Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Vacation in Alaska - Day 4

Someday, I will finish blogging about our trip to Alaska. Someday, I'll write about Tory's fifth birthday and first day of Pre-K. Someday, I'll jot down the details of my parent's visit to Wisconsin over Labor Day weekend and the rest of the memories we made at the lake this summer. Someday....

I find myself waking up earlier and staying up later these days, but somehow it's never enough time. The baby years were a blur, but at least there were snippits of time throughout the day when the kids napped and I could be alone. Now, I'm finding out there is no quiet time during the Little Kid years. No naps to look forward to. It's constant busyness with playdates, extracurriculars, messes, meals and attention needed. All blessings, of course! The only missing is TIME.

This little space is important to me, so I'll keep hanging on. Life keeps happening and I'll do my best to write about it so I never forget a minute.


Alaska: Day 4

Andi and I began our fourth day in Alaska at a cozy bed and breakfast in Homer. I think it's safe to say, we have a soft spot for this type of vacation accommodation; staying in a bed and breakfast is like having the familiar comforts of home with the opportunity to meet new and interesting locals and/or fellow travelers.

The night before, we enjoyed the most amazing dinner in Halibut Cove across the Kachemak Bay from Homer with our friends Kristina and Alex. Kristina used to work with Andi at his office, and has since moved to Alaska full-time. We loved taking in the wonder of Halibut Cove with Kristina and Alex. It was one of the most magical places we'd ever seen, and our evening filled with laughing and great conversation made it all the better.

Shortly after waking up, Andi and I got dressed and headed over to the main house of the bed and breakfast. I wondered what type of set-up we'd find; the overall vibe of this place led my imagination to a sit-down breakfast in a kitschy dining room with the owner like an old episode of Newhart. And sure enough, that's exactly what it was! Andi and I took our places at the table and exchanged pleasantries with an older man visiting Alaska on a photography trip. A while later I noticed a young teenager sitting on the nearby sofa in her pajamas. I wondered to myself how she fit into the mix of breakfast guests.

Our B+B meal was surprisingly delicious (no photos for documentation, unfortunately, as it would've been rude to whip out our camera is such an intimate setting). The owner thoughtfully prepared a wide spread of local eggs, reindeer sausage, yogurt, homemade granola and peaches picked from a tree in her backyard. We ate breakfast, drank coffee and filled the time with an odd conversation about the teenage grand-daughter's upcoming tattoo appointment.

After breakfast, Andi and I packed our things and met up with Kristina and Alex. They're avid lovers of the outdoors, and spent their evening camped out on the infamous Homer Spit. Then, the four of us drove on to Hope, Alaska.

Just before Noon, we stopped in the town of Girdwood for lunch and some hiking. Girdwood is a resort town near the end of the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet and surrounded by the Chugach Mountains and several glaciers. We planned to spend the day here before heading over to Hope.

We parked our cars at a trailhead (unfortunately I can't remember the name; the downside of blogging about our trip a month later!) and set off for a hike together. The weather was rainy again, so we started out with rain jackets pulled tightly around us. Eventually, the rain let off and we began to peel back layers.

The end of our two hour hike eventually led us to a spot where the Kenai River meets the Russian, and salmon can be seen that time of year swimming upstream to their final resting place. What an amazing sight this was! The four of us stood in awe as we witnessed thousands of red, rotting fish fighting against the strong river current.

It's difficult to explain the magnitude of what we saw, but it surely made me stop and appreciate this beautiful world we live in.

We were all pretty hungry by this point, so we took a pit-stop on a rock and snacked on apples and protein bars before making the two-hour trek back to our cars. From there, we ventured into the town of Girdwood for a late lunch.

Girdwood is a small, funky town and home to one of Alaska's biggest resort hotels. Andi referenced Yelp! and suggested the unassuming Girdwood Picnic Club. With little signage on the exterior, we weren't sure to what expect, but were happy to find a bright, open restaurant with excellent food.   

From there, we ventured on to the tiny town of Hope and more specifically, the Porcupine Campground. Kristina and Alex had camped here before, so they knew to book a campsite with a spectacular view of the Turnagain Arm. This waterway is worth noting it's own for its massive tides. Fortunately, the campground was nearly empty as it was Sunday evening. We enjoyed our quiet surroundings and picturesque view of where the ocean meets the mountains. 

Kristina and Alex love to go camping and hiking, so they supplied all the needed gear for our evening underneath the stars. Once we set up camp, Andi cooked dinner over an open campfire -- on the menu, cedar-plank pink and silver salmon we'd caught a few days prior fishing on the Kenai River with broccoli and

I think we were all fairly exhausted from our day exploring, so we settled into our respective tents at sunset and ventured off to dreamland.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Country Heat Wrap Up & Meal Plan for Sept 19-25

It's hard to believe it's been a month since I started Country Heat. Time flies when you're having fun, and seriously, Country Heat has been so much fun! I practically leapt out of bed every morning knowing I got to start my day dancing around my living room for 30 minutes.

Country Heat was the mental break I needed from some of the more high-intensity programs I've completed in the past year. Exercise is a necessary part of my life so it wasn't a question if I'd make time for it in my day, but to be honest I was starting to loose the desire to push myself. Mentally, I needed a program like Country Heat to remind me how much fun workouts can be. Now, I'm refreshed and ready to tackle a more challenging program again. Bonus- I'm in great cardio shape now!

Next up for me is the Focus T25 program. Twenty-five minute workouts, six days a week, which seems completely doable in our crazy back-to-school life right now. Everyone I've talked to who's completed T25 says it shreds your body like no other. I'm looking forward to seeing how it'll transform my body. [By the way, if you're interested in doing T25 alongside me, or you'd like to give Country Heat a try, shoot me an email at hcdickson@yahoo.com. I'd love to have you in my free challenge group starting October 3.]

