Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday recap

Amidst all the cookies, decorating and presents, how was my holiday? It was overall very good but there were two big downers. Let's focus on them, shall we?

#1 I sprained my foot on December 23 (while delivering presents to neighbors) and spent the entire Wisconsin trip icing, wrapping and elevating it. It's a good thing we didn't have huge plans to go out visiting or shopping because I don't think I would have made it. We stayed in at Mike's parent's house and had a quiet little visit. My foot is still bruised and cannot yet withstand running so I'm feeling a bit like a caged animal! I've been trying to get by with strength training (mainly upper body) and hopefully my foot will be able to take a run next week.

#2 We got home on Christmas day and ordered some Chinese food instead of having to figure something out. Maybe half an hour after eating, I was puking it all back up again and shivering in my bed with what I suspect was food poisoning. Who doesn't just loathe puking? So we had to skip brunch with my parents, to be rescheduled for another time when I'm not recuperating from my stomach rejecting all contents.

What did I get for Christmas besides a bum foot and a puke-a-thon? My dear, sweet husband got me a ToughGirl running skirt (with red legs!), shelves for the basement, a folding table, a whole set of German glass glitter in lovely colors!, and over-the-knee socks that I can't wait to wear! Family got me some great new shirts in my new size-Large! Not extra large or Woman's L, but just normal misses large!

Cookie Exchange 2009

Here are a few pictures of the variety of cookies from our annual cookie exchange. We had a great time watching those stop-motion Christmas specials, drinking hot spiced grape juice (a little weird, next year it will be back to cider) and eating chex mix and cookies, of course!


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas decorations


It was inevitable, I decided to put ornaments on the tree! I just couldn't leave them all in their bins for a whole 'nother year!

Our house has a large blank space between two windows that was just begging for a wreath. But big wreaths are EXPENSIVE! So I made one myself. This wreath is a hula hoop, covered in pool funoodles (cut a slit all the way down the noodle and slip it over the hoop), spray painted green and wrapped with two pre-lit strands of garland. Ta-da!
Here is a picture of our complete outdoor decor (day and night). The outdoor tree was a Target after-Christmas clearance steal! Then this year we bought the light-up presents to put under it. Candy cane rope lights spiral up the pole by the front door, new LED lights bought cheap with that Home Depot Christmas light trade-in offer and, of course, my new wreath!
Sully helped decorate indoors
and kept an eye (or should I say ear) on things while we decorated outside.This is the site I see each morning when I go to the gym and leave that poor little dog inside, waiting. So pathetic!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Drop In & Decorate Christmas 2009


We had another successful Drop In & Decorate event at work! I think we had the most people EVER show up to help (16 total) which was so awesome, some people who have never decorated with us before decided to give it a try.

We ended up with 156 cookies all prettied up for the TIMES Center men's shelter and soup kitchen. I added some goodies from my packrat stash (stuff I buy on sale with coupons) like deodorant, shower gel and shampoo because I know they always need things like that.
Drop In & Decorate is really taking off. I have been simply amazed at all the gorgeous cookies from different events Lydia has been posting from all over the country!

Monday, December 14, 2009

I can help too!

I am often disappointed that the company I work for doesn't do more charity work, or even support those employees who choose to do so on their own. But this year, Some people in the company have taken it upon themselves to start the process and maybe the company will come along for the ride and find it fun and rewarding! There is a donation box to collect food for the Eastern Illinois Food Bank less than a few feet from my desk, put there by the PR department. And I can't just leave it empty, now can I?

