Monday, January 25, 2016

Our Little Snow Bunny

Winter in Wisconsin is no joke. If you haven't had the pleasure of experiencing it, just believe that my statement is true. They can be straight up brutal. Thankfully, we were able to dodge most of the cold, white stuff on our trips across the border this past winter.

The three of us were able to drive up to my parents' house to celebrate Christmas recently, and Evie was able to experience snow for the first time! Thankfully, Uncle Sam (my brother, not America) had the foresight to buy her a cute, little snow suit!

Naturally, pictures needed to be taken. Unfortunately, she's already grown a few inches since then, so it's looking unlikely that she'll fit in it again next winter!


Monday, January 11, 2016

Recap: October thru December

*Opens eyes, shakes head*

I think I blacked out. Where am I? What day is it? It's...JANUARY?!?! It's been three months since I last posted here? Well I think we need to remedy that, shall we?

Recap Mode, ACTIVATE!

The first weekend in October marked my parents' 30th wedding anniversary, and my mom had planned a surprise renewal of vows and afterparty for my dad with lots of friends and family. Not only did this give us all a chance to get together and celebrate how awesome our parents are, but we also got to get all dressed up! Here's a picture of all of us waiting for my (blindfolded) dad to arrive via limo!


Halloween brought about our first chance to dress our little girl up as something cute and adorable. Naturally, we bought a Darth Vader mask. The mask was for me, but we bought Evie a clip-on, plush fox tail and a little fox ear headband. Karin then decked her out in a fox onesie, threw on a little face paint and voila! The cutest fox your eyes have ever beheld!

Thanksgiving this year was spent in Wisconsin with my family, and I always love the opportunity to go to church with them and show off Evie to the people I grew up with (family friends, grade school teachers, etc). Hey, I'm a proud papa, I can flaunt my baby whenever I want to! Here's Evie with my mom, dad and brother Sam after church on Thanksgiving morning. All smiles! (Until later that day when Karin and I both got hit in the face with the flu...)


Evie also got to sport her Green Bay Packers cheerleading outfit for the game that night! I've long since forgot about what happened during that game (no need to remind me), but what was important is that Evie wears the heck out of some green and gold! Hopefully she'll be getting some more apparel later this year! (hint, hint!)


We were ecstatic for Evie's first Christmas, and looking forward to creating our own traditions that will later become staples in our family's book of memories. One thing we did for the first time this year was head downtown to the Walnut Room for dinner with Karin's parents. We had a delicious dinner, Evie met a fairy that sprinkled her with fairy dust glitter and probably put some kind of weird Christmas curse on her (but had a really cool wand Evie wouldn't let go of), and looked at all the decorated windows of Macy's.
Also, since the line was WAY too long to get Evie's picture taken with Santa, we improvised and got her picture taken with Snoopy!

Wow, how these months are flying by! Hopefully it's not another three months before you get another update!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Whole30 Update - We Made It! You Can Too!

Yesterday evening marked the last night of our Whole30 experiment. It had its ups and downs, but overall I think it went really well - I managed to lose 14 pounds! Here are some of the points / tips that we took away from the last month that you can use to make sure you stay on track while tackling Whole30 and find success.


You need to be prepared.

The reason most of us cave to the sultry temptations of fast food is because we "don't have time" to make a meal at home or are "in a rush" as we zip around from one commitment to another. Our lives have transformed into a "Go! Go! Go!" routine that leave little time for crucial things like preparing our own food.

This is one of the many areas where my wife took the baton. She made sure to prepare a week's worth of breakfast foods on Mondays when she had the day off of work. I would have severely struggled with this plan if I wasn't able to just grab some of the pre-made egg muffins and sweet potato/apple hash every morning. If all I had was a banana, my usual cravings would have reared their ugly heads much earlier in the day making it really hard for me to make it through the work day without grabbing sugary snacks from the pantry.

Have a partner in crime.

