Friday, December 20, 2013

Faith-filled Friday: NEW HOUSE

Hi All,

We sign all the papers for our new house today.

"This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24

I can't think of any better passage for today.

NOTE: There may be a hiatus on the blog while we unpack!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 35: COOKIES!

Hello Crushers!

If today was a virtual running date, I'd tell you that today's post is going to be short and sweet. There is a lot going on because it's MOVING WEEK! We close on our house on Friday, so we can go back to having our own space and Mom and Dad can kick us out of their house. As nice as it has been to be close to family for the past month, it's really time for all of us to enjoy each other a little farther away. Ha!

Anyway, here is a quick recap of the weekend in photos:
I took Steve to see "A Christmas Carol", which is his favorite Christmas story (besides the Bible).
He loved it!

Three baking/mixing stations going on at once!

All the baking supplies!

Halfway done!

A blurry shot of me with some of the cookies.

12 of 15 kinds of cookies we made! Some were still in the oven.

Mom mom used to make Christmas cookies with her mom and grandma. We have been marathon cookie baking with mom and Grandma since I can remember. You can start rolling dough into 1-inch balls at a pretty young age! Now that it's just Mom, my sister and I making them, it was kind of like Grandma and Great-Grandma were watching us from heaven and approving (or disproving - the peanut butter kisses went awry) of all the baking.

Next year, we'll have an 8-month-old baby girl who I'm sure will love to watch her mommy, grandma and auntie as they mix and roll out 1000 cookies. We might even let her have one!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Faith Filled Friday: Through the eyes of a child

Happy Friday, Crushers!

My husband loves Christmas. I don't just mean that he loves all the food and the lights and such, but this guy LOVES CHRISTMAS like he's a 6-year-old waiting in line to tell Santa what he wants in his stocking and then sings "The Little Drummer Boy" while decorating our house and planning the annual Christmas party.

He loves singing along with all the Christmas music whether it's in church or on the radio in the car. He loves seeing Christmas lights and putting them on the tree. He loves the decorations, the cookies, and sometimes, even the shopping. He loves to watch "A Christmas Carol" every Christmas Eve, and read Luke 2 Christmas morning.

Starting to get the idea?

I've always said that he loves this special time of year like a little child. I'm REALLY hoping that our kids are going to love Christmas as much as he does. He is so excited about us expecting a baby girl that he's even talked about how we're going to start our own family traditions and all that. It's so dang cute.

It's like getting to see the wonder of Christmas through the eyes of a child because sometimes, we're all just big kids. He'd probably tell you the same thing about how I act with 4th of July fireworks and my birthday (which is only 32 days away...).
"The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." Luke 2:20
There were so many people who were excited about the first Christmas. Mary and Joseph, the Magi, the Shepherds in the hills, Anna and Zachariah, Mary's cousin Elizabeth (and the baby she carried, who turned out to be John the Baptist), and many more people were excited for the birth of Jesus. I hope that everyone can be as excited about this holiday and not just the lights and cookies and presents, but that it's a reminder that Jesus came for us. He came to live and die and rise again so that someday we can all celebrate together in Heaven.

Can you imagine how excited Steve will be to celebrate Christmas in Heaven? It'll be the best thing ever.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Challenge Accepted!

Every so often, KariAnne at Thistlewood Farms takes a moment to stop and remind her readers that they are rock stars.

This is why I love KariAnne and want to meet her in person someday. Because she's a rock star too.

She reminds us all that there are some days where we don't feel like rock stars. We probably feel more like tired, old, has-been rock stars who may have partied too hard and just feel like crap. But those days are like Jenny Lawson from The Bloggess reminds us: lies. You really are a rock star. You are loved. You are cherished. You are important to someone somewhere even if it doesn't feel like it!

In KariAnne's blog post today, she asks that everyone share some joy today. The second I read that, I was all "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!"

So, here's a little joy to make you smile today. Please feel free to keep spreading it!

1. We babysat for our nieces and nephews over the weekend. Ben, who is 6 and the big brother to two sisters and is therefore all knowing about baby girls, comes up to me and sticks his face right by my now-showing belly. He shouts, "HELLO IN THERE!" After asking if I thought that the baby could hear him, I responded, "I think she heard you and everyone in a two-house radius heard you too!"

2. This weekend is the Christmas Cookie Baking Marathon and my sister is hosting it at her house this year. Four women, 12+ cookie recipes, and the guys at home making rosettes and spritz cookies because they're good at that. When all is said and done we'll have about 500 cookies to eat and share. Sharing cookies = sharing joy!

3. My dad, the hardest person in the world to shop for, actually put together a Christmas list this year. WHOO!

4. We are 10 days away from owning our new home. Steve said he would plant me a tree or flowering bush (magnolia? crab apple?) for my very first Mother's Day this spring. Isn't that the cutest thing ever?

5. I was just asked to go snow-shoeing with a friend from work. Skiing is out this winter due to baby girl, but I could totally snow shoe! WIN!

6. Hot chocolate

7. Christmas lights

8. Indoor swimming pools at the local high school so prego ladies can stay fit.

9. People who are good listeners.

10. My family and friends.

Go make a list. You might surprise yourself at what makes your day!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 34: Easy Cherry Chocolate Cake

Good morning, Crushers!
I don't know about you, but we got a LOT of snow in Southeastern Wisconsin yesterday. It started at about 9 a.m. and just kept going until late last night.

Sorry, I took this picture through a screen window. Whoops!
This picture was taken at about 11 a.m. It got snowier and snowier!

If we were on a virtual running date, I would like to point out that you really need to bundle up and be careful. I've seen a ton of people just wipe out while walking. No need to break bones while running. Here is a handy link for how to layer-up while running in winter.

If we were on a virtual running date, I would confess that I did not run this weekend. Unless you count running errands, then I totally did that. I also ran around the house chasing my niece and nephew while we baby sat. I needed to bake a cake for my church's annual Advent by Candlelight program, so they were my little sous chefs while baking this snowflake cake:
Tip: After frosting your cake, cut out any shape in regular paper and lay it gently on top.
Sprinkle powdered sugar over the top with a sifter and you'll get a pretty shape!

Here is the recipe that Ben, Katie and I followed to make this easy cake.

Easy Cherry Chocolate Cake:
Ingredients:
1 box of your favorite chocolate cake mix
3 eggs (you may need a spare egg or two on hand if you are cooking with 6-year-olds!)
1 can of cherry pie filling

Directions:
Mix the cake mix, eggs and pie filling in a large bowl. (Feel free to allow the children helping you to take turns stirring the batter once you've gotten in a few stirs so that the flour part doesn't go flying.) Pour batter into greased pans - the pan size is up to you! Follow the baking time/directions on the cake box. Generally, it's 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes. Stick a toothpick or fork in the cake when the timer goes off. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. Otherwise, give it a few more minutes.

Serving suggestions:
1. Use a 13x9 pan and top with Cool Whip.
2. Use two 8-inch round pans and put chocolate fudge frosting in the middle and on top (that's what I did)
3. Top the cake with fresh cherries!
4. Use whatever flavor pie filling that sounds good. I've made this with cherry and raspberry. I think you can use a vanilla cake mix too, but the chocolate tastes the best.

Enjoy and stay safe out there!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Faith-filled Friday: By memory

Good morning, Crushers!

I don't know about your childhood Christmas Eves, but from kindergarten to eighth grade, all the kids at my parochial grade school would stand in front of our families and the congregation to sing and recite a Christmas program.

You know the types of programs I'm talking about. Where the middle-school aged boys refuse to sing because their voices are changing. Where the little ones wave at their parents or tug at their clip-on ties or swing the skirts of their pretty dresses while singing "Away in the Manger". Where the 5th graders are finally feeling like the bigger kids because they've done this a many times now, and they get bigger speaking parts.

My favorite part was always the 2nd graders' recitation of Luke chapter 2 (especially when they emphasize the word "terrified" and all their little faces look astonished). Perhaps you've heard it or had to recite it yourself at one point?



In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.


So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”


Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
That's Luke 2:1-14. It goes on from there with the Shepherds taking off to go see the new baby, Jesus.

I don't know why, but this passage is always my favorite part. Maybe because of the kids who recite it with such conviction? Maybe it's because it took me forever to learn how to say Quirinius? Maybe because it's the story of how all God's promises were finally coming together for all the world to see?

I think it's a combination of all of that.

As everyone gets closer to the hustle and bustle of Christmas, please remember to stop and take a moment to visit Luke 2. I think you're spirits will be rejuvenated with the reminder of what this season is truly about.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Blogger shout out: Kalie from Texas

Hello Crushers!
I'm constantly amazed by the terrific people that I get to call my friends. My good friend Kalie, which I may have mentioned a few times here and here, is currently in the Philippines working with her church group to help the people affected by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda). My favorite line from following her journey on facebook is "God is moving".

There are so many answers to what God is moving. He's moving pride out of the way to give and receive help. He's moving with the Holy Spirit to open hearts to his wonderful message of salvation. He's moving the hands of volunteers and men and women who live in the Philippines to remove debris and destruction to rebuild their church and their lives. He's moving fear out of the way for people to travel, to give and to continue their lives.

God moves people.
God moves hands.
God moves hearts.

I hope you're moved to check out Kalie's journey here as she blogs about her experience.

If you're so moved, please feel free to help out the people of the Philippines still struggling with the aftermath of the typhoon through Kalie's church group or mine here

Monday, December 2, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 33: No excuses and lots of sharing!

Good morning Crushers!

I would like to apologize for my silence in the blog-o-sphere for the past week. It's been crazy around here. I do have a recipe to share and fun news.

If this were a running date, I would tell you that baby and I did some run/walking while Steve actually ran. It was nice that he was happy to just jog on his own. We've had some snow here in Wisconsin, and that means there's some icy spots hiding. I hate ice. I do not want to slip, especially now! Unless I have ice clinking in my glass of iced tea or lemonade or keeping my cooler chilly, I do not need ice.

