Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Living Out My Dreams

Air Force Officer Training School, Air Force OTS

You may notice it's been rather quiet around this blog for the past year or so. With all of last year's marathon training, long hours at my civilian job, attempting to commission in the Air National Guard, and truly just kicking back and enjoying time with Daniel—blogging just truly hasn't been one of my top priorities. I'll admit, I miss sharing my story through posts and photos, but taking a break has truly helped me catch my breath! I also want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has emailed me, left comments on my posts, and just reached out to say hi! I'm still here—I promise!—I'm just spending less time online and more time out living it!

That being said, I've referred to this a little bit on Aunie Sauce since last year, but in September 2015 I was notified that I had been selected for an officer slot within the Idaho Air National Guard. When I joined the ANG back in 2013, my goal had been to commission. Hallelujah... my dreams were coming true! After playing the waiting game for the last eight months—which is common in the military—I am currently living out my dreams and attending Air Force Officer Training School (OTS) down in Alabama. I will be spending a LOT of time at training in the upcoming months, so this is a huge step for me, Daniel and our future!

To say that OTS is a challenging program is an understatement. It has tested me more than almost anything I've ever done. But it is so worth it. I wouldn't trade any 0400-2300 workday, any minute spent marching from here to there, any six-minute chow where we have to totally scarf our food, any hour of classroom lecture, any 341 pulled, or any moment of all the stress to miss out on this opportunity. To go from an Airman First Class to a Second Lieutenant is going to be such an honor. I am so thrilled and grateful to be given this experience, and I am taking every day as it comes... one meal at a time.

So thank you all in advance for your support, encouragement, and continued support as I live out my dreams through this next chapter of my life. I may not be blogging as frequently, but I promise that means that I'm busy, learning, and growing personally & professionally more and more each day.

Sending love in my absence, all the way from Alabama. Aim high, right? HUA!

Saturday, May 7, 2016

32.

Aunie Sauce Birthday Letter to Daniel

"They say it's your birthday!
It's my birthday too, yeah...
They say it's your birthday,
We're gonna have a good time.
I'm glad it's your birthday...
Happy birthday to you!"

- "Birthday" by The Beatles

My Best Friend Daniel,

         Cue the Beatles... because they say it's your birthday... HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I can't believe that your 32nd year is upon us already. How are we not parents by now? Time just goes by so quickly.

          It's hard to believe that just a short two years ago, I was down at Basic Training during your Birthday, and it was so hard to be away from you on your special day. I was especially sad that I didn't even get to call you to say hello. Isn't it crazy that I am now—again—even FARTHER away from you (2,200 miles) at Officer Training School? And similarly, I also don't get to talk to you—again—because our phones have also been taken away from us down here! No kidding. I just miss spending my guy's birthday with him, darn it! We better not make a habit of this!

          I'm so excited to see what this year will bring you (a.k.a. us). We'll both be looking forward to new professional opportunities, a few nice travel trips, definitely lots of new restaurants and foodie experiences, and gosh... just more time to be grateful to have each other. 32 is going to look good on you, my man.

          This is the fifth year that I've written you a letter on your birthday. I wouldn't miss it for anything. I know I'm halfway across the United States from you but every time I think about how much I miss you and how difficult it is to be apart, I remember all the sacrifices we are making for each other and our future together. It makes every 4:30 am - 11:00 pm day, getting yelled at by the MTI's, the endless hours of marching and drill, and all the days apart just that much more worth it. Truly, I'd much rather be enjoying a cider with you on our driveway while we watch the sun set; but I'll be back home in your arms so soon, I promise.

Here's to you, loves. I'll be jammin' out all day to your family's favorite birthday song, thinking about you every single minute. Enjoy your 32nd, sweetheart. Today, it's all about you!

Sending air hugs & kisses from down South in Alabama,
Your soon-to-be 2nd Lieutenant Aunie Loves ♥

Past birthday letters to Daniel: 2829 │ 30 │ 31

Monday, March 28, 2016

Palm Desert Trip 2016

Whitewater Preserve, Palm Springs California, Palm Desert California, Palm Desert Hikes

In our (almost) annual pilgrimage to visit my dad and his wife at their snowbird winter oasis, Daniel and I hit the road last week and traveled 15-hours down to Palm Desert, California. Having a dad who spends half the year up in the mountains at the the lake in Idaho and the other half in the desert of California has some mega-perks—we get to visit some rock-solid travel destinations and get to catch up with two of the coolest people you could hope to spend a vacation with.

