Thankful Thursday

1) Diptic

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Thank you Carrie (who thanked Lindsay from The Lean Green Bean) for sharing this app with her readers (like me!). I have been wondering how bloggers make cool photo collages and was too lazy to figure it out. Here’s my first collage:

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The photo in the bottom right corner is my photo of the day (stairs). Also, I should admit a mistake I’ve been making; the photo challenge ISN’T just for Instagram. Not sure why I made that up. I also want to credit this challenge to Chantelle and thank her for helping me improve my photography skills.

2) Four-day weeks
Tomorrow is already Friday! Having Monday off made the week fly by. Each day was over before I knew it. Part of me wants to break out into that horrible song: “It’s Friday, Friday…”

3) Getting faster
I am a pretty slow (and often ugly) runner, but I am getting faster. Thanks to my amazing sister-in-law and the Garmin she gave me for Christmas, I track my runs and can monitor my speed. Last week I ran five miles in 48:30 and today I ran it in 47:30. This means I averaged a 9:30 mile – crazy! I have always been a ten-minute miler, but things are changing. Maybe a future goal will be a sub-2:00 half marathon…

4) Running Off the Reese’s
When I first started following blogs, I found Cely and loved her posts. She’s hilarious and unlike any of the other blogs I was reading. But then this fall, her posts stopped updated in my Flipbook (the app I used to read blogs) and I stopped reading about Cely’s life. Now I use Google Reader, and I recently subscribed to Running Off the Reese’s again – joy!

5) Only one doggie accident
No pictures of this for obvious reasons.
Whenever our family’s routine changes (i.e. when I go back to school after being on Spring Break for a week), the dogs’ internal plumbing gets a little wacky. Aside from being used to spending an hour at the dog park each morning, they also may have some anxiety over being left home alone again. Frankie left a “present” for me in the hallway (his normal spot) on Tuesday, so I was nervous Moose would follow suit. I can happily report that never happened.

Question:
What are you thankful for?

A Lazy Dog’s Favorite Things

This morning on the news, as I ran five miles (yah! I did it and got my butt out of bed!), the news anchor showed a picture of a new product she saw at Mounds (pet food store for those not in the Madison area).

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I chuckled thinking of either of my dogs in one of these. The news anchor thought it was funny and seemed to wonder if people really use these. The answer is yes; people do use these. One woman wrote on the NBC15 Facebook wall that she takes her dog on bike rides in it. This produced an even more amusing image in my mind. If I strapped Moose to the front of me and rode a bike, people would think we were on a tandem.

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If you don’t want to spend the money on a baby “bjorn,” knit your own.

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Plus, look how active you can be wearing one.

And just so the bigger dogs don’t feel left out, they can always be pushed around in a stroller.

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Apparently there is a stroller that holds up to 115 lbs.

Do you do anything out of the ordinary for your pets? Have you ever seen anyone use one of the above items?

Today was a much better day than yesterday. When my alarm went off, I played the “I could just run after school” game but realized I was quite awake. The run went well and put me in a good mood. Running before school makes me such a better teacher; I demonstrate more patience and feel more productive.

Brody grilled out for dinner tonight, and it was simple and delicious.

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Salad with Italian dressing, a brat with ketchup, and ice water.

Now it’s time to relax on the couch (and probably watch the Blackhawks lose in overtime), scrounge the cupboards for some chocolate, and catch up on some blogs.

Spring Break count down: three days

Questions:
Tell me something about your pet(s).
If you’re not from the Midwest, have you ever had a brat? Thoughts? Midwest folks, how do you eat your brats?

Feeling the Mondays

Well happy Monday, friends. I wish I could tell you I had a fantastic Monday, but I’d be lying. We all have off days, and whether it was the weather, my sore hamstrings, getting up early for BodyPump this morning, or something else, today was not my day. Plus, my haircut lady, Tiffany/Renee, was sick and had to reschedule.

To make matters worse, I had a nasty orange for lunch. You know the kind…hard, dry, and lacking any sweetness. It was depressing as all hell (slight Catcher in the Rye allusion?).

