Happy Birthday, George Washington! President's Day Pancakes with Chobani

Many of us have off school or work today for President’s Day / George Washington’s birthday. To celebrate, I decided to make pancakes.

Perfect for a lazy Monday morning. I wonder if George Washington ate pancakes for his birthday breakfast back in the day?

These pancakes are not paleo but since I made it myself and know what I’m putting into it and am using as whole foods/ingredients as possible, I’m okay with it.

I took this recipe from the Chobani Kitchen and made some modifications using:

 

Whole Wheat Pancakes with Chobani

 Adapted from here

Ours made 11-12 pancakes

Ingredients (my modifications in bold)

  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose Whole Wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 C (12oz) 12 oz or 2 individual cups Vanilla Strawberry 0% Chobani Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2 C milk Silk Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • 1.4 c water
  • Non-stick spray

Directions

  1. Combine all dry ingredients
  2. Slightly whisk egg
  3. Mix egg, almond milk and yogurt together
  4. Pour wet ingredients onto dry ingredients and mix until smooth
  5. Spoon onto non-stick sprayed skillet
  6. Cook for a few minutes, flip when underside of the pancake is firm
  7. Cook again for a few minutes
  8. Remove from heat, top with syrup and enjoy!

I ran into a one issue with this recipe -

The recipe called for 1/2 cup or 12 oz of yogurt. However, 1 6-oz container is 1/2 cup. So I started with only 1 6-oz cup of strawberry yogurt and it was not enough. The batter was too thick, more like dough. So I added a second 6-oz cup of yogurt and some water (1/4 cup) to thin it out and it worked like a charm.

This pancake is heartier than a traditional pancake but it’s got staying power because of the whole wheat and yogurt. I expected it to have more of a strawberry/vanilla taste from the yogurt and milk but neither Alex or I could notice any significant taste difference from a ‘normal’ wheat pancake.

Since this batch made so many pancakes, I’ve Ziplocked and am freezing the 6 leftovers. They’ll make great on-the-go breakfasts when I’m in a pinch.

So today on Mr. George Washington’s birthday, I want to say thanks to him and all of our presidents. Thanks for all that you did and do for America and the world and setting the foundation for me to live in a free country.

Happy birthday, Mr. Washington.

Getting My Swaggar Back

Today, I’m back in Denver. It was a quick, whirlwind trip to Vegas but a fun and very educational one! I learned so much at the Ragan conference about using social media/blogging in a business capacity. Whether you’re trying to build your personal blog as a business,  utilizing social media/PR/communications for a company, I highly recommend getting on the Ragan email list. Invaluable information daily.

On Wednesday, I’d mentioned that my knee was hurting and I wasn’t doing myself any favors by walking in non-supportive shoes. Later that day and evening, I only made matters worse.

First of all, I looked up the distance between MGM Grand/The Signature at MGM Grand/Conference Center to see the distance. It took about 15-20 mins to walk from one end to the other and on Google Maps, it looks farther than I thought!

 Just walking to/from either end or from my room to the conference center was a workout.

Wednesday night, my coworker and I went out to dinner and decided to try Sugar Factory, across the street from the Bellagio fountains, hoping to see a Kardashian dining in her natural habitat. Unfortunately, we did not.

But we did walk more than a mile to the restaurant.

I think this is the most  I’ve walked at one time in (I think) the past 6 months, certainly in the last 3. And we weren’t done yet. After dinner, we walked through Planet Hollywood and hit up The Cosmopolitan hotel and found the cutest, girliest bar called The Chandelier.

Draped in hundreds of strands of glass bead curtains, the bar really did resemble a luxurious chandalier. We enjoyed an (overpriced) glass of wine before heading back to the hotel, by cab.

My knees and feet were TIRED and hurting at the end of the night. Today, my quads and calves are way sore.

How I Got My Swagger Back

On Wednesday, I was still limping a bit – I hadn’t been able to figure out how to walk properly. Similar to my first surgery, it took about a week of hobbling around like a peg legged pirate before I figure out how to stand up and walk correctly. After we got back to our hotel Wednesday night, I figure out how to walk again.

When I was limping, I had been walking more on my toes and front of my foot first. After we came back, I stood up straight and put my foot out, heel first. That was it! Striking my heel first removed the pressure I’d been putting on my graft while hobbling and instantly, the pain and soreness were almost completely gone.

