Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Chapter Closes

Just before 4:00 PM on Wednesday, December 30, I walked out of my therapist's office for the last time. That's right -- my eating disorder treatment has officially come to an end. And I find that conflicted emotions are wrestling within me over the matter.

Let me be clear -- I am happy to be finished, to no longer depend on expensive therapy sessions that our insurance refuses to be straight forward about covering. I am happy to have an extra hour to add to my week (for hooping! for writing! for dog walking!). I am happy that my therapist and both agree that I have come to the point where I am ready to walk forward without her weekly advice, non-judgmental listening, and encouragement.

But that is the downside. I am going to live -- without my therapist. And I am going to miss her greatly. I didn't always like what she had to say, and she challenged me in ways no one ever has. Even though it may not have felt comfortable at the time, I am forever grateful. I praise God that He put her in my life, that, miraculously, I found my way to her door when all I wanted was to be dead.

Because of her help, I live, and I want to live. I eat, and I enjoy eating. I feel, and I am no longer afraid of feeling.

Life is so strange. More than two years ago, I would have given a lot to not have to visit my therapist (then, it was twice a week). Now, as I write this blog post, I cannot stop the tears from falling. Tears of gratitude, of joy at what I have accomplished through God's grace and through my therapist's support, but also tears of sadness. For nearly three years, I have spent significant, rich time with this woman, and I have shared the most intimate parts of myself and my life with her. I came to trust her, to enjoy our visits, and eventually to love her. I'll write it again -- I will miss her more than words can say.

In the past, I might turned to emotional eating to try to deal with my current overwhelming emotions, or perhaps to food restricting and over-exercise. Yesterday, when I returned home from that final meeting with my amazing therapist, I turned to the hoop. Because of knowing and working with my therapist, I have transformed from this:

. . . into this:

Just after I finished writing this, our chihuahua, Lio, came and washed my face of tears. God is good, my friends! God is good, and life is good. Here's to a new year and new decade!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Microwave-baked apple with a few cranberries, a plop of pumpkin puree, fat-free cottage cheese, homemade (by Clare) applesauce, maple and cinnamon fat-free cream cheese, and homemade (by me!) cranberry pumpkin granola. Yum! Happy Wednesday, wordless or otherwise!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Montana Memories

My parents are in town, visiting from New Jersey. In catching up with them, my original reason for moving to Montana five years ago came up in conversation: Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary. Rolling Dog is a haven for blind and disabled animals where I worked for nearly a year upon graduating from my Master's program in elementary education. I needed a break from school, and I had a background with animal work. I found the Rolling Dog job posting, and before I knew it I had moved from Boston to a tiny, culture-shocking town with a population of less than 100 in Big Sky Country. I cared for the ranch's growing population of handicapped dogs, horses, and cats, plus a few random others (I still remember you, Charlotte, you ornery pot-bellied pig!). It was hard work, but satisfying, and even though I did not want to muck stalls and drag pastures for the rest of my career, I value my time at the ranch. I do miss the vastness of the space, the silence, and, of course, the animals. While working at the ranch, I got to fall asleep to the sound of coyotes howling, drive tractors (so much fun!), and work outside (in short bursts, of course) during -30*F weather. I never thought that hefting hay bales could be so much fun, but it is! The entire experience was incredible.

Chatting with my parents brought my original Montana memories to the surface, so I headed over to the Rolling Dog website. The owners, Steve and Alayne, run an amazing blog in addition to their homepage, but somehow I never subscribed to it. It was before my blogging days, I suppose. I have rectified that problem, and am excited to receive updates in my reader when Steve returns from his blog break in January.

Perusing the site and blog, I was amazed at the changes I learned of. Some were wonderful changes, like winning the ASPCA's 2009 Humane Award. Others saddened me. So many of the lovely animals that I fed, cleaned, and cared for have passed away -- Birdie, the dog with muscular dystrophy who loved tennis balls and eating rocks, and Destiny, who I remember as a skittish blind foal, or Pepper, the sweetest blind dog (she's the black dog pictured at left, playing with Travis). In my mind, they had been happily living out their days on the ranch, but now I know otherwise. Still, that does not change the fact that Steve and Alayne gave these dogs a chance and a home where they otherwise might have met only with neglect, abuse, or the receiving end of a euthanasia needle. At Rolling Dog, they found safety, comfort, and groundbreaking care.

