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It’s been raining pretty hard lately. Emi’s been on call two of the past three days, and it’s been hard to be motivated to do anything except have “lazy days” as the kids are home for Thanksgiving week.Anya helping Emi make the cranberries for Thanksgiving

This morning I took the kids to the Seattle Aquarium, and we had a great time there, but other than that (and a few errands run), we’ve hung out around the house.

It’s days like these that can be difficult for me in my challenge to lose 15 pounds before the end of the year. I’ve had to resist temptation more than normal. I know I don’t really need to eat, but I am regularly finding myself thinking about food more than normal. So I usually grab an apple or some baby carrots to munch on and tide me over until mealtime, but today was more difficult than it should have been.

Tonight I went back on Facebook and looked through old photos. We all have pictures of ourselves that we don’t like too much for one reason or another, but I intentionally looked back at pictures of me when I was heavier, and then at ones when I was more fit … just to remind myself that I look happier, healthier and better when I’m not as heavy.

I don’t want to lose momentum. I’m nearly two weeks into my challenge, and I want to continue moving in the right direction. We’re having our Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday (since Emi will be on call Thursday we just moved it up a day … have to be flexible with dates in our family) and I will need to watch my consumption from that meal and after.

So I’ve allowed myself a couple of “treat” luxuries. A couple of nights ago, I had a small cup of Emi’s homemade “rompope” (like a spiked Mexican eggnog). This afternoon I made the kids a hot chocolate, and I had one too. And now I’m thinking about it, wondering if it was worth it for me to feel guilty. Then I feel weak … not only for having it, but for feeling guilty afterward. Hell, if I’m going to indulge, I should enjoy it, or what’s the point?

Anyway! We’ll see how things are progressing. We have a pretty full week ahead with parent-teacher conferences, holiday portraits, and of course, Thanksgiving.

Pocket Your Dollars Book, Carrie Rocha Book, Pocket Your Dollars 5 Attitude Changes That Will Help You Pay Down Debt, Avoid Financial Stress, & Keep More of What You Make

I am so excited for my blogging friend, Carrie Rocha! I met her and her husband at an Affiliate Summit a couple of years ago, and we’ve kept in touch since, talking about her money-saving efforts and her new website, pocketyourdollars.com. It’s a great personal finance site that helps people get out and stay out of debt.

Carrie just wrote a book, and it’s Barnes & Noble’s Deal of the Day through Tuesday November 20 at 8:59 EST. It won’t be on store shelves around the country until January 1, but through Tuesday morning, pre-ordered books are being offered at half-price ($6.99) at BN.com. These copies will ship on or about December 19, and this offer is not available in-store.

This $6.99 price is the best price we’ll see for this book, or its Kindle or Nook versions, for months. If you want to buy this for yourself or as a gift, NOW is the time to do it.

The book is called Pocket Your Dollars: 5 Attitude Changes That Will Help You Pay Down Debt, Avoid Financial Stress, & Keep More of What You Make. It’s a great angle for a personal finance book in that it doesn’t start with the budget worksheet, but with your attitudes about money. Here’s how Barnes &  Noble summarizes the book:

“Carrie Rocha, founder and owner of Pocket Your Dollars.com shares the secrets that will help you change the way you think about money. Seven years ago, she and her husband were surprised to discover the mountain of debt they’d accumulated. They knew they’d have to make big changes. Thirty months later they were debt free and have stayed that way ever since.

How did they do it? It wasn’t through a step-by-step financial program or spending plan. It turns out, budgets can’t fix everything—real change takes an attitude adjustment.”

Go ahead and pre-order your copy today.

Portable North Pole Santa Claus, PNP Santa, Get Video from Santa from PNP

For the past four years, our kids have looked forward to Christmas for lots of reasons … but one of the highlights has always been the video that they get from Santa Claus.

The Portable North Pole has always impressed us with how personal it is, and the incredibly high video grade of it. These people know what they’re doing.

For the kids to hear Santa say their names – especially Anya, for whom there is hardly ever personalization available, it’s great!

We highly recommend using the PNP to help Santa connect with your children. This year, they have additional options … personalized carol from Santa and his elves, anyone?

Get 5% off on Santa’s most popular personalized products at PortableNorthPole.com!

Use promo code SANTA5FUZ. Offer ends 12/31/12.

The first week (OK, eight days now) of my challenge to drop 15 pounds before the new year has gone well! I realize I’m not going to drop four pounds every week, but obviously I don’t have to … averaging two pounds a week from when I started until the end of the year will get me there, and I’m well on my way.

