Category Archives: Dogs

Creative Workouts at Home: Session 1

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Saturday was a lovely stay-at-home-day, but I didn’t want to miss out on the Crossfit workout our coach had posted. So I thought I would do a home-made workout, incorporating my long run.

The following 1 minute video shows what I came up with.

I call it the LabbyNo!

Enjoy!

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Things My Labrador Has Eaten

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Caught in the act!

Caught in the act

A friend of mine recently adopted a labrador, and so naturally, the conversation turned quickly from training techniques to the incredible things labradors eat.

Let me preface this by saying I do not ALLOW my dog to eat junk that could harm him–but he is lightening fast when it comes to eating, and sometimes he’s choking down something before I can bat an eyelash. He is quite literally a garbage disposal on four legs.

Obviously, I love this crazy dog, and I don’t want him to get sick or be harmed by something he eats, and I am in NO way promoting the idea that you should allow your labrador to eat everything. I’m just saying that the world is not puppy-proof, and there’s only so much I can do. He is, after all, a canine who loves eating more than life itself.

He would do ANYTHING for food. Actually, he would do ANYTHING for something he THINKS is food. It’s great for training and keeping the floor clean of crumbs, but not so good for his digestion.

So, inspired by the conversation with my friend & her new puppy….

Things My Labrador has Consumed or Utterly Destroyed through Mastication
  • Tree branches
  • Corn stalks (fresh from the field)
  • Large stones (usually spit out)
  • Butterflies, grasshoppers and other assorted insects
  • Banana peel
  • Toilet paper
  • Flowers from the garden
  • House flies (encouraged)
  • His leather leash
  • Socks, socks and more socks
  • Potted Bird of Paradise plant
  • His own fur (from the dog brush)
  • Bailey’s fur (from the dog brush)
  • His dog bed
  • The zipper on his mat–yes, JUST the zipper
  • Countless stuffed dog toys
  • Manure
  • My son’s Crocs
  • Ten-pound, foam-coated hand weights
  • Bird, rabbit and deer droppings
  • Toilet water
  • A five-pound weight (the shiny kind that goes on a barbell)
  • The contents of an entire wastepaper basket
  • The cover to my daughter’s history book
  • A foam soccer ball
  • A fly swatter
  • Monopoly Money
  • A reflective dog vest
  • A fortune cookie, gold foil wrapper and all

*Nearly eaten: my favorite ear ring, plucked directly from my ear, which I was able to retrieve from his drooly mouth before he swallowed it!

Charlie is notorious for stealing stuffed animals from the children’s beds, eating his dog food in less than 45 seconds and for hoarding anything shiny. He has even been known to carry around 2 or 3 toys in his mouth at one time.

Strangely, Charlie does not eat shoes (even my goat-leather running shoes that still smell like camels from our trip to Jordan), nor does he eat garlic (though he tasted a clove that fell on the floor).

I DO give him actual bones to chew on,  (supposedly) appropriate dog toys, and he gets frequent exercise.

He simply eats with gusto. 

He is, after all, a labrador, and his zeal for eating is part of his charm. 

 

The Best Lab Tested Hummus Recipe Ever

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Ever since the puppy melted the food processor on our glass-top stove, I have been forced to consume store bought hummus, which is loaded with salt, oil and (often) sugar, most likely added to distract you from the distinctly chemical taste, which sets up residence on the roof of your mouth.

However, the chemical hummus can now be evicted, as my husband recently purchased a new food processor. While I still have to wait until my sell-out-chick-lit manuscript becomes a best-seller before I can afford a Vita-Mix, I am extremely happy with the Siemens FQ1, which, being a German brand, should last for years, barring any further occurences of the labrador trying to cook.

charlie hummus wait

Charlie Learns How to Make Hummus

As much as I would LOVE to turn this into a blog about my Chocolate Labrador and how cute he is while staring at the food processor, I will show some control over my lab-session (as my son calls it) and leave you instead with the BEST HUMMUS RECIPE EVER.

Obviously, being a white girl from MidWestern America currently living in Germany, where ‘spicy’ means adding extra black pepper, this recipe is not my own. It comes from Jerusalem: A Cookbook, by Yotam Ottoleenghi & Sami Tamimi. If you don’t own this book, you should. While there isn’t much ‘healthy’ food in here, and it certainly is NOT vegan, the recipes DO inspire you, and many of them CAN be altered for your particular needs. So, without further ado….

The World's BEST Hummus with Tongue Tingling Harissa

THE HUMMUS

The Raw Materials

1 1/4 cup (250g) dried chickpeas

1tsp baking soda

6 1/2 cups (1/5 liters) water

1 cup Tahini

4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

4 cloves garlic, crushed

6 1/2 tbsp (100ml) iced water

The Method

BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING: The night before, cover the chickpeas with cold water (twice their volume) and soak overnight. Trust me, it’s worth the wait. Don’t use canned! *Note: I usually double this recipe so I can have enough for an entire week. Of course, I eat it every single day.

