Jul 062012

Early in the week I needed to come out with a way to cook a bunch of chicken I had along with some veggies I had not cooked.

This is what I made:

I started by cooking the chicken in a large dutch oven (I have limited pots/pans).  I used organic coconut oil.

I got all the veggies ready and stir fry them in the dutch oven with coconut oil.  I used broccoli, carrots, and zucchini.  I added about 1/4 c. of low sodium soy sauce and about 1/4 c. stir fry sauce I had.

While the veggies were cooking a little, I cut up the chicken into small pieces.  After about 5 minutes, I added the chicken and added a little more soy sauce and stir fry sauce.  Last I added 3/4 c. cooked brown rice.  Mix everything and serve = )

It came out really good, and its a great recipe to make for the week.  We got 6 servings out of the dish, 3 per person.


2 lbs. of chicken (@ The Fresh Market)

2 bags of broccoli (@ TJ’s)

1/2 bag shredded carrots (@ TJ’s)

2 medium zucchinis (@ TJ’s)

3/4 c. of brown rice (@ Whole Foods)

low sodium soy sauce

stir fry sauce

Next time, I plan on adding some red and green peppers and mushrooms.  I think it would be really good to make it a little spicy.  I’ve been a  little sensitive to spicy food, so I skipped it = )

This is a dish I plan on making on a regular basis.  Perfect for lunch or even a mid-afternoon snack.  I am not one to freeze food, but I bet it would freeze OK, making it better if larger amounts are cooked.


Jul 032012

Here is yet another essay I wrote for my English class.  I thought this essay was perfect because I’m working on getting fitter.  For a while I was doing a lot of cardio with little results.  I switched my training to training with heavy weights and saw results immediately.  This led me to write this essay.


High Endurance Cardio Training vs. Training with Heavy Weights

Losing weight and getting in shape is not easy.  Attaining the body a person wants takes hard work and dedication.  It seems that every day more and more people, myself included, set goals for themselves to lose weight.  They set these goals with intentions of losing weight and getting leaner to look better, improve their health and increase their longevity.  The problem that many of these people face as they start their journey to better health and a better physique, is that they do not know where to begin.  Television, magazines, and the internet abound with so called experts who all proclaim to have the answers that everyone is seeking for the best way to achieve, “The dream body you have always wanted” or “six-pack abs in 14 days!”  These advertisements prey on an individual’s desire to look like the impossibly beautiful and toned models in advertisements, and to achieve results quickly.  Quick-result gimmicks aside, there are two main schools of thought about how to get healthy and attain an attractive physique: workouts that focus on high endurance cardio training, and training with heavy weights.  While both types of workouts provide countless benefits to the people who partake in them, I believe training with heavy weights is the best method to achieve lean, well-muscled, and healthy bodies.

High endurance cardio training, such as running, cycling, and rowing increases endurance and stamina.  Cardio training has also been linked to other benefits such as immune system health and short-term sense of wellbeing.  Additionally, cardiovascular training reduces the incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and stroke.  These benefits of cardio training should never be discounted, and cardio exercise should always be seen as a worthwhile investment of time and effort; however, cardio training has its limitations and downsides.  For example, jogging, whether on a treadmill or pavement, places severe and repeated traumatic stress on bones and joints.  Over time, such stress can lead to injuries such as runner’s knee and shin splints.  I have experienced some of the negative effects of intense cardio training.  The static positions required for some group cycling classes, some last for several minutes at a time, cause me significant lower back pain.  This pain does not dissipate after the exercise session is over, but lasts for days after.

In comparison to cardio training, training with heavy weights has more health benefits and fewer downsides.  Like cardio, training with heavy weights is also beneficial in the prevention and reduction of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  The benefits of weight training, however, extend beyond those of cardio training in several important aspects.  For example, lifting heavy weights slows the decline and disease progression associated with aging.  Another benefit of heavy weight training is strength.  Muscle strength is necessary for performing countless every-day activities such as pulling a gallon of milk out of the refrigerator, climbing a set of stairs, lifting a child from a car seat, and a multitude of other common physical tasks.  In fact, strong muscles are even necessary to perform most cardio type exercises such as running, rowing, and cycling.  Heavy weight training also reduces age related decline in bone density which can lead to osteoporosis, and it can help reduce the painful symptoms of osteoarthritis.  Heavy weight training causes bones to become more dense and strong over time, thus helping to reduce how prone an individual is to injuries such as bone fractures.  All of these benefits, as well as many others, amount to an increase in longevity.  I prefer exercising with heavy weights.  This approach to working out has enabled me to have strength and confidence in daily life.  I attribute the ease at which I am able to handle my large dogs and perform many tasks, which require significant body strength, to my five-day-a-week heavy weight workouts.

High endurance cardio training can help people achieve lower readings on their bathroom scales; however, the weight loss comes from a loss of both muscle and fat.  In fact, the majority of weight loss that a person will experience from cardio exercise will be from muscle loss.  This is less than ideal, as in the endeavor to get in better shape, and be healthier, one should aim to increase their lean body mass to body fat ratio.  Another shortcoming of cardio training as a primary way of improving one’s health and becoming leaner, is that as a person becomes accustomed to the effort expended performing cardio exercise, she will need to increase the intensity or length of her workouts.  More often than not, people will do neither, and they will continue to believe their cardio routine is as beneficial to them as it ever was.

Weight training does not have the same shortcoming as cardio training does in that one does not need to increase the amount of effort performed in order to continue to achieve positive results.  Instead of lifting weights for longer sessions to maintain and improve health and body composition, one only needs to change her routine.  Periodically changing the number of sets and reps of weight lifting exercises performed, and also switching out some exercises for others is all that one must do to continue to achieve favorable results.  After participating in high endurance cardio training classes several times a week for almost a year, I switched to a heavy weight training routine.  My experience with heavy weight training is that is has been very effective.  In eight weeks’ time, I have lost over ten pounds of body fat and dropped two dress sizes.

Cardiovascular exercise can be good for the mind.  Some of the benefits of cardio exercise include enhanced mood, improved learning ability and memory power, and reduced stress.  However, high endurance cardio training raises levels of adrenaline which increases blood pressure, heart and respiration rate.  This causes an increase of cortisol, a hormone that can promote weight gain.  Furthermore, excess amounts of high endurance cardio training can lead to fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and frequent illness.  Cardio training can be beneficial if done in moderation, and as a second priority to weight training.  As an example, an instructor of several high endurance cardio classes, teaches a minimum of two or three classes a day.  Even though the instructor’s energy seems high, she often complains of being tired, and is often sick.

Training with heavy weights offers many of the same benefits to people as cardio training, but with fewer short comings.  Heavy weight training increases oxygen levels in the brain by increasing blood flow.  The increased oxygen along with elevated levels of certain chemicals in the body, result in improved attention, memory and speed of thinking, all of which are highly beneficial for people in everyday life.  It also reduces stress hormones like cortisol and is helpful in relieving symptoms of depression by stimulating feel-good hormones.  The increase of these hormones makes people feel happier and more confident.  Being strong helps people achieve more mentally and physically.  After training with heavy weights, I feel strong, confident, and ready for the rest of my day, whereas with cardio workout, I feel physically and mentally depleted after a forty-five minute session.

Whether training with heavy weights or performing high endurance cardio training, positive results and benefits can be attained by anyone who participates in any exercise routine, rather than living a sedentary life.  Even with the many benefits noted from high endurance cardio training, training with heavy weights is the best choice to lose fat, get leaner, improve health, and increase longevity.


As always, feel free to provide feedback (constructive criticism).

Jun 282012

In my About me page, I mentioned one reason for starting this blog was to improve my writing skills.  While the posts I’ve done have been written more casual and not close to academic writing, my goal remains the same, to improve my writing skills.  Additionally, I’m trying to find my writing style.

I had said that I would be sharing essays I wrote for my English class, and have shared three so far.  You can find them here, here, and here.

After Carlos’ post yesterday, I thought I’d share my essay…I thought it would be an easy read.  Feel free to provide constructive criticism on my grammar, but please be nice = )


How Dogs Benefit Humans

Many millennia ago, man and wolf began a relationship that would change the course of humanity forever.  Dogs helped bring humans out of the Stone Age, and into the modern age.  Today, dogs are helping humans more than ever, and people’s bond with them grows ever stronger.

People can benefit socially from the relationships they have with dogs.  For example, owning a dog, and caring for it, can teach children responsibility, as well as boost their self-esteem, and sharpen their intellect. Dogs require a lot of care, and children can be charged with the responsibility of feeding, walking, grooming and bathing their pet.  Because of their nonjudgmental nature, unconditional love and loyalty, dogs help children who are quite, shy, or suffer from anxiety.  Many children and adults alike, who have difficulty reading, have benefited from reading to dogs.  A dog listens contently as a person reads aloud, never offering any negative feedback, which boosts confidence and improves reading and comprehension skills. Having a dog by one’s side when out for a walk can allow people to appear more approachable, and can be a catalyst for strangers to talk to one another, helping increase the amount people socialize, and even help them make new friends.  As mentioned previously, dogs are excellent companions; they are solidly devoted to their master.  For this reason, dogs increase a person’s sense of happiness, security, and they ease loneliness for people who are divorced, single, or are survivors of deceased loved ones.  Dogs bring about in people, feelings of self-worth, sometimes when other people cannot.  They make people feel needed and wanted.

It is now a recognized fact; dogs improve the lives of humans, including their health.  The simple act of petting or playing with a dog can raise serotonin and dopamine levels in people, thus reducing their stress and anxiety.  In addition, dogs nowadays are used as therapy animals to help children and adults alike with many health ailments and disabilities.  Some of these ailments and disabilities include blindness, autism, epilepsy, and diabetes.  Dogs’ keen sense of smell, is allowing them to help medical professionals to detect melanoma, reducing the need for painful, and sometimes unneeded skin biopsies.  Furthermore, dogs are prescribed for many war veterans in the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Many of these veterans have regained control of their life, thanks to the relationship and experiences they have created with their dogs.  Another example of how dogs can help improve human’s quality of life was presented in a recent article.  The article describes a plan that will train a dog to detect the rare disease of mastocytosis, a disorder in which the body produces abnormally high numbers of mast cells that could trigger many problems including a fatal allergic reaction.  If the training is successful, it will allow many children with this disease to be able to attend school safely.

In addition to dogs benefiting humans socially, and improving their health, they also work with the government and law enforcement to help protect us.  For many years, dogs served alongside soldiers in times of war.  Because of dogs’ keen sense of hearing and smell, some dogs were trained as scouts to help find concealed threats such as landmines and even snipers.  The military also used dogs as messengers; a task for which the dog needed to be loyal to two masters, or otherwise the message might not arrive on time or at all.  Law enforcement now have police dogs; commonly known as K-9 units.  These K-9s are more effective at chasing and holding suspects than their human counterparts.  Dogs track a suspect’s smell if he is hidden and detain him once he is caught until his handler arrives.  Additionally, dogs are trained in narcotic detection to assist in the war on drugs.  Sniffing dogs, as they are sometimes referred to, are found at airports, and at border crossings, where high levels of security and anti-contraband measures are needed.  Many dogs also assist with search and rescue missions (SAR).  SAR dogs are indispensable for wilderness tracking, during natural disasters, or locating missing people.  In the aftermath of the tragedy that befell the United States on September 11, 2001, people used search and rescue dog units to find people buried under the debris.  Search and rescue dogs are responsible for finding hundreds of people every year.

The relationship between dogs and humans has changed vastly from the time when the first wolf approached the flicker of a fire at the center of a human encampment.  Today, dogs serve a multitude of roles in nearly every facet of human life.  From protector to detector of impending health crisis to friend, dogs benefit people’s lives in many ways.  Dogs are no longer just companions; they are quickly becoming an indispensable part of people’s lives.


Images from on Google.

Lazy Sunday

 Posted by
Jun 242012

Our Sunday in pictures:

Tommy’s leg hurt quite a bit, that he didn’t stand to eat his breakfast.

Carlos and Sasha on a bench at Durant Nature Park.

Shelby was enjoying the sun, but perked up when she heard the door open.

Tommy enjoying a dental chew toy.

Maddie, sleeping in a weird position.

Our week ahead will be busy.  As mentioned here, we have home projects we are working on, and we will be speaking with a reporter about Sasha being enrolled in the Mason Bone Cancer Study.  It’s exciting = )

What does your week have in store for you?  Anything fun?

Jun 222012

The last couple of weeks have been hectic, and I didn’t get around to posting my  “Lazy Sunday” posts.  However, here is a belated Lazy Sunday from last week  – better late tan never, right?! =)

Lazy Sunday

This past  Sunday it was Father’s day, so Happy belated Father’s day to all the dads out there.  I called my dad, and had a nice long conversation with him.  He and my mom live in Tucson, AZ and we haven’t seen each other since June of 2010.  It was nice to talk to him and we didn’t have any disagreements!  I talk to my mom about once a week, but my dad is not one to talk on the phone much, so to talk to him for over an hour was pretty awesome! I hope everyone had a great Sunday celebrating.

Carlos and I talked about a few home projects we could do that would be inexpensive even for our current financial situation.  In a week or two, Carlos’ parents will be visiting in Raleigh for the first time, so we are busy bees doing a few things for the house to look a little nicer than it does now.

So, some of the projects that we will tackle -not in order of importance- are:

  1. install molding in the fireplace living/dining room.
  2. finish a part of the kitchen wall (spackle, sand, prime, and  paint).
  3. connect laminate and hardwood floors.
  4. finish railing on the larger deck area.
  5. I might try to finish sanding a coffee table.
  6. power wash the carport and the back of the house (deck area).
  7. install new light covers.
  8. attempt to repair the wall of the storage room on the back of the house  – likely we won’t be able to do this due to cost and time, but we’ll try = )
    1. organize both storage rooms

A couple minor house cleaning projects I’d like to do are:

  1. clean all the windows.
  2. wipe down kitchen cabinets.
  3. clean shower/tub.

We’ve got our hands full, that’s for sure.  We immediately got to work, and purchased all the molding on Sunday.

The stuff between the molding  are the quarter rounds that came with the laminate flooring and the transitions that we will install to connect the laminate floor to the hardwoods.

All the molding is painted and ready to be cut and installed.

Sunday at Lowe’s, I purchased a mop head.  I was using a Method mop kit, but I grew tired of it because it’s kinda small, it covers a small surface area, so it takes a long time to mop the floor.  I grew up using what I call a typical mop and I feel this type of mop does a better job.  The dogs were curious about the mop head and wanted to check it out, so:

Mop head Maddie

Mop head Sasha

Mop head Alli

Mop head Tommy

Mop head Argus

Mop head Shelby

Last but not least:

Mop head me

It was fun putting the mop head on the dogs, and they were really good about leaving it on.  Of course they had to be rewarded with treats = )  I had a little bit of ice cream as a reward for having my picture taken with this thing on my head, and then posting it for everyone to see.

Another thing that got done on Sunday, Carlos seasoned our cast iron pans.

Don’t mind that dirty pan in the back, I had just cooked some chicken for lunch =)

I’ll be sure to post updates as we accomplish our projects.


Sasha Update

 Posted by
Jun 202012

Several weeks have passed since I last posted here about my dog, Sasha.  My husband and I brought Sasha to our local veterinarian on March 6 because she was showing lameness in her right arm.  X-Rays revealed that Sasha had a growth on her humerus bone.  Our veterinarian explained to us that the growth  was a tumor and was the result of osteosarcoma.  Osteosarcoma is the most common and aggressive type of bone cancer seen in dogs.  The tumors usually occur in the limbs of large breed dogs.  The prognosis was not good.  We had three options (with slight variations of each) of how to proceed.  The first would be to do nothing.  Sasha would be in extreme pain for the rest of her time with us, and would likely not live beyond two months.  The second option would be to amputate her arm, which would provide her relief (after recovering from the surgery) from the pain caused by the osteosarcoma.  The positive thing about moving forward with the amputation, besides pain relief, would be that Sasha would be with us for longer.  The median survival time for dogs with osteosarcoma after limb amputation and no further treatment, is six months.  The reason for this is that once an osteosarcoma tumor has been found, the chances that the cancer has already metastasized to another part of the body – usually the lungs – are extremely high.  The third option would be to have the limb amputated, and then follow up with chemotherapy treatments.  Taking this option meant that we might have Sasha, pain free and happy, for 6 months to a year, or possibly longer if we are lucky.  We decided to go with option three.

