Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's Shocking

It is shocking how a word from a loved one will undo me. Cutting me to the quick is not what I have in mind. It is the self beating up that I inflict upon myself. It is the "You're a screw up." mentality. It is the "You're the one messed up. You're sin is too great and all the fault lies with you." banter that afflicts my thoughts and leaves me sleepless, causing me to run away. 

It singles me out and it's me in one corner and the truth in the other.

Sometimes I can't handle the truth.

And sometimes I refuse to handle the truth.

But here's what I refuse to believe anymore. That very lie.

That I fall outside of where grace abounds.
But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. Romans 5:20 

It may be my favorite of all time. Grace abounds.

That kind of truth is for me. 

This may be the most unsettling Christmas greeting. The most unwelcoming New Year's tiding. But where is the scene of the selfish innkeepers and townspeople of Bethlehem who refused room to a very in-need woman in the height of labor? Who takes a selfish fit selfie in the middle of "Prepare Him Room" season? No. No one shows that.

Grace Abounds

Do you know what happened when those grubby, smelly shepherds saw the most spectacular thing in the skies above them and heard the most outrageous news of their lives? I mean, were they prepared for that kind of announcement? They ran to Him and they adored Him and no one would have pegged them for being the O Come All ye Faithful type. And there I stood, stock stubborn with no gifts that I wasn't going to give Him on bended knee.

 "…and this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved…"*

Grace Abounds

It's shocking how a word from a loved one will undo me.

*from The Last Battle by C.S.Lewis 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Run Chat Hunt Photos

Every year I look for ways to keep myself moving during the cold winter. Sometimes knowing I have a race in a couple of months isn't enough to make me layer up and get outside. This year, however, it looks like I may have a two part plan. The first part being a photo scavenger hunt sponsored by The Run Chat on Twitter. Find all these items listed, take a picture and tweet them using #RunChatHunt and be entered to win some prizes. Check out the list of items and see how I did. (I posted these through Instagram)

Did you notice in the last two photos what was on my feet? Snowshoes! I ran in them.
This is the second part of my two part plan. I ran across an article about snowshoe racing and found one in Cedar Falls on February 1. It's part of the the Winter Iowa Games and it sounded like fun. I already had snowshoes so all I had to do was run in them. I'm smiling in these pictures but let me tell you, that was a little harder than I expected. Fun but hard. 

One thing I learned is that I had to find my items early in my run because my phone would often shut off all the way because of the cold. Those sunny photos? Sunny and freezing! Windchills below zero and eyelashcicles or eye-cicles. If it hadn't been for this scavenger hunt, getting out the door would have been a lot tougher this past month. (Hope I win a prize!)

How are you keeping moving this winter? What's motivating you? Wanna join me snowshoeing? 

Friday, December 13, 2013

12 Days Until Christmas

I've had a lot of visitors on here in the last couple of weeks. Thanks so much for taking time to read. It's been great to be able to share with you.

Now, find yourself a cup of Christmas cheer and enjoy!

12 Days of Christmas by Straight No Chaser- from the album Christmas Cheers

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sole Hope Party

How should I say this delicately? My friend, Kate, loves to cut. I know!! 

She loves to cut out things with scissors!! Phew!

You're probably having the same reactions to her obsession as I did. At first, it's kind of awkward and weird. Then, it's funny. But when you see what she did with her discovery, I hope you'll also find it wonderful.

She hosted a Sole Hope party.

Essentially, Sole Hope is an organization that provides shoes to African children who's feet are infested with jiggers. There is a couple of videos on their website that you should take a few minutes to watch. 

Sole Hope's working model is to take our abundance here: yards of fabric we have accumulated in our crafting/non-crafting moments,

old jeans we will probably throw out,

and emptied milk jugs that we maybe recycle along with old tires and inner tubes and turn them into shoes! 

I have looked for ways to re-purpose worn out jeans on Pinterest and there is nothing on there that compares with this!