My stomach was eating itself by the time I got home (all because I didn’t eat my fruit for lunch) and I spent the last ten minutes of my drive home plotting out what I’d eat. Wait – this happens almost every day. In the end, I consumed lots of crackers with hummus, red grapes, and a cookie dough bite.

Moose and Frankie both ran around the house like crazy people when I walked in the door and demanded (telepathically) while I ate my mini-meal that a trip to the dog park was non-negotiable. I made them pose for me before we left but they got bored waiting for me waiting for a good shot.

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The temperature dropped here in Wisconsin, and I had to wear long sleeves, my puffy vest, gloves, and a scarf. We’ve been spoiled. I had a difficult time getting Frankie into the park (rain must be coming), and after five minutes of coaxing and taking him off the leash, he finally followed Moose and I into the park. Because of the rain earlier today, the dog park was pretty empty but it wasn’t wet. We did two quick laps, which improved my mood a little.

I don’t want to sound whiny or complain anymore, so we’ll say goodnight now and hope for a better, more positive day tomorrow. Let’s hope getting up at 4:45am to run five miles on a treadmill is the way for me to start out and make Tuesday terrific.

P.S. Can you tell I am ready for Spring Break? Four more days, baby.

Alphabet of My Weekend

Both Janetha from Meals and Moves and Chelsey from Clean Eating Chelsey used this format. I liked it and I am too lazy to think for myself, so I am being a copycat. :)

A is for appetite
My appetite is bigger than normal today. This tends to happen to me the day after long runs.

B is for Brody
Brody took a nap this afternoon with headphones on that I got him for his birthday.

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C is for cutting
I spent an hour this morning cutting down and hauling the branches away of three willow bushes in our yard. They grow so quickly and were already starting to bud. I never got around to cutting them back in the fall.

D is for dog park
My friend Jennifer called me at 8:30 this morning to see if I was interested in meeting her at the dog park. Although I was in the process of making donuts (see F), I said yes. It had been a while since we had chatted, and the time flies when we walk together. We did four laps in an hour with our dogs, which was about three miles.

E is for episodes
We watch a lot of episodes of Lost on the weekends. This show is very confusing even though it is second time I am watching it.

F is for fail
While drinking an iced coffee this morning in a quiet house, I caught up on a few blogs. The Daily Crumb referenced donuts she had made. I looked through the recipe, looked through my cupboard and fridge, and realized I had everything to make these babies! What I did not realize was that I needed a donut pan – missed that detail. I piped the batter into rings on a cookie sheet and watched them spread out into cookie/pancake/semi-donut looking things. Major fail. They still tasted good, especially with the glaze drizzled over the top. Now I have a dozen flat donuts, and based on looks, I don’t know if anyone at my school would try them if I left them in the coffee area.

G is for Grandma
Yesterday was my grandma’s birthday. I am horrible with birthdays and apparently a horrible granddaughter. I will be sending a late birthday card tomorrow. :(

H is for hamburgers
Tonight we are grilling! On the menu: hamburgers and asparagus. The asparagus I got from Aldi looks really good with nice skinny stalks. Brody makes a killer hamburger with lots of yummy seasonings.

I is for IT band
My IT band needs some attention after my long run yesterday. The foam roller is staring at me. I know I need to do it, but it hurts.

J is for julep
Last night, one of the drinks I tried at Natt Spil was a spin on a mint julep. There was oolong kombucha in it, so I was intrigued. I have had a mint julep once before when I went to the Kentucky Derby (the inner area, not the fancy area with the hats). I, unfortunately, did not care for the drink last night. I should’ve stuck with the raspberry kombucha Collins.

K is for kombucha
We had a few errands to run this morning and needed to pick up meat, cheese, and buns for burgers tonight. Hyvee has a great selection of kombuchas for a decent price. I chose the trilogy flavor.

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L is for laundered
One of my least favorite chores is taking off bed sheets and putting them back on. As much as I love the feeling and smell of clean sheets, it is such a pain. But I put on my big girl pants and stripped the bed and laundered the sheets.

