Thursday, May 17, 2012

What kind of rodent is Charlie?

Calling all rodent experts!

Yesterday was the Tiny Princess's last day of school. She is officially finished with the 2's class at the Preschool and is ready for middle school. The incredibly spoiled little princess got a pedicure to celebrate.

Before Christmas, we were asked to take on the incredible responsibility for caring for  try to keep alive the class hamster, Apple, over the summer.

It has been a source of great excitement for the Tiny Princess and a source of undue angst for the Great and Powerful Oz who . . . at the unfortunate expense of our former dog . . . is ecstatic that our house has been pet free for two months (aside from the crabs).

Oz has moaned and groaned over the addition of a rodent to our mix . . . even though I have repeatedly assured him that it's only for the summer. 

When tragedy struck just before spring break and Apple keeled over at school, Oz thought that he was going to get off Scott free.

But, to the Tiny Princess's relief, her teacher replaced Apple with a new "hamster," Charlie.

On the rodent's last day of school, Elizabeth played taxi and delivered both the Tiny Princess and the offending rodent to the Moen house. On her way, I received a text from her that said :

"I think Charlie is a $#%ing rat!"

My skin began to crawl.  Teddy Bear hamsters are cute and fuzzy . . . cuddly even . . . at least they are when they are alive.

They have little stumps for tails and adorable little twitchy faces.  I can handle one of those in the house. 

But, a rat is a whole other matter. We can not coexist. 

Last fall, we had what we thought was a mouse living in the bottom of my clothes dryer. He out smarted us for weeks - stealing food off the traps and miraculously de-sticking himself from sticky boards.

After finding mouse poo in one of my kids' rooms, I finally had had enough and called a moratorium on the mouse. That night, Oz quarantined himself in the Tiny Princess's room with the mouse . . . armed with nothing but a vacuum.

Ten short minutes later, the mouse was dead . . .  and decidedly not a mouse . . . but a RAT, instead.  

My hero had beat the thing to death with the end of the vacuum.  

Then, he turned on the vacuum, sucked the rat to the end, and carried it out the door.  He even cleaned up the rat brains that were smeared on the wall.  After all, even to Oz, it didn't seem fair to make a three year old princess clean rat brains off of her wall.

So, I need to know.  What is this new rodent called "Charlie"?

Is he a hamster?  Surely not.  He has a really, really long and creepy tail. 

Is he a gerbil?   Maybe. 

But, Elizabeth swears he is a rat.   I don't know.  So . . .

Let's take a poll.   You tell me, Is Charlie a gerbil or a rat?  I've added a poll to the side of this post . . . just above Elizabeth and I's picture.  

If you tell me that he is, indeed, a rat, I cannot vouch for his safety in this place.   Accidents happen.  He may "accidentally" find his way into the field next door where he may accidentally be eaten by a snake or large bird.  Should such an "accident" occur, he will be smoothly replaced by a hamster that we will call "Twitchy."


If he's a gerbil, though, I can live with him being in my house even though that tail gives me the creeps. 

But I still can't vouch for a gerbil's complete safety.   When I was still trying to convince myself that Charlie is a hamster, I googled "hamster tail" and discovered . . . to my HORROR . . . that gerbils frequently lose their tails!!

borrowed picture 
Apparently, if small hands accidentally grab the gerbil by the tail, the entire skin will come off in your hand leaving you with a bloody bone tail, which will then dry up and fall off.  Mmmmmmm. 

Yes, that's disgusting.  You can read about it here.

If you have been reading my posts for a while, then you have heard my stories about our pets and their unfortunate endings.   Cats get eaten by coyotes.  Hermit crabs lose their limbs if I so much as look at them wrong (we are down to only one now). 

The chances of Charlie keeping his tail for three months in this house are slim to none. Of course, if his tail comes off, maybe then I can sigh with relief and just call him a hamster.

Now to keep our integrity as a food/fitness blog:

Today's workout was a 6 mile run (8:41 min/mile) and 45 minutes of combat class for a grand total of 878 calories burned.  I'm preparing for the family picnic at Oz's work tonight.  I do love a burger.

Also, in preparation for said burger, my breakfast this morning was a light, yet filling Green Monster smoothie :

Oh, wait, that's not a smoothie.  This is:

1 cup spinach, 1 cup almond milk,
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 T cashew butter,
1/2 cup blackberries, 1 tsp banana extract

I'll let you decide which one I had for breakfast.  Should I put up a poll for that too?  What if there are no wrong answers?


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What is this?!? Is Team Shortstack defecting?

Maybe.  Maybe not.

Team Shortstack has been slacking.  Since Easter, our workouts have been sloppy, and our eating has been even sloppier.

We've been doing the same stuff for almost a year and a half now.  We are stale.  Team Shortstack is staler than a  three day old pancake.  We've decided its time to mix it up. 

Now, we would like to mix it up with some Crossfit.  Yeah, yeah . . . its all the rage.  Everybody is doing it. 

Just like everyone is reading "Fifty Shades of Grey." 

We are doing that, too.  We hop on a trend faster than Kim Kardashian on a black man with big diamonds.  


But, we truly believe that Crossfit is a higher form of exercise and is probably here to stay.  Holy crap!  I sound like a damn Reebok commercial.

While Crossfit is touted as the workout that anyone can do in the comfort of their own garage, you still need a gaggle of equipment.   And, in case you haven't noticed, my garage is full of cars.

Plus, Shortstackers need a gym.  Somewhere to go.   "I'm going to workout at home" is Jenni-speak for "I might accidentally sleep in" . . . just like the Great and Powerful Oz does every morning.

So, we've been trying to incorporate some Crossfit-esque exercises into our workouts at the good old YMCA. 

But the Y is dirty.  The aerobics rooms are scheduled out.  The only available space is the basketball gym, which is not air conditioned.  So, we are hauling weights, medicine balls, and yoga mats around like a bunch of pack mules, and sweating like a whore in church before our workout even begins.

We heard a rumor that the Chickasaw Wellness Center has a very nice gym.  We also heard that they have some Crossfit friendly equipment. 

We had to check it out.


The Wellness Center is a one stop shop. You can get an HIV test, learn how to breastfeed, and do burpees all in one place.  And, if you have Indian heritage, you can workout there for free.

Unfortunately, I'm about as white as they come.  In fact, I'm so white that I'm reflective.  And, even if I look like I took a tomahawk to the forehead, I'm out of luck at the Chickasaw Wellness Center.

Elizabeth gets a little closer.  She wanted to be Indian so bad when she was little that her dad lied to her for years and said she was part Cherokee.  But, the freckles give her away.  She's also out of luck.

Now, Jill gets real close.  Her dad's high cheek bones and dark skin make it obvious that they have tribal lineage.  But, her cousin's extensive genealogy research revealed that there was some hanky panky followed by a disownment or other "your dead to me event" that made getting roll numbers unlikely. 

At the time, they probably didn't realize all of  the benefits that they were foregoing (rich cultural history, free college, walmart gift cards for good elementary grades, and free use of weights and treadmills).    But, like us, she's out of luck, too. 

Even so, pale faces like Elizabeth and I and disowned natives like Jill are welcome at the Wellness Center.  At $30/month, it's the best deal in town.  

Since this was our first visit, we were given some guest passes and a tour.  First up was the pool. 

Because the Great and Powerful Oz fancies himself a swimmer, we had to check it out.  It sort of resembles a Japanese bath, but it was clean and warm.  It looked good to us, but Oz is going to need to  do some cannon balls himself to check the depth. 

Next up was the workout room, which I swear to might as well have had a sign on the door that said "Team Shortstack's Room."  There were all kinds of toys in there that we couldn't wait to get our hands on.

Like this weighted ball.  I recently discovered that I need one of these to do something called "wall balls." 

I did five or so and decided that I definitely need further training.  Wall balls are not for the faint of heart.

The room also had free weights, kettle bells, weighted bars, bands, steps, boxes, and two . . . yes, two, rowing machines.

Elizabeth loves a rowing machine.  She has been trying to justify buying one for her house. I think she almost has it rationalized. But, in case EZ-GO Joe doesn't buy in, we will be all set at the Wellness Center. 

But, by far, our favorite find of the day was a machine that I haven't seen since my days at the Bally Total Fitness in Houston. 

Pull ups are my arch nemesis.  I spent all last summer working on pull-ups, and could still only muster two by the end of the summer. 