I’ve really been watching what I eat, though I hesitate to say I’ve been dieting, since I’m not really depriving myself … I’m just making sure that I’m eating the right amount of things instead of continuing to eat after I’ve had enough.

Another challenge for me has always been the fact that I work from home. The kitchen is just upstairs, and it’s really easy to grab some of those pumpkin seeds (this year’s were some of my all-time best) or to cut some extra cheese to have with a couple of apples. So I just need to make sure that I continue to keep track of what I’m eating.

It also helps that I’ve been running fairly regularly. In fact, today my personal trainer (she’s super hot, but she’s married … oh, wait! To me! Awesome!) pushed me to five miles. It was a run/walk, and I only ran about half of it, but still … it’s five miles that I wouldn’t have gone before. And it’s really cool to explore the neighborhood from street level instead of from the car! It really makes a difference.

However, I admit I was tempted to collapse on the stone staircase of one house along the way. Rocks have never looked more comfortable. But I pushed myself and still felt good by the time we got back home.

Emi says “if you still feel good, you didn’t work hard enough.” This coming from the woman who just got off a 24-hour shift in the NICU and came bouncing home, wanting to run.

Anyway! Just wanted to post an update for my interested reader (who is ALSO super hot!) to share where I am now, and to keep me honest.

low fat healthy oatmeal pumpkin pancakes with honey and powdered sugar

Saturday morning, we made Fluffy Oatmeal Pumpkin Spice Pancakes … and they were DELICIOUS – and deceivingly diet-friendly!

To start, we had to roast sugar pumpkins (medium size, remove stem and cut down middle; scoop and lay flat on foiled sheet and bake 35-40 minutes at 350).

Once roasted, we scooped out the pumpkin (actually was easier to scrape off the outer skin) and pureed it in our Cuisinart. In fact, for this breakfast (as with many others of ours) we relied on two of our kitchen workhorses … the Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor and our KitchenAid Mixer. oatmeal pumpkin pancakes, sugar pumpkins, Bob's Red Mill Extra Thick Rolled Oats, Proventive Harmonized Powder

Along with the oats and pumpkins, we also added Vanilla Protein Powder … this helps the belly feel fuller, along with the oats. We don’t usually use this, but we bought the Proventive Harmonized Powder and it worked really well.

We looked at different recipes online (One from Gina, an eggless one from Kristy, another from Kath) but in the end, we do what we often do … we combined what we thought would work best from different sources, and then added a little of our own.

For example … if you beat the egg whites in the mixer until they form stiff peaks, then it adds more volume and lightness to the final batter. kitchenaid mixer, pumpkin oatmeal pancake batter

Here is what we ended up doing for the final recipe, and it turned out great!

  • 1.5 cup rolled oats
  • 1.5 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 8 egg whites, mixed until fluffy
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 scoops protein powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4-5 tbsp Splenda
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon

Cooking lowfat pumpkin oatmeal hotcakes on griddle

When done, you can serve with anything, but a little non-dairy whipped cream is low in calories, or a little honey … powdered sugar …

However you eat them, they’re a delicious, low-fat way to start your day! Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have it with a hot cup of black coffee.

Steaming cup of black coffee

My kids are old enough now to stay with me when I’m walking with them, but I still like to hold their hands sometimes. Through a parking lot, for example. Just to make sure they don’t drift away when they see something shiny.Eric C. Souza at Discovery Park

For the past couple of days, I’ve gone for runs with my wife. Emi is a great runner, and has been very encouraging with me as I’ve been establishing a more active lifestyle. I’ve let her take on the role of a trainer, and have followed her advice (for the most part … I had to stop on that last uphill).

But today, when she went to work and after I dropped off the kids, I was left to do a solo run. And I went looking for shiny things.

The first part of the run was the same. It’s a gradual uphill stretch from our home to the northern part of the Magnolia neighborhood peninsula. Magnolia Blvd. leads straight to Discovery Park, the largest city park in Seattle.

By the time I got there, I was winded (who am I kidding, I was bent over, gasping for oxygen like a fish thrown in a boat) and wanted to walk a little. So I entered Discovery Park for a walk, instead of turning and running home.

If you don’t know about Discovery Park, here are the basics. It’s gorgeous. Despite being in the city, it’s isolated and has been left as a 534-acre natural area. There’s a 2.8-mile trail that loops around the park. And then once on the trail, there’s a different trail that leads to the beach and the lighthouse.

It was a crisp autumn morning with temperatures in the mid-40s. I had a couple of hours before a noon event at the kids’ school, so I figured it would be a great opportunity to explore.

 

Each step I took on the way down the south beach trail, I had to remind myself that I would eventually have to come back up. It was not even a mile long, but it was all pretty steep.When the beach was in sight, I knew I had found it! My shiny thing! The waters of Puget Sound broke on the rock-and-sand beach, littered with driftwood. There were only a couple of people down there … a photographer with a macro lens trying to take photos of the “jumping spiders that live near the wood along the Sound” … and a far-off older couple walking near the lighthouse.

I was glad I had made it, but knew I didn’t have much time to relax there before having to get back home to shower and get to the school for Anya’s writing presentation.

Might I say, the expression “What goes up, must come down” also goes the other way. All of the steps that led to the beach had to be retraced. At the top of one particularly evil stretch of steps, a bench taunted me. But nope!

By the time I made it home, I was beat. But I had made it back in time to take care of my responsibilities. And I found my shiny thing.

It was never a question of being too heavy when I was young. I was always riding my bike, running around the neighborhood, swimming, playing ball and doing other typical calorie-churning kid things.

As I’ve gotten older, my lifestyle isn’t nearly as active. I work at a desk. I’m no longer the fit little kid. I’m the dad that sometimes has a hard time keeping up with the energy of his three active little ones. And that’s gotten me a little frustrated.

A few years ago, when my wife, Emi, had our first child, I realized I needed to make a change, so I started paying more attention to how much I was eating. I started exercising more. I dropped a lot of weight and I felt great.

But here we are again. Years have passed and the weight has come back on. My eating discipline has slackened, and quite frankly, it’s been years since I’ve been to a gym.

So here it is … by writing this, I am publicly challenging myself to get fit again. Without getting into too many specifics, I am setting a public goal of dropping 15 pounds by the end of the year. That’s about eight weeks. If I can lose two pounds a week, that’ll do it, and I can reevaluate and set new goals. But one step at a time.

This year, we moved to Seattle. It’s one of the fittest cities in the U.S., and offers all sorts of opportunities for physical activity. Emi is an avid runner, and has been urging me to come for runs with her, but I always had found excuses not to. Aside from the fact that I’ve never really enjoyed running (another excuse), I didn’t really want to. Emi Ponce de Souza, Magnolia Running, Puget Sound Jogging

No more excuses. I went and bought a pair of running shoes. I set up new running playlists. And for the past two days, I’ve gone for runs with Emi.

The point wasn’t to try to keep up with her (she’s a couple of weeks away from running a 13.1-mile half marathon). It was to push myself and to get back out there. To do something for my body. Yes, she ran circles around me. Yes, I felt it in every part of my body. My lungs were stinging. My hips and groin were a little sore. I practically crawled back to the house today. But I feel good about it.

We ran along Magnolia Blvd., a gorgeous stretch along the Puget Sound, with views of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains to the west of the Sound. Late autumn yellow leaves swirled and covered the sidewalk for a stretch near Discovery Park. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

Here are some things I’ll be doing over the next couple of months to drop some weight:

  • If I have a couple of cups of coffee a day, I can drink it black and lose the sugar.
  • There are tons of great microbreweries in Seattle. I’m going to limit myself and just have a couple of beers a week.
  • Keep notes on what I’m eating. We don’t do junk food in this house, and rarely eat out, so it’ll really be a focus on portions.
  • Maintain activity. I want to go for a run three times a week. If more, great, but at least that.

That seems like a good start. Look out for updates!

I tried sending this on Twitter for @BastardMachine, but it wouldn’t let me … click image to see it as animated GIF (and yes, I know it’s not 1998).

Nate Silver Crowd Surfing at Obama Victory

Thursday, November 4, 2010. A gorgeous morning in Hondo, TX – one of those that reminds us of the oncoming winter. LiveOak Forks Ranch, Live Oak Forks Ranch, Hondo TX Hunting

At six in the morning, I arrived at LiveOak Forks Ranch, entered through the gate and parked at the barn, as owner Marion Pringle had instructed. I texted Mr. Pringle, a retired NASA engineer, to let him know I had arrived, and stepped out to take in the beautiful morning. The stars were exploding. A thumbnail moon sat atop the trees on the horizon, with the dark side standing out beautifully and clearly. There was barely a breeze.

I heard his truck in the distance, but then I heard something more disconcerting … his two dogs were racing straight at me from down the gravel road.

Not knowing these sprinting dogs, I quickly weighed my options. As they got closer, I firmly called, “Hey you guys, be nice. Nice.” And thankfully, they were very sweet and loving. One was a chocolate lab named Rowdy, and the other, a stocky older girl whose name I missed.

After getting some love from Rowdy, Mr. Pringle showed up in his Chevy truck. We made sure we had everything prepared (rifles, waiver, corn and a sack breakfast prepared by Mrs. Pringle).