M is for mango
When I want to cut back on my sugar intake, I turn to mango. Whether it is fresh or frozen, I love mango. It helped me detox from chocolate for almost a month when I got back from Switzerland (their chocolate is amazing).

N is for Natt Spil
Natt Spil was pretty good last night. The drinks, especially the raspberry kombucha Collins, were spot on, but the food was just alright. We ordered some appetizers (steamed dumplings, cheese wontons, and steamed mussels), and those were all very good. The pizzas weren’t anything spectacular. I ordered the Greek Goddess with red peppers, artichokes, olives, and onions. Brody and I decided we probably wouldn’t eat dinner there again but that it’d be a good place for drinks and apps.

O is for open
Because of the warm weather, our windows are open. I love having fresh air in the house.

P is for pancakes
I made pancakes for Brody and I this morning. Mine were topped with peanut butter and maple syrup.

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Q is for quiet
I love the quiet of weekend mornings. My internal alarm clock wakes me up around 7am. I enjoy the peacefulness and knowing the day is so full of possibilities and opportunities.

R is for rest
My body needs rest and that’s what it is getting today. Besides my three mile walk at the dog park, my legs and body are not doing much.

S is for Stalzy’s
After dropping off Brody’s bike to be tuned up, we headed over to Stalzy’s on Atwood for lunch. I had never been there when breakfast items were available and jumped on the idea of combining eggs and good meat. I ordered the Brooklyn breakfast sandwich: grilled rye, Swiss cheese, pastrami, fried egg, and ground mustard. SOOO GOOD!

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T is for tight
My legs are tight from yesterday. My lack of stretching, foam rolling, and rehydrating probably have something to do with that.

U is for unlimited
Moose has unlimited amounts of energy today. After an hour at the dog park, play time outside, and a thirty minute walk, he still wants to play.

V is for vacuum
The dogs shed, so I try to vacuum once a week. I still need to do this today.

W is for water
Because I did not drink enough water yesterday after my run and then chose to have a couple cocktails last night, I know I am still dehydrated. Need to keep drinking water.

X is for X-fit (Crossfit)
This one is a stretch, but X is tough. Brody went to X-fit (Crossfit) three times last week. Today he said he excited for me to be done with marathon training so that I can come try it.

Y is for you
I have enjoyed writing to all of you, whoever you are! This post was especially fun even though it took much longer than I had expected.

Z is for ZZZs
I hope to get some quality ZZZs tonight in my clean sheets. Eight hours is ideal for me but most weekday nights I end up only sleeping for seven.

Frankie (the Movie Star), Gu, and In-laws

A handful of posts ago, I mentioned the story of how Frankie came to be in our family. We have had him now for two years and love him immensely.

Earlier this week, Frankie’s first mom emailed me with a strange request. She explained how she works for a video production company. They needed a dog for a commercial; would Frankie be interested?

My initial thought was “This is awesome! My dog is going to be on tv!” But then I wondered, “What if she wants to take him back?” Obviously that was completely irrational. Once I realized she wasn’t going to steal my dog, I became worried about something else. For the shoot, she would need to pick up Frankie from our house and drop him back off. Neither Brody nor myself could take off of work (“Yes sir, that’s right. I need to take the day off to be my dog’s agent.”). You see, Frankie is extremely neurotic and is inseparable from Moose (our other Golden). In the end, Brody and I banked on the hope that Frankie would recognize his first mom and not freak out.

Good news! It went swimmingly. Frankie’s first mom emailed me and said he did great. The commercial, which is for a local cable company, airs only in northern Wisconsin, but she promised to send us a video copy. Frankie made a little cash in the process, so Brody and I are thinking of writing up a resume and sending a few cover letters out. (Totally kidding.)

While Frankie was being a big shot, Moose went to day care alone. Moose is much more independent, and we weren’t concerned about him. I was intrigued to hear how he behaved without Frankie around, though. The owner told me Moose was much more active than normal and even humped a few dogs (very unusual for him).  Sounds like he had a fun day “ridin’ solo.”

