Friday, December 16, 2011

Crucifying Tim Tebow

I don't understand the football world's fascination with Tim Tebow. I would get it if it were based on his skill, or his ambition, or his success. It's the current obsession fans and commentators seem to have with his faith. Or, I suppose more accurately, their lack of it.

Tim Tebow has never been shy about his beliefs. Is he perfect? No, I'm sure not. But do I believe he is sincere and truly believes what he says he does? I do. I hear so many athletes insincerely thank God for their successes, it is refreshing to see someone appear to genuinely mean it and live it out.

And yet, people complain. They whine. People are all up in arms whenever his arms are up. I don't hear nearly this much commotion about Steeler's Troy Polamalu, who in my opinion is far "showier" in his faith. So what's the big deal with Tebow?

Is it because he's the new golden boy? Fresh blood? People just love to have something to complain about? I mean, in the grand scheme of college/professional athletics, is Tebow REALLY the one we should be complaining about?

What about the druggies who think they are above the law? What about the quarterbacks who cheat on their wives, send explicit photos to random women, beat or harass their latest conquests, take animal cruelty to a new level? The coaches who shower with young boys, or the college players with dollar signs in their eyes much too soon? I have heard far more negative reactions to Tebow's faith than I have over the aforementioned horrors...

And I've certainly had enough of the whining.
Why do we try to bring down a success story instead of embrace it? Are people just that jealous? Bitter they didn't have the God-given talent and work ethic to "make it big"? This young man was not supposed to be great at college ball: he worked hard and became the best. He was not supposed to translate well to the NFL: he busts his butt each day to silence the critics and give hope to his team. I believe that drive and ability only comes from realizing it is a GIFT, and how quickly it can be taken away. And yet, he is still faced with constant criticism: shame on him for raising his arms to God. He recognizes where the credit is due, and takes a half-second to acknowledge that after a touchdown pass or big play. BIG DEAL.

I say, shame on all of you critics. You cry for free speech, and in the next breath want to take his away because it doesn't suit you. It's a two-sided coin, my friends, and his actions hurt you not the slightest. Let's begin celebrating not a perfect person, but a far superior young man in his efforts to become great, and the fact that he knows to whom all the glory should be given. I only hope my son(s) pursue their dreams and goals with such gusto, and have the courage to remain steadfast in their faith, even if the world is set on crucifying them for it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Cajun Chili

To continue with my obsession with cold-weather soups, I have been trying to perfect chili for quite some time. I didn't really look up recipes or anything, but just kept throwing stuff into the pot that I liked until I came up with what I think is the perfect combination for the best chili! It was a total whim to take a Cajun twist, but I'm so glad I did - check it out!

Cajun Chili

The Stuff:
1 lb. ground beef
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped onion (I like red onion but any will do)
1 can chili-ready tomatoes
1 can chili-ready beans
1 can black beans, rinsed until water runs clear
1 can corn, drained
2 cans tomato sauce (cans are the same size as the corn/beans/tomatoes)

The Spice:
3 Tb. chili powder
1 Tb. onion powder
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Cajun seasoning, to taste (I think ours is from Penzey's Spices, but hopefully you can find this at any grocery store)

The Stir:
Brown burger and onions together, crumble, and drain of grease. Put the burger/onion mix in the crock pot. Add everybody else into the pot (I'm channeling my inner Rachel Ray and personifying my ingredients). Set crock for the amount of time you want the soup to simmer (I recommend at least 4 hours to let the flavors mix). Once it's hot, do a "taste test" to see if you need more spice. I usually add quite a bit more chili powder and several tablespoons of Cajun seasoning to mine. If you like spicy, go heavy on the Cayenne pepper. Being pregnant, and married to a guy who likes middle-of-the-road spice, I don't do this, but you could add jalapenos. Oh, and speaking of the hubs, he doesn't like beans, anything too spicy, or tomatoes, and he LOVED this recipe!

Serve with the usual: shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and crackers or chips. I prefer Fritos Scoops with mine! Jiffy corn bread is the perfect, simple accompanying side, in my opinion :) 

I sure love a hearty, healthy, EASY dinner! If you come up with a chili variation I need to try, let me know!