And I can't stay sad, not when the ranch has given me so much. I never would have moved to Montana, met the Best Husband Ever, run races, hooped, worked with elementary school families, or climbed mountains, perhaps, if not for them. The first dog that I ever called all my own, Cody, is a former Rolling Dog Ranch resident. He came to the ranch from a shelter in Cody, Wyoming, as a puppy. The shelter folks thought he was blind, when in fact he just has rapid eye motion that affects his eyesight, but he can see. It's been amazing to watch Cody adapt to this disability -- now, you probably would never even guess that he's handicapped! He's not a stellar player in a game of catch, but he can hold his own remarkably well. Plus, he's super cuddly.

All this to say -- Steve and Alayne of Rolling Dog Ranch, I miss you! Thank you for everything that you do, and everything that you've given me. It's amazing what generous hearted people can do when they set their minds to it, isn't it? They make moments like these possible:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Hoop Sweat

When I first tried out hooping this summer, I immediately discarded it as an exercise form, thinking that it was not intense enough for my triathlon-training self. As the triathlon grew closer, however, and my body neared its peak for the race, I craved something more than the usual workout. Biking, swimming, running, weights -- I enjoyed them all, but my body cried out for more, for rest.

So I returned to the hoop, this time in earnest. I began to learn about tricks, about flow, and I watched a myriad of inspiring videos of other hoopers worldwide via the internet. Not only did I begin to fall in love with hooping, but I saw that it could work the body much more than I expected.

As I have learned more and grown as a hooper -- and now I do consider myself a hooper, where I did not this summer -- I have shared my journey here at Kitchen Courage as well as through Hoop City and my YouTube videos. The encouragement and feedback that I have received from you, my readers, has been an incredible gift. Thank you!

I have also read a number of questions about hooping, and one began to form in my own mind -- just how much of an exercise form is hooping? I've read claims that an hour of hooping can burn 600 calories, and I've heard from some hoopers that hooping is secondary to their workouts in terms of health and activity. But can it be both? Can you work up a sweat while hooping? I decided to find out.

I powered up my trusty Garmin, strapped on the heart rate monitoring strap, and took an initial reading. After warming up with some hooping and then letting my heart return to normal, my heart rate before beginning this test clocked in at 78 beats per minute (BPM). I then hooped for three to four minutes to Jay Sean's Down, featuring Lil Wayne. When the song finished, I checked the Garmin -- I had a heart rate of 156 BPM! You can watch the corresponding video to judge how intense my hoop dance was:

I then became curious as to how many calories I burned with that heart rate. Using the Triathlon Training Blog's calorie calculator, I learned that I burned 43 calories in three minutes of hooping. Of course, that is only if my average heart rate stayed at 156, and if that calculator is accurate. However, if I continued with that intensity of hooping for an hour, I calculated that I would burn as many as 800 calories in that time period. I came to that conclusion by multiplying my calories burned during three minutes (I rounded the total to 40) by the number of times I could hoop to Down in an hour (20 times).

40 calories per 3 minutes x 20 = 800 calories per 60 minutes

Is that accurate? Maybe. But for me the more important question is -- does it matter? Would I stop hooping if I only used 300 calories an hour, or less? My answer is a resounding no! I love hooping. The fact that its active is simply a bonus.

So is hooping exercise? My conclusion is that it can be. But it doesn't have to. I hoop because I enjoy the form of active expression, of moving my body to a rhythm, of finding a unique space of peace and joy and connection to myself inside the hoop. It grounds me, and it lifts me closer to God. It makes me feel lovely and graceful even when I'm flinging my hoop everywhere but where it's supposed to go. I love the process, I love the bruises, and I love the surging emotions that ribbon around me in time to the hoop's circling.

How can burning calories compare with all that?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Shiny and New

Have you noticed anything new about the blog? If you're perusing this in a reader, stop by the actual site. Kitchen Courage has a new look! It's not as fancy or as cute as the last layout, but I enjoy the clean simplicity of this one. Plus it allows me to not have to worry about image size, since even a moderately sized image overtook the narrow text field of the previous layout. So welcome to the made-over Kitchen Courage!

This morning's coffee got a makeover, too.

Those are vanilla meringue cookies floating atop my caffeine. My thoughts on this new discovery? Yum, yum, and, after careful consideration, yum! In fact, it was almost as delicious as the brunch buffet that the Best Husband Ever and I shared with his local family and my visiting east coast folks.