COOKING DAY: Drain the chickpeas. In a medium saucepan (I use my cast iron, enamel pot–but that’s just me) turn up the heat to HIGH and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Stir constantly for about 3 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil, skimming off the foam. Cook between 20-40 minutes, until chickpeas are very tender, but not mushy, and break easily when pressed between your fingers.

Drain the chickpeas. I let mine cool a little, then add to the food processor. You should now have about 3 1/2 cups. Process the chickpeas in the food processor until you have a stiff paste. Then, with the machine still running, add tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. (You can also add 1 1/2 tsp salt, though we choose not to).

Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and watch the magic, letting it mix for about 5 minutes or until you get a very smooth, creamy paste.

Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 30 minutes. If you need to, you can refrigerate until needed, but pull it out of the kuhlshrank 30 minutes prior to serving.

THE HARISSA

In Israel, even gas station hummus was good, and there were a multitude of varieties. My personal favorite came with a spicy red sauce on top. While I’m not sure if Harissa is the same stuff, it is pretty close. I omit the caraway (as it makes my stomach feel weird); and I omit the oil & salt for dietary reasons; and I add extra chilies for a little more spiciness. A little dollop of this is perfect on top of hummus.  *Note, I make a bigger batch than normal because I have a bigger family than ‘normal.’

The Raw Materials

3-4 red peppers (blackened)

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1 red onion, coarsely chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

5-6 hot red chilies, seeded and coarsely chopped (or use only 1, depending on how hot you like it)

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

The Method

Slice peppers in half, seeding them and place face down under a very hot broiler, until blackened on the outside and completely soft (10-15 mins). Transfer to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to cool completely then peel, discarding the skins.

Meanwhile, in a deep frying pan, over low heat, lightly toast the coriander and cumin for about 2 minutes. Remove to a mortar and use a pestle to grind to a powder.

Fry the onion, garlic, and chilies on medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, until nearly caramelized.

Now, add everything (including the peeled peppers) to the food processor, mixing until smooth. (I prefer mine just a little bit chunky).

FINALLY

Place a scoop of hummus on a plate, make a little divot in the top, and add a dollop of Harissa. Serve with cucumbers, raw red peppers, flat bread (if applicable) or your favorite gluten-free crackers and enjoy a little taste of the Middle East in your Western kitchen!

Gratuitous Labrador Photo--I couldn't help it! He's smiling in this one!

Gratuitous Labrador Photo–I couldn’t help it!                   He’s smiling in this one!

Guten appetit!

40

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Birthday Banner

I’ve run 4 marathons, but I’ve never run a 10k–until Sunday. The weather was sunny enough to make you happy, cool enough to keep you from wilting.

I’ve been worried that I haven’t been running enough miles, but the 10k gave me more confidence. I was actually passing people UNDER the age of 80 during the race and finished with a smile (and in 56 minutes).

It was a great way to begin my birthday week.

My Crossfit coach gave me a birthday present in the form of 50 burpees, 100 pushups and 150 walking lunges interspersed between sprints of varying lengths.

The good news is that now at age 40, I am healthier than I’ve ever been. And that is exactly how I wanted to begin this next phase of life.

But life is still life. My week has been filled with (mostly) a good kind of chaos, but chaos nonetheless. My actual birthday morning began by scrubbing the dog’s behind at 6:00 am. Then I spent half the morning finding his special food, which he wouldn’t eat anyway. Now we have an emergency vet appointment to find out why he’s not eating or drinking. Poor little thing.

But being at an emergency vet appointment isn’t how I envisioned spending my 40th birthday. Obviously, I love my fluffy little dog, and who cares about a birthday when he is miserable? It’s just not what I ‘planned.’

I’ve had to do all kinds of uncomfortable things this week–specifically, making several appointments in German, which is nearly as taxing to me mentally as burpees are physically.

All I want to do is stay home one day this week, but it doesn’t look like that will happen until Saturday, and even then I’ll have to leave for a few hours for my long run.  I look back on my ‘sick day’ last week with a warped kind of fondness because I got to lay on the couch and eat jello.

As a wife & mom & servant of God, I don’t write my own schedule. I have to interact with other human beings and figure out how I can best help them. I have to talk to God and actually obey Him when He tells me what path to take–and usually, that path isn’t the easy one.

So while my milestone birthday did not include a luxury vacation, it did include a date with my husband; a card from Libby that was so incredibly sweet it made me cry (and scared her a little); gorgeous earrings in my favorite color, and a ‘Mom’ necklace, bought with hard earned teenage money; lots of hugs & an old hat of mine (which I had loaned out); and a custom-made comic strip, with humor that always makes me laugh.

