Thursday, February 12, 2015

Favorites: Podcasts and Their Hosts, Super Bowl Food

Here are some favorites for you this week. 

Podcasts: I love a good podcast. You know I already listen to Another Mother Runner and Trail Runner Nation. Amidst my podcast queue is The Big Boo Cast hosted by two women, Sophie Hudson and Melanie Shankle. Both are from the South and have the most delightful accents. They talk all manners of things: fashion, makeup, crackers and dip, football, furniture, music, etc. It's literally like listening in on their phone conversation. (I linked it to some podcast listing site but I download all my podcasts from iTunes.)

Blogs and Books: Besides their blogs, both Sophie and Melanie have written a couple books each. I wanted to tell you about Sophie's latest "Home is Where My People Are" a couple weeks ago so you could pre-order it but, well, things don't always work out as hoped around here. In any case, whether you did or did not read her first book "A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet" which I shared last March during Spring break and you so need to read it, I believe you will really enjoy her second book as well.

Melanie has written two books and her third will be released soon. "Sparkly Green Earrings "is about mothering. "The Antelope in the Living Room" is about marriage. "Nobody's Cuter Than You" is about friendship. Pick the first two up and pre-order her third and be prepared to share them with your friends. 

Super Bowl Food: As you know the Super Bowl has come and gone. I really enjoy the food that accompanies the game. I inquired of my Facebook friends what they were eating and the most common answer was wings. Nice choice, friends. Here at the Ward household we went with burgers. The kids always like burgers and they really like it went I make them into sliders, too. I leave the burgers pretty plain as far as construction goes. Then I fancy them all up with toppings. I draw on Ree for slider inspiration. While searching for tomato toppings I found one using sun-dried tomatoes and cooking them down into a tomato jam. Oh yeah! A great way to use up those tomatoes I preserved last summer. (Also, I am really digging Foodie with Family's blog. Her food is solid, the recipes are right on and her writing is real and entertaining.) An avocado basil dressing, caramelized onions and caramelized mushrooms finished off my burgers. I nestled in some potato wedges, too.

I'm going to call it good today, friends. There are so many links today that I'm going a little nuts. 

Can you spare a minute to tell me what you do about Super Bowl food? It seems that I feel the need every year to make something new. Every year I love coming up with something new just for the party. Do you do that also? What recipe won your Super Bowl party this year? 

Last year it was these Tator Tot Nachos Supreme. 

I just made a Super Bowl Party Food board on Pinterest.

I'll stop now.

Don't forget to leave a comment.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Joe Fox and Engage

I wrote this back in December but never finished it. The lesson I learned that day has stuck with me and it was time to finish it and share it with you.

Today I stood in line at a bookstore and witnessed a scene that made me sad. Actually it made me mad. Really mad.

I had popped into the bookstore to grab a couple of magazines to read during an upcoming road trip. I noticed there was a line to the cashiers and hoped it would dwindle by the time I was ready to check out. As it turns out, the line had not only not dwindled it had in fact gotten longer. I took my place in the queue and perused the impulse items. I noticed that the line was incredibly quiet and no one seemed to be engaging in any small talk. (As you remember from my 50k race, I like to indulge in the small talk now and then.) My wait was a little over five minutes before I reached the cashiers and was third in line.
It was then that a woman caught my attention, really all of our attentions. She was voicing her frustration that a busy bookstore with more than enough employees to wander around (and apparently bothering her) asking if she needed help couldn't seem to get a clue that maybe they should put some of those employees on more registers. She really laid into the guy while simultaneously saying it wasn't his fault but the manager's and also that this was the only bookstore in town so she had to shop there. She turned to the woman next to her and apologized saying it just had to be said. The cashier muttered a few things to her but that did not appease her. I believe she huffed out of the store but I don't really know as I think I might have momentarily passed out from anger, shock and disbelief that that really just happened. 
My mind reeled with what to do with the whole thing. Indeed, there was a line and we all were witness to the whole scene and the tension was thick. I could crack a joke but what would I say? Should I sing? We all know the best way to spread Christmas cheer is to sing loudly for all to hear. All it would take would be one zinger and we would all feel better and have put her in her place. Or something. As it turned out, I ended up being checked out by the same guy and I didn't say much. I was as kind as I could be, said thank you and gave him a smile. He was obviously still upset. I had planned on grabbing a coffee on the way out and decided he needed one as well. I told the woman serving me that whatever the cashier liked to drink I would buy for him. They had heard the whole thing also. I told them that no one ever should be treated like that and that if you are going to go shopping on December 23 you should expect to stand in lines. They said I was the best customer of the day and I said I wasn't.
I told the world via Facebook how it should be. But even that has made me sad. I spent the rest of the afternoon fuming and thinking about the whole thing and a few things finally came to mind.
For one, I really, really wish I had spoke directly to that cashier about the situation or at least said something more. I have been under scrutiny with an audience before and it is a hot feeling to have yourself be laid open like that. You desperately want out but what would help in the meantime is to know that someone is on your side. I can't speak for the other people in line, but I did not feel the same way as that woman. By not speaking directly to him, I feel like I conveyed I was on Team Impatient.
Secondly, I wish, wish, wish I had thought of how to diffuse the situation in the middle of it. I wish I had Joe Foxed it today. 