After watching the video, Kate briefly explained our jobs for the night. We traced patterns with Sharpie markers on the jeans and then cut them out. 

The jean pieces are used to make either the inside support of a fabric covered shoe or as a denim shoe itself.

Hacking into pairs of old jeans was a little daunting at first but went quickly enough.

The same pattern is traced onto fabric but with a ball point pen since Sharpie would bleed when wet and cut with pinking shears.

The fabric part was a little slower because of the cutting detail. You must cut to the line but not on it, sort of like a seam allowance, and pinking shears are just not as nimble as regular fabric shears.

The milk jugs (oh, there's a picture of some milk jugs in the corner of this picture just in case you forgot what they look like!) are also cut to make heels.

Then all the individual parts are assembled together into pairs of shoes. This was the assembly/control room. 

You'll have to go to the website to see what the sewn together shoe looks like but here are a few shoe parts all done. They will be sent off to Uganda where Sole Hope has trained widows to sew them together. 

This group of ladies cut parts for over 35 shoes in just a few short hours!

This is my friend, Kate, in the blue with her mom. Kate would rather be cutting that pose for a picture but I can tell you that her heart was absolutely bursting with happiness for being able to do something she loves and sharing it with her friends and loving on others. Bursting!

While these shoes use all found materials, there is still a cost involved and money is always welcomed. 

From all that I can tell, Sole Hope is on the right path. They weren't just emotionally moved to what they saw in Africa but answered yes to a tough and life changing decision. The model of seeing strengths and capabilities of the widows and others, coming alongside to teach and help them provide for themselves and others- not just giving a handout of shoes- LOVE that! Using resources we already have- AWESOME! A way to help without feeding our own consumerism- THE BEST!!

So what can you do?

Get onto their website and read through it. 
Donate money.
On this page, there are 4 other ways to get involved if you want to.
If you're on Instagram or Twitter follow them. Right now if you re-post/re-tweet with #cultivategives and #solehope, $1 is given to Sole Hope.

Kate, when you told me you loved to cut, well, I thought it perfectly you. Why not? God has gifted us all differently and this is your dealio. Thank you for letting us share it with you.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Brussel Sprouts, Cheese, Cinnamon Rolls, Scotch Eggs or Food On My Phone

It's a hodge podge this week for What 2 Eat. These are foods that I felt strong enough about to take pictures of so that explains for the oddity of the collection.

First off, this cheese: Cheddar Cheese with Cracked Black Pepper. It's pretty good, if you ask me. I love a good cracked black pepper anything and this cheese holds it own. Best of all, you can find it at Aldi. Here's a little secret: Right now, Aldi has a bombdiggity selection of cheese. You don't need to make a trip to Trader Joe's for cheese for that upcoming wine and cheese party. You can swing by Aldi. You will be pleasantly surprised. FYI: bring a quarter and your own grocery sacks. If you happen to have any Trader Joe sacks definitely make sure you bring them because TJ's and A are related (the founders were brothers!). 

And then I made brussels sprouts again this year. 

I am the only one in my family who is in any remote way even slightly happen that the b sprouts are back in season. I am kind of deliriously happy they are available right now.

My friend, Laura, has a cooking blog, The Kitchen Tutor, and she takes you step by step through her recipe of brussels sprouts. My recipe is in the comments of her post. 

Yesterday I promised you the story of what I brought for Thanksgiving dinner. Well, I told Jessica that I would bring a wild rice and broccoli casserole and rolls. I have to bring the rolls. My kids will not eat a celebratory meal without the rolls. I'm also known as the bread person in my family. I bring the bread. I've got the bread touch. Except for this Thanksgiving.

