Christmas time is here!

Even though I only had one week off for Thanksgiving Break, and it didn’t quite feel much like a break, it was a little rough getting back into the groove of school this week. I made sure to keep my 6:00 am alarm consistent through break so I wouldn’t have my schedule thrown off for this week, but for some reason Monday and Tuesday’s wakeup call did not leave me feeling like a happy camper!

It helped that I had Sunday off to recoup after the Black Friday weekend madness. I was able to go to hot yoga that morning and enjoyed overnight apple baked french toast for brunch with Luke before we headed to the Festival of Trees.

The Festival of Trees is an event put on by Saint Alphonsus to raise money for different charities each year. Individuals, schools, and organizations will decorate trees where the trees are then auctioned off at the gala which kicks off the start of the Festival of Trees. At that point, the event is open to the public for the remainder of the week so people can admire the trees and enjoy performers during the event. Since I was a little girl, I’ve been involved with the Festival of Trees in one way or the other. I’ve decorated trees, been a judge to award the best decorated trees, played piano for many years in the lobby (one of my favorite holiday traditions), gone to the gala numerous times (once as Miss Idaho, which was a once in a lifetime experience), participated in the fashion show, volunteered as the “talking tree”, and look forward to this event every year. I was a little sad this was the first year I not only missed out on going to the gala, but also was unable to play piano in the lobby due to my schedule.

I was a little bummed out about not playing piano and not going to the gala until Luke told me no more frowney faces because we were going to be starting new traditions and were going to have a great time. Of course, he was right and we had a wonderful time walking around and admiring the creativity and thought that went into each tree. My favorite was a music box tree where the tree was placed in a giant music box and spun around like a dancer would in a jewelry box, a tree made by a local elementary school where each student wrote what they wished for Christmas, and a tree that was made up of antiques. It was incredible, and come to find out, was also designed by De (the producer of Miss Idaho aka Momma De). I finally felt as if Christmastime was here and I can hardly wait for all the holiday festivities!

After a little break, it was time to kick it in gear to get through the last few weeks of school. For my workout today I incorporated Jamie Eason’s Day 48- back and delts workout as well as an ab workout and a 30 minute cardio session. I followed it up with some tilapia and sweet potatoes brushed with cinnamon, coconut oil and agave maple nectar as I worked on homework for the afternoon. It was delicious, though the homework wasn’t quite as enjoyable. 24 more days!

I may be a little mia this week as I have two thesis papers to finish, an additional paper, and 2 presentations to prepare for in the next week. I’m going to need baby steps and deep breaths so I can get through this week! I also need to start finalizing my moving plans for New York since January will be here before I know it. Any advice on moving to New York City or places that I must go to? Being the list person I am, I’m starting to make a mini bucketlist for New York!

Hope everyone’s having a wonderful Tuesday!

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Giving thanks, 365 days a year

Happy week of Thanksgiving everyone! My post is a little later than I wanted, but working in sales during the weekend of Black Friday makes for a tiring weekend. I was delighted beyond words when I woke up at the crack of dawn Thanksgiving morning to see that we finally had a day of sunshine. My plans for the day were to take Sunni for a long run to work up an appetite for a double Thanksgiving, therefore I hoped and prayed that the chilly, grey weather we’ve had would go away and a burst of sunshine would make its way instead. As planned, I picked up Sunni and together we went for a 10 mile run around downtown Boise and the Hyde Park area. While on our run, we crossed paths with the runners from the Boise 5k Turkey Trot. Sunni, who gets very eager around people as it is, had a sudden burst of energy and desire to run along the people dressed as turkeys as he started to wag his tail and perk up. At times, I feel like I’m running with a 6-year-old as Sunni gets enthusiastic over the smallest things like a puddle of water to splash through and insists on leaping through every pile of leaves, even if there are only a couple few in the pile. Gutters full of leaves are his favorite! Our pre-run picture was a little blurry and had some crazy eyes, but it was the best I could get with Sunni’s eagerness to head out the door and run. 

I was ecstatic that my Overnight Baked Apple French Toast was a success at the Girl’s Brunch. As you know, I am a french toast fanatic so I have very high expectations when it comes to this delicious breakfast food. I myself couldn’t help but to have seconds as well as help myself to the delicious red velvet chocolate chip cupcakes and platters of fruit. Erica even gave us all champagne glasses that were tinted with colors and a little wine charm at the bottom to take home with us. She is always the sweetest and so thoughtful. We were all surprised and happy to see that our friend Megan surprised us by leaving Moscow early to make it in time for our brunch and it felt wonderful to have most of the girls back together.

After that my sister and I had our annual holiday sisters pictures together, of which sparked the typical laughing attack out of mom as the lady at JcPenny’s had us take pictures of us blowing kisses at each other, hugging one another like a high school couple, and mom’s favorite, Reba pushing/shoving me on a little kids sled. Oh JcPenny pictures, you never cease to bring in the holiday season with laughter for our family. We had to take our bathroom goofy  picture before of course.

After pictures, we decided to check out the new H&M that just came to the mall. At first I was incredibly overjoyed with all the fun and colorful assortment of different clothes as I looked to add pieces to my wardrobe for New York. That excitement quickly turned to being overwhelmed as I waited for over an hour in line for a dressing room. I ended up leaving empty handed due to the chaos and decided to come back when the excitement dies down in the next week.

