Monday, October 12, 2015

Dear followers, all three of you

Hi Crushers,

It's been quite a while since I've been here.

Balancing a busy home with several jobs, a baby who is now toddling, writing, cooking, teaching, and running is a challenge. Fortunately, I have some lovely ladies in my life (hi mom and sis!) who like a challenge. Maybe it's genetic?

Anyway, the time has come to close this blog, which I'll do in a few days or within the year at least, and move on to a different project. In the meantime, if you'd like any of the recipes, please copy them now. They won't be here forever, although it is the Internet, so...

Thanks to my talented sister's art background, my mom's ability to throw the perfect themed party, and my love of writing, you can visit us over at Three Busy Nests.

Thank you for following me.

Thank you for running with me.

Thank you for praying with me.

Thank you for cooking with me.

Thank you,

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Virtual Running Date No. 56: Pancakes for now and later

Hello Crushers!

This past weekend was an easy one for running. I just did two miles, but it felt great! Steve did 7 and rocked it. It's nice that the weather is warming up, but it is not nice that those little swarms of midges are back. So. Gross.

Don't worry, I didn't take a picture. Eeeeeew.

If this were a running date, I'd tell you how I may have gone a little overboard with planting this year...

This shot did not include my rosemary, basil, tomato, rhubarb, raspberry and pepper plants.
Or the plants that Steve is growing from seed. 
So, yeah. There's that. Fortunately, Ellie had a great time sitting outside in her little sun shade playing while Mama and Dada got a little dirty.

If this were a running date, I'd tell you that I'm sorry for the frost warning we had on Tuesday. I just have trouble waiting to plant after Memorial Day. Ugh!

If this were a running date, I'd tell you that I've had a craving for pancakes for several weeks now, but Pancake King Steve hasn't made them yet. Oh, until Sunday night...

If this were a running date, I'd confess that I gave up waiting and made myself (and Ellie and my sister) some tropical pancakes on Friday morning. Steve, honey, if you're reading this, I'm really sorry!

If this were a running date, I'd also tell you that you can freeze pancakes for later. That means Ellie and I have pancakes for any day we want without having to make a mess as often! Yippee!

Tropical Pancakes
1 cup flour
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tsp coconut extract
1 Tbsp vegetable oil for coating the pan

Toppings: we used bananas, strawberries and pineapple chunks

In a bowl, whisk all ingredients together except the oil for the pan and the toppings. Yes, yes, you can do the dry and wet ingredients separately, but why make another dish dirty? Make sure all the large lumps are gone, but a few small ones are OK. I suggest using a bowl with a spout to make pouring easier.

Heat a large skillet or griddle to medium and dampen a folded paper towel with some oil. Using a pair of tongs or VERY CAREFULLY using your fingers, carefully rub the skillet with oil. I did not use grapeseed oil from Wildtree for this because it's green and I didn't want to risk green pancakes.

Pour 2-3 tablespoons of batter out for each pancake. No need to measure unless you really want to, but it's pretty easy to eye-ball. Cook until the wet surface of the pancakes have some bubbles that have burst. Flip carefully (trust me) and cook until the underside is lightly browned. This takes about a minute or a bit more. Repeat until you have a stack of pancakes.

Serve with toppings and enjoy!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Faith-Filled Friday: I'm here.

Hello Crushers!

Today's Faith-Filled Friday comes to you thanks to Steve and Ellie. Ellie is at the age where she wants to explore things on her own and doesn't always need me nearby. It is funny to see how she flips almost every toy or book or whatever is in her hands upside down. This is especially "charming" when it's a plate of food or cup of water. Regardless of the mess it makes, you can see her learning about texture, weight, size, colors, and yes, gravity.

There are times where she may be flipping a toy over and over, but she stops and looks for me as if to say, "Hey Mama, look how neat this is!" She's just checking in although growing her independence.

Then there are the moments when she either realizes that I'm not right there at her side or when stranger danger kicks in, and she cries out looking for me or Steve. That's what inspired this post.

On Thursday night, Steve and I were cleaning up dinner dishes while Ellie was in the middle of our living room. We could see her looking at books and testing out her ability to scoot backwards. All of a sudden, she cried out in distress. I don't know if it was because she was stuck or just weirded out by her new-found mobility (heaven help us). Steve responded by saying, "It's OK. I'm here."