In other news, it is snowing. Notice the missing exclamation point at the end of that statement. I can’t wait for Tuesday when it all melts. Yes, it is pretty on the trees…blah blah blah. Driving in it is not fun, though, and I am guessing the people in the ditch were not noticing the beautiful snow-covered branches. I am also a little crabby because I have a 7.5 miler scheduled for tomorrow with Mel. Running through snow concerns me because I don’t like the idea of cold, wet feet.

Speaking of my run, only one Gu remained in my cupboard as of Sunday. With basically every weekend requiring a long run, I knew I needed more fuel. My order from Amazon arrived today, just in time.

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(Sorry for the blurry picture – iPad photos are not always the best)

There is a sentence I keep wanting to type here, but no matter how I phrase it, it sounds dirty (includes words like package, wet, Gu, box….ya, I know).

Moving on…check out the box of Gu treats!

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I’ve heard the espresso flavor is good, so I may try that one first for the run tomorrow.  I also sampled one (literally one, not the whole package) of the Chomps, cherry flavor, which reminded me of Clif Shot Blocks. The box of twenty-five different items was $25 – not too bad. Plus, it had free shipping. Gotta love Super Saver Shipping. Also in the Amazon box were vacuum cleaner bags for our Swiss vacuum cleaner. Exciting stuff people.

Last night I lied to you. I thought we were going to The Old Fashioned, but we went to Greenbush (linked to the Yelp review, not the actual website) instead. The in-laws were craving salad and pizza, and Greenbush has some of the best pizza in town. Brody and I each started with a side salad and then shared a pizza topped with salami, fresh garlic, green peppers, and banana peppers. I had an oatmeal stout from Tyranena and lots of water. The in-laws each had caesar salads with anchovies and their own pizza.  It was nice catching up with them and enjoying good food in the cozy basement of Greenbush.

Tonight for dinner we are going to their favorite steak place (and the only one they have ever tried): Delmonico’s. While some people may say The Tornado Room has better steak, my in-laws have always had great food and service at Delmonico’s. The atmosphere is lovely as well. Filet mignon….here I come!  Do you think steak and red wine will make for a good run tomorrow? I guess we will have to wait and see.:)

Have a fantastic Friday night!

Questions:
Do you know anyone in a commercial?
Brody knows the girl in the PedEgg one – they went to high school together.
What flavor of Gu (or similar energy gels) are your favorites?
So far, I like the Honey Stingers, but as for Gu, the mint holiday one was delicious.

Intervals and Dog Presents

As I posted last week, my motivation has been waning, especially when it comes to those early morning treadmill sessions. I keep telling myself that it will be light out at 5:15am again soon, so until then, my dates with the treadmill continue.

For much of my marathon training, my two weekday runs are four miles each. I used to think I could never be a morning runner, but now pumping out four miles before the sun has risen doesn’t seem too bad. The monotony, though, is what is killing me.

To make my treadmill sessions speed by, I do a few things:

1) Have a good magazine in front of me

I don’t know how, but I am able to read magazines while I run. I must not bounce much? The best magazines to read while I am running are Fitness, Health, Shape, Self, and Runner’s World.

2) Watch and listen to tv

Apparently I need to be stimulated in multiple ways when I run on the treadmill. Unless I am running with a friend outside, I hate to hear myself breathe. The tv is more for background noise, but I do watch the news in the morning and pay attention to some stories. Otherwise I’ll watch just about anything on the Food Network or some terrible reality show on MTV.

3) INTERVALS!

Everyone and their mom has figured out that intervals help the time fly by – not sure what took me so long. It’s not like I had never heard of them. It always just felt fine to set it at a speed and run. For one of my two weekday runs, I have been doing this: .4 miles at 5.8 and .1 mile at 6.2, repeating it eight times to equal four miles. Besides helping me physically, I like the feeling of accomplishing each mini-goal each half mile.

Now on to the other part of my post: dog presents (the kind your dogs leave for you, not vice versa).