Thursday, November 3, 2011


So who was right? If you remember, Brady was pretty sold on the idea of the baby being a boy. In fact, he recently told me that if it was a "geal", that he wouldn't like the baby! Ahhh, the words of a two-year-old :)

Well I think everyone predicted a girl, even Joel and I! We were a little surprised on Wednesday when the technician turned to us and said, "Well, he's right....we have a boy here!" 

Brady, not so surprised, declared with a smirk, "I KNEW it was a boy....I told you...."

It's true, we would have loved to add a girl to the family, but are excited that Brady will have a little brother to harass and bully love and play with. And, needless to say, Brady is pretty excited! He also likes to point out the "wee-wee" on the ultrasound photos....oh dear.

We are currently in the midst of finishing our basement, which in a ranch home is quite an undertaking (more on that some other day), and while I had grand plans for a little girl nursery, it will be so much less stressful (and easier on the checkbook!) since we already have what we need for this little guy.

Most importantly, everything checked out normally, baby is growing perfectly, and, maybe not so important but still - I'm not yet a whale! :) Although Halloween candy might do me in.

Hopefully soon I will be getting to some posts on the basement project, the nursery, a garden recap, some pregnancy updates, and more....stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Brady: 3-Year Photos

I may be a tad bit biased, but could these photos really be any cuter??

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Creamy Kielbasa and Veggie Soup

I am a summer girl through-and-through, but Fall is such a fun time, if only it didn't lead into that one dreadful season. One of the things I love most about the cooler weather is soup. I think I could eat a different kind of soup every day of the week and never get tired of it. French onion, Italian wedding, vegetable stew, baked potato, chicken enchilada, name it, I love it. A steaming bowl of homemade anything from the crock pot....

My mom sometimes made a soup that I really liked, and I think I've perfected it now and am ready to share the recipe for a delicious, easy, healthy Creamy Kielbasa and Veggie Soup. The nice thing about this soup: you can throw just about any veggie you like into the mix!

Creamy Kielbasa and Veggie Soup (photo from

The Stuff:
1 Kielbasa sausage, any variety: beef, pork, turkey, etc.
5 large potatoes, washed, cubed
1 can corn, UNDRAINED
1 can green beans, drained
Handful baby carrots
1/2 onion, sliced
1 stalk celery, cut in bite-sized pieces
Add or omit any veggies you like!

The Sauce:
12 oz. can evaporated milk
32 oz. chicken broth
milk, if needed
hot sauce
salt and pepper
parsley flakes

Prepare all of your veggies and dump 'em (and the sausage) in the crock, including the corn "juice". Warning: you may not want to use the entire sausage because it's pretty big (insert "that's what she said" jokes here....) Once your veggies are all done, add the evaporated milk and chicken broth. To ensure all the veggies are covered, you may want to add a little bit of regular milk, too. Add a dash of hot sauce, salt, and pepper to taste, then finish with some parsley flakes. It's so simple and versatile. If you like it more milky/creamy, add another can of evaporated milk and less broth.

Set your crock to whatever setting you need depending on when you want your soup to be done. I like to make it all the night before, put the crock in the fridge, then in the morning before work, plug 'er in and a nice aroma will be waiting when you come home. Couldn't be easier!

Anything else you would add? Experiment and let me know!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Boy or Geal?

Boy or Girl? Our ultrasound is scheduled for November 2 - 21 weeks! Although with three nephews and a son ourselves, having a girl seems like the impossible :)

What does Brady think? When we ask him, he gets this cute smirk/smile on his face with his eyes rolled up in the air like he's searching for the answer and he declares, "Maybe it's a boy!" Once in awhile we can get him to say "Maybe it's a geal (girl)!" but even if he does, he always comes back to "Or....maybe it's a boy!"

Needless to say, big brother is hoping for a little brother - we'll see if he's right!

