Friday, December 27, 2013

Favorite Things Friday: Christmas Edition

Guys, this  is my 300th post!  How exciting :)  Thank you for reading my little spot on the Internet, and I hope to continue this blog for 300 more posts (and beyond)!

It's been a busy week celebrating Christmas!!  We've been up in Virginia with my family, and I just wasn't able to post much.  Check out my Christmas Survey if you're wondering what exactly I do around Christmas time.
Joe and  I are traveling back to Florida today, so I wanted to share some of my favorite things from this past week in Virginia!

Favorite Richmond Tradition
Every Christmas, a bunch of people in the Richmond area put up a ton of Christmas lights in their yards.  Local limo and bus companies offer a Tacky Light Tour, so it's a big deal!  My family and I drove around on Sunday evening and looked at a bunch of the houses.  The one above is the one we call "The Big House," which is actually two houses next to each other that go all out.

Close second: Starbucks trip with my friend Catherine.  We always catch up over coffee, and this year we did some last-minute Christmas shopping as well :)

Favorite Christmas Present

I didn't take a picture of this, but my main gift this year was donations to the Kellsie's Hope Foundation!  My family was very generous, and thanks to their gifts, I'm now half way  to my fundraising goal for the race.  Thank you, family members!  (If you feel led to donate, click the link  above)

Favorite Selfie
My aunt and I were texting back and forth as we were heading to my grandparents, and she sent a selfie of her and my uncle.  I sent this one back of my brother, Joe, and me in the backseat of our van.  Fun times!

Favorite New Clothes
I did wind up getting a few gifts other than donations, including these two new tops.  I'm so excited to wear these to work!

Favorite Read

I get a lot of reading done when traveling, so I've been quickly making my way through the rest of the Divergent series.  I've already finished Insurgent and am on to Allegiant.  I'll be reviewing the series when I'm done!

Favorite Family Moment

My brother, Eric randomly got the game Hungry, Hungry Hippos for Christmas, and we all had a blast playing it afterward!  Even my grandma and grandpa got in to watching the games, and we all got some good laughs.

Close second: our annual "stairstep" picture with my cousins.  I'm the oldest of the four of us (yes, I only have 2 cousins), and each year at Christmas, we line up in height order.  It's funny to see where everyone falls--my cousin John (in the Batman shirt) kept standing on his toes so he could overtake my brother Eric!  Fun times!
I hope you've had a great week, whether traveling or staying at home.  I hope to get back into a more regular blogging routine over the next week as things settle back down after traveling.