Kelly, of nommynom.com, has challenged all of us online-type people to go without a luxury and to put that money into the food pantry. The luxury that I went without was road snacks during my recent tracking event. Each morning when I got up at some ungodly hour to get there before daylight, I wanted to stop into a gas station and get a hot drink and a sweet something that would make my cold, dark drive a little more enjoyable. And when the day was done, how nice would it be to stop by the small-town watering hole, grab a drink and a munchy snack for the drive home? But I didn't and the money I didn't spend on junk I now donate to the food bank. I happen to know that my food bank can buy $10 worth of food with a $1 donation so I am donating my luxury money in the form of a monetary donation. But I also had to fill up that donation box! So here the items I grabbed from my reserve food storage, built up from sales and such. Yes, some of it is junky but maybe some mom will need the cake mix to make cupcakes to take for snack one day. And maybe the kool-aid will help someone get needed liquids into a sick kid. Everyone deserves some junky splurges every once in a while! Thanks to Kelly for the wonderful inspiration! And for the PR department at work who decided to take matters into their own hands and get our company on track to being more community-minded!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Track Laying

Last weekend I had a blast laying track for the tracking trial our club hosts every December. I know some people may not be very familiar with the sport of tracking so I thought I'd do a little post about the tracklaying process. Each dog in the trial gets their own track so it takes MANY people to pull off a tracking trial. And the laying the tracks is a two-day process so volunteers need to be plentiful and committed.
Day 1
Step 1. Put on your orange vest-safety first!
Step 2. Review procedure with your judges.
Step 3. Follow behind the judges making a map as you go along. You will need to be able to find this path without flags to help you so note any landmarks and how many paces/yards each leg is. This is my map from Saturday, you can see the landmarks I used such as trees, a distant flagpole, a silo, tire tracks in the ground and plant matter on the track.

Step 4. When the plotting is done, the judges will move on to the next track and tracklayer but you can walk your track as many times as you want on day 1. Walk it again and go over your map, noting anything you may have missed. I made a cleaned-up version of my map to use the next day since the one you make while walking is generally messy.

Day 2
Step 1. Put on your orange vest-safety first!
Step 2. Check watch and note time
Step 3. Walk straight to first flag.
Step 4. Pause and drop start article (sock, pot holder, fabric swatch, etc.)
Step 5. Leave first and second flags in place
Step 6. Walk normally and pause slightly at each turn to find your landmarks
Step 7. Pick up each flag including last flag
Step 8. At last flag, drop glove, pick up flag and walk straight out of field.

After the dog has run the track, hopefully they made it to the end on their own and found the glove! But if they didn't, you will need to help them get back on track and make it to the end. Their chances for a title that day are done, but as a courtesy (and because they paid to run the WHOLE track, not just the part they got done before the whistle blew) the tracklayer helps the dog have a successful experience finding the glove. How you do this depends on how much assistance the handler wants. They may ask for the general shape of the track, how long each leg is, or just for you to yell at them if they get terribly off track. The team running my track did not earn a title on Sunday, but she and her Bullmastiff were in great spirits and we did eventually make it to the glove! Those darn deer tracks were just better smelling than mine.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Daily Corgi

Sully was The Daily Corgi for yesterday and I completely forgot to post about it! If you'd like to see tons of Sully pics with cute captions, go check him out! Today's Corgi is adorable too! I love all the pictures of her weird sleeping positions. Sully is a completely unimaginative sleeper, always either frog pose or on his side. He chokes and sneezes when he is upside down.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas prep begins

I have bee pretty good so far this year about getting projects done and not letting them pile up. I wrote out a list of all the things I wanted to get done, then I scheduled blocks of time for each in my calendar throughout November and December and that really worked!
Every year, the Corgi-L listserve hosts a Corgi Secret Santa. I can show you this because my Secret Santa partner has no idea I am their Secret Santa. It's a wallhanging with a paper pieced corgi! The corgi is very slightly 3-D, not sure if you can tell.

I got my Christmas ornament blocks from a swap put together into a wall hanging for myself! You could see my Christmas socks in the picture so I had to leave them in!

The cat was rather crabby that I turned on the light in the craft room to take these pictures. He was SLEEPING in his chair, how dare I disturb him!

Of course, every year the snow village comes out! This year I stole an idea from Alicia and lit the snow base.