It made me think of how many times I've said these four little words. Those two tiny sentences make such a difference to her whether it's the middle of the night or while she's playing or being held by a friend of ours that we don't see often. I'm here, sweet girl.

All of these things shows that she is learning about her world around her. It is heartwarming to know that while she explores, she still needs us. She has along way to go before she is truly independent. It is also wonderful to know that when she is upset, our presence comforts her like some parental superpower.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. - Matthew 28:20 
God assures us of this same thing. He truly has that superpower. He's here with us. He came to Earth once as a man. He lived among us, died for us, and rose again for us. He's with us in spirit. He's waiting for us in Heaven. What a comforting thought!

Can't you hear him? "It's OK. I'm here."

Wouldn't it be great if we stopped what we were doing during good moments to check in with God as if to say "Hey, look how neat this is! Thanks for creating such a beautiful world." Wouldn't it be great to turn to God first in those other moments when we feel lost or afraid? He'll always answer.

"It's OK. I'm here."

Please join me in checking in with God more often. It's OK. He's there.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Faith-Filled Friday: Just a little late, but full of love and cake

Hello Crushers!

Sorry that this is actually Monday and not Friday for the weekly devotional post. I stayed up late on Thursday to finish reading the chapters I needed to for our small group Bible study. One section of the book inspired this post.

We hosted it at our house this time around and it was my turn to make dessert. I made Sandra Lee's Strawberry Margarita Bars, and I even took a picture! However, something happened and it got deleted and we ate the whole pan. So, you'll just have to go to the link and check it out. I also made sour cream pound cake with a twist. That recipe is below.

Anyway, back to the Bible class...

Our wedding ceremony was very "lovey". We had hymns and Bible passages that all had to do with love. There's nothing wrong with this. I just look back and think, "Huh, I do love an event with a theme, don't I?" Geesh. 

One of our selected Bible readings was the classic 1 Cor 13 - the Love chapter. (verses 4-8a, 13 below)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. 
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
You hear this over and over at weddings, and sometimes it gets old. I'm so glad we read this Bible commentary book about marriage and family now because it gave me a new way to look at this verse. Quite frankly, it also made me laugh. The author said how this isn't just love as a feeling, but this is love in action.

Steve and I are action people if nothing else. Time how long we sit still...

Love does things. This is love in motion. Love in action! I think that marriages or any close relationships work because you don't just feel love; you put love in the little things you do for each other. It's in the notes and pictures I stick in Steve's lunch box. It's in the way he vacuums for me. It's in the way that he stayed home with Ellie so I could run 10 miles. It's in the way I make sure there are bagels in the house for him. It's all these little things that show each other that we care.

How great would it be if we could treat each other, not just in our close relationships, but in all encounters with love? I'm not saying we should accept bad behavior or anything like that. We can control how we act and respond toward others, though. We can show love. We can do love.

Join me?

Another thing we can do is make pound cake -

Pound Cake
1/2 cup butter
3 eggs
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
Berries or chocolate sauce for topping

 Preheat the oven to 325 F. Allow butter, eggs and yogurt to stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes (unless it's a really hot day, then use your best judgement). Grease and lightly flour a loaf pan.

In your mixing bowl, beat butter until smooth and then add the sugar until it's light and fluffy. Add in vanilla and almond extracts (you could skip the vanilla and do lemon or other citrus too). Add in the eggs one at a time so they don't go splat everywhere. Add in the yogurt. You'll probably need to scrape the bowl. Add all the dry ingredients. Pour the batter in the prepared pan.

Bake for 60-75 minutes or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean. The crust will be a golden brown. Cool on a rack for for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Then let it completely cool. Serve with chocolate sauce, berries, ice cream or all three!

Virtual Running Date No. 55: Switching gears!

Hello Crushers!

If this was a running date, I'd have to tell you that I did not run this weekend. Instead, I skipped the opportunity to be on a team with friends for the Color Run (which was totally OK to skip) and gave blood instead (warning - photo of arm with tubes taped to it - no blood or needles though).
Be a hero! Donate blood if you can!
We worked on our house and garden this weekend so we could have a lovely Mother's Day with our moms. My yard is dandelion free for the moment. Woohoo!