The food was pretty good, and the view of the icy river even better, but the most wonderful part of this meal was just getting to hang out as a family. My parents flew in from my native New Jersey yesterday, and they were eager to meet up with my in-laws. I'd say that everyone went home full of good food and good feelings.

Can you guess how I expressed my happiness? Or perhaps I should say hoopiness. . . .

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Keeping Christmas Simple

It's been [sort of] fun reading everyone's blog posts about their Christmas festivities. I say "sort of" because a) said festivities are often quite elaborate and exhausting seeming, and b) my "festivities" consisted of the following.

Baking bread (my first time out with Healthy Bread in 5!):

Baking cookies:

Baking bread:

And cleaning the kitchen:

So in "sort of" enjoying the Christmas blog posts on my Google Reader, I had to try hard not to feel like the Grinch. Or pathetic. Take your pick.

However, my Christmas did not consist merely of baking and scrubbing. The Best Husband Ever and I headed over to his folks' place where we enjoyed a simple and delicious buffet-style meal. And that's not to mention the wonderful company -- my dad-in-law put a bug in my ear about a horror script writing contest, and I had a good time playing "photo shoot" with my niece and her Polly Pocket dolls.

Pathetic Christmas? Not on your life! It was plain and quiet and exceedingly nice.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Living Christmas

This year, my Christmas took place days before December 25. Instead of centering around the buying and wrapping of gifts and toys and other objects, this year I celebrated God's grace and power. I was given the opportunity to rest in the center of a whirlwind of His action, and it was amazing. Here's my Christmas story.

It all started as part of my job. I work as the family outreach specialist at an elementary school. I teach remedial math and reading for small groups of students part time, and with the rest of my time I focus on the school's families. This can mean setting up fun events, such as a Native American round dance that I have scheduled for the spring, or educational opportunities, like the free cooking class that is currently happening one evening a week. For Christmas, it meant food boxes.

Every other family outreach specialist in the district has a special holiday program or event. Since my position is new this year, I did not have a precedence set for me. After hearing what the other coordinators had planned -- gift exchanges for needy families, a free book for every student, and clothing drives -- I decided to focus on food. Everybody needs food, and in this hard economic times I thought that might be an especially good area to target.

So I approached my home church as well as another nearby church in the community and set up a food box donation drive. One church put together boxes of gifts and food, while the other focused simply on food. As I planned and collaborated through November and December, I figured that I could provide no more than 20 boxes of food for our school's needy families.

I was wrong. I could not promise 20 families a box of food for Christmas.

I could promise much more.

When I went to my church's service on the Sunday before Christmas, I saw that the giving tree where the food box donations were located seemed strangely crowded. This church had committed to about four boxes of food, but I calculated that there had to be food for at least ten boxes beneath the tree. When I went to pick up the food the next day, there was even more food. I felt flabbergasted at the whole-hearted generosity of my church community.

When I returned to school, my car literally packed with food, I found the other church's volunteers delivering their own donations. I could not believe the vast piles of gorgeously wrapped packages that filled the school's staff lounge. What's more, my co-workers were blown away as well. They knew what I had been planning, but I don't think they expected such a huge result. I received compliments all day, but none of the staff believed me when I told them that I hadn't expected this turn out either.

It was God. I firmly believe that. All Him, all Jesus. The true spirit of Christmas was taking my school's community by storm, and it was all thanks to Him. And He gave me the awesome gift of participation. He took my small little plans and turned them into something insane and wonderful. One of the school's custodians came to me in tears at the sold-out-to-the-Savior giving that she saw. How crazy-good is that?!

And that's not to mention the families who received the boxes. Some families seemed a little confused as they came in to pick up their boxes, and a couple asked that I pass their box on to a family that might need it more. But overall, every family was grateful. One woman told me that she had only a week and a half's worth of food left in her house. A single jobless father of three young girls told me that the gifts and food would go a long way. Another woman told me that her husband had died a year ago, that this would be her first Christmas without him, and the pallid emptiness that was so obvious seemed to warm and lift a little at this unexpected gift -- that somebody had thought of her and her son.

