Happy Holidays! (And Tech Difficulties)

>> Friday, December 24, 2010


Hey, everyone! Here's our official holiday shout-out. A card, if you will. We have been trying to upload photos for a couple guest posts (more cookies of x-mas). But the internet is being wicked, WICKED slow. Plus, the sun's out . . . and I have photos I want to shoot.

So, we'll post them A.S.A.P. In the meantime, enjoy the other cookies in the celebration. And go ENJOY yourself. Get offline. Disconnect. Spend time with your families/friends.

We'll be back before you know it!

12 COOKIES OF X-MAS
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T-Minus 2 Hours . . .

>> Thursday, December 23, 2010


I'm on my lunch break. And I couldn't help thinking about this day last year. I wore slippers to work. Few people are in the office after Wednesday, so I like to take full advantage of the ultimate-casual option when I get the chance. This year? Sweatpants. No joke. It's freezing outside and I recently bought a pair of pretty oatmeal-colored sweats from Target.

I think the whole thing looks OK-ish.


Plus, I'm headed to a PT appointment soon for another dose of my beloved hydrocortisone. So, the ensemble is definitely functional!

Related: My goal on this break is to wear comfortable clothing during the day and dress up at night. (Turning my world upside down!) Eat great food -- when I feel like making it. Exercise -- when I feel like exercising. Nap -- just because. And just revel in the life of the non 9-to-5-ers.

I can't freaking wait. My only worry is that I'll never want to get back on a "regular" schedule.

Ever again.

PROJECTS and TO-DOs:

Remember when I tore out the door to our kitchen pantry? I'm embarrassed to say it was pretty much a year ago. And we've done nothing with the space since! I'm hoping to complete the first stage of the overhaul over break.


The project is going to be SUPER easy and SUPER cheap. Not only because we like 'em that way. But because we want to cut back our spending after the holidays. All the instructions and juicy details will be posted ASAP, of course.

Other stuff I want to do:
  • Enjoy myself. But I've already covered that.
  • Run a 10-mile long run (if the knee cooperates).
  • Swim 1.5 miles at one time.
  • Get a haircut.
  • Paint my nails.
  • Catch up on reading Runner's World (I've been avoiding it while injured).
  • Bake bread. New kinds!
  • Begin another healthy detox.
  • Go snowshoe running . . . at least once.
  • Organize our bathroom.
  • Organize our cupboards.
  • Shoot a couple video posts.
  • Play around with my new camera lens.

We're also taking a brief -- but much-needed -- break from blogging. During this time, we invite new readers to catch up on old posts.
We'd even like to hear from you what you'd like to see on (never home)maker in the coming year. If you have any recipe suggestions, running questions, or other stuff to ask us -- just visit our FAQs page!


Be sure to check out our Beating Heart Giveaway. There's a brand new heart rate monitor up for grabs -- and you have until January 1st to enter for a chance to win it!


What are YOUR plans for the holiday? Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

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12 Cookies of X-Mas: Sparkled Ginger Cookies

Ryan (from Ryan's Baking Blog) writes:

I hold vegan recipes to the same standards as non-vegan recipes because I know they can be just as delicious, or even more delicious, depending on how they're made and the right flavors and ingredients, etc. People think vegan baked goods are dry, dense, inedible, but that just isn't true.

These cookies are delicious, you don't have to wait for anything to get to room temperature, and you can eat the dough without any health risk. What's not to love about vegan baking?


This recipe does actually call for this specific kind of sugar, you can use turbinado or demerara sugar, it's used for the "sparkle" and for some added molasses flavor. It's kind of like brown sugar but much more coarse.

If you don't have it, you can just use plain white sugar, but if you have this kind or any kind of coarse sugar, I really recommend it.


These cookies come together pretty easily and pack a lot of ginger flavor. It is a soft, chewy cookie (my favorite) with a slightly crisp outside and sparkles on top.

Surprise your vegan AND non-vegan friends with these treats -- they'll be a hit.

SPARKLED GINGER COOKIES
Adapted from Vegan With A Vengeance
(Makes about 2 dozen cookies.)

