Archive for May, 2012

Laziness does pay off!

Stop! Nichol time! That means it’s Wednesday and Nichol wrote this blog post.


The pounds flew off my body this week. I’m talking like a 5 to 6 pound drop in about 9 days. It was really bizarre and I could not figure out where it had come from. I was still doing good and bad miles and I was eating the same amount of calories. I was even worse this last week because I drank two beers last Friday, two beers on the following Thursday, and whatever beers I had in my fridge on (most of) the other days…

So um… I like beer. But more on that later.

I figured it out right around 5:30 am Saturday morning. Allow me to tell you a story.

So it’s no secret that I am not in the money. I am in fact quite the opposite. I am out of the money. My grocery budget is lucky to be as much as it is (I try really hard for $30 a week, but that’s pretty unreasonable, so it’s usually more like $50).

I was writing down my list on Saturday morning and took a look at the food I have on hand. Fruits, veggies (fresh and frozen), chicken (thank you Frys for already rotisserie-ated chickens), wholly salsa, cheese, couscous, greek yogurt, tortilla chips, and some other stuff. I realized that there were things missing that always used to be staples. Potatoes, breads, rice, et al.

Then I looked over my meal documentation for the last week and a half. My food was so basic. Cut up chicken with some pesto and muenster. Greek yogurt with raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and agave nectar. Tortilla chips (can’t give them up) with wholly salsa, wholly guacamole, black beans, and shredded cheese. Asparagus with marinara. It’s pretty basic. And I haven’t had to cook.

Then I thought about Thursday. I went out with a friend, had some food and a couple of drinks. I ordered a salmon BLT with grilled veggies. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but I took the bread off the sandwich and just ate the salmon and bacon. Mmmm, bacon.

I realized how simply I was eating, making sure I got all my calories for the day and I had eliminated, totally without thinking about it, all the crappy stuff that I now was only eating in moderation. I do still have a package of udon noodles and angel hair pasta in the pantry, but they may just live there forever. Well, except for the udon, I have some green onion and hoisin sauce that are calling udon’s name…

I am going to keep testing this theory and add it to my eating habits, along with mindful eating and no food within two hours of bedtime. (Almost broke that rule on Thursday, but I couldn’t sleep once I was in bed, so I think I’m doing OK.)

I do know that there are some things that I shouldn’t eat that I will, on occasion. Microwaveable Kraft Mac and Cheese. Ramen. Doritos (only the cheesy). Shock Top. Blue Moon. Coors Light. Vodka and Cranberry. But the better I eat, coupled with continuing my workout, these things won’t have as much of an impact. Which is good because I really do like beer (see above).

Almost 6 Months!

Hail, hail Nichol is all semi-here!

Wow. June will mark the halfway point of my mile a day. No missed days, minor cheating (mile-ing while shopping for example), and pretty strong, muscly legs peeking through the fat.

One of the biggest problems I’ve faced so far is rest days. I was taking advantage of the strolling aspect so I forced myself to stop. Now I have to start again. I went hiking the other day and I couldn’t finish the trail I do (Mormon Trail) because my legs were quivering. Legitimately quivering… It was bizarre. Slow walk miles are reinstated, once or twice a week.

I did have a close call on Friday night. I went to happy hour with some co-worker/friends and was having so much fun I didn’t leave until almost 11pm. Walked around the complex when I got home and had my one mile in by 11:45-ish. It was a close call. I would have been so mad at myself if I had missed it for a couple of Blue Moons. . . mmmm, beer.

Anywho. . .

All in all, I think things are going well. I’m trying to pick up the running pace and distance, shutting out the negative thoughts about how much running sucks. I’m striving right now for a runners high. Hopefully that kicks in soon.

I’ve been enamored with the body changes and not so much with the numbers on the scale. I am working on the stomach fat, and I want a better butt. I get so impatient that I forget that I’m also building muscle and weight will fluctuate. I just want everything to go faster…

In other news, work is WAY better. They hired someone to take my second position away and now I will only be doing one person’s job. I have withdrawn from my summer classes and decided to relax this summer. Going to Pittsburgh in about a month to hang with my sister so that will be fun. I don’t know how much running I’ll do, since we are a walking tour kind of family, but I’ll still get my miles in.

All in all, feeling good, feeling healthy, feeling (mostly) confident.


Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites

Today’s recipe is for dessert. It is delicious. And amazing. And, depending on what falls under your umbrella of “healthy,” these could reasonably fit the bill.

