it’s so worth it

I never liked having pictures taken at the pool, at the beach, in a bikini. For a while I didn’t even enjoy going to the beach or pool because I didn’t want to wear a bikini. Not because I was overweight, but because I was skinny fat, and didn’t feel good at all even wearing shorts.
I imagine most wouldn’t name a bathing suit as the piece of clothing they feel most confident in. And I wouldn’t either, but looking at pictures of me taken in a bikini on a beach yesterday is making me feel really, really good and confident right now. I look toned, there’s definition, there are abs! I look healthy. Can you tell how proud I am?
All the hard work paid off. Endless hours at the gym, countless sit ups, squats, and lunges. All the pain, the soreness, the sweat. It all paid off and was more than worth it.
This just gave me the confidence and motivation I need to keep going, to keep pushing.

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meet Mr. Handsome, Captain.

This is him. Captain. The dog that changed everything.

We first met him at a local adoption event in July 2011 where the hubs feel in love with him as soon as he saw him. Captain was three then and spent 1 1/2 years at a shelter. This was half of his life!  And not because he was a bad dog, but simply because he’s been overlooked. He is big, strong and well, he’s a Pit Bull. He also is a goofy,whiny cry baby. He’s a hunk and a big mush. And he’s handsome. He is smart, gentle, and loving and he can’t stand to hear people fighting or yelling. He’s a great dog.

 

Captain, who was named “Beau” during his stay at Animal Control (yes, he made it 1 1/2 years at a Animal Control Shelter!) was picked up as a stray by the Animal Control Officer in March of 2010. After a year at the pound he was very distracted, and just not much into human interaction. According to the ACO (Animal Control Officer) he was never aggressive or mean, just not really interested. He was polite and neat in his cage, and did whatever he was asked to do. “Beau” was never put down because he was a favorite of the kennel attendant and the ACO’s, they recognized that he was a special dog even though he was a bully breed. Often, Pit Bulls don’t get a fair chance when they enter a shelter. Most of them won’t make it out, which is very sad but true. All because of their reputation, because of prejudgment, and ignorance.

It is really stressful for a dog to live in a shelter environment as you can imagine, and this can affects the dogs (or any animal for that matter) greatly. It can “break” an animal, especially after such a long time. Beau never showed any signs of breaking down physically or mentally, apart from him being distracted.

Just a few short months before we adopted Beau someone came along who also saw that this dog was special. They saw what the ACO’s saw but potential adopters overlooked for so long. And this someone wanted to give him a chance. He had waited for so long, and so patiently he had earned that chance. Money was donated to a Animal Hospital in his name and he got vetted. He got neutered, and vaccinated. Being vetted meant his adoption fee dropped, everyone knew he was healthy and potential adopters wouldn’t have to worry about high vet bills first thing after getting him. He also got some toys and extra time outside, some love and affection on a regular basis.

Next, Beau was tested for aggression issues. Many assumed he was dog aggressive simply because he was a big Pit Bull, but as it turned out he was a big lover. He was social and laid back. He was good with every dog, and became the shelters test dog. Even when other dogs weren’t good with him he wasn’t aggressive or even reactive.

Captain hanging with our current foster Max

Not long after that special person invested some time and love in this homeless dog things changed. He began showing some interest, he began “being there”.

On the last July weekend of 2011 we met Captain. We spent hours at the adoption event, just hanging out with him, getting as much information as we could, and taking him out for little walks around the area. He was so excited, and jumpy and strong. I’ve never met a dog that pulled that much on a leash. But it was his reaction to the other people, the other dogs, little kids, puppies,… that completely overwhelmed us. He was so great with all of them! Besides, he was handsome and I just loved his big head. At the end of day, we filled out an application, all the volunteers were so excited and happy that someone finally showed interest in giving this dog the home and life he deserves.

We went straight to the pet store, and got food and water bowls, food, treats, bones, toys, a harness and a new leash. The next days I spent reading and researching the breed since I never really met a pit bull before, nor knew anything about them. And then we waited. We waited for someone from the shelter to call us. A couple of days passed and the hubs called the lady who took our application. As it turned out she never forwarded the application because she thought we weren’t right for the dog. We are a young couple, the hubs in the military, no previous experience with the breed. She was just as ignorant towards us as people tend to be towards specific breeds. And people were towards Captain.