Libby's card made me cry!

Libby’s card made me cry!

Katie went over the top with my beautiful, elegant cake, and all the kids helped decorate to make my birthday morning (once I was done scrubbing the dog) special.

As much as I dreamed of escaping to a beach somewhere, this birthday has been the best one ever because of the pure and simple love that pours out from my family, even though I don’t deserve it.

40 birthdays behind me.

I look forward to 80 more.

Crossfit and Long-Distance Running: A Comparison

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WOD Charlie

I know I’m not supposed to run long distances before Crossfit, but I can’t help it.

On Monday, the sun came out, and even though it was cold enough to freeze my extremities, I quickly geared up and headed outside. I ran six miles, and in the afternoon, I went to Crossfit.

I promised myself a day off on Tuesday, but as we were eating breakfast, the clouds cleared, leaving our village in a beautiful splotch of sunlight. Without giving it much thought, I pulled on the first running clothes I could find (I admit…they were in a pile on my floor from the day before), and I hit the road. I didn’t mean to run another six miles, but I had to avoid manure trucks, and thus altered my anticipated 4-mile route.

When I went to Crossfit on Monday, my abs were still sore from Saturday, and when I went on Wednesday, my shoulders were still feeling Monday.

But it is the kind of sore that says, “Hello, you have actual muscles here,” and not the kind that has you limping to the health clinic.

I love running, and I love Crossfit, but there are differences.

In running you are (usually) solo.

In Crossfit, you have a whole group of people welcoming you as if you’re a long-lost cousin.

If you fail on a run, nobody has to know about it.

You never fail in Crossfit (even if you’re struggling under a barbell, somebody is there to tell you to stand up and start over).

If you run, you stop going for pedicures because your feet are hopeless.

If you Crossfit train, you stop going for manicures because really–who cares about your hands?

While running you can let your mind wander.

During Crossfit all you do is focus (so you don’t do needless reps).

Running requires putting one foot in front of the other.

Crossfit requires using muscles you didn’t know existed.

You can take the dog running with you.

You can take the dog to Crossfit, but he can only observe.

When you run, you pray that God gives you strength to endure life.

When you do Crossfit, you pray that God gives you strength to endure the next rep.

Crossfit and long-distance running are like children: they might be similar, but they are wonderfully, uniquely, surprisingly different.

I love each of them.

Stopping for Directions

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Charlie 13 weeks ruler

“I think you got the pick of the litter,” the veterinary technician told me (for the second time).

“Thanks,” I said, shoving my fingers in Charlie’s mouth to remove a wad of extraneous cat fur he had found in the corner.

“His energy really suits your family.”

I bent down to grab Charlie, as he had darted under my chair, and was eagerly mining for treasure along the baseboards.

I didn’t know what to say.

The puppy is a typical puppy: hyper at times, hungry all the time, occasionally bitey, and he nearly chokes himself to death coming home from walks.

But still…I think she meant it as a compliment.

I uttered something about how we approached this puppy venture: we didn’t rush into anything; we found a good breeder; and made certain the pup’s temperament was suitable; but each of those things sounded hollow, so I found myself ending my rambling proclamation with the fuzzy phrase, “It was meant to be.”

She smiled and nodded her head, “Yes,” she agreed, “It was meant to be.”

What I didn’t describe was all the prayer that went into this. I mean, how exactly do you tell someone you bother God with requests for puppies? It just sounds weird. Isn’t God too important to worry about whether I find a docile dog?

But I did pray.

I prayed that if God wanted us to have a dog, He would illuminate our path and allow us to find a pup that would be a blessing to our family and also a joy to others.

I had very little to do with the entire process except follow the trail and eventually dish up a few euro.

There is no way I could have orchestrated all this:

  • The breeder was reputable and wasn’t too far away 
  • They currently had a litter of chocolate labs
  • They had a submissive (or “feminine”) boy
  • He would be ready to come home ON the very day of my wedding anniversary
  • His personality is perfect

This is not to say that if you pray for a Maserati or a mansion you’ll get one. God is not ebay.

But if you know God, and He knows you, then you can approach Him with any little thing in your life.

He’s not bothered by it, in fact, He welcomes it. I have a relationship with God, which means we chat. And when I need advice, I go to Him. And when I think a puppy is a good idea, I ask Him to show me if it is or not.

In this case, Charlie was meant to be part of this crazy journey of ours.

So the next time someone praises the puppy, I’m just going to tell them–it wasn’t about finding the right breeder or doing research or being selective (though those things are important)–it was about stopping to ask directions, and perhaps most importantly, following them.