 (hobbling vs. walking; gray spot is where my graft is)

Until yesterday, I was feeling really nervous about my knee and recovery – it was hurting more than my first surgery. Was something wrong? Was my graft not implanting correctly? What if they have to do another surgery to fix it? It’s been hard for me to remember that it’s ONLY been 1 week that I’ve been off my crutches and to adjust my expectations.

And just like last time, about 1 week after walking, I straightened my gait, literally, and the pain is gone.

I’m breathing easier today – I know nothing’s wrong and that I’m well on my way to a full recovery. I need to be sure I invest in supportive shoes and to remember to take it easy for a couple of weeks but despite that, I’ve got my swagger back.

Rookie Travel Mistakes

Whew! Vegas (and getting to Vegas!) is something else!

This is my first flight and business flight in many, many months. The last 6 months, I’ve been grounded because of surgery and I’m not flying to visit Alex anymore, so let’s just say that I’m a little rusty.

My flight yesterday left Denver at 445p… without me. Yep, that’s right. The flight was oversold and I’d volunteered to give up my seat if necessary, taking the next later flight to Vegas. I got as far as boarding and trying to find a spot for my bag when the gate agents called me back out to ask if I could take the next flight.

The gate agents with Frontier were the best – so friendly and quick in getting me rebooked on the next flight. And they hooked me up with Stretch Seating! As a previous top level frequent flier (in 2010, I flew 33 legs with Frontier), I’m a big fan of Stretch Seating. Look at all the room! Heaven for a tall person like me.

Easy flight, friendly flight attendants: 2 reasons of the many reasons I keep coming back to Frontier.

So instead of landing in Vegas at 6 p.m. PST, I landed at 8 p.m PST.

Here’s where the mistakes began:

- Not wearing supportive shoes: My knees were SORE last night because I hadn’t thought about (and don’t really have) supportivie shoes. Before, it didn’t matter but my knees are still recovering and can’t take all the pounding. I’m investing in better shoes this weekend.

- Not knowing which part of the hotel I’d booked: I didn’t realize just how insane Vegas is and how gigantic all of these buildings are. I knew I was booked in MGM Grand but it turns out, I’m in the Signature at MGM Grand…Very different. I tried to check in at MGM Grand and they sent me about a half a mile through the hotel/casino/food court to the very opposite side of the building to The Signature.

- Not printing off my hotel/conference registration: If I’d done that (like I usually do), I would have known my hotel and could have taken the taxi straight to the Signature.

- Not bringing a purse: Seriously?! I always use a backpack to hold my laptop/papers/pens/purse things when I travel. I also always pack a small purse so I can bring my wallet, phone, room key and chapstick with me in the evenings. This time, I completely forgot.

- Not bringing a toothbrush & toothpaste: I know my toothbrush is still on my bathroom counter in Denver. And I’d meant to pick up a travel size toothpaste on Tuesday but didn’t have time. So I’m using these instead:

- Not bringing a contact case: …Really, I just didn’t bring anything to Vegas! Using drinking glasses instead.

- Not bringing enough business cards: Grrr! I’m at a conference for work and didn’t bring as many business cards as I’d planned. Usually I have a stack in my backpack so I’ve always got them when I travel but I’d taken them out once I started using my backpack as my purse after surgery.

Rookie, rookie mistakes. Just like the rest of my life, I feel like I’m getting reaclimated and relearning how to get back into the swing of ‘real life’ things. None of these are trip-ruining, just inconvenient (and dumb!).

To get my blood flowing this morning, I did a series of sun salutations and yoga flows in my room. My knees are sore from walking so I didn’t want to do any fitness room cardio this morning. And my hotel room has more room than my apartment does – how can I not take advantage?!

(That’s a king sized bed that I had the BEST night’s sleep in. So soft, so warm and alllllll mine.)

Off to learn about social media, communicating and marketing! You can follow along on Twitter (@lgsmash); I’ll be using #ragansocmed to tag tweets about the conference.

Valentine's Day: Blood Donation and LAS VEGAS

I’m not a big fan of holidays that society tells us we  HAVE to give a gift. I like giving gifts when I see something that reminds me of a loved one – out of the blue – but when Retail America tells me I have to go all out and buy gifts or get dressed up for a fancy dinner to celebrate a certain day, I’m not down with that. To me, it loses the specialness of that given gift.

But there’s one gift I love to give regularly and giving it on Valentine’s Day would not make it any less special: Donating blood.

One whole blood donation can help save and enhance the lives of up to 3 patients. (Source)

Unfortunately when I showed up for my appointment this morning, I found out I’m unable to donate. Due to my surgeries and having a cadaver graft in both knees (DeNovo is a cartilage graft from a juvenile cadaver donor), I’m black listed from donating for 1  year after my last surgery date (December 28).