If we were on a running date, I could tell you that we finally sold our house! After moving the closing date three times, we were able to close on Friday after Thanksgiving. So while everyone else was out buying things, we were selling! YAY! New home in 19 days... pictures will follow I'm sure.

If this were a running date, I would tell you that I got to spend time with two of the cutest dudes this weekend. See?

Oh the cuteness! Such chubby cheeks!

If this were a running date, I would share this adorable photo of my 97-year-old grandpa helping me make butternut squash risotto (recipe from Iowa Girl Eats here). And yes, you really can make risotto by pouring in all the broth at once. Just keep stirring! It was delicious, but I would definitely add more garlic than the recipe calls for. We have garlic lovers at our house!

He's carefully measuring squash for me.
One last fun piece of news! We had people guess the baby's gender at work and at Thanksgiving. Since we've been on this football theme, my friend Sarah made these yummy cupcakes.
People placed their bets!

And the answer...
Team Pink!
We're very excited to be able to call the baby "she" or say "her" instead of "it" all the time. Healthy baby girl on the way! Can't wait to decorate the new house and the baby's room!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Faith-filled Friday: Moving part ???

Hello Crushers!

So, today was supposed to be our closing day. That got moved now to some paperwork issues. Hmm.

For today's Faith-filled Friday, we're heading back to Psalm 27 (verse 14) for this gem:
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.
 I try and act like an adult most of the time. I really do. However, sometimes I want to stomp my foot and yell, "I don't wanna!"

That is not the right thing to do. Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit and a big one. You need patience in all areas of your life, not just moving. I just keep telling myself that "You have shelter, you have food, you have clean water, you have a loving family, and most of all, you have a Savior. Shut up." Most of the time I listen.

Let's all try and count our blessings and listen to that voice that says "shush" when we feel like stomping our feet. You can do it!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 32: Yeah, I didn't run

Good morning, Crushers!

Unless you count running up and down the stairs or back and forth between houses, I didn't do any actual running. Well, I did run through the rain with boxes back and forth between the house and the truck, so there's that.

If we were on a virtual running date, I would tell you that we've been a little busy. The house is empty. And yes, I totally cried when we said, "Bye House." You see, we have this silly tradition of saying good bye to the house every day when we leave for work. So when we said bye for what may be the last time (hopefully!), it was sad. I cried. I have extra hormones. And I'm a crier. Ugh.

If we were on a virtual running date, I would tell you that I'm enjoying living at my parents' house more than I thought. My mom is a wonderful cook, who has been wonderful and cooked the past few nights without even mentioning that I should take a crack at it. Which I will. I will help feed everyone. I love feeding people. Anyway, she made these wonderful mashed potatoes last night that were all buttery and had tiny bits of onion in them. You know how I love onions.

There's one problem though. This house has a constant supply of cookies. And? How is this a problem you ask? BECAUSE I LOVE THEM! I'm trying to be all graceful and stuff about being pregnant and getting bigger (half way on Friday!), but when you have cookies on hand all the time, it's hard. Oh delicious cookies...

In the meantime, you know, when we're not working, teaching, packing, and stuff, we have been participating in local government to try and get some land rezoned. We have been working on this, and by we, I mean my mom has been leading the charge as the president of our local woman's club, since May. SINCE MAY! They had the vote last night and it did not go in our favor. Well, I know a few common council members that I won't be voting for in the next election. Harumph!

However, like all important lessons your mom teaches you, it's good to remember, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Much like "don't lick batter off your fingers until your done baking" or "always wash your hands". Moms know these things.

If we were on a virtual running date, I'd tell you to go call or hug your mom or your aunt or your friends' mom or any mom you know. Chances are they need that hug.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Faith-filled Friday: Moving Part 1

Good morning, Crushers!

As you may have noticed, the blog has been a little light on recipes lately. Well, as you know, we're moving. That means most of the kitchen is packed up. We've been eating off of paper plates and only using one stock pot and one skillet to cook everything. Between random cookware and trying to eat up what's in the fridge, it's like we're living on the Food Network's show "Chopped".

Source
Here's what we've been eating:
  • Skillet-cooked BBQ chicken with mixed veggies
  • Delicata Squash Gnocchi and jarred red sauce
  • Leftovers (microwave quesadillas using up cheese and mixed veggies. FYI - peas are not quesadilla-friendly)
  • Leftovers (reheat squash gnocchi for lunches)
  • Soup and leftovers
Overall it hasn't been so bad, but Steve knows that this is starting to annoy me. I want my kitchen back! Anyway, he continues to be the most awesome husband ever and is taking me out to dinner tonight. WHOO! You know, before we finish some more packing...

Fortunately, we have amazing friends and family (Thanks Mom and Dad!) who are willing to take us and our stuff (that won't fit in the POD) in for a month or so. I was am feeling really overwhelmed about this. So, what do you do (besides tell your best girl friends and hubs?), dig in to the Bible. Duh. Facepalm.