Monday, October 10, 2011

18 Weeks and Counting....

I've been on a bit of a blog-cation lately, which tends to happen in the summer. But I had an added reason the last few months to be less-than-inspired when it comes to anything that required work, effort, of any kind really!

Joel and I are expecting a new addition to the family in March, and we are excited! Although, the first 14 weeks, I was not excited about anything....ever.

When I was pregnant with Brady, I remember feeling really sick and nauseous, eating gross and random things, and never wanting to get off the couch. Which, lucky for me, was doable since I didn't have a job. I'm not sure if I really was sicker this time, or if it was just the the fact that I have a job now - oh yeah, and this little thing called a TODDLER to keep up with - but I was miserable.

I stayed home at all cost. I went to bed at 9pm (before Brady). I slept as much as I could, including naps. One silver lining: instead of craving canned ravioli and fish sticks this time, I turned to Claussen pickles, ginger ale, and Mrs. Grass chicken noodle soup to calm my stomach. I felt sick most all of the time, but especially toward the evening hours. So yeah, I was a LOT of fun to be around.

We found out about our little bundle on my birthday, July 8....20 minutes before our closest friends came over for a party in my honor. It was hard to keep our excitement to ourselves (and to not drink alcohol and go un-noticed!) but we managed. Girls, if you thought I was adamant that night about our period-math discussion, it was because I had just calculated it myself, and my "suppose you got pregnant would be due mid-March" assertion was not purely speculatory :)

At any rate, I FINALLY made it over the first trimester hump, and am feeling exponentially better. After a  scare at week 10 (which I'll write about more another time), I was really reminded of what my body is going through and why this temporary YUCKINESS is really all worth it.

For now, my main battles are lightheadedness/faint feeling, round ligament pain (I do NOT remember having that with Brady....Yowch!), massive headaches, and weight gain. Although I swore to myself I would be more responsible and not gain 50+ pounds ever again, and I thought my marathon training last year would give me a head start with that, so we'll see. I'm hoping I can eat smarter and exercise more than I did during Brady's second trimester to curb that trend. I have no desire to relive looking like Princess Fiona - Ogre version (Joel's words!); to explain to people that yes, I was smiling in the post-birth photos with Brady, but my FAT FACE prevented my cheeks from moving; or to use any other photo of myself as birth control for my teenage youth group ("see what I looked like? you better be married before you have children because NO MAN is going to stick by you looking like that unless you are married!).

Ah, the joys of pregnancy. 18 weeks down, 22 to go!

Around 15 weeks: I intentionally wore a shirt to hide things for our annual family photos :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Colorado Vacation: Day Four

Quite a change from the day before.
Monday, May 30, 2011

The last day of our vacation was chilly, windy, and SNOWY!

Paul and Macy got up early to put the fishing licenses to use. I do NOT fish. I don't catch fish, touch fish, clean fish, or eat fish. So, Joel took a little stroll up the road from the cabin while I slept in, got myself ready, and made a scrambled egg and toast breakfast once everyone returned. It was a late brunch really, so we packed some snacks and headed into Estes once again.

As soon as we got to the park, it was clear the weather was not going to be on our side. We drove up to Bear Lake and Alberta Falls where it was blizzarding! While it was beautiful, it really messed with my head!

We didn't even attempt to make it to the Falls with the wind whipping us in the face, but we did "hike" 300 feet or so to Bear Lake. Macy and I exchanged looks of disbelief as a girl walked by with flip flops in the snow. I thought WE were ill-prepared! It was just too frigid to do much outdoors up in the mountains, so we drove around, spotted some Elk (they are EVERYWHERE and don't really care what people are doing!), found a beautiful stream to snap photos:
and ended up back in the town of Estes to shop the stores in the afternoon. It was strange: although it was snowing wherever we went, the sun managed to follow us, keeping the weather somewhat tolerable. Back in town, the temperatures were warmer, the sun was out at times, but that WIND! Somehow, we managed to keep our feet on the ground, and ended our last day with some fun tourist shopping and a walk along a river.