The tree, looking rather bare at the moment. I like the look of it without ornaments but....can I really just keep my ornaments packed up? I'd be so sad not to see all the cross stitched ornaments and the special ones for each pet that's passed away.

Friday, December 4, 2009

German Chocolate Pecan Pie

Miriam requested the recipe for the prize-winning pie and I am happy to share! This pie is a family recipe, but we aren't secretive about it. In fact, my sister sent it in and had it published in Taste of Home years ago. You can see it here. We are, however, secretive about our pie CRUST recipe and process so I won't be giving you that!

1 (4 ounce) bar German sweet chocolate
1/4 cup butter
1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (9 inch) deep dish unbaked pie shell
1 1/2 cups coconut
1 cup pecans, chopped

In a saucepan, combine chocolate and butter. Melt over low heat. Remove from the heat and blend in milk; set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Blend in melted chocolate; pour into pie shell. Combine coconut and pecans; sprinkle on top of pie. Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes.

Hints from a third-generation maker of this pie:

Of course, you can also do the melting the chocolate and butter step in the microwave, just be careful not to burn the chocolate.

Make sure your pie shell is deep enough, this is a large recipe and definitely needs a nice deep 9" crust to hold all the liquid without spilling over the sides.

I put my pie pan on a sturdy cookie sheet before pouring in the filling. I think it makes it easier to handle since the filling is basically liquid when you pour it in and it contains any drips over the edge. (But you shouldn't have any drips if your pie crust is big enough!)

If you don't have German sweet chocolate, you can use semisweet chips (you'll have to weigh them out) or unsweetened bricks (it takes 4). I used unsweetened because it's what I had on hand AND because I think it gives it a much chocolate-y flavor, not as sweet. My family and I love it when it's sickeningly sweet but I knew most people wouldn't care for it that sweet.

When you take the pie out, there will be some burnt pecans on top, that's normal. I usually just brush them off and stir the coconut on top around so it looks less burnt. It doesn't taste burnt but it can look quite....blackened.

It can be hard to tell when this pie is done. When you take it out, it should be wiggly but NOT liquid. Press down on the coconut layer, if waves ripple out from the center, it is not done. If it's kind of springy like firm jello, then it's done.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wish List Meme

A fun meme AND a chance to win? Sign me up!

1. What 5 items are on your holiday wish list this year?
#1 Workout gear-running socks, more running skirts and maybe a hoodie or two
#2 A folding table, mine is falling apart and barely stays upright. I certainly don't put anything heavy on it!
#32x2 Weave Pole Training DVD set
#4 One of these awesome vintage glitter kits! I love the heirloom colors.
#5So, I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here before but I have a thing for socks! So I ask for (and usually get) socks every year. This year I am really digging these wool blend over-the-knees, these adorable cherry blossom knee highs, and these wide-striped knee highs.

2. What is your favorite handmade gift you have received?
My mom gifted me with two aprons made by my great grandmother. I cherish them. One was the butterfly apron that was unfinished so I added buttons and now I can wear it whenever I want.

3. What handmade gift have you always wanted to tackle?
A quilt, and this year I did it!

4. What was the best Christmas gift you received as a child?
I remember the Christmas when I got ALL the Get-Along Gang figures and their boxcar clubhouse playset! They were awesome, really big for plastic figures and they had real clothes you could put on and take off.

5. What items are on your kid’s wish list this year?
We don't have kids but Sully would like this collar in green
6. What is your favorite holiday food?
I have the biggest sweet tooth so I LOVE cookies, especially spritz cookies, butter cookies, sugar cookie cutouts, peanut butter blossoms, soft gingerbread, and so on. I think it's safe to say I would eat just about ANY type of cookie!

7. What will you be hand-crafting for the holidays?
Well, I don't want to give away anything! But I have been whipping up a batch of those travel tissue holders in cute fabrics. And I'm also making cross stitch ornaments and pins from Mill Hill kits. I LOVE those things, the beads add such great sparkle!

8. What is your favorite holiday movie?
Elf! I already watched it once this year and will probably fit in another viewing later this month. "I just like smiling, smiling's my favorite!"