We set off in his truck through the 470 acres of fields.

He explained that the ranch is set up in multiple zones, and that wild turkeys will sometimes scare the deer away. Also, any hogs were to be considered a nuisance and to be shot if possible.

I hoped this wouldn’t happen … this was the first day that I would be hunting at LiveOak Forks Ranch, and I was hoping to get a deer in the morning and be home in time to pick up my second-grade son from school. A hog would be great, but it would significantly reduce the likelihood of my taking a deer that morning. Mr. Pringle said it would be best for his program to take one of the culls and a doe from the herd. My hunt was expected to be for more than one day, which took away some pressure. And the dates were flexible, since I live nearly and we could arrange that.

We laced through the oak trees and over dry creek beds, slowly pouring out corn before he pulled into a perfectly-trimmed parking spot, carved into the foliage.

A brisk, quiet walk brought us to the blind.  It was still dark. A meteor flashed overhead shortly before we got there. It was set on the south side of a long stretch of field. From where we sat, the thick creek bed of Live Oak Creek gave us trees about 50 yards in front of us; and the meadow stretched endlessly in either direction. We had markers set at 100 yards to our left and right. It was like being set on the sidelines at the 50-yard line of some extremely long stadium.

After some nice whispering conversation, I realized the increasing light allowed me to distinguish between the trees and the brush line. It was still pretty dark, though.

Scanning the meadow, about 75-80 yards away along the treeline, there seemed to be a large black mass (would probably be the 20-yard-line to the right, if using the 50-yard-line description). We pulled out the binoculars and saw there were four hogs, silently chomping away at the corn we had poured out. I was surprised how stealthily they had come in … I’d expected hogs to be noisier.

The blood was starting to pump as Mr. Pringle suggested we try to do a “Two-Fer” — each of us would try to get a hog at the same time, on the count of three.

I lined up the decent-sized porker on the right, barely able to see his outline. However, Mr. Pringle’s scope on his “critter rifle” wasn’t cooperating, so we decided to give it a few minutes to get more light, and give it a try if they were still there. But after about five minutes, they started mulling around, and then sunk back into the brush along the creek.

I turned to my left and saw a tremendous Axis buck striding across the meadow at about 200 yards away. Flashes of white ran down his side and the light shined off his big rack. He seemed to be on a mission, though, and continued his steady pace away from us. Then a doe. A quick glimpse of another doe, and a large buck in the distance. Another doe to the left. And finally, my cull buck stepped out.

At first we didn’t know if he was an eight or not. We looked through the binoculars as carefully as possible, and both decided he looked like a large 6-pointer.Hondo TX Hunting Ranch, Texas Cull Buck, Texas Whitetail Hunting, Hunting in Hondo, TX

I lined up through the right window of the blind, and immediately found him, walking around and grazing.  Safety off. I focused on my breathing … but I could hear myself rasp a lot stronger than I wanted to. The adrenaline was pumping. Nice, easy breaths, come on … wait for his right foot to step forward for the perfect shot … THERE … stay …

… squeeze …

The .30-06 had a decent kick, and smoke filled my view as the rifle surprised me with its blast. I knew it was a good shot, and as soon as the smoke cleared, I saw him on the ground where he had stood. No kick. No jump. No pirouette. Just knocked straight down. My heart was thumping in my chest and in my head.

We waited about 15 minutes before stepping out of the blind, during which time Mr. Pringle shared a story which convinced me that it is indeed best to wait to make sure the animal is dead before approaching it. Besides – an extra 15 minutes in the blind … there are worse ways to spend my time.  He was a nice 7-pointer who could have been considered an 8 if his top left tine had been another quarter-inch.

An adrenaline-filled way to enjoy a crisp fall morning.

We all have seen the horrible scope of the damage of Hurricane Sandy, and the havoc it has wreaked on millions across the east coast.

Many of us in the affiliate marketing world know Vinny O’Hare and Deb Carney, two veteran marketers, and all around great people. Unfortunately, Vinny and Deb were impacted by the recent storms. We’re thankful that they are OK, but their house has been severely damaged by flooding. Some details were written on a post by our friend Joe Sousa. Another post was put up by Scott Jangro.

I hope they don’t mind, I saved this picture from Vinny’s Facebook page from just before they got out of the area due to the rising waters.

I’ll steal this paragraph directly from Joe … if you’re reading this, please do what you can to help Vinny and Deb.

Karen Garcia of GTO Management has set up a ChipIn account for all of us to contribute. Or you can just click on the widget below. Deb and Vinny have helped many of us in the industry in the past and here is an easy way to tell them thanks for all they have done. Anything you can give will be greatly appreciated.

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