We love to drive ourselves down to Cali, because we're so on-the-go when we're down there, that having our own vehicle makes the most sense. We tried flying and renting a car once, and it just wasn't the same (and cost a whole heck-of-a-lot more!). We sure do love our road trips, our gas station stops, and our impromptu "Hey, pull over to catch that snake on the side of the road!" moments.

As we always do, we woke up each morning to hit the gym, then hiked for 2-4 hours, then enjoyed Mexican food (literally a different restaurant for a chips & salsa sampling every. single. day.), caught some sun—or caught up on some zzz's!—and then enjoyed happy hour and dinner out. That was our daily schedule—which was like the best playlist EVER on shuffle & repeat—for every single day of the whole week we spent there.

Since this was our fourth trip to the desert, we knew which hikes and areas we loved and wanted to return to (like Whitewater Preserve and the Coachella Valley Preserve), and which ones we'd be OK without this time (like Joshua Tree). We also knew we wanted to try a couple new trails and were not disappointed with the two new ones we tried—Henderson Loop and Carrizo Canyon, both off Highway 74.

Daniel hit a lifetime goal this trip and I was thrilled to be a part of it—we found a desert tortoise! Growing up in the Arizona desert, Daniel had always wanted to find a wild tortoise, and this time—just barely poking out of a hole as we were scaling a canyon—was a little sunbathing tortoise. Life goal—check!

In addition to our hikes and adventures, my favorite part of our trips is spending time with my dad and his wife, which sadly I missed out on taking any photos with them this trip. Bummer! We always get one on our golfing adventures, and this year I totally spaced it... I must've been too excited about being on a winning "Putters" team. Anyway, we got to spend some great quality time with them—introducing them to The Living Desert Zoo and enjoying some dynamite food at places like Si Bon (amazing lunch), Armando's (favorite FAVORITE Mexican & margaritas), Backstreet Bistro (the Fit Menu is where it's at!), and Los Pepes (family-owned traditional Mexican).

See a couple photos of our trip below, which is mostly a collection of our amazing hikes!

Whitewater Preserve, Blooming Yucca Plant, Palm Springs California, Palm Desert California, Palm Desert Hikes
Enjoying the wildflowers and blooming yucca at Whitewater Preserve
Whitewater Preserve, Palm Springs California, Palm Desert California, Palm Desert Hikes
The overlook at the top of the Whitewater Preserve trail. This hike was about 10-miles. It was the perfect day for it.
Whitewater Preserve, Palm Springs California, Palm Desert California, Palm Desert Hikes
Before setting off on our Whitewater Preserve trek. It was a long one and we hit it right in the middle of the afternoon. The weather couldn't have been better, coming in right around 82-degrees!
Whitewater Preserve wildflower hike, Palm Springs California, Palm Desert California, Palm Desert Hikes
We traveled to the waterfall at Whitewater last time we were in PD, but this time we wanted to see the wildflowers since we had been too late to see them bloom last year. This photo doesn't do them justice. The hills were covered in the most beautiful flowers!
Whitewater Preserve, Palm Springs California, Palm Desert California, Palm Desert Hikes
Just as we were leaving Whitewater Preserve, I stumbled upon this little gopher snake. He was surprisingly docile! Don't worry, we put him back.
Moon Country Hike at Coachella Valley Preserve, Palm Springs California, Palm Desert California, Palm Desert Hikes
After finding a sidewinder rattlesnake at Moon Country last year, we knew we needed to go back to try our luck again. We didn't find any snakes, but we did catch a gorgeously sunny day! Coachella Valley Preserve has some great hikes.
Desert Iguana at Moon Country Hike at Coachella Valley Preserve, Palm Springs California, Palm Desert California, Palm Desert Hikes
This little desert iguana was super friendly and let us get really close for a photo. We found him on the Moon Country hike... they were everywhere!
Living Desert Zoo, Palm Springs California, Palm Desert California, Palm Desert Hikes
We took my dad and his wife to The Living Desert. It's a great way to spend the afternoon with all of their desert landscapes and animals and they even have on-site hikes... we intend to go back and do that one of these days.
Desert Tortoise, Henderson Loop Trail, Palm Springs California, Palm Desert California, Palm Desert Hikes
It might be hard to see, but this is where Daniel checked off his bucket list item of finding a desert tortoise. I had to capture him capturing the moment! This little tortoise was just barely poking out of the hole and came out to say hello!
Desert Tortoise, Henderson Loop Trail, Palm Springs California, Palm Desert California, Palm Desert Hikes
Man, he was the cutest. He didn't stay out for long after seeing us!
Henderson Loop Trail, Palm Springs California, Palm Desert California, Palm Desert Hikes
Climbing up a small canyon surrounded by gorgeous views and ocotillo, just after finding the tortoise on the Henderson Loop Trail.
Henderson Loop Trail, Palm Springs California, Palm Desert California, Palm Desert Hikes
Going up, up, up the tiny canyon on Henderson Loop. I love hikes that take us over long, scenic distances as well as ones that challenge us with a few vertical climbs.
Henderson Loop Trail overlooking Palm Desert, Palm Springs California, Palm Desert California, Palm Desert Hikes
The view from the top at Henderson Loop Trail. What a view, Palm Desert, what a view.
Desert Falls Country Club golf course view, Palm Springs California, Palm Desert California, Palm Desert Hikes
Between hikes and chips & salsa, we often had a chance to catch up on work, feed the ducks & turtles, and watch some mighty fine golfing at my dad's place. This is the view from his back patio. The mountains overlooking the pond make for some killer sunsets!
Carrizo Canyon Hike, Palm Springs California, Palm Desert California, Palm Desert Hikes
I climbed up on a rock at the top of Carrizo Canyon to snap this shot of Daniel while he was munching on some beef jerky. This was a very, very cool hike and a great way to round out our PD trip.
Carrizo Canyon Hike, Palm Springs California, Palm Desert California, Palm Desert Hikes
After snapping a photo of Daniel, he got one of me as I rested for a moment at the top of Carrizo Canyon. I loved the rocky, vertical terrain on that hike!

