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Friday, March 30, 2012

The BEST Triple Chocolate Muffins!

I have an addiction... to chocolate. Triple Chocolate muffins are at the top of my "favorite foods" list. Stater Bros has some seriously amazing chocolate muffins. I don't want to even think about how many calories and grams of fat are in each of those!

I found a great recipe, compliments of Pinterest!

Here's the link to the Original Recipe: Triple Chocolate Chunk Muffins

I was skeptical at first because there was no flour etc. Let me tell you... these muffins did NOT dissapoint.

Here's the recipe with my (slight) modifications:
1 3/4 c oats

3 egg whites
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup vanilla fat free Greek Yogurt
1/2 tsp cream of tartar (or 1-1/2 Tbsp. vinegar)
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup hot water
1/2 C Sugar (original recipe calls for sugar substitute. I'm not a fan of those plus didn't have it on hand. I will probably reduce this to about 1/3 C next time)
•1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or use white chocolate or peanut butter chips!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with foil cupcake liners, or spray muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a blender, (or food processor), mix all of the ingredients together, except for the chocolate chips. Blend until oats are ground and mixture is smooth. *Next time I think I will blend the dry ingredients more before adding wet ingredients*

Pour batter into each cupcake liner (mine filled about 20 liners).

Place muffins tins in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove muffins from the oven (but don’t shut oven off), and distribute chocolate chips on top of each muffin.

Place the muffins back into the oven and bake for an additional 2-5 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. *Note, you could skip this step by putting all of the chips in the batter, and baking the muffins for 12-15 min straight, but this method gives the muffins the traditional ‘VitaTop Muffin’ look with the chocolate chips on top!

Cool muffins before removing from pan. ENJOY!!!

Servings: 20-24 Smaller Muffins

58 Calories Per Muffin

The original recipe says to put half of the chocolate chips in the batter then bake for a bit then top with remaining chocolate chips and bake the final 5 minutes. I just chose to put them all on the top after the forst 10 minutes in the oven.
This is such a yummy, easy and healthy snack when you're on the go or for the kids!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

April Challenges!

How in the world is March almost over? I'm not quite sure where it went.

The planner in me is already mapping out the month of April. My biggest focus lately is my 50/50 Plan and training for the "Rock N Roll" Half Marathon.

This morning I stumbled upon this blog. It was so encouraging and a great reminder of Who needs to come first instead of what comes first. By shifting my focus more on God, I will be renewed in my mind and in my body. By God's strength, I will achieve my goals for April and meet the challenges I am about to lay out.

If you're wanting to lose weight, get in shape, continue to lose weight, maintain  your weight, eat healthier or just read something motivational and humorous, I encourage you to check out The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans blog.

So who is up for a little challenge? I know I am!

#1: Remain Focused: God, Calorie Counting, Fitness... in that order.

#2 : Abs in April. On the shrinking jeans blog they had challenges in February and March that worked your abs. Because I am late to the party, I decided to do the challenge in April instead. I know this says March... just go with it.
#3 Kick Ass in April. This is the actual April Challenge on Shrinking jeans:
*If the pictures don't enlarge so you can read the text, simply follow the link. They also have tabs to print the challenges from the link.

You don't have to do both physical challenges like I am but commit to one or the other. They take less than 5 minutes a day. To keep track of what I need to do daily, I have written each workout on my dry erase calendar that hangs in the kitchen.

So... who is in? Commit to it. Let me know about it and let your other friends/family know about it. Share the links on your blog and challenge others to do it. Give it a whirl and see what happens.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Delicious Home Made Iced Coffee

For those coffee loving, Starbucks addicted, caffeine addicts... this recipe is for you (and me!) First of all, it is super easy. Second, it will save you money. Lastly, it is delicious!

I first saw the recipe on Pinterest. I will have to look for the link again. Oddly enough, this process was just on the Pioneer Woman's cooking show this past Saturday. Slightly different than how I did it but I am sure it is just as good.