We took things into out own hands and started fighting for Captain. We made phone calls, wrote e-mail, collected references. We took the hour-long trip to the Shelter to see Captain again, meet the ACO and show them how serious we are. Well, it worked. We brought Captain home a week later and couldn’t be happier. As it turned out the person who made all this possible, never got our application. Captain living the life he deserves was made possible only because people didn’t give up, people saw that special something in him and kept fighting for him. I’m incredibly thankful to have him in our life.

Only yesterday he graduated from his first training class, which was an intermediate obedience class. It was his first professional training ever and he did beautifully! I couldn’t be more proud. He loved the classes and improved so much. The trainer fell in love with him as well, couldn’t believe how smart and bright he was for being at a shelter for so long. This class prepared him to become a Canine Good Citizen and the trainer is convinced he has it in him!

guiltless cinnamon buns anyone?

I’ve been craving Cinnamon Buns for weeks but really didn’t want to go with the canned stuff, so I’ve been looking all through the internet (ok, Pinterest) to find a recipe. Unfortunately most of the recipes I came along got rejected after a screen over the ingredients: too much sugar, too much butter, not very nutritional. Some of you might have a similar reaction to my husband’s “It’s cinnamon buns you’re looking for, what did you expect?” Well, I expected to find some healthy alternative and so I started googling  “whole wheat cinnamon buns”. I came across this recipe, adapted it slightly and started the happy baking.

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What can I tell you? They are de-li-cious!! And made with whole wheat flour, skim milk, and just a little bit of butter they come to only 265 calories! Doesn’t this make them sound so much more delicious? I promise you, once they come out of you’re oven you won’t be able to stop eating them till they are gone. I have to say the recipe might look overwhelming at a first glance, but it is so worth it. It isn’t even that complicated once you get it started, I promise. It was my first attempt on cinnamon buns and they turned out fantastic. I’m pretty sure when I was able to master them, you can too.

So here is the recipe as found here, with my adaption in (bold)

Yields about 14 rolls
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 22 minutes
Total time: 3 1/2 hours

Ingredients:

Rolls:

  •  1 cup fat free milk, warmed (100 – 110 degrees F) (I used 2% since that’s all I had)
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter (2 TBS butter + 2 1/2 TBS unsweetened apple sauce)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar + 1 tablespoon (I didn’t have white sugar, so I used sugar in the raw + brown sugar)
  • 1 package active dry, quick rising yeast
  • 2 3/4 – 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 organic egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice (can use regular cinnamon if you want) (Cinnamon)

Icing:

  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons light cream (2% milk)
  • About 1 cup powdered sugar

Directions :

  1. Mix milk, yeast, butter (2 tablespoons) (I used the applesauce in the dough) and 1 tablespoon sugar in a large mixing bowl and let sit about 5 minutes, or until mixture is frothy. Stir in egg, remaining sugar and 1 cup flour and mix. Let sit another 10 minutes.
  2. Add in flour, 1/2 cup at a time and salt until mixture resembles a sticky dough (you may not use all the flour).  Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for 4 – 6 minutes, or until dough is elastic. If still sticky, knead in remaining flour. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray and cover it. Let rise in a warm place (at least 85 degrees F) until doubled in size, may take up to 1 hour.
  3. Once dough has risen, punch it down, re-cover and let rise an additional 35 – 45 minutes, or until doubled in size again. Punch down again and let rest 5 minutes.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a 9 x 18 rectangle. Gently brush remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter all over the dough. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Sprinkle the melted butter with brown sugar/pumpkin pie spice mixture. Then carefully roll up one end to the other, pressing the sides down with your fingers.
  5. Using a sharp, un-serrated knife, cut the dough vertically into 14 pieces. Place pieces cut side down in 2 greased baking dishes (I used a 9 x 18 and an 8 x 8 circle), cover and let rise another 35 – 40 minutes, or until doubled in size.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake rolls for 18 – 22 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from pans and let chill on a wire cooling rack.
  7. While rolls cool, prepare frosting by whisking butter and cream together. Add in vanilla. Then gradually add powdered sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, until mixture is a little thick but still runny.  Drizzle roll with frosting (about 1 1/2 tablespoons each) while still warm and serve.