Source
Caïn by Henri Vidal, Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1896
Psalm 27 is my go-to chapter when I need a little pick-me-up. Of course it would have an appropriate verse about this!



One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Psalm 27: 4-5
No matter where we go, we should always seek to "dwell in the house of the Lord". That's where you're the safest. It reminds me of a little child who knows that wherever mom and dad are, that's the safe spot. Have you ever seen a small child in a store or at a family gathering bump into a set of legs, look up, and then look scared because those legs do not belong to mom or dad?

When we try and walk around thinking that we're on the right path, sometimes we realize that "whoops", those are not the right legs. We are not on the right path. That is not the path that leads us to safety!

Let's always try to seek God and seek the safety and comfort that only He can provide. While I'm doing that, you can also find me and Steve safe and sound at my parents' house for the next month.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Water, water, everywhere... wait a minute...

Hello Crushers!

I have a friend who will be celebrating the second anniversary of turning 29 (aka - she's turning 30 people). Instead of asking for gifts this year, she is asking that everyone donate to charity:water. She wants to bring clean drinking water sources to places in need to improve the lives of the people, especially women and children who fetch water over long distances.

I think this is brilliant.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past week, you know that there are lots of places in the world that can use aid, especially the Philippines that were devastated by a huge typhoon. If you would like to help with aid to the Philippines or other places in need, please take a wander over to the Impact Your World site on CNN or WELS Kingdom Workers. If there are other sites you would like to suggest, please add them in the comments.

Thanks!
Jen

Monday, November 11, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 31: Boxes and CPR

Good morning, Crushers!

If we were on a virtual running date, the very first thing I would tell you about is that my friend's mom was able to come home from the hospital! She's still not in tip-top shape, but she is home and that's an improvement.

If we were on a virtual running date, I would tell you that I took a CPR class this weekend. It was amazing to hear how the simple acts that people can do to help give someone a chance at life. If you're not able or willing, that's OK. But if you are, please check into taking a CPR/First Aid course. You might save a life! If anything, you should go check out this site to learn about doing hands only CPR. Just remember the beat to "Stayin' Alive" from the BeeGees and you've got the right tempo!

Boxes, boxes and more boxes. Holy boxes, Batman! Our house is filled with them.

Those pictures were just the living room where we stored some things. The stacks were as tall as I am! We are officially closing on our house a week from Friday. I'm sure I'm going to get emotional although I only lived here for less than 2 years. Steve had lived there for 10 years! Fortunately, we have a wonderful house to move into and I'm sure you'll see photos of that in the coming months.

Last, but not least, if we were on a virtual running date, I would tell you the most exciting news of all! Steve and I are expecting our first baby in April! AH! This means you're definitely going to be seeing more freezer meals, baby stuff, and pictures of a nursery! We're so excited!

NOTE: If you've done the math on months, this means that I've been running through my pregnancy so far. Before you get all "YOU SHOULDN'T BE DOING THAT!" please note that I had permission of my doctor and I am running slower than a turtle trudging through peanut butter so as not to get overheated, dehydrated or have a crazy high heart rate. Exercise in pregnancy is good for you as long as you're smart about it. If you have any questions, please consult your doctor before starting physical activity.



Friday, November 8, 2013

Faith-filled Friday: Calling on you for help!

Good morning, Crushers!

Today I need your help. No, it's not for recipes, although I do love it when you send them. Today I need you to send up some prayers, good vibes, happy juju and all that on behalf of a friend. I have no idea what to ask for because she's not talking. When she's not talking, I know it's not good.

Here's the thing. Her mom is very sick. I know that her mom has many health issues and this is a complication of them, but that's all I know. This friend isn't really a "send over a casserole" type of person when something is wrong. She's a fabulous cook, and so are her brothers and dad. They will not starve. This is more of a "we just need to surround you with love" type of situation.

In my daily e-mail devotion, this was the passage today:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4
I have a feeling that Courtney, like most people, isn't feeling joy in the middle of this situation. She's probably feeling sad, angry, desperate, and stressed out. This is one of those times where you just need to pray for help. Just the one word. God will know what to do with it.


"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God." Romans 8:26-27
 So, no matter what you say, whether it's specific or just a "help!", thank you for being prayer warriors today. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Lessons in Soup Making

Good morning, Crushers!

Remember when I shared some delicious soup recipes back here? Well, last night I made the Slow Cooker Tomato Rotini Soup. However, we were packing up the house, and I forgot to start it earlier in the day. Instead, I'm going to give you a few tips on how to make it on the stove top in less than an hour. It's so delicious. Thanks again to Susan for sharing!

Here is a link to the original recipe. Here is what I did, and tips from Susan:
Tomato Rotini Soup
Ingredients:


4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
4 cups tomato juice
1 heaping tablespoon of Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle (basil, garlic and oregano)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 medium carrots, sliced (1 cup)
2 medium stalks celery, chopped (1 cup)
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1-ish cup sliced mushrooms
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 box uncooked rotini pasta (make in a separate sauce pan)

Gear you'll need: Big soup pot, smaller pot or sauce pan for the noodles, spoons, a sharp knife for chopping up veggies, and measuring cups/spoons.

Directions: In the large pot, heat the broth (I used chicken broth) and tomato juice to a boil and then turn down the heat. Stir in the spices. For a lower-sodium version of this soup, try and find the low-sodium juice and broth. It's going to be flavorful enough without adding more salt. Your heart with thank you.

Chop up all of the veggies and put them in the pot. Put the can of tomatoes in as well. I accidentally bought the Italian kind, but that worked really well. If you want, you could soften up the veggies by cooking them with a half tablespoon of olive oil before putting them in the pot. However, we like chunky veggies at our house! Cook the tomato base and veggies on medium for at least 25 minutes if not 30.

Tip from Susan: For a spicier soup, you can use the spicy tomato juice (sometimes called zesty in the store) or throw in a few red pepper flakes. If we had had the red pepper flakes, I'm sure we would have used them!
Soup bubbling away before I added the noodles.
When you have about 8 minutes left on the soup, cook the rotini in a separate pot. I tried a little experiment last night and found that the soup is better when you don't cook the noodles in the pot. I cooked half in and half out. The half out was better because it didn't soak up all the juices. By the time we were done with dinner, the half in noodles had become enormous and soaked up lots of juice. When I reheat it, I think I'll just add more juice or broth. It'll still taste good.

Here are more tips from Susan:
  • "I get enough to freeze a dinner size portion for Dave (her husband) and myself and then usually 2 lunch size portions for me to take to work.  More than likely we will have leftovers from the dinner size portion that turn into another lunch portion for myself bringing that total up to 3 (maybe 4 depending on how hungry we are the night we have the soup and what we have with it."
  • Grilled cheese is an EXCELLENT side to the tomato (we did this last night).
  • "I let the soup cool for close to 2 hours and then I freeze the dinner portions in gallon Ziploc bags and lay them flat in the freezer so they freeze nice and flat.  The lunch portions I do freeze in Tupperware so that all I have to do to take them for lunch is move it from the freeze to the fridge the night before and then transfer to my lunch bag in the morning." 
 Thanks to Susan for sharing this soup recipe and all her tips! Enjoy!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Faith-filled Friday: The house

Good morning, Crushers!

I hate packing. There I've said it. (I'll most likely say this many, many times). However, I'm kind of enjoying the box fort we have going in our house right now. I'm just hoping we don't box ourselves in and can't get to the door. We've still got to get out of the house on occasion for work and such. Heh.

I don't know about you, but it is a dreary day around here. It rained all day yesterday. Thinking of houses and rain, I'm reminded of the passages in Matthew about the house built on the rock.


Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. Matthew 7:24-27
Although this parable talks about a much stronger rain that we experienced here in Milwaukee, water is a powerful cause of erosion. Just drops over a long period can make a hole in a rock. Just like a few mean thoughts or words can tempt an even-tempered person to snap in anger. Maybe you tell your self that it's just a little sin here and a little sin there before you find yourself making a "big" sin. (Not that sins come in different sizes like crimes do). Not all faith destruction is caused by a huge life catastrophe.

I hope that you take the time to do the little things and the big things that build a solid rock of faith foundation in The Rock, God. Don't let the little rain drops or the big floods knock your faith-filled house down!

Don't mind me... I'll just be packing and watching Dad and Steve put gutters on the garage...

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween: Barmbrack Bread

Happy Halloween, Crushers!

Our office has a Halloween challenge where groups of employees are allowed to take some time to decorate the area by their cubicles and then we all "trick or treat" visiting each other's cubicles or set ups. It's really fun and makes the afternoon go by quickly. Everyone has a sugar crash by the end of the day! This was a huge team effort, so thanks to all my co-workers for doing an amazing job!

Photo: Sarah Smith
Since my client is an international one, we decided to see how people celebrate Halloween or other ghoulish holidays around the world. We picked Ireland, where the Celts are supposedly the first to celebrate. The rituals and celebrations focused on Samhain, a festival celebrated over night of October 31 around harvest time seem to have evolved into Halloween. Beltane bonfires were lit, turnips were carved (eventually turning into jack-o-lanterns as we know them), and Barmbrack Bread was eaten.

Photo: Sarah Smith

Photo: Sarah Smith


In Mexico and many other countries, celebrate Dia de Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Again, this is a day to gather with family and friends to pray for and remember relatives who have died. Skeletons and marigolds are familiar things to see around homes, cemeteries and altars. Lots of meals are shared and one special item, pan de muerto (bread of the dead), is shared by family and friends near the gravesides of the deceased.
Photo: Sarah Smith

Photo: Sarah Smith

Photo: Sarah Smith
In China around August, a festival called Yu Lan, or the Ghost Festival, is when the deceased is said to come visit the living. People will provide food to hungry ghost visitors and even set empty places at the table for the ghosts. There is lots of food!