The stories go on. And my story? I don't think I've ever seen God working so obviously in my life. It's true that He's done some powerful stuff in me and around me, but it was never so in-my-face as this. I feel so grateful for that. He involved me in His work, even though He didn't have to and He certainly doesn't need me. But He wanted me in on it. All I can say now is that God is absolutely, unendingly, amazingly good.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Cookies

I apologize for having gone MIA, or AWOL, or whatever we call such things in blog-land. The 2009 half of the 2009-2010 school year finished up with quite the finale on Tuesday. You're going to have to wait for the low down (or is it down low? my goodness I am out of the trendy phrases loop!), because I have quite the God story to tell on Christmas Day! For now, though, I'd like to share some Christmas cookies with you.

Yes, you read that right -- Christmas cookies! If you're been reading this blog long, you know that I rarely make cookies. I never eat cookies, certainly. Why? Because I don't see the point, nutritionally speaking. At least, that's what I tell myself. If I am honest, however, the real reason is based in my eating disordered thinking. I don't eat cookies because they will make me fat, because I don't trust my self-control, because I have determined them to be a don't-ever-go-there food. And I don't really make cookies because I am afraid I will devour the entire batch the moment they finish baking.

Still, I'm not too silly for worrying about this things, in my opinion, because in the past I have lost control. There have been times where I ate cookie upon cookie, only to feel sick and awful afterward. But it all comes back to the disordered eating. I ate to avoid dealing with uncomfortable emotions, sometimes. At other times I binged because I had starved and exercised myself to the point where my body screamed out for food, any food, and when I gave an inch with a bite of a cookie, it took a mile. After a cookie (or whatever other food I might have abused, like peanut butter or muffins) binge, I of course beat myself up and restricted and over-exercised even more to make up the difference.

So making cookies is an ordeal for me. Baking in general tends to be, but cookies are the worst. In the past year or two, the only times I have made cookies have been for the Best Husband Ever, for his birthday or our anniversary, or for Baking GALS. I just about never make them to simply enjoy. Until today.

I've been thinking that Kitchen Courage has been rather devoid of food-related posts of late. I wanted to give you all a new recipe, but I didn't know what. Then I realized -- I have never baked Christmas cookies! Well, that's not strictly true. I made Christmas treats and cookies in 2007, but they were sold to raise money for my missions trip to Malaysia the following year.

All that to say -- I wanted to make my first real batch of Christmas cookies! So after a little Googling and poking through my cookbooks, I settled upon a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe from Church Suppers. I planned to follow the recipe straight-up, butter and all, to make what the Best Husband Ever and I [sort of] jokingly call unhealthy cookies. But of course I couldn't resist tweaking the recipe just a little. Still, I did not omit all of the fat and sugar, which I did for that missions trip bake sale two years ago.

Most importantly, though, I did not binge on the results! Did I eat some cookie dough? Heck, yeah! Did I nibble on the finished products? You bet! Are there plenty of cookies left for the hubby? A resounding, victorious yes! I'd say today's early morning cookie adventure was a time of food success and eating disorder healing, wouldn't you?

Here's my version of the recipe I started with. Be sure so smoosh the cookie dough balls down before putting the trays into the oven, because the un-smooshed version was a little too cake-like. Still, I didn't burn them, which is a huge step forward in my baking prowess.

Cranberry Chocolate Chip Christmas Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 T oat bran
1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup Smart Balance (or butter), microwaved for 10 seconds
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup NuNaturals Baking Blend (or white sugar)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup liquid egg replacer (or 1 egg)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
skim milk as needed

Preheat the oven to 375*F. Combine all of the ingredients except the milk in a large bowl. Beat until they are thoroughly mixed. If the dough is dry and powdery, splash a little milk into the bowl and continue.

Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets. Plop tablespoonfuls of dough onto the sheets, leaving about 1 inch in between each. Press the tops gently with a wet fork or spoon to flatten them.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cookies are golden brown. (Side note: I chronically burn cookies. I forget that they keep baking even after you remove them from the oven. So even though they might not look done, I would not bake these for any longer than 14 minutes. If you're unsure, check the bottoms -- mine always blacken before the tops look as done as I expect.)

Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Cool completely before serving, if you can.

Makes 18-20 cookies.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have bread dough rising that needs to be attended. Can you guess what I'll be blogging about this weekend?