Since we learned of Sasha’s diagnosis, we have been researching osteosarcoma, reading about experiences of others with dogs diagnosed with osteosarcoma, and exploring additional and alternative treatments that might help our beloved dog.  On May 8th, via the Facebook page, Chase Away K9 Cancer, I learned about a new vaccine available for bone cancer.  Since then, my husband and I have been looking into enrolling Sasha in the clinical trial in which the vaccine will be used for the very first time with dogs.

We spoke with Dr Mason, the doctor who is heading the trial, and a superbly nice person, and she explained to us that the patients would be injected with listeria bacteria.  It would be a very low-potency (for lack of better word) listeria bacteria, but the idea is that the listeria would hone in on a certain gene marker in Sasha’s tumors, and then her body’s natural defenses would attack the bacteria, and by association, the tumors.  It is a novel approach to treating osteosarcoma in dogs, but it has been used in mice and in humans with some remarkable success.

In order for Sasha to enroll for the trial, she would need to meet certain criteria:

  • She needed to be diagnosed with osteosarcoma, and the tumor site had to be one of her limbs.
  • Her affected limb had to be amputated
  • She needed to undergo four treatments of chemotherapy with carboplatin
  • She needed to have the her2/neu gene

Sasha met, or would soon meet, three of the criteria necessary to qualify her as a potential patient in the clinical trial.  The only thing that we needed to find out was whether Sasha’s tumor expressed the her2neu gene.  To find this out, we needed to contact the lab where Sasha’s tissue block had been sent off to for analysis.  Dr Mason had told me that for the sample to be viable, it needed to not have been decalcified.  I was so happy to hear that the lab still had her tissue block after over a month, but I was dismayed to learn that it had been decalcified.  Because of my high hopes for the clinical trial, I was very upset to hear that the tissue sample was no longer viable.  I sent Dr Mason an e-mail informing her of the bad news.  I was surprised when she responded, and said that she would be happy to test the sample, even though it had been decalcified, to see if she could determine if Sasha’s tumor sample expressed the her2/neu gene.

A few days later I received and e-mail from Dr Mason.  She explained that tests had been performed by multiple people, and they were all confident that Sasha’s tumor did, in fact, express the her2neu gene.  This was such happy news for us, as we felt very positive about the Mason bone cancer clinical trial.

It is now, June, 19, and Sasha completed her final carboplatin treatment on the Monday June 11.  We will need to take her to our local veterinarian’s office on the June 25th and again on July 2nd, to have blood drawn to make sure that her immune system is strong and ready for the listeria injection.  If all goes well, we expect to drive up to Philadelphia the second or third week of July.  Sasha will need to remain at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine, for three days.  There, she will be constantly monitored by Dr Mason and her team to ensure that everything goes well.  Dr Mason explained that she expects Sasha to feel flu-like symptoms and have an elevated temperature – similar to what people experienced who underwent this same treatment.  Her temperature should be back to normal levels by about the twelve hour mark after administration of listeria.

Thank you for reading this update on my dog, Sasha.  She is doing very well now; full of life and spunk!  Sasha still enjoys going to parks and running after her favorite toy, a red Kong frisbee.   She also loves to go swimming, and does just as well as she ever did in the water – no life vest required.

I will post again to keep you all abreast of Sasha’s progress.

Wish her luck!


Jun 192012

My training, for since Monday May 28, 2012 thru Friday June 15, 2012, of in pictures:

You can click on each day to enlarge the image.  Not the nicest looking post of training, but I wanted to share this before too much time passed.

I’m in the process of starting to use Google Docs and this will make it easier to share future spreadsheets (I hope!).

