2016: The Year You Achieve

Is it just me or does every passing year feel like it moves quicker than the last? None the less, 2015 was a wonderful year for our family. We finished up renovations on our house, brought home Olive, our Bernese … Continue reading

New, Delicious Holiday Recipes

This year, my husband and I hosted our first Thanksgiving dinner.  Growing up watching my mom host amazing gatherings with fabulous food, I found myself trying to create a unique menu that would stand out from the rest.  I experimented with recipes from Pinterest, weeded out the failures, and ended up with a few really yummy dishes.  Some of them were so yummy, in fact, that they’ve been requested as my contribution to our Christmas family potluck!

Whether you’re looking for a stand-out appetizer, side dish, or dessert, I’ve got a fantastic recipe for you.  I’ve made each of these dishes more than once and have had success each time.  Trust me, your friends and family will gobble these up and you’ll have a new, festive recipe to add to your repertoire!

Appetizer

Cranberry Cheddar Sausage Bites
with Cabernet Cranberry and Blueberry Sauce

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Side Dish

Honey Maple Roasted Carrots

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Dessert

Chocolate Raspberry Cups

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**Please note: While the photos are mine, the recipes are not.  They were simply so delicious that I needed to share!

Exploring a New Type of Gym


Over 5 years ago, when my husband and I first started dating, we lived half way across the country from each other. Thank goodness we had unlimited data at that time because we spent so much of our day talking and texting to compensate for the distance. Often times we’d dream of a life together in Northern Michigan, with a couple of dogs and plenty of room to roam. Just last week, we took one giant step toward that dream when we packed up and moved to our own slice of heaven on 17.5 acres.

Having moved from a pretty happening city to a town of about 1,800 people, I’m sure you can imagine that life will be quite different for us here. This was obviously the goal. We wanted to simplify our life and be able to spend much of our time outdoors. The first morning that I woke up in the new house, I awoke to a sound that I hadn’t heard in years-silence, absolute silence. It was such a peaceful way to start the day, at my own pace and with nothing but my thoughts to slowly wake my body.

One big change that I have been sorting out over the past few days is my workout routine. If you read my previous posts, you know that I recently underwent a dramatic body transformation through my (then) local gym. My husband and I belonged to the premier gym in our area. It was the place that “anybody who was anybody” belonged to but never actually visited, simply because their social circle was all members. (At least that’s what the gentleman told us when he took us on our initial tour.) The website describes the facility as being “more like a resort than a gym.” With their 4 pools, 2 basketball courts, spin & yoga studios, cafe, chiropractor, sauna, salon, and day care, it really felt that way. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I loved that place with every bit of my being. Unlike many, I used the facility to its fullest capabilities.

My initial plan was to drive the 35 minutes each morning to work out there before going into work, but one week post-move, I’m realizing how unrealistic and downright ridiculous that seems. As I glanced out our window yesterday and looked out at all of the land we’ve acquired, it struck me that we just purchased a gym more beautiful than any I’ve ever seen. And so, I’ve decided to do a bit of an experiment. I’ve put my resort, I mean, gym membership on hold and am changing things up a bit. I will be doing my cardio in the woods, running trails that already exist and creating new ones as I go. I’ve gathered a plethora of pliyo exercises to continue my strength training. Honestly though, I have a feeling that our entire lifestyle is going to change at the new house, enabling us to be much more active. We’ll be outside often, chopping wood and hiking with the dogs. Heck, we’re 15 minutes from a ski hill now. If I wake up and decide that I want to hit the slopes, I can–pending Mother Nature decides that it is actually winter. I’d imagine it’s difficult to ski in 55 degree weather.

I certainly had some concerns going into this transition, as physical fitness has become such a big part of my lifestyle. I don’t want to lose everything that I’ve worked for. With workout number one under my belt, my confidence in my potential results is growing. My 5k through the woods forced me to lift my legs as I ran, in order to avoid the brush, and push harder to get up the hills. It was undoubtedly a challenge. What I can’t ignore however, is the fact that I feel so emotionally and spiritually refreshed. Being out in nature like that is incredibly powerful.


As I expand my non-conventional workout regimen, I’ll be sure to share the workouts that you too can do at home! Now if only I could get the forest creatures to appreciate the way my running shoes matched my Lulu pants, then I’d really be on to something…

A Bittersweet Detox: 21 Days Without Sugar

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I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving was the start of a very sweet few weeks for me. Between the holiday treats at the office and at home, I’m finding myself eating lots of sugar and craving even more than that!