Want more of me? At the risk of sound narcissistic, I'd love for you to check other places I'm popping up on the web:
Happy Christmas Eve! How will you be celebrating Christmas this year?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

I received my first Christmas present in the mail this weekend! (Well, almost the first -- does it count that the Best Husband Ever and I got each other the same thing, discovered when I "hid" mine in a place where he'd find it before Christmas? Oops. Amazon, you'll be hearing from me on a return very shortly . . .)

Christmas coincidences aside, I was so excited to find a box from Clare sitting on my kitchen table Friday afternoon. If you haven't visited her blog, you must. This woman is amazing. In her I've found a kindred blogging spirit. I find that she writes about similar struggles to my own as we both wage our battles against the lies of eating disorders. What's more, we are both clawing our way toward freedom, sanity, and balance through the grace of Jesus. I think Clare is great, and I bet you will, too.

My opinion of this yoga-ing chick grew exponentially as I eagerly dug into the package she sent my way as part of her positivity movement. Inside, I found all sorts of goodies that are unique to Clare's Minnesota home. Some of my favorite items were the mittens handmade by folks with disabilities (so warm and cozy!), a jar of Clare's homemade applesauce, seasoning that I used to flavor my carrot fries at dinnertime (yum), and Knudsen's Caramels.

Oops. One of the caramels seems to have mysteriously disappeared post-photo shoot. Disappeared . . . into my belly! Mwahahaha . . . and yum. Yum I say!

Thank you, Clare! Not only does your blog encourage me, especially when ED has got me down, but your box was so generous and thoughtful. In honor of your generosity, I have a hooping session that I'd like to dedicate to you! A short while back, Clare suggested that I hoop to Jamiroquai's Cool Heat. So Clare . . . this one's for you!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Face Off

On Saturday morning, the Best Husband Ever found himself lured into a game of Catan against a most formidable and rather, ah, squirrely opponent. Can you guess who was the victor?

Happy Saturday!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Synchronized Fun

Here's a recording of some of my hooping from Hoop City's first synchronized hoop jam. I knee AND shoulder hoop for the first time on video, although the shoulder hooping is pretty poor (for now). Thanks again for a fun night, hoopers!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

And the Winner Is . . .

It's time to announce the winner of Kitchen Courage's Green Mountain Coffee giveaway! Who is going to win a pack of three flavored ground coffees? Before I tell you, I just want to thank Green Mountain for sponsoring this. They truly do make delicious coffee, and once I use up my current coffee stash I will definitely be making Green Mountain my sole caffeine provider. Their products are sustainable, and they taste amazing to boot! My favorite flavor is wild mountain blueberry, but I'm betting that the three flavors in the giveaway's prize pack are just as good!

Okay, enough chit chat. Onto the grand announcement! Selected by the True Random Number Generator, the wonderful, lucky reader who will soon find a package of caffeinated delight in their mailbox is . . .

Jane Beall!

Congratulations, Jane! Please email your full name and mailing address to me at escagnel04 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Thank you to everyone who entered. This was Kitchen Courage's most successful giveaway yet in terms of participation. Thank you!! Also, I really enjoyed reading about everyone's favorite hot beverages. Here's what our winner, Jane, prefers:
I like a nice hot cafe au lait!
I've never tried cafe au lait, actually, but I think I might have to! Other favorites were coffee prepared in various ways as well as hot tea. Here's my favorite response, though, coming from a fellow Wordless Wednesday participant:
Hot and steamy, snuggled up with a friend in this cooler weather... oh! you did mean the coffee?
Ooh, saucy!

Thanks again, everyone, for making this a fun and successful event. I love keeping this blog and reading unfailingly sweet and encouraging comments. Thank you for make this adventure fresh, fun, and fulfilling. Here's to you!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Scene From a Snow Day

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Don't forget -- today is the last day to enter Kitchen Courage's giveaway of a variety pack of flavored coffee from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. Hurry and get your comments in here. There are only four entries as of this moment, so your odds of winning are quite fantastic!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tragedy Strikes!

Okay, so that title might be a little misleading. But you can bet that I felt rather devastated when my trusty hoop split at its connecting point yesterday morning. Having already hooped for my planned amount of time, however, I shrugged it off and went about getting ready for my day, knowing I would attempt to make my very first hoop later that day (!!).

When I began to put the new hoop together, though, I came to a second awful realization -- the connectors I had bought to secure the tubing in the necessary "O" shape were far too big! My hoop manufacturing ground to a pathetic halt. The Best Husband Ever found me sitting rather miserably in the middle of my living room floor, indulging in some quality brooding for a few minutes.