In the past, I've tried to tackle weight loss programs or diet plans on my own. If they would have gone well, I wouldn't have the need to try Whole30 this past month. But doing this alongside Karin made all the difference. Having someone where to keep you accountable and go through the same struggles helps you keep moving forward from days one to thirty.

Make dinner leftovers into next day lunches

To cut down on having to make SO many meals, Karin made a point of making large dinners every night that could then be turned into leftovers for the next day. Again, easy to grab at 5:30 in the morning as I toss together my lunch to take to work.

Become best friends with your grill

My landlord couldn't have had better timing when he offered us a large, free, propane grill for our back "patio." When you fire up the grill as much as we did this past month, a charcoal grill just takes too long - especially when I don't get home from work until 6 or later sometimes. It made it easy to grill everything! I made chicken, pork chops, steaks, corn on the cob, zucchini and Italian sausage! And I will continue to use the grill well into the fall and winter. It just tastes so good!


Stick with the same 4-5 meals

To avoid killing yourself trying to always make a new and different meal, it's a great idea to find a handful of items that you enjoy and keep making them. Over the course of our 30 days, while it took some trial and error to find the meals that worked, Karin found some solid meals that we utilized many times. Even though most of them just contained a meat with a side of veggies, a handful of them were pretty creative! Check past blog posts to see some of the meals we had!

Get rid of tempting food
If you're like me, you find it extremely hard to eat healthy if there is something unhealthy in the house. If I know there are cookies in the pantry or ice cream bars in the freezer, it's a struggle to stay away. So before we started Whole30, we gave away a ton of our snacks and non-Whole30 foods to my brother in-law who lives in the same building as us. Problem solved! A win-win for everyone!

Eat before parties

During Whole30, the main thing that made me regret doing the plan was when we attended family / group parties. These were the types of functions where they were serving pizza, soda, chips or even meat/veggies marinated in the wrong mix of spices/oils. The two things that come to mind were my fantasy football draft and our family Labor Day get together.

To combat that (and hopefully curb fits of rage), we tried to eat something BEFORE going to these parties. In the case of the draft, I brought my own Italian sausage to eat so I stayed away from all the other snacks that were set out.

Let me know if you've had success with Whole30 in the past. And if so, what tools you utilized to stick with it!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Race Recap: Super Bears Shuffle 5k - September 10, 2015

 Apparently I've decided to conduct further research and experimentation on what happens when a guy my size runs a 5k after training approximately zero times for it. Round two of the research happened last night at Soldier Field in Chicago for the Super Bears Shuffle 5k.


Let me preface this by saying that I am a HUGE Green Bay Packers fan. I only paid money to do this race because I lost a bet to my brother in-law (a Bears fan). In fact, I'm pretty sure the Bears shirt we got was slightly burning my skin over the duration of the evening... Not really. Maybe kind of.

Like any race held near Soldier Field, parking cost much more than one would want to pay, but I guess it comes with the territory. We walked out of the parking garage to this scene:


As you can see, there was orange and blue everywhere. Ick. We arrived MUCH too early, so we decided to walk around the perimeter of Soldier Field. I wasn't terribly excited about that decision since I wanted to be on my feet as little as possible leading up to the race, but we did it anyway. During our pre-race walk, I actually ran into two, brave souls decked out in full-on Packers gear. I gave them a huge "Go Pack!" and explained that I lost a bet, but truly was a Packers fan. They gave me a high five and said they were sorry I was in my predicament. I'm sure they caught an ample amount of crap throughout the night. I hope they made it out unscathed.

As you can see, they had huge "BEAR DOWN" letters displayed on the grounds, but the rest of the area wasn't too impressive. They had an inflatable game where you could kick field goals, a DJ playing music, a selfie station (isn't that what your iPhone is for?) and a concession truck for 'beverages.' The Bears drumline was a nice touch. I didn't see Nick Cannon though...