Question for you: Your turn!  Tell me one of your favorite things from this week.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone!!
I hope that you and your family are having a wonderful day celebrating the birth of our Savior!  I'm with my family at my grandparents' houses (both sides live in the same small town) and Joe is here, too!  
While we are busy with family, I wanted to share some of my Christmas traditions with you.  I saw this survey on Brittany's blog, and I thought this was a great way to share how I usually celebrate Christmas!  Enjoy!
Before Christmas
Do you send out Christmas cards?
We did last year, but I dropped the ball this year!  Oops!
How soon do you start shopping?
Whenever I think of a gift idea for's usually after Thanksgiving though.
Do you have a lot of gifts to buy?
Not really!  I really do enjoy shopping for others, though, so I normally "add" people to the list.
Do you bake cookies?
I usually bake something.  Cookies, or peppermint brownies!
Do you put up a Christmas tree?
If so, is it fake or real? 
Real.  I've always put up a fake tree, but Joe has always done a real one.  I love the smell!
Do you like tinsel?
I do, I put it up on the tree.  I like the shine!
Do you use homeade or storebought ornaments?
Both!  I have a lot of ornaments that I made when I was younger, as well as store bought and gifted ornaments.
Do you put Christmas lights outside your house?
Do you put lights on the tree? 
Yes!  One of my favorite parts!
How about popcorn and cranberries?
Nope, can't say we put those on the tree.
Is there a wreath hanging on your door?
Not this year.  I have in the past, but then dropped the ball this year.
Christmas Eve
Do you celebrate it?
Yes!  Church, then we read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and the Christmas story found in Luke.
Do you hang up your stocking?
Yes, but those really hang the whole season.
Have you ever left cookies out for Santa?
Yup! And milk!
Christmas Movie?
Rudolph (clay-mation version) and Elf.
Character from any Christmas Movie?
Rudolph!  He's so cute.  Buddy the Elf is hilarious too!
Christmas Song?
O Holy Night and Jingle Bell Rock
Christmas Memory?
So, so many...candlelight services, waiting on the steps with my brother, the list goes on!
Christmas Cookie?
Iced sugar cookies are where it's at :)
This or That…
Give or Receive?
Give!  I love seeing people's expressions when they open up gifts from me.  I always put thought in to what I get them, and  it makes me happy to see that they appreciate what they've received.
Ham or Turkey?
Turkey...not a big fan of the texture of ham.
Star or Angel?
We have a star on top of our tree.
White Lights or Colored Lights?
I love the classic look of white lights, but colored lights are good for a fun look.
Blinking Lights or Still Lights?
Still.  The blinking lights make things too busy.
Were you Naughty or Nice this year?
Nice...mostly :)
What do you want for Christmas this year?
Donations to the Kellsie's Hope Foundation!  As I mentioned before, I'm running the Disney Princess Half as a fundraiser for the organization, so I asked for donations this Christmas in place of gifts.  If you would like to donate, click that link, find my name (Amy H), and you can donate via PayPal.
When do you open your gifts?
Usually, Christmas morning with my immediate family, Christmas night with my mom's family, then the 26th with my dad's family.  When we do Christmas with Joe's family, the big day is the day after Christmas.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever gotten?
I don't really know what the best gift was...I remember being excited about getting a bike and a stereo system when  I was younger.  My brother also said that me receiving a cell phone when  I was 16 was one of his favorite reactions from me.
What’s the worst gift you’ve ever gotten?
I try not to  think of gifts like this...but I did get a sweater when  I was younger with a big cat on it.  You're welcome for that image!
Do you like wrapping gifts?
Not particularly, but at least I'm getting better at it!
Can you name all the reindeer?
Yes, thanks to Twas the Night Before Christmas
Have you ever gotten a kiss under the mistletoe?
Do you go carolling?
I have before, but not recently.
Do you drive around and look at the Christmas lights?
Yes!  Especially when I'm home in Richmond.
Have you ever had a white Christmas?
A few.  Great times sledding at my grandparent's house!
Who do you celebrate Christmas with?
Now that I'm married, we alternate celebrating with each of our families.  When it's my turn, we see both sides of the family.
Have you ever had your picture taken with Santa? 
Yes, just about every year when I was younger.  We would do it at church after a night of Christmas crafts.
What part of Christmas do you look most foward to?
Celebrating with family, remembering God's love for us, and all the peace and joy that comes with the season!  I love Christmas time!
Question for you: Your turn!  Answer one (or more) of the questions above!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Peppermint Brownies

Y'all, I made it!  It's Winter Break!  We are on our way to my parents' house for Christmas, then on to Joe's family after we return.

How many of you have holiday parties this weekend that you need to make something for?  As a big baker, I like to bring sweets for Christmas get-togethers.  I wanted to share my Christmas go-to treat, which is simple to make and a definite crowd pleaser!
To me, peppermint and chocolate just tastes like Christmas!  These provide that holiday taste, and all you need is a box of brownie mix and a bag of the small, individually-wrapped York peppermint patties!
  1. Mix brownies as directed on the box (I like to use Betty Crocker Fudge Brownies).
  2. Bake brownies at the given temperature, but TAKE THEM OUT about three minutes before completely baked.
  3. Place York peppermint patties all over the top of the brownies
  4. Put brownies back in the oven and bake for remaining three minutes.
  5. Spread the melted York peppermint patties to completely cover the top of the brownies.
After you spread the peppermint patties out, it looks like a pretty marbled frosting!


Some Interesting Reads...

WIAW #23: Healthy Holidays

Hi, everyone!  How's it going?  Things are FINALLY starting to wind down on the work front, so Joe and I have had time to clean, relax, and work out over the past two days!  Awesome!

I ALSO had time to take pictures of my food yesterday, which means one thing...

Back to the WIAW party!  Thank you to Jenn for hosting the link-up every week!  Head over to her blog to see what everyone else is eating :)

Today, you'll see what I ate yesterday.  I've been trying to focus on eating healthy leading up to the holidays, and I think I did a pretty good job of that on Tuesday!

No surprise here, my usual bowl of Special K Protein cereal.

Morning Snack

I picked these up at the grocery store last week, and they are the perfect snack for teachers!  Easy to grab and eat quickly!

This is a recycled picture, but I had a roast beef pita, an apple, and some Veggie Straws.  I also had a few chocolate-covered pretzels one of my co-workers brought in.  Tasty!

Afternoon Snack #1

I snacked on some of these on the way home from work.  I love them, but I have to be careful when eating them.  For some reason, I get choked up a lot when eating baby carrots!

