Monday, November 29, 2010


Do you budget or track your spending?

Another big change for us this year after closing the business has been living on a single fixed income. It had been almost 8 years that I was self-employed and owned a business - and your money management/budgeting is very different when your income is not consistent. In that regard, it is very nice to know exactly what you have coming in.

I've always been a big fan of spreadsheets and so that's what I've been using to keep track of when bills are due and when paychecks are coming in. A few weeks ago I decided to try out a free service online - It imports from our bank accounts automatically, so no data entry involved! I wanted to categorize what we spend and track things we also pay cash for as well so I could see where our money was going - and if it was actually going where I thought it was - and find how we could save more money and be conscious of our spending. It doesn't take much time to use and the information I've learned has been so helpful! You can set up budgets and saving goals as well. 

The other cool thing is that they use aggregate data to be able to tell you how your spending compares to the average of others in your state or major city. I don't know how reliable it is because it's counting on people categorizing things correctly and entering everything they spend, however it was interesting to learn that we spend more on food and cars than others in Michigan, but almost half as much in utilities (we use an antenna and have inexpensive cell phone plans) and less in general shopping. I do look forward to having at least one of the cars paid off - but that's about a year and a half away!

I've also found that holding myself accountable, knowing that I need to record everything, has helped me be more conscious of spending on little things - i.e. stopping for a coffee, or getting water instead of iced tea at a restaurant.

Each Day is a New Commitment

I was having a conversation over Facebook this morning with someone who is in a 14 week weight loss challenge group with me (we just finished week 12). She was saying she is frustrated and admires my commitment. So many in our group have gone quiet and not been participating lately and I think one of the barriers we all often run into is giving up after a disappointment or setback - it's kind of the 'all or nothing' mentality that is self-defeating. I have been there too many times to count over the years. I think that this time was just the right time for me and filled with determination I have taken a new attitude toward it, and that's what has worked. There is no quick fix. I really have learned that each and every day is a new opportunity - a new fresh commitment to weight loss and being healthy. And that's one of the things that keeps me going. Even after a .2lb gain this week! Too much mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and yummy desserts over a few days doesn't mean it's time to give up. Instead it makes it all the more meaningful that today is a new commitment, a new chance to succeed. And so I got up and went to my morning Jazzercize class and I'm making butternut squash soup for lunch. :) Now to contemplate healthier Christmas baking without sacrificing those special favorites!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Giving Thanks!

I've been hosting Thanksgiving for several years and we really do enjoy it. This year I planned well in advance and cooked and baked all day the day before in order to have a more relaxing holiday. It worked! Only one last minute run to the grocery store for one item too! Thad and I had my parents, my Aunt Margie, our friend Vern and her mom as our guests.

I left Thad in charge of the turkey while I went to a fun 8am Thanksgiving Day Jazzercise class - there had to be close to 100 women there! They did giveaways and 6 instructors took turns teaching, Christmas music replaced several songs and it was all decked out for the holidays. What a fun start to the holiday season!

Thad and I have many things to be thankful for this year. Turning ourselves around after the past couple years of stress is something that has surely added years to our lives and certainly much happiness about life in general. Learning to appreciate living in the present, enjoying time spent with family and friends (and Izzie!), being thankful for our health and that of our families, and thankful that there is hope in our lives for a brighter better future.

Here's a few photos from our day, taken by my Dad (who of course did not end up actually IN a photo!):

All the ladies!
Me, Thad and our beautiful turkey!
Table is all set!
Most delicious pecan pie ever!
Apple Cranberry Pie - almost too pretty to eat!
 Thad and I have been enjoying the long holiday weekend together. We ventured out yesterday around noon to do a little shopping and had a nice lunch out with my parents. Today we each got our workouts in, made a quick trip to Whole Foods, and spent the afternoon at home. I'm making an Advent countdown activity for my niece and nephew that I have to ship to them on Monday, and he and my Dad worked on hanging Christmas lights on the house. Unfortunately several of the icicle lights are not working so we have fewer on the house this year, but we'll make do. Looking forward to finishing up my project tomorrow and decorating the house for Christmas tomorrow!