As we all lined up for the race, the racers got a quick pep talk from local FOX sportscaster Lou Canellis. The emcee asked him why the Bears were going to beat the Packers this weekend, and he - no lie - dodged the question and talked about how the team would grow over the next, few years under their new head coach. I had a nice chuckle at that one. As the starting horn sounded, a Bears hype video appeared on a screen set up by the start line, and fireworks shot off as the runners headed out onto the course. But I was already immersed in my Dave Matthews Band playlist by that point.


Going into this race, I decided that I wasn't going to start off by seeing how far I could run without stopping. That's what I did during my last 5k and it came back to bite me. This time around, I decided to voluntarily alternate between running and walking, so I could make sure there was some left in the tank for a strong finish.

Along the route, there were activities set up for the runners that mimicked NFL practice drills. You could run through a gauntlet of tackling dummies, high-step through a row of tires or do some cone drills. They also had a handful of large banners set up for you to take selfies with some of the Bears players. Unsurprisingly, Jay Cutler was not one of the banners featured.

In the end, my strategy paid off and I was able to "sprint" the last leg of the race to finish three and a half minutes better than my time back in late-July! Since I trained just as much as the last one, I'm thinking that whatever weight I've lost so far during Whole30 may be to thank for getting me to the finish line faster. Or maybe the fact that I just wanted to get away from all the Bears fans A.S.A.P.  Here's my time, I managed to finish 2,001st out of 2,600 or so.

In the end, I got another medal to add to my collection, but I never plan on wearing the Bears shirt again. In related news, congrats to my wife in receiving a new shirt! Let me just wash it first... All in all, it was a fun night with my brother in-law, and I'm glad the only photo he got of me was a blurry one. Go Pack Go!

Did you participate in this race too? What'd you think? Which 5k should I look into doing next?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Whole30 - Day 22 - The End is In Sight!

If there's one word that I could use to describe our Whole30 experience recently, it would be "persistence" or "stick-to-it-iveness." I know that's two, but they more or less mean the same thing. Either way, the essence of Whole30 is gutting it out - at least for someone like me who loves him some carbs and desserts.

But the end is in sight! Our last day of Whole30 will be next Tuesday the 15th. And while we may celebrate by indulging on something we've had to stay away from for a month, we will be continuing to eat healthy after that! But I'll have more on our future plans next week.

Since my last report, Karin has continued to cook up some incredible meals (no surprise there), and we've managed to endure some social functions without caving and cheating on the plan. At the beginning of the month I had to withstand the temptation of donuts and bagels in the break room to celebrate all the September birthdays at work, and yesterday we had a family Labor Day get-together which featured some tasty looking pies and other desserts! Here are some of our recent meals:

Coconut-crusted drumsticks with an apple romaine salad
Broccoli (and other veggies) Beef
I even chipped in and grilled some tasty Italian sausages!
Sweet potato, pepper and onion hash w/ eggs and bacon

Last week, Karin and I also had our 4th wedding anniversary. And to celebrate, we took a trip to a Brazilian steakhouse! You know, the place where you get served meat on huge skewers like kings and queens? It was something we were VERY much looking forward to. Not only was it a great way to enjoy our four year anniversary, it was also the perfect way to celebrate the (near) end of Whole 30. We've done an amazing job so far, so we deserved this treat!


Only one week left. Then the results will be tallied! I cannot wait! Do we look skinnier yet? :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Evie's First Vacation

Since 2012, Karin and I have been taking a week-long trip to Northern Wisconsin each summer with a group of families from our church. We spend the week at Silver Birch Ranch, a summer camp that Karin grew up going to and working at. This year we finally got to make the trip a family vacation and bring Evie! Both sets of grandparents were able to make the trip as well, as well as much of Karin's extended family.

Aside from a couple abbreviated trips to Oostburg, Wisconsin to visit my parents, Evie has never really had an extended trip away from home and her comfy crib. So this trip would be an interesting experiment to see how all of us would handle it!