Afternoon Snack #2

I baked some of these peppermint brownies for a meeting on Monday (directions coming soon!) and had two of the leftovers in the afternoon.  I ate two because that was all that was left.  My thought was, if I ate both now, they would be gone and out of the house :)  That's one way to eliminate temptation!


This is a Mexican-themed quinoa bowl, which was a random creation I came up with before cooking.  It features quinoa, black beans, sauteed peppers, onions, and tomatoes, a little salsa, and a little cheddar cheese.  Delicious!  I'll share the recipe for this soon, as well!

Evening Snack

After yoga and running at the gym, I made a protein shake of milk and one scoop of vanilla protein powder.  Pretty basic, but it satisfied my hunger and helped me recover.  It'll do!

Question for you: What treats 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Weekend + HBBC Week 4 Recap

 Well, hello again, blogland!!  Boy, was last week pretty crazy, and the fun has just continued to this week!  I think things just keep getting more busy up until the holidays.  Joe's had finals, and I've been busy getting things wrapped up for the semester with my teachers.  Busy bees!

In spite of the busy-ness, we had a really fun weekend, so I wanted to share what we did!  On Friday, we did our usual Mexican night then turned in early.  We had a wedding to get to on Saturday!

We left around noon on Saturday for Vero Beach.  Two of Joe's high school friends were getting married, and we got in town a little early to spend some time with the other guests before the wedding.  After the catch-up time, we headed to Waldo's Secret Garden for the wedding and reception.
A beautiful sunset provided the perfect scenery for Pat and Christian as they said their vows.
The reception was in a rustic building behind the ceremony space.  The decor was beautiful, and all of the Christmas lights also set the mood for the holidays.

The food was great, and there was lots of dancing.  We really enjoyed our time celebrating Pat and Christian's marriage!
We drove back home after the wedding to get some sleep before heading to Jacksonville on Sunday.  We wanted to go to one more Jaguars game before football season ended, so Joe gathered a small group of friends and we went up there early Sunday morning.

Parking lot-wide shotgun circle every half hour...woof.

It was a little colder than we expected, but we really couldn't tell until after the game!

We had a lot of fun tailgating and watching the game, despite the loss by the Jaguars.  Hey, at least we saw them score a touchdown, which was a first for me (even though I've been to three games)!

While we're at it, let's also recap this week of workouts!  This post is already on the long side, so I won't be doing my usual HBBC recap.  Just my workouts!

Image Source
Sunday-CXWORX class for 45 minutes (3 points)
Monday-rest day
Tuesday-1.25 hour yoga class (3.75 points)
Wednesday-2.5 mile run (this run felt really, really good!) plus some stretching/foam rolling (3.5 points)

Thursday-rest day
Friday-rest day
Saturday-busy rest day

Overall, 3 workouts this week.  Not too bad, but I did regress a little.  I also regressed in my water drinking and fruit + veggie eating.  BUT, my goal is to get back to 4 workouts this week.  I'm going to beat myself up over this one week.  Instead, I'll use it as motivation for next week!

Question for you: So what have you been up to last week?  What's a goal you have for this week?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

30th Annual Ed Root Memorial 10K Recap

Hey, everyone!  We are more than halfway through the work week.  We can make it to Friday, y'all!

Today, i wanted to recap this Saturday's race.  I ran the Ed Root Memorial 10K in New Smyrna Beach.  I ran this race last year as my first 10K ever and thoroughly enjoyed it.  When they mailed me the notice of this year's race, I signed up right away.

The course is absolutely beautiful, running along the shoreline, around the boardwalk of Smyrna Dunes Park (where you get an awesome view of the lighthouse), and back.
I set my A-B-C goals for the race, which were as follows:
A: Place in my age group
B: PR at the 10K distance
C: Finish with an average pace of 10:30 or less
My plan to meet these goals was start off slow and increase my pace throughout the race.  My pattern is to start off too fast and not have enough steam to finish strong.  I was planning to rely on my Garmin GPS watch to help me monitor my pace.
Ready to run!
Well, my Garmin decided it wasn't going to pick up the satellite until 0.75 miles into the race!  Since I had nothing to rely on, I just listened to my body and ran at a comfortable warm-up pace.  I was getting passed, so I figured I was going at a slow enough pace.

Once the Garmin came on, I was able to monitor my time and mileage and see that I was at least going to meet my C goal (10:30 or less average pace).  I really enjoyed running on the park's boardwalk and took in all the sights instead of focusing on my running at that point.

