So Long, Twenty Twelve

On New Year’s Eve, it only makes sense that I pause to reflect on the year and some of the awesome things that happened.  I sifted through the 265 posts that I wrote this year to share with you my very favorite “No Thanks to Cake” moments of 2012.

NTTC Greatest Hits of 2012

The “little blog that could” grew leaps and bounds during 2012.  Here’s a few of the highlights of what happened this year:

Extreme Makeover – Blog Edition:  I moved NTTC from Blogger to self-hosted WordPress and worked with a graphic designer on its redesign.  This was a fun, yet nerve-wrecking time.  How do you choose the design for your blog that makes most sense?  How do you design it in a way that will reflect the essence of your message.  I think we ended up in a pretty good spot!

Does anyone remember this ol’ place?

Launched Several Regular Features: I launched my first regular feature on the blog called Workout Wednesday (AKA WOW.)  The fact that I was working out enough to have content for this was awesome as well.  I also started responding to reader email via “Email from Readers” features throughout the year, giving us all a way to interact a little bit more.  Both of these features will be getting a fabulous facelift in 2013… and I think you’re going to like it!

Enhanced Social Networking Presence:  I’ve become even more connected via social networking this year.  This has been HUGE because I feel like it gives me another way to interact (and get to know!) you guys!  So fun!

You can now connect with NTTC via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram… and who knows what will come next!  Click any of the highlighted links to connect, if you haven’t already.

Attended Fitbloggin':  Attending Fitbloggin was one of the pivotal moments of 2012 for me personally and from a blog perspective.  I got to meet so many new friends and bloggers through this experience and become a part of a fantastic community of men and women who inspire so many to be healthy every single day.

Won Some Awards (REALLY?):  Well, award.  NTTC was named amongst the 18 Best Weight Loss Blogs of 2012 by Healthline.com.  But, NTTC was also nominated for Best Weight Loss Blog by Fitness Magazine, and featured on Diets in Review for keeping my weight loss resolution.  So crazy to think all of this happened this year, too!

 

My Favorite Posts of 2012

I’m going to channel Friends on this one, as I pick the most appropriate categories my favorite posts of 2012.  These are just the posts that I liked writing and love going back to read… hopefully, they are a few of your faves too!

The Ones Reminding Me of How Far I’ve Come:  These are always some of my faves.  Here’s a few to check out that include pictures over the year:  730 Days Later, Reflecting on this Journey and Unexpected Recognition, Independence Day, and Travel Companions.

The Ones Where I Went On and On about Fitbloggin:  I love all of my Fitbloggin recaps because it was such a POWERFUL three days in Baltimore, but What I Brought Home from Fitbloggin really is my favorite.  I also love the post where I completely geeked out on Zumba.

The Ones Where I Recapped My Best Friend’s Wedding:  One of my most emotional pieces of the year, I love the post where I wrote a letter to Angela and Jamie after their wedding weekend.  Love you two!

The Ones Where I Talk about My Other BFF Kelly Clarkson:  I saw Kelly in concert not once, but TWICE this year!  And, yes… you got to hear about the Denver AND Nashville concerts here.  Expect more of this in 2013, unless I’m too busy attending to my bridesmaid duties (She is engaged, afterall!)

The Ones Where I Try New Workouts:  Can you believe that all of these were new to me this year?  Candelight Yoga, Zumba, Pilates and… let’s not forget my introductions to Lululemon and Athleta (love!) where I now shop for my favorite workout gear!  I also loved telling you guys about my first Turkey Trot and my first trek up Camelback Mountain.

The One Where There Really Aren’t Words:  There have been many moments throughout this journey where I’ve been overwhelmed by kind words.  Simply Grateful is one where I describe how it feels, as best I can.

The One Where I Realized How Much I Loved Cooking:  I had quite a few awesome cooking moments this year (and MANY new recipe successes at home.)  I absolutely LOVED touring McCormick and learning about all of their spices and seasonings and the health benefits they provide.  Visiting the Gourmet Spoon Cooking School as part of a team builder for work also topped the list!  My at-home wine and cheese party was also incredibly fun to put together and write about!

The Ones Where I Crack Myself Up:  Interesting that both have to do with fart noises, but re-reading Yoga Laughs and the story about The Faux Fart cracked me up tonight.

The One Where I Shot a Video:  I can’t believe I did it, but I recorded my very first Vlog (video blog) this year.  Click here to see it in all its glory.  There may be more of these in the new year (since there’s been some demand)

Wow… to think that all happened in one year!  It was an awesome trip down memory lane, for sure.  I feel healthier, stronger, more active, and more thankful than ever before.