Here's what you need for the coffee concentrate:
1 Pound Ground Coffee of your Choice (I used Starbucks Dark Espresso Roast)
1 gallon water
1 large Bowl
Coffee Filters or cheese cloth

1) Dump the pound of ground coffee into the large bowl.
2) Pour the full gallon of water into the bowl with the coffee ground and give it a little stir just to make sure all of the coffee is saturated.
3) Cover and let sit 12-24 hours
4) When the "brewing" time is up, grab a pitcher or something you can straing the coffee concentrate into.
5) Place the coffee filter or cheese cloth in a fine mesh strainer and slowly pour or laddle coffee into the the filters.
It sounds like a long process but it really isn't. The straining only took me about 20-30 minutes. It made approx 3/4 of a gallon. It will last a month in your refrigerator.

I tried out a couple "recipes" for the iced coffee.

First one:
6oz coffee concentrate
2 oz milk
2tbsp chocolate syrup
2tbsp sweetened condensed milk
I blended this one in the blender. I need to tweak the ice vs liquid ratio to make it a little thicker but it tasted great


4oz coffee concentrate
3oz milk
2oz hazelnut coffee creamer
I didn't blend this one, Just stirred it with a spoon.

I love this recipe because it gives you the opportunity to cut down on the calories by using fat free milk and fat free coffee creamer or sugar free coffee creamer. You can also save a lot of money. The average Grande sized Starbucks drink is about $4.35. I figured the cost of my supplies for the coffee concentrate, sweetended condensed milk, and coffee filters(I didn't even use the whole package. just a few of them) and it came out to about $16. This recipe made about 96 ounces of concentrate. You will use 4-6 ounces of concentrate per serving. That's 16 servings if using 6 ounces and 24 servings if you use 4 ounces. You're looking about about $1.00-$2.00 per serving once you include the added milk, coffee creamer, chocolate syrup or whatever else you use. Not bad!

It also saves you from using the gas money to get to starbucks, plus the time. And if you're feeling lazy... you have iced coffee right at your fingertips all summer!

A Sleep over of Sorts

One of the only things I had planned during my vacation was to have my niece, Peyton, over for a sleep over. I was excited. Probably just as excited and a certain blonde 4 year old.

I had plans. BIG plans for us! I was going to buy the movie "Hop". Have you seen it? It came out in theaters last Easter. Such a cute movie. Unfortunately, it didn't get released on DVD until 2 days after the sleep over. *sigh* oh well.

After I picked Peyton up, we went to the store to get toppings for our homemade pizzas, rent a movie and pick out what we wanted for dessert. She reaaalllyyy wanted to see Happy Feet 2 so of course we got that.

There's a duck pond close to my apartments so the kids always ask if we can feed the ducks. This time I was ready for the question. The minute we walked in my door, Peyton was asking if we could feed the ducks. Along the way we met a super sweet cat that was hanging around near the duck pond. Peyton was hoping it would follow us home. I kind of was too.

She colored in the Dora coloring book I got for her. We made out pizzas together. While I was taking pictures of her pizza she tells me " You can make your pizza next and I will take a picture of it". She also told me we were going to make smiley faces with the pepperoni.

After dinner we made out dessert... fruit pebble krispy treats. I love that Peyton is old enough to help me. She told me we should cut them into heart shapes when they are cool. She also likes to wear my aprons. We both had sticky fingers when we were done and I explained to her that licking the fruity pebbles and marshmallows off your fingers at the end is one of the funnest parts! She agreed

We each grabbed one treat and snuggled under some blankets on the couch to watch Happy Feet 2. About 15-20minutes into the movie she started asking if she could go home. She didn't stop asking. Then she added "I want to go home. I don't like your house". I was crushed. I finally told her to get her shoes on and I would take her home.