9. Favorite holiday song?
Christmas Island! I love ALL Christmas music though, I started listening to it at work (with headphones, yes!) before Halloween. :)

10. Favorite holiday pastime?
Baking. I love every part of baking, looking through magazines for new recipes, shopping for special ingredients, mixing, shaping, baking. I tend to rush the cooling so I can get to the eating faster though!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pink quilt DONE!

The pink quilt for the Habitat for Humanity family moving in is DONE! This is by far the largest quilt I've ever made. And thanks to numerous friends I had a HUGE variety of pink fabrics to make this one a super-standout! I get to present it to them on Wednesday during the House Dedication Ceremony and I am so excited and nervous. Here is what the back looks like:(Don't look too closely at the back, it has some....ripples in the fabric.)It is particularly for the 8 year old daughter who loves pink so I hope she likes it!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving still going strong!

I have Thanksgiving-related pictures so I hope you're not tired of turkeys and pies!

Here's the outfit I wore to the Turkey Trot:It rained the whole time so my prized turkey hat got a little soggy. I did my best to dry it out before Thanksgiving dinner. :) Thanksgiving was lovely, hosted by my gracious sister.

A few years back, she also graciously provided me with the family German Chocolate Pecan Pie recipe. We had a pie bake-off today at work and I won FIRST PLACE with this recipe! Woohoo to the $100 prize!I also made a coconut cream pie which got rave reviews from the crowd that got to eat it after the judges were done with it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

When Cathy posted all her wonderful turkeys over at her blog, Hazelruthe's, I knew I had to show you mine too!

This is the majority of them on the buffet. In the middle, you can see the newest additions, which came from my swap partner for the Mini Thanksgiving Swap.
This big one is a pre-printed fabric panel I sewed up a few years ago.And this is a little sneak peak at my turkey hat! It's done, but I won't show you a picture of it on my head until after I wear it to the Turkey Trot later this morning!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday business

Start Weight: 215
Current Weight: 178
% lost overall: 17.2%

The 5K put me over the top for my Bronze Award! Hooray!

My gym is having a contest to NOT gain weight over the holidays. I am doing my own personal version because I don't want to pay $25 for a t-shirt.

My plan is:

Always park at the back of the lot and ALWAYS take the stairs at work. (I've been a little lax and I've been taking the elevator about 1/3 of the time.)

Food diary until January 1.

Watch portions at holiday meals. I will be visualizing a 1/4 cup measure when taking servings. Main targets: Thanksgiving, WI Christmas, IL Christmas, Company Party, Cookie Exchange party, and Secret Santa breakfast at work. Oh yeah, and that pie baking contest we're having at work on Monday!

Do not drink any calories-so no punch, cider, etc. with meals. I will make an exception for cocoa because it can't be winter without cocoa! But when I drink it, it will be my evening treat.

Keep up with my running and add at least two other activity each week. A gym class, a DVD, or a round of Hit the Deck are the most likely options.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I ran the whole thing!

Saturday was my first all running 5K! I finished it! It was such a lovely day, sunny skies, high 40s, perfect for a run. The first mile went by so fast, the second mile was a little harder because I kept waiting and waiting for the 2-mile timer and there wasn't anyone there!! I need mile markers to keep me going and I had no idea how far I was on the course, so I just kept going. There were a lot of hills! My neighbor and I (he's my running buddy) had practiced the course from the map they had online but there had been so much rain the past week hat they were forced to change the course. And it seemed to have FAR more uphills than the original! But that's ok, at times I had to do a little chi-running shuffle up the hills so I didn't feel like I was going zero miles per hour.

My time was 33:42! My goal was under 40 so I made far better time than I thought! I finished 206th out of 283 runners. Which sounds underwhelming but the key word is FINISHED! Yay!