Elk Crossing
We decided we wanted to dine out for the last night, so we made reservations at the Dunraven. With some times to kill, the boys checked out the brick house of some Mills guy (one of the men who created Estes Park), and we drove to the restaurant. We were a tad early, so we drove to the YMCA of the Rockies, saw MORE elk just hanging out all over the place, and then sat down to an amazing Italian feast!

While it wasn't much to look at from the outside, the Dunraven was dim and quaint, cozy and fun. We all enjoyed our meals an garlic bread, and were stuffed to the gills!

Back at the cabin, we cleaned and packed as much as we could, started a roaring (finally!) fire, took down basically a whole bag of marshmallows and the other s'more ingredients, and played some Catch Phrase to unwind. Well, Macy and I played while the boys Joel sulked....apparently they weren't enjoying themselves but didn't say so! I tell you, we can only do so much.... :)

Tuesday morning, we started for home around 7am, and pulled into our driveway right at 7pm. My parents had Brady at that point, so after sending Paul and Macy off to Oskaloosa, we headed over there to get him. It was pretty funny when he saw us - usually he cries and screams because he doesn't want us to take him from "gammaboppa's" house, but this time he just kind of slowly walked to us as a look of realization came over his face. He started laughing and jumping for joy, saying, "Mommy AND DADDY!!" It was really cute and nice to be missed, although ten minutes later I was ready to leave again! I knew he had a ton of fun with Joel's family all weekend, but that kid was CRA-ZY. I'm sure it will take some time and discipline to get back into the swing of things!

We are so grateful to Rebecca, Paul, and Macy for making this such a great trip! Joel ranks it just under our all-time best trip (honeymoon in Hawaii), and I might have to agree!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Colorado Vacation: Day Three

Sunday, May 29

We woke up a little later and took our time getting ready around the cabin. There was an art fair in Estes Park all weekend for the holiday, and we decided to check it out around 10am. We looked at all the vendor tents, bought a few items, and strolled the streets of the pretty town.

Macy and Paul bought fishing licenses for the next morning, and we picked up a new map for the cabin. Somewhere along the way, we caught wind of the fact that the forecast had changed and that while it was originally supposed to be a cool, rainy day, it was, in fact, gorgeous and the yucky weather would be moving in that evening. Hearing that, we high-tailed it back to the cabin, grabbed some leftovers for lunch, and headed out to hike our pants off.

At the cabin, we looked at the easy-to-medium trails and decided on Lily Mountain as our hiking destination. We all wanted to reach a summit, didn't want anything TOO incredibly long or steep, and this seemed to provide the perfect mix of both. At four miles round-trip, it was the shortest summit hike we could find.

Enter side-story here: In May 2004, Macy and I (and another roomie, Nancy) went on a college service trip to Colorado. Part of the time we stayed at the Salvation Army campgrounds in Estes, and on one of our "free" days, several of us decided to spend a few hours in the mountains. Macy and I were interested in a little light hiking, so we started up a trail, only to realize it was more of a short path than anything. So, we made our own trail. On a mountain. Without cell service. Or backpacks. Or water. Now, Macy is a very cautious person, but once I started up that mountain, I think I was bound and determined to get to the top.

"C'mon Macy, just a little farther! It's not too bad. We still have a lot of time. We've gone this far, we might as well keep going!" I think maybe she thought I wasn't going to turn around, and it was better to go up WITH me than down WITHOUT me! We made our way to the summit of this mountain, had breathtakingly beautiful views of the range, and then figured we should start the decent to rejoin our crew. Only we were kind of stuck. We didn't realize it was easier to crawl hands-and-knees to the top of a mountain than it was to try and walk back down it! It was too steep, so we went to the other side of the mountain where we at least had some trees to hang on to and keep us from just rolling to the bottom.

After climbing down a little bit, I started to think about how a mountain gets wider at the bottom, and how climbing down the wrong side of a MOUNTAIN would not make it easy to find our starting place, and our group. We tried to weave a little bit back to the other side, but again, being trailblazers instead of trail FOLLOWERS, we just had to kind of go where the terrain allowed us to go. After many harried moments, a run-in with a bee (Macy was ready to fall off the mountain instead of get stung by a bee), a somewhat terrifying leap off of a rock plateau, and a slightly twisted ankle, we saw....a highway! It was truly amazing to see the ground :) And although I appeared calm at the time, I later told Macy I just wasn't quite sure how things were going to turn out. We made it to the highway, but didn't have a clue where we were. I knew the general direction we needed to head, and lo-and-behold, a few minutes later, our group just HAPPENED to drive by us on the highway and stopped to pick us up. Hands down the dumbest thing we've ever done. And I do a luh-HOT of dumb things....

End side-story.

So, we pull up to Lily Mountain, and as soon as we pull into the park area, I got this weird, deja vu feeling. I said, "Macy....does this look familiar??" She immediately responded, "This is it!" We had been reminiscing about our previous hiking experience for two days, and here we were, out of all of the mountains in Estes Park, ready to summit the very same one. I was super excited to re-live our experience, only this time on an actual trail, with two other people, and plenty of snacks/drinks!
It took just over an hour to hike the steep, bendy two-mile trail and summit the 9,786 ft. mountain. The weather was absolutely perfect, and the views were spectacular!

Doesn't this look like some kind of reality show promo?

There was no wind, the sun was shining, and a couple little ground squirrels came up to the peak to say hello.
The top was so flat, we could wander around without feeling like we would fall. And yet, when you looked straight down or turned too fast, it was quite a woozy feeling!

Paul and Macy headed down first, while Joel and I enjoyed the views a bit longer (all that work to get up there, I couldn't just leave!!).

About 20 minutes later, we started running down the mountain and caught up about a third of the way down. I don't think the running was a good idea - while it seemed easy and fun at the time, by the end of the hike, my elbow, knee, and thighs were BURNING! Talk about total body workout! I was still very sore three days later....

Tired and happy, we decided to drive around a little bit and find another short trail we could visit. Not knowing what the weather would hold for our last day, we wanted to make the most out of the absolutely gorgeous, sunny, 70-degree day we were blessed with!

Lily Mountain Lake
We were famished around 4:00, so we ordered some pizza (Poppy's was good, but $40 for pizza? Yikes!), hiked a little ways up the mountain the cabin was perched on, started a more roaring-ish fire, and began a looooong conversation. We all four talked about everything: marriage, friends, family, the good, the bad, the ugly! It went on for hours, but it was so great to reconnect with one of my best friends, and see just how eerily alike our hubbies are, for better and worse :)

Around midnight, we crawled into our beds to get some rest for our final day in the Rockies.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Colorado Vacation: Day Two

Saturday, May 28, 2011

We woke around 8am hoping to find some decent weather on our first day. The forecast for our whole trip was less than pleasing (cool and rainy!), so we were glad when it was at least dry.

We put on our hiking gear (Joel and I were seriously unprepared for this whole thing: we didn't even bring water bottles or backpacks while Paul and Macy had real hiking pants and shoes!!), drove 20 minutes to Estes Park, and started driving the winding roads up the mountains. We stopped at the Moraine Visitors' Center to pick up a map and get some advice on where to hike on a cool, cloudy day. The lady who was working knew EVERYTHING about the park, and she let us know it! The only problem was, she used a highlighter to indicate everything she told us. Road closed: highlight. Recommended trail: highlight. Wildlife sightings: was quite ineffective for us when she got done because none of us could remember what was what because the whole freakin' thing was a yellow mess! Well, she tried, right? We picked up a stuffed Eagle 'Bee' puppet for Brady, (he calls any large bird an "eagle bird"), and went on our way. We decided the Ypsilon Trail seemed promising, so we took our packed lunches and started hiking the trail.

It was a looooong trail, with medium ascent and not the greatest of views. We hiked along a river that created a huge gorge when a dam broke and washed out the ravine. The river was nice, but the thick trees prevented us from really seeing a lot as we hiked. Once we got to the river crossing, we got to witness some really beautiful scenery.