What you'll need . . .

  • 4 tablespoons turbinado or demerara sugar (regular sugar works if you don't have either of these, but coarse sugar is best)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method . . .
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two cookie sheets. Place the turbinado (or demerara) sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a separate large bowl, mix together oil, molasses, soy milk, sugar, and vanilla.
  3. Beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in three additions, mixing until just combined after each addition. Do not overmix.
  4. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, flatten each ball into a 1 1/2-inch-diameter disk (use the bottom of a drinking glass). Press one side of the cookie into the turbinado sugar and place on a baking sheet, sugar side up, about 1 inch from other cookies. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges are starting to firm up, let cool on sheets for about 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Thanks so much to Ryan (Ryan's Baking Blog) for this awesome holiday recipe!!! Be sure to check out his site for more great stuff. One of my recent favorites is -- surprise, surprise -- his Nutella-Filled Thumbprint Cookies!

12 COOKIES OF X-MAS
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Ho-Ho-Holidays

>> Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Those of you who know me in real life know that I have little regard for portion sizes. I can down half a large pizza with the best of them. Then manage room for dessert. A beer or two. Etc.

To compare me to Adam Richman may be a stretch, but only a gentle one.

I work hard.
I play hard.
I eat . . . a lot!

But during the holidays, there's so much food around. And it's not exactly nutritious. Yeah, all that flour, butter, and sugar even gets to be too much for ME! Which is why this season, I'm vowing to think before I NOM my face off at the dinner table.


The One Drink Rule.

Booze is what gets me -- always. I don't drink a ton, but if I get into the 3 glasses of wine/beer range over the course of an afternoon/evening, I notice something about myself. Yes, I sound way more clever and look way better to my alcohol-steeped self than I do in real life. But I also eat mindlessly. For hours, if it comes to it.

So, I'm planning to stick to one adult drink per evening -- max (with a couple exceptions) -- throughout this next week-long period. And, really, in life. All the more excuse to chug our good friend H2O.


Avoiding Creeps.

Just because I'm attending a holiday party at night doesn't mean I can't eat well the rest of the day. But I've been eating cookies for breakfast like they're bran flakes. From this day forward, I plan to avoid the sugar-creep by eating a well-balanced breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Even if it means passing on some stuff (though, we'll get to this in the next tip), I'd rather feel good at the end of the night than like a bloated, dazed version of myself with a headache (can you tell I speak from recent personal experience?).


Being Selective.

How many times have you tried something just because your grandma wanted you to? Or stuffed an extra cookie down your gullet because it was, well, there? I want to be more selective. Choose a couple meal and dessert items that really sing to my taste buds. If all of it looks amazing, I'll take it all -- but in small portions. Eat it slowly. Listen to my brain alert me that I'm full.

Because stuffed shells can always be frozen. Soups and other side items as well. And if grandma keeps pestering me about that lonely piece of pecan pie (I'm not a fan), I will politely say "No, thank you. I'm full."


Remembering Good-For-You Friends.

Like whole fruits and veggies. They, too, can have a place on the holiday dinner table. Even as dessert! Last I checked, I'm not a kid. Far from it, in fact. So, that plate of carrot sticks and broccoli? Pass 'em over. Even if I eat an entire gingerbread house afterward, I've gotten my good stuff in for the day.

So, if you really can't abstain from all the goodies . . . be sure to keep a steady flow of whole (living) foods in your body. The vitamins and minerals will help keep you healthy. You may even fill up on the green stuff first! Crazier things have happened.


Saving Room for Dessert Exercise.

OK. You can also save room for chocolate. But consider starting your Christmas morning with a short, brisk jog around the neighborhood. "Uhm, Ashley -- there's no time," you say. "It's the HOLIDAYS. Plus, my gym is closed!" Think about it: A 15 to 30 minute jaunt in the cold will only invigorate you. It's all good. Because as much as moving your body will help burn calories -- you'll also release some pent-up stress.