The original recipe suggested mini muffin pans. If you have them, I’d recommend them. I don’t have those, so I just made this in a 3-cup rectangular Pyrex dish. (I made them again in mini-muffin tins and remembered to take a pic!)

I thought there wasn’t enough chocolate (and ended up making another 1/2 batch of chocolate*), but once I cut into the final product, I realized that the peanut butter just hadn’t frozen and a lot of the chocolate had worked its way into the peanut butter. So if you’re making these in one large container, leave a lot more freezer time for the peanut butter before adding the chocolate.

Also, it’s a little difficult to cut. So yeah: individual servings would be ideal.

Regardless of the few little troubles I had, this recipe is delicious! Everything else I’ve tried that is sweetened with honey tasted like honey … and I’m not a big fan of honey. This is sweetened with honey but doesn’t have a honey taste. Hooray!

*When I made these again, I just doubled the chocolate and it was perfect 🙂

Without further ado, the recipe for chocolate peanut butter bites!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites

the peanut butter part:

  • 3/4 cup natural creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Mix ingredients. The coconut oil is easier to mix if it is melted. It has a VERY low melting point (it’s liquid in our kitchen cabinet for half of the year). Use the stove top with low heat and not the microwave for this endeavor.

Pour into container of your choice. If using individual serving containers (mini muffin trays, silicone trays with fun shapes, etc.), fill roughly half way.

Put in the freezer while making the chocolate part. If you’re using one dish, you’re going to need more time in the freezer. (I haven’t tried it again yet, but I’m estimating an hour or so?)

the chocolate part:

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons honey

Using the same low heat, melt the coconut oil and the butter. Melting them together is fine (and easier). Add the cocoa and honey. Mix until smooth. Pour over frozen peanut butter. Return to freezer until solid.


Homemade Deodorant, Take 2

You might remember a while back I made some gel deodorant. It worked really well, but I’m not a gel kind of gal.

I had saved a container from a stick deodorant and decided it was time to fill it.

My hesitation all this time with making stick deodorant is that all of the recipes except for one use coconut oil as the base. Coconut oil melts at 76 degrees. We do not keep the house that cool year-round (we’d have a zillion dollar electric bill!), which means I’d need to keep it in the fridge. (The one that doesn’t rely on coconut oil uses shea butter, which I could only find in fragranced versions. Blah.)

So I made it and I keep it in the fridge. The part I was concerned out — chilly pits! — has not been an issue at all. The issue I’ve had a couple of times is remembering to put it on, since I don’t have a fridge in the bathroom.

Interesting thing that I noticed: since I started using natural deodorants, I can get away with not wearing deodorant on a day that I’m not really sweaty and not stink. This was definitely not true before. Why is this so? I don’t know. Don’t really care, though — it’s a very nice side effect 🙂

So the recipe!

  • 3/8 cup melted coconut oil (that’s 6 tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch

Mix. Pour into container.

That’s it!

You can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil, if you like fragrance. Tea tree oil is some pretty amazing stuff and will help reduce the stink as well. I haven’t used it yet, so I can’t attest to what it smells like, but it has some amazing properties.

Unlike no-poo shampoo, this deodorant has no breaking-in period. You just use it, and it works. Makes sense that it would take care of smells — it’s main ingredient is baking soda. Baking soda is the anti-stink go-to product.

Also, because mine is in the fridge, I need to leave it out for a minute before I can roll it up. This is only an issue every now and then, as I’ve taken to just rolling it up about 1/4 inch over the top of the container anyway. The lid more than accommodates.

Are you a homemade deodorant kind of person?

New Goals

It’s Wednesday so Nichol is going to create new goals and a whole bunch of rules to go with them.

So I’ve decided to add to my life adventure. I’m always coming up with new things I think I should do. Some have been a struggle (mindful eating) and some have been a struggle but a success (mile a day).

And now my life transformation continues. I have three areas if my life I’ve yet to really work on that I am going to start taking care of. Let me share them with you.

1. Emotions
I have always been aware that I have mental/emotional issues that I’ve never addressed, as most, if not all, of us do. No real psychiatric stuff, just general things that come up here and there that I make jokes about or ignore. The first is my relationship with food. Although I eat healthy, I still have automatic mental and physical reactions when I’m upset. I want to eat. This is because when I’m “emotionally eating” I don’t have to think about my emotions. I have to get past that or it’s going to bite me in the butt someday. The second is just random family stuff, daddy issues, communication, etc… So I’m shopping for a therapist. I work in an office with about four of them, but it’s not really the same thing.