On the other side of the river, we kept hiking, but decided we weren't going to make it to Ypsilon Lake. It was a 4.8 mile hike one-way, so we turned around and drove upward instead.

We went as far as we could to the Rainbow Road pass, which was closed due to snow. SNOW! Oh my, the snow....these banks were what, 40 feet tall? It was surreal to imagine that kind of snow at the end of May. Although it was pretty, my mind was having trouble digesting the cold temperatures (below 40 degrees!) and massive amounts of snow I was seeing. Well, we still got some pretty great views and a few stops along the way.

After driving around the park for awhile, we decided to head back to the cabin for tacos, games, boys cheating at Monopoly Deal, a heated discussion about the definition of a light year, and another, slightly more roaring fire :) A great end to a pretty decent first day!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Colorado Vacation: Day One

I can't believe it's already JULY! I always want to rush rush RUSH through late winter/early spring, only to get to August and wonder where May, June, and July went....well hopefully I can slow down and enjoy my favorite time of the year :)

Over Memorial weekend, Joel and I road-tripped to Colorado with one of my college roomies (Macy) and her husband (Paul). See?

It was actually very random how this trip came about. After Easter, Joel and I were saying we should take a trip somewhere outside of the Minneapolis/Omaha/Chicago/Kansas City area, but not like a full-blown tropical/expensive destination. He suggested Colorado, and I suggested we go with Paul and Macy. So, via the lovely communication vehicle that is Facebook, Macy and I chatted about our spring plans. It turned out they were ALREADY planning to on vacation, to COLORADO, during the ONLY five consecutive days we had available. Crazy, huh?!

Even though it kind of felt like we were inviting ourselves along on their trip, they were more than happy to extend the trip to include us :) On Friday, May 27, they drove from Oskaloosa at 5am to pick us up around 7am at home. Joel's sister, Rebecca, was kind enough to come stay at our house with Brady, so we took off and drove 10.5 hours to the Estes Park area of the mountains!

We stopped for some groceries, then headed into the mountains to stay at Paul's family's cabin. Now, it may not have looked that big from the outside, but it had a huge living/dining room, stone fireplace, fully-equipped kitchen, full bathroom, a master bedroom, and a "porch" room that really served as a second bedroom. And a basement they are working to finish. Oh, and Paul's grandfather built the entire thing himself. It was probably more "cabiny" than "housy", which is a perfect combination of rustic living and everyday amenities for this girl :)

After the long drive, we cooked up some frozen chicken masala (I took the ingredient list home because it was sooo gooooood), frozen lasagna, and frozen broccoli. For such a quick, easy, eclectic meal from the freezer section, we all loved it! Then we started a roaring barely lit fire in the fireplace, also built by hand, munched on some s'mores, and hit the hay early since we were all exhausted and the altitude took some getting used to.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Evaluating Relationships

I've been thinking a lot lately about the people in my life. It seems like no matter how hard I try, I can't keep up with all the relationships I'd like to. Over the past few months, I've been trying to determine why certain people are part of it, why others aren't, and how it has shaped who I am versus who I was six months, a year, five years ago.

When I was in high school, I didn't have a young adult mentor or any positive adult influences in my life outside of my family. I didn't go to church youth group because no one from Waukee really went to Hope (can you believe that!!). My biggest influences were my peers and the media. While I was fortunate to have a pretty solid group of friends who stayed away from the drugs, drinking, and partying, I still made a few poor choices, as we all do, due to the activities my friends were engaged in. While many people probably thought of me as a leader (good grades, pageants, singing success, etc.), I was a follower through-and-through.

Now fast-forward a decade (YIKES!). The picture looks different, but I think the pattern is still there. I'm a people-pleaser, and I have this crazy need to "help" people. But what I've begun to see is that in my quest to "help" people, be there for people, influence people positively, I've neglected to surround myself with people who do all those things for me. As a result I've become bogged down, worn out, and poorly-influenced by all the muck. At some point, "helping" people starts to hurt who you are if you don't counter it with people who do for you what you are trying to do for others.

