Saturday, August 28, 2010

Whatever Bars

Whatever bars are easy and delicious and most likely you have all the ingredients in your house. It got its name because you can create whatever flavor combination you like. It's built on a layer of cake mix, butter and egg which you cover with a layer of cream cheese, eggs, sugar and more butter.  These bars are versatile and can be made to suit almost any flavor craving.  I made ours with a chocolate cake mix crust and added some toppings to the filling layer.  To satisfy everyone in the family, I added semi-sweet chocolate chips to 1/3, sweetened coconut on another 1/3 and left the remaining 1/3 as is.

You can choose any flavor cake mix you like for the crust as well as adding some flavors to the filling layer.  The possibilities are endless. Fruit and flavored extracts can really jazz up the gooey layer. Some variations I have tried include
Chocolate Peanut Butter: chocolate cake crust  and add 1 cup of peanut butter to the filling layer
Pumpkin:  yellow cake crust and add 1 can (15oz) of pumpkin to the filling layer along with cinnamon.

Whatever Bars
For the crust:
1 package (18.25oz) plain chocolate cake mix
1 egg
1 stick butter, melted

For the Filling:
1 8oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 stick butter, melted
3 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar (1-16oz box)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.  Combine crust ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Stir until combined. With your hand, pat into pan, evenly covering the bottom.

For the filling, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add eggs and vanilla. Add powdered sugar and mix well.  Pour filling over crust, spread to cover entire crust.

Bake for 45-50 minutes.  Cake should be browned, but you want the center to be a little jiggly.  This way it is sure to be nice and creamy.  Cool and cut into squares.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

10,000 steps / Pedometer Giveaway

On and off over the years I have worn a pedometer to keep track of my daily activity, specifically the number of steps I take from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed.  My goal is 10,000 steps a day - that's about 5 miles.  I recently started wearing it again to see how much I am moving throughout the day.  I gained some pounds this summer and am trying to tighten up my eating and my activity before my pants get too tight. For the first week, I wore it just to see what my daily routine was like. It was not good.  Here are the daily totals:

Day of the Week
Week 1
Week 2

In week 1, I only hit the 10,000 step mark 3 out of 7 days.  This could be part of my problem.  I work in an office Mon-Fri and although I don't sit all day, I surely don't move around a lot. 
The second week I vowed to make improvements.  I tried to walk to the bathrooms farthest away from my office, I park my car in the far end of the parking lot, take the stairs and try to take walking breaks every hour. Still the numbers are not where I would like them to be.
  I pulled out my copy of  The Step Diet book, it is all about how to lose weight just by counting steps.  It is full of suggestions for how to improve your numbers.

I have come home from work some days with only 3,000-4,000 steps.  Once home I do my best to rack up the steps. I empty all the trash cans in the house, take the recycling out to the garage piece by piece, go on a walk.  On days that I do not have a scheduled exercise plan (run/ride )I don't get in many steps.  I have been worried that I give myself permission to eat more and move less because I run or bike 5 times a week.  I think this is actually working against my weight goal.
Now that I am back on a regular schedule at work I have started exercising in the morning before I go to work.  It has been very motivating to already have 5,000 steps by 8 am.  I recently found a step conversion chart that is helping me to count steps for activities the pedometer can't measure, like bike riding, swimming, etc... so I will begin to include them as well.  

Steps per minute
Steps per minute
Aerobics Step
mowing lawn
Bicycling (cardio cycling)
Bicycling moderate
Circuit Training
Running (10mph)
Elliptical Jogger
Scrubbing Floors
Stair Climber
Golf (riding cart)
In Line Skating
Jumping Rope
Washing the Car

This week I have started writing down all of my exercise and food each day.  I know this works for me, I just have been lazy about keeping track of it.  Just wearing the pedometer is a reminder of my commitment.

Are you moving 10,000 steps a day?  
Here are some guidelines to help you set a goal for yourself.

Steps per day
Activity Level
Less than 5,000
Slightly Active
7,500 - 9,999
Moderately Active
12,500 or more
Very Active


To help you in your efforts to move more I am giving away a pedometer.  The deadline to enter is 11:59 pm on September 3.  The winner will be selected using and will be announced on September 4.

Here are a few ways you can enter to win, leave a separate comment for each entry.

1. Become a follower of my blog and tell me what activity gets you moving.  If you are already a follower leave me a comment telling me what activity gets you moving.        

2.  Tweet about this giveaway and give me your Twitter name. Send out this tweet:
      Win a pedometer @momentsinalife

3.  Put a link to this giveaway on your blog. 

Good Luck!

P.S. Here's where you can buy one.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Second Tri - Race Recap

Yesterday was my second triathlon.  It has been 3.5 months since my first one. Again I entered the sprint triathlon -  Half mile swim, 12 mile bike ride and 2.8 mile run.  Unlike the first time, this race was co-ed. It was held at Moss Park in Orlando, FL.  

 The good news is I improved my time!!  I dropped 13 minutes in the bike portion alone.   I attribute this to my new bike and the fact that I have actually spent a good deal of time on it.  I improved my swim time too, but I knew what it would be like swimming in open water this time.  