If you're with family, get them involved, too. Maybe some yoga with your mother-in-law. Push-ups with your brother. A quick basketball game with your cousins. Even a plain old walk is better than nothing.


What do you do to keep yourself in check over the holidays? Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

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12 Cookies of X-Mas: Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

This blog has been void of my favorite ingredient . . . until now. And I bet many of you thought my love affair was over. That I had finally decided the orange puree -- much like wearing white shoes after Labor Day -- is inappropriate after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Nope.

Of course, when I found this recipe, I couldn't wait to try it out. Sneaking pumpkin into Snickerdoodles -- it's genius! As you'll find out if you try this recipe, it's also a fabulous way to liven up a Christmas favorite.


PUMPKIN SNICKERDOODLES
(Recipe adapted from Recipe Girl)
Print this Recipe!

What you'll need . . .
  • 1 cup Earth Balance (or butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon Bob's Red Mill egg replacer plus 3 tablespoons water (or 1 egg)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Rolling Sugar . . . 
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Method . . .
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the Earth Balance for 3 minutes, until whipped.
  2. Add in the sugar, egg replacer, pumpkin, and vanilla. Beat for 4 to 5 minutes, until fluffy.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until well combined.
  4. Cover bowl and put in your refrigerator for at least 1 hour, until firm.
  5. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a couple cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Mix together your rolling sugar. Place on a plate.
  7. Scoop heaping tablespoons of dough and roll them into a ball in your hand. Roll into the sugar. Then place on the cookie sheet. Flatten with the back of a spoon and place about 2 inches apart.
  8. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes -- until cookies are golden on the edges.
  9. Optional: Top with a mini bar of chocolate (or a Hershey's kiss).

12 COOKIES OF X-MAS
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GIVEAWAY: The Beating of Your Heart, Baby!

>> Tuesday, December 21, 2010

***Giveaway Is Now Closed***


Congrats to lucky winner Heather, who writes: "My beating heart almost exploded last night during my interval workout! My favorite moves are STEP -- absolutely LOVE it."

We don't talk much about heart rate monitors or using heart rate monitoring to train. Here's a little secret I've been keeping from you: I've been watching my heart rate like crazy during my cross-training to ensure I'm getting a good workout, at the right intensity, and that I'm cooling down properly.


Why bother monitoring your heart rate?

Sometimes you may just want to know so you can exercise more effectively (heart rate can help define your easy days from your speed workouts, etc.). Other times, you may have certain restrictions due to health issues. Whatever the reason is, it's good to be familiar with your own numbers.
  • My resting heart rate is between 52 and 56 beats per minute.
  • When I'm pool jogging, I get up to around 140 BPM.
  • Swimming? I can get into the 170s.
  • Running -- steady pace -- gets me, again, in the 140s.
  • Intervals land me near 180 BPM at times.
I'm looking to learn more about how to use this knowledge to my advantage (tips are welcomed!). But . . . how exactly DO you montior your heart rate? Well, you can do it the old school way like I've been doing -- instructions here. Or, you can enter our giveaway and WIN a heart rate monitor.

HeartRateMonitorsUSA.com, an online store that sells heart rate monitors, pedometers, water bottles, etc. -- basically everything a runner/fitness-enthusiast needs -- has been kind enough to sponsor a giveaway.

The loot: A Polar SF1 Fitness Heart Rate Monitor.


Here's the scoop:

THE PRIZE: One Polar SF1 Fitness Heart Rate Monitor. Value: $59.95.
TO ENTER: Leave a comment with the words BEATING HEART somewhere in the mix.
IN ADDITION: Tell us what your favorite exercise moves are to get your heart pumping.
GIVEAWAY CLOSES: Saturday, January 1st at 9:00PM EST
PRIZE SHIPS: USA only.
ALSO: To win, I need your email address -- so please provide it (or your blog link so I can find it -- just some way of contacting you) or, unfortunately, you cannot win.
PS: One entry per email address is allowed. The winner will be selected using Tara's Random Number Generator and announced Monday (1/3) morning.