If this was a running date, I would tell you that Steve and Ellie gave me my gift on Saturday night instead of Sunday. Going back in time, Steve has been working on this project from Ellie for over a month. One day, he was really frustrated because something wasn't working, but he couldn't tell me. I sat him down and said, "I appreciate all of the love, time, and energy that you are putting into this gift, but just so you know, I would have been really happy with a new cutting board."

Little did I know that he had already bought me a cutting board after I couldn't shut up about the one that I used at my cooking class back in January. HA!

Anyway, he (and Ellie), took tons of photos from my phone, his phone, our cameras and even some from my sister and mom and made me a slide show with music from our engagement pictures through Ellie's first year. I laughed, I cried (especially at the photos of my grandparents who have passed away at our wedding and then with Ellie), I "oohed" and "aahed". It was so thoughtful, and I'm so glad to have these years captured all in one place! I think we might have to continue this tradition, but add more of Steve to the photos, too!

If this was a running date, I'd be able to tell you my idea for Steve for Father's Day, which is also his birthday, but since he sometimes reads this blog to catch up, I can't tell you. Also, sorry for the run-on sentence.

If this was a running date, I'd tell you that I got to spend time with my mom and my mother-in-law this weekend. What a fantastic bunch of ladies! My sister had her first Mother's Day and my brother and his wife and kids were in town, too. All the little cousins had fun playing together and Ellie took her first assisted steps this weekend. AH!

My brother, sister, mom and I - Mother's Day 2015.
If this was a running date, I'd also tell you that my nephew, Patrick, had his first race last week. There is a local running series where they live in Peoria that does weekly kids' races. You show up, pay a small fee (I think they said it was $2), let the kiddos run a quarter mile with a race bib, and then they get a ribbon. Patrick was SO excited! My mini-runner!

If this was a running date, I would tell you how our house is switching gears. Now that my half marathon is over, it is Steve's turn to train. He signed up for a full marathon taking place in September. As a teacher, he will have a good chunk of summer away from work so he can do some heavier training before the school year starts in again. By then, he should be tapering his miles anyway. So excited for him!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Sad, and Probably Salty, Good Bye

Hello Crushers,
I'm sorry to spread the news that one of my favorite regular features from NPR is going away. The Salt's feature on crazy sandwiches and other I-can't-believe-that's-food items is done. "Sandwich Monday" will no longer be there to tempt or traumatize us.

That's all.


In other news, I think I'm going to attempt Strawberry Shortcake Bars for our Friday Bible Study group.

In other, other news, I think our Friday Bible Study group needs a name. Suggestions?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Virtual Running Date No. 54: Door County Half Marathon

Hello Crushers!
I am back home safe and sound after a lovely weekend in Door County! Door County is one of the many options for people when you hear them refer to "Up North". My usual Up North is closer to Minocqua, Wisconsin, but Door County is also very lovely! Plus, it has Peninsula State Park where this race was.

This race had it all!
Beautiful weather? Check!
Closed course so you don't have to worry about cars? Check!
Hills? Check! (grumble grumble)
Pirates at the Mile 5 water station? Check! (They had Gator-aaaayde)
Awesome running friends that you meet just because they have your same pace and you will probably never see again your whole life but are so glad they found you and you got to encourage each other? Check!

Gorgeous day, excellent volunteers, cool race shirts and medals and more. Seriously, go run this race.

Don't forget to do some hill training though. Your quads will thank you.

Here are a few photos from the race:
Pre-race hugs
I finished!
(Yes, I know I am wearing a finisher shirt from another race. Whatever.)
Celebratory ice cream! Ellie kept trying to steal some of Steve's, so we let her have some.
We now have a tiny ice cream monster. 

My race goal time was 2:30. I made it - by 1 second!
Hope you all enjoyed the weekend! Time to go unpack and do some wash!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Faith-filled Friday: Flowers

Hello Crushers!

The first tulip in our yard has bloomed. It makes my heart so happy! Today's Faith-filled Friday is going to be short and sweet.

Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. - Luke 12:27-31
Last night was a devastating episode of Grey's Anatomy. I won't go into the details in case you haven't seen it yet. However, if you know anything about Shonda Rhimes' shows, you know that she will kill off characters as fast as Julian Fellows (Downton Abbey) or the guy who wrote Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin. If none of those names mean anything to you, let's just say they knock off characters in a blink.

Anyway, I did not get to see the episode, but I did read the recap and it made me so mad. Was I sad about the characters? Yes, but I was more annoyed with how real it was. Unless the writer/director was trying to make a statement, I enjoy my TV to make me laugh or wondering whodunit. I watch enough news, thank you. I've had enough family members have difficulty with the medical field red tape. I don't need to watch it destroy a great character.

I don't need TV to make me worry. I can handle that all on my own.

The passage I picked for today is a great reminder for me. When I tend to worry, which happens more than I'd like to admit, I have to think of the flowers. They just grow. They have sunshine and water and they just grow. Yes, you can add fertilizer and such, but in almost any climate, you can find flowers. Cacti have them in the dessert. Tropical flowers can be found in an abundance near the equator. Even in snowy climates, spring pops up like my tulips.

God takes care of them. He takes even greater care of us. Let's not forget his great care, focus on his great blessings and worry less.

He knows we watch enough crap on TV. Heh.

Prayer request: My cousin's wife, Mari, has no more options left for her cancer treatment. Jim, my cousin, has set up home hospice care for her. Please ask for strength and peace for everyone involved. Thank you.

Mexican Lentil Soup

Hello Crushers!

Last night I did not have time or the energy to post this great soup I made. I totally winged it, and it worked. OK, that's not entirely true. I looked up several recipes, and based on those I decided to wing it because:

  1. I did not have all the ingredients
  2. I did not have time to go and get the extra ingredients
  3. Necessity is the motherhood of invention, or something like that...
Anyway, it turned out really well!

Mexican Lentil Soup
2 Tbsp Garlic Grapeseed Oil from Wildtree
1 cup onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced (about a cup)
1 pound lentils, rinsed (and sorted for weird bits)
1/2 cup medium salsa
2 quarts veggie or chicken broth
1 Tbsp Wildtree Taco Seasoning
1 heaping tsp Rancher Steak Rub

For more heat, add more taco seasoning and 2-3 crushed garlic cloves.

Heat the oil in a big pot. When it starts to shimmer, add the onion, pepper and carrots. Cook for about 6-7 minutes until the onions are translucent and the peppers and carrots have softened. 

Add in the other ingredients and stir. Bring it to a gentle boil. Turn down the temperature to a simmer, put the lid on, and cook for about 35 minutes.

If you are lucky enough to have an immersion blender, use it to make a nice smooth soup. A few chunks are OK. 

If you aren't lucky enough to have one, use your regular blender and just make a lot more dishes dirty (which is what I had to do).

Once it's all finished, I suggest serving it with quesadillas, avocado, tortilla chips and/or some sour cream. Really, garnishing is up to you. You could also add some nice chopped cilantro, but we didn't have any (remember #1 up there?).


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Virtual Running Date No. 53: 10 miles down, 13.1 to go

Hello Crushers!

If this were a running date, I'd tell you I did my longest training run on Sunday before my handbell festival concert (You can see the live stream here. I am in the second row, way far on the right sitting next to the bubblers/drinking fountains around minute 23). Across all my runner friends, there are two main training programs:

  1. Run over several months with increasing time and distance until you reach somewhere around 10 miles at least 2 weeks before your race. Then taper. (Most full-marathoners run about 20-22 miles for a final long training run before tapering). 
  2. Run over several months with increasing time and distance until you reach a minimum of 13 miles or more (usually no more than 15) at least 3 weeks before your race. Then taper.
I am in the first bunch, hence I listed it as number 1. Heh.

If this were a running date, I'd confess that my longest run before my first half marathon back in 2011 was barely 9 miles (might have only been 8). Thankfully, my race was on a very flat surface, and my body recovered fine. I was also lucky to run with a friend for miles 5-9. We chatted and encouraged each other. After the race, I hopped in the car, Steve drove us back to Milwaukee (a 2 hour drive), and then I walked around (aka cooled off) at a bridal show. Kind of dumb, but it worked out.