Because God doesn’t merely plan the route, He created the map.

Under the Rock Pile

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Today was stressful for no one particular reason. Rather, it was a lot of little things stacking up like bricks in a wall. The last ‘brick’ was more like a pebble, placed jovially atop the rapidly crumbling structure by one of my unfortunate children, and the whole thing collapsed.

Yes, I lost my cool.

It happens from time to time. I almost didn’t blog today because I was so out of sorts, but my daughter said that I should talk about my meltdown because, “It is such a rare occurrence.”

I’m glad it’s rare.

There was a time in my life when fits of anger would build inside me, and the only way to alleviate it was through yelling, since violence wasn’t my thing. It took many years to break the yelling habit. After all, many women I respected assured me that they, too, yelled at their kids. It was ‘normal.’ But something about that never sat right with me. I knew I wanted something different. I didn’t want to pass on the yelling gene to my own kids. Or heaven forbid, to watch my theoretical grandchildren become yellers.

This morning, I didn’t exactly yell–it was more of a verbal pounce, but in our sensitive house, it was the same as full-lunged bellowing. Afterwards I felt so badly, I went to my study to ‘be alone,’ which means praying and leaving a little puddle of tears on the floor.

Normally, I handle stress through running (which is also my time of prayer and contemplation) and proper nutrition. But lately I’ve been lacking both sunshine and sufficient exercise. And let’s face it–it’s hard, if not downright impossible to feel happy eating salad when it’s cold and dark outside! I’d rather cozy up with some gluten-free croissants drizzled with Nutella.

It is hard for me when there is no sunshine, and the puppy, cute as he is, pees on the brand-new rug after I’ve been outside with him for an hour.

I know there are worse things in life, and that the puppy IS a little glimpse of heaven; but even small doses of stress are toxic, and if you let stress build up, it can lead to a meltdown of nuclear proportions.

After “Mommy’s Time-Out” today, I emerged from my study to find a pink card on my pillow, a loving email from a concerned teen, and a pint of my favorite ice cream, wrapped up with a bow, sitting right outside my door. Sure, one of my kids was completely oblivious to the whole thing, but that’s okay too. My kids are so loving and so forgiving that I think they came through it unscathed.

In fact, it might be good for them to see me fail once in a while and for them to see me make amends when I’m wrong.

Sometimes we stumble.

The key is to get up and look ahead.

Because you can’t see clearly from under the rock pile.

Puppy Sunshine or Why Runners Should Love Dogs

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Training

Training

Last week I ran 44 miles in five days.

That is what a little dose of sunshine does to me.

Unfortunately, the sun went away and it began to snow again, which means a corresponding household spike in Maranatha Raw Organic Almond Butter consumption.

My husband says that I am solar-powered, and it is no joke. I feel like a completely different person when the sun is shining.

When it is gloomy, I want to cuddle up with my Mac while dipping my Wasa gluten-och laktosfritt Knäckebrot directly into the jar of almond butter and (ironically) shop for marathons. But when it’s sunny, I am the person I like to be–the one who actually goes running, rather than the one who thinks about it.

When the sun shines, I go running AND clean the house. The residual effects from last week’s daylight were so profound, I even cleaned out my pantry. And if you’ve ever been frightened by my pantry, you will understand what an accomplishment this was.

Yesterday I came home from a busy day and the sun was out. It was cold, and even though I am sick of the cold weather, the sun lured me out. Also, we have our houseguest Bailey here, and she is an AVID runner, so she coaxed me out-of-doors. So, I set down the jar of almond butter and put on my shoes. I even thought, “It is SO sunny out, I won’t need my balaclava!”

I know, I know…I should NEVER tempt fate like that.

It turned out to be like some kind of twisted joke, a cruel irony, bad karma, or in Christian terms, a time of refinement, as halfway through the run, the clouds swooped in and it began to snow directly at me.

Bailey and I were both covered with snow on the left sides of our bodies, as if someone were shooting a plaster-gun at us.

I had to laugh. It wasn’t the maniacal laugh that sometimes scares my children when I’m at the end of my rope. It was, strangely, a happy laugh. And the only reason I could laugh was because of the ever-cheerful labrador.

Bailey doesn’t care if the snow is blasting at the side of her body. She doesn’t care if the frigid wind blows her ears inside out. She doesn’t care if the snow accumulates on top of her head like a wobbly little party hat. She is just thrilled to be outside running. And her cheerful nature is infectious. How could I be miserable when she looks up at me, and snow is plastered to a single side of her goofy grin?

This is part of the reason we added Charlie to the family. I hope that someday he will love running as much as Bailey does–and that his good attitude and cheerful outlook will rub off on me, whether the sun is shining or not.

Down Time

Down Time