Thanks again to HeartRateMonitorsUSA.com for furnishing this generous giveaway. (And be sure to check out their selection of other great fitness products -- plus some great holiday sales!)

GOOD LUCK!


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Five Things and Alcohol-Infused Fudge


#1: 12 Cookies of X-Mas -- Nightcap Fudge

One word: I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E. This fudge-like treat would be perfect for crazy NYE parties. Or just every night before bed. Maybe? Honestly, it may be better suited for a tart filling. It doesn't harden as much as regular fudge. In other words: It's SUPER gooey. So, you should make it -- either way -- and let us know how it turns out!

And please nibble responsibly.


NIGHTCAP FUDGE
Print this Recipe!

What you'll need . . .
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup vodka (espresso flavor, specifically)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons flax meal
  • 1 cup coarsely crushed graham crackers (optional, but fun)

Method . . .
  1. Line an 8 x 8 inch pan with tinfoil. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan over the lowest possible, heat, combine the chocolate chips, almond milk, and vodka.
  3. Stir until everything is uniformly melted. Stir in the flax meal.
  4. Take off the heat for a couple minutes. Then stir in the crushed grahams.
  5. Pour into pan and refrigerate until firm-ish. Cut into square or just eat out of the dish. However the mood strikes you.

#2: T-minus 2.5 work days until 11 days off. That is all.

#3: I'm happy I don't fit into my wedding dress.

My parents unloaded it onto me the other night (they're in the process of moving). Of course, I immediately drove home to see if it still zips. Now, I've definitely gained a couple pounds since our wedding (we've been through how my thin-ness around that time wasn't exactly healthy). But . . . I still look fabulous in it.

Right?


AND I'm sure that 90% of the reason it doesn't zip is because -- drum roll, please -- I've got some insane muscles going on from all the push-ups, chin-ups, and now swimming that I've been doing.

Fitter.
Happier.
More productive.
Not drinking too much.
Regular exercise at the gym.
Etc.

#4: My whole life could have been different.

Stephen teaches SAT-prep and has been telling me about all the fun questions on the test these days. There is a reading comprehension one comparing and contrasting John Lennon's political lyrics and Paul McCartney's melodies.

And this one:



I mean, maybe if the test had more questions like this one when I was in high school, I would have scored better. Maybe I could have been accepted into an Ivy League school. Who KNOWS what I could have become?!

#5: Some people blow cash on fancy purses. I prefer sexy camera bags.

This morning, I finally purchased a camera bag that will fit all my stuff. I've been cramming the D90 into my D40 bag for months now . . . and it just doesn't fit. Like. At all. And I may have overheard Santa talking about an external flash the other day. So, between the larger camera body, three lenses, and that . . . I need somewhere to stash it all.

Thanks to my tweeps for help with colors. I settled on this pack:


If you're in the market for a camera bag, check out the 5 Million Dollar Home by Crumpler (I still can't say the company name without snickering about its inclusion of the word crump . . . which, of course, makes me think of krumping . . . which, in turn, makes me think of My Sweet 16. Oh goodness.).

12 COOKIES OF X-MAS
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12 Cookies of X-Mas: Double Chocolate Almond Biscotti

>> Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm Nicole from Making Good Choices! When Ashley and Stephen tweeted about guest posting for their 12 Cookies of X-Mas series, I knew I'd be able to help. I have a lot of time on my hands these days, and I have no shortage of holiday cookie recipes.


For me, December means holiday baking. Each year I put together boxes of treats for close family and friends which consists of a mix of traditional and new holiday cookie recipes. No matter what I switch up in my holiday cookie boxes, you can be sure you will find at least one type of biscotti.