Mike was very proud of me, he came to support me and I am very grateful for that. And as a finished-your-first-5k/early Christmas present he got me an iPod Touch! And an arm strap so I can start using it on my runs! Thanks, honey!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

WLW



I'm not going to post my stats for today because I have a different number to post. I am 94% of the way to my Bronze Level Presidential Champion Award!! I have a feeling I will reach it by the end of November! Hooray!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thankful

I know it's a bit cliched in November to feel so overwhelmingly thankful but I can't help it! I was entering this giveaway for a lovely apron and it got me typing about something I have been going over in my mind during my runs lately. I often start to think about how thankful I am for my health, my sturdy legs and my senses so that I can get out and run and enjoy the wonderful day! I am thankful that I have the leisure time to spend on a physical activity of my choosing and not forced to work a back-breaking job that I don't enjoy. This leads me to think of how thankful I am to a job at all to go to after my shower and that my husband also has a job and that our house is snug and cozy with a fridge to keep the milk cold and an oven to warm the biscuits.

During crafting I am often thankful that my most pressing issue is what project to work on or what color to next add to a quilt. When I work with Sully, I am thankful that I have discretionary income to spend on dog training and shows. And when I bake up a batch of pumpkin chocolate chip bars, I am thankful that I don't have to make due with the items the food bank has that week.

I am indeed a fortunate, and very thankful, woman!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What is it they say? A bad day at the dog show beats a good day at work? Well, I'd agree with that! But this weekend at the Lakeshore Pembroke Specialty was not exactly our grandest outing. I don't want to whine and blame the judge.....but in rally, it was the judge! I'll just leave it at that. In obedience, I take all the blame. I can't even believe the mistake I made in our otherwise qualifying score of 182. A double command on the drop on recall. If only I had waited a few more seconds! Here is Sully, pleased as punch with his two second place ribbons and tug toys for Rally Advanced B and Excellent B. But I was disappointed with our performance. And know we will do MUCH better at the show in November because the course is sure to be MUCH more well thought out than the ones we had this weekend. Yuck.

On to crafts! Where things are moving right along on schedule! The pink quilt needs to be done by December 3 and I am working very hard to get it done. Here it is all laid out sandwich-style, being pinned for quilting.And this month is reserved for Thanksgiving crafts including a plastic canvas turkey and that stupid turkey hat that I have to say is the WORST written pattern I've ever purchased and I would encourage everyone to STAY AWAY from it! The person who wrote it and sold it to me is not very helpful either so I don't have very nice things to say about the Turkey hat right now.
Start Weight: 215
Current Weight: 176
% lost overall: 18.14%

Runs recently have been 2.75 to 3.5 miles long. That 5K is coming up in less than three weeks so I'm trying to prepare. I'm not sure I've mentioned this before but my long term goal is to run in the St. Jude Children's Hospital relay from here to Peoria, IL. My goal is to raise at least $300 before the run and run at least 3 legs of the relay. The relay is in July so look forward to fund raising efforts later next year when I will be doing a major pattern and craft supply push at my Etsy store and selling things on ebay to raise the money!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bras and Blisters

Start Weight: 215
Current Weight: 178
% lost overall: 17.2%

I'm not sure I've ever mentioned this for Weight Loss Wednesday before but they heaviest I've ever been was 242. I am over 60 pounds lighter then that now but basically I have been wearing the same bras since then! So Mike took me bra shopping and we loaded up on my new size!!
Wearing my old size 40C
Wearing my new size, officially fitted at the bra store: 36B


In running news, I had to take four days off as my longer runs in cotton socks had given me blisters on my arches and I ended up with an infected blister on my right foot. Quite painful, but it's healed now and thanks to some new running socks so I am blister-free! I am trying out different brands, UnderArmor, DeFeet and Wigwam, to see what works best for me. Do you have a brand you like?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween begins!


Treats like caramel apples and popcorn balls have been made, neighbors have been Boo'd, the library (where I work) is decorated all spooky! I love fall holidays and Halloween kicks things off!
We turned theseAnd thisInto theseGarden loppers are a kitchen tool, right?