Major bummer – I haven’t been able to donate since a few months before my first surgery. As a girl who donated every 8 weeks to the day, most of the time, I am pretty disappointed that I’m out for the next year.

So instead, I’ll celebrate this crazy day of love by hopping on a plane to the most romantic spot I can think of: Las Vegas. Seriously.

I’m headed to Vegas tonight for the Ragan 5th Annual Social Media Conferecen for PR And Corporate Communications. I’m really excited – the conference agenda is packed with great social media insight and trends for marketers and it’s my first time in Vegas!

As a first-timer in Las Vegas – what are you ‘must see/must do’ suggestions? Vegas regular, Diana, has sent me quite a few suggestions to get started but I’d like to hear from you too!

Beginner Swimmer

For the past year that my knee has been hurting, I’ve been meaning to make it to the pool. But I could never find the confidence to do so. I haven’t been in a pool to swim laps since high school. And that was a long, long time ago.

This weekend, I stepped up my game and conquered my fears. I found a YMCA nearby with a pool, printed off the schedule and committed to myself that I would go on Sunday.

And I did! 

(Athleta Iron Girl swim cap!)

I was petrified walking into the Y – like everyone knew I was a newbie swimmer and what the heck was I trying to do here? In fact, I almost talked myself out walking in the locker room. Butterflies in my stomach, self doubt in my mind.

I changed my clothes, put one foot in front of the other and walked out to the pool deck and found a lane with one person in it and asked if I could share. The swimmer obliged so I jumped in and swam.

I didn’t count my laps but I swam for about 40 minutes. I swam freestyle laps, used the kick board to give my legs a solid workout and used the leg buoy when my knees got sore. It felt AWESOME! After the first couple of laps, I got the hang of my rhythm and felt pretty good in my lane. I’m not speedy and my form needs a lot of help, but I did it! I already love swimming and am looking forward to getting back in the pool.

Today’s pool session did reaffirm what I already knew: I’ve lost all strength (duh – no muscle in my legs!) and endurance. I couldn’t swim more than 1 25-yard lap without taking a (very labored breathing) break. But everyone starts somewhere, right?

My arms and legs are exhausted. My head and heart are happy.

I’m very proud of myself for getting my butt to a new gym (scary), a pool (extra scary) and getting in and swimming. My fear was irrational: No one knew I didn’t know what I was doing – and even if they did, no one would have cared.

I need to remember that when I start doing something new – no one can tell and no one cares!

Happy 'GAL'entine's Day!

One of my favorite shows is Parks And Rec on NBC. Last week’s episode was about Valentine’s Day but opened with the main character, Leslie Knope, hosting her annual ‘Gal’entine’s brunch with her girlfriends.

(I made that from this and this.)

February 14th is a day to celebrate our significant others and loved ones but February 13th is a day to celebrate our girlfriends!

Today, let’s appreciate and celebrate the wonderful girlfriends in our lives - ladyfriends who make us laugh, console us when we cry, support us through the rough times and celebrate the great times.

Send an email, tweet, text, card or even a real life hug to your important ladyfriends and let them know you are thinking about them.

And if you want to host your own ‘Gal’entine’s Day shindig, Leslie Knope has a few pointers for you here.

Coincidentally, some fellow bloggers/Twitter girlfriends and I got together at Hapa Sushi on Friday. It wasn’t a ‘Gal’entine’s celebration but it was a very fun girls night! Social media friends FTW.

Heather, Courtney, Me, Tiffany, Lauren, Liz and Heidi

Happy ‘Gal’entines Day to all my ladies out there!

Cholesterol Scare and Heart Healthy Snacks

In honor of February being Heart Health Month, I’d like to share a little story about my cholesterol scare a few months ago to encourage you to get your numbers checked and incorporate heart healthy foods into your diet.

Each year to be eligible for the lower cost health insurance option through my company, I must have my blood tested to determine my cholesterol, triglycerides and other important health factors. Until last summer, I’d never had an abnormal reading.

While on a business trip last August, I’d donated blood with a hospital that tested cholesterol. I’d gotten a ‘high’ reading so a few months later, I had my doctor re-check me.

I was re-tested right after my first surgery in October and got the results on a day that I was feeling particularly down. I needed to work on my cholesterol, the nurse told me. I cried- I’m generally a very healthy eater and an active person – how the heck did I have high cholesterol?! I felt like a failure, like my body was betraying me. What was I doing wrong?!