They are perfect for breakfast or dessert, plain or dunked in coffee or tea.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE ALMOND BISCOTTI

What you'll need . . .
  • 2/3 cup whole almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

Method . . .
  1. Position one of your oven racks in the center of your oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking liner and put aside
  2. In a large bowl mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Then add in the sugar.
  3. Add two whole eggs, the egg yolks, and vanilla.
  4. Mix with an electric mixer on low speed until just combined.
  5. Add in the almonds and chocolate chips and beat on low speed until all mixed.
  6. Place the dough on to a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half.
  7. Shape each half into approximately a 2 1/2 inch by 12 inch flat log. The dough will be sticky so you may need to add more flour to your hands.
  8. Carefully transfer the logs onto your prepared baking sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart because they will spread as they bake.
  9. Place the baking sheet on the center rack of your oven and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the logs are firm to the touch.
  10. When done place the baking sheet on a wire rack and allow the logs to cool completely.
  11. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F and transfer the biscotti logs to a cutting board.
  12. Using a serrated knife, cut the logs on a slight diagonal into 1-inch thick slices.
  13. Place biscotti slices on the baking sheet.
  14. Bake the biscotti until they are crisp, about 10 minutes.
  15. Place baking sheet on a wire rack and allow the biscotti to cool completely on the sheet.

Have a happy holiday!

Thanks so much to Nicole for offering up such a delicious guest post! Check out her blog, Making Good Choices, for more great stuff. And if you want to find more holiday cookie recipes -- you've come to the right place!

12 COOKIES OF X-MAS
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12 Cookies of X-Mas: Clove-Spiced Shortbread

These wedges are based on a recipe that appears in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. And they turned out so well, in fact, that I actually brought them into work. My coworkers were apprehensive at first -- because they know I often bake with "strange" ingredients.


But they were happy to learn that these treats are pretty traditional. Real butter. Real sugar. White flour. But they are somewhat healthier. I cut the butter with some oil. I used some whole wheat flour. Little substitutions here and there that didn't impact the flavor, just the nutritional value.

Oh, yeah! And I got my new lens this weekend -- a 50mm. It's working out wonderfully so far. Great for food photography. Great for portraits. I can't wait to get some more time to play around!


CLOVE-SPICED SHORTBREAD
Print this Recipe!

What you'll need . . .
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar


Method . . .
  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Set out a springform or tart pan (with a removable bottom).
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, oil, and brown sugar. Beat until well combined.
  3. Then whisk together the flours, pecans, cloves, and salt in another bowl and add to the wet to form a soft dough.
  4. Then turn this dough into the prepared pan and press to fill it uniformly.
  5. Place in the oven and lower the temperature to 300 degrees F. Let bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Then remove from the oven, cut into wedges, and prick with a fork (if you wish, it's only to make a design). Return to oven for another 15 minutes.
  7. Bake until lightly browned. And then let cool before removing from pan.



And before you know it, you have a delicious shortbread that EVERYONE will enjoy!


JOY TO THE EARTH -- eBook!

Amy (from be.you.ti.fully a.musing) has written a super awesome eBook for the holiday season called Joy to the Earth. It's all about having a "Meaning -Filled, Eco- Conscious and Thriftastic Holiday" -- click here to learn more on Amy's site.


Of course, we're really into the whole concept of an eco-conscious holiday. We, too, have been more and more thoughtful this season, simplifying, saving money, etc. And Amy was nice enough to give us a sneak peek of the book. I must say -- there are some great ideas inside!

From gifts to wrapping to gathering to the tree (more contents info here)!

12 COOKIES OF X-MAS
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12 Cookies of X-Mas: Fudge-Topped Chai Bars

>> Sunday, December 19, 2010

Two chai baked good recipes in one week? Indeed! Julie's Chai Tea Cakes inspired me -- for sure. So, when I had to come up with something tasty to bring to a post-run celebration, I decided to included in it two heaping tablespoonfuls of chai mix. Homemade chai mix, of course.

Don't let the tahini in this recipe scare you. It blends extremely well with the other flavors. And speaking of taste, this bar's got a lot of it. In fact, though at first it may seem somewhat usual. In like two seconds, there's an "explosion of flavor" as our friend Chris put it the other night.

If you're going for something intense, give this recipe a try!


FUDGE-TOPPED CHAI BARS
Print this Recipe!