If this were a running date, I'd tell you that my second half marathon training was very different. I ran with Steve for almost every training run since it was going to be his first half marathon. He was vigilant about our training. Our longest run was a very hilly 10-mile trek through the Ice Age Trail. It worked MUCH better, and I had a great PR for that half marathon.

If this were a running date, I'd tell you that for my 3rd half marathon training, I was super pleased that I did 10 miles and most of my training on my own. Yes, Steve and Ellie ran with me on some of them. Yes, I did interval training with Kristi. BUT I did 10 miles on my own. Not surrounded by other runners all going the same direction. Not with my hubs and running buddies. I did not think I could make it, but I did. It was awesome and grueling and more awesome. I'm ready folks.

Also, new shoes!

Saucony Stabil CS3
I heart them. I have super flat feet thanks to foot surgery I had as a kid. I think I've mentioned it in the blog, but I can't find it to link, so whatever. Flat feet, ahem. Anyway, I have to wear shoes with "stability" so I don't pronate weird and get hurt. Running shoes aren't about looking cute; they're about healthy feet.

Well, excuse me for doing a happy dance because someone FINALLY got through to the designers and us stability shoe wearers now have fun colored shoes to wear! Everyone else got cool shoes. I was stoked when my shoes went from navy, white and silver accents to hot pink, white and silver accents. I bought hot pink shoe laces to jazz it up a bit. I don't even wear that much pink, but in running shoes it's so fun!

If this were a running date, I'd tell you that my friend Cam, who ran the Boston Marathon in 2013 when it was bombed returned to Boston this week for the marathon. He set a new PR. Boston Strong!

If this were a running date, I'd also tell you that Ellie had a lot of fun at the running store. She got to try out a new jogging stroller (did not buy) and help me find cool gear for Steve for a future gift! Oh, and the owners' Great Dane was in the store. Ellie clapped and shrieked "Doggie!" Poor dog did not find meeting Ellie nearly as exciting. I think the high pitch of her voice was a bit much. Ha!

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
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

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...


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
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!


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...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Faith-filled Friday: Love

Hello Crushers,

I don't know how many of you follow along with a devotion book or have one e-mailed to you, but Steve and I have a few devotion books at our house that we bought and received as gifts. On top of that, a small group of friends and I have a Facebook group where we comment on an e-mail devotion that we all subscribe to - Proverbs 31 Ministries. When looking for a passage for today's post, I looked in "The One Year Uncommon Life: Daily Challenge" written by Tony Dungy and Nathan Whitaker.

If you don't know him, Tony Dungy is a retired championship winning NFL coach, a football analyst, author, husband, father, etc. He's an all-around great guy and one that is not afraid to show his faith. I bought this book for Steve for our first Christmas thinking that he'd especially love the football connection, and now it's one of my favorite devotion books. We don't read one every day, and since there are 365 devotions, even if we read this every year, we'd still be OK!

Anyway, I looked up the passage for today, and it was 1 Corinthians 16:13:
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.
Um, how perfect is that verse to connect March Madness to our faith?! Stand firm! Be courageous! Go! Fight! Win! Works, right?

And then I looked up the next verse:
Do everything in love.
I don't think that being on guard, standing firm, being courageous or strong could happen without knowing how much God loves me, my family, and my friends. My actions and words certainly wouldn't be much without loving motivation.

The friends I mentioned earlier are getting together in a little over a week for our 10th anniversary girls weekend. Each of us has had some big changes this year having babies, having miscarriages, new jobs, old jobs, husbands facing new jobs, saying good bye to loved ones, and everything in between. It's been a roller coaster to say the least. Fortunately, we all can reach out to each other in love, surround each other with love, and remind each other of God's love and loving plan for our lives.

Next weekend when we all get together, one friend suggested that we each bring a Bible passage to share. Normally, I'd bring up my confirmation verse (you'll be singing it on Easter - "I know that my Redeemer lives!"), but I think I might bring these verses from 1 Corinthians. I should carry them around with me every day. Won't you?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

I'm baaaaack!

Hello Crushers!

Wow, that was a long hiatus. I'm ready to be back and post more fun recipes as me and as A WILDTREE REP (yup, I took the plunge). Other features like "virtual running dates" and "Faith-filled Fridays" are coming back, too. You know, starting tomorrow.

See you all soon!