All this hoop tragedy would be so, well, tragic if Hoop City was not hosting the very first synchronized hoop jam tomorrow night. At 7:00 PM Mountain Time, hoopers all across the country will be hooping as one in their various locations for twenty minutes. Then everyone will converge in the chat room and enjoy some hoopy fellowship. This type of an event is especially great for me, as my town seems sadly void of any potential hooping buddies. So to miss it would make me quite sad.

What's a hooper to do? Tomorrow I plan on hitting up the hardware store for smaller connectors and trying to bang out a new hoop in time for the jam. If that doesn't happen, however, I can always use my smaller hoop (which is harder) or my larger, lighter travel hoop (which just feels a bit flimsy, but might be good for practicing shoulder and knee hooping). I also still have my water-filled toy hoop if everything else goes to pot. Which I hope it doesn't.

Hoopy woe is me! Or something. I think I'll drown my sorrows in a cup (or pot . . .) of Green Mountain flavored coffee. Won't you join me, and enter the coffee giveaway while you're at it? It would help put a smile on my face as I mourn the passing of my very first "official" hoop.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Snow Conquerer

When we went to bed here in western Montana on Saturday night, snow was coming down quite heavily. The weather forecasters predicted two to four inches. On Sunday morning, we woke up to what seemed like much more! And it's still coming down even as I write this. You know what that means -- time to get to shoveling!

Being new homeowners, this was the first time the Best Husband Ever and I were responsible for snow removal on property of our very own. I can't speak for him, but I know that that fact made my first snow shoveling experience rather exciting. A milestone if you will. A sweaty, snowy milestone.

You might imagine that my exuberance over hard-core shoveling dwindled fairly rapidly. You would be correct. Still, in spite of the hard work and the fact that my fingers froze until I stuffed a pair of Hotties inside my gloves, I did like shoveling. There's something about accomplishing a chore in the form of non-traditional exercise (i.e., not in a gym, with a workout video, etc.), especially if it gets me out into the SAD-fighting, cloud-penetrating sunshine. I felt very good about myself as I surveyed my work:

Yep, I'd call that a job well done! It took me about an hour to clear the front and back of our house, including the sidewalk. I even put some salt down and managed to meet a new neighbor. Snow days bring people together! And, of course, they make fantastic [very slippery] hooping occasions:

Then again, any occasion is a good one for hooping. The same with coffee, which is how I wrapped up my snowbound adventures. Get your free, fabulous, delicious Green Mountain coffee sampler here -- and you have a very good chance at winning, because no one has entered the giveaway yet. Hard to believe, but true! So that means that the winner could very easily be you!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Oh, the Weather Outside is Delightful . . .

. . . delightfully snowy, that is! We are getting quite the accumulation of fluffy, picture-perfect Christmastime snow. So picture perfect, in fact, that I snapped a few shots (which are, in fact, something less than perfect since I took them through the warm buffer of our closed back door). Check out Cody (the big guy who laughs in the face of all weather) and Lio (the guy alternately trundling chest-deep through the snow and standing, shivering, at the door) in the snow this morning:

Of course, the snow would be far less delightful if today was not Sunday. The Best Husband Ever and I usually drive down the hill for church, but we are okay foregoing it due to bad roads. Plus, there's a closer church within walking distance that we can always hit up in a pinch. If it was Monday, however, and we had to contend with getting to work safely, this post might not be so cheery.

But no matter -- it's not Monday, is it? And I bet you a pile of cranberries that the roads leading down off the steep hill that we live on will be a-okay tomorrow. Plus, seeing as this week had several bitterly cold days where the high temperatures did not even reach ten degrees Fahrenheit, this morning's snowfall is a blessed and beautiful change.

After the outdoor canine bathrooming adventure, Lio and I took advantage of the cozy-factor that fluffy snow always seems to bring by cuddling up together on the couch. I read some 1 John, and he snoozed -- er, kept watch. There may also have been some coffee involved, although not Green Mountain Coffee, I'm afraid. If I had some, though, you can bet that I'd be drinking it. I love morning coffee, especially when I get to share it with God (and a chihuahua), don't you?