I wasn't too pumped about this race because I knew it would be hard, harder than I push myself in training.   I got to the race @ 6am got my body marked and set up my gear in the transition area.  

We met on the beach @ 6:45 for a pre race meeting and the first group went off at 7:00am.

I was in the second wave(yellow caps).  The guys went first.  The water in the lake was brown.  We did have thunderstorms the night before, so maybe that made it worse, but I didn't expect to see anything anyway.  Unlike my first tri, the thought of swimming in a lake with alligators was on my mind. Other racers where telling stories about alligator encounters.  I told myself that if I wasn't first or last I'm sure I didn't look any more delicious than anyone else.  I preferred the ignorance of my first race as far as this was concerned.

The water was warm and I tried to find an open space to swim. Swimming in a straight line isn't as easy as you would think.  I gave it all I had and was happy to be back on shore. We had to run down the beach and through the woods to get back in the transition area.

I  dried my feet, got my socks and shoes on, put on my helmet and sunglasses and grabbed my bike.
Once on the bike, I went to start my odometer/speedometer and it wasn't there.  I was bummed because I wanted to track my distance and speed.  I thought I may have knocked it off in the transition area.  The route was a back and forth, so I at least I would know the halfway point.  I tried to find a maintainable speed and worked on hydrating.

For the majority of the race I was neck and neck with a 55 year old man who would speed up every time I tried to go by him.  I found this annoying especially when he decided to spit when I was behind him  EEWWW!   That was the final straw for me I dug deep and kicked it up enough to pass and stay past him.  Pheww.   While riding I noticed my socks were soaking wet.  I don't know if I didn't dry off enough or if sweat was dripping down my legs.  Either way, I was hoping it wouldn't interfere with my run.

Upon entering transition I went slowly looking for my lost luck.  I racked my bike, dropped my helmet and headed out for the run.

The running path was mostly tree covered, which was great.  The surface was packed gravel and dirt with some puddles.  I usually run on cement so this was different for me.   The first mile was tough, but I found my pace and just kept putting one foot in front of the other.  I so wanted to walk, but didn't want to disappoint myself, so  I kept running.  I gave one last push at the end and finished with a time of 1:22:05.  Good enough for 4th place in my age group.(2 seconds away from 3rd, but I'm trying not to regret the time I wasted looking for my odometer. Especially since we found it in the back of the truck after the race.)

I was exhausted at the end and didn't really feel too well.  I was drinking G2 during the race and don't know if I had enough or too much.  I am not very good about properly fueling...something I need to work on.

I am happy to see improvement in my performance, and I didn't have any contact with an alligator so it was a good race.

Tomorrow starts my marathon training so today I am enjoying the day off :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Harry Potter


We are big fans of Harry Potter in our house! We have read all the books, listened to the audiobooks and have seen all the movies of course we would plan a day to Universal Studios to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  I live in Central Florida, so it didn't require serious planning, just a synchronizing of schedules.  We decided to wait until mid afternoon to go, in hopes that visitors who had been there all the day would be heading home. We tried to pick a cooler day, but there is no such thing in a Florida summer!

Before going, we knew exactly what we wanted to do in the park.  Riding the Forbidden Journey was top on the list.  When we got to the castle to get in line, we were informed the ride was broken and they could not predict when it would re-open. Not a promising start.
Enjoying a glass of butterbeer
Taking it in stride, we decided to see the sites of Hogsmeade.We shared a glass of butterbeer. You could get it regular or frozen.  We went with frozen.  It is similar to a slushy served with a topping of foamy cream.  It has an unusual taste, almost like butterscotch and it was refreshing, but not really delicious.  We visited HoneyDukes sweet shop and Zonkos.  They were selling cauldron cupcakes - cute idea, but I didn't taste one.
Cauldron Cakes

Being here felt like we had walked into the movie. They did a great job replicating all the details of  Hogwarts and Hogsmeade:  snow covered roofs,  large stone buildings, cobblestone streets, familiar shops, Hogwarts Express...

Standing in front of the Hogwart's Express
We did not make it into Olivander's, the Owlery or Ride of the Hippogriff due to long lines.  We did venture into Hogsmeade Pub so I could try the HogsHead Brew made especially for the World of Harry Potter. It was very similar to Killians Red.

Determined not to leave until I rode the Forbidden Journey, we visited the rest of the park with hope that the ride would be repaired before the park closed.  We weren't the only ones with this idea.  Once the ride was operating again, we waited in line for 2 hours.  It was an awesome ride and we had a lot of time for family bonding as we snaked through the endless roped paths.

Despite the heat and crowds I am glad I got to experience a place I had only visited in books or movies.  Even if it is make believe.

Trying on silly hats in Zonkos

Are you a fan of Harry Potter?  Do you have any favorite characters?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Odds & Ends

Just a few Odds & Ends to share...