While this scene isn't directly related, its what played over in my mind while thinking through today. And what I mean by Joe Foxed it (my own made up term) is I wish I could have engaged the woman right there. It took me a good couple of hours to come up with what I wish I would have done, which was to start talking to that woman about what she was buying and whom the book was for and other such non-confrontational conversations. 

Engage seems to be one of the words being impressed upon me for this year. At first I thought that it would mean to seek out new relationships and get all up in them. But right now, over a month into 2015 and longer since this bookstore scene, God has shown me a little differently. I'm leaving my definition of engage a little more open and allowing Him to guide me through. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Madre Rides, Ride #1

Madre- Spanish for Mother
Rides- English for "to sit on and manage a horse or other animal in motion or to be borne along on or in a vehicle or other kind of conveyance" ( In this case- a dirt bike.

Madre rides a dirt bike.

The boys have been riding dirt bikes for almost five years now. Way back at the beginning Audrey and I also tried it. It was fun but we didn't stick with it like they did. As you know, riding dirt bikes became a passion for both Bill and Ben while I got more into running. While we were both connected by dirt (I like to say we are addicted to dirt), I became the photographer, cook, laundress, and support crew for their riding endeavors and never got back on the bike. It felt like a lot of work to help get them out the door so they could go do what they loved and I was okay leaving it at that.

Within a year or so, after hearing the stories of the boys, friends would ask if I rode. I said yes but soon that yes became distant yes. Yes, I had ridden before. Yes, I rode a couple times. Yes, but it's been a few years. Yes, but back when they first started riding and not anymore. I would have round and round conversations with Bill about riding but it always focused on riding to race and I came to a discovery about myself.
  1. I'm very competitive. Well, I just wasn't going to ride to ride. I was going to ride to race and I would want to win. 
  2. Which lead me to realize that would take a lot of time to get to that end. And I didn't like that. 
  3. And I felt like I was already behind.
  4. And I didn't have the proper gear which would cost a lot of money in exchange for possibly not a lot of commitment.
  5. And I'm pretty sure I came up with about another fifty excuses. 
Over beer and pizza with trail running friends this past summer, my friend, Heather, asked me why not? She was sure I could do it. I walked away with that little nugget of belief and challenge and let it turn over and over.

I ran the thought past Bill again and he didn't see why I couldn't. I was pretty much my own hang up. So a month or so later as we were packing up for a trip to Grandpa's and Grandma's I asked if I could bring some gear along to ride. We determined that Ben's 85cc would fit me well since we had sold the bike Audrey and I had ridden before. The next afternoon I geared up with my favorite compression socks (because I didn't have any other long socks), someone's old riding gloves (amazing that we still have matching pairs), an old pair of Bill's goggles, and Audrey and my old riding boots and helmet (all still safe to wear).