When I got off the boardwalk, I knew that I was 2 miles from the end and turned it on a little bit.  I walked for a total of 2 minutes toward the end, but other than that, I finished the race strong!  The last 0.3 miles, I was able to semi-sprint to the end!  Here's my official time:
I know I'd met my C goal, since my average pace was 10:26. I also thought I met my B goal (PR), since I remembered my first 10K time as 1:06.  After looking it up, I realized I actually finished 20 seconds SLOWER than last year!  How funny!  I also thought there was no way I PRed in my age group.  That is, until I looked at the results.
I was third place!  I waited around for the awards and got my plaque.  I was so excited when I got home!  You can tell my cheese-tastic smile in this picture.
Overall, I was really happy with my performance at this race.  I controlled my pace, I ran almost the entire race, and I had a great time.  I also met my A (and C) goal for the race, so Saturday was a good day!

Next up: Daytona Beach Half Marathon and the Disney Princess Half Marathon the week after!
(Side note: feel free to support my efforts of running the Princess Half for the Kellsie's Hope Foundation.  Click here, click on my name, and give what you can)  After all of that, I plan on running another 10K to get my PR at that distance.

Question for you: Have you run any races lately?  What's a race goal you normally set for youself?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie

Hi everyone!  How was your Monday?  I was so excited today for two reasons: first, only 8 more school days (and one teacher work day) until winter break.  Second, one of my favorite shows returns to TV tonight!
Image Source
This show is an A Capella group competition and I LOVE IT!  The groups are all so talented, and I have accurately predicted the winner on the first night each of the past three seasons.  I hope to continue that streak tonight :)

I wanted to share a recipe with y'all today for a tasty treat that packs a good protein punch.
I talked about this delicious smoothie in a WIAW post and wanted to share the recipe for you!
-1 frozen banana
-1 spoonful of peanut butter (I don't recommend using crunchy peanut butter, but that's all I had!)
-2 spoonfuls of cocoa powder (or more, to taste)
-1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (chocolate protein powder would be tasty, too)
-enough milk to cover ingredients in the blender

Put all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth.  If you want, add a little bit of natural sweetener (or a little more cocoa powder) to taste.

This was the perfect afternoon pick-me-up and was very filling!  If you try it and make any modifications, let me know!

Question for you: What's your favorite smoothie recipe?  Are you watching the Sing-Off? 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge Week 3 Recap

Hey, everyone!  Man, it seems like the weekends just fly by, don't they?  Can't complain much, though, since there are only 9 school days until a two-week break.  I'll take it!

It's that time of the week where I recap how the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge went!
Activity-After Joe and I went to church, I made it to the gym for a 45-minute CXWORX class.
Image Source
CXWORX is Les Mills fitness class devoted to the core.  While the class is usually a 30-minute class, my gym offers it for 45 minutes on Sundays.  This may seem like a short amount of time, but I was feeling sore in muscles I didn't even know I had the next day!  Great workout. (3 points)
I also earned my water and Facebook points for the day.  Total-5 points.

Activity-The Les Mills classes continued for me as I made it to BodyPump after work.
I love BodyPump, and it was great to get back in to it after so long!  It's great to work every muscle group in an hour! (4 points)
I also earned my water, fruits+veggies, and Facebook points.  Total-7 points.

Activity-After leaving work a little late, I didn't really want to go to the gym.  I texted Joe, and he convinced that I would feel better once I went.  I'm glad I took his advice, because he was right!  I did a 3-mile tempo run on the treadmill (brining back Treadmill Tuesday this week, too!) with a warm-up/cool down in there also.  (3.56 points)
Also, I earned points for water, fruits+veggies, and Facebook today.  Total-6.56

Today was a planned rest day, as my muscles were sore from the previous three days.  I did get in all of my water, fruits and veggies, and participated on Facebook.  Total-3 points

I originally planned on hitting the gym, but I just didn't.  I also didn't earn any other points today, either.  Total-0 points.

Planned rest day, but I earned water and fruits+veggies points.  Total-2 points.

Activity-I ran the Ed Root Memorial 10K in the morning.  I love this route, and I got 3rd place in my age group!  Full recap to come this week.  (7.2 points including stretching before/after the race)
I certainly got in my water points (Facebook, too!).  Total-9.2 points.

Weekly Total-32.76 points
Total for the Challenge (3 weeks)-88.7 points

I'm pleased that I earned more points this week than in the previous two weeks.  As long as I continue to improve that total, I'll be pleased!

Question for you: Do you like Les Mills classes?  How did you do this week with your health-related goals?