I decided I would use The Pioneer Woman's basic dough recipe for the dinner rolls this year instead of my tried and trusted Betty Crocker Traditional Roll recipe (except I always add more butter to the dough). I've mentioned before how PW's cinnamon roll recipe baffles me but I still use it because it works. I was skeptical that it was going to make an equally delicious dinner roll but since I'm a pretty good judge of recipes, I went ahead and made a batch and a half. I got a little mixed up with my baking soda and baking powder and let out a yell that Halena heard while laying down her kids but I wasn't worried about the dough. This dough is so resilient it'll be fine, I thought, and I popped it into the fridge for overnight. Early the next morning before I left for my run, I pulled it out to start warming up. I was a bit concerned because it seemed to be in pretty much the same state as when I placed it in the fridge but decided I'd let the yeast work it's magic while I was gone.
Six miles later and some considerable time in front of a warm over, both the dough and me, I concluded that this dough wasn't going to be transformed anytime soon. I pulled Betty C. down from the shelf, turned to page 58 and made her Traditional Dinner Rolls with more butter and chopped rosemary and sea salt sprinkled on top. Make them and your kids will not eat a celebratory meal without them either.

I knew what happened to my PW recipe. I killed the yeast by mixing in the too hot milk too soon. I knew I couldn't solve this 13 cups of flour dough blob problem right away so I just let it sit on my counter for two days until I decided to see if I had killed it all the way or only seriously maimed it. Aha! It was slightly alive and needed just a little bit of time to let the lone surviving yeasts to come out from hiding and work through the dough. So then I made cinnamon rolls.   

As I mentioned, I also made a wild rice and broccoli casserole. I prepped all the ingredients the night before because it's not a good recipe to assemble all the way and bake the next day. While I was cooking and assembling the next morning, I realized this was going to taste like broccoli and wild rice soup only in casserole form and was pretty excited about it. 
I learned a couple things about this particular recipe that I'll share with you. Starting with two cups of uncooked wild rice is a lot of rice. It's also quite expensive as far as rice goes. I only used about half of my cooked rice in actual assembly because I knew it would be too much rice. (I froze the other half for another time.) Second, the amount of sauce or gravy or roux or whatever you want to call it is not enough for this particular amount of rice (the full amount or halved), I feel. I was expecting more of a saucy casserole and it wasn't all that saucy. If I had used all the rice, it would have been too dry. Finally, and this is really my own preference, I do not care for Panko crumbs. I've tried them before on a couple of other dishes and they fall flat in terms of taste and crunchiness for me. I can't recommend a better substitute for this recipe at this time but if you don't have Panko you don't need to panic-o.
Of course I brought home leftovers. It's Thanksgiving! But I knew, however, that this was going to be a hard sell on leftover night and wondered if I could revive it in a new form. This was, after all, broccoli and wild rice soup in casserole form. So I scraped as much of the crumb topping off that I could, scooped a bunch into a pot and added chicken stock until I felt I had the right proportion of casserole to broth to make a soup and heated it through, seasoning it with more salt and pepper. Right at the end I added in some cream, heated that until warm and served it up. Guess what my family said? It was better as soup than as casserole!

Lastly, here are Scotch eggs. Scotch eggs are hard boiled eggs with sausage wrapped around them then fried and served either warm or cold. Accompanying them is a mustard that will clear your sinuses out mighty quick but is so good. Bill and I tried them at The Mucky Duck Pub in Ames.   

Now tell me, have you ever saved a food from disaster? What's your favorite double take recipe? Do you want some cinnamon rolls? 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Thanksgiving, 2013

A little recap of our Thanksgiving Day.

Cold temperatures couldn't stop five of us mother runners from pounding out 6 miles before we feasted. Besides not seeing our fifth runner, you also can't see my awesome Turkey Trot shirt I got from last year's race. It's the only time I can wear it because it has a cartoon turkey on it and seriously, where or when else can I wear it?!

We headed over to my brother's house for lunch with them and my parents. I will tell you more about what I brought or tried to bring tomorrow but for now these boys have gotta eat!

The girls would like to eat too.

We came home stuffed.

Hope your day was great, too!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

2013 Living History Farms Race

This year's Living History Farms Off Road Race was a good one. A good cold one. The race time temperature was about 10 degrees. That's the risk you take when signing up in early fall. You don't know what will happen. Of course, that's true for any race so I guess it was really no different.