Back to Thanksgiving though, I thought it would be appropriate to list the top 5 things that I’m thankful for today.

1. I’m thankful first to have such a loving and supportive family with 2 parents who are still madly in love after 23 years of marriage and a sister who is my best friend and the funniest girl I know. She also helped me with my first cheesecake making experience this morning! Not just one, but TWO apple cinnamon cheesecakes for today’s festivities. One for my house and one for Luke’s family’s Thanksgiving. I also have the best golden retriever in the world, if I haven’t made it obvious yet how much I love him and am thankful to have him in my life. He brings a smile to my face everyday and makes our runs the highlight of even my best days.

 

2. I’m thankful to have not just a few close friends but several who are all supportive, kind, hilarious, outgoing, and bring out the best in one another.

3. I’m thankful to be with the sweetest, funniest, most thoughtful, driven, handsome and supportive man I’ve ever met who makes me happy, blessed, and surprises me in one way or another every single day.

4. I’m thankful to have a life full of supportive friends and family who have encouraged me to rise up to challenges and go after what I want in life without giving up, even during the most difficult times. Because of this I have so much to be proud of, thankful for, and have an exciting future to look forward to.

5. I’m thankful to be healthy and active and have these two aspects be of high importance in my life. I’m also thankful to live in a community that supports these and gives me the opportunity to be active and make healthy choices.

It’s hard to list just 5 things that I’m thankful for this year as I feel very fortunate to be blessed with a surplus of people in my life to be thankful for.  But I think that’s one of the best things about Thanksgiving is that we can take the time to realize what we’re appreciative for. If only this day came more often during the year, we’d live in a much more appreciative and thankful society who showed it more often.

After my run with Sunni, my sister came over to help me make two Apple Cinnamon Cheesecakes. Reba has been traveling and out of town a lot lately and with her new job giving her a significant amount of hours each week, I rarely get to spend time with her. It was nice to spend the morning with her and have a couple extra hands in the kitchen. I had no idea how much time went into making cheesecake! But it was definitely worth spending the morning in the kitchen and having time with my sister finally. I tried to make it a healthier version by substituting 1 package of cream cheese for greek yogurt and tofu. Before you get a bizarre look on your face, like my sister did when we shopped for ingredients, it ended up making a great consistency and was delicious without being too sweet. A great alternative for anyone looking to treat their sweettoothe and something a little more healthy.

Apple Cinnamon Greek Cheesecake

Ingredients
Crust

1/4 brown sugar
1/2 cup graham crackers
1 cup bran flakes cereal (Raisin Bran without the raisins)
1/2 cup Smart Balance butter

Filling

1 package Neufchatel cream cheese (lower fat and more moisture than regular cream cheese)
12 oz silken firm tofu
1 cup non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt
1/3 cup Truvia sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 egg whites
1 egg
2 tbsp wheat flour
1/2 cup apple juice concentrate

Topping

3 medium tart apples, peeled and sliced (Makes a little extra but if you want to make a more decorative cheesecake you’ll want the extra)
1 tbsp Smart Balance butter
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup apple juice concentrate

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325°. While oven is preheating, use a blender or food processor to pulse cereal until crumbly. Add crackers and pulse for a little longer. Use a spoon or cup to crumble any remaining pieces that didn’t get crumbled in blender.
2. In a separate small bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together until fluffy. Gradually add graham cracker and cereal mix slowly then mix in brown sugar until well blended.
3. Spray canola oil on a 9 inch springform pan. Press crust mixture on the bottom of the pan and place on a baking sheet to bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool on a rack when done.
4. In a large bowl, blend tofu with an electric mixture until mostly smooth. It will still be a little lumpy.  Add sugar and cream cheese and blend until smooth. Then mix in eggs, apple juice, Greek yogurt, vanilla extract, and flour and blend until smooth.
5. Pour mixture onto crust and place pan back on baking sheet and into the oven for 40-50 minutes depending on oven. The edges of the cheesecake will start to crown a little and the middle will start to set. Allow cheesecake to cool for an hour and then place in fridge overnight. I didn’t have overnight to let it set so instead I set it in the freezer for about 15 minutes and then placed it in the fridge for another couple of hours.
6. To make topping, peel and slice apples and place them in a large skillet with butter over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Allow to set at room temperature (I set mine in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes do to lack of time) and then place over cheesecake.
7. In a small pan, mix cornstarch, cinnamon, and apple juice until smooth then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook and stir mixture until thickened (about one minute). Brush over apples and refrigerate for another hour.

Recipe combined from Taste of Home and That’s Fit.

Both Thanksgiving dinners were delicious and put me and Luke in a major food coma. Mom set a beautiful table and didn’t burn the marshmallows on the yams which always makes for a successful Thanksgiving! She and dad also set the nicest Thanksgiving fortune cookies for place settings that told each of us what they were thankful for about us.

I blame my food coma on mom’s homemade pumpkin pie and delicious brown sugar peaches and yams with marshmallows. Luke’s was due to his bet with his friend Pat to see who could gain the most weight from Thanksgiving. Luke won, but I don’t know what a great victory it was as we drove home with his seat reclined and grumbling about his stomach. Our first Thanksgiving with our families was wonderful though!

What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes?