Week 51: Vacation is tough work.

Highlights from my vacation week.Last week, I was on vacation in Florida. When I got back to work on Tuesday, I felt like I needed a vacation after my vacation just to recuperate. You see, we had great reason to celebrate…every day.

My thought process went something like this:

Day 1: Hoorah! We’re on vacation! At the beach! It’s warm and sunny! Now, let’s go to the beach-side bar.

Day 2: YAY! It’s only the second day of vacation! Let’s go to the beach! Boogie boarding! Dang, salt water up the nose hurts. Well, time for some fruity beach drinks!

And so on. You see the trend…

Ultimately, the vacation ended with my older sister and her fiancé’s wedding—the reason our families were all gathered in the first place. It could not have been more perfect and I don’t think anyone could have been happier. I do believe it was the best vacation I have ever been on!

If only I could have been a stow-away in the newlyweds’ luggage and continued on to St. Martin for the honeymoon with them. I just don’t think they would have enjoyed me as a third wheel. Might have been a little bit awkward, really…

So, here I am, back in Wisconsin and 45 degree temperatures instead.

However, I have bigger and better things (okay, not really, but still exciting) to be looking forward to: This weekend is the half marathon, the one that I have been training for over the past six months—it’s my first one EVER.

While in Florida, I still tried to squeeze in some training runs so I’d be ready for the half marathon. With such perfect weather and warm temperatures, I was itching to get outside in shorts and a tank and run around in the sun. Trotting past palm trees, extravagant beach houses, and along the beach definitely kept me entertained and raring to go. Before vacation, my longest run was 11 miles long (wow!) and during vacation I did a couple 3- to 4-mile jogs to keep my legs loose.

So, all in all, I think I’m ready.

But, I am nervous. And sore. And excited. Kind of wondering why I thought it a good idea to party my entire vacation…and hoping the stinky forecast for Saturday changes (50 degrees and rainy—boo). Yet, I’m still excited. I can’t wait to recap the race for you next week to let you know how it goes. Stay tuned!

Fat Stats:
Starting weight: 166 pounds
Last week: 147.5 pounds
This week: 149 pounds
Goal weight: 145 pounds

Wish me luck!

Week 31: The Great Cookie Caper

Low-calorie holiday cookies...yum!I didn’t think it was possible. Find and bake delicious holiday treats that didn’t bust the gut? No way. But, I did it.

There may have been a few cookie blunders along the way, but I managed to track down two different delectable holiday deserts that you’ll be proud to serve your little cookie monsters (aka children), and friends & family at holiday events.

Plus, at 75 calories or less each? Well, you can have your cookies and eat them too (or eat five of them, in my case).

My two picks are Oreo Cheesecake Truffles and Festive Gingersnaps. The truffles are simple but incredibly delicious Oreo cheesecake bites that are perfect for the baking-impaired or those short on time. The gingersnaps are for those in a more festive or traditional holiday mood, and are sure to fill your home with a sweet and spicy aroma of cookies that somehow taste even better than they smell.

Oreo Cheesecake Truffles (Adapted from this source.)
Makes about 30 truffles.

8 oz. fat-free cream cheese, softened
30 reduced-fat Oreos
3-4 oz. melted chocolate for decoration

1. Smash Oreos in a plastic bag until they are all crumbs. (Great task when you need to get some frustration out! I used the bottom of a hard plastic glass to smash against the cookie bag.)
2. In bowl, combine cream cheese and cookie crumbs until well mixed.
3. Drop bite-sized balls of mixture on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
4. Drizzle with melted chocolate.
5. Store in fridge for at least one hour, or until ready to serve.

The verdict:
75 calories per truffle. I made this recipe lower-cal by using the fat-free cream cheese and lower fat cookies. And honestly—you really can’t tell the difference!

Festive Gingersnaps (Adapted from this source.)
Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

½ cup light butter
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
½ cup molasses
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
½ tbsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tbsp. ground ginger
¾ tsp. ground nutmeg
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
¾ tsp. ground cloves
¾ tsp. ground allspice
red sugar sprinkles

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In bowl, cream together butter brown sugar. Mix in egg, and then molasses.
3. In another bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder, ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and allspice.
4. Incorporate dry ingredients into the wet mixture until just blended.
5. Spoon balls of dough onto a greased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Dough may be slightly sticky still.
6. Sprinkle tops of cookies with red sugar.
7. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in oven, depending on how crunchy you like your gingersnaps. (I like ‘em chewy, so I only baked them about 10 minutes.)