Yesterday, I got home to find a nice present of poo and pee in the family room courtesy of Moose. From everything I’ve read, there is no point in getting angry at the dog or yelling at him/her. While I did not yell, I scolded him and was crabby for the rest of the night. I should also say that Moose does not stay in one spot as he does his business. Add to that the fact that he is over one hundred pounds, and, well, you get the idea. Cleaning up his excrement was not the way I wanted to spend the first twenty minutes home from work. Brody and I think it was either something he ate over the weekend or just the change in routine. One reason dogs relieve themselves is because of something being different. My mom had been here this weekend and stayed until Monday morning. This may have thrown off Moose’s schedule.

Today, I came home…and…no messes!!! However, I did find one present.

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If you can’t see, that’s a dead mouse (along with two toys, one of which is an orange moose). With it being so warm and not having much snow, these dead critters are a lot easier for my dogs to find. I’m guessing it was Moose because that’s his MO. Moose is the hunter; last year he killed a bunny…on Easter! I should really save that story for Easter though.

Tonight is Taco Tuesday. Brody LOVES tacos and wanted them last night, but I thought it’d be way more fun to eat them today (mainly because of the alliteration factor). Not sure what else I’m going to make for dinner this week. Any suggestions?

Have a great night!

QUESTIONS:

How do you pass the time while doing cardio on machines?

Do your animals ever bring you presents?

What recipes do you love? Please share :)

What I Do to Be a Good Dog-Mom

Although Brody and I are not real parents (yet), we consider ourselves parents of Moose and Frankie. Having dogs teaches you so much and, in a way, helps prepare you for some aspects of being a parent of a human being.

Moose as a puppy

Moose came from a breeder in Portage. He was basically the last puppy in the litter. When we went to pick him up, all of the other dogs our breeder owned came running towards us with lots of energy. Where was our dog? Sleeping under a chair. For some people, that would’ve been a turn-off, but we were psyched to have a chill dog to bring home.  Lots of people ask us about his name; did we know he was going to be huge? Nope. We had no idea we would end up with a 105 lb. dog with long legs.  Over one hundred may seem large for a Golden, but Moose is not overweight at all. He just grew into his name. :) He will be four years old in April.

Moose found the hostas at my cottage to be a great bed

After two years, we decided Moose needed a friend. The original plan was to wait until the summer to find a puppy because I would be home to train him or her. Randomly, Brody looked on Craigslist and saw an ad for a Golden Retriever. I contacted the family, and we arranged a time to meet at our house. A few minutes into the meet and greet, Frankie pooped on our floor! The owner was mortified, and it was obvious this wasn’t a normal occurrence. To make sure it would work permanently, Frankie came to visit for that weekend. Brody and I said the weekend needed to be absolutely perfect in order for us to keep him.

Moose and Frankie hanging out on the back deck

Frankie was almost five years old, and we weren’t sure how Moose would deal with having an older dog “invade” his turf. From the beginning, we could tell these two dogs were meant to be together. On Sunday, Frankie’s owner called to see how it went; I told her we loved him and would adopt him. It has been two years, and they are like long-lost brothers. They wrestle, clean each other’s ears and faces (kind of gross but sweet), and follow each other around.

They love jumping off the dock and swimming after toys

Now that you have a little background information about the dogs, here is what I have learned or realized about what I can do to be a good dog-parent.

1) Exercise your dogs often
Almost every weekday, I bring Moose and Frankie to the local dog park. We do two to four laps, which takes thirty to sixty minutes. One lap is approximately two-thirds of a mile. The park is completely fenced in, so the dogs run free. My dogs are pretty anti-social and just play with each other, but they love this place and will never get sick of it. Our almost daily dog park trips keep them healthy and happy. Plus it is great exercise for me.