I'm sure that this machine is considered cheating by many standards because it gives you a little "assist" by catapulting you towards the heavens when you pull-up.  But, I think that if we gradually decrease the amount of resistance, we should eventually be able to do them unassisted.  I am flat-out fired up about this machine.  I wanted to wrap it up and take it home with me. 

I guess Team Shortstack needs to have a pow wow to discuss the move.  We really liked the Chickasaw Wellness Center and would like a change of scenery.  

Change your latitude, change your attitude.

But, I hate to pull a Yoko Ono and break up the band if all members of the team aren't on board.

Now, because this is getting kind of long-winded, here is Elizabeth's "What-We-Ate on Tuesday" on Wednesday:

BreakfastFor breakfast, she had oatmeal.  You've seen it and heard it before. 

Lunch:  For lunch, Elizabeth had orzo salad with sliced bell peppers, hummus, and toasted pita.

Dinner:  Dinner was at my house.  We had ginormous salads adorned with chicken, avocado, grape tomatoes, zucchini, red and yellow bell peppers, mushrooms, and slaw.   The dressing was a sugar-free hummus dressing (recipe . . . if you can call it that . . .  coming soon). 

We also had broiled brussel sprouts and Parmesan Roma tomatoes.  And, hummus and baked flatbread.

A day in the life, folks.   A day in the life.

Jenni and Elizabeth

Monday, May 14, 2012

White Chocolate Butterscotch Chip Pretzel Cookie

Drama came home from school on Friday and gave me my mother's day present.

I have to work on my photography skills
 If you look close, in addition to cutting a year off my age and dropping my weight by ten percent . . . bless his little heart . . . he also very subtly and very craftily praises my cookie baking skills.

Making cookies is one of my favorite weekend activities. But I haven't been making them too much lately . . . at least I haven't been making any that he would want to eat. The kids are not too interested in trying my sugar-free experiments. Most of them are better for weighing down paper than for eating.

I took this present as a cry for help. A cry for sugar and chocolate chips. Clearly, he needs me . . . to make him some cookies.

And so I did.  Plain Jane Chocolate Chip Cookies. Just like he likes them.

But, then I couldn't stand it. I needed to try something. I wondered, what if I took my favorite cookie recipe and just switched out the white sugar with my new colonic friend, Xylitol? I thought, maybe if I just change one ingredient at a time, I'll eventually create something fabulous and healthy.

And, that's what I did.   Make no mistake though. 

This is not a healthy cookie.

So, don't go bananas. But, it has a little less sugar, and I think the recipe has room for improvement. Next time, I will reduce or eliminate the brown sugar.  

Also, keep in mind that the Xylitol makes this a "cakey" cookie.  

The Great and Powerful Oz did not care for it (though he ate no less than half a dozen) because he prefers a flatter, chewier cookie.  However, when I made this same base cookie dough with regular refined sugar, he commented that this is the "best base" cookie dough ever.  I think I have it recorded somewhere.

So, if you don't care about sugar, just replace the Xylitol with regular refined sugar.  If you don't want all the bells and whistles, nix the white chocolate, butterscotch, and pretzels, and just make chocolate chip cookies instead. 

I like bells and whistles.

White Chocolate Butterscotch Pretzel Cookie

8 T butter flavored crisco stick
1/4 + 1/8 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup Xylitol
1 egg
1 T vanilla
1 3/4 all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup of premier white chocolate chips
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup broken up pretzels
sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a stand mixer, cream the crisco, brown sugar, and Xylitol. Add egg and vanilla. Mix until well combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and stir well. Then, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet. Use the mixer to mix the dry and wet together. Just until all the dry ingredients are wet.

Use a cookie scoop or your grubby hands to roll into balls. Evenly space on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake for 10-14 minutes.  Watch them though.  Don't leave them unattended.  If you over cook them, they will end up like this:

Makes 21 medium cookies.

Nutritional info:


Friday, May 11, 2012


The topic for today's Sidelining the Sweet Talk is . . . . drumroll . . . .


I actually started writing this post before the "head incident" and haven't had any desire to finish it until now.  I've been feeling like I'm hitting a wall with my running . . . no pun intended . . . and have been looking for some inspiration.   I'm hoping that I'll find some as I finish this post.  So, let's go.