On this eve of the new year, I encourage you too to think about all the great things that happened in 2012.  We will be turning the page to 2013 in just mere hours… Fasten your seatbelt, it’s going to be another amazing year!

What were your favorite NTTC posts of 2012?  Which ones stand out as your faves?

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Sometimes, I Wonder…

It’s the end of the year, and we only have a few days left.

It’s time for me to get my list of resolutions together and reflect upon the previous year.  I love where I am at compared to last year.  I’ve lost more weight; I’ve gotten healthier.  Things in my healthy living journey are going well for the most part.

But still, I wonder…

Sometimes, I really just wonder what I’m waiting for. 

I know exactly what I need to eat to lose the last of my weight to achieve my Jenny Craig goal.  But, I haven’t been doing it for some time.  Yes, part of it is being comfortable and happy in my new smaller body, but at the same time, I think there’s something more.

I’m probably 13-15 lbs away from my goal now due to some holiday splurging, vacation eating, and those darn Lindor truffles that were in the breakroom today.  But that is SOOOOO close!  It’s within reach!

Since I was about 10 years old, I have been told I needed to lose weight.  I’m sure at that point, it was baby fat and precautionary… but I was always the one who “needed to go on a diet” with my mom for as long as I remember.  The weight really became a problem when I was about 14, when I moved to Tennessee.  That weight gain was completely fueled by emotional eating, as have been the majority of my gains over the years.  I learned to soothe myself with food at a young age, and kicked it up a notch in my teenage years and it was a perfect storm for me to reach one of my highest weights (and in turn, one of my lowest lows.)

All that being said… I’ve been trying to lose weight for 20 years now.

It’s what I do.  I lose weight.

I constantly try to make good eating choices.

I try to avoid chips and spoonfuls of peanut butter.

What exactly would I do if I didn’t have weight to lose?

Yes… I know this may sound crazy to some of you.  When I get to my goal, I celebrate, I maintain, I exercise.  I agree wholeheartedly.  I would most certainly do these things… but at the end of the day, I’ve been on a “diet” for most of my adult life.  Can I hit a point where I’m moving on to other things I want to accomplish?

When do I put this monster to rest?

Right now, I’ve picked out a cage for that pesky guy… and he kind of wanders around it.  He hasn’t gone in yet.  He dances around the entrance, but he just wont go in there.

It might even look like this guy from Weight Watchers a few years back…

I write about this today because it’s weighed on my mind heavily throughout the day… and I’m not sure I have an answer.  And, sometimes writing about it can be therapeutic for me.

Of course, it’s incredibly personal… but so is carrying extra weight.  It’s never about the cookies, it’s never about the chips.  It’s not about the food at all.  That’s just a symptom.

Rationally, I absolutely know that I should power through to 165… and that hitting that goal will be incredibly fulfilling.  I also know I have the ability to be incredibly happy where I am at right now for a very long time, if I let myself.

I still have a lot of questions to explore within, but what I know is that this story is far from over.  2013 will be the year where I come to terms with it, and the year I cage that beast.

More than caging the beast, 2013 is the year I set myself free….

Do you find that you are holding yourself back from reaching your goals (weight loss or otherwise)?

 

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Christmas Eve at Mount Vernon

When Beth suggested we go to Mount Vernon on Christmas Eve, I thought it was a great idea.  While I’ve travelled to Virginia quite a few times, I had never had the opportunity to visit any of the monuments nor American history exhibits in the nation’s capital.

I was SERIOUSLY impressed with Mount Vernon.

We arrived bright and early at the home of George Washington and his wife Martha (as in before they even opened!)  It was a little bit cold, and although rain was in the forecast, we got REALLY lucky and stayed dry.

My brother opted not to join us on this trip (not sure why!) but chose to do electrical work at the house instead.  Here’s the rest of us in front of the gates of MV

Once inside, we were welcomed into the visitor center to look at their festive displays and to watch a movie about the Washingtons before we headed out to tour the family home.

Also, as a bonus… Mount Vernon had a few special exhibits for the holiday season, including a camel on property.

As history tells, GW and Martha used to have a camel brought to the property every year during the holidays to entertain the estate guests.  During a single year, it was said that Martha and GW had nearly 700 guests!  Can you imagine??

In addition to seeing the camel, we also had the opportunity to tour the third floor of the estate (which is usually closed), to see a chocolate demonstration, and a display of Mount Vernon-inspired gingerbread houses.

Our walk to the home was certainly cold, but definitely worth it!  We pretty much had the grounds to ourselves as it was still early and Christmas Eve.  As the day went on, the property began to fill up.  Our first stops were to visit the gardens and the recently pardoned Presidential Thanksgiving turkey.