The verdict:
Only 60 calories per cookie! I didn’t feel bad eating three of them in a row last night (until I was bouncing around from all the sugar). My co-workers found that these go great with morning coffee, too. Decrease flour to make flatter, crispier cookies. And, they are almost sweet enough without adding sugar to the top if you want to forgo the sprinkled sugar on top.

I suspect that these delicious treats would make some great holiday gifts. Wrap them up on a new Christmas platter, in a cute holiday box, or sit a stack of gingersnaps in a coffee mug with a bow tied around it. Instant gifting possibilities!

In spite of eating a lot of Christmas cookies this week, I managed to stay at the same weight as last week. My ankle is on the mend and I am FINALLY back to running about 2 miles every night without much pain at all. I suspect this helps offset the copious amounts of baked goods and chocolate I have been scarfing down. Unfortunately, it has begun to snow over the last week and a half, which means that most days I have to head to the gym to get some running in. (Although on the few occasions I ventured out into the cold, I did feel pretty hardcore.) I really do dread going to the gym—not because of the working out, but because of the stuffy, smelly, humid box I feel I’m trapped in.

What do you do in the winter: Brave the cold arctic tundra (okay, it has only been between 20 and 30 degrees out, but still)…or face the dreaded gym? Or, do you sit at home and eat cookies and stare at your twinkling Christmas tree all night like I did last night? Er…oops.

Fat Stats:
Starting weight: 166 pounds
Last week: 149.5 pounds
This week: 149.5 pounds
Goal weight: 145 pounds

Happy baking!

P.S. Our “12 Days of JOY” campaign is still running! You can see each day’s deal here: http://www.jockey.com/12deals/

Week 27: A Thank You Note

I am going to talk about something a little out of the ordinary today; more personal than my weight or what I ate this week. I want to talk about someone that I am getting to learn about, even though he is gone from my life as it is today.

My grandpa.

As a kid, I got to visit my grandparents, who lived a couple hours away, several times a year. I have a lot of memories that I somehow still recall vividly: rolling and running around in the crunchy fall leaves in the backyard of their old house when I was probably four years old; my grandpa picking me up as a little kid and calling me a “cob o’ corn” and blowing raspberries on my tummy; my dad and grandpa going to play that grown-up game called “golf” that I didn’t really understand yet.

As I got older, my grandparents downsized to a little apartment, and that is where most of my memories take place. My grandpa would practically force-feed us every time we arrived; chipped ham sandwiches and canned peaches almost always seemed to be on the menu, followed by cookies. And, every morning, I remember my grandpa going out for his morning walk, then coming in to read the paper and his favorite part—mine too—the “funnies,” the comics.

Time went by, and it became more difficult to visit my grandparents. They were getting much older. While my grandma was doing well, besides some memory loss, my grandpa faced a lot of physical problems. He was healthy as an ox, but his hearing was very poor, and gout and other ailments made it hard for him to move around. It made me so sad to see him that way; it was hard for me to talk to him, and as a teenager, instead of taking the time and trying to talk to him, or maybe even writing him a letter, I just avoided getting into deep conversations with him.

It’s been about two years since my grandpa passed away. But, I am lucky because I still have the chance to get to know him, even though he may be gone. After he passed, my aunt found a folder of papers that he wrote, titled “My Story.” It was filled with pages and pages of stories that my grandpa wrote about his life during World War II, along with some old pictures and wartime documents. My aunt copied them and passed them along to me, and I have been able to begin reading about his life.

It has been a blessing to read about my grandpa’s life; his stories are rich in detail and description, and some of the stories are things that I thought only existed in movies. But his pages of words are lessening a regret that I didn’t even know I had: the regret that I didn’t get to know him more when I could have. I get that chance now.

Reading the stories about his time in World War II, I keep finding my jaw hanging open at the rough times my grandpa had to go through and the things he did to help keep our country strong. I don’t know if I could do the things that he did, and it makes me proud and grateful that my grandpa was able to contribute such things to our country.

He, and the others like him, are the reason that my only worry some days is, “How will I fit a workout into my busy schedule?” He talked of days that he got to eat fruits and veggies in detail, like it was a treat, and here I often feel like I have to force myself to eat those things. My grandpa went on his daily walks, as I said; it was not an obligation. It was a freedom.

I realize now that so many of the things I feel I “have” to do, or take for granted, I am supremely lucky and fortunate to have in my daily life.

So, in honor of my grandpa, and to all of the veterans out there who have given a part of their life and a piece of their heart to our country and all of us who live here, I want to thank you. We all thank you.