Winter Storm Walda

 

The after effects of Winter Storm Walda in Downtown Sioux Falls, SD. Taken on April 11th, 2013.

Dairy-Free Milk-Free Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

I ran out of milk. Whoops, went to the grocery store yesterday and forgot that it was gone. My bad. But I’ve been craving a peanut butter banana smoothie for weeks and it makes such a perfect breakfast item that I had to have one, somehow, especially since I had just purchased bananas for that precise application.

I ended up successfully making a very tasty, relatively smooth peanut butter banana smoothie. Here’s what I did (very approximately, it was a “throw stuff in the blender” morning):

  • 4 ice cubes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 banana
  • 2 heaping spoonfuls of smooth peanut butter
  • 4 tbsp agave

I started with the water and about half the agave, blended that all up. Broke the banana into bits, threw that in, blended that all up. Then I threw in the peanut butter, blended that all in. Then I wondered why my smoothie was warm and remembered that I needed to add ice, blended two of the ice cubes in. Then I just kept adding ice cubes and agave until it was the consistency, temperature and taste that I wanted. Basically, it was a peanut butter punch in the mouth.

I figured someone else on the internet might run out of milk some day and not have almond milk, or soy milk, or coconut juice or any of the other recommended items that replace milk in smoothies all over the internet.

And yes, you can replace the agave with honey, I’m just trendy like that.

2 (more) Gingers

gingers_2The first Wednesday of every month, the Market on Phillips Avenue in downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota hosts a “whiskey society,” and each meeting brings a different type of whiskey: bourbon, scotch, Irish whiskey, etc. and a host of delicious food items.

This month was Irish whiskey, which I’m not regularly a fan of. In fact, I’m a pretty hardcore bourbon drinker and, despite my heritage, I find Irish whiskey to be a bit too “too” for me, if that makes any kind of sense.

One of the whiskeys I tasted last night, though, caught my attention. First of all, there’s the name: 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey. I am one ginger, so I feel like having two more around might be good. Next, there’s the story. Founder Keiran Folliard is an Irish man who has lived just about everywhere, and then for some reason ended up in Minneapolis starting the bar “the Local.” He sold out his 20-million-dollar-a-year bar to his partners, and launched his own whiskey line, and then was bought out by Beam, Inc. A name which you may recognize.

Here’s the deal: It’s a whiskey brewed in Ireland, distributed in Minnesota and, for now, mostly found in the midwest, it has a low price point (you can buy it for $20 online) and it tastes bourbony. Bourbony enough to appeal to me as a hard-core American non-Irish whiskey drinker. Which is interesting, because I’ve found some whiskey review sites complaining about it. My verdict: It’s not for an Irish whiskey connoisseur, it’s for someone like me. Besides, it’s cheap enough that I can tell people to just give it a try and form their own opinion.

Oh yeah, and check out this hilarious video (it’s even better if you’ve been drinking Irish whiskey):

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Testing out a new photo processing technique…

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John Cooper Works Badge

Sioux Falls

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The Bourbon-Bacon-Cupcake Adventure

Normally I get off work and I play video games, or watch TV, or read, or go to the bar, or go to yoga, or go wine tasting. I consider these all perfectly normal things.

Last night, I did none of these things. Rather, I caved to peer pressure, and I participated in an activity that I have been trying to avoid for years. My friends, even my own mother, have all told me of it, and the wonders it brings.

Last night… I baked… Cupcakes.

In order to bring myself to terms with the fact that I had appeared to completely fall off the bandwagon I did what any good Irish girl would do. I put whiskey in them. And then I covered them in whiskey sauce.

Well, it was bourbon, but that’s a type of whiskey so my statements stand.

Bacon-Hazelnut Buttermilk Cupcakes with Amaretto-Maple Buttercream and Bourbon Caramel.

This is a thing.

So, I followed the recipe I linked to above, at least to the best of my ability. I had about three bowls, one spatula, one big spoon, a couple butter knives, one whisk and no standing mixer to speak of. I did have the necessary items to make the frosting look decent, at least.

It took a little dish washing and a lot of arm strength but I got the job done. More or less. They taste really good and don’t look disgusting. I count this as a win.

Here’s bits and pieces of my adventure, mostly in pictures:

BaconThe first thing I had to was buy ingredients. I purchased most of them at Hyvee, which is incredibly boring. However, my bacon and my bourbon I bought at my favorite place in town: Look’s Meat Market. This wonderful paradise is full of all sorts of pig and cow and wonderful alcohol, and every bit of it is good. My favorite perk? Bourbon taste while you grocery shop.