1.  I have a new attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer  The Kitchen Aid Beater Blade is fabulous! As it mixes, it scrapes the sides and bottom of the bowl eliminating the need to hand scrape throughout the mixing.  It speeds up the whole process and when you're done it can be used as a spatula to remove the batter from the bowl.   I don't know what I did without it!
New Metro Design Beater Blade for KitchenAid 6-Quart & 5-Plus Mixers, White

2.  I am a big fan of the TV show The Biggest Loser.  I love to see the physical and mental transformation of the contestants.  I get totally sucked in every season and find it very motivating.  In fact, I totally changed my mind about running a marathon after I saw this past season's contestants run one.  I really had no desire to run 26.2 miles, especially after completing my first half-marathon in January, but something about them tackling that feat gave me the courage to try it myself,  So I am signed up to run the Disney Marathon in January.  My goal is to run the entire thing.

In other Biggest Loser news,  I just heard there is a Biggest Loser Resort in California and Utah.  The Grand Opening is September 26, 2010.  A one week stay can set you back $2,695.  If anyone decides to go, I want to hear all about it.

3. A book recommendation -  Emily Giffin's latest book Heart of the Matter was a good read.  Although this book is a departure from her first four, some of the same characters are present.  I suggest reading the  books in order as each one builds upon the next.  The books are a fun easy read. Also, Something Borrowed and Something Blue are being made into movies starring Kate Hudson, Colin Farrell, John Krasinski and Ginnifer Goodwin. If you're like me, you want to read them before you see the movie.

4.  I am taking child #2 to South Carolina this weekend to get her moved in for her senior year of college. Our cars are packed to the brim!  How can one person need so much stuff?  Let's just hope it doesn't rain. 

Are you a fan of the Biggest Loser?  Have you read any good books lately?  Do you have any kitchen tools you can't get along without?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Farmer's Market

We went to the Farmer's Market this morning.  I try to go early to beat the heat and the crowds.  It's a great way to start the weekend. I like to go there to shop and to eat.  One of my favorite things to eat there is a Turkey Bagelwich from Davis Bakery.  Today's version is a toasted sesame bagel with low fat veggie cream cheese topped with turkey, tomato, onions and cucumber slices. Yummy! The hardest part is deciding which kind of bagel to eat and whether to get a slice of pie or cake to take home too. They always have a home baked dessert option...and I am a fan of that food group!

After eating I head to the fruit and vegetable stands (the real reason I came here).  The selection is good and typically I can find whatever I am looking for.  Today we bought some SC peaches which, believe it or not, have been better this season than the GA peaches-go figure. We also got brussel sprouts, strawberries and rhubarb.  I have plans to make homemade strawberry-rhubarb jam.

Most recently I have been buying pasta from Pappardelle's stand. Last time we were here we bought the Southwest Pasta Blend.  

It is a combination of blue corn, red southwestern chile, green jalapeno and yellow maize.  Loved it so much I had to get more.  I also got some Chipotle Black Bean Tagliatelle (flat cut pasta).  Do you see a theme here?  Love Mexican flavors!!

Our last stop was to get a new plant for the front porch.  

All in all it was a great trip. The prices are great and I would much rather put money into the pocket of local merchants than big chain companies.  Want to find a farmers market in your area? 
 Click HERE.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bye-Bye Rut, Hello Groove

I think I found my groove again today.  It has been missing for some time.  It seems like I have been in a running rut all summer.  I've blamed it on the heat, my summer Green Friday schedule, lack of hydration and my new running shoes.  (It's called Green Friday because we are being kind to the earth by reducing electrical and gas usage that day, by closing the office.  I think my company does it to save money, so either way it is green.)

Things started going downhill in June -  my work schedule changed to a Green Friday schedule of  7am-5pm Monday through Thursday which sounds great, but those are some long days and squeezing runs in is tough.  I prefer to run before work, but I had to get up @ 4:00am and that is too early, plus I was dead tired by the time I got home.  I can run after work, but because of the heat, most days I am limited to treadmill running.  I prefer to run outdoors so this has not excited me either.   Lately, I have been trying to get all my workouts in on my three day weekends and taking my two days off during the week.

Because it is so hot here in Florida I was getting exercise headaches on the days of my early runs.  I did some reading about it and learned hydration could be a factor.  I never used to drink  during my 3 mile runs, but I was willing to try it to escape the pain of those headaches.  I ended up getting a hand held water bottle, but carrying something while running was an adjustment too.

Every time I went out for a run I seemed to have no pep in my step.  I thought it might be time for a new pair of shoes.  I had run over 500 miles in this pair, so that was possible.  I went to my favorite running store Track Shack and got fitted for a new pair of Saucony sneaks.   I looked faster from the moment I put them one.  I tried a different lacing technique, but it took 3 runs before I  got my lacing correct.  Needless to say I have not been excited about running lately.

So I can say today was probably the best run I've had all summer.  I did have to run on the treadmill, but my body didn't betray me on my 6 mile actually remembered that it knows how to do this running thing.  Everything was in harmony today!!

I know it's only been one good run, but it could be the start of a great streak.  I am a glass half-full kind of girl and I'm going with that.   Tomorrow is my day off, but I am psyched about the possibilities for Tuesday's workout!