I dropped her off and cried all the way home. I know she's 4 and she probably didn't mean the words but they did make me sad. I had been looking forward to this for a couple of weeks. In the end, she told my sister in law that she had a lot of fun at my house. I guess we will try again in time. Overall it was a lot of fun and I am glad I got to spend that time with her.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hot Chocolate 15K

15K. 9.3 miles... This race has been in the back of my mind for the last few weeks. I was nervous. Really really nervous. As much as I've been training, I still didn't feel prepared. My longest training run was 6.25 miles. Should I run intervals or just power through the best I can? Should I wear my fuel belt? What should I wear? Can I add 3 miles just like that? Without practicing? I really wasn't sure. Thankfully, I have a lot of support and got a lot of advice from experienced runners.

The weather reports were calling for wind and rain. Fun. I prayed and prayed there wouldn't be any rain. When I met up with Crystal, Abby and Melissa, it was shaping up to be a nice morning. We lined up in Corral D and I was feeling good. I actually wasn't nervous anymore. I was excited. Really excited. There's just something about the start of a race. Music blasting, the DJ calling out and getting everyone pumped. You can feel the excitement in the air.

The start line was on a hill. I should have known that was an example of what was to come. For the first mile or two it seemed like every corner we turned, there was a new hill to climb. We were just over 2 miles into the race when Abby asked how I was feeling. During my training runs I struggle through the first three miles. But today? Today I felt strong. We powered through as many hills as possible and walked when we needed to.

There were people standing in front of there homes holding signs and cheering for us. Some had stereos playing and others were shaking cow bells. Abby and I tried to say thank you to as many of them as possible. As we were nearing the top of one hill, we heard one of the volunteers yelling " no walking, just running". I kind of wanted to punch her. I am sure she was trying to be encouraging but it definitely didn't come across like that!

When we hit the 10K (6 miles) I knew I was close to hitting my longest distance ever. I looked at my GPS watch again at 6.36 miles... I had just passed my personal best distance. I couldn't help but get choked up and feeling a huge sense of accomplishment. I was still feeling great but we had 3 miles left to go.

Hills, hills and more hills. We couldn't believe it. I told Abby that whoever mapped this course must have been doing their best to make us run up every hill in downtown San Diego. We were nearing yet another hill somewhere in mile 7 (I think) when we heard some guy say this was a short hill. We were relieved. Until we found out that guys was a L-I-A-R. It was actually the second longest hill of the course. Thanks for getting my hopes up dude!

We ran under a freeway overpass that was lined with makeshift "homes" that were providing some sort of shelter for a few homeless people. I think one of my favorite parts was running through that area and having a homeless man yelling " You're doing great! Keep up the good work! Keep going". Wow. God bless that man because I needed those words right about then. We were somewhere between miles 8 and 9 and I was starting to hurt. I kept trucking along with Abby at my side and I was  once again overwhelmed by the distance we had already gone. 8.5 miles.. I never thought I would run 8.5 miles. I got choked up but didn't give into the flood of emotions invading my heart and mind. Crying while running is never a good idea. Makes it harder to breathe.

When we rounded that last corner I could see the finish line and hear the cheers and music. I kept my emotions in check and crossed the finish line with my friend at my side. We walked through the Gatorade and water lines. That's when I finally gave in to the overwhelming emotions. With tears in my eyes I hugged Abby and thanked her for sticking with me. After grabbing out finisher's treat of fondue, we headed back to the finish line to wait for Crystal and cheer her on.

14 months ago I started running. I thought I would do one 5K race and call it a day. Then I liked 5Ks so I figured I would stick with those. Today I accomplished something I never thought I would or could. 9.3 miles. I felt good , strong and confident through out the whole race. I am sore tonight but I have never been more proud of myself and my friends.

Crystal powered through the entire race. She hasn't been able to train like she wanted to but she went for it anyway. She tweaked her ankle in mile 7 so it was slow going the last 2.3 miles for her. I loved cheering for her as she crossed the finish line. Kind of like "yep, that's MY friend! She's awesome". Because, well, she is.

Melissa finished about 29 minutes before Abby and I. Melissa has believed from day 1 that I could do the 9.3 miles no problem. She is an amazing runner and I am proud of her for doing so well even when faced with all of those hills!