Cooking BaconAnyway, once I had purchased my candied bacon from Look’s, I had to chop some of it up. Look’s slices the bacon thin, but it wasn’t cut in conventional strips – it looked more like ham. So, rather than the three slices that recipe recommended I did what any girl would do in my situation: I used seven.

Then I put it in a pan and cooked it, and fought off the rest of the household.

No MixerThe next part is boring, because I proceeded to make cupcake batter per the recipe instructions. I came across the problem where I didn’t have a mixer, and opted to use elbow grease instead, and it worked wonderfully and made me feel better about making something so fatty because I burned 10 whole calories trying to mix soft-but-not-melted butter with dried goods.

The result of this debacle was the sudden inclination to pour myself a drink. So I did. And then so did the rest of the house, it’s funny how that works.

SONY DSCFor this project I opted for one of my favorite bourbons, Eagle Rare. Mostly because the recipe only called for a few table spoons, or, when it came to be my turn to add bourbon to my cupcakes, three tablespoons “plus just a little bit more.” That meant I got to share drink the rest of the bottle!

SONY DSCAnd then there was an oven and then magically there were (un-frosted) cupcakes! It was time to make frosting!

Iced Cupcake

Iced Cupcake

Of course, just as the frosting was getting finished, one cupcake was pilfered from my batch, unceremoniously deflowered with a dip in the almost-finished frosting and eaten with no remorse. It was a sad day in the land of cupcakes.

SONY DSCSONY DSCOnce the cupcakes had been iced I had to make the caramel, which was actually fairly unexciting, but I took pictures because I hadn’t made caramel since I was in elementary school and I was feeling kind of artsy and “wait for it to boil” means “get bored and meander around the kitchen finding ways to entertain yourself” in Shelley-speak. Which meant it was time for another drink!

So, I finished with the caramel, ignoring the “wait until it turns amber” and “don’t pour on the cupcakes until it’s cooled down” directions. My cupcakes were a little melty, particularly the icing.

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They were tasty though!SONY DSC

Yoga: A Start

I went to my first yoga class a couple weeks ago at Santosha Hot Yoga here in Sioux Falls, and found myself in my second class yesterday. It was a very intimidating experience for me, as I’ve never really been to an exercise-oriented class and frankly I was afraid of making a fool of myself. Having been now, I encourage anyone to go because a good class will make you feel welcome and will encourage you to return.

yogaThe fact is that everyone starts somewhere, and most people have a lot of respect for people who are brave enough to try something new, especially when they are passionate about said new thing. People who are involved in a sport or a hobby, like yoga, want other people to be involved, to enjoy it and to learn and benefit from the experience the same way they have.

Before going, I read the studio’s website carefully to see what I needed to bring: a towel, a yoga mat, capris, a tank top, a water bottle. I went to the sporting goods store and found I could make it out for under $50 with everything I needed.

My first class was a relaxing hot yoga class. My second class was a power yoga class in a hot room. Two totally different worlds! The hot yoga class was awesome because it pushed me but also relaxed me. The power yoga class simply kicked my ass, and it made me feel great.

On Saturday, I’m headed to a workshop at the Dharma Room, where a very nice gal who was in my power yoga class yesterday will be teaching a workshop.

I guess my point is that if you want to try something new you should, because you never know what you’ll get hooked on.

“Wedding Diets”

A few months ago I had either the opportunity or the misfortune to change my relationship status on Facebook to “engaged.” And let me tell you, it changes the layout of the Facebook landscape in a very significant way. I can’t log into the social networking site without it being recommended that I like some thing.

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Here’s the problem – I’m just not that girl. I just want to get drunk on the beach and sleep all day. Frankly, all this materialization advertising crap disgusts me.

But there is an offender I consider the worst. The “Wedding Diet” ads.

I am not going to go on a “wedding diet,” I am going to get married as myself and continue on my path of being as happy and as healthy as I can for as long as I can - for myself.

Marriage is about a lifetime of commitment, not getting in shape for one day. If you want to be in good shape for your wedding, use it as a chance to commit yourself to a lifetime of good health and good habits, not a chance to do a crash-diet that will make you look skinny for one day.

 

Running: A Start

A lot of people start running, and then stop again, and then start again. Here’s a little advice for people who want to start running, but just can’t quite get themselves to keep at it (I used to be one myself):

Find a Good Program, Set a Goal

For me, running used to mean going outside and jogging down the street until I was breathing heavily. This is no longer an acceptable form of exercise in my book. I make sure I know what I’m doing before I ever even put my running shoes on.