What you'll need . . .
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance (or butter)
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats (uncooked)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons chai tea mix (dry)
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet (or other) chocolate chips
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons almond milk
  • chopped pecans or other nuts (optional)

Method . . .
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spritz an 8 x 8 inch pan with some canola oil and set aside.
  2. Cream together the Earth Balance, tahini, and brown sugar. Beat in the vanilla.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and chai tea mix. (Note: Instructions on how to make the chai tea mix are also on this blog! But if you have a store-bought one, you can use that, too!)
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined. Dough should be moistened, but somewhat crumbly.
  5. Press into the 8 x 8 inch pan until flat and even. Then bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until browned on the edges.
  6. Allow to cool. Then add the almond milk to the chocolate chips and microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes. Until melty.
  7. Spread chocolate over the bars and then sprinkle chopped pecans (or other nuts) on top. Let cool in the refrigerator.

Be sure to check out the rest of our 12 Cookies of X-Mas series -- Day 1 (Salted Cornmeal Sugar Cookies), Day 2 (Mexican Hot Chocolate Chippers), Day 3 (Festivus Bars), Day 4 (Julie's Chocolate Chai Tea Cakes), and Day 5 (Chocolate Chunk Oaties).

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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12 Cookies of X-Mas: Chocolate Chunk Oaties

>> Saturday, December 18, 2010

Between PT and several holiday parties, we fell behind a day on posting the cookie recipes. So -- get ready for it -- we're posting TWO of 'em tomorrow! This oat-filled cookie is lots of fun. So much texture. Chocolate. And a peanut crunch.

The Hershey's chocolate will remind you of your childhood (at least that's what it does for me!). But if you're vegan or avoid dairy, you can use semi-sweet (or other dairy-free) chocolate chips. Chocolate is still chocolate.

Yum!


CHOCOLATE CHUNK OATIES
Print this Recipe!

What you'll need . . .
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 taspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 cup Earth Balance (or butter)
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (Sugar in the Raw)
  • 2 tablespoons Bob's Red Mill egg replacer plus 6 tablespoons water (or 2 eggs)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Hershey's chocolate bars, broken into squares (or 1 cup chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts (or other nuts)
  • 2 cups rolled oats (uncooked)

Method . . .
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars (until fluffy -- 4 minutes or so). Beat in the egg replacer (whisk together the powder and water before adding) or eggs. Beat in the vanilla.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined.
  5. Add in the chocolate, peanuts, and oats.
  6. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto your cookie sheets -- spacing an inch or so apart.
  7. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes, until the edges are firm.
Be sure to check out the rest of our 12 Cookies of X-Mas series -- Day 1 (Salted Cornmeal Sugar Cookies), Day 2 (Mexican Hot Chocolate Chippers), Day 3 (Festivus Bars), and Day 4 (Julie's Chocolate Chai Tea Cakes).

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On Humility

>> Friday, December 17, 2010

As I wrote this morning about my slow return to running after injury, I've achieved some respectable PRs in my years of racing. I wouldn't consider myself a fast runner, but I'm definitely a fast-er middle-packer. I take pride in my speed. It's something I've worked hard for as an entirely self-made athlete.

Honestly, sometimes that pride morphs into smugness at the gym. Just sometimes, though. Because I've been a beginner, I've been injured, I've been burned out . . . and I know distance and speed are all relative. It's personal success, personal best, personal EVERYTHING that really counts.

Now, when I draft posts, I tend to try on a cute tone with my writing. I try to be funny. Interesting. I write stories and sometimes use hyperbole to get my point across. All writers do it. It's just more entertaining that way (for you AND for me). But this story, folks, employs no exaggeration. What I write now is real. It happened to me this morning.

And it left such an impression on me, that I just had to write about it. ASAP-style.

I had nearly finished my fifth lap in the pool -- my first 250 yards of the morning. My heart pounded hard in my chest. About 176 beats per minute, to be precise. My arms felt tired and tight. I even briefly considered getting out because I already plan to run later in the day. Swimming is serious business. It's difficult. It's exhausting. It's completely draining for me.