While these photos are fun, they just don't do our trips to Palm Desert justice. The views we see as we hike for hours upon hours, the early mornings and smiling faces of the regulars at the gym, the "Cheers!" over happy hour cocktails and dad's famous margaritas, the feeding of the ducks and fish in the pond each morning, and the good conversations by the pool with family are what really make the trip. We are so grateful each year when my dad and his wife open their home to us for a whole week—especially since we spend so much of it out on the trails and up in the hills.

We're already talking about next year's trip. And if it's anything like the last four, it will be one for the books. Until next time, PD. Until next time.

Check out all our past Palm Desert & California trips here!

Friday, January 29, 2016

IIFYM, Macronutrients, and Sport-Specific Nutrition

IIFYM, Macronutrient Tracking, IIFYM for Runners, Balanced Eating

Tracking macros, "if it fits your macros (IIFYM)," flexible dieting, balanced eatingit goes by many namesbut the principles toss old-fashioned calorie-counting, food group restriction (low carb, low fat, etc), and "diets" out the window and say, "Eat what you want, when you want, as long as you stick to what your body needs." When looking at food intake from a sports-related mindset, this dietary concept has been a game changer for me.

My body has undergone several changes over the last couple years. After Air Force Basic Training in 2014 and maintaining a hardcore half and full marathon training schedule in 2015, I lost nearly 20 pounds. I found myself consuming very few calories (compared to what I was burning), at a very low body fat, running faster in my races, and finally saw a number on the scale that I had for years considered a "goal weight." HOWEVER (I should triple emphasize that), I also noticed that I was having a hard time managing my stress levels, my clothes were now ill-fitting, and I just didn't LOOK or FEEL healthy.

Enter IIFYM. (Note: I'm not going to go into the specifics or science behind IIFYM—if you really want to know how it worksGoogle itbecause I'm not a nutritionist/dietitian, so this is all my personal opinion and should not be taken as "advice.")

Over the past several months, I've been changing the way I look at foodto eat based on IIFYM principles of tracking protein, carbohydrates and fat instead of simply focusing on calories alone. And let me say, I love it. I have been able to throw my idea of a "goal weight" out the window and have put back on about 10 pounds (though my body fat has stayed almost the same!), I feel stronger, I have SO MUCH MORE ENERGY, and goodness gracious—I can actually eat real food and more of it! At first, sure, I felt bloated and like my body was asking me what the heck I was doing. After all, I was consuming a lot more calories (specifically carbs) than I was before—it took a while for my metabolism to catch up and realize that I wasn't depriving it of the nutrients it so badly craved anymore!