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Before starting the recipe, I turned my oven to about 150F (lowest), turned it off 10-15 minutes later and then used the warm oven to rise my dough in. It worked beautifully and cut the rising time in half!

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Since it’s only the hubby and I, I froze one pan of the cinnamon rolls after I let them rise again in the oven for about 10 minutes and only baked four to eat immediately. Boy how I wished I would have baked more right away, they turned out so delicious, we ate them at once and wished we had more! I took out another four the same night, let those defrost in the fridge overnight and made them in the morning. They we’re still pretty amazing but not as great as the fresh ones. So my tip for you: Go for it and bake them all :)!

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spaghetti overhaul

A few days ago I stopped by the Commissary after the gym to get some eggs and milk. I use the gym on the Naval Base the Hubs is stationed at, so the Commissary (it’s what the Navy calls the Grocery Store on base) was convenient. The produce is right at the entrance and I walked right into a display of Spaghetti Squash. Now, don’t ask me why there is a sale on a winter squash (at least I believe it’s a winter squash, correct me if I’m wrong) in June but the commissary can have funny sales like that from time to time. Anyway, I grabbed one and went ahead getting the eggs and milk. I was really good at that quick stop since I really just picked up these three items, instead of coming out with several grocery bags full of stuff, and in the end forgetting the thing I actually went to the store for.

I have had Spaghetti Squash only once a couple of years ago, but I’ve read a lot about it since. I spent some time looking up ways to cook the squash and as it turns out it’s super easy! I was toying with the idea of trying a recipe with a white sauce, but went for the meaty spaghetti sauce I had frozen. I like to make a slow cooked meat sauce from scratch in a big batch and freeze individual portions for a quick, easy and delicious dinner. This was the last of it, so I will be making some sooner and later and I’ll post the recipe then. So much better and healthier than any store-bought sauce!

You can bake, boil, steam or microwave the squash. Once cooked, the flesh separates into string like strands like spaghetti. One cup of cooked Spaghetti Squash has only about 42 calories, and 10 grams of Carbs (4gr as sugar) according to the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient database. A cup of cooked Spaghetti in comparison has about 225 calories, and 43 grams Carbs. Spaghetti squash has a high water content and is not as dense in vitamins and minerals as other winter squash, but if you’re watching your calorie or carbohydrate intake it makes a great Pasta Substitute. Plus it is delicious ;)!

Here’s how I cooked my Spaghetti Squash:

  • pre-heat oven to 350 F
  • cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds and pulp
  • bake the halves cut side down (use a cookie sheet) 30-40 minutes, let cool for a few minutes to make the squash easier to handle
  •  separate the strands by running a fork through the flesh from stem to stem

I did add a little salt & pepper to the squash before serving but with the flavorful sauce it wasn’t necessary at all.

It was such a delicious, quick, and easy dinner, plus we had enough left overs for both our lunches the next day. I will definitively start experimenting more with spaghetti squash and try it with different sauces. I read it’s also delicious if you just toss the cooked squash with some olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper and some Parmesan in a skillet, hmmmm!

a 30 day work out challenge

Yesterday I started the “30 Day May Challenge” as seen on http://bodyrock.tv.

Since the hubs and I are in saving mode due to our upcoming Germany trip we’re trying to save on gas so I’ve been working out at home this week instead of driving 30 minutes to the gym. I came across bodyrock a while ago but kind of forgot about it in between. It’s actually a pretty neat site though, you get free workout videos everyday. There are all different kinds of workout you can choose from, different challenges, diet challenges, and lots of inspiration and motivation. And it’s all free! So make sure you head over and check it out.

So I did the Fit Test yesterday to start the challenge, I choose the “Intermediate Level Body Weight Only” and it was harder than I thought. The intervals were 50/10 seconds, 4 exercises, repeat the circuit 3 times. I have to stay I didn’t push myself all the way, I gave up pretty easily in the last circuit (shame in me) so my rep count isn’t as good as it could be. But oh well, it’s a start and I plan on pushing hard today so I burst those numbers at the end of the challenge.