2. Finances
I suck at managing my money. Even when I’m not shopping, I still don’t seem to have enough. First stop is Financial Peace University with Dave Ramsey. I have a large number of friends who have been following Dave’s advice and I’ve read a lot about him, so I registered.

3. Smoking
This is going to be the hardest habit of all to kick. I am aiming for my 33rd birthday, but mistakes will be allowed until the end of this year. But I have a taper down method all ready to start on June 1st. I think this may be the most challenging thing I do.

I have also been dissatisfied with the slowness that the weight is coming off. I need to kick my mile up a notch, but at the same time start giving my legs a more significant rest period. I will be biking two days a week, slow walking one to two days a week, and running the other days. Running days will have breaks in between them but will gradually increase in distance, not counting warm-up and cool down. (I really like parameters. I’m like to be specific so I know what I expect.) I have made three specific categories on my iCal and will have to schedule these activities. Plus! The hiking will continue for at least one day a week. I count this as running. So for instance May 14 through May 20 will look like this:
Monday: run/walk (it was so hot) 1.25m
Tuesday: bike 30 minutes
Wednesday: hiking
Thursday: slow walk
Friday: run/walk 1.25
Saturday: bike 30 minutes
Sunday: run 1.25m

I’m crazy. You can say it.

Recipe: Parmesan-Crusted Veggies

I’ve had the ingredients on hand for this for a week but didn’t make it until today. Actually, I had not remembered that I needed two eggs for an unmade recipe and had only one egg left in the fridge, so I had to cut the sauce recipe in half. There was still sauce left over, so no worries.

I tried making my own breadcrumbs, and I have to tell ya, it was a pain. More difficult/time consuming than I expected. I have recently learned about panko breadcrumbs and plan to try those the next time I make this.

The original recipe calls for mayo in the sauce, but I’m not a big fan of mayo. We don’t have any on hand and we wouldn’t use it for anything else, so I just left it out (as you’ll see below), and the sauce was still quite tasty. It also called for asparagus and broccoli, but our broccoli went bad before I made these 😦 so we only used asparagus. After making the recipe as noted below, we had egg, breadcrumbs, and dipping sauce left, so this will easily make more than the dozen spears listed.

Parmesan-Crusted Veggies & Sweet Onion Sauce


  • 12 asparagus spears, washed and ends snapped off
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cups of seasoned bread crumbs (if using plain crumbs, just season with salt and pepper, and italian spices, ie: onion, garlic, parsley, basil, paprika, etc.)
  • 1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon oil or butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon spicy mustard
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  1. Snap ends off of asparagus.
  2. In separate bowls, place beaten eggs and bread crumb/parmesan cheese mixture. I used the tray the asparagus came in for the egg and a dish for the breadcrumb mixture. Later I noticed that the recipe called for the stalks to be cut in half. Would have made this step simpler.
  3. Coat each stalk in the egg wash, transfer to the bread crumb mix and coat, then place on a cookie sheet. I didn’t spray or otherwise prepare the sheet and didn’t have issues with sticking.
  4. Bake in oven at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until golden and crispy.
  5. While asparagus is baking, heat oil or butter in a pan on medium heat. Add the onions, sugar, salt, and pepper. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally until onions caramelize, 12-15 minutes.
  6. Transfer onions to a blender or food processor. Add the vinegar, honey, and mustard; blend until almost smooth.
  7. Transfer to a bowl, and mix in the yogurt.

Whew, Made It

Monday, Tuesday, Nichol, Thursday, Friday

I made it. After a pretty scary couple of weeks, I am feeling better than ever. I took a solitary weekend and vegetated. I read in bed, took two-hour naps, watched mindless TV, and played Xbox. It was amazing.

I just let everything get to me and I got really overwhelmed. I let go of my mottos (happiness is a choice, let go let God) and I couldn’t seem to get them back. I saw it coming and probably could have taken some preventative measures, but I have this undying need to do it all and make sure I know I have done anything and everything before I can relax.

That causes a lot of problems with my mental health. My job, my classes, the books and articles I read all stress self-care. I just have let that go.

Last Tuesday was a huge wakeup call. I had a moment at work where I was thinking, “I literally cannot stop crying. Someone is going to have to take me to the hospital.” Working with psychiatrically hospitalized adults, I know the signs. It’s my job to do crisis intervention and stabilization. I was too busy focusing on them; I forgot about me.