There's a lot of criticism out there that IIFYM promotes an "EAT ALL THE FOOD/DONUTS/POPTARTS" mentality, but really, if it fits into your plan, why not? And that's the beauty of IIFYM—people can eat without feeling like their depriving themselves so it's much easier to maintain and sustain over the long term. It's not a diet, it's what you eat all the time! And from a sport-specific perspective, with my still intense exercise & running schedule (the top left post is the most recent), I'm actually giving my body the FUEL it needs to be able to sustain this active lifestyle.

IIFYM, Macronutrient Tracking, IIFYM for Runners, Balanced Eating

Now, what's working for me is eating a balanced menu that doesn't really include sugar-sweetened drinks, sodas, fast food, or "desserts"as many people think that's all that folks on IIFYM eat. That's the cool thing... I still get to eat a TON of delicious food and it's not that I'm forbidding myself from having those things (I still have them, trust me, just in moderation), I just also realize that I can eat way more each day based on how I plan my meals. For instance, I could have a small brownie and a half scoop of ice cream OR I could have a giant bowl of oats with peanut butter. For me, volume foods always win.

Here's a sample day of eating to fit within my macronutrient requirements (don't ask for measurements):
  • Meal 1: Post-workout protein smoothie including: protein powder, cashew milk, spinach, chia seeds, avocado, frozen fruit
  • (Optional) Snack 1: oats, protein powder, nut butter
  • Meal 2: baked chicken with hummus, roasted squash & sweet potato
  • Snack 2:  fruit, unsalted nuts
  • Meal 3: zucchini noodles, shrimp, tomatoes, spinach, sauce
  • Snack 3: Protein dessert including: protein powder, almond milk, baking powder

What's awesome is that the above is totally just a sample. Some days, I have 3 big meals. Some days it's 3 small meals and 3 snacks. It just all depends and doesn't even really matter as long as I'm hitting my macro goals. And a big item of note: I don't eat at specific "meal times," instead, I eat when I'm hungry and am working on stopping when I'm full (that's a hard one to master!). But with macro tracking and meal planning, I usually know what I'm going to be eating before I eat it, so I know exactly how much I should eat before I need to stop!

IIFYM, Macronutrient Tracking, IIFYM for Runners, Balanced Eating

Now, since I can't really tell you all of this without giving you some tools & resources, I initially used an IIFYM calculator to help determine my basic macro needs based on my biometric measures, BMR, and energy expenditure. HOWEVER, calculators can only give you so much and don't know your body like YOU know your body. So with the help and recommendation from a friend & nutritionist, I took those numbers that were first generated and adjusted them—and will continue to do so—as my goals/exercise/energy levels change. For instance, I eat a little less fat than they recommended and eat more carbs. But every body is different, so depending on how your body adjusts to your macros, that—and someone to coach you through it to further develop your macros—will help determine what you truly need!

In addition, to keep track of my daily intake, I use the Premium version of myfitnesspal. The Premium version allows me to enter exact macro requirements and gives me the option of not adding my burned exercise calories back into my daily total, which is important since my IIFYM breakdown already accounts for my daily exercise. IIFYM is fun because it's like a little puzzle that I get to solve daily. With the help of a food scale (which I use only sparingly), some measuring cups/spoons, and MFP's calculator, it makes it really, really easy.

Again, I'd like to re-emphasize that I'm not giving any IIFYM-centered advice and this post should be considered my opinion and not scientifically based at all. I have just received several requests to blog about why I choose to do IIFYM and how it's working for me, so this post is it!

While I'd love to encourage questions and am totally able to throw out my opinion on this topic, please don't ask for my macro breakdown—we're all different so everyone has different nutrient needs—and with the goals I'm working toward, my macros are constantly changing. So thanks for taking the time to read this incredibly long post... I hope it encourages you—if you're looking to jump into IIFYM—to do a little research and see if it's the right fit for you!

TL;DR (Too long, didn't read): I have used IIFYM along with exercise to gain 10 pounds (without increasing body fat) and get to eat a lot of delicious food. IIFYM rocks.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

30 Years of Santa Photos

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos

Our family's long-standing Christmas tradition has always been sitting down on the lap of good 'ol Saint Nick, filling him in our wish list items while he squeezes our sides and pats our heads, and going home with a shiny new 5x7 photo to add to my mom's Santa photo album.

