Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Some bunny is turning 1!

Hello Crushers!

When we were little, my mom was the Queen of Themed Birthday Parties. This was before you could search Pinterest for cutesy ideas for your child's birthday party. This was back when creativity did not need the Internet. I had a cowgirl birthday, a fashion show birthday (still my favorite to this day), a Minnie Mouse birthday, and lots of others. My brother had a dinosaur birthday and Ghostbusters birthday (We shot water at bed sheet ghosts in our trees). My sister had a Little Mermaid birthday (we played "Skuttle Says").

This woman set a high bar.

Yes, I know that Ellie is only 1, and she won't remember this birthday so I shouldn't go nuts. I didn't go nuts, but at the same time I wanted it to be special because I will remember this birthday. Steve will remember this birthday. It's not just her birthday; it's also a celebration of the day when we were blessed to become parents to an amazing little girl that made our family bigger and brighter. That is worth celebrating!

Some bunny is turning 1 in photos:
Bunny bean bag toss (idea from Pinterest)

Carrot-shaped bean bags (idea from Pinterest)

Carrot cake bunny cupcakes (idea started with Pinterest, but I added to it)

Ellie LOVES carrot cake we found out!

The bouquet of bunny Peeps was more for mommy/looks than for Ellie. Yum!
We also played Bunny Hopscotch, and the bigger cousins wore bunny ear hats. We tried to get Ellie to wear one, but she just kept taking it off and trying to eat it. Since we have a big group when you just include the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins (28 people), we had a potluck lunch and a few games for the kids ages 4 months to 7 years. They had a blast!

The few things we did to make it a themed party were fun and totally for the bigger kids and adults, but it was worth it. I didn't do it to impress anyone or start any mommy wars. I did it because I like theme parties. My mom did them for me, and now I get to do them for Ellie. It's a tradition that I hope she'll carry on for her kids. Every family is different, but I'm happy that we got to celebrate our family this way.

Thanks for "hopping by" today!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tuesday catch up

Hello all!

So, it's been over a week since I've talked to you. Oops. Sorry about that. Steve had spring break and there was Easter and we celebrated Ellie's first birthday. It's been a crazy fun week off from the blog.

Here's a quick recap in just a flow of thoughts. Hope you can keep up!

1. I ran 7. 3 miles on Sunday and wish you could have been with me. Sometimes miles get lonely, and other times, I am so glad for a little bit of silence. It's nice to not hear every Fisher-Price/Baby Einstein/Playskool toy song for an hour or so. Granted, I found out that my stride matches "Intergalactic" from the Beastie Boys and "Head, shoulders, knees, and toes". Who knew?!
2. Easter morning with a baby who is actually old enough to enjoy it is a wonderful thing. Ellie loved her dress and basically every fun holiday food. Yay!
Ellie in 2015 (almost a year) and Ellie in 2014 (5 days old)
What a difference a year makes!
3. Ellie managed a perfectly timed "all done" during Pastor S's Good Friday sermon. Of course she did.
4. Steve and I took turns pushing Ellie in her first 5K. Thankfully, Steve did the up hill part!
First family 5K
4.5. I discovered have a really weird race face thanks to the photographer from the 5K we did. I look like I'm grimacing, but trying to concentrate, but not trying to hard. Weird.
5. I have a half marathon on May 2. HOLY MOLEY.
6. I made a semi-awful pasta dish for Easter brunch. You won't see that recipe on here.
7. I made a fantastic tuna wrap for lunch yesterday and a really good chicken alfredo last night for dinner. Those are two recipes you will see on here.
8. Today's e-mail devotion really hit home about friendships and what amazing ladies I have in my life. Makes me all gushy.
9. Handbell festival is this weekend. So. Many. Bells.
10. I had way more thoughts to type, but then I thought I heard Ellie waking up from her nap, and just now, I was holding very still as if she could hear me thinking. Ugh, lost my train of thought.
11. I just thought of another - we had Ellie's 1st birthday party on Saturday and my party theme skillz were awesome. More on that tomorrow.

Here is the recipe for the chicken alfredo I made:

Spicy Chicken Alfredo
Ingredients:
1 pound chicken, cubed
1 Tbsp-ish Wildtree Natural Garlic Grapeseed Oil
1 tsp Wildtree Rancher Steak Rub
1 tsp Wildtree Herb Grilling Seasoning
1 box linguine, prepared as directed
1/2 onion, sliced
1 8 oz package mushrooms, diced (broccoli would be a nice addition too)
4-ish Tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk (any %)
1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes
1 package Chicken Alfredo Extraordinaire
1 huge handful of spinach, chopped roughly

Directions:
Start your pasta water boiling in a large pot while you heat your garlic grapeseed oil in a large pan. Cook the chicken in the pan with the Rancher Steak Rub and Herb Grilling Seasoning blend. This takes about 4 minutes on each side if your heat is at medium high. Toss in the mushrooms and onions until the onions get translucent. Once this timing is achieved, take the chicken and veggies out of the pan and set on a plate for a bit. Hopefully, some of the juices have stayed in the pan.

By now, your pasta is done. Drain and set aside.

In your pan with the yummy chicken, onion, grapeseed oil and mushroom juices, add the butter. When that has just about melted, add the milk and stir to incorporate. Wisk in the Chicken Alfredo Extraordinaire so that there aren't any clumps. Add the chili pepper flakes now if you want it to be a really bright, biting flavor. Add them to the chicken a few steps ago if you want it more infused through the whole dish. We added them back with the chicken.

I'm mentioning this now in case you're all like, "Why? Why would I ruin Alfredo with red pepper flakes?" I'm telling you BECAUSE.

OK, so you've whisked the sauce. Add the chicken and veggies back to the pan and turn the heat to low. Add the pasta to the pan. See why I said you needed a large pan? Toss the sauce, chicken mix and pasta all together. Looking good, right? Wait, it's kind of all the same color...

ENTER THE SPINACH!

Put the rough chopped spinach on top and briefly cover with a lid for about 2 minutes. This causes the spinach to wilt a bit so it all fits in your pan better. Take the lid off and toss, so the spinach is everywhere. It's gorgeous now. I wish I had taken pictures for you!

Your husband, guests, babies (chopped into appropriate sized pieces), kids, parents, anyone will love this dish. Enjoy with a nice white wine or glass of milk. Whatever strikes your fancy!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Faith-filled Friday: The Good in Good Friday

Hey Crushers,

Most of the time people really look forward to Fridays. It's not TGIF for nothing! However, a lot of people have trouble with Good Friday. What's so good about the day that Jesus died?

He was betrayed by a friend, and disowned by another.
He was put before several courts (Jewish and Roman) only to be mocked and beaten.
He was forced to wear a crown of thorns.
He was marched through crowds carrying his own cross until he couldn't physically stand any more.
He was nailed to a cross.
He was hung between two thieves, who actually deserved judgement (although, hanging on a cross always seemed a little extreme to me for stealing, but I'm no ancient Roman...).
He died in a gruesome way, forsaken by his Father God and died for sins he didn't commit even though he has so much power he could have done away with every person who even whispered something against him without even blinking.

So what is so good about that?

The last part. In Matthew 27:50, it says he "gave up his spirit." I used to think that just meant his soul left his body to go to Heaven. The more I let that sink in, the more I think that it means he let go of life because he did what he came to do.

That fighting spirit that you need to stand in diversity? Jesus had that more than anyone. He set aside his power to do what needed to be done. When all the prophecies were fulfilled, when all the beatings and mockings and hangings were done, he could give up that spirit knowing that our sins were forgiven. He did what we could not, and once he did, he let go.

His perfect life and death meant that we are OK. We're more than OK. We're free from the weight of eternal death. His resurrection on Easter Sunday means that we will live again in Heaven!

That makes a pretty great Good Friday!

Hope everyone has a very blessed Easter. Steve and I will be hosting his extended family on Easter Saturday/Holy Saturday, which means there will be about 40 people at our house for a gigantic pot luck! Sunday, I play handbells for Sunrise Service. We'll have breakfast at church and then brunch at my cousin's house. Yay for a fun foodie holiday weekend spent with family celebrating Christ's resurrection. That's a lot of celebrating for one weekend!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Virtual Running Date No. 52: Catch up!

Good evening Crushers!

So, this whole mom, work-from-home and part-time, writing at all hours kind of thing is weird. Before, I would sit down to write my blog and post it in the morning and be done. That's how I got three posts in a week! Um, yeah, it's Wednesday night, and I'm writing this after a long day.

If this were a running date, I would tell you that I have spent most of today being used as a tissue by my daughter. She has a cold and probably getting a tooth and totally fooled me into thinking that this was an ear infection. Um, nope. Went to the doctor and everything only to be told that her ears are perfectly clear! Huh. So. Many. Tears. And. Boogers.  Sorry if that was gross, but she's so young, and although she has lots of words, telling mama where it hurts just isn't in her vocabulary yet.

Which brings me to my second "if this were a running date" comment, I'd tell you that Leinenkugel's makes a great new beer called Canoe Paddler. The baby is asleep. No judging.

If this were a running date, I'd tell you all to go and read the blog "A Mothership Down" written by Liz. She is hilarious. Her son is adorable. And I'm kind of jealous that she won a Bloggie award. However, she actually has clear pictures and fancy designs and a real web address that doesn't have anything to do with a Google product. So therefore, she just wins my adoration and envy. Not to be a creeper or anything... Besides, she used some of my words in a few posts here and on her Facebook page. Must try harder with blogging...

