Friday, January 09, 2015

Playing Catch Up! What We Did Over the Holidays

Helloooooooo blog friends. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! \(^-^)/
I know that I'm really late in saying that, but better late than never, right?
I hope that all of you are having really nice starts to the year, and that your holiday season was bright and happy.

I don't even know where to begin or how to catch up. I was lagging behind on posting mostly because we were just so busy with holiday prep and Chanukah and Christmas and New Year. Also though, I was surprised to find that I came down with the flu! It was right between Chanukah and Christmas. I couldn't believe it. I haven't had the flu or anything like it in over ten years! Actually, the most surprising thing was that even after my fever and aches subsided, I was completely worn out and weak for over a week! I've never had that feeling. The flu really does take it out of you. The good news is, I'm feeling better now. It took a while, but I'm back!

Here is just a bit of what we've been up to recently in pictures..........

I have Chanukah decorations and Christmas decorations. I grew up celebrating Christmas when I was a baby, then Chanukah until I was about five or six, and then Christmas. Don't ask. I don't even know. My parents are both half Jewish, half Catholic and Protestant, but have never been religious. So I think we were just trying it all out. Some people will feel that it is wrong that I decorate for a holiday that I don't religiously celebrate, but I still love Christmas time and the peacefulness and stillness and beautiful lights, so I put my decorations up. Mostly to celebrate  a time of joy and unity.

And I also make things fun and festive for Chanukah with dreidels and gelt and menorahs and other decorations.  But, in a nutshell, I'm bummed because I mostly forgot to take photos of my decorations this year! I'm so sad. I take pictures every year! I've been far removed from my regular rhythm and schedule these days. I'll blog about it soon. 

Willow enjoyed the warm glow of this small topiary/tree. My Mom gave me two matching topiaries from her front door years ago. I turned one into an indoor "holiday" tree with fun ornaments that Noah and I chose, and the other I decorated with simple bulbs and lights for sitting outdoors on our back deck!

And sleepy Josie, resting by the twinkling lights. :)

I just can't even believe that I forgot to take outdoor photos of our decorations this year. This is the only picture that I could find. Jon and I put A LOT of work into getting the fresh garland, wrapping lights and stringing bulbs and putting it all up. I wish I had remembered. And this year, the most fun part...... I found a vintage looking, plastic Santa 1/2-off at a garden shop, that we weighted down with bricks and perched on our front porch roof! :)

So, it looked like a 3-foot Santa was waving from our roof! Lots of people told me they liked him. The reason that I decorate all of the time, for the holidays and even for the different seasons, is because I just want to spread smiles and happy feelings. I know that my house is in a very visible place. More so than homes in a neighborhood. During rush hour, our street is quite busy, it is a cut-through loop around town, so we get a lot of traffic, and I just want to make commuters smile, especially if they've had a hard day. Also, the children at the nursery school right down the street seem to love the ever-changing decorations, and the church goers right across the street always tell me they enjoy them too. And people who regularly walk by. my own, little, tiny way, this is how I do my part to spread some cheer. :)

Also, look how big Josie is! She was 16.5lbs. at the vet today!

I am stressed about what is the safest and best way to drive Josie in the car when I have to. I'd like to find a good set-up so I can take her with me to pick up Noah and on other small errands where she can accompany me. The only thing is, she becomes carsick and often....well.....throws up! Poor Josie. The vet said she might out grow it. Here is a car seat and harness combo that I tried. At first she liked it. After a few rides she was trying to climb out, and then she was carsick again. I still think it's a nice product though! It's the Solvit Tagalong Pet Booster Seat in size XL. It was very easy to set up and install. I paired the booster with their Deluxe Car Safety Harness that clips into the booster seat with two clips.

But, maybe the point is moot now because last week I got a new car! \(^-^)/
My lease is up on the Mini and it was time to try something new. I'm not sure how much I want to risk puppy vomit on the new seats at the moment. I don't think Josie wants to take the risk either. ;)
This is a convertible. Although I'm thoroughly enjoying our new, gorgeous snow, Noah and I are also super excited to one day, hopefully soon, put the top down!

Noah was off from school for over two weeks. A lot of hanging out with puppies went on.

Hanging out with tired from playing puppies.

Tired out from playing kids and puppies.

Apparently REALLY tired kids and puppies.