Then there's Abby... What can I possible say about Abby? She's incredible and I had a great time running with her. She pushed me, encouraged me and never once made me feel like I was slowing her down.

Ladies, Thank You for an outstanding day! I am so thankful I could share this day with the three of you. Thank You for your encouragement along the way.

I cannot tell you how important and wonderful it feels to have a support system of family, friends, a boyfriend and co-workers. I am so very thankful for each of you. The countdown to the Rock N Roll Half Marathon has begun!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Welcome Baby Nixon!

My good friends, Heather and Cory, are proud parents of a bouncing baby boy!!!

Nixon Blake Costa
6lbs 1oz, 20 in.

He surprised everyone by arriving 3 weeks early. When I got the text from Cory, I teared up real good. The picture was just one of the cutest I had seen. The more pictures Cory posted, the more I just had to hold this little guy!

I knew Heather would be exhausted and Cory would be too so I didn't ask if they wanted visitors at the hospital. I figured they could invite me or mention it if they felt up to it. Lucky for me, Cory said I could stop by on the 18th if I wanted to. I tried not to sound too eager in my reply. Truth is, I was ready to warm up my car that minute and go see that adorable little guy! I mean... look at this face. Who could resist it?

I tried to make it clear that I didn't have to go visit at the hospital. I wanted them to get some rest and bond with their son. BUT... I am really really glad I got to see him. I held him for the longest time. Cory went to get something to eat so Heather and I chatted. Nixon slept all cozy in my arms. I just couldn't stop looking at his sweet little face.

I am so so happy for my friends! I know they are going to be great parents. They are two of the nicest people I know. I am excited to see Nixon grow and change and to hear all of the fun parenting stories from Heather and Cory. And I definitely can't wait to hold him again.

Congratulations Costa family! and Welcome to the world Nixon!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Unexpected Blessing

When it came time to purchase tickets for Jared's birthday gift, I emailed Chris from Anaheim Ducks Inside Sales for suggestions. 20 emails later, I had a great birthday gift for my guy. At the end Chris told me he would like to give us two tickets to a game to say thank you. It wasn't necessary on his part but so so sweet.

Chris, being the incredibly nice guy that he is, even apologized because our (free) tickets were not in a lower section like they normally would be. You see, the Ducks played the Detroit Red Wings last night and it is a big rivalry. Plus, there are a lot of Red Wing fans in these parts. Both Jared and I would be just as happy in the very last row. When someone goes out of their way to bless us with something, who are we to complain? Not that we would anyway.

Just after the first period started, I heard someone say my name and it startled me. I thought "who in the world would know me here?!?!" I turned around and there was Chris! He introduced himself to both of us and asked us to meet him in the hallway. There he told us that two tickets had come available and he immediately thought of us. He handed me the tickets and all I could do was look at them. I don't even know if I verbally said "thank you"! I was in shock that he would think of us when better seats(our original ones were not bad at all!) became available. Chris had to be on his way so we said good bye. That's when I really looked at the tickets. They were in section 226. FLOOR LEVEL! We were about 19 rows back from the glass. I don't think either of us have run down stairs so quickly.
Goalie Jonas Hiller

What Chris didn't know is about 5-10 minutes before we got the new tickets, Jared and I were talking about saving up to sit at floor level, just once. Both of us are very practical and saving for the future (rings, wedding, house etc) is definitely a priority. But... we love us some Ducks hockey! Going to so many games this season has spoiled us and turned us into die hard fans.

Sitting here tonight, I am a little choked up. To think that someone would go out of their way to give us such an amazing gift is just a bit overwhelming. To most people they are just hockey tickets but it was really a dream come true for both Jared and I. Chris will never know just how thankful we are. The smiles never left our faces. Not once!