See, my mom has this book that makes the rounds on Christmas morning that is filled with our family Santa photos for the last 30 years. THIRTY YEARS! It blew our minds when we realized we had hit that milestone. That's 30-years of coordinated outfits, waiting in ridiculously long lines, and paying for over-priced 5x7's to fill this little book of memories. But the memories—oh the memories. They're worth every penny, every minute, every bad and embarrassing outfit and hair 'do (and hair don't!) that's contained in that book.

Whether we're all together or doing our own thing for the holidays (since my sister now lives out of state), we always make this tradition happen. Sometimes we're in the same shot, other times we have to take our own, and we've even had my brother-in-law hook us up once or twice with a rad photoshop edit because it just wasn't going to get done. Either way, we now have 30 of these little precious memories that we are able to look back on with a smile. My mom tells us each year, "This is my favorite Christmas gift." We think it's ours, too.

I can't give you the collage and not break it down, can I? See the 30 great (and yes, some are definitely awkward) photos below.

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos
1986 - Seattle, WA: My very first Christmas photo. 1987 - Seattle, WA: And then we have a sister.

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos
1988 Seattle, WA: This Santa was one of our favorites. 1989 Seattle, WA: Matching Easter outfits... at Christmas. Cute!

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos
1990 - Seattle, WA: Matching again. 1991 Seattle, WA: Where's my teddy bear? 

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos
1992 Seattle, WA: This one might be my favorite of all. And there's my teddy bear! 1993 Spokane, WA: And little Stew-man was born. 

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos
1994 Spokane, WA: Matching Norwegian lusekoftse's (sweaters). 1995 Hot Springs, AR: Stew wasn't so happy about Santa that year. 

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos
1996 Edmond, OK: Marnie and I in velvet, Stew only happy after mom came in. 1997 Edmond, OK: We loved this Santa... and Stew's pants. 

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos
1998 Edmond, OK: Oh, the beginning of a really couple awkward years for me. 1999 Edmond, OK: This was the year I discovered tweezers... and braces... and what being a teenager was. 

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos
2000 Mason, OH: New city, new grumpy Santa. 2001 Mason, OH: We look really happy to be taking this one. 

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos
2002 Eagle, ID: We moved again! We love Idaho. 2003 Eagle, ID: One of our better years. 

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos
2004 Eagle, ID: In my senior year of high school—yes! 2005 Eagle, ID: Skater boy brother... what a cutie. Marnie was extra tan after just getting back from a tropical trip. 

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos
2006 Eagle, ID: Marnie was cheering for University of Idaho, I was a Boise State Cheerleader. Matching again. 2007 Boise, ID: Both brunettes for the first time! Stew finds a love for ties. 

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos
2008 Boise, ID: We had just flown in from Hawai'i. Very tan. 2009 Boise, ID: Marnie and I were in college, Stew was in high school ROTC. All I have to say is that I was about 40 pounds heavier in that photo than I am today. 

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos
2010 Boise, ID: We all looked really happy. Good memories. 2010 - Seattle, WA: Marnie and Andy couldn't make it to Boise, but they made sure to still visit Santa! 

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos
2011 Boise (Photoshop): It was a crazy year so my brother-in-law photoshopped a picture of us with Santa. It did the trick! 2012 Boise, ID: This was taken the day before Daniel and I got married. 

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos
2013 Boise, ID: Stew's hair was orange because he dressed up as Ron Weasley (from Harry Potter, if you don't know) for a Quidditch something-or-other. 2013 Spokane, WA: Marnie & Andy living it up in Spokane! Separate pics again. 

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos
2014 Boise, ID: Stew and I matched on accident! Fun to have mom in the picture again. 2015 Boise, ID: Marnie and I were trying to decide what to wear, but there was a Seahawks game on so we just drove over and took the picture during halftime. Easy as that!

Thirty years. Can you believe it? I love looking back and reflecting at the changes we've made, the life hurdles we've combated, and just where we were at during that time in our lives. This tradition is so, so special to us... and it definitely gets conversation going at a party when we bring the book out.

And here's a close up of our 2015 photo, because Santa's mustache is too on-pointe not to share.

Santa Pictures, 30 Years of Christmas Santa Photos

Merry late Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone.

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