I drove down to LHF Friday night for packet pick-up for a bunch of us. As I stood there I looked down the line of people and who should I see but Amanda! She joined me and we chatted about how to run the race, what time to get there, should we carpool and what should we wear for such weather. Now I will confess I spend quite a bit of time deciding what to wear for races because 1. It has to match the weather 2. It has to work well (no chaffing) 3. It has to make me feel powerful 4. It has to be somewhat awesome looking. While you make think #'s 3 and 4 are about vanity, it's really more to do with mental games. Look good, feel good. For instance, if I'm feeling sluggish I can think to myself "I'm wearing compression tights and that's powering my legs and I'm not tired." (And now you know some of the mental mind-tricks I play in my head.)

So back to what to wear. Amanda said she was going to stop at Goodwill and pick up some layering clothes to shed once we got started. I thought that was brilliant and found a great outfit for myself at Goodwill. Oh, I can't remember where Amanda's sweatshirt is from, but she could certainly toss that hat!
Now my outfit is courtesy of the department of soil conservation and red velour sweatpants. I tell you, this is a retreat outfit made for the 90's!! About a mile and a half in, we peeled them off and offered them to the other runners. No one took them.

Running in the cold is only a little cold usually. Your body warms up once you get going. I put hand-warmers in my gloves and that really helped my fingers, which do get cold, stay much warmer. Since we were going to cross the creek several times I wore lighter weight shoes and wool socks to help the water shed more quickly. I've found that to work best for me. 

The water crossings were wet and cold, of course. The second crossing has many rocks that most people try to walk across to keep dry longer but because of the snow two days before and the continued cold temperatures, the rocks became icy and were no help at all. The second water crossing was the toughest I'd say and I saw a girl go all the way down, face and all, smacking her knee hard. I hollered to Amanda to come help me get her out. We got her out and thankfully there was course help to take care of her. 

All of it, the slick packed down snow, the icy rocks, the frigid water, it's part of the mental game of running this race. You just have to do it. Look for the safest way to get down into the water and then go. I high-stepped to keep myself from sitting in the water too long. 

Because of the slickness, the race was a little bit slower paced than in past years. There was a lot of "Whoa!" and "Ah!" and so on. You sort of become this little family looking out for each other. For instance, I forgot how many hill scrambles there are. There is a trail but it's clogged with people and you take to the rest of the hill to get up. I was only a couple steps from the top when this big guy comes from behind, grabs my waist and literally hauls me up the rest of the way. Why, yes, surprise did register across my face! 

My favorite part this year was a short interaction I had with another runner. There are short steep climbs that are very doable and as Amanda and I were making our way up one, I saw an older woman chugging along and looked down at her number bib to see if I could make out how old she was. It said 70. I was passing her but the fact that she was far enough ahead that I passed her was a big deal to me. I told her she was doing great and I wanted to look like her when I was older. She told me "I want to look like you!" 

The creek crossings are done and all that's left is the hill that I swore last year I would run this year. All my time goals had disappeared with the slipperiness and downed runner but that hill still remained. I yelled to Amanda that I was NOT stopping on that hill! We hit that thing and finished it hard. It was a great feeling.

Speaking of feeling, after we were done running we couldn't feel our fingers and toes. Sure, we were warmed up but the distraction of running was gone, our bodies were working to keep our cores warm and it left our extremities out in the cold (hahaha!). Bill had finished ahead of us and brought some warm layers for us. Then we hit the stew tent and slammed that steamy bowl down while making our way to the donuts. Seriously, there has never been any other race where I've wanted a donut after but I always eat one here. This year, however, the donuts were frozen. Frozen like a brick. 

We headed back to our car and came home where we took our final group shot before soaking and soaking and soaking in a hot shower.

I'll tell you its such an adrenaline rush to do a race like this. The rest of the day I was literally shaking, not because I was cold or too much coffee, but because it's such a mental rush. The only thing I'd change is I'd trade my medal for a blanket instead. Please hand out finisher's blankets next year.