After a few days of sulking and analyzing every product I ate (and finding no cholesterol is most), I did some research and consulted my physician. It turns out, the nurse had misread – my overall cholesterol was high but my HDL/LDLs were more than optimal:

Tested: October 11, 2011

Total cholesterol: 243 (optimal is below 200)

HDL (good) cholesterol: 88 (optimal is 60+)

LDL (bad) cholesterol: 119 (optimal is less than 100 / near optimal is 100-129)

I learned that if I have an above average HDL count that it’s okay if my total cholesterol is ‘high’.

My body may not have failed me but I knew there were things that I could do to help keep my cholesterol under control.

Once I’d gotten the high cholesterol scare, I made a list of the foods I should be eating to bring my cholesterol down and started incorporating these foods into my daily diet. Even after knowing I have acceptable cholesterol, I continue to eat these foods regularly to keep my heart healthy and cholesterol down.

Heart Health Foods (Scientific information found here and here)

  • Walnuts: polyunsaturated fatty acids help keep vessels healthy. Just a handful at a time for an afternoon snack.
  • Oatmeal: High in fiber.
  • Flaxseed/Salmon/Tuna/Fatty Fish: High in Omega-3 fatty acids which can reduce your blood pressure and risk of developing blood clots. I add 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to smoothies, baked goods.
  • Spinach: Multiple phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals to help ward off heart (and other) diseases. Swapped my regular spring mix greens for spinach when possible and added spinach to smoothies.
  • Black beans, Broccoli: high in fiber. Incorporated more often as a side dish.
  • Olive oil: Contains a potent mix of antioxidants that can lower your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol but leave your “good” (HDL) cholesterol untouched. Instead of other oils or butter, I use olive oil to saute veggies, bake fish, etc.

These are just a few of the foods that I made sure to eat (or keep eating) initially. There are so many heart healthy foods that you can incorporate into your regular diet – a list of 25 foods from WebMD can be found here!

I learned that cholesterol comes from eating animal products so naturally, by reducing the high cholesterol meats and bulking up on the healthy veggies, I can keep my cholesterol in check. Exercise can also help reduce cholesterol.

High cholesterol shows no symptoms and the only way to find out your numbers is by a quick blood test. My health insurance requires that I am tested each year and maybe your local blood donation bank tests your cholesterol too. Beware though: it’s just as important to know your HDL & LDL numbers as it is to know your total cholesterol numbers.

Of course, if you’re experiencing high cholesterol, you should definitely check with your doctor to form a plan of attack. I’m not a doctor or nutritionist of any sort. Just a girl sharing her cholesterol experiences, hoping to inspire you to keep your heart healthy too.

Last Day on Crutches

It’s my last day on crutches! Hopefully for a VERY LONG time.

Today officially marks the end of the ‘surgery recovery’ phase of this Osteochondritis Dissecans ordeal. 2 surgeries (right knee, left knee) and 12 weeks on crutches in 4 months has been fun but I’m happy to put this phase behind me.

Because it’s my last day, I’m milking the ‘I’m on crutches’ excuse today – parking in a super close parking spot at work, not taking the dog out in the morning, asking Alex to take the garbage out, among other things.

In honor of it being the last day of using and wearing these things, here are my favorite crutches excuses:

  • Maybe we’ll get special seating at the concert because I’m on crutches? Alex reminded me that I’m not in a wheelchair and have proven that I’m very capable of getting around.
  • It’s snowy out, I’m working from home today. This is legit – I’ve crutched around on the snow and ice and have had near death slips 1 time too many to keep thinking that.
  • Alex can make, bring me and clean up dinner – I’m on crutches! Sad to see this one go :)
  • I have to buy my lunch – I can’t carry a lunch to the break room at work. This is a purely lazy excuse and one I plan to use today.

At 2 p.m. today, there will be no more excuses.

Really though, I’ve had butterflies in my stomach all week, waiting for today. I’m ready to have both and both feet back, to walk and carry things at the same time, to not have knee pain, to get my strength and endurance back.

Today, I get ME back.

Paleo Pros, Cons & Giveaway Winner

It’s been more than a month since I declared that I was eating paleo to try it out. I was looking for a way to get my body and food back on track and after some research, my fiance, Alex, and I jumped into the paleo lifestyle, head first. 

There are some things I really liked about paleo and some I didn’t (and photos of me because it was easier than looking for a thumbs up/thumbs down photo).

