Wednesday, May 15

Triple Chocolate Chunk Muffins

Hello all!! I have not written a blog post in FOREVER! Mostly because life around here in southern Maryland is about the same as always. Still working at Civista Medical Center which will soon be University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center.... such a mouthful! I am working part time though, so I have found myself with a little more extra time. I just wasn't enjoying my nursing career, it didn't fit me right and so it became very stressful for me. But you need money to live in this world, so I couldn't just quit... so I went part time with many ambitions for my new found time. I've always enjoyed writing, and so I thought I would write a book... turns out that is pretty hard... I will be continuing SLOWLY with the completion of the book, but don't be expecting to read it any time soon. I also wanted to be a better "housewife".... now those of you who know me KNOW I won't just be at home taking orders from the husband waiting on him hand a foot with dinner on the table when he gets home from work BUT I had become pretty slack on the cleaning and cooking of real meals. The stress of my job had turned into some weight gain and probably a touch of depression (especially in the winter months) had made me pretty lazy. So what am I doing about it? PINTEREST! haha ok, any of you pinteresters out there know that pinterest really probably just makes me more lazy due to its addictive qualities, but wait there is more! Back in March I completed my first half marathon (13.1 miles) I trained for 3 months building up my mileage and although it was mostly about completing a bucket list event and being proud of myself, I thought for sure I would lose some of the extra weight I had put on over the last three years of marriage (13lbs of what we will call "happy weight"). I was running 3-4 times a week and in three months I didn't lose one single pound!! Can you believe it? I finished my half marathon with a time of 2 hours and 4 minutes, and I was so proud and happy just to have finished (although my real goal was to finish under 2 hours)! It was a great event and I had so many people supporting me the whole way! But I still couldn't kick that feeling of not losing a single pound. I didn't eat super UNhealthy, although I'm sure more veggies in my diet couldn't have hurt. I was so confused! At that time I happened to come across and old friend on Facebook who had posted up some killer pictures of a toned, sculpted body. She looked great! So, at the risk of looking like a creeper/stalker, I contacted her and asked what she was doing and if she was training for an event? This is what she said:

Hey girl not weird at all I've had so many ppl asking about what I do! I am glad I can pass along the little knowledge I do have to others to better their lives! I'm honored!
A lot of it is diet to be honest I eat super clean! Look up Tasco's eating clean cook book that will give u a start. I workout everyday for 2 hrs. I focus on a different muscle group each day and lift weights. Follow it with 20 min of high intensity cardio ( ie stair master, running fast on treadmill etc..). And that's really it. My diet is set up for a fitness competition I'm doing in April so low carbs and high protein. Let me know if I can help more! Good luck

This is exactly what I was hoping she wouldn't say!! haha! I mean I wasn't terribly upset with the 2 hours in the gym thing because hey I just went part time... time is what I have!! The whole eating clean this was going to be a problem for me! I'd have to give up all my favorite foods including bread, mac and cheese, ice cream, potatoes.... you know all the obviously high carb/calorie foods!! But, I knew what she was saying was true because I had just trained for a half marathon and not lost a single pound. Eating right (most of the time instead of some of the time) was going to be what it takes! Although my friend was doing it very strict for a fitness competition, I thought I would start out part way. I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app and started counting calories, trying to eat high protein and less carbs, and less sugar. Not completely giving up some of the "bad" foods I loved, but eating them (and everything) in better portions! I gave up Coke (the drink) cold turkey! And started out my journey at the grocery store, staying on the outer perimeter to load up on fruits, veggies, lean meats, and whole grains! Honestly, you can eat a lot of food for lower calories if you pick the right ones. I still have my carb cravings, especially for desserts or chicken alfredo pasta, but for the most part it isn't as horrible as I thought!

So, I have been on this routine in the gym and/or running 4-5 times a week and eating right for about a month and half. And I am proud to announce I have lost 8 pounds!! I am training for my next half marathon and am on track to beat my goal of completing the race in under 2 hours. And I am just so excited to have a healthier body and mind! The last 5 lbs is proving to be tricky, but I'm not giving up! I'd like to thank my friend who gave me great advice! And she came in 4th place at her first competition!

Back to my point about Pinterest! I have been pinning and pinning AND PINNING healthy recipes for meals, snacks, and sweet treats and now I'm going to use the blog to post up reviews as I try them out!! Today I tried this recipe for Triple Chocolate Chunk Muffins. The pictures they have for the muffins make them look slightly more appetizing, but mine came out looking ok... I followed the recipe exactly, except their recipe yielded 12 large muffins, I did 18 smaller muffins (which decreases the calories per muffin from 95 to 58). I had to adjust the bake time, but basically bake until a toothpick comes out clean. They did suggest to use foil muffin liners, but I didn't have any so I used paper. Please use FOIL ones because the muffins stick to the paper ones! My review of this muffin is that it is good! It definitely satisfies the craving for chocolate, it is really rich. The muffin isn't smooth like a cake batter though, you can tell it is made with oats even though you grind them in the food processor. I'd give this muffin and 8/10 though and I think you could definitely get a kid on board! :) Please try and enjoy!

