Friday, November 30, 2012

Fit & Photo Friday

Happy Friday!  Here's a couple pictures from my week. 
While driving through Riverside Park in Neenah I snapped this shot.  It amazes me the beauty in our own backyard sometimes!
Here's a little preview for our Christmas card this year.   During my families thanksgiving my sister set up a little photo shoot downstairs.  We had a lot of fun goofing around and came up with some fun shots.

Workout This Week:
Sunday: Indoor Soccer
Tuesday: 3 mile treadmill run 26:40
Wednesday: Turbo Fire 45 min
Thursday: 4 mile treadmill 35:46 (ran back and forth between an 8:45 and 9:13 min pace)

Since we like to spend most of our summer outdoors, this was our first week getting back to the gym.  I always hate the feeling of being the newby at the gym after not going awhile, but I know it doesn't take long to get back into the swing of things. 

I had a couple nice easy runs this week.  I used to focus so much on my time and would get frustrated if I didn't match or beat my previous time.  But with the goal of a first marathon I realize I need to put that behind me and focus on running for the enjoyment I get out of it instead and keep moving to just to finish.

The past few years have been rough as far as running for me.  Two years ago I got sick right before a half I was signed up for which messed up my training.  Last year I got engaged and planned a wedding in 5 months while working and going to school full-time.  I showed up to the half marathon I had signed up for having not run at all in over 2 months with all that had been going on.  Obviously not a personal record run for me there!  Trying to get back into it this summer I developed IT band pain which hurt before even reaching 1 mile! 

I am finally on the road to recovery and have been running without pain now.  Needless to say I am ready and motivated to meet some new running goals and focus on staying injury free.  I'm planning on following the Hal Higdon Novice Training Guide with some little modifications along the way.  It seems like a great program for beginning runners starting with low mileage and working your way up. 

Are you like me and need a goal to stay motivated?  For some it may be a goal to get fit for a wedding, or to wear a bikini on a upcoming vacation.  Maybe you need a workout partner to help stay committed, or to start writing a blog!  Whatever it may be, find your goal and motivation to complete it- I know you can do it!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Best Christmas Cut-Out Cookies!

It's that time again!  Growing up in my household it was an annual Christmas tradition to spend up to three days baking cut-out cookies.  First making the dough.  Baking. Then frosting and decorating.   The weekend started out with many sneaky spoonfuls of dough and licks of frosting covered spoons when mom wasn't looking.  By the end of the weekend we had tummy aches, and multiple Tupperware filled with delicious decorated cookies ready for holiday visitors!

So it seems that I have taken over the tradition of making them.  Even days before our wedding I was baking and frosting batches of these cookies to have on our candy bar.  Crazy. I know.  But if you love soft cut out cookies with delicious creamy and sugary frosting, you will love these!

Christmas Cookie Recipe:

1 1/3 cup butter salted
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
8 tsp. milk
4 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

After combining all the ingredients, place in a tightly closed bowl overnight in the refrigerator.  Roll out the following day with flour and bake at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.  If you like your cookies nice and soft, the trick is to take them out just before or just as the edges are turning slightly golden.  Its usually around 8 minutes. 


1 bag powder sugar
1 stick of butter
1 stick of crisco butter
heat about 1/4 cup milk in the saucepan
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine butter, powder sugar, and vanilla in bowl.  Add heated milk slowly while beating until desired consistency.  Should look similar to the picture below.  If not creamy enough, add more crisco butter.  Otherwise if too buttery, add more powder sugar. 



Ryan brought up his folding table to give me more room to work with in the kitchen.  With limited countertop space it helped out a great deal having this close by.
Here is my bowls of frosting with food coloring project only beginning!

And here they are finished!  If only they weren't so addicting; once you eat one, you have to keep eating more!

Anyone else have any great Christmas cookie or holiday dessert recipes? 
What are your baking traditions for the holidays?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Midwest Monday: Galena, Illinois

If you are looking for a romantic getaway this winter, look no further than Galena, Illinois!  There is so much to do while you are there!  The area is absolutely beautiful with rolling hills, and the town has a unique historic charm.  Stay in one of the historic homes at one of the bed and breakfasts, or in a local hotel.  Also check out this beautiful Luxury 1800's log cabin through VRBO that I found.  It is definitely on the list for an anniversary getaway for Ryan and I. 