Pros:

  • My body feels great – ‘clean’, healthy. I wasn’t putting junk into it so I didn’t feel like crap.
  • Easier to make healthier choices when eating out – instead of eating a burger with a bun and fries, we chose bunless burgers and asparagus for a side.
  • Bulking up on eating veggies – I’ve always loved veggies but didn’t always make a concerted effort to eat as many as I should and would eat the same veggies all the time. Paleo helped me try new veggies and ensure I got a full serving (or more) of the good stuff with each meal.
  • Constant, steady energy levels – this was a HUGE plus for me. I’ve always been pretty awake in the mornings but come afternoon, I get that post-lunch coma feeling like most of us. When eating paleo, I have yet to experience this. I’m awake and with it the whole day.
  • No ‘dying of hunger’ pangs – you all know that OMG-I-NEED-FOOD-NOW feeling. Haven’t experienced that since we changed our diets. I get hungry, sure, but it’s more like a gentle reminder to eat some walnuts or grab an apple with peanut butter. Honestly, I experience hunger differently now.

Cons:

  • Limited options when dining out – while thinking paleo makes me choose healthier options (no ranch, no fried foods), it also makes it difficult sometimes to find something that ‘fits’. I tried to stick to paleo as much as possible, but sometimes, an exceptional beef tenderloin sandwich and truffle fries happened. And I’m okay with that.
  • Kitchen creativity – this is one part of my brain that lacks. Significantly. I have a hard time thinking of different ways to make the same foods. I think having a cookbook would have made this easier.
  • Sometimes, I just wanted a damn cookie! So I made some. And we ate them and lived to tell the tale.
  • Hard to bring my lunch when I’m on crutches – this is a symptom of my current situation and one that will be shortly squashed. It’s hard for me to get multiple Tupperware containers in my backpack, put in the office fridge, brought back to my desk, etc. Instead, it’s ‘easier’ (also, lazier) for me to hit up Chipotle for a salad. I know I COULD bring my lunch and make it happen but I’ve opted to take the lazy way out for the time being.

Overall, the pros outweigh the cons. And I feel so good when eating the paleo way.

The conclusion I’ve come to is this: I want to continue follow the general principles of paleo eating (mostly meats, veggies and fruits) with a few modifications. I’m going to eat as ‘whole’ as possible when I can’t or don’t want to eat paleo. If I want a sandwich, I’ll make my own bread. If I want a cookie or brownie, I’ll make it from my own ingredients and not a box.

I’ve also decided to add dairy back – yogurts and cheeses – in moderation. Again, as whole as possible is the goal for me here.

I’ve learned to look at the ingredients of canned/boxed/bagged food that we buy and the list is sometimes pretty long. Full of things that I don’t really know what they are! So when Alex and I shop for things that are not fresh produce, we’re analyzing the ingredients to find the best option. I’m no nutritionist or dietician but I do know that the cheese with fewer ingredients (and all recognizable) will be better for me than the cheese with a laundry list of unpronounceable ingredients.

And for me, the icing on the cake was last night. We had friends over for the Super Bowl and everyone brought a dish or two to share – the spread was pretty incredible. I threw paleo to the wind and had pita bread, chips, cookies, a cupcake, beer, etc, etc. It was so delicious! But shortly after everyone left, my stomach did NOT feel good – So much so that I woke up in the middle of the night, very uncomfortable. I don’t know if it was all the gluten (which my body hasn’t been eating), all the sweets or all the buffalo chicken dip but it wasn’t fun and something I hadn’t felt the past month.

So enough about paleo – let’s talk about the Sparkly Soul giveaway winner!

I used the random number generator at Random.org to decide the winner.

Congratulations to Heidi at Run Around Roo!

Snow Day!

Last night, a big snow storm moved into Colorado from the south. This means that the system picks up moisture from the south and rotates counter-clockwise, east to west, and backs itself into the mountains. There’s nowhere for the storm to go so it stays put and dumps snow. Overnight, we got about 12 inches of snow and it’s still snowing outside now (1130a). We’re ‘supposed to’ get 12 + more inches during the day today.

This is as close as I’m getting to the snow today.

My office called a snow day. Alex tried to get his car out to go to work for more than 45 minutes before he admitted defeat. We’re enjoying a work-from-home/snow day together with:

Bottomless cups of tea and work for me…

…video games and puppy time for Alex.

To find out what people who can go outside are doing on their snow day, check out Heather’s blog. She’s got some great photos of the many inches of snow on the ground!