Not only was it a fantastic game, we witnessed some great milestones for a few of the players. There were also some comical attendees around us. We had angry guy/Red Wing fan to our left. Critiquing every move the Red Wings made and cursing when they did something he didn't want them to. Then there was "I am going to stand while everyone else is sitting" guy. Really dude? Just.sit.down. Funny... he was a Red Wing fan also. There was also the "haha your team is losing so I am going to poke the sleeping bear until it gets angry" guy. The Ducks were winning 4-0 and this guy was just twisting the knife. It was kind of hilarous. It was typical sports banter until the guy behind him got in his face. Bad ass usher chick quickly pulled them both out of the stands. Ahhh good times!

When we went to leave, we were a little disoriented haha. We stood outside of the Honda Center asking each other "where are we" and "where did we park?" We exited on the completely opposite side of where we entered the building because our seats had moved. We figured it our and laughed out ourselves. I think my directionally challenged side has rubbed off on Jared. At the gas station a tow truck parked behind my car while I was inside getting coffee for the drive home. Apparently he didn't see the silver car parked in the parking spot? There was not a dull moment last night and we enjoyed every single minute of it!

Our next game is March 28th. Anaheim Ducks vs San Jose Sharks. We won't be alone this time. Jimmy, a misguided and clearly dillusional Sharks fan, and Jessica are going with us. 2 incredibly smart Ducks fans and 2 Sharks fans... should be interesting!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cowels Mountain

On Thursday I embarked on a new adventure with some co-workers. We hiked iron mountain and had a great time. This go around we hiked Cowels Mountain. I was the only one in the group that hadn't hiked that trail before so I wasn't sure what to expect.

It was natural terrain and steep in parts. It was a tough hike for me. I wasn't feeling 100% before the hike and I didn't have much for breakfast. I really felt it on the way up. I wanted to quit so many times but I didn't.

We made it to the top in about 38 minutes. It was a beautiful day you could see downtown San Diego from the top. Gorgeous views!

In true Shannon fashion, I slipped (twice) on the way down. The dirt was slick and running shoes are made for just that, running. If we keep going on these hikes I may have to invest in some type of trail runner or hiking shoes.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Heather's Baby Shower

I had the distinct pleasure of making a baby shower cake and attending a baby shower for my wonder friend, Heather. I had decided to retire from wedding cakes after I made Heather and Cory's cake. When I found out Heather and Cory were expecting a little one this year, I was so excited. I think Cory told me when Heather was about 8 weeks along or so. His words " You can't tell anyone yet. And don't tell Heather I told you. She'll kill me" . Funny stuff! I was a good girl and kept my mouth shut until they made the official annoucement a few weeks later.
When Heather asked me to make the cake for Baby Nixon's shower, I was so honored and excited. I met with Heather and her mom to discuss the details. It all came together so nicely.
Heather's mom, Kim, was hosting the shower and it turned out beautiful! She used tissue pom poms and I am always a fan of tissue pom poms as decorations! They had the cutest diaper cake at the center piece on the gift table.
Heather was showered with gifts of every shape and size.

Add caption

They are well prepared for little Nixon to arrive in just 5 weeks! I loved being part of Heather's shower.She is a sweet sweet woman that I have really enjoyed getting to know over the last couple of years.

Here's the cake and cupcakes. I think they turned out kinda cute. Can you guess the theme of the shower and the nursery?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Finish Chelsea's Run 2012

This was my second year running the "Finish Chelsea's Run" 5K. Last year it was my first 5K race, ever. Prior to that I had never run. Especially not 3 miles.

I was pumped and ready to beat last year's time of 35:58. I met up with Michelle, Preston and Crystal before the start. The crowd this year was easily twice as big as last year. Maybe even three times.

I hydrated before the race... therefore I had to use the bathroom before the race. Victory #1 of the day... using a Porta Potty. (YUCK!).

We got to the start line later than we wanted to and the crowd just wasn't moving. The runners are supposed to start at the front, followed by the walkers, followed by the people with strollers. We ended up somewhere between the walkers and strollers.