I hope everyone has enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Simply "Overweight"!

As I've lost weight and passed various milestones along the way - i.e. 50lbs down, 100lbs down, one that I've really been looking forward to is getting into the Overweight BMI category instead of Obese. That happened officially today with my weigh in this morning!! I'm simply "overweight" now! I know, strange things to get excited about, but it is exciting.

And it's also rather concerning. I think as a society our perceptions have become extremely skewed. For example, just a couple weeks ago I started wearing size 12s, was under 200 lbs and had someone ask me if I was going to continue to lose more, that I looked great. At the same time I was considered obese by all measurement standards, whether it's BMI, weight tables, hip to waist measurements, etc! It's like a wake up call to me that all the years of convincing myself that I was healthy when I'd lost just 10% of my weight (WW and all the talk shows tell you how 10% makes such a huge difference but don't mention that 10% on a very heavy person may not really make that much of a difference overall), or that I'd be happy and healthy if I ended up in a regular 12 or 14 clothes - was all in making myself feel better about the way I was and justifying it to make it okay to stay that way. I now know that it's all crap! And that as a society we concurrently condemn those who are overweight and obese and yet at the same time justify that it's okay and healthy to make ourselves feel better. How screwed up is that?

So, according to SparkPeople, I have 31.2 more pounds to lose to get into a 'healthy' category. That has been where I've set my goal all along, however I realize now that it's not like I'm going to get to that and suddenly stop what I'm doing! In fact, I'll likely be able to do even more with my body at that point. I'm not depriving myself - I'm eating healthy. I'm not working out like crazy - I'm doing a 60 minute class once a day plus one day I also do a yoga class. Sometimes I go for walks with Izzie. None of those are things that I'm going to suddenly change when I hit that imaginary 'healthy' goal category. This is my life now, and my goal is to get into the healthiest shape inside and out for my body - and where that ends up will be the 'right' place. Sounds simple, doesn't it? in many ways I think it is and I almost don't believe that I'm saying that! Had I met myself today a year ago, I might have thought I was crazy :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010


I absolutely love this new song by Katy Perry - Firework. I was listening to it in the car today and it really says so much about how I feel about my life the past year. Wanted to share the lyrics in case you haven't heard it or REALLY listened to it:

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep?
Six feet under screams but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there's still a chance for you
'Cause there's a spark in you?

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

'Cause baby, you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go, oh
As you shoot across the sky

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make 'em go, oh
You're gonna leave 'em falling down

You don't have to feel like a waste of space
You're original, cannot be replaced
If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow

Maybe you're reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road
Like a lightning bolt, your heart will blow
And when it's time, you'll know

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

'Cause baby you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go, oh
As you shoot across the sky

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make 'em go, oh
You're gonna leave 'em falling down

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
It's always been inside of you, you, you
And now it's time to let it through

'Cause baby you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go, oh
As you shoot across the sky

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make 'em go, oh
You're gonna leave 'em falling down

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon


No, I'm not talking about the tv series!

I'm talking about the size I bought this week! I have to say that when I began this journey, I honestly NEVER imagined I would be buying a size Medium. I really thought that getting into a regular size Large would be my be all end all of happiness. The last time I bought medium size anything was most definitely high school.

Yesterday I went to the Gap and used a Groupon I'd gotten before it expired and found a great long sleeve top and a cashmere sweater - both Mediums! Then today I drove out to the outlets to take advantage of the promo offer Tanger did earlier this week on facebook to get a $50 GC for $25. I've been needing a couple new workout tops as only one of the ones I currently own actually gives much support anymore, the rest are too big. Well I found two new workout tops at Adidas - both in a size Medium! They are tight Mediums (which I wanted), but Mediums just the same! woo hoo!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cranberry Muffins

Last week at Whole Foods I found a 2lb package of unsweetened dried cranberries (packaged at the store, not a brand or general bulk) at a great price, probably because it's in season. I figured that they'd be perfect for some holiday baking and even better that they are not full of added sugar! While browsing Tastespotting for cranberry recipes I ran across a recipe that looked delicious and fairly healthy. These do end up at 220 calories, 7g fat, 35g carbs, 2.5g fiber, 4g protein each, so I may look for more ways to cut some calories and fat out, but for a first try for taste - they're decadent! (and to note, they're still less than 1/2 the calories and fat you'll find in a typical Panera or Starbucks muffin). These make a good size muffin too!