Don't you love free coffee even more? Free flavored coffee? I know I do. Why not enter the Green Mountain giveaway and win some? You have until Wednesday, December, 16, to enter. Just leave as many comments on that post as you would like, and I'll announce the randomly chosen winner on Thursday, December 17.

I'm not sure what I plan to do with the rest of today, besides finish my coffee (which is yummy, in spite of not being Green Mountain -- it's hazelnut cinnamon vanilla, or something like that, and quite good). I'd like to try making my first hoop. I've been hooping up a storm lately, attempt to learn shoulder hooping, and I've got the bruises to prove it. Also on today's agenda, I think I might have to show off the Montana girl (gal?) in me and do some snow day hooping . . . outside.

What are your plans? Whatever they are, enjoy. Happy snowy Sunday!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Horrible Hooping . . .

. . . and by "horrible," I'm referring to Dr. Horrible, of course! Really, if you have not watched the Doc's Sing-Along Blog yet, you must. Not only is it hilarious and well-made, but the music is fantastic. But you probably already guess that I'm a fan of the soundtrack since I spent multiple mornings this week hooping away to it.

Happy Friday, and happy hooping!

Speaking of . . . well, speaking of nothing, really. I'm just a fan of random tangents. But still, this is a good one -- want three bags of Green Mountain's flavored ground coffees? Don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

ConGRADulations, Jackson!

Jackson graduated from his intermediate puppy school class night. We are very proud parents! We aren't going on to take another class in January due to crazy schedules, though, and I am going to miss our dog school friends, canine and human alike.

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Don't forget about the fabulous Green Mountain Coffee giveaway! Three packs of free flavored coffee delivered to your doorstep? Yes, please!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Giveway: Green Mountain Coffee Sampler!

Do you drink coffee? You know I do. I drink one to two cups of the stuff every morning, and then I limit myself to herbal teas for hot drinks the rest of the day. Drip, espresso, lattes, black, sweetened, with creamer, cold -- I really can't say much to criticize the types of caffeine I've tasted.

One coffee producer's products stand out above the rest for me, however. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters offers amazing varieties of java, from breakfast blends to flavored dessert coffees. I cannot express how much I enjoy Green Mountain coffee. Last week I tried their wild mountain blueberry K-cup in my Keurig brewer. After adding a bit of skim milk and stevia, I took a sip and was just about blown away by how delicious it tasted. It was so good that I dropped everything to tweet about it!

Because of my increasing infatuation with Green Mountain coffee, I decided to contact the company to see if they would like to share their delish caffeination Kitchen Courage's readers. You are in luck, because they said 'yes'!

So here's the deal, folks. Green Mountain is generously giving away a flavored sampler pack of their coffee to one Kitchen Courage reader. The pack contains three bags of coffee with an auto-drip grind in the flavors of Hazelnut, Rain Forest Nut, and Caramel Vanilla Cream. Here's what the company's website has to say about this coffee triad:
Caramel Vanilla Cream: Savor the sweetness of this luscious dessert coffee offering hints of caramel, butter, and brown sugar. 12 oz. bag.

Fair Trade Rain Forest Nut®: A subtly sweet, delightful coffee with tastes of vanilla, caramel, cashew, and real slices of Brazil nuts. 12 oz. bag.

Hazelnut: A brilliant, lighter roasted coffee enhanced with the sweet, buttery rich taste of hazelnuts. 12 oz. bag.
Want to call the 36 ounces of coffee your own? I would be hard-pressed not to hoard them, but this sampler would make a great (and thrifty) holiday gift. Simply leave a comment on this post telling me your favorite hot drink and your preferred way to enjoy it. For example, if you're a coffee fan, how do you take it? How about tea -- with honey, with milk, or straight up? If hot cocoa is your hot beverage of choice, do you pile on marshmallows, or use a special family recipe?

Deadline is Wednesday, December 16, which means that you have one whole week! Want an extra entry? Twitter (feel free to use this: "Win @GreenMtnCoffee at ! @betherann") or blog (or MySpace, Facebook, etc.) the giveaway, and earn an extra opportunity each time. Be sure to comment for every additional entry you accrue, along with the link where your plug can be found. I'll randomly select a winner and post about it immediately.