I feel like I've mentioned this before on the blog, but I found THIS free, cute crochet pattern for a Santa drink coaster. He was quick to make and lots of fun! I just made a loop for it, made two, and hung them in my front windows downstairs! :)

When I wasn't sick from the flu, Josie and I did a lot of walking. 
Like mother, like daughter.........

Here is Chanukah! Oh I am painfully guilty of not taking enough pictures of Chanukah this year. I'm really upset at myself for this. It's just that I started feeling sick around the third night and spent the rest of Chanukah on the couch or in bed. Noah loved when we lit the candles. He enjoyed singing, opening his gifts and playing with the dreidels and gelt. We even had a latke with applesauce night and blintzes too. Yum! Yum!

Last year we made cookies for Santa. Noah really wanted to do it again. I wish so much that I wasn't sick on this day. Instead of helping, I just watched and.....then laid on the couch`. It was still fun though.

And since it was Christmas Eve, I was able to finally give Noah his Christmas Eve box! This year it included some fleece, penguin footie pajamas, a stuffed animal, a Charlie Brown Christmas DVD, popcorn, movie candy and hot chocolate to make. It was great.

Oh, and on top of everything, my Mom's dog Lucy, who is Josie's best friend, she came over to play for an hour or so on this day. But, Lucy was scared to be away from her home, so she mostly just panted the whole time and ran around. We have dubbed Josie and Lucy and their friendship as = "Jucy."

Noah wanted to make Santa an ornament and letter, which I thought was sweet.

And here are his finished cookies! 

And everything, new penguin pajamas included, on Christmas Eve. Ready for Santa!

Here's after Santa came. Because we celebrate Chanukah, we only give Noah a few smallish gifts from Santa and one from us. Then, we go to my parents' house where Noah receives more Christmas gifts. Jon snuck downstairs late on Christmas Eve and ate the cookies that Noah left, drank the milk and left a letter in pencil on brown packaging paper. I was sure to wrap the "Santa" gifts in the same, nondescript packaging paper and then I added on scraps of ribbon and accessories that Noah has never seen and look magic! Like the silver stars below!

Noah gave Jon and I, what I think is the best gift ever! A poem that he wrote about our family. I 
 teared up when he read it to us.

This was him opening the box from our gift. It was a Hot Wheels Street Hawk. You guys, this toy is actually REALLY cool! It goes from being an RC car, to driving very fast and then......taking off into the sky! It becomes an airplane! Watch below:

After Christmas things were calmer. Between Christmas and New Years I just tried to get better. One evening we took a short walk. The lights were pretty and the weather was unbelievably mild!

When I was feeling good enough to really venture back into the world, we went for bunch at a delicious place called "Imperial." They make the best artisan, fresh, veggie tacos I have ever tasted. The menu is really unique. If you're in Detroit, you should check it out!

Oh my gosh, I just realized that I don't have pictures from New Years either! Oh geez. Well, for New Years we were invited to dinner with my parents and my 92 year old Grandmother. We went to a lovely restaurant called "The Stand."  I had a very refreshing beet salad and the best truffled risotto.

Then we took Josie to my parents' house to run with their dogs for a while, and after that I headed home. I fell asleep around 9:30, but luckily, Jon woke me up to see the ball drop. Then, somebody was setting off huge fireworks in the neighborhood down the hill, so it was pretty to watch those from our window. 

This week I spent a few days making some front window decorations for the month of January. I just went with a snowman theme, as I already have a door decoration that's a snowman holding a sign that says: "Let It Snow!" Which, I agree with. Let's have some snow now! Christmas was too green and warm outside. I need at least a LITTLE wintry weather before spring. Then I will appreciate spring more!

Here is Josie the other night. She is such a sweet girl. Over the holiday, one night after she awoke around 1:00am and 3:00am crying in her cage, we decided to just let her sleep on the end of Noah's bed and see if that helped. And Josie almost always sleeps through the night AND she has stopped getting up at 5:45am!!!! HOORAY!!!! This is a HUGE difference. We are all getting more sleep now. :)

My Mom was suggesting for a while that it was time to take Josie to the groomer, just so she can start getting used to it. We give her baths at home often, she's very good about them. But, I don't know how to trim her hair. So, I agreed to take Josie to the groomer. My Mom set an appointment for Josie and her dogs Buddy and Lucy, so they could all go together and keep each other company. I was a really nervous for Josie. I worried she would be scared. I even nearly cried at the thought of leaving her. But of course, it was TOTALLY fine, and she had no problems and I was fine too. 