Cranberry Muffins
makes 12

  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 TB melted butter
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 TB ground flax seed
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the applesauce, oil, butter, sugar and egg
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, ground flax seed, baking soda, salt and cinnamon
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and stir gently until just combined
  5. Stir in the dried cranberries
  6. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners. Divide batter into 12 muffins
  7. Bake 22-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.


Our friend Sarah came over for lunch today and I made us Mujaddara. Living in the Detroit area there are many great Middle Eastern restaurants. Over the years I've tried many different dishes - and have found I like most Lebanese food I've tried and it's generally pretty healthy, but I have not really cooked it at home. I decided to try this one today and made a few adjustments to the original recipe, so here's my version:

4 servings

  • 3/4 cup long grain brown rice
  • 1 cup french green lentils
  • 4 cups yellow onions cut into quarter slices
  • 4 TB extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • fine sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

  1. Put brown rice and 1 1/2 cups water in small pot, bring to a boil, then turn to simmer for 35-40 minutes
  2. Rinse lentils and add to medium pot with 4 cups water. Simmer lentils over very low heat uncovered until soft but with a sight bite to them (20-30 minutes). When cooked, cover and let water absorb any leftover water.
  3. While rice and lentils are cooking, chop onions. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet, add onions and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir every few minutes until they are deeply browned and carmelized. I did mine on a low heat and it took about 35 minutes. Do not rush this step!
  4. When onions are browned, remove half of them to drain on a paper towel to crisp. Add cumin into the rest of the onions in the pan, add in garlic and saute 2 minutes on low.
  5. Drain lentils and transfer to the pan with the onions. Season with salt and pepper, mix and cook 2 minutes.
  6. Mix rice into the lentils and onions, cook for another couple minutes to make sure rice is heated through if it has been sitting.
  7. Serve on 4 plates and top with the crispy carmelized onions.
This makes 4 good size servings. I calculated the nutritional value to be 436 calories, 14g fat, 60 carbs, 16g fiber, .5g sugars, 16g protein per serving.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Photo Shoot!

Last week was probably our last with really beautiful weather, and so I jumped on the opportunity to ask my friend Miranda to take photos of Thad and me for our Christmas card. 100 photos later and I found one I loved for our card - and ordered them today! I won't share that one with you, but here's a few others from our afternoon photo shoot at Mill Race Village in Northville. It's a great location!

Miranda with her son, Carter
Thad with Miranda's son, Connor

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Butternut Squash & Lentils with Feta

I found this recipe while lost in food blog world the other day. I've really been enjoying cooking with butternut squash and more vegetarian dishes so I thought I'd give this one a try today at lunch. Thad and I both really enjoyed the complex flavors in this dish.

Butternut Squash & Lentils with Feta
serves 2

2 cups cubed butternut squash (reserve seeds)
1 TB olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 cup (dry) french green lentils
1/8 cup slivered almonds
1 red chili, seeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 oz crumbled feta
1 TB lime juice

Wash & dry seeds from butternut squash. Spray baking sheet with canola oil spray, spread out seeds, sprinkle on some salt. Bake at 475 until browned, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Combine butternut squash, 1 TB olive oil, salt and cayenne. Spread on baking sheet (re-use one seeds were on), roast 20 minutes or until beginning to brown. (mix around halfway through). Set aside in a large bowl to cool.

While squash is roasting, bring a small pot of water to boil and add lentils. Simmer about 25 minutes, until lentils are fully cooked but still have a little pop to them. Drain and set aside.

