? :)

Anyhow...week one went well. As I mentioned above, week 2 isn't exactly off to a stellar start. Saturday night my older sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew and little sister came to visit from Oklahoma for the weekend. We had these great plans of going to Fast Lane, which is a place about 25 minutes or so from my house that has indoor go-carts, an arcade, laser tag, bowling, etc. The kids were so excited to go, and I think the adults were almost just as excited! We got about two miles away from my house on our way there, and had just stopped at a red light, when out of nowhere we hear a super loud "BANG!" sound. At first, none of us even realized what had just happened, until my 8-year-old nephew shouts, "What was THAT?!" Then our necks started throbbing, and we realized we had just been rear-ended. I have been in my fair share of wrecks, but I have never felt that much of an impact. As we got out of the car, called 911 to send the police and ambulance, and tried to keep the kids calm and make sure everyone was okay, a witness informs my brother-in-law that he was staying to give a statement to the police. Apparently, the woman that hit us (who also had her 3 children in the car...) was going 55+ miles per hour (in a 45mph zone), had just swerved around him and cut him off, and never so much as tapped her brakes before hitting us. There were absolutely no skidmarks, which backed up his claim. 

So...long story short, we got pounded from behind at about 55 miles per hour, spent 4 hours in the emergency room getting checked out, and never made it to Fast Lane to ride go-carts and play some skeeball. Bummer :( But the good news is, other than two (most likely) totaled vehicles, no one was seriously injured. My sister, brother-in-law, Walter and myself have some pretty intense neck/back pain, but other than that, we all walked away mostly unscathed. I am actually quite impressed at my sister's car (a Chrysler Pacifica) and it's ability to withstand an impact like that. It has some pretty severe frame damage, and the back door won't open, but no glass broke, and the 3 kids that were in the back seat closest to the impact were ready to go ride go-carts the next day. Unfortunately the adults couldn't quite handle that kind of activity, so it was a big disappointment for them :( So for now, it's pain meds and muscle relaxers, and not a lot of working out.

I missed my soccer game on Sunday, didn't workout at all yesterday, and just did the P90X Stretch video today in hope that it would loosen me up a bit and get rid of some of the tension. Only time will tell...but hopefully by tomorrow I can at least get out of the house and do something productive.

On a completely different note, it is Tuesday, which means it's time for Tasty Tuesday! I forgot to take a picture of this one, but it is definitely yummy and worth sharing:

French (women don't get fat) Toast
(found in SparkRecipes iPad app)

Ingredients: 
1/4 cup egg beaters (I used egg whites)
1/8 cup skim milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
non-stick cooking spray
2 pieces whole wheat bread (I used Health Nut by Orowheat brand...it was delicious!)

Directions:
1.) Spray skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat.
2.) In a shallow bowl/dish, combine the first four ingredients. Mix well.
3.) Dip a piece of bread flat in the bowl, letting it soak up the liquid, but not so much that it falls apart. Do this on both sides.
4.) Put the bread on the skillet, cooking it on both sides until browned. Repeat this process for the next piece of bread.
5.) Put it on a plate and top it with favorite toppings (such as fresh fruit, maple syrup, powdered sugar or whipped cream)! 

I used pure maple syrup. It is a bit more expensive than your typical pancake syrup, but much healthier because it is naturally sweet and does not have any high fructose corn syrup in it :) 

Nutrition Info:
This recipe makes 2 pieces of french toast, or 1 serving
150.2 Calories, 1.6 g of fat, 227.1 mg sodium, 61.7 mg potassium, 21.7 g carbohydrate (4.6 g dietary fiber), and 12.1 g protein per serving (toppings not included in nutrition info).

So there you have it...a very simple and very delicious French Toast recipe. Enjoy!