If this were a running date, I would tell you that I got a random call from a friend who was at a grocery store with a dilemma. I believe her words were, "Jen, I am at the grocery, and I only have time to pick up a few items for dinner before my kids get dropped off. What do I make for dinner?" She rattled off the Wildtree items she knew she had in her house. Since pasta is my go-to dinner if I'm stuck, this is what I told her:
Buy short pasta, like rotini or penne, Italian sausage, a can of crushed tomatoes, and mozzarella. Boil pasta according to directions. In pan, cook sausage. When done, set aside. Bring crushed tomatoes to a simmer with 1 Tbsp Italian Dressing Blend, 1-ish Tbsp each Zesty Lemon Grapeseed Oil and European Garlic Dipping Oil. Dice meat and add to sauce. Pour over drained pasta and enjoy!
She said it was a hit, and that I should post it on the blog, so here it is!

If this were a running date, I'd tell you that last weekend was a wonderful vacation with my girls. We ate, drank, hot-tubbed, shopped (the bargains!), and talked and talked and talked. It was so special to share this time with them even if I was kind of nervous about being away from Ellie for a whole weekend. She and Steve had a great daddy-daughter weekend, and I got to shop without a diaper bag! Just kidding. As I said, it was so much more. These women are amazing.

If this were a running date, I'd tell you that I did run with Jessica at our girls' weekend. It was only 12 degrees when we woke up on Saturday morning, so we hit the fitness room. Normally, I like running while watching the Food Network (no surprise there...), but "Sister Act" was on. WINNER! I did run more on Tuesday after Steve got home from work. It was much warmer! Time to add on some miles!

Hope you had a fabulous weekend and forgive my late running date.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Faith-filled Fridays: Some more love

Hello Crushers!

I knew it would happen. I knew that as the parent of a baby (nearly toddler - when did that happen?!) I would commit several songs, nursery rhymes, and even books to memory. I had no idea that between Steve and I we can sing songs for nearly an hour while stuck in traffic with a baby that wants to be anywhere other than in traffic. We hear ya, kiddo. We really do.

Turns out that as long as you know the sounds to several animals (farm and jungle) and machines (tractors and such), or how to spell five letter words (B-I-N-G-O), you can make up lots of songs. So what if Old MacDonald had a tiger on his farm? I could happen. Perhaps he has a wildlife sanctuary?

I digress...

Today I have a song stuck in my head that anyone who has ever been to Sunday School probably knows - "Love One Another". It's cute. It's catchy. And it's an excellent reminder to love those around us.
"This is my commandment that you love one another, that your joy may be full!"
My aunt, who is married to my pastor uncle, likes to remind us, "Jesus loves them, too!" when you tell her about someone who has been rude or nasty. Some times it's said with a little more of a laugh than others depending on the situation.

How can you be joyful without love?

Perhaps you have a tough situation. My dad is trying to do the best he can to care for his dad, my grandpa, with Alzheimer's disease. This is proving to be very difficult because he is the target of all of my grandpa's anger, sadness, and hatred over this awful disease. It has made him say some very unkind words to all of us. It can be hard to love someone when they are at a low point, facing a loss, or just have had enough.

At some point you will meet someone who is difficult to love. Not everyone does things that deserve your love. However, everyone deserves, and has, Jesus' love whether or not they want it.

Please do not turn away from people who need your love. Using discernment, show love as best you can to others just as Jesus would. 
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. - John 15:12
I'm off now to enjoy a weekend filled with some wonderful women that I am blessed to call friends. We'll be sharing food, wine, shopping time, and devotion time. Some good, old sisterly love!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rancher Coleslaw


Hello Crushers!

As promised here is the coleslaw recipe I made this last weekend for St. Patrick's Day party. What? It has cabbage in it... The party was not exactly Irish-y, and it was too warm out for boiled corned beef and cabbage. Plus, have you smelled a kitchen after cabbage is boiled? Ew.

This is a SERIOUSLY easy recipe that makes A LOT of coleslaw, so only make it if you either really have a strong desire to eat coleslaw or you need to feed a crowd.

Almost forgot to mention that I got to take a cooking class at a Sur La Table (sounds like sir la taab) store in January. With a real chef. And everything! It was a Christmas gift from Steve, and it was awesome! While I was there, I definitely got a tiny crush on all the people who get to work among fabulous cooking gadgets and assisting chefs all the time. Although they had some job openings, I knew that I could not work there or I'd go broke buying fabulous kitchen gear. Instead, I only bought one tiny thing: a kitchen scraper/dough cutter. I feel like Rachel Ray every time I use it. Sigh...