Toast almonds over med heat in a dry skillet, then add to bowl with squash.

Once everything has cooled, add lentil, chili, feta and lime juice. Gently toss together and serve sprinkled with toasted seeds.

I calculated the nutritional info, per serving: 277 calories, 13g fat, 19 g cholesterol, 830g sodium, 33g carbs, 9g fiber, 2g sugars, 9g protein. High in Vitamin A & C. 

I do think that next time I will use only 1 oz feta and 2 tsp of olive oil instead of 1 TB.

Craft Show Weekend

Saturday was our long awaited craft show day! My friend Vern and I have been working together to make designer folded paper ornaments this Fall. We opened an Etsy shop last month ( and this was our first craft show. We did decide to lower the price on the ornaments from what we had originally set, and offered a discount that encouraged customers to buy 3.

The show was at St. Edith's in Livonia. Friday evening was set up - we were happy my tree comes pre-lit and in 4 pieces - we were all set up in about 30 minutes!

While the show did not end up having the traffic that they had expected or had had in past years, we covered our expenses and made a bit of money each, so it was a successful day. Everyone commented on how beautiful our ornaments were and how much detail went into them. 

We also enjoyed walking around and seeing others' creations. Most notable for me were a woman who did some beautiful stained glass, a jewelry booth with unique designs (Vern got a turquoise bracelet after going back by their table about 5 times!), and a table run by a nun from Sisters of Mercy that featured her original artwork (watercolor) notecards as well as printed notecards featuring her artwork. I stocked up on a bunch of those and was thrilled to leave with 4 original artwork cards (at a ridiculous low price of 2 and 3 dollars each) - she's very talented.  My parents and my aunt came by as well as a few friends, so all in all, a really nice day!

I'm going to look into doing another craft show in December if there's still space available, in South Lyon.

Moroccan Stuffed Acorn Squash

I made this a week ago when we had our neighbor Jobi over for dinner. While enjoying good wine and company I neglected to take a photo of this delicious dish! Squash was on sale this week at Busch's so I stocked up and made plans to do this dish again this week - again, it did not disappoint and I expect Thad and I will be eagerly sharing the leftovers tomorrow at lunch.

This recipe makes 4 good size servings. I served it with a salad (which I also took a photo of because it was so pretty!). We love these compari tomatoes!

Moroccan Stuffed Acorn Squash Recipe
serves 4

  • 2 acorn squashes, halved and seeded (I saved the seeds and roasted them and we added on top of our salad, with plenty left over to snack on)
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 lb lean ground beef (I thought about substituting turkey but decided the taste for this dish really required beef - I used lean grass fed beef)
  • ground cinnamon
  • ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup bulgur wheat
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 TB toasted pine nuts
  1. Preheat oven to 400. Place squash, cut sides down, in a casserole dish or baking pan (I use my Pampered Chef baking sheet). Bake 35-40 minutes until tender.
  2. At the same time, heat oil in a large pot over med-high heat. Add ground beef, a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg, and 1 tsp salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until browned and cooked through, 5-7 min. Using a slotted spoon remove beef from pot.
  3. Add onion and cook until slightly translucent, about 5 min. Add garlic and cook til fragrant, about 30 sec. Add 1 tsp salt and the bulgur wheat. Stir to combine. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med-low, cover and cook for 15 min. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork, add beef, raisins, parsley and pine nuts.
  4. Scrape out baked squashes forming 1/2 inch thick bowls. Fold flesh into bulgur and meat mixture. Divide among squashes and return to oven. Bake until warmed through and tops are browned, 12-14 minutes.
This recipe was from

I calculated the nutrition values (per serving): 538 cal, 28 g fat, 72 mg cholesterol,  54g carbs, 9.5g fiber, 1200mg sodium, 7.7g sugars, 20.5g protein. High in Vitamin B-12, B-6, C, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Niacin, Phosphorus, Thiamin, Zinc.

