A little sunshine, a little fresh air, a lot of happiness

Sunshine and fresh air can’t fix everything, but it can sure recharge your store of feel-good chemicals and put a brighter spin on things.

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Things at work are getting better, in the sense that things have returned to the status quo, until more news comes out.

Since the weather has improved so much, I’ve been making an effort to get outside and go for more walks.

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Winter in Minnesota is a time to hunker down and hibernate. The lack of Sun slows metabolism, increases melatonin, and generally causes the inhabitants to retreat into a quiet, somber ‘survival mode,’ until the sun decides to show itself again. 

As a sufferer of SAD I can honestly say that my mood has improved exponentially with the weather.

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Even the hubby notices.  I gravitate towards healthier foods–reveling in the fruits and vegetables of the season before I’m forced all too soon back to the dreary canned and frozen varieties of winter.

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This week we’ve been eating summer squash, zucchini, crimini mushrooms, and watermelon.  Today, I was able to have spinach and tomato diced into my omelet.

This afternoon, I was able to get out for a 1.34 mile walk in the sunshine (as tracked my Map My Fitness.

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I guess what this entire entry is trying to say is this: MegsFitness is back. Fresh food, fitness, motivation… It’s on, and it feels so good to be back!

Kick off to grilling season

When the in-laws were in town, one of the things we accomplished was to assemble the awesome grill that my parents had bought us as a house warming gift.  Kudos to Jeff and his dad for figuring THAT out!

Sunday had amazing weather. It was warm, sunny, and I guess the wind was a little strong, but alright!  Since the weather was what it was, we decided to break in the grill and cook some steaks!

Mother nature had other ideas and started spitting as soon as Jeff was back with the propane.  That’s okay, though! Mother Nature has got nothing on MY mom… So off to the garage we went.

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Mother Nature picked up the pace and brought roiling thunder and some lightening.  Jeff brought an umbrella and an extra place setting.

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Jeff manned the grill while I set up an impromptu dining room out of canvas chairs and a coffee table that I wanted to refinish.

When the steaks were done, the meal was served, and the thunder rolled.

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Consider grilling season officially started!

Pumpkin Pancakes

My in-laws are in town for Easter. They drive all the way down from Winnipeg, and I like to think it’s just for my pumpkin pancakes.

I’m allowing myself to call them “mine” because I make a couple tweaks to the original recipe. It’s actually a recipe from Diane Sanfilippo, from the book entitled Practical Paleo.

Since everyone was still sleeping, I had the entire first floor to myself. Step one: turn on some tunes.

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Now that you’re bopping around to some good tunes, you should realize that you’re starving.  Eat a can of pears while getting your ingredients together!

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As you’re getting your ingredients together, question the freshness of your eggs since you can’t remember when you bought them.  The Float Test works really well!  If you’re questioning your eggs, give it a try.

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Ruh roh… One of them is bad. Two are alright, and one is fresh.  Toss the baddie and swap in another fresh egg!

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All set? You should have 4 eggs, 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 2* TBLS vanilla extract, 2 TBLS maple syrup, 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp baking soda, and 2 TBLS coconut floor*.

*quantities or ingredients vary from original recipe.

All set?? K, let’s mix the wet ingredients first.

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Whip that up–I use an electric beater, but a whisk would work too.  Next, get together the dry ingredients. Make sure to get your cook book all messy… This is required. :-P

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K, mix the dry ingredients together so that we can sift them into the wet ingredients next.

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Mix these together, then set it aside for a moment. Now is going to be a great time to clean up your dishes and get the skillet or griddle pre-heated.

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That’s one of the things that I learned from my grandma.  If you clean as you go, the end clean up won’t be so bad.

Now, if you’re using a nonstick skillet, you shouldn’t need the coconut oil that’s called for in the original recipe. I normally prefer to leave it out, but I used a little this time just to stick a little closer to the original recipe.

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These cook up a little differently than normal pancakes. Depending on how hot your griddle is, these might cook up in a couple minutes, but it could take longer.  Our griddle is starting to lose heat in some areas, so I had a couple false starts.  You can watch for the bubbles to burst, but it could be a little while before you see that.