That's when I received my first riding lessons with a manual clutch. The first bike I rode a long time ago had an automatic clutch, which I couldn't have told you anything about because I didn't know any different. Ben's 85 (and the 65 that Luke rides) both have manual clutches. This is all old hat for probably most of you guys reading this or for anyone who has driven a stick shift car. (I have but I didn't like it at all. Sidebar: We once owned a stick shift car for maybe six months. I hated driving it but for budget reasons the price was right and it was mostly Bill's transportation. I drove it only when necessary. One day we had to run a quick little errand just a half mile or so away and I had Ben in the front seat. I stalled the car several times attempting to get it in reverse and back out of the driveway. Ben looked up at me and asked "Do you know what you're doing?"  I exclaimed "Yes!" but clearly even at three years old he already knew more about clutches and such than me. Shortly after that, in a very succinct manner (uncharacteristic for me) I laid out my reasons for not keeping the car and Bill was persuaded to buy an automatic car for our family.) So here I am, in front of my father-in-law, sort of kind of listening to my husband explain the whole of the bike. After many, many, many attempts I get it going with the clutch let out slowly while I twist the throttle in the right order. I manage a couple laps around the yard before coming to a stop. But guess what? I don't know how to stop properly. Do not fear. I did not gun it and head in separate directions apart from my bike. I just simply squeezed the brake and the motor killed. So lesson two. The clutch is everything. If in doubt, squeeze the clutch. 

Ben, watching, comments to me that I did a good job but I'll tell you what. I am straight up not having that much fun. My riding is jolty and bumpy and with fits of not holding the throttle steady and lurching forward faster than I would like. In reality I'm no where near the edge of losing control of the bike but I feel like I will any second.

This was a new undertaking for me and I came away from that riding experience learning a whole lot about myself. For one, it was unnerving to have an audience. The thing was the audience was composed of people who were only rooting for me. A big hinderance to my effort was focusing on what others would think. I shouldn't let that stop me from trying. Secondly, even though I knew I was a beginner, starting from scratch, I found I didn't have the beginner's mentality. It was super humbling to be lurching around the farmyard trying to navigate back brake, front brake, throttle and clutch. This was going to take more than time. It was going to take a lot of time. I had to take the lie of being behind and run over it. If I compared myself to the boys then, yes, I was behind. But I wasn't going to, I couldn't compare myself to anyone. If I was going to have to any fun just trying this out I was going to be okay with being right where I was at. I found myself being good with that. I found myself being okay with just learning to ride because I wanted to. Because I wanted to connect with my boys with what they love. Because there is something appealing about trying something new. Because uncovering things you didn't know about yourself is unnerving and scary and brave. Because taking yourself to the edge of your known bravery is a bold statement in believing in yourself. Not because I possess within me all the means to make it happen but because God gives me all opportunities to uncover and express His work in me. Clearly, I need more of Him working in me and more clutch work. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

2014 Hare Scramble Racing in Review

I didn't recap the boys' racing last year race by race. But here are photo highlights from over the course of the year. 

Bill took fifth overall for the year. Ben raced in a new class with a bigger bike. Luke raced less this year but enjoyed every minute. So did the rest of us. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Kingdom Cares International, Part 1

It's been a long while since I last wrote about Kingdom Cares International but that doesn't mean nothing has been going on. In fact, with the gifts and monies that have been contributed over the last years, much has been happening and God has shown himself to the people of Asikuma, Ghana and beyond.

Jake and Janel, along with two other couples including one of Audrey's small group leaders recently traveled to Africa. Janel is starting to recap their trip on her blog Team-Sullivan.

If you are like me, you need a bigger perspective today. As with me, I need to pull out from my tiny corner of the world where I am caught up in the everything of life and see God working out His details all around the world. Head over to Team-Sullivan for more. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Here are some favorite things in my life lately. Foods I've tried, things I've listened to and recommend, books I've read, or just plain I really like these. Hope you enjoy this new (and hopefully here to stay) series.