Photo: Sarah Smith

Photo: Sarah Smith

Photo: Sarah Smith


I was in charge of bringing pumpkins for the Ireland set up and making barmbrack. Here is the recipe that I used (it's made in two stages and traditionally has trinkets baked inside, but I skipped the trinkets):

Barmbrack Bread

First stage
Mix together:


1 cup of sultanas


1 cup of raisins


3/4 cup brown sugar


1 cup cold tea
Cover these ingredients and leave to soak overnight (or in my case, a few hours).
 
Stage Two
Prepare these ingredients:


1 1/2 cups of flour


1 level teaspoon of baking powder


1 egg beaten


1 teaspoon mixed spice
1. Add the four, baking powder and spice to soaked fruit mixture.
2. Mix in the beaten egg.
3. Spoon into a well greased loaf tin and bake for 1 1/2 hours at 150 degrees Celsius (300 degrees Fahrenheit). If you're making it in cupcake form like I did for work, bake it at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes.
4. When cool brush the top with warmed honey for a glazed surface.



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 30: Fall 50 recap

Hello Crushers!

Sorry for this delayed message, but life has been a little hectic. When isn't it though, right? Knock on wood, we are set to close on our house at the end of November and then move into our new house in December. I know that's not ideal, believe me, but we won't be homeless for a month or anything. We'll just be living with family. If you all feel like saying a prayer that all goes well, I'd appreciate it.

In between calling Realtors, house inspectors, banks, and such, for the first time we participated in a little 50-mile relay race last weekend called The Fall 50. IT. WAS. AWESOME.

The motto of the race is "Go up to Gills Rock. Turn around and face south. Don't stop running until someone hands you a beer." That summed it up nicely! Before the race, the director said he always reads an inspirational quote or passage. This year he chose to read a quote from Calvin and Hobbes, the classic comic strip by Bill Watterson.

Source
You've done all you can do. You've prepared as much as you can. Some days, even your favorite pair of underpants just won't help. I laughed when he read this because a) it's true and b) I was wearing my lucky race socks. Oh Calvin...

The race started at Gills Rock, which is nearly the tip of the peninsula of Door County, Wisconsin. Then you and your team (although there were over 170 solo ultramarathon runners) take turns running different segments to add up to 50 miles ending in Sturgeon Bay. I ran the first and sixth legs. Thankfully I didn't have any major hills. I was running pretty slowly, but this was the first time I was ever going to run a double (twice in one day). Although it was less than a half marathon (8 miles total compared to 13), I wasn't going to take any chances on getting overtired, overheated, or exhausted.

Steve had one major hill and some little ones, but he powered through like a champ! We were very lucky that the wind changed overnight. Friday, as we were driving up with running church friend, Kristi, the wind was so loud and so forceful, it was knocking branches down! Not cool, wind. Not cool. When we woke up, the wind had died down a bit, but the best news was that it was now going to be at our backs the whole time! We just had to dodge some downed branches, but otherwise, everything went very well. We left Gills Rock at 8 a.m. and finished at 4:07 p.m. GO TEAM!

Hopefully, I will get a picture of the van from someone soon. We decorated it with our team name, Dr. K and the IT Band, and wrote each leg on the back of the van so we could cross them off as we finished them! In the meantime, please enjoy a few of these.
The whole team at the start line: Paul, Debbie, Steve, me and Kristi. It was about 45 degrees.
Selfie at the start line

Steve is ready to run! Too bad he had to wait until leg 5 to start!

Ready to go at the start line! You can see the timing chip on my left wrist.
Yes, it's on a SLAP BRACELET! Fun!

Beautiful Lake Michigan in the bay.

The hill.

The sun came out!

It's hard to see, but that sign says "Good Thoughts".

Crazy wind (and hair) at the finish line. We made it!
At the end of the race, we all went into the after-race party for as much pizza, beer and soda as we could consume. By then, I'm not ashamed to admit, that I ate two plate-fulls of pizza. And I enjoyed every bite.

Fun food fact, in the Zagat article "50 pizzas in 50 states", the pizza at Door County's Wild Tomato restaurant was featured. Yum!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Faith-filled Friday: Another hour

Good morning, Crushers!

When I've got more on my plate than I thought I could handle, I have been known to say, "If I could just have another hour in the day..." to get things done, to read, to clean, to cook, to relax, to whatever. It would be nice. But then I know I would just fill that other hour with crap and still be stressed out. It's just a fact.

Last night, the house hunt continued, but we found one promising home, so I set out to do some research on the neighborhood from schools to crime reports. Then we got some other facts in about the house that were kind of distressing, but not bad enough that I wouldn't move right in and cook you all dinner. The distressing part was that we got the news right before going to bed. Nothing like a factoid to keep your brain running, right?

That's when Steve said, "Well, let's pray." We pray every night before we go to bed. For us, it's not only a time to continue the tradition of praying before bedtime as we did when we were little children. Instead of just reciting "Now I lay me down to sleep", it's more of a conversation with God. Steve knew just then that we didn't need to keep repeating all of the stuff we learned. We need a 1 Peter 5:7 moment:
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Yeah, it's really that easy. And difficult. And blessedly simple. Sometimes all you need to do is give it to God and let go. The letting go is the hard part. However, I can tell you from personal experience that letting go and giving your problem to someone that you know will take care of it is really a great feeling. You can take a load off and know that it's covered. If you've got something you're hanging on to, I suggest you take a hop over to 1 Peter 5 and let go. You'll be glad you did!