It wasn’t even just about work. It was this whole mess of crap that seemed to crash down at once. And some really trivial things. I was freaking out about money. My bills are paid. But I can’t buy pants…which I need. Literally need. I think my office might take up a collection, which would be awesome…

But I’m good now. Things have worked themselves out and I’ve let go of some things that needed to be let go of. For instance, I’m not willing to take out a $4000 personal loan for two summer school classes and I definitely don’t have the money for even one class. So…no summer school.

So next week, it’s back to health and wellness and mile talk. I just had a minor freak out and now I’m better. Just as I figured I had to be at some point.

Best part, I still mile-d everyday!

FYI on Homemade Cleaners

As you know, I’m a big fan of homemade cleaners for the house, the body, etc.

I haven’t used Dr. Bronner’s (yet?), but I know a lot of people do. Don’t worry — it’s not bad.

Just don’t mix Dr. Bronner’s Castille soap with vinegar or lemon juice.

See here to learn why.

Recipe: Shorba (Ethiopian soup)

You get two-for-one today!

There is an Ethiopian restaurant in town that The Big Man and I have long been fans of. They have soup called shorba that we both love. We have said for a long time that we need to find a recipe. We have tried a couple and they weren’t any good. Finally, we found a recipe that makes something pretty close to what we have when we’re out. But it called for berbere, an Ethiopian spice. That is not readily available, so we made that as well from a recipe on Epicurious. I didn’t note where the shorba recipe is from. If you recognize it, let me know — I’d like to attribute it.

Berbere (Ethiopian Spice Mix)

  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
  • 1/2 cup ground dried New Mexico chiles
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

Finely grind fenugreek seeds in an electric coffee/spice grinder. Stir together with remaining ingredients until combined well.

Berbere keeps in an airtight container, chilled, 3 months.

We found the fenugreek and the ground dried New Mexico chiles at Sprouts, a local health food store.


  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp berbere or curry powder
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1½ cups vegetable broth
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • ¼ cup brown or green lentils
  • 1 Yukon Gold potato, diced
  • ¼ cup whole wheat orzo pasta

Over medium-high heat, saute the onion until it is brown. Reduce the heat to medium.

Add the carrot, ginger, garlic, curry powder, and fenugreek, sauteing them for about 1 minute.

Add the veggie broth and tomato paste, stirring until the tomato paste is thoroughly combined with the broth. Bring the soup to a simmer. Stir in the lentils and potato. Once the soup comes back to a simmer, cover the pot and reduce the heat to low.

Cook the soup for 35 minutes.

Add the orzo; cook according to package directions.

Give A Penny, Take A Penny


I have a recipe for you tomorrow and will be back to regular posting on Monday, but today I’m writing on behalf of a few others.

There are three folks I know of who are in unfortunate circumstances. I want to give you a little synopsis about them, and provide the opportunity for you to read more and donate to any of their causes.

Vanessa: for her daughter

Vanessa’s daughter was born with hydrocephalus which resulted in cerebral palsy and blindness. (I did some googling when I first heard that, too.) She has been accepted into a stem cell transplant program and is raising money for the trip and procedures. (For those wary of stem cells, these are harvested from umbilical cord blood.)

To learn more about their journey and to make a donation, go here.

Jonathan: for his late teammate’s wife and kids

Jonathan has become interested in endurance sports — triathlon, to be specific — in the last couple of years. As part of his training, has participated in shorter events, including the Philadelphia marathon in November. During that race, Chris, a friend and Ironman teammate died a quarter of a mile before the finish line.

Jonathan and his friend Paul are having a “Battle of Broad Street” — a “may the best man win” competition full of trash talk in this weekend’s Broad Street Run. The write-up in the local paper is here.

You can go to to “bet” on Jonathan or Paul. All proceeds go to Chris’s wife and children.

Michelle: for her cancer treatments

Michelle is a friend who guest posted here a couple of months ago for Colon Cancer Awareness Month. She is a tireless advocate for cancer awareness, detection, and prevention for both colon cancer and cancer in the young adult community. Her cancer was in remission for four years.

Ironically, during Colon Cancer Awareness Month, Michelle’s cancer returned in new places. Contemporary American health insurance what it is, medical bills are a concern.

For more information and to help Michelle and her family take care of their medical bills, there is a donation page here.

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