Anyway, I looked around. There were some other people in the pool: A woman my age (who may have been a fish, I couldn't tell because she looked more like a blur than a person at her pace), a few elderly ladies I remember from aqua jogging, a creepy guy standing in the shallow end.

The regular Friday morning crowd, really.

So, I finished that fifth lap. Then, I stopped to drink some water and stretch. An old man approached my lane with his walker. "May I join you?" he asked (all the other lanes were occupied). "Of course," I breathlessly replied, "so long as you're OK with my slow-poke speed -- ha, ha."

(I have this awful nervous laughing habit. But I really meant what I said to him. I swim at what I would describe as a 15 minute mile in running would be. Well, maybe not QUITE that slow, but you get the point.)

"Oh, that's fine," he said, splashing into the shallow end. (He was also half laughing because I could tell he thought I was kidding.) He slapped on his blue swim cap, glanced at the wall clock, and took off his glasses. I finished another sip of water, took a deep breath, and . . . we were off.

At first, I figured he'd probably swim close to my pace. Maybe slower. I mean. A.) He's old and B.) He had a walker. Right? Right. Well, very shortly into that next 25 yards, I felt a distinct pull. That movement of water at my feet that all swimmers recognize as another person nearby. Approaching. Passing.

Sure enough: This sweet old man was PASSING me. ALREADY.

And it wasn't some fluke early-in-the-workout sprint for him. This gentleman proceeded to pass me over and over and over (and OVER) again as I made my way another 20 or so laps. I'm thinking he swam a mile -- and quicker than I can ever imagine finishing one myself.

As my watch's timer approached 45 minutes, I saw the man climb the ladder and exit the pool. Yeah. I was still going -- I swam a total of 2,000 yards this morning (right around 1.15 miles in, uh, 53 minutes). But . . . I looked up at him to wish him a good day.

All I saw was this H-U-G-E grin on his face. This intent look of satisfaction. Of victory.

My swim trunks-clad butt had just been OWNED by a man in his 80s. I think I know I made his freaking day. Week. Month! And I'm happy to do it. He's a rock star in the water despite how I could crush him on land.

So, does this humbling experience make me think I have no business as a member of the Friday swimming crowd? Hell no. Does it make me respect new challenges? People of all shapes, sizes, abilities, and ages? Most definitely!

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Returning to Running After Injury

We've received a number of questions related to how I'm planning to resume training as my knee heals. And though I'm definitely not back to normal yet -- still experiencing regular tightness and some slight pain on every run -- I'm better-ish enough to start seriously thinking about this issue myself.


Latest professional opinion on the matter (from my PT) is that it's alright for me to run. To hasten the healing process, we've decided on a course of hydrocortisone starting next week. This isn't a cortisone shot. Instead, it's a patch that is hooked up to a little machine that will use battery power to pulse the medicine into my knee. I didn't necessarily want this type of intervention, but after 10 weeks of dealing with this issue, I'm up for pretty much anything.

As for mileage: I'm focusing on between 15 and 20 miles for now, 3 to 4 days per week. A huge drop from my marathon schedule (regular weeks between 40 and 50 miles, 5 to 6 days per week). A big jump from what I've been doing (5 to 10 miles, depending).

See the difference?


Usually in the winter, I do scale my running back quite dramatically. I run maybe between 80 and 95 miles a month versus the 150+ during the heavy fall season. So, at 15 to 20 miles a week, that'll bring me in somewhere around 70 to 90.

If I can get back to this level soon-ish, I'll be thrilled!

Most of this mileage will be run indoors because I'm trying to watch my step. Run on even surfaces. Avoid ice and slipping. Regulate my pace (I'm running a full MPH slower on the treadmill than I normally do -- but that's OK. It's running!). And it's also nice if I do indeed need to stop, I'm able to quit without having to walk 2 miles home in the blustery weather.

In January, I'm hoping to participate in a 10K series, but only for fun. Racing isn't a priority right now. Nor is any specific training goal. I haven't been running, so despite how I may feel . . . my muscles/bones/etc. can't handle anything intense right now.