Candied Jalapeños -In my Instagram feed this past summer someone posted a recipe for pimento cheese spread and topped it with candied jalapeños. It took me a while to save up enough jalapeños from my garden to make a half batch but I did. Oh my! I'm equal parts happy I made them and sad that I only made half a batch. We only have one jar (1/2 pint) left! This next year I will definitely put in more jalapeños plants. Put them on a cracker with a slice of cheese or the aforementioned pimento cheese spread. Pile 'em on a burger. I'm drooling just thinking about them.

More Run Hoodie- Ha! The moment popped up in my Instagram feed, I gasped out loud and told Bill I wanted it for Christmas. I put it on my Pinterest board, got him signed up for Pinterest, and maybe even sent him the link for it directly. You know that fine line between here's what I'd like to see under the tree, hint*hint*hint, and here's what I know will be under the tree? I think I crossed it. Especially when I picked up the mail and I grabbed package with a big return address label emblazoned with Run Pretty Far on it. Not sad at all.   

Crock Pot Maple Dijon Pork Chops -Who cares how I found these? These are delicious. And very easy. You can brown the chops and soften the onion on the stove first (I do) but you don't have to. (That's a major pet peeve of mine- here cook all of this food on the stove first and then throw it in the slow cooker. People, the point of a slow cooker is to do the work for you.) Make some sweet potatoes, green beans, or another veggie to pile on your plate and watch it all disappear. It does every time at my house.

Cornerstone Church's teaching series online -We've been asked if we miss church with our bike racing and the answer is yes, we miss church. When we first started racing, there was a Saturday night service but currently there is not. However, we can still hear the messages online or through the app on your phone, which is how I listen to them. There are over 30 message series online alone. Maybe you'd like to read through a book of the Bible but would like some guidance along the way. Or you need to fill your ears and mind and heart with more Truth, try these, please. 

Green Smoothies -A long time ago, I posted that I would try a kale and avocado smoothie. Then I reported back that it didn't go so well. Since then, I added spinach to quite a few smoothies but always laced it with berries. Then I came across these three and collected the ingredients to try them. Here's my take on them.
1. Green Protein Power- tangerines, spinach, pineapple, cashews, chia seeds, flaxseed oil. I didn't juice the tangerines separately, just threw them in whole. The rest went as directed. I couldn't place the taste as one particular thing but the smoothie was good. There was a little texture to it due to the cashews but it wasn't crunchy or disturbing. I will make it again.
2. Ultimate Green Smoothie- avocado, banana, parsley. To an average smoothie drinker, this list is weird. But the taste is great! It's creamy and bright flavored. I've made it twice just to make sure I liked it.
3. Sour Apple- Grape Crush- spinach, Granny Smith apple, green grapes, flaxseed oil. Maybe if I had a high-powered blender the texture could be improved since there is a lot going on but I don't. The taste is off-putting at first then grows on you, kind of like a sour candy. It's not bad but it's not for me. However, you might like it.

So there ya go. I'll try to keep the list a good mix (not all food). Let me know what you think of this new series and what you're curious about. Also, what are some of your favorites?


Friday, January 9, 2015

Sycamore 8, 2014

At the beginning of December (2014) I ran another trail race, the Sycamore 8. It is a race put on by The Capital Striders. I forgot that I had mentioned on Facebook that I was running it and at Christmas everyone asked me about it. I filled them in and wanted to let you know about it as well. 

I spent November recovering from the GOATZ 50k. I may have mentioned this previously but after the race was over I didn't feel like running for a while. I didn't even want to run. When I finally went out for the first few times the runs were short and easy and actually quite hard. I was still fatigued. Eventually I was able to go out for a 4 or 5 mile without  needing a nap. I ran by feel. I ran where I wanted to and how I wanted to and I ran the hills just to see if I could. There wasn't any pressure or any goal. Just go run. 

Finally I decided I would sign up for the Sycamore 8 race. I have run on the first half many times and knew it wasn't technical or difficult. I joined the Turkey's for a Tuesday night run on the second half of the trail to see how that laid out. Again, not difficult. I kept my runs during the week easy and with no plan.

The morning of the race I texted my friend Amanda who was doing a Jingle Jog or Turkey Trot or some other 5k race and challenged her to run it naked- as in no watch and said I would do the same. I also challenged her to run all of December naked. I knew I needed to stay away from the data my watch could give me for this race. I needed to go out and run this for fun and as free as possible. I formulated to run this race strong.