So excited for class! 
Anyway, the kitchen scraper comes in handy to pick up all the stuff you're going to chop for this recipe. And the best part is that they're inexpensive.

Bench scraper in action!
Rancher Coleslaw
Ingredients:
1/2 cup mayo (use the real stuff - trust me)
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp Rancher Steak Rub from Wildtree
1 Tbsp brown mustard
4-5 cups shredded cabbage (about one medium head of cabbage)
2 medium carrots, shredded
1/2 medium onion, finely sliced
1/2 green pepper, finely sliced

Directions: In a LARGE bowl (preferably one with a lid), mix the first 5 ingredients until smooth. This is your dressing. Using a sharp knife, chop the cabbage in small, bite-size slices or shred with a food processor or grater. Please watch your fingers while you slice this and any other round veggie.
Tip: I may have mentioned this before, but to save your fingers from being cut, always cut a veggie or fruit in half or at least give it a flat edge to stabilize it as you cut. Then hold the food item with a claw like hand so your finger tips are out of the way. 
It actually looks like I'm about to slice the top off of my middle finger, but my claw-like grip keeps it out of harms way. That's the best shot I have. Sorry. 
Once you have all your veggies sliced or grated, add them to the bowl and toss with the dressing. It may not look like you have enough dressing, but it really is! Stir before serving, and enjoy!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Virtual Running Date No. 51: 6 miles, hummus, and coleslaw

Hello Crushers!

If we were on a running date, I would have a lot to tell you. First, I'm signed up for another half marathon. This time I'll be running through the gorgeous Peninsula State Park in Door County. This will be the longest race that I've run since Ellie was born. I did a training run on Saturday for 6.29 miles! WHOO!

If we were on a running date, I would confess how hard it has been to get back into running. Since Ellie has a spring birthday, I got to take her on lots of walks and we took her hiking all over Wisconsin and even took a trip to Denver to visit friends (Hi Susan and family!). There were lots of people that saw us hiking through the mountains, and stopped us to say, "You have a baby. On the trail. In the mountains." Yes, yes we do have a baby. She hikes. She's awesome.

But you know what? It's not awesome when you're struggling with this weird guilt that you want to go and do something by yourself (run) and you miss your running partner (Steve) because you now have to share. You have to split your running time so that one person runs while the other person watches the baby. As much as she loves the running stroller, she probably wouldn't sit in it for anything more than 4 miles. Plus, there's this jealousy that Steve got to go running while I couldn't. And even now when she doesn't sleep through the night, I'm just tired even though I know I need to keep running for my health and sanity. It's rough. Mommies need to stop judging each other. We judge ourselves plenty!

If we were on a running date, I would catch you up on a few things in our family. One of Steve's sisters and my sister had a baby in 2014, too! That's right, there are lots of tiny girls in our family! So many little ones to bring us joy, and wow they are good at it! Sadly, we had to say good bye to my maternal grandfather (pictured here) in January. He got the flu, pneumonia, COPD, and had other health issues related to those things. He was doing alright until something took a quick turn for the worse. Grandma missed him and God called him home to Heaven. As much as I miss him, my friend, and I miss him A LOT, he is in a better place. The best place. My paternal grandfather is starting to slip away from us with Alzheimer's disease. He is angry a lot of the time and taking out his struggles on my dad. Please send up a prayer if you have a moment. Both for the arrival of healthy babies (another of Steve's sisters is due with her 2nd baby in October!), and for those who are/were caregivers. 

If we were on a running date, I would tell you that we had a delicious weekend (this is a food-based blog, right?) with homemade coleslaw, a new recipe for a torte I'll try out in the next few weeks, and lemon garlic hummus. Not to toot my own horn, but I came up with the lemon garlic hummus and submitted the recipe to Wildtree and they made it and took a picture (that credit goes to Wildtree) and posted it on Instagram and it was amazing! Not amazing - my run-on sentence. Whatever. I FINALLY HAVE A PUBLISHED (sort of) RECIPE! WHEE!

Ahem.

If we were on a running date, I would also tell you that the next few weeks are going to be fun because a) Girl's Weekend, b) Easter, and c) Ellie's 1st birthday. And I am good at themes and Pinterest recreations. How cute are these? Some bunny is going to be turning one... he he he... So many silly things I can do with that! Since her birthday happens to be after Easter this year, I am planning on getting deals on decorations and stuff. Or raiding a dollar store... Whatever.

If we were on a running date, I'd also tell you that class is going well. Most of my students are awesome and the rest are still nice. I also started a new job as a content writer for some manufacturing companies' websites. It won't be nearly as fun as this, but a nice challenge.

Coleslaw recipe coming soon...