After calculating I think it could be worth trying to use a little less salt in the recipe and perhaps a mix of turkey and beef to reduce the fat and sodium in the recipe. I also think half the oil could be used in browning the meat, which would also help with the fat content.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Could I be THAT person?

This morning before Jazzercise class, my instructor says to me, "you should become an instructor." OMG, was I shocked to hear that! I've been happy lately to be at the point that I can do everything in class at high impact straight through, let alone being able to talk and think while doing it. But WOW, that someone actually thinks I could be that person? I feel like I have such a long way to go still to be in that kind of shape - at least another 40lbs. As positive as I have been about my progress, at the same time I keep surprising myself as to the person I am becoming and seem to have a lack of vision of what it will really be like when I am at my goal. When someone else sees that for you before you do, it's just kind of shocking! Who knows, I just might be up there someday. . .

Monday, November 8, 2010

Polenta! with mushrooms, tomatoes, kale and spinach

Another 'something new' for me! Not only have I never had polenta, I've certainly never made it. In the spirit of trying new things, I'd bought some polenta cornmeal in the bulk aisle at Whole Foods a little while ago, so it was just waiting for me in the pantry. After reading up on making polenta and all of the stirring it can require, I ran across some articles and recipes talking about using a slow cooker to make it instead. So yesterday I threw it in the slow cooker for 7 hours, then put it in a greased loaf pan and stuck it in the fridge to be ready for dinner tonight.

Some quick facts about polenta: it's a great source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin and vitamin B6.

Here's the recipe I used for the slow cooker polenta. I don't know if there's a healthier version out there that doesn't use so much butter, but I figured for my first shot at this, I'm better off following a tried and true recipe I found:

Polenta Recipe

  • 3 TB melted butter
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 6 cups boiling water
  • 2 cups polenta cornmeal
  • 2 tsps salt
Grease the walls of the slow cooker with 1 TB of the butter. Measure remaining ingredients and add to the slow cooker. Stir well, cover and cook on low for 6 to 9 hours, stirring occasionally. Transfer polenta mixture to a greased loaf pan, chill thoroughly.

Kale, Spinach, Mushrooms & Sun-dried Tomatoes Saute Recipe 
serves 4

  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1/2 lb sliced crimini mushrooms
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small bunch kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 bag baby spinach roughly chopped
  • 8 slices of polenta
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
Heat 1 TB oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Stir in kale and spinach and 1/4 cup water (or more if needed), cover and reduce heat to medium low. Cook until wilted, about 2 minutes more. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

Heat remaining 1 TB oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Arrange polenta in skillet in a single layer, working in batches if needed. Cook, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides, 5 to 6 minutes total. Transfer polenta to a paper towel-lined plate as done.

Arrange polenta on plates, spoon mixture over the top, garnish with cheese and serve.

(This recipe was adapted from one by Whole Foods.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Living every moment

One of the daily emails I get is from SparkPeople - today's topic was "are you paying attention to how your time is spent?". Here's an excerpt from it:
Five days out of seven, we're waiting for something else to happen in the future, and we don't take advantage of the day that we hold in our pocket. Have you ever had someone ask what you did last week--or even yesterday--and had trouble coming up with an answer? You probably wouldn't have had any problem at all if your time were spent on something meaningful for you.
Thad and I were actually talking about something similar to this yesterday. It was late morning and I wanted to go to a craft show at a church in town - but I really didn't want to go alone. I asked him to go with me and without even one complaint he said sure. We had such a nice time out doing something different and he commented about how we used to go do random things out and about like this on weekends, but haven't in so long. It just made me realize that it's another step in getting my life back.

I've had a lot of early mornings this past week and have enjoyed getting a lot done around the house, getting shopping done, working out and still having time for getting together with friends, reading a book, etc. I think of so many days this past year that I spent without much on my agenda beyond working out and reading - and while I definitely can enjoy spending time doing 'nothing', I realize I'm a happier person when I'm doing something - just has to be a balanced something, not the insanity that was my life while running a business.