1. Tour the Ulysses S. Grant's museum or tour President Grants home which is open all year wedn-sun 9-4:45.

2. Tour Apple River Fort State in Elizabeth, Il.  The fort that President Lincoln camped outside of in 1832.  Come visit as they reinact the lives/jobs in the fort at that time.

3. The Dowling House- First house built in Galena in 1826 right downtown.  Tours are available.

4.  Galena Trolley- take a trolley tour of historic galena sites, winery tour, haunted night tour, or tour of homes.

5. Ryans Mansion- Tour Ryans Mansion with champagne and by candlelight as the butler takes you throughout the home.  This was a really neat experience to see all the maids and butlers dressed up like old times and to hear about the history of the home.


1. Chesnut Mountain- Ski hill and alpine slide available in summer.

2. House on the Rock- Take a tour of this amazing architecture.  Alex Jordan built his home into and around the chimney of a rock.  See his unique collections, displays and galleries throughout the home.  Starting in November, the home is transformed for the holidays with Christmas decorations.  It has expanded to also offer lodging, golfing, and a spa. 

3. Crystal Lake Cave- open for tours May-October. 30-45 minutes.

4. River Boat Twilight- River boat cruises along the Mississippi river.

5. Tri State Market Pumpkin Barn- Open in the fall.  Fresh produce market including pumpkins, apples, hayrides, corn maze, and small animal farm.

6. Galena Carriage- Take a romantic carriage ride through the historic main streets of Galena or down Park Avenue by the historic homes.  They even offer 'carriage ride and dinner' packages where they are your transportation to a restaurant of choice. 


1. Massbach Ridge Winery- taste testing and tours available.

2. Galena Cellars- taste testing and tours available.

As you can see there is so much to do in Galena!  Shop downtown Main Street and visit all the boutiques and antique stores.  There are many options for restaurants.  Tours of mansions.  Art galleries.  You can easily fill up a weekend with the events they have going on, or even spend an afternoon driving around the rolling countryside. 
Hope you get a chance to check it out! 

Has anyone ever been to Galena?  Did you enjoy your stay?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Yosemite National Park:Hike to Half Dome

The hike up Half Dome has some of the most famous and signature sites of Yosemite National Park along the way.  If you are planning to hike to the summit, the total round trip will be 17 miles and can take anywhere from 10-12 hours.   Cables are placed on the dome from May-September.  Plan to leave around 5 or 6 am to avoid any possible evening storms while on the summit.
We began at the Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls. 

If you don't want to do the entire trek to Half Dome, a nice short family hike to Vernal and Nevada Falls can be done.  Its 3 miles round trip to Vernal Falls and 7 miles round trip to Nevada Falls.  From Nevada Falls you can either go back down by the John Muir trail, or go back the way you came on the Mist Trail.  The John Muir Trail is a little easier, however longer and has horses on it.  So if you don't mind jumping the poop piles you can go this way. 

I'm sure many of you have heard about the many tragic deaths that have occurred in Yosemite this past year.  Many of them were near or on Vernal Falls.  Hikers need to have a deep respect for the water near this falls.  There are signs and fences which are ignored by many which lead to such horrific accidents.   There is a huge change in the water depending on the time of year, and also undercurrents which people are not aware of.   During my visits to Vernal Falls, look at how different it looked depending on the time of year.

Here is my visit during the fall/later summer:

Vernal Falls


Top of Vernal Falls

Looking down from the top of Vernal Falls
Here it is during the early summer:


Amazing the difference!



All that to be said, please be careful and follow the signs!  After passing Vernal Falls you will continue to hike up in elevation towards Nevada Falls. 


This is where the trail either branches off and you can go down the John Muir Trail or head back the way you came, or continue on towards Half Dome!  After Nevada Falls it will flatten out for a short period as you walk through the woods.  Its encouraging to see a sign like this for only 2 miles left, however don't be fooled!  It seems the most difficult part is yet to come!

Right before the dome is a section of steep switchbacks along the mountains edge.  I remember feeling really tired at this point and was nervous about being a little dizzy so close to the ledge of the mountain.  Make sure you have plenty of water for this part!