I did a lot of bobbing and weaving around walkers and strollers. Up on the curb, down on the road, along the grass, onto the side walk, abrupt slow down due to a wall of people... I had fun though. I didn't beat my time. In fact, I was 3 seconds slower and got a time of 36:01. Oh well. The hill at the end was killer as usual and I pushed hard the last .10 to beat my time but it just didn't happen. I felt great during the race and I am very proud of myself. I know tha tif we had started more towards the front, I would have beat my time no problem. A year later, I still can't believe I am a runner. And training for a half marathon at that!

A couple other highlights of the day: My ear bud chord didn't get stuck on a cone like it did last year, this was CRystal's first 5K race and she did an amazing job! Michelle hasn't been training and hasn't really run in about a year but she pushed hard and did fantastic. Preston pushed both of his sons in a double jogging stroller yet finished before me... super dad!

I love that this is a tradition for Preston, Michelle and I!

I am standing funny... not sure why.

Crystal ran her first 5K that day. SO proud of her!!!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The 50/50 Plan: Update

Well folks, I haven't been doing so hot with this. But it is a new month and I have a new plan.

I've become too focused on the weight number and haven't thought enough about how I am feeling. The weight number does matter but feeling healthier and more energetic is important too. My clothes are fitting better despite the scales' refusal to go to a lower number.

That number though.. it just won't move. I'm stuck at 191. So, my new plan...

1) No sweets. Atleast until Easter. Probably not after that either. My friend, Melissa, has been keeping me accountable. She even gave me "consequences" for eating said sweets.
   * Carry a bag of sugar with me while I run
   * Call my mom and tell her to come over and take the sweets away
   * Write " I will not eat sweets" 300 times and mail it to her within 2 days. (Can you tell she's a teacher?)
  I love the accountability though!! She even made me a graphic to put on my cell phone. It has come in handy more than once.

2) No weighing myself. I've become too obsessed with it. Like if I weigh myself 6 times in one day, the number will magically go down. It won't. I need to focus on what I am doing, not that stinkin number.

3) Keeping track. I'm back to my old ways... logging my calorie intake and my exercise. It is important and I need to get back into the habit of it.

So... current weight: 191.
Total loss so far: 5 lbs.

I am not giving up! I will do this!!!

Back Stage Pass at the Zoo

Jared surprised me with a back stage pass tour at the Zoo.We went on Feb 15.. I am a little behind on my blogging (again).

We got to feed, pet and take a picture with a Bear Cat. She was sweet and it took her less than one second to take the grape out of my hand. A photographer followed the group around during the tour and took pictures.

We got up close and personal with a wolf. His name is Kenai. We even got to hear him howl. This particular wolf is not an Alpha Male (leader of the pack) so we, the audience, had to howl first and he answered us. Not many people can say they've heard a wolf howl in person. It was incredible.
This is him howling

Eventhough he could eat me, he has a sweet face.

We met the Zoo ambassadors. A Cheetah(Karroo) and Dog(Sven Olef) pair that are super sweet. We got to pet the dog but not the Cheetah. She was a happy cat though. She was purring so loudly when we took the picture with her.

Sven the dog... so cute!
There are about 12 hand raised Flamingos in a back stage area. We were allowed to go to that area and meet/feed them. Timmy, one of the male Flamingos, decided I was his favorite guest. He only ate from my cup and stood by me most of the time. The guests were sitting so when the Flamingos were standing in front of us, we were eye to eye with them. The trainers even commented on how Timmy stayed by me.

Meet Timmy
I think the highlight of the day was meeting the Rhinos. We met two of them. They are brothers and both weight about 4200 pounds. You would think an animal that large would be intimidating but really, they were very sweet and gentle. We got to brush, feed and pet them. They don't really have teeth ,besides a couple moulers, so feeding them wasn't too scary. You did get a hand full of Rhino slobber though. Thank goodness for hand washing stations!

We met a lot of differednt animals that day. it was a great experience and a lot of fun. We knew it was supposed to rain that day but it didn't rain during the tour. After the tour, the heavens opened. Even though we had an umbrella, we got soaked. We didn't care though! We got coffee, snuggled under the umbrella and enjoyed walking around the empty zoo in the rain! It was a fantastic day.