There are two types of people:  those that love to run and those that believe that you should run only if you are being chased. 

Obviously, I fall into the first category . .. . but I haven't always.

During college, I may have gone on a few jogs but really it was only to sweat out some beer and get rid of the fried pickle bulge that I had developed around my middle.  

Truth be told, I had little interest in my physical health during my college years.  My interests were my friends . . .

Just look at all those styrofoam cups
and boys . . .    

Solo cups were also popular

. . .  and school.  Of course, school.

However, it was only during law school that I finally realized that there was something to be gained from perspiration.

During the first year of law school. the Great and Powerful Oz decided that we needed to go out for a jog one night after dinner.  He proposed a run around the block.  That's it  . . . just a block.

But, I swear that was the longest block in Houston.   I made it about half-way down the first leg of the block . . .  probably 1/16 of a mile . . . before I keeled over . . . gasping for what had to be my last breath of air.    Oz pointed out that I hadn't even made it around the first corner.   I was okay with that because I was sure that cardiac arrest was around that corner. 

Running was not for me. 

And, then during my second year of law school, I got some harebrained idea that I wanted to run a marathon.   I teamed up with my good friend Mary Shannon, and we jumped right in even though we had no idea what we were doing.   

We certainly didn't worry too much about our pace.  

Really, we just ran so that we could say, "I ran a marathon once."  Our goal was to survive . . .  and to drink bellinis at the end.

After finishing the marathon, I didn't run much for the next four or five years.  But then, I moved back to my hometown.  I had two small kids, and I was ready to shed some baby weight.  

I started running 3-4 days/week with my new friend, Emily.  We ran at a comfortable, leisurely pace.  After all, you can't risk being too winded to talk when you have small town crap to talk about.

And then a couple of years ago, we hooked up with a few more girls . . .

Allison, Jessie, Emily, and I

. . . and it all changed. 

We started running harder, longer, and faster.  Jessie used words like "fartleks" and "intervals," and I had to step up my game . . . or at least look up the terms online so that I knew what she was talking about.  Jessie pushed the four of us (and our dear sweet friend Wendy) to be faster, more technically proficient runners.  And, while Jessie was doctoring our form, Allison pushed us to run farther.

Some where along the way, I found my groove.  It just became easier.  I discovered that I can push myself a little without turning into roadkill. 

I discovered that I run faster in the heat than in the cold and that treadmills mean that you don't have to run in the ice.


I discovered that I need to run 6-7 miles to really enjoy a run because my body doesn't really loosen up until mile 3 or 4.  For me, there is little satisfaction in stopping just when it is just getting easy. 

And, I discovered that I really do like races.  They are loads of fun, and its good to have a goal to work toward. I also enjoy the people that a race attracts. 

Finally, I discovered that, while I certainly don't mind winning a metal . . . or an even better prize . . .

like steaks . . . the only person that I am competing against is myself.   There is always going to be someone younger and faster and better than me, and I'm cool with that.

I just want to run the best that I can on that particular day under whatever circumstances are presented to me.  Sometimes I have a good run.  Sometimes I don't (i.e., Germanfest). 

There is a saying amongst runners that is something like:

The only run that you'll ever regret
 is the one that you don't take.

I want to say, "Abso-freaking-lutely!  That is gospel."  But, really, I think that's total crap.   Some times you have a bad run run into a pole, and you wish that you had stayed in bed.  For me, running is a mindgame. 

If I think I can do it, I usually do.  But, if I have a bad run, it can screw with my head and steal my running mojo for days. 

Taking more than a few days off leaves me feeling slower and winded . . . and defeated.  Its not rational.    Its not like you lose it all during seven days.  But, a break turns me into a real headcase.  

Recently,  I decided to press the reset button.  I've been going back to the basics.  I'm easing back into it . . .  and looking for my mojo . . .  and dolls . . . along the way. 

Really, my point is that whether I'm at a stage where I am happy just to finish the race

or looking for the big prize

it doesn't really matter.  I just need a goal . . . even it its just to get out bed in the morning . . . 

Now, does this little pep talk have me feeling more inspired?  Maybe a little. 

I feel like I should go for a run.  But since its raining, maybe I should go for a fro yo instead.