OTHER STUFF:
  • I'm not signing up in advance for any spring races. In fact, I may only do smaller, local races where I can sign up the day of. I don't want to set my sights on something big with the possibility of being let down. That's happened too many times already! Nor do I need to race to be fit and happy. I'd like to do a few half marathons, but we'll see how my recovery goes before thinking that far ahead.
  • I'm training like a triathlete. And though I doubt I'll get into the sport (it's a little too high-maintenance for me -- too much gear and other stuff to worry about -- I think) However, without even realizing it, I'm basically following a Half Ironman plan right now (I Googled it for fun this morning and was surprised that my training looked similar!). I've started hitting the pool 3 times a week at a mile each time. I've been indoor cycling at around 18 to 19 MPH 2 to 3 days per week for 45 minutes to an hour. And once my running gets back up, I'm hoping to soon build to 8 to 10 mile long runs. I'm in way better overall shape now than I was in the fall.
  • I'm getting into strength training. Emily (Daily Garnish) wrote a great post about this topic the other day! Stephen has me lifting weights 2 to 3 times per week. I mostly focus on upper-body, 30 minute sessions. Starting with the bigger muscles (chest, back) and working to the smaller ones. I am also keeping up with regular push-ups (40 to 50 a set, 2 sets every other day) and chin-ups (up to doing 5!).
  • I'm treating my workouts more like recreation than work. Usually when I train, there's an element of work to it. Not in a way that I don't enjoy, but now . . . if i miss a trip to the gym, I don't freak out. I take a walk later that day. Or if I don't have a great run, I hop on the bike or do something else. The Earth doesn't stop turning. I don't fall horribly behind on my training schedule.
  • Did I mention I'm just trying to have fun? OK. I did. But REALLY! Tonight I'm going on a slow run with friends to look at all the pretty holiday lights around our neighborhood! I'm focusing less on pace and distance and more on moving my body and catching up with folks.

MORE ADVICE:
  • Take each day at a time. I can't emphasize enough that if you're coming back from injury, you shouldn't start out doing too much. Set small goals, but not ones that require intense training (speed, distance, time, etc.). Half of getting better is healing from the mental letdown, so if you set yourself up for disappointment (because every injury and recovery is different), it'll be 10 times worse than it needs to be if you don't heal right away.
  • Focus on overall health and fitness versus running alone (or whatever your primary sport may be). I never thought throughout this off-time I'd end up in better shape than when I began. But, here I am swimming miles in the pool, cranking out intervals on the spinning bike, and sporting a new pair of guns.
  • Don't expect to be back where you were before your injury. You may be worse. You may even be better! After any time off, the game has changed. That's for sure. If you're not back to your old athlete-self, you'll get there eventually. If you're in better shape, don't leave all that cross-training behind just yet. Evaluate the good and bad and consider keeping some of those other activities in the mix.
  • Remember that racing and events don't necessarily make you a better runner. I think a lot of emphasis is placed on them. And -- yes -- races are fun! However, before I got into marathoning, I did far fewer races than I do now. I think I have achieved some pretty respectable personal records . . . but racing too much can actually make me slower. In the future, I'm hoping to pick a few events and spend the rest of my time training smart for them.

This post is so long, I feel like I need some grand conclusion. Here's the short of it. I'm incredibly excited that I'm feeling somewhat better. I think I started my first week back (a couple week ago) a little too aggressively, so these tips are from what I learned in the process of finding my stride again. I want to get back to "normal" soon, but not at the risk of hurting myself more.

Plus, it seems there's a new "normal" for me. So, I'm happy to adapt and grow as an athlete!

Though I won't be logging 3-hour 20-milers anytime soon, with some careful attention to my body, cross-training, and positive attitude, I can see myself coming back from this whole ordeal a lot fitter and more balanced than before!

Of course, I'm not the only person in the history of running to be injured. Please share your recovery stories with us! What did you do to get back into the sport? What did you learn? Did you forever change the way you train? We want to hear it all!

Just leave a comment or email us at neverhomemaker [at] gmail [dot] com.

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