 Speaking of counting on others, it is a race weekend! It's not just a regular 5K race weekend. This is the Fall 50, a 50-mile relay race that I'm participating in with a team of 5. Thankfully, I have a great team that is willing to give me some of the shorter legs. And not just because I'm short! Ha ha... OK, bad joke. Anyway, we'll be spending time in Door County, WI doing the "Most scenic race in the Midwest!" How cool is that?

Pictures on Monday!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Quesa-what?

Good morning, Crushers!

I have to admit that I haven't made anything creative this week. Our house is slowly coming apart. I had to stop pulling things off the walls the other night because it was making me sad, and I ran out of boxes. We've been having comfort food as the weather gets colder and the house gets more packed away. I've packed lots of my kitchen stuff already, so I'm down to one frying pan, a sauce pan and a stock pot. Everything else is getting packed up!

Here's what we've eaten this week:
I really don't want to move food when we move, so I thought that we should just put stuff in tortillas and toss cheese on top of it. My favorite? Chicken, onion and slices of green apple with Colby Jack Cheese. So good!

I dare you to try and make some of your own. It's really quite wonderful. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 29: Babies and Houses and Recipes, Oh My!

Good morning, Crushers!

I am tired this morning. And I have to confess, that instead of having a virtual running date this weekend, I would have invited you for a nice walk and a cup of hot chocolate or coffee or something. I'm tired. We spent last weekend in a whirlwind of meeting our new baby nephew, Dylan, and then looking for a new house. We saw 10 houses, and I only kind of clearly remember 3 of them. And even then, I think I'm a little mixed up.

If we were on a coffee walk, I would tell you that new babies are wonderful and they smell good and they only have the tiniest cry. I know that that cry will eventually turn into something much louder, but for now, it's tiny. Just like Dylan. What a sweetheart! His big brother, Patrick, is also very much in love with him. We knew he would like Dylan, but we didn't know if he would like him right away or not. Now we know!

If we were on a coffee walk, I would tell you about how all of the houses we saw were special in their own way, but some were special in a negative way. There was one house that gave me the heebie-jeebies. I felt like I had walked into Little Red Riding Hood's cabin and I was waiting for a big bad wolf to come attack. Not cool. I got lost in the basement of one of them. It was deceptively big.

If we were on a coffee walk, I would tell you about how my friend, Erie, keeps sending me wonderful recipes that I keep forgetting to try. Because of that, I'm going to share them here with you:

Mango Beef Stir Fry from Everything in the Kitchen Sink

Bloomer Bread from Paul Hollywood (Erie's baking crush)

Baked Oatmeal in a Mug from Food and Whine

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Breasts (or thighs) with Herbed Goat Cheese (you could just use Boursin cheese to save yourself some steps)

I'm going to go follow my nose to some coffee now. If I can get up from my computer, that is. So tired...

Friday, October 18, 2013

Faith-filled Friday: Soup review and more

Good morning, Crushers!

What a week? I'm so glad I spent most of Tuesday night making soup and food ahead for the rest of the week. It's been crazy around here in, mostly, good ways.

Have you ever, as an adult, had one of those days where you're all, "I don't want to be a grown up any more!" That was my day yesterday. If you've been a reader since March, you know that we're trying to sell our house. It's been a bit of a bumpy process. Yesterday, we got some information on our house that is basically telling us that we're going to need a new roof.

You know what? I don't want to have to buy a new roof. I don't want to have to be all responsible and junk. I just want a bowl of soup, some comfy clothes and a good episode of Grey's Anatomy. Yes, I know that Grey's isn't a child-friendly show, but all of my Disney movies are packed. When I was thinking of today's posting, I thought of 1 Corinthians 13:11:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
I have definitely grown up. I have a career, a house, a husband, and a really cool new frying pan from William-Sonoma. I'm all responsible and stuff. I called a contractor for an estimate on our roof. I put on my big girl pants and moved on.

Gorgeous new Calphalon 12-inch fry pan to replace the one that got all scratched up.
However, I'd like to point out that thinking like a child isn't always a bad thing. Matthew 19:14 says:
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
A child-like faith isn't just something to hope for, it should be something you actively seek. Kids are so trusting that it makes you want to be the kind of person that they think you are. Jesus is that person. We can have faith in him because he is exactly what we expect of him and so much more. We too can be "heirs of eternal life" and have the kingdom of Heaven belong to us!

In between calling a contractor and wanting to hide in my couch-cushion fort, there is a happy medium. I can do both. I can watch my show and eat soup. You can too!

Speaking of soup, here is the 4th place winner dish from our office cooking contest! I think that if it had been vegetarian, I would have gotten more votes. If you want, you can omit the sausage and you'd be fine serving it to vegetarians. I know because I asked. I got this recipe from Chow.com, but I used Italian sausage instead of bratwurst. I also used 9 oz of spinach instead of 6 oz because I love spinach! The recipe below is how I made it, not how it is on the website.