Here are the numbers:

  • Squat Jump & 1/2 Burpee: 9 – 7 – 7
  • Superman Push Up: 7 – 5 – 3 plus 5 knee push ups
  • Elevated Triceps Dip: 12 – 13 – 7
  • Elevated Knee Abs which I had to change into regular Sit Ups after the first round: 9 – 8 – 9

After that followed a Flexibility Fit Test which wasn’t too much trouble to me thanks to yoga. Yay me!

Food wise it wasn’t a day for me to be proud of. We were pretty low on groceries I have to say, which means I didn’t had veggies or fruit left in the fridge. But it’s restocked now so tomorrow I’ll share what’s for dinner tonight. It’s going to be green, healthy, and yummy!

we all need to start somewhere

So there I was, on September 22nd, 2008 arriving at JFK International Airport to start my year abroad. I was a participant in the “Au Pair in America” Program and sure I would be boarding a plane back home to Germany 13 months later. Nearly four years later and I’m still living here. I extended my Au Pair time, became a student, got married.

When I first told family and friends about my plans on going to the US for a year they weren’t quite sure how serious they should take me. I wasn’t even sure how serious I should take me but to be honest, I hardly ever am. It was never my dream to come here, nor have I ever thought about being an Au Pair before. It was an add that caught my eye.

I was in my last year of a apprenticeship to become an Educator. Childcare Provider. Kindergarten Teacher. It was the year of recognition and I worked at this fabulous day care center in this fabulous city (I still miss both dearly), so during a short break at work (or was it a really slow afternoon?) I leafed through a magazine on education and came across this add by “Au Pair in America”, a program which, well, provides “intercultural live-in child care in the U.S” and they had a specific program for Educators. I looked it up online when I got home that night and out of curiosity filled in a form to get more information. What I didn’t realize was that this was already the first step to signing up. However, I went with it and became an “Au Pair Extraordinaire” in Upstate New York. Rhinebeck, NY to be exact.

Growing up in Germany on a farm growing our own vegetables, fruits, even grain and some livestock  eating wholesome and healthy was natural We were always cooking and baking, made mostly everything from scratch and family meal time was a ritual. I learned how to cook from a young age, and became responsible for family dinners on weeknight once I was a teenager (which honestly sucked at the time but comes in handy now). I discovered more and more processed foods, and McDonald’s, during my teenage years although it didn’t really make me gain weight. I never went to the gym but was active in other ways. I did ballet and danced in a dance group. Also, we walk a lot more. I was skinny-fat. There wasn’t much muscle, I wasn’t lean.

Anyway, during my first year here in the US I gained some weight. Not really much, but you could see it in pictures. I was lucky that my Host family ate semi-healthy, or tried to at least with lots of fruit and vegetables, but it’s the stuff like Bread, Lunch Meat and other things you would think of as processed foods that is much more processed than what we would eat in Germany. After my first year in the US also I became a vegetarian and became more aware of what I eat.

On June 3rd, 2011 I got married in Connecticut. My husband is in the Navy and pretty fit. He works out all. the. time! And he got me into it. Working out, that is. We always ate pretty healthy in general, but still had a bunch of processed stuff in the pantry and on our plates. We ate a lot of carbs! Yes, it was mostly whole wheat Pasta, but too much of it none-the-less. I saw results from the hard work in the gym but hit a plateau around Christmas. And that is when I started to think more about Nutrition and what we eat. I started to cut out more and more processed foods, cook healthier and find healthier substitutes in cooking and baking. I started running, something I always really really disliked. I wouldn’t say I like running but it keeps me sane, it makes me feel good. I ran 5ks and the one big goal I would like to accomplish in the next 365 days is to run a half (or full) Marathon.

I took on a challenge to keep improving my diet, stick with clean eating and exercise or the next 365 Days. I want a place to keep me accountable, post recipes I tried and love, and also to find inspiration and encouragement.

This blog will be about me, my life, my way of healthy living and maybe you can pick something up and make it your own.

We will see how it goes :)