And, from the looks of it, with that smile on her face, she had a good time! 
Josie's hair is so soft now and the short length is good for the snow. They did a great job! It's just personal preference, but I love the longer, shaggy "Benji" look that she had before, but I'm sure we'll visit the "Pet Parlor" again sometime soon.

So, for Christmas my Mom gave me a great cookbook. It's a Cooking With Trader Joe's cookbook, the vegetarian version. Sometimes I have to go to three different grocery stores to find everything on my list, but my goal is to only have to shop one! Trader Joe's is my favorite, so this cookbook was super exciting to me.

Anyway, I'm really enjoying this cookbook and just wanted to share. So far I've made some Roasted Red Pepper and Mozzarella sandwiches which were easy and great. We also had the simplest but most flavorful pasta with sun dried tomatoes, olives and pesto! The picture below is the Spicy Szechuan Tofu. Think of it as veggie Ma Po Tofu. This was DELICIOUS and even Noah ate it! I served this dish with some white rice, a veggie stir--fry and some Asian inspired broccoli slaw.

Oh and........Chocolate Truffle Pie! This pie was sooooo good and super quick to make. The crust was made from Joe Joe's which are the Trader Joe's version of Oreos. The filling is just melted semi-sweet chocolate chips and coconut milk cream. It's amazing. 

Next I tried making an Eggplant Parmesan and a warm goat cheese salad. Everything was great! :)

Tonight will be a simple harvest grains veggie soup, some arugula with toasted pine nuts and Parmesan salad, and little grilled cheeses. We have a Trader Joe's truffled Brie to use up. Also, I've made the cookbook's blueberry and peach cobbler for desert!

THEN.....I go on a diet for the rest of my life. 

Speaking of. Ok, here is my exercise update. I'm really getting into something fun and wanted to tell you about it. Here is a very deceptive picture taken post-exercise the other night. My arm is much more fluffy than thist in real life, but look at that definition! Actually, it's just a line, but I pretend it's definition.

But any who, I have been exercising almost every single day since August. And before that, I was trying to at least exercise a little most days for the year prior. My theory is, if I just try to get at least 15-20 minutes a day of weight resistance/cardio exercise, plus a walk in, I'm good to go and I won't give up. I have 15 minutes to spare and time to walk. This amount is something that I can stick with.

I wrote earlier in the year about the pilates DVD that I purchased and have really enjoyed. It's called "Element: Pilates Weight Loss for Beginners." I like the 20 minutes "Cardio Pilates" workout. It's a lot of core work.  Usually these days though, I have been doing a mixture of POP Pilates videos which are FREE on YouTube! Have you seen them? I LOVE the creator and instructor Cassey Ho. She's the best! So sweet and super motivating. I just mix and match her different videos, and there are a ton of them. Many are just five minutes long, working a specific areas of the body. Other video are much longer and offer a full body workout. Here are the two that I did last night. I can DEFINITELY feel it in my abs and legs today.


Sometimes I'll add in additional exercises of my choice or pair POP Pilates with my DVD. I just try to mix it up and keep things fun!

Ok, but here is the semi-frustrating/confusing part. Anybody know what's going on?
So, I have been exercising for a year and a half and trying not to eat once dinner is over. I don't weigh myself at home because honestly, I realized that I scrutinized that number on the scale too much. If I gained a pound, I felt defeated and would feel like giving up. I decided to go by how my clothes fit instead, what my energy and strength is like.

I went to the doctor's this week for my yearly physical. On the way out, they hand you a checkout sheet/receipt and I saw my weight. I can't believe that I've only lost about 10lbs. because I'm now fitting back into jeans that I bought quite a few years ago when I weighed 10lbs. lighter than I do now. 

So, how am I fitting into these jeans? I bought them when I lost 20lbs. on Weight Watchers. My only guess is, is that I lost some body fat, but gained muscle. Can that be right? That I just toned up and gained muscle? I suppose so...... I've been doing ab exercises and leg exercises almost every single day for five months. I've never felt this strong in my life, it's pretty cool!