Sausage and Butternut Squash Stew
Ingredients:
  • 1 (1-pound) butternut squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound of uncased Italian Sausage (about 3-4 sausages)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, medium dice
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 10 ounces red potatoes, large dice
  • 3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes and their juices
  • 3 cups water
  • 9 ounces baby spinach
Gear you'll need : 1 big soup pot, a good knife for slicing veggies, a strong veggie peeler (I have an OXO one that I love), a cutting board, a paper-towel-lined plate, measuring cups and spoons and one big spoon for stirring.

Instructions:
Get the squash ready: Peel off the skin with a vegetable peeler. Trim the top and bottom. Cut the neck from the bulb of the squash. Halve each piece lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Cut the squash into 1-inch cubes and set aside. This is the best way I've found to cut a butternut squash. They even did a video feature on CNN about it!


Love that color. I should paint a room that color...
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned all over, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside. This lets all the grease drip off. I hate when you pull soup out of the fridge and there is grease globs floating on the top. Gross. 

Sausage sizzling away
Return the pan to medium heat, add the onion and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. I'd go heavier on the pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the squash and potatoes and cook until the potatoes are just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the caraway and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes, their juices, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the vegetables are fork tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Add the sausage back to the pan along with the spinach. Cook until the sausage is heated through and the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes. 
So good, bright and colorful!
Serve up with a big hunk of bread and enjoy! So good! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

World Food Day 2013: Help end hunger!

I have recently heard myself complain that I need a freezer to help store all this food that I'm prepping for the coming weeks' meals. While I don't think there is anything wrong with being able to enjoy food and drink responsibly, it also reminds me that those who have the ability to help, should.

October 16 is World Food Day 2013! Please consider helping those who have trouble providing food for themselves and their families. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Donate food or dollars to your local food pantry.
2. Help serve a meal at a homeless shelter, women's shelter, Ronald McDonald House, or other charity.
3. Make a meal for a family member or neighbor to show you care.
4. Grow a garden (or plan one, since it's fall) and share the bounty with others.
5. Take a good hard look at how much food you waste. I'm not saying that you should stuff yourself just so that you don't throw things away from your plate, but instead, look at what foods are wasting away in your fridge or pantry.
6. Share the news with others:
Together we can help fight hunger in our neighborhoods and around the world!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Virtual Running Date No. 28: More Fall Soups!

Good morning, Crushers!

October is here in full force with wind and rain mixed with sun and falling leaves. It's gorgeous! If we were on a running date, I'd be talking all about fall. Fall is soup time for me. If you hadn't noticed from the other soup recipes that I posted from Susan, I'm going to give you another today.

If we were running today, I'd tell you about how excited I am that we are expecting a new nephew today! I cannot wait to meet the little man and shower him with kisses and snuggles. Fortunately, that's just what we get to do this coming weekend! So excited!

If we were running today, I'd tell you how Steve and I went running this past weekend and then got caught in a heavy downpour. Rain is good for the ground and all, but blinding when you're running without a hat, right? After that, we went to see the homecoming football game for the high school where Steve teaches. And it rained some more. With lightning! Being the dedicated fans we are, we huddled together under an umbrella and stuck it out until they cleared the kids to come back out on the field to keep playing.
Empty the field! (note how we're winning)

Rain, rain go away! The stands are soaked and kids want to play!

Pre-rain
 If we were running today, I'd tell you how proud I am of my friends Margaret and Kristen who did the Chicago Marathon yesterday. All I could think of was that moment at the beginning of my last half marathon where we all took a few seconds to remember what happened in Boston. Those few moments of silence are enough to make you tear up.

If we were running today, I'd tell you about the wonderful spaghetti squash that I roasted last night while I was baking bread (which turned out so well). It's ready for some spicy African sausage that we found at the farmers' market last week. The sausage is called boerewors, which is a South African sausage based on a Dutch recipe. It's very lean and flavorful. I'm excited to try it with some squash and marinara sauce. We might also throw it in some jambalaya. Yum! So hungry now!
I had two different sized loaf pans. Can you tell?

If we were running today, I'd just keep up the recipe sharing and let you know about this bratwurst and butternut squash stew recipe I just found on Chow.com. I think I'll use it for my office's annual fall food challenge. It seems nice and hearty, and I could use a turkey sausage to make it healthier. Otherwise, it's all veggies! Maybe I'll replace some of the potatoes with carrots. What do you think?

Bratwurst and Butternut Squash Stew

  • 1 (1-pound) butternut squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces fresh Bratwurst Sausage (about 3 sausages - I'll probably use turkey sausage)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, medium dice
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 ounces red potatoes, large dice (maybe use some carrots or yams instead?)
  • 3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes and their juices
  • 3 cups water
  • 6 ounces baby spinach
Doesn't that sound delicious?!
 
Have a wonderful day, Crushers!