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Flip! These are a bit wet, even with the added coconut flour, so I like to press them after they’re flipped to get them to cook through. I also flip them again to make sure both sides of the batter that ooozes out (yummy!) is cooked.

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Slice up some fruit to have with your meal, and you’re all set. These pancakes are so flavorful that you won’t need butter or syrup to go with them.  By all means, feel free to dress them up!

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Enjoy!

Sketching, not sketchy; hotels

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I guess one good thing to come out of the last week is that my muse is back. I’ve been sketching and drawing…and realising just how out of practice I really am. I’ve been enjoying myself, though, and happily sharing my works with others.  Specifically one of my guildies who keeps me supplied with ample music to draw to…

I even brought my sketch book with me to South Dakota, where Jeff and I will be helping my sister’s family move into their new house.  I’d be drawing right now except for the fact that it’s the 5 o’clock hour and Jeff is asleep. The whole room is dark, and I’m writing this from my phone.

It’s actually a shame that I’m up, but it couldn’t be helped. It’s the 3rd or 4th time I’ve been up over the course of the night. This time my back and hips made it too insufferable to go back to sleep, so here I am.

The alarm is set for 6:30am… Then I’ll be able to be productive. Even then I won’t be breaking out the pencils and paper… Oh no.. then I’ll be breaking out the fit deck and getting some stretching in.  I’ll get plenty of exercise today, but I’m hoping I won’t be in pain for most of it.

After that, breakfast is in the 7 o’clock hour, then we’ll head over to my sister’s apartment to drink coffee and wake up with the rest of the crew.  See, we could’ve stayed at my sister’s house–it was an open invitation and they’d make room.. but see, with me in my condition and getting up all night long, I opted for the comfort factor of a hotel.

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I had searched on kayak and booking, as well as other discount sites, but it turned out to be cheaper to just call the hotel and ask for cheapest rates.  The hotel we originally wanted to stay at cost about $200/night…they had raised the prices for some reason compared to online.  Plus, they didn’t have anything smaller than a king suite and we really just wanted a place to rest our heads.  The reservation clerk actually referred me to a sister hotel. They had an efficiency suite, including breakfast, for less than $100/night.  I didn’t expect there to even be a refrigerator, let alone a stove!

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We likely won’t have a chance to use it on this trip, but it’s nice to have the option.

It’d be nice to have the option for a nap later, too, but I don’t see that happening… T^T at least if I get too zonked, we can retreat to the hotel instead of waiting for everyone else to wind down. There’s that, at least.

K. Time to wrap up before diving into the day. Be well!

Monday tacos

The way I see it, if Mother Nature can see fit to drop a bunch of snow on our heads, wreck the Monday commute, and interfere with what was becoming a very nice spring… Then I can make tacos on a Monday morning.

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We had a great weekend as we started to choose baby gear and consider lifestyle options:

– Yes, we should have a pro redo the newel post.
– No we don’t need a pro to install the banister.
– Yes we should get the structural issues in the basement repaired.
– No we shouldn’t take out a new loan to pay for the repairs.
– Yes, technically the car seat fits in the Audi, but no, it’s not practical to keep the car.

I swear we need a weekend to recover from our weekend.

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The next best thing I could do was to inject a little flavor into our Monday.  I browned ground beef, sauteed some yellow onion, added some orange peppers for color, seasoned with the home made taco seasoning blend (courtesy of Practical Paleo).  I served it all up on soft tortillas, topped with fresh avocado and salsa.

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I guess if I have to say one good thing about the snow, it’s that it makes great filtered lighting for taking pictures of food with my phone ;)

Happy Monday, everyone!

Microblogging wins again…

As the past couple of months have not been very exciting, I’ve taken to microblogging on Facebook and sharing my photos there.  And why shouldn’t I, after all, since most of my readers are my friends as well :)

Today is my brother’s 23rd birthday and he’s entering his new year as an engaged man! The woman that he loves has stolen the hearts of every member of my family and I am *so* looking forward to calling her sister-in-law.  The two of them together just embody hard work, determination, financial savvy, and a heavy dose of love, silliness, light-hearted fun, and generosity.

