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.