Surviving the Dome:
1. Gloves: leather or heavy duty with grips- not winter (cables will rip regular cotton)
2.  Mountaineering harness and clips-clip yourself to cables
3. Permit: a permit now needs to be purchased to climb Half Dome. 
4. Water: bring plenty of water or a filter.  It gets very hot on this trail!
5. Food and snacks
6. Best gripping shoes you have! The dome is slippery and steep!
7. Headlamp if you leave early
8. Poncho: if hiking early in the summer vernal falls will get you soaked!
9. Toilet paper: there are only a couple rest stops along the way.
10. Pepper spray: we ran into bear and coyote on this hike
11. Work out the arm muscles!  You are using so much upper body strength to pull yourself up the cables since your feet are slipping so much.  My arms were shaking by the time I reached the top. 

Be prepared to wait as you make your ascent up the cables.  People go at all different speeds and its important to be careful and not push people out of the way.  Many deaths are caused by people slipping without harnesses on, or being pushed off the cables.  Do not attempt to climb if there is a storm coming nearby or if it is raining.  The dome is already slippery and will be hazardous if wet.

Here's a good picture showing the wood platforms placed every 10-15 feet or so.  You can use these to rest or steady yourself on the steep incline.

This guy is using the mountaineering harness and clips.  While you would have to clip in and out at every pole, this would help to ensure you wouldn't slip off.

The summit is a flat platform with great views in all directions.  This ledge is a common photo spot.

Hope this information helps any of you waiting to attempt your first climb up Half Dome!   It has definitely been one of my favorite hikes I've done so far.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Natural Ways to Boost Immune System

With the winter season on its way the sniffles and colds will be in full force soon!  So what are some natural ways to keep healthy and boost your immune system?  Research shows that these are all natural immune boosters, so try to get your fill of these things to stay healthy this winter!

1.  Vitamin D- Taking Vitamin D during the winter is essential to your health.  The amount of sun exposure we get during the dark winter months decreases our levels of Vitamin D which in turn lowers our bodies ability to fight viruses.
2.  Aloe Vera- Aloe Vera juice not only fights viruses and bacteria, but also aids in digestion.
3. Reduce Sugar Consumption- Whenever you eat alot of high fructose corn syrup it will weaken your immune system. 
4.  Vitamin C- Contains antioxidants that fight cold and flus.  Eat lots of fruits or vitamin C supplements.
5. Garlic- It contains antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antiseptic properties.  Add 2 cloves to your ingredients while cooking and it will help keep you healthy all winter!
6. Zinc-Can help shorten the duration of a cold.  In over the counter items like Zicam and Coldeeze drops.
7. Rest- Get at least 6-8 hours of sleep a night to let your body fight off anything and recover! 
8. Drink lots of water- help flush anything out of your body by staying hydrated. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing all of you a happy thanksgiving! Since I'm working today, work has provided me with this great turkey dinner and pumpkin pie! The first of many turkey dinners to come yet this week.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Memories in a Photobooth

I love wedding photobooths!  Each time I see one of these photo strips it brings me right back to that moment and the fun we had celebrating that night.  I was looking through my desk and found these two pictures, one from a wedding soon after Ryan and I started dating, and one soon after our engagement.  Can't believe how fast time flies and that we will have been married a year this January already!  As you can see from the pictures, we have ALOT of fun together!  As our first official married thanksgiving approaches, I want him to know what a wonderful blessing he is to me.  There are moments when I am astounded by God for bringing me someone He knew would make me feel so loved and adored.  I am grateful that I am able to grow in respect for a man that I see working hard to be a great leader in how he cares for me and faithfully spends time with the Lord.  I love you more today than I did on these fun nights together in the photobooth!  

Hope you all have a happy thanksgiving!! 

What are you thankful for this year? 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dresser Project Reveal!

The dresser project is finally finished!!! 

So here is the before....
Here is the after!!!
While the painting was a large project, I think the worst part was having clothes lying all over the house and living in a mess for a week while everything was drying.  I am definitely glad it is over, and am happy with how it all turned out.  Amazing what a can of paint can do!