But she quickly put our worries to rest when she slept great the first night at camp. And as the week went on, and her exposure to the fresh air increased, she slept more and more each night. She also wasn't too shy to fall asleep on grandma's (or anyone's) shoulder during the day.

Throughout the week, Evie was exposed to many new things that she doesn't have available to her in the suburbs of Chicago. She dipped her feet in a lake, got to spend 12 hours a day outdoors looking at the trees / sky / birds, and she got to spend an entire weekend with both sets of grandparents! Here are some pictures from her week "up north."   
All ready for an afternoon at the beach!
In awe of all the huge trees
All tuckered out by the middle of the week.

Silver Birch Ranch is gorgeous. It's nestled up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin and sits on the edge of quaint, little Sawyer Lake. The 'campus' not only has dozens of cabins to stay in, but also a dining hall, a gymnasium, chapel, a stable with horses and petting zoo, a rock climbing wall, a paintball course, and a building that contains a gift shop, lounge area, snack shop and coffee bar. There's also a beachfront area with kayaks, canoes, paddleboats and a swimming area. As you can probably now tell, this place is stocked - and I haven't even gotten into everything that's there!

While Evie seemed to have a good time there this summer, she's going to enjoy it more and more each year we go back there. I already can't wait to take her back there next summer when she's one! It's these types of family traditions that I'm looking forward to establishing moving forward. What are some of your family traditions?
At breakfast with Grandma & Grandpa Henley, and Uncle Eric!

Time with Grandma & Grandpa Huenink too!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Week One - The Whole30 Experiment

"The second week was bad. Day 10 was the worst for me." *Gulp*

This is a direct quote from a friend who has previous done Whole30. Welp, today marks the start of Week 2 of our Whole30 experiment, and I think I've only had one moment (so far) where I've gotten upset and annoyed with the restrictiveness of the plan. Let the sharing commence.

You see, Chipotle serves as a beacon of warm, burrito goodness that safely ushers consumers to the shores of tastiness. So when the Whole30 plan said that we could have a cheat day at Chipotle, my heart skipped a beat. But when I also found out that I could "cheat" by only eating their carnitas, salsa and lettuce, I died a little inside. I was at least hoping for the steak - I knew the rice and cheese wasn't a possibility. *Sigh*

Another challenge has actually just arrived today at work. As I previously mentioned, the office I work in offers free, all-you-can-eat chips, soda and other snacks in the closet next to the kitchen. Until today, its rations had been dwindling to the point where I had no issue walking past it - even if I took a glance inside. But when I saw the Peapod delivery guy mosey into our kitchen this morning with a full load of inventory, a single tear came down my cheek. Here's what is looming on the other side of the office...
I'm sure the barrage of chips will be coming tomorrow...
But those items aside, Karin and I have been KILLING it since Day 1. I can't talk enough about how incredible her meals have been. What's that? You want some examples? Boom. Burgers and fries!


Karin even found a way to get me to eat mushrooms - finely dice them up and put them in a burger! She also put in apples, bacon and onions as well. They were delicious!  She also whipped up some homemade sweet potato fries and mayo dipping sauce!


We also ordered our groceries from Peapod for the first time this past weekend! (Whoa, two mentions of Peapod in one post? I must want some free stuff or something...) For those who don't know, Peapod is a service that will let you order your groceries online and then deliver them to your house. No joke. They have tons of food, AND decent prices!


Sure, we don't mind a family trip to the grocery store here and there on a Saturday afternoon, but if we don't have to battle the crowds, why bother? The WalMart here in Crestwood is kind of a joke at times anyway... #RealTalk.

So with Week 1 in the rear-view mirror, we're feeling confident moving forward, despite the grim warning from my friend. However, I still have to battle the temptation of stepping on the scale in the morning. Sometimes I really just want to know the scale's opinion on how well it's been going...