I felt like I needed a little reminder of what exactly sugar does to your body, so that I can make logical decisions and healthy choices. While my initial reaction to detox was for fear of the potential consequences, I realized during my research that I am already experiencing some of them. Sugar is addictive. In fact, many people say that it’s the most addictive thing that you can give your body. The more you eat it, the more you want it.  Cravings? Check. Sugar confuses your body into thinking it needs to produce more insulin, ultimately resulting in weight gain. I haven’t been on the scale recently, but by the way that I feel, I’d check that off on my list of symptoms too.  Sugar makes you feel sluggish and moody. Tired? Check.  Moody?  Hubby is too sweet to say yes, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t think it. BIG check. (I’m now picturing that scene from Knocked Up at the doctor’s office. “You know, I know this isn’t you talking, it’s your hormones. But I would just like to say, f-you, hormones! You are a crazy b****, hormones. Not Allison! Hormones!” Just replace “hormones” with “sugar” and you’ve got a slightly exaggerated picture of how I’ve been feeling.)image.jpg

When I told my friends that I was going to begin a 21 Day Sugar Detox, the reaction was the same from everyone. “Right now?” “During Christmas?!” Yes. Definitely. Purposely. As I explained to them, at the rate that I’m going, it’ll take more than 21 days to turn things around if I wait. Plus, who doesn’t want to look and feel good in their New Year’s outfit?  I want to sparkle from the inside out.

I’ve found programs online that will help you detox, but I’m not interested in paying someone to tell me what I already know that I need to do. I just need to commit and do it! After doing some reading, I’ve learned that women should consume no more than 24 grams of sugar each day. Think about that. A single can of pop would put you over that limit!  Not to mention all of the foods that you don’t think of as being sugary, like bread, corn, or ketchup. I found this chart of foods that should be eaten, avoided, and enjoyed in moderation. Some of them really surprised me.image

My plan is to remain within that 24 gram limit, but shoot for less. I’ll need to be diligent in actually tracking my sugar intake, as that’s not something I usually do. I will be sure to stay hydrated so that I don’t experience artificial hunger. I will stay busy so that my idle hands don’t reach for something sweet. I will be sure to exercise and take care of my body. I will listen to it and what it needs.

I’ll keep you in the loop about what ends up working for me and what does not. If you feel up for the challenge, please join me! There is strength in numbers. In the mean time, catch you later, Sugar.

DIY Pet Stockings



Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, so it should come as no surprise that our four-legged children have their own stockings that we hang each year. With the addition of a third puppy, it occurred to me that we no longer had enough matching dog stockings. I know exactly what you’re thinking, “Oh no! What are you going to do?!” I had a brief moment of panic as well, but fortunately, there are so many options online these days. In no time, I quickly found a stocking that I loved that had a personal touch for each pup. After some time swooning, it occurred to me that I was likely capable of making these myself, and so I did. Instead of paying over $100 for the three stockings, I spent $25 (with coupons) and about two and half hours one Friday night making them. Mind you, I have minimal sewing experience. If you’re thinking you can’t do this, you can. If you’ve got cats in the house, consider changing the shape of the stocking. I intend on making one for both my husband and myself too! No matter what shape you choose, the following instructions will make the process quick and easy for you and ensure a feeling of great accomplishment once you’re done.

Materials

Sewing Machine

3/4 Yard Burlap Fabric

3/4 Yard Cotton Fabric

1 Spool of Thread to Match Burlap

1 Yard Ribbon of Your Choice

Needle

Scissors

Bone Pattern (I used this one, but feel free to create your own. http://www.emblibrary.com/EL/elprojects/pdf/pr1765_pattern1.pdf)

Instructions

1. Spread folded burlap out on that table so that is nice and flat. You should have two layers of material. Place the bone pattern on top and pin to the fabric. Carefully cut around the pattern. You will have two bone-shaped pieces of burlap per stocking.

2. Repeat the exact same procedure with the cotton fabric. You will have two bone-shaped pieces of cotton per stocking. Burlap is not a very sturdy material, so these will serve as the lining or structure of your stocking.

3. Take one piece of lining, match it up with one piece of burlap, and pin just along the curved top of the bone.

 

4. You’ll want to set the stitch on your sewing machine to something sturdy and small. The more times that you can get the thread through the burlap, the better. Using your machine, sew the top of the bone that you have pinned.

5. Repeat with the two remaining pieces.

6. Take both sewn pieces and place them together so that the lined sides are touching. Pin from the curve up top, down the bone and back up.

 7. Using the same stitch as before, sew the area you have pinned.

8. Take the scrap cotton fabric and cut a piece 1 1/3 x 4 inches. This will be the hanging loop.

9. Fold 1/3 of material inward, then fold the opposing 1/3 on top of it. Pin to hold like this.

10. Using a simple stitch, sew the length of the fabric.

11. Place this piece in the upper left corner of your stocking, where your binding stitch ended. Pin and sew.

12. Take ribbon and tie a bow like you do a shoe lace. Take the two hang pieces, loop, and tuck into the knot. Adjust to your desired look.