Our friends, Joe and Jacqui and kids, couldn't make it this year so we're hoping for next year with them.

2012 race  2011 race

Monday, December 2, 2013

Aunt Denise Gets Married, Part 3

It's 2:00 on the dot. 
The ushers/groomsmen have seated all the guests and the groom is excitedly awaiting his bride. I'm not sure exactly how excited he was because I barely saw him that morning and I'm thinking Roy didn't see Denise either and since these two were inseparable at the rehearsal, I mean to the point that Denise's Uncle Don, who's a pastor, could have married them that night and they would have been just as much happy, and given the fact that they counted down the weeks, days, hours and minutes publicly on Facebook, I guess it's pretty safe to say, Roy was excited. (Also, I'm terribly sorry for that awfully long run on sentence. I just felt it all needed to be said in one sentence whether grammatically or punctually correct.)

The parents have each lit their respective child's single candle.

And the ring bearer and the flower girl have each made it down the aisle with no calamities. 

I'm showing you the wedding pictures Audrey took. There isn't much difference between standing and singing (All in All), standing and praying, standing and hearing the wedding message (very good, including some knot tying), standing and repeating vows and standing. Here, however they are standing and lighting the unity candle.

At some point, after the singing, knot tying, candle lighting and vow saying, it was time for Luke's big job. He stepped up, was given the rings from the best man and matron of honor...

Brought the pillow forward to the bride and groom...

And stepped back to his spot. He did well the entire time though his shoes were tight and bothered him quite a bit and he quietly wiggled around trying to make them more comfortable. It brings no comfort to an eight year old when all the men tell you that rental shoes are always that way and there's nothing to do but grin and bear it. 

Okay, you missed it but a kiss to place in between the rings and Denise receiving her flowers from Tia. I promise you, they kissed.

Luke and the flower girl are almost done except for getting back up the aisle together. Even though they rehearsed it the night before it, they had a little bit of a time getting their arms linked correctly. Made for more cute stuff.

Roy and Denise dismissed their guests themselves and we hung out until it was time for group pictures. First it was in the back of the church and then we went back into the sanctuary where we let Luke take off those shoes. 

And inspect the flower basket.

They reassembled themselves for formal pictures though.

I think I stopped Audrey from taking pictures of everything the photographer was taking (mostly because I hated that from my own wedding and it slows down the photographer) but she did capture this one. Of course, Tia and I are missing but here's the last link to the family. Yes, the little links are missing too and hopefully some future little links will come along... uh, I'm going to stop with the link thing.

You've seen Luke plenty and Jabin from the rehearsal and just to let you know, both Jabin and Ben were at the wedding as well.

Ben enjoyed the day when he could stay out the camera's way and hang with Jabin. 

I think Audrey caught him just as he looked at the camera.

Yup. He's outta there.

Time for cake! 

They are all happy and smiley because they're married and it's cake time.

And it's stuff it in your new bride's/groom's face time.

This is just a coincidental shot but it is literally my favorite shot of their entire wedding. I think words would fail to do it justice.

The entwined arms punch drinking thing is much less dramatic.

Denise and Roy put together a crossword puzzle about themselves for guests to fill in while waiting.  

It was a small wedding, which is fine of course, but it does mean the bouquet and garter crowd is a little thin. Here two single men and two boys (single) were gathered to catch the garter. You can tell the men didn't make a dash for it and instead my son ended up with it (to the great sorrow of the other little boy, who's parents picked him up and distracted him with something shiny).

The sun was starting to set and the horses needed to get home, so the bride and groom left to bubbles and cheers and well wishes.

And someone yelling "Kiss Her!"

 Roy and Denise left for their honeymoon and I have no pictures of that. 

I think 95% of these pictures were taken by Audrey. She took many more and I simply can't share them all. 

More than anything, we are all very happy for our Aunt Denise and our new Uncle Roy!!

Part 1 Part 2