Sometimes, it even causes me to let certain people walk all over me. My ideas/activities/thoughts change with the relationships I am building. But instead of changing who I am for other people, the relationships I have should simply spur me to be a better version of who I was created to be. This is true, whether you are a leader or a follower, or both.

I know we all like to think we have things figured out. We know who we are, we have our beliefs, or values, our convictions. But where did we get those? Wasn't it from the influence of other people? 

I've found this to be more true than anything else when it comes to relationships: the way we think/act/behave/become is a direct result of the company we keep. Good or bad. 

It doesn't matter if it's a casual friendship, a new dating partner, a childhood friend, or a long-time marriage....both people in any relationship should add to each others' lives, positively influence each other, and make time for the other person. If any of those things aren't happening on the other person's end, they aren't going to just all of a sudden change (at least not long-term). If they aren't happening on your end, then it's time to step up, or determine that the season for that friendship/relationship has come to an end. Don't let yourself be dragged down by someone, don't change for someone, who isn't adding to your life. Just the same, don't hang on to people who you feel add value to your life if you aren't willing to add to theirs Relationship is a two-way street, and being influenced negatively, even if it seems harmless, can cause you to look in the mirror one day and wonder who is looking back at you.

So while I'm trying to make more time for the people in my life who steer me and encourage me to be better/do better, whose life directions build me up,  and who really WANT to be there, I will challenge you to ask yourself these questions: 

Who is influencing your life the most? Have you been a better version of yourself since that person/those people started influencing you?

Are you sugar-coating an unhealthy or stagnant friendship out of fear?

How can you surround yourself in good relationships?

If you have impacted me positively, I hope you know who you are, and I hope you know I'm grateful :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

2011 Garden - Fail #1

I planted some seeds April 1st, and by April 10, a few rogue zucchini and summer squash plants were busting out of their tiny peet pods. So, I transplanted them. It was 80+ degrees out, I took everything out to the driveway, and began placing the plants in styrofoam cups. Just like last year, we rigged up a light under the workbench in the garage, and that is where all the seedlings will grow into big, strong plants before being moved to the garden.

BUT, it was so darn nice out, I thought it wouldn't hurt to leave them outside for just a BIT. True, they were really young plants, but it wasn't a big deal, right??

I probably should have thought about the wind. And the fact that even though the cups were all in a sturdy cardboard box, said wind was still quite, well....WINDY.

I finished my transplanting, I laid down on the drive to enjoy the sunshine, and gust of wind and all my hard work, all my little seedlings, were overturned and dumped over. MAJOR FAIL.

I think two of the six or so plants survived. I remember when I started planting the seeds thinking "gee, why do I really need to plant so many of each vegetable?" Well, I think I answered my own question: because of stupid, rookie mistakes I will inevitably make along the way.

So round two of the garden has begun....

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Masters of Our Own Sandcastles

:: Masters of our own Sandcastles ::

So here we are, yet another day I wait for you.
Up in my tower, another half an hour...or two.
Day by day the plans, you promised to make.
The tide rolls through but they, can't possibly break.

Down we fall, a graceful crumble. People left to stare and stumble.
Nothing here to prove this ever existed.

We are all masters of our own sandcastles,
Playing king and queen of reality.
One by one, we build them up high, reaching up to the sky.

It's not your fault, you couldn't come last night, so when?
On my knees, working from the ground, again.
Clouds looming in the sky, still I turn my blindest eye.
If you see what is at stake, it won't be that way tonight.

Down we fall, and nothing lingers.
People like to point their fingers.
Nothing left to prove this ever existed.

We are all masters of our own sandcastles,
Playing king and queen of reality.
One by one, we build them up high, reaching up to the sky.

The waves crash in.
And wash away the foundation.
We start again.
Clinging to the memory of remember when.

We are all masters of our own sandcastles,
Playing king and queen of reality.
One by one, we built them up high, then they fell from the sky.

I pick my shovel up, and turn around.
My feet sinking on, this shifting ground.
A handful of sand,
A scattered dream that maybe tonight....

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cinnamon Rolls, with a Twist!