Feel free to ask me any questions.

~ Liliana

Our gym

 Posted by
Jun 152012

A quick review of the gym Carlos and I work out at.

We are members of Rapid Fitness and have been with them since the fall of 2009.  Rapid has three locations in Raleigh: Glenwood Ave., North Ridge, and the newly (re-opened) Downtown location.

The Glenwood location is the largest, but also my least favorite.  Here you can find a regulation MMA cage and they offer a variety of Mixed Martial Arts classes.  There are also 2 rooms designed for Group Fitness classes, a cycle room for cycling and RPM classes , and a large aerobic room where Body Pump, Zumba, CXWORX, and many other classes are held.

There is an area specifically for Kettlebells and TRX Suspension training, and this location also has an indoor running track.

The Glenwood location has the largest deck for cardio equipment, and of course, you can also find a good selection of free weights, and other strength training equipment, including Hammer Strength.


Additionally, child care & kids’ club is offered at this location as well as a private women’s only training area.  A great thing about Rapid Fitness is that the majority of group fitness classes are available at no additional cost to members.

The building is large and open, but I don’t like the arrangement of the free weights and strength training machines at the Glenwood location.  However, this is the most popular location, and the energy here is high.  The group fitness classes have great attendance and this is thanks to the fact that the classes are led by many great instructors.  I am quite selective when it comes to trainers and instructors, so when I say “many great instructors,” I’m not exaggerating.  My favorite Les Mills instructors at Rapid Fitness are Monica, and Renee, but that is probably because I have participated in their classes more than with other instructors – they are all very goo here.  Rapid Fitness does not offer many freestyle classes, however, there is one class that has remained on the schedule, and that is cycling (spinning).  The instructor for this class is Krystal, and she is great.  She is not only a good instructor, but also offers her own outdoor HIIT classes and leads a eating clean lifestyle.  The locker rooms and bathrooms are nice and kept clean which is something very important for any gym.

The North Ridge location is much smaller than Glenwood, but it has more than enough equipment and classes available for every person’s needs.  This location also has an indoor pool as well as a sauna.

In this location, there is no MMA cage but there is an area designed for personal training, and in this room you’ll find heavy bags, speed bags and Kettlebells.  The North Ridge location has a cycle room, yoga studio for Hot Yoga, a group fitness room, an indoor running track and child care is available.  It has a good selection of free weights, strength training machines and cardio equipment.  Carlos and I attended this location when the downtown location closed last year.  We got used to working out at this location, but often missed downtown, which was our favorite.  A few things I’m not happy with at North Ridge are that the rest rooms are not always as clean as I would like them to be.  Also, on weekends, the paper towel dispensers are often empty, so machines and benches go without being wiped down after use.  I wish the types of music played was more varied, and lastly, I would like to see the barbells and plates better maintained .

The recently opened new downtown location is smaller than the other two locations, but it’s our favorite.

The locker rooms are very nice and very clean, and the machines are very clean.  This location has only one room where group fitness classes and cycle classes are held, but it seems to work just fine.  The free weight selection is good, but in our opinion, the cardio deck is larger than it needs to be; we have not seen, more than five people on the cardio machines at any given time.  We would like see less cardio equipment, have more space between bench press racks and squat cages, and maybe have a area for TRX and Kettlebell training.  We still enjoy going here more than the other locations.  What we would change, other than what I’ve mentioned, is that we would keep the temperature a little lower.  I have seen the thermostats set at 80, on days when it’s just over 80 degrees outside, so it’s quite warm inside.  I would also like the music to be more varied.  Often it seems that in North Ridge and the new downtown location the music is set for one person’s personal preference.  Asking to change the station has never worked, I’m just told it’s preselected and the person who can change it is not there.

Overall, Rapid Fitness has great locations and I consider it a good choice for anyone wanting to join a gym in the Raleigh, NC area.  Of the gyms we’ve been members of in the Raleigh area, Rapid Fitness is definitely our favorite.

If you want to check out Rapid Fitness, I recommend you talk to Walter.

Source: images found on Rapid Fitness page.

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