Last night we had friends over for dinner and while talking about what I want to do in the future (or perhaps the not quite knowing what I want to do is more accurate), I came to the realization that this past year has truly been a process of time I needed (desperately!) and I finally feel like I'm coming out of the clouds and making a new life. Of course I'm still figuring that part out, but it's nice to see some clear skies for a change :)

And so today I am thankful for time - and valuing it in many ways. I resolve to be proactive daily that doing meaningful things each day, no matter how small they may be, is truly living every moment of my life instead of letting it pass by waiting for something else to come.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Taking Notice!

In general I think I'm a pretty self-motivated person. This goes across most things in my life whether it's been school, career, business, dieting, exercising or other activities. But I have to also admit that when others take notice of my success, I get a definite extra boost of motivation that I'm on the right path!

Twice this week, entirely independent of one other, I've had two of my Jazzercise instructors come up to me before class and tell me how great I'm looking. This unexpected observation happens to come during a week where I'm feeling like I'm up and down within the same 2 pounds and contemplating that I need to get back on track better with recording what I eat. In both instances it gave me that extra boost to really make my workout a great one and really feel the differences in my body and abilities.

The stubborn part of me wishes that I could be entirely self-motivated, almost as if there's some weakness in enjoying praise. How crazy is that, right? In any case, it does remind me to pay that feeling forward with others because it can make a big difference in someone else's life when you may not even realize it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Linguine with Roasted Butternut Squash & Shallots

I made this recipe last night since I already had an abundance of cubed butternut squash leftover from another recipe and half a bag of our favorite linguine. It was delicious! It's from Cooking Light.

I used half a bag of whole wheat (plus flax) multigrain Al Dente linguine. Their pasta is amazing - not only is it healthy (6 grams of fiber plus omega-3s), but it cooks in 4 minutes! It's made by a local company but available nationwide at Whole Foods and other specialty stores.  The flavor and texture of all of their pastas is simply wonderful!

The recipe called for 3 cups of cubed squash - I had closer to 5, but threw it all in anyway. Otherwise I followed the recipe - I used dried sage since that's what I had, and a little less parmesan than they included. This dish ends up with complex savory and slightly sweet flavors. The recipe called for 4 servings, but I made it into 3 instead, added a salad and we had a complete and filling meal for about 500 calories!

Monday, November 1, 2010

This year will be different.

November 1st - all thoughts of Fall and pumpkins and cider seem to fall away as we move into the holiday season.

25 days til Thanksgiving
53 days til Christmas
60 days left til the end of the year!

Popular belief is that people gain 5 to 10 pounds around the holidays. However, according to the NIH and the New England Journal of Medicine, it's actually closer to around 1 pound for the average person. Well, except if you're already overweight, apparently the gain really is closer to 5 pounds!

I am going to be making a concentrated effort to find healthy treats to bake instead of the cookies and fudge I've made in years past. I also plan to look for healthier alternatives to some of the calorie and fat ridden recipes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. But not all of them. There are some things deserving of a special treat, a splurge - like Pioneer Woman mashed potatoes!

One of the best things about being the one who hosts holidays and cooks is just that - I'm the one cooking and controlling what's on the table. I enjoy the planning, the shopping, the cooking, but probably most of all - the sharing of a great meal.

This weekend we're celebrating Thad's birthday and I'm cooking at home - Friday night for my family and Saturday night for some friends. Then I'll move on to planning Thanksgiving, then Christmas goodies and dinner, then our NYE party.

I'm back to going to Jazzercise daily and loving it. They have an attendance challenge going on right now to come 20 times between now and the end of the year and you get this little bag. I plan to win that before the end of this month as a personal challenge (although I could care less about getting the actual bag!). The other ongoing challenge is that if you attend 150 classes in a calendar year you get a free long sleeve Jazzercise shirt - I need to find out how close I am. I only joined at the beginning of May but I know I've hit 100 classes already, October just wasn't a good month though. I'd really love to challenge myself to get that shirt!! So, hopefully these challenges will also help me in making this holiday season a very different one as well!