13. Find the center of your stocking and pin the bow to it.


14. Thread the needle and use it to tack the bow on. Start by feeding the needle from the inside out. Knot your thread and trim excess.

15. Use scissors and cut fly-away threads and pieces of burlap. This will help keep the burlap from unraveling.

17. Hang stockings.

18. Pour a glass of wine. Sit back and bask in the glory of your beautiful creation.

Fueling Your Machine

“You can’t out-exercise a bad diet.” How many times have we heard this? Countless, I’m sure. So it should come as no surprise that when I began my journey to a healthier me, my starting line was in the kitchen. … Continue reading

A Wifestyle Makeover: From the Beginning

Transformation

I grew up living a very active lifestyle. As I mentioned previously, I was a professionally trained dancer which meant hours upon hours of time spent in the studio. After pursuing my performance career, I found myself teaching dance to the next generation. When my husband and I got married, we both decided that my energy would be best focused on our family business. And so, with that, I was full time at our insurance and financials office. As what seems to happen to many of us women, I settled right in to adulthood. Suddenly, I was sedentary. I spent eight hours each day sitting at a desk. I came home, fed the dogs, made dinner, threw in a load of laundry, and then parked it on the couch with my hubby. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining by any means. Some of our best times were spent sitting at opposite ends of the couch trying to toss gummy penguins into each other’s mouths. We have fun no matter what we’re doing. Life was good, but it had definitively changed.

Fast forward to July 2014. Tom and I decided that were going to rip our 1960’s kitchen out and start anew. The morning that demolition began, we were upstairs talking while Mocha (our puggle) and Klaus (our Golden puppy) wrestled. All of a sudden, Klaus let out the most horrendous sound I’ve ever heard and collapsed. Tom picked him up and rushed him out to our truck. I sat in the back with Klaus as we raced to the emergency vet, blowing air into his muzzle and performing compressions. We got there within ten minutes, but Klaus was gone before we arrived. When we started that morning, I never in a million years would have imagined we’d find ourselves deciding if we wanted our puppy cremated and in what type of box. Our family was jolted. The house felt empty. Mocha stopped eating and I started. I stress ate absolutely anything and everything. It was all I could do to numb the pain.

Life moved along, whether or not we were ready. Demolition had begun on the kitchen and so we had to push on. Just a few days into the project, Tom stepped on two rusty nails, which got infected and had him hospitalized. He was on crutches and antibiotics for what seemed like an eternity. It took us a total of four months to complete the kitchen. We ate carry out at every meal–three hundred and sixty meals total. It was sickening. But finally, we were done. The kitchen was everything I’d dreamt of and more.

We now had a new addition to the family, Berndt. He was a Golden Retriever just like our last, but he was nothing like him. He was such a pistol! Between him and changes at our office, we were swamped. Though our eating situation had improved, it wasn’t enough. I had neglected my body for far too long and it was going to take much more than some home cooked meals to get myself back on track.

In August, I heard about a 90 Day Challenge that was going to take place at our gym. I thought that this could be just what I needed to get my act in gear. My group was a transformation challenge, which meant losing body fat. This was perfect for me because my goal really had nothing to do with the number on the scale, but instead about how I felt. I was so tired of my clothes strangling me and searching for a person in the mirror who I couldn’t seem to find anymore. I also didn’t want to just drop a bunch of weight to win a competition. I wanted to create a healthy lifestyle that would not only get me to my goals, but that I could also maintain for the rest of my life. Let’s face it, life is ALWAYS going to seem crazy and chaotic. I needed a solid plan that I knew I could depend on.

And so it began. I needed a “before” picture, per the competitions requirements. Holy moly! If you ever want to really step back and assess your situation, take a photo of yourself in a sports bra and spandex shorts. I nearly cried when I had to have my husband take the picture. Sure, what I saw definitely scared me, but I think the hardest part was knowing what it represented. I had lost control. I had completely neglected myself, which ultimately meant I wasn’t being the best I could be for the people that I loved either.

90 days later, I am proud to say that I accomplished what I set out to do and so much more. I set out to makeover my body and somehow I ended up cleansing my soul. I never would have thought I’d share my “before” photo with anyone other than my husband. But I want you to see what I’ve done so that you can see what I know you can do too. In following posts, I will share with you what exactly I did to succeed. There’s no “skinny tea” or diet pill at the end of this story. Just good, old-fashioned hard work and caring. It ultimately comes down to taking care of yourself, the way you do your husband, kids, dogs, business, and everything else that you put first in your life.