After Christmas Hike

This post has a bit of jumping around in it! Christmas Eve I got off work a little bit early (thanks to my very awesome boss). I got to my car and realized I had a low tire–on the way of becoming a flat tire. Blasted! Poor timing. I drove to Les Schwab and they were just closing up shop. Damn! But the guy there took one look at my tire and said it was a flat and he fixed it. It took him like 10 minutes, tops, and didn’t charge me anything. When I asked he just shrugged and said “Merry Christmas” and gave me a hug. I was SO grateful that he fixed my tire and I didn’t get stranded somewhere when everything was closed. I have always had fantastic experiences with Les Schwab and will always take my business there.

Look what I came home to!

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Aren’t they gorgeous? Anyways, Michael and I took Bella for a walk, got dumped on by sudden rain, and then had a quick dinner before our friends were coming over for the traditional Christmas movie and popcorn night! Last year we watched Die Hard. This year we watched The Ref and part of Scrooged. 😉

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Our friends Erika and Charles came over. We had some yummy drinks (they had beer, I had eggnog!) and we had popcorn while we watched the movies. I love The Ref. Bella snuggled on the couch with them. It was pretty cute.

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It was great to spend time with them! I wonder what we should watch next year…

The day after Christmas Michael, Bella and I went for a hike in Forest Park. Forest Park/Washington Park is a humongous park in the middle of the city and there are so many trails you could never do them all! I wanted to do something in town as opposed to driving out to the Gorge. I chose Tolinda Ridge Trail Loop. It was out near St. Helens and the trailhead was super easy to find (just off Germantown Road). There was a small parking lot and we got a spot.

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The trail started out with a very steep incline. There was even a spot with “stairs” made out of tree roots.

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The rain lately had sogged the trail pretty badly but it was manageable. It leveled off a little bit while we hiked away from the road.

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The Tolinda trail itself wasn’t very long. It was steep and almost all uphill. We tromped through the mud and the old growth forest, and then came to a fork in the trail. It wasn’t labeled. One way lead to another trail (I’m guessing the Ridge trail) and the other way went to the Leif Erickson parking lot. We decided to go that way because I knew that there would be other trails to pick up at that parking lot. We hiked through the paved (yet still muddy) part of this trail and came across a lot of families out hiking.

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Bella did SO GOOD! I think this is the first hike we’ve done this winter. It was just another reminder that she’s getting grown up. She didn’t seem bothered by any of the strangers we came across, wasn’t scared of the little kids she met and even seemed curious. Most of the dogs we came across didn’t bother her and she didn’t bark (except for one dog that was a little yappy).

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There were a bunch of families hiking, there were a few different trail runners and we came across a few mountain bikers, too. It was a popular stretch of the park. We came across about a dozen Christmas ornaments! It was such a nice, festive surprise.

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We got to the parking lot and found the Cannon Trail. According to the sign, it was a new trail. It was another steep one and we wound through the forest on a nice trail. It was very nice, quiet trail.

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We hiked for a little while longer and came to another parking lot off-shoot and then another steep part of the trail. We decided to turn around and head back. I was doing pretty well, but my left knee had bugged me a little bit on parts of the hike. Not too bad, not enough to not hike, but I didn’t want to get too far away from the car either. My right hip also bugged me a little at one part of the trail–which was weird because I rarely have hip issues. Who knows. Maybe it was the steepness of the trail, maybe I was walking weird, maybe I’m just out of practice hiking.

We hiked back through the forest and got the Tolinda Trail again. It was all downhill from there and we finally made it back to the car. I was covered in mud up to my knees! We did about 3.75 miles in just under 2 hours. I burned 477 calories:

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Bella was absolutely filthy. (She got a bath when we got home!) It felt fantastic to get home, take a warm shower and then get into clean clothes.

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I did a little after-Christmas clearance shopping and then we had spaghetti squash for dinner. I bake the spaghetti squash for about 45 minutes at 375 degrees. I season them with grapeseed oil, salt, pepper, and the Costco non-salt seasoning. It’s delicious. I love how healthy the spaghetti squash is without the pasta guilt after. I added some turkey meatballs to the sauce, topped with fresh parmesan.

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Good, healthy, filling. Sadly, Michael ended up getting a head cold Friday night and was sick the rest of the weekend. We didn’t end up doing much the rest of the weekend but I did get a lot of stuff done around the house. Let’s hope he’s better by New Year’s!

New Traditions and Cookies

One of the cool things about being an adult is being able to make your own traditions. For a long time, my favorite traditions were with friends and family, often including an off-color Christmas movie (Die Hard, The Ref, Scrooged, Bridget Jones’s Diary) and lots of eating. Being in a relationship means melding together traditions. This year Michael and I both had Christmas Eve off from work. His office was closed, I took a vacation day. We kind of went about our mornings doing whatever we wanted (I went to physical therapy and then swimming) and he finished shopping. 🙂

Then we went to lunch together, courtesy of his great aunt, and to a movie. We saw “Jack Reacher.” I was skeptical going in because I LOVE the books. Jack Reacher has been one of my absolute favorite book characters for about 15 years now. When I heard that Tom Cruise was going to play him, I was so disappointed. I mean, really? Reacher is like 6’6 in the movies, menacing and dark and mysterious. Those words do not describe Tom Cruise. But I went into the movie trying to think of it as just another action flick. Thankfully, I was not disappointed! While I couldn’t get it out of my head that I was watching Tom Cruise, I liked the movie a lot. It stayed pretty close to the books and characters, the writing and plot were excellent and there weren’t any cheesy action movie scenes that make you roll your eyes. There was also a pretty kick-ass car chase scene (I need a Camaro). Michael loved the movie, and has never read the books. So in the end….I do recommend it, even though it’s Tom Cruise. 😉

After the movie we still had the whole afternoon free so I baked some Christmas cookies to give to his family as gifts, and to take into work to share after the holiday. Michael kept me company as I baked. I don’t bake as often as I used to for one simple reason: I don’t want the treats in my house. But this gave me an excuse to bake something because I was giving them away!

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The recipe turned out really well. I definitely recommend it for a fall or holiday party/occasion.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Serves: 24-30
Ingredients
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Instructions
  1. Combine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil and egg.
  2. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  3. Dissolve baking soda in the milk, then add flour mixture and milk mixture into the pumpkin mixture and blend well.
  4. Add vanilla and chocolate chips. Mix well.
  5. Drop onto cooking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned and firm.

A few things to note: This recipe most definitely does NOT make 12. It makes about double that. So the calorie count is way off if you go by 12 servings. I don’t know about you, but I don’t make giant cookies. Mine are somewhere between small and normal sized!!! I got 30 cookies out of this recipe (because I thought there were 12 servings in it, so I doubled the recipe…oooops). Because I got more cookies out of the recipe, I calculate it at around 170 calories per cookie instead of 425. Much better.

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Also, I used a mixture of Splenda Blend and regular sugar, and I also added some nutmeg. The kitchen smelled wonderful! It smelled like pumpkin pie was baking in the oven. How were the cookies? They were great! They were soft and almost cake-like instead of dense like a chocolate chip cookie. Perfect blend of pumpkin and chocolate.

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I let the cookies cool down and then wrapped them in festive tissue paper to get out of my house!! No temptations! Since I accidentally doubled the recipe, I needed to get rid of more cookies. So Michael and I played Santa and dropped some off at our neighbor’s house.

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Michael built a fire in the fireplace and we watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (a classic!). Then we opened the cards we got each other. When we first started dating, I told him I liked exchanging cards on Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries. And I expected more than just his name in the card. LOL I trained him well. Now I can expect a lovely heartfelt note from him 3 times a year. I love it!

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Christmas Eve dinner was leftover Barilla farfalle pasta with homemade turkey meatballs, some pickled green beans on the side and a nice glass of red wine. Sounds a bit weird, but it all tasted great. Later that evening some neighborhood kids came caroling! I love making our own traditions aka doing whatever we want!

QUESTION: What are some of your holiday traditions?