I am a big advocate of the Couch to 5k and Couch to 10k programs, they are what got me started. Now, as a matter of fact, I’m redoing the Couch to 5k program at a faster pace – rather than running at 5.5 mph I’m running at 7. Sprints are a great way to do cardio and the early C25k runs are all set up as interval runs.

The reason the Couch to 5k program is so valuable for new runners is because it starts easy, it builds confidence, and you can set your own difficulty. I will admit that it took me a lot longer than 9 weeks to get to that 5k, mostly because of my own mental blocks. Running intervals was all well and good, but it took me weeks to convince myself I could run for 20 minutes straight.

treadmillSeriously Consider a Treadmill

Running is boring. I used to think that if I ran outside it would be better and less boring. In fact, I used this excuse to never get on a treadmill. Then I started using a treadmill, and then I started running.

Treadmills are great for beginning runners for many reasons:

  • You have control over your pace and you can more easily find a stick with a speed that won’t let you over-due it.
  • You have control over your environment, so you can’t explain to yourself that it’s “too hot” or “too cold” outside.
  • It’s easier to stay hydrated and you don’t have to find a way to carry a water bottle
  • You can set a low incline (I recommend around 1%, I’ve heard it’s better on the knees but that may just be hear-say).
  • It’s easier to maintain equal intervals on a steady incline at a steady pace.
  • You can keep yourself entertained by watching a TV show or listening to an audio-book without having to worry too much about the dangers of running outside and alone. (Running outside with earbuds in makes you a target, and I recommend against it.)
  • There are less distractions, and newer runners can focus on their stance and breathing.

I’m sure there are arguments for the other side, but the treadmill is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

treadmillAcknowledge Your Excuses

We all make a ton of excuses not to do things. The best thing we can do for ourselves is acknowledge them for what they are, but pay attention to them. For example, if your excuse one day is “I feel pretty dehydrated,” run anyway, but then the next run day drink plenty of water the day or morning before.

Remember that you are doing this for yourself and because you’ll feel better in the long run. Each time you force yourself past the excuses and onto the road you’ll feel better and better about what you are doing.

Hold Yourself Accountable

I track all my workouts on Fitocracy. It appeals to my gamer nature, I get points and level up and such. But mostly, I feel bad when I don’t workout for a while. It’s like I’m neglecting something. I also have found it’s beneficial to tell someone I’m planning to work out on a given day; my fiance is really good about, “Hey, weren’t you going to go run today?”

Maybe that doesn’t work for you though. Maybe you want to put posts on Facebook (one of my friends is trying to lose weight and posts his weight every week), or just use something as simple as a spreadsheet. Find a system that allows you to see your own progress and feel good about it. It makes a difference.

Road to Health: A Start

I didn’t grow up in a fashion that taught me to be healthy. As a child, and as a young adult, I ate a lot of fast food, drank a lot of Dr. Pepper and spent time declaring how much I hated exercise. Eventually I got very sick and had to adjust my diet and my lifestyle, and once I started I couldn’t stop.

Healthy is happy

Healthy is happy

Most people look at the act of “getting in shape” all wrong. It’s about losing weight, or looking a certain way. While those aren’t necessarily bad goals, for the most people they aren’t enough. What you have to really want is to be healthy, and to take care of yourself.

As someone who has dumped so much time and money into tools to protect myself and the training necessary to do so, the logical next step was to try to avoid the top killers in America by becoming as healthy as possible. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and it’s been a radical change that is far finished.

The number one thing that I have discovered about myself on this journey has been how to manage my own expectations. I’m not going to be power-lifting and living off of a high-protein no-burger no-booze diet any time soon, however I learned that the more I cut back on the unhealthy stuff, the less I wanted it. For example, fast food. I used to eat fast food burgers all the time and now they disgust me. Sure, I’ll grab a bite at J.L. Beers Sioux Falls, but Taco Bell is nowhere on my radar. This was a process, I started with cutting back, then finally stopped eating it for a period of time, and then one day I went to Arby’s and it just didn’t leave me feeling good at all, and that was the end of that.

Remembering that this a change that you are making for yourself, as a dedicated lifestyle change to help yourself feel better everyday is a step towards motivation. The next step is to eliminate excuses by building confidence. While I don’t have a 12-step program to get everyone there, I plan to share my journey toward building self-confidence and finding the path to a healthy way of living from someone who has lived at the opposite end for a long time.