Want free coffee? Get commenting! And in the meantime, why not brew yourself a homemade cup right now and dream about Christmas coffees yet to come? While you're nursing that steaming mug, swing by Chocolate-Covered Katie, because Kitchen Courage is going to be making a cameo appearance there very soon!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Wannabe Babies

I recently discovered a new healthy living blog, Chocolate-Covered Katie. I know what you're thinking, because I thought the same: Chocolate-covered? That doesn't sound like a healthy kind of blog? But you're wrong. I was wrong, too. Katie is all about nutrition and activity, but also about delicious and, well, chocolate-covered foods.

Thankfully, she manages to pack most of these chocolate-y foods with good body fuel. My favorite of her recipes are her fudge babies, which are something like a raw homemade Larabar. (And please, don't' let that word "raw" scare you away -- there are no uncooked eggs or slimy fish eyeballs in these treats, only amazing deliciousness.) I made her chocolate fudge babies first, and then tried a hybrid fudge baby using apricots and almonds instead of dates and walnuts. I don't recommend the latter, but the former is to die for. And I think that phrase is totally cheesy and ridiculous, so when I do use it, you know that I mean what I say (or write).

My most recent chocolate-covered baby experiment was a cross between Katie's chocolate fudge babies and her cashew cookie Larabar babies. The actual Larabars of that variety are my favorite hands-down, so I knew I wanted to try Katie's version. And, in the spirit of her blog, I of course needed to make it chocolate-covered.

Here's what I did. I combined cashews and pitted medjool dates in a blender (although a food processor would probably work better) along with some vanilla extract, a teeny bit of sugar free chocolate syrup (mostly because my blender couldn't handle its sticky load, and I didn't want to water the concoction down), and chocolate Amazing Grass Kidz Superfood. Katie uses regular cocoa powder in her recipes, but I wanted to make this already nutritious treat even more so. My next batch will incorporate protein powder instead of the Amazing Grass.

The result? Let me just say that I drooled all over myself at the finished product. Okay, perhaps that's not quite accurate. But my taste buds certainly sang, and the heavens may have opened and smiled down upon this raw macaroon-ish delicacy. Even the Best Husband Ever declared them to be "not bad," and we all know how much he likes my healthy treats.

What are you waiting for? Are you still reading? Quick, commit this simple recipe to memory, then log off the computer and make a batch. Or two. Or three . . . .

Hybrid Fudge/Cashew Cookie Babies, a la Katie
1 and 1/3 cups medjool dates, pitted
1 cup cashews (I accidentally got salted -- from Costco, typically . . . oops -- but they worked just fine. I would, for health reasons, go for unsalted if possible.)
1 T vanilla extract
1 scoop chocolate powder of your choice (protein powder, cocoa powder, etc.)
water or other liquid to moisten very slightly as needed

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Don't be alarmed if your blender cries out in despair at this task -- it will take a while to reach the desired consistency! Scrape down the sides, mix up the blender's contents, and keep going. When the nuts are pulverized and you have an ooey gooey mixture of dates and cashews and chocolate, form the concoction into little balls or smoosh it into bar form. Refrigerate if you want them to firm up a little more, although this is not necessary.

Devour at will, and while you're at it, visit Katie and tell her about your new found infatuation -- er, healthy dessert.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

One year back

I realized this afternoon that today marks the one-year anniversary of my return from one of the adventures of a lifetime: my two week mission trip to Malaysia with 9 of the best women I know. I can't express how much I miss the country, the people, the work, the food (freshly made garlic naan bread rocks my world!) . . . but I also know that God has me here right now, and that my chilly Montana home is just as much on the front line of missions as my equatorial adventure. Still, I can't help but indulge in a few moments of happy remembering.

A view of the city.

Grocery shopping at the wet market.

Beautiful Tamil orphans.

Crumbling downtown beauty.

An all too common sight, both at home and abroad.

Flowers in front of a rather mind-boggling Hindu temple.

Awas! Monkeys ahead! And yes, this sign means what it says -- one woman in our group was jumped by a monkey trying to snatch her ice cream.

Fresh squid for sale!

The sign says, "Male Muslims are prohibited from getting the services of female masseurs. Offenders will be prosecuted." Yep, we are not in Kansas anymore, Toto . . .

The streets of the Indian district are vibrant with music, lights, and the insanely amazing smell of cooking food. (Naan . . . !)

Some of our group, heading to the mainland.

You knew it was coming -- garlic naan with curry and random dipping sauces. How do you say "Yes, please!" in Malay? Oh right, it's . . . "Ya, tolong!" (I think.)