Monday, September 17

Pompeii, Sorrento and Capri

On our way down to Sorrento from Rome we stopped for a day tour of Pompeii. I have imagined this city more as a village, small and undeveloped, but I couldn't have been more wrong. Pompeii was much larger than I had though and was actually a walled city with 8 entrances and 14 lookout towers. You could still see worn areas where the chariots went down the roads. There were large water fountains where the people would come to get their water. The city was divided into districts and there was a main city center with currency exchange, market, and political center. Our tour guide, Franco, was very keen on making sure we saw the brothel. There were frescos painted on the walls above each room (that you can still see) in the brothel that depict which "position" you wanted and then you had to pay accordingly. haha.... I couldn't believe it! He also pointed out throughout the city that there were stone penises on walls or roads pointing towards the "red light" district. pictures to come! :) The views of the mountains from Pompeii were incredible!
outside the walls of the city

looking into the "gymnasium" where gladiators would train

view of Mt. Vesuvius

There were large stones like this that crossed the street sort of like a crosswalk. They were elevated so when it rained you wouldn't get wet. Three across on main streets, two across on smaller streets

grooves in the roads where the chariots would "drive"

The frescos in the brothel


Penis on the wall of a building pointing you towards the "red light" district

what a view

another penis

This was a drinking fountain. hard to tell but it is worn down on both sides of the fountain statue where people would place their hands to lean in to drink. It is worn more on the left side (right side of the picture) indicating there were more left handed people than right.

ruins of the main square

one of the 14 lookout towers.

view from the main square

Once we got to Sorrento we checked into our hotel and went to explore. Since Sorrento is on a peninsula and it is a pretty steep mountainous region, there is pretty much one main road that leads down to the main square. From there down to the marina where the next day we caught a hydrofoil (ferry) to Capri. Capri is an island now, but used to be connected to the mainland. May I just say that Capri should be on everyone's list of CANNOT MISS if they are coming to Italy (especially the south). It is so beautiful. Bright blue water surrounds and island that seems to just rise straight up from the sea. The cliffs are impossibly high!! The waters were rough the day we went, so the "Grotto Azurra" (blue grotto) was closed to the small boats that usually go in. But we were able to swim into the cave to see the blue blue waters inside. We took a private boat tour around the island. We were able to just lay out on the front of our "gozzi" (traditional fishing boat) as our captain and tour guide took us around the island pointing out all the most important sites. The blue grotto is not the only cave with bright waters on the island, simply the most famous, so we were able to see those as well. A stop for a swim, and let me say, it was very COLD! but worth the goose bumps!! The water was so clear, you could see the bottom with white sand, but you would be amazed how far the boat's anchor went down. So deep, yet you can still see the bottom! This was the perfect way to end our busy busy vacation! We definitely recommend this tour with Relax Boats. The price was very reasonable for what we got, and how much we will never forget it!

swimming near Marina Piccola

Gary admiring (and picking out) the yachts

inside the blue grotto looking back through the hole we swam through to get in

The blue grotto, please excuse the trash. The top hole is how we got in. That is about half the size of the hole, the other half is above water where usually small row boats row in to show people. It was closed due to rough water, so we swam in! I was not very excited to do this at first, but glad I did!

Bay of Naples

On Capri, the water unexpectedly came up and got me... it was cold!

chillaxin' on the boat

beautiful water!

All the growth on the rocks in the caves were these colors... I would say Capri is a Clemson fan!! :)

soooo gorgeous!

photo op

on of the grottos


sunset on the ferry back to Sorrento

Friday, September 14

Vatican City

Today we passed into another independent state, complete with it's own currency (although rare and hardly seen in circulation due to collectors), postal service, and I suppose form of government. The Pope is not only the leader of the church, but also the leader of this independent state. We were able to see the Swiss Guard in action allowing a priest to enter the side of St. Peter's Basilica, and then returning his spear to cross over the entrance. We stood in St. Peter's square. We walked through the Vatican Museum and viewed Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, where the Pope is elected. The Vatican did not disappoint! And may I just say, that all the gigantic churches, cathedrals, the duomo in Florence,  and St. Mark's basilica in Venice could not prepare me for the gargantuan St. Peter's Basilica. OMG, I don't know if it is totally proper to use omg when describing anything in the Vatican, but my goodness it is amazing! There are tile markings on the floor that indicated where certain other largest churches of the world would end if they were to go inside St. Peters, all fall short prior to even reaching the main altar. It St. Peters is, of course, St. Peter's tomb. We were not able to go down (you must have a reservation made months ahead of time), but I was able to get pictures from the top. The Domes seem to go on for forever, and the Pieta is beautiful despite being made to reside behind bullet proof glass (apparently years ago a wacko ran inside with a hammer and started going to town on it) hence now the bullet proof glass. At the far end of the church there is stained glass with only a dove seeming to fly right over head. It was rainy the today, but on sunny days it is supposed to let the sun in in such a way that it seems like streaks of gold are streaming in all around the white dove. I can only image the beauty. No picture I could ever take would give a hint to the magnificence of this basilica, but of course I shall try! Your best bet would be to come see it yourself, no matter what religion you are, you will be awe inspired or at least very impressed!
The Basilica dome from a Vatican Museum window

The oldest Christian symbol 

Exhibit at the Vatican Museum

Papal crest on the floor

Tapestry of Christ's Resurrection. You can't tell from the picture but it is said that as you walk past the tapestry and look in Jesus's eyes they follow you. They kinda did. :)

Tapestry of Julius Caesar's assassination. That is him getting stabbed in the bottom right.

Another Museum exhibit

Floor mosaic of chariot and rider

Papal crest on a door

Vatican Museum gigantic spiral staircase (from the top)

from the bottom
The Swiss Guard

The ceiling of the "porch" right before entering the Basilica

one of the domes in the Basilica

Michelangelo's Pieta (Mary holding Jesus after he was crucified)

The main dome of the basilica right above the main alter (you can't see it, and nor could I, but up at the very top in the middle a painting of God looks down on the altar.

from the main alter up to the dome

St. Peter's tomb located right in front of the main altar

me rubbing St. Peter's foot

This is behind the main altar, there were rows of pews roped off, and that circle in the middle is where the stained glass window of the dove is.

me near the entrance of the Basilica... alllll the way to the very back, that bright yellow circle is the dove stained glass window.