Who doesn't love a good cinnamon roll? Warm, gooey, melty....but if you are like me, you can't really eat a lot of them if you want your pants to fit :/

SO, I reached back to my childhood days to recreate what has to be the easiest, fastest, and healthiest way to recreate those tasty treats.

When I was growing up, my dad didn't cook....really at all. He made pancakes, the occasional egg (which somehow ended up looking like a pancake), cream of wheat (which I thought was disgusting but I ate anyway because I wanted to be like my dad. I also watched Field of Dreams every night with him for the same reason!), and these cinnamon treats! Maybe it's the memories associated with these little guys that make them taste that much better to me, but you NEED to try these. Do it. Right now.

Tortilla Cinnamon Wraps

What you need (measurements approximate): One large flour tortilla, one teaspoon ground cinnamon, one-two tablespoons white sugar, half tablespoon of butter or margerine.

What you do: Lay your tortilla flat and generously spread the butter/margerine all over (don't forget the edges!). Sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar all over the tortilla, and pop it in the microwave for 10-20 seconds. Roll up the tortilla, watch out for drippy sugar and butter, and DEVOUR! You won't be able to eat just one, I promise. They are so easy, so yummy, and the perfect fix if you are craving a sweet snack cinnamon roll-style. I know, they aren't exactly nutritional, but they are a heck of a lot better for you than a Cinnabon :)

These have been resurrected from my childhood vault, and I know Brady will enjoy these yummy snacks as he grows up, too!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

2011 Garden - Pregame

 Remember This?
 And This?
And This?

That's right folks. Spring is here....sort of. We had tornadoes on Tuesday and will be having snow on Saturday. Lovely :/

Well regardless of the weather this week, a warmer season is upon us, and so is gardening time! Last year, as I blogged about somewhat irregularly, I grew my first ever fruit and vegetable garden. It was quite the undertaking considering we had to build it into the side of a hill, surround it with cement blocks, and fill it in with bagged topsoil because the walnut tree roots in the forest behind our house are not vegetable-friendly. It cost a lot of money and time but was so much fun, and will become more and more profitable each year. Growing plants from seeds is pretty cool when you harvest a zucchini the size of your leg in August :)

Some things I learned last year:

1) Plants need room to grow. Planting 6-inch vine plants a foot apart may seem like they have space, but I had no idea! Each leaf was like, the size of my face! So, I will not be cramming 9 squash and cucumber plants into a 4-foot radius. I'm pretty sure this issue is also the reason my tomato plants didn't produce fruit until like, September. They were dwarfed by the vine plants that were crowding their area.

2) Similar to the first one, carrots and onions also need room to grow. I thought, "Why thin these out? I'll just let them all grow and thin them as they get bigger!" Well, turns out they won't really grow UNLESS you thin I had miniature carrots and green onions that were never edible. Doh.

3) Some plants will produce fruits throughout the growing season while others are a one-and-done kind of plant. This just takes research and experience to figure this out.

4) Sweet corn does not grow in a garden. I think I will try planting it outside the actual garden this year since hey, that's what the farmers do. I think their roots just need more room than my 8" soilbed can give them. I got corn - but again, they were miniature and inedible (I tried one. NOT good.)

5) Deer fencing is a hassle and is ugly, but it works.

6) I am not my grandmother....yet :) She knows everything about everything garden-related. While I operate under a more trial-and-error method, I think I'll use her expertise more this year - and hopefully she will be able to come down and help me plant this year!

Ok, so last year was the year of the miniature: my carrots, onions, sweet corn, watermelons, and cantaloupe were busts. They never grew to their full sizes. So what DID grow? Snap peas (need to plant more so I don't just have like, four to eat at a time!), summer squash, zucchini (oh the zucchini!), tomatoes (a few before it got too cold), rhubarb, and my potted herbs of peppermint, parsley, and basil.

I was a bit ambitious last year, but I wanted to learn as much as a could that first year. I'll probably scale back my variety this year, be more intentional about placement in the garden, and hopefully will reap the benefits in a few months! Stay tuned, I'll keep ya posted :)