So, I guess the number on the scale doesn't matter. I'm just glad that I can wear my old jeans again, and more so, that I can plank easily and feel strong and have fun while doing it! \(^-^)/

And that my friends is the scoop!

Love you lots. Back soon!
Lauren :)


Sarah said...

That was a great recap of your holiday season! I'm always amazed at how adept you are at blog writing. :) Exercise is amazing! I ran 3 half marathons (13.1 miles) last year and this year I've picked back up on the weight lifting. :) I'll have to share some photos of my "definition" on my blog sometime. Hahaha. Glad you had a lovely holiday season and I think it's great that you celebrate all kinds of ways! Sarah :)

Lauren said...

Hi Sarah!!!!! \(^-^)/

Thanks so much for your sweet comment. WOW!!!! THREE half marathons! That is AMAZING! I'm so in awe. I appreciate your encouragement and I think your comment is really inspiring. :)

I hope you're having a fantastic weekend!

Loulou said...

Hello Dear Person! How I've enjoyed this catch-up post. So much going on in your world. And your cheerful outlook is truthfully infectious.

Josie and Noah are both so darling. They must just fill your heart with so much love.

Thanks for the info on the Pilates videos. I'll be trying them out for sure!


Lauren said...

Oh so sweet Loulou. \('-')/ Thank you! :)

A very Happy (belated) New Year to you and Nick and Eddie!!!
Thank you for stopping by and saying "Hello", you're the best! :)
xoxoxoxoox <3

Janet said...

I love reading about people's holiday traditions! The note & gifts from Santa Claus to your son are just precious! My husband and I are trying for a baby & I do dream of one day being able to do something similar for a little one of my own.

Unknown said...

And a belated Happy New Year to you too Lauren,

Nice to read that a) all of the holidays you celebrated were joyful and pleasant in spite of feeling unwell, b) that you're back in the pink now that your flu bug has left the building, c) Josie has truly settled into her loving home and feeling quite a part of it with her family and with even the furry ones (no, I am not talking about the bearded wonder Jon. I mean Hector and Willow although it's plain to see that Josie adores Jon, so maybe it is his fur (Oops, maybe that's going a bit too far, but from his photos your man looks like he's got a sense of humor so I'm thinking he'll have a wee chuckle over the comment)) and d) that you're embracing the frigid Michigan winter with snow snoveling, window decorating and nature reserve hiking, because after all what else should one do in a northern climate other than make the most of it?

And it would appear that you never have to make a New Year's Resolution to stay fit and eat healthy like the rest of us do, as you live it every day. Wow! What a woman!

Nice to read your two most recent "catch up on the news blogs" and to know that you're all doing just fine. Keep warm, stay well and don't let the turkeys get you down.

Your blog fan Christine from Oakville, Ontario

Lauren said...

\(^-^)/ Hi Janet!!! <3

Thank you for writing. I'm sooooooooooo glad that Noah still believes in Santa Claus. I'll be sad when he doesn't. The "magic" of Christmas is just so much fun! :)

I know that one day soon you'll have your own little one to have traditions like this with. I'm sending you wishes for many many years of Santa with your family one day. <3

Thanks again!!!
Lauren :)

Lauren said...

\(^-^)/ Christine! Christine! Christine! \(^-^)/

HA!!! Hahahaha. :)
I can't tell you what a laugh and chuckle that I got out of your most recent comment. You are ALWAYS making me laugh out loud with your positive comments that always have the cutest, most funny twist. THANK YOU for my morning laugh! I LOVED
"the flu bug has left the building!" And no, "bearded wonder" is not going too far. We love to laugh in our house and tell jokes, so it's fantastic! :)

As always, in addition to making me laugh, your encouraging just really touches me. I'm sending you a BIG hug my sweet friend!!!
(>'-')>>>>>>HUGS to Oakville!!!!!

I hope that you and your family are staying WARM today and that, since I think we share the same weather, you did not have to shovel TOO much. (At least if you don't love shoveling. I am told I am in the shovel loving minority.) :)

Oh! Although , our last snow, two days ago, that took me an hour to shovel due to the amount and heaviness of the snow, so then I wasn't loving it as much as the usual 1/2-hour shovel. ;)

Well, I must scoot!

So much love to you my friend. Thanks for your hilarious and creative comment!!!