Officially, I lost 3.3 pounds with Country Heat which I call success. I've been hovering around my goal weight for several months now, so my main objective in working out with Country Heat was to maintain muscle and tone, move my body for 30 minutes a day, and have fun doing it. Mission accomplished; I loved it!

I always find excitement in starting a new program; new moves, new instructor, new possibilities to transform my body and mind. I'm ready to dial in my nutrition to see maximum results with T25.

Click here to view my meal plan for this week (September 19-25). There's several of my favorite recipes featured including the apple cinnamon overnight oats (tastes like autumn in a bowl!) and turkey chili which, in my opinion, goes hand-in-hand with football season. Andi's traveling this week so I fully intend to make myself a big batch of chili and watching football all weekend long.

One recipe you've got to try is the pork medallions. This recipe quickly became one of Andi and I's go-to summer favorites because it's easy to make and tastes fancy enough to serve to guests. Here's the recipe:

Pork Medallions
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
garlic powder

1. Combine maple syrup and balsamic vinegar in a saucepan. Turn the heat to high and boil for 3 minutes, until the mixture has reduced to 1/3 of a cup. Turn off the heat and whisk in the Dijon mustard.
2. Meanwhile, slice the pork into 8 pieces. Place pieces of pork between two pieces of parchment paper and pound until they are 1/4 inch thick.
3. Heat one tsp. of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pounded-out pork pieces with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Once the oil is hot, add the pork pieces and cook for 90 seconds on each side. Remove and set aside.
4. Add another tsp. of oil to the pan and cook remaining pork pieces until all are cooked through.
5. Return the rest of the cooked pork to the pan. Pour in the maple-balsamic sauce and cook for 1 minute.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

It's Tradition -- Seventh Anniversary Celebration

One warm summer night a few days before our wedding anniversary, Andi and I packed up the kids and drove them over to Noerenberg Gardens on Lake Minnetonka to stand in the very same spot we said "I do" seven years ago. Andi's mom, Janie, happened to be over at our condo that afternoon so we invited her along with us, too.

Tory, in particular, was very excited to see the place Mom and Dad got married. "I've never been here before," she exclaimed more than once. We kindly reminded her that she's been coming to this spot with us every July since she was a baby. "It's tradition!" I told her. "Um, what's tradition?" she sweetly responded.

Strolling through the beautiful Noerenberg Gardens is one our family's favorite traditions. Wedding anniversaries are a time to celebrate one another, and there's no better place than in the spot where it all began. All these years later, it still sends goosebumps up my arms.

Andi and I have shared a fabulous seven years together, and I can't wait to see what the next seven will bring!

After we'd spent time in the gardens, the five of us (Janie, too) hopped over to downtown Wayzata for frozen yogurt. Marshmallows, cherries, whipped cream and sprinkles; Tory and Aden's favorite treat this summer.

I'm so very thankful for this little family of mine, and especially for my husband who made it all possible.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Country Heat Meal Plan - Week of September 5-11

School starts tomorrow which means the lazy days of summer are officially over. I'm part-excited for the return of the school-year routine and part-dreading the structure it brings. This year, Tory is attending a pre-K program four mornings a week so Tory, Aden and I need to be out the door by 8:00am every morning. That's - gulp! - a big pill to swallow for this stay-at-home-mama who's used to keeping her own time.

For this reason, I drafted a super easy meal plan this week. I want meals to be simple and include as many make-ahead recipes as possible so I don't find myself scrambling. Ain't nobody got time for that nonsense! My focus on nutrition slipped quite a bit in August, and I'm determined to get back on track this month. To do so, I need a plan to succeed and meals prepped and ready to go, I'm 99% more likely to stick to the Eating Plan that way.

Anyhoo - click HERE to download a copy of my meal plan for this week (September 5-11).

Note: I'm following the Country Heat Eating Plan and fall into the 1,200-1,499 calorie bracket. Each person should individually determine their own calorie level when following the 21 Day Fix or the Country Heat Eating Plan. Each color on my meal plan represents a different color-coded portion control container.

If you'd like more information about this Eating Plan, or are interested in joining my free accountability group, email me directly at hcdickson@yahoo.com

After the kids went to bed tonight, I spent an hour prepping meals for this week. Included are:

Banana Peanut Butter Overnight Oats
Apple Raspberry Overnight Oats
Hard-boiled eggs
Sweet Potato Turkey Burger Bowls
Tuna Salad
Celery sticks, chopped
Grapes, washed
Cauliflower and broccoli, washed

Andi and I will both eat hard-boiled eggs and overnight oats for breakfast this week. It's a super simple breakfast that can be made ahead of time and eaten cold or warmed in the microwave. He likes the banana peanut butter recipe the best; I like the apple raspberry. (I'm borderline obsessed with apples, actually, and secretly chomping at the bit for apple orchard season!)

Here's my recipe: 

Apple Raspberry Overnight Oats
Makes: 1 serving
21 Day Fix / Country Heat Eating Plan containers = 1 purple, 1 yellow, 1 orange, 1 tsp.

1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 tsp. chia seeds
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. natural peanut butter
1 cup fruit -- mix of diced apples and raspberries (or any other fruit combination)

Add old-fashioned rolled oats to a container of your choice. Add chia seeds, cinnamon, peanut butter. Pour almond milk over the top. Top with diced apples and raspberries. Cover, and place in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Keeps for up to one week.

To eat:
Warm in the microwave for 30-90 seconds to your preference, or eat cold. I like mine warmed for about a minute or so; the warm apples and cinnamon taste like fall in a bowl! This recipe is easily doubled, tripled or quadrupled to make more than one serving at once. Enjoy!