Playing at the dog park

2) Give your dogs good food
The breeder we got Moose from was adamant about using good dog food. We received multiple handouts and a recipe if we wanted to make our own treats. Moose started out on Eukanuba, but we switched over to Fromm’s. Many cheaper dog foods have corn listed as the first ingredient, which is just a filler and has little to no nutritional value for dogs. We liked Fromm’s because they do not include corn, they have multiple flavors (that do not upset the dogs’ stomachs when we switch), and they are a Wisconsin company. They also have a rewards program; if you cut the UPC codes from each bag, you get a free bag for every twelve bags. I want my dogs to be around for a long time, and I believe food is an important factor…just like it is for humans.

3) Find a good day care
There are nights when we will not be able to get to the park or we have plans after work. Goldens are extremely social animals and do not like to be alone. We found a fantastic day care, and the dogs go about once a week in the winter. The owner and workers are so friendly and seem to really love Moose and Frankie. They also offer nail trimming and other services and have overnight boarding.

4) Talk to your dogs
Yes, people who do not have dogs may think you are crazy, but you (and all other dog owners out there) know that it is completely normal to have conversations with your dogs. I even pretend to be my dogs and speak for them. Who knows what dogs can understand, but I believe the sound of my voice is somewhat comforting to them. Even though they cannot communicate with words, they do tell us things. This article discusses how dogs communicate with us through nonverbals.

5) Do some things that experts say are “wrong”
Moose and Frankie get quite a bit of human food. Leftover taco meat, peanut butter-filled pretzels, and pepperoni all end up in their mouths. With all of the activity they get, their weight stays in check. We also notice if something is off based on their…uh, poop.
The Dog Whisperer says you should not greet your dogs when you get home if they jump up on you. When you bend down to pet them, you are reinforcing this behavior. Sorry, but there is no way I could not immediately pet my dogs for a few minutes right when I walk into the door after being at work all day. I love how excited they are to see me, and I want to show them that I am excited to see them too.

Moose and Frankie love the Blackhawks

Just like with parenting kids, I believe there is not a right or wrong way to do (many) things. You just find what works for your “family” and roll with it.

Questions:
Have you ever adopted an animal?
What do you do to be a good parent (animal or human)?

Tuesday Rambles and an Easy Dessert Recipe

The three miles on the treadmill this morning at 5:40am felt pretty terrible. After taking a week off from BodyPump, the hour long class last night kicked my butt…and my hamstrings and my chest. My legs were heavy and I was slow. Hopefully the run shook off some of the soreness. When I first trained for a half marathon, I only ran: no elliptical, no yoga, and no BodyPump. Cross-training and lifting helped me run a faster second half marathon, and hopefully will help me run a successful full marathon at the end of May.

The baby shower was a fun, after school activity. My cupcakes were overshadowed by a much better dessert which I will provide the recipe for now. I have no idea what the official name is, but if they are delicious, does that minor detail matter?

Brownie Chocolate Rice Crispees (made that up…doesn’t really roll off the tongue)
Ingredients
– brownie mix (and necessary ingredients)
– 2 cups of marshmallows
– 3 cups of rice crispees
– 1 cup of chocolate chips
– 1 cup of butterscotch chips
– 1 cup of peanut butter

Directions
1) Make brownies but with only two eggs for recommended time
2) Add layer of marshmallows over brownies and put back into oven to melt (2 mins)
3) Mix rice crispees with melted chocolate, butterscotch chips, and peanut butter; spread over marshmallows
4) Allow to cool and then serve!

That ugly pile of dishes you saw last night? I took care of them while Brody took the dogs for a walk. It was around 50 degrees today, and the dog park is likely a muddy mess. I have plans to go tomorrow to meet with my friend Jena and her dog Ruger. Baths for the dogs might also be on the schedule.

My work week feels half over already; I am attending a conference on Friday in Milwaukee. I have two friends presenting as well! Conferences inspire me and provide me with many ideas for how I can be a better teacher. I am lucky that my school district is so supportive of teachers pursuing professional development opportunities.

Have a great night!

P.S. Sorry for the absence of pictures – I need to be better about bringing my camera with me and actually remembering to take pictures.

P.P.S. I signed up for the foodie penpal program for the month of February that Lindsay organizes. I can’t wait to go shopping for my penpal and to receive my package in the mail.