My sister and her husband recently acquired a dog, I swear that they couldn’t be happier.  Although Darwin gave me a taste of just how much work dogs can be, it seems like he’s actually a good boy and a great fit for the family.  They have news of their own, but it’s not ‘facebook official’ quite yet, so I won’t be sharing it here.  We have friends in common, after all.

Jeff and I went ‘facebook official’ with our own news last weekend.  Part of why things have been so mum around here is because I’ve been sitting on my hands lest I write something too telling* or let the secret out too soon. We started letting the news out with a trickle.. first Jeff’s brother, then my parents, his parents, my siblings, his best friend, then mine.. and now the floodgates are open and we made the scary, nerve wracking, world-shifting, exciting  announcement that we’re expecting again.  Our little rainbow-baby is due at the end of September.  We managed to wait ~13 weeks this time before spilling the news.  Now we’re giddy, anxious, and excited.

I think that one of the funnest things to come of this development is that Jeff has taken to practicing his dad jokes.  One of my favorites that he came up with has to do with who is the best at hiding, and the response (while pointing to himself) is disguise (pronounced: “this guy”).

There have been a lot of changes on the fitness front, as well, ones that I hope to catalogue as time goes on.  I am really interested in getting back into blogging, and so I will queue up the next post to talk about some of those changes.

On Dasher, On Dancer, On Darwin, and the New Year

When I checked my blog this morning, I realized that I hadn’t written an entry of quality since Doc passed away.  It’s true that the news hit me pretty hard, but life has been going on despite all of that.  I’ve been seeing his partner in chiropractic, and actually doing fairly well as far as that goes.

Christmas was a wonderful affair this year.  My mom threw a party at her house where I got to see my brother, his girlfriend, my parents, and my grandma.  We had fun and joked and just enjoyed each other’s company.  The gift exchange, however, with my family wasn’t until after the holidays, since Jeffrah and I headed up to Canada to celebrate with them this year.

The Canadian shindigs were even more fun this year than in years past–at least for me.  I knew more people, they had seen and heard of me more often, and I didn’t have to stick to Jeff’s side like I might sink if I didn’t.  His aunt trimmed my bangs, I managed to pop Jeff’s cousin’s boyfriend in the face with a cracker (still sorry, Shelley!), and Jeff’s parents were really generous this year.

While I missed my family (as always), I really felt integrated into his family and it was really nice.

So there’s the recap of the holidays.  What I *really* wanted to write about, though, is our experience fostering a pit bull.  I won’t mention the shelter that we went though, because I refuse to endorse them, but I did want to encourage folks to foster–overall I would definitely do it again.

I filled out a foster application after not clicking with any of the currently-available dogs at the shelter.  I really wanted a dog to focus on so that I could get my mind off of the miscarriage, doc’s death, and all of the other bad things that were going on in our lives.  I was getting pretty depressed, and I thought that being needed by another living thing could help pull me out of it.  Darwin came to our house as a stray that had been picked up by Animal Control.  They didn’t know anything about his history, but surmised that he must’ve been destined for a dog-fighting ring.  The good news is that he was still a young pup, so he had absolutely no signs of aggression at all.  He was not neutered, though, and hadn’t been trained, and so his manners were also sorely lacking.

On the advice of the shelter, we kept Darwin in a kennel almost exclusively for about 2 weeks.  He hated it, and I hated doing it.

The idea is that the kennel would give him a chance to get used to the routine of our house, the smells, normal sights, sounds, and rhythms without actually needing to participate in them yet.  We let him out of the kennel as often as possible, but even then he was on a leash exclusively.  When he did start gaining freedom, he also started gaining a personality.  Darwin was a sweetheart who loved to be with his humans–whether it was playing, training, or snuggling.  There were problems, too–remember how I said he didn’t have manners yet?  He jumped on us constantly, and his nails dug into our skin and it hurt.  He also had a tendency to mark in the house, which was really rather irksome. Both of these behaviors simmered down after I took him to the vet to get ‘fixed.’