So, after visiting the floral gardens (which lacked flowers due to the season), we popped into a gift shop for a second to warm up… and try on some hats!

Afterward, it was time to view the other buildings on the property.  We stopped by the smokehouse, the slave quarters, and blacksmith’s shop… to name a few.

The best part of the tour was the estate itself.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t take pictures inside of the estate… but the exterior had the most amazing view of the Potomac.  GW said that there wasn’t a finer piece of land to have a home at than Mount Vernon.  I’m pretty sure he was right.

Touring the interior of the estate, we got to see all the rooms where the Washingtons and their family lived.  I was pleasantly surprised at how brightly colored the rooms were inside the home.  The fabulous dining room was teal, and they had another dining room that was kelly green!  Way to use that color!  The last part of the tour took us to Martha and George’s final resting spot.

Afterward, we made the trek back to the museum and to have lunch at the Mount Vernon Inn restaurant.

When we arrived back at the museum, we were sitting waiting for my parents to finish the tour and Hailey, Beth, and I were met by a family who was doing “26 Random Acts of Kindness” for the families at Newtown.  Hailey opened their nice card, and enjoyed some of their generous chocolates on the way home.  There are so many people participating in these 26 acts… it was fun to be the recipient of someone else’s efforts!

Overall, I HIGHLY recommend the tour of Mount Vernon if you have never been before.  Beth and Jason are season pass owners, and I am hoping I have a chance to go back with them in the spring or summer when more of the vegetables and flowers are in bloom.  I’m sure the property is just gorgeous during every season…

Did you do anything different this Christmas Eve?  Have you ever been to Mount Vernon?

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Turkey Sausage, Kale, and Potato Soup

I’m home!  Such a wonderful few days with the family…. now, it’s back to reality.  The good news is that it’s back to NORMAL eating patterns, and I’ll be working out of my own pantry (free of snacks and treats that I don’t usually have access to.)

For today’s recipe, I’m sharing one that I made the week before Christmas, that I absolutely loved.

The first time I ever laid my eyes on Sausage and Kale soup was at Prado restaurant.  Because it was a soup with potatoes in it, I had the impression that it would come out with a creamy base.  When I spotted Donna’s brothy delicious looking bowl, I knew I would have to try to make this myself.

When I got home, I went to my favorite resource for healthy recipes SkinnyTaste to see if Gina had anything similar posted on her site.  Being that kale is a super food and all, I kind of figured she did.

What I found there was a VERY simple recipe for the exact soup I was looking for.  Honestly, I was a little worried it was too simple.  I mean, how could sausage, broth, kale, carrots, onions, and potatoes be enough to make a tasty soup?  Shouldn’t there be more ingredients???

The answer is an emphatic NO.  The soup is absolute perfection just as it is.  Absolutely delicious and very filling.  It took everything in me to put one serving in the freezer to eat later.  Because I loved it so much, I knew I’d enjoy eating a serving in a few weeks… but I just wanted to eat it this week, even after eating 3 bowls.

Turkey Sausage, Kale, and Potato Soup

From SkinnyTaste

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

14 oz reduced fat Italian chicken or turkey sausage
8 cups (1/2 batch) kale, stems removed, leaves shredded
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
8 cups fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
3 medium red potatoes, peeled diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 pinch dried red pepper flakes
salt to taste
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

1.  In a large Dutch oven or pot, cook sausage over medium-low heat. Turn and cook until brown, about 10 minutes.

Note:  I used Jennie-O Hot Italian Turkey Sausage Links, and removed it from the casing prior to sauteeing.

Once cooked, place sausage in a food processor to grind the meat so that it’s finely chopped.

2.  Add oil to pot, add onions and carrots; cook on medium until translucent, about 5 minutes.

3.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.


4.  Add broth, water and black pepper, bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes.

5.  Add cooked sausage, potatoes, red pepper flakes and bring back to a simmer. Cook covered for about 4 minutes. Note:  I used hot italian turkey sausage, and left the red pepper flakes as a result.

6.  Prepare your kale by shredding it.  Note:  My prep included removing the stems, and then rolling the kale up.  Once rolled, I sliced it chiffonade-style to create ribbons of kale.  Once shredded, I used my salad spinner to clean the greens.

7.  Add kale and bring back to a simmer.

8.  Cook partially covered until the potatoes and kale are cooked, about 5-6 minutes. Adjust salt if needed.

9.  Ladle soup into a bowl and ENJOY!

Per 1 2/3 cup serving:

CAL 232; FAT 4g; CARB 31g; FIB 5.5g; PROT 19g; SUG 3g; SOD 647mg; WW Points Plus 6

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