Since the race is a point to point race, I parked at the finish line and climbed aboard a bus to be transported to the start line. I got a spot in the cozy bus and chatted with a woman who does triathlons. We were dropped off at the start and most of us made straightaway to the bathroom line. The men were directed to go take care of nature in nature and leave the toilets for us ladies unless they had other business to take care of. I made it through with just enough time to do some dynamic warm-ups before the start. I found a friend to hang as we started out. We chatted together for about the first mile but then I realized I was able to pull ahead without much effort and left her. 

The trail is mostly single track but not tight therefore passing isn't too much of a problem. You just have to be patient and courteous as you make your pass or get over as someone passes you. Because I wanted to make sure I passed cleanly and also wasn't getting ahead of myself, I sometimes stayed behind a runner and only one time felt like it was too long. He mentioned that he wondered when I would pass and I felt bad because he might have felt pressured or annoyed. Anyway, all the rest of the time I handled it well. I did have one runner I leapfrogged with about four times. The first time, he passed me from well behind the pack. I joked with him saying that since he passed us and we let him, we would all like a part of his winnings. Not too far later, he had pulled off to drink from his water bottle and I passed him. Then he passed me again. No word from me because at this point I'm wondering if he's never practiced running and drinking at the same time even though he has a hydration belt on. Then I notice him further down the trail making his way back to the trail for obviously having pulled off because nature called. (Now writing this out I'm wondering if he was dealing with more Mother Nature than his body could handle but I didn't think that during the race.) We are maybe three miles in so far. It's a lot of passing and him getting out of my sight and then seeing him stopped later on in such a short amount of time. I saw him one more time during the race and I almost hollered out at him "Don't make me pass you again!". I didn't but gosh, dude- pacing. Like I said most of the race was not weird, clean passing. 

Alright, I don't have any pictures for you on here. However, there are pictures from the race that you can look through to find me on this site. 

The first is the hill. It's a short, steep little climb taking you from the trail which sits at river level up onto the bridge that crosses the river and under the interstate. The only to get up it is to take a running start otherwise you're left to grabbing it with your hands. (Like in my nightmares where I'm running but can't use my legs so I resort to crawling as fast as I can.) I had pulled up really close to the next person and then realized that that wasn't a good idea because the main line was already congested. I picked a different line and went for it. Fast foot turnover and keep the momentum going and I pulled ahead of her at the top except for the slip where my feet weren't quite under me. (Follow the series of shots here)

In the second set of pics along the river I was again behind a runner. I had just passed someone else and came up on him. As I got closer I heard music and thought it funny that the music was loud enough that I could clearly hear it but why couldn't I hear it sooner since he hadn't been that far ahead of me for a while. Aha! Because it was a speaker the photographer had set up! It was then that I realized then photographer would never get a picture of me if I stayed behind this guy so I had to pull around and pass him. (#337)

The race was coming to a close and while I was definitely feeling the effects of running almost 8 miles at a much faster pace than I had run in a while, I pushed myself to keep it strong all the way to the end. I picked off a few more runners before spotting where the trail met up with the parking lot. There was one runner left in front of me that I thought I could catch. I came up fast behind him. The race director, Brad, was standing right near them and hollered to him that I got him. I took a few steps and raised my hands in victory only to realize he wasn't going to let me just have it. I dropped my arms and sprinted all out to the end. The timer declared me the winner! (#5387)

I didn't place in my age group or anything but it was a personal best for pace in a short distance. I'm really satisfied with my effort. Running without a heart rate monitor or a watch to show me distance, pace or time was such a good thing. I had to rely on running by feel and trust myself. It is a good thing for everyone to do. (Amanda did indeed run her 5k naked and guess what? PR'd by almost 2 minutes!!)  

The Sycamore 8 is a great trail race, especially if you are new to trail running but this would also be a good one to put on the speed if you want to. The race director, Brad Dains, did an excellent job promoting it, communicating, and covering all the details. Even if you think you can't run trails, you can run this one.