The great part of  fostering is that the shelter, at least in this experience, paid for all medical expenses for the dog.  they also provided the kennel, his first bed, a few toys, a few treats, and dog shampoo so that we could keep him presentable.  Of course, being animal lovers, we quickly spent over $200 on new beds, new toys, new treats, bones, antlers, and cleaning products.  We wanted to see him happy!  It was working.  He was a smart dog, took to training well, loved to play, and loved to snuggle.

The trouble came when I granted Darwin too much freedom, and also asked too many times about what to do about his less-than-desirable traits.  See, Darwin hated his crate, and we had been thinking about adopting him, so we were graduating him from his kennel to have more freedom in the house.  It started with the guest room, and he did fabulously and was a happy and less cabin-feverish dog.  Then I left him in the guest room and the living room and it was good again!  Until it wasn’t, and he knocked a baby gate down and tore the whole house apart.  Darwin also liked to do a lot of things that I don’t like dogs to do–Digging in my couch, jumping on me from a full-charge in the yard, nipping during play or trying to bite while being corrected–when I’d use his collar to tug his head out of the couch, for example.

Of course, it’s my fault that I didn’t follow the shelter’s directive to keep Darwin in the kennel during the day while we’re gone at work–I took full responsibility for that, and I was having a great discussion in the group about how to help him to enjoy the kennel more so that we could defeat pancake mode.  Then, there was a guy who came in guns blazing and was a real jerk about the whole thing.  I got snippy with him and challenged him to come up with a ‘positive only’ training method for the bad traits listed above, and to my surprise he actually did!  I had also sent an e-mail to the trainer about how to deal with the charging/jumping, and she had sent me recommendations for that too–including blowing bubbles, leaving the scene if he’s  too interested in jumping on me, etc.  I felt really empowered that we could go in the right direction with Darwin–especially since he’d be starting training on 1/25.

We had Darwin for 7 weeks before it was determined that he should be relocated to a different foster–one with experience raising responsible pit bulls, so that his bad manners could be tamed in a productive environment, and he was immediately removed from our care..  I don’t want to re-hash that drama, but suffice it to say that the way that they handled that scenario is why I am not endorsing them here.  What I do want to say, though, is that if you have a love for dogs, and room in your home and your heart to help one get started on a good path in life, I *highly* recommend fostering.  The benefits for all involve definitely outweigh any heartache that you might feel when it’s time to say goodbye.

Good things about fostering Darwin:

  1. The shelter provided everything we needed to care for his immediate needs — including basic training, treats, food, collar, leash, training collar, crate, mat, and toys.
  2. We were able to connect with other dog-lovers and start expanding our network of acquaintances*
  3. We were able to focus on the needs of Darwin instead of sulking in our own depression.  For me, at least, I loved having the opportunity to play tug-of-war with Darwin, or just chill with him.  Taking care of him made all of my problems seem a little smaller.
  4. We were forced to set a routine–meaning no more late nights at work.
  5. We will have stories to tell forever about the white pitty puppy that made us laugh and shook up our routine that one December in 2014.

Granted, it was also a big challenge.  Taking a powerful animal into your home who doesn’t have manners yet is quite a commitment, and it may test your patience and your virtues.  It’s not something that I would recommend blindly.  If you’re good with dogs, though, and looking to help one find a forever home, I’d recommend looking into shelters and fosters in your area to see how you can help.  The programs near me offer temp fostering, outright fostering, sponsorship, volunteering, and more.  There are ways you could get involved, even if you can’t bring a dog into your home right now.  *The network of acquaintances collapsed due to the poor end to our foster-care, but I am sure there are other, better networks available in different shelters.

Darwin is currently available for adoption.  You can find his online profile HERE.  It should be noted that, while the end of my foster experience was horrible, the adoption experience through this group has had nothing but positive reviews.

Do you have questions about our foster experience? Have you ever fostered? Leave a comment to start the discussion!