Thursday, February 27, 2014

Winter Formal '14

Consider Audrey mortified in a usual teen manner if she knew I posted this picture of her and her friends.

This is the afternoon of Ballard's Winter Formal, which happened to be the same day as my snowshoe race. Audrey and friends gathered here to do each other's hair and make-up. There was music, hairspray, make-up, curling/straightening appliances, and glitter everywhere. 

Finally, they were done. Or sort of done. Or done enough because parents came to take pictures of them. 

Where there are fun times, there are also parents with cameras.

Here's our girl. We had fun shopping for her dress. There is still glitter in our house!

After pictures, I took them out for supper in Ames before dropping them off at the dance. My day had been quite long at this point and I was killing time at Target while they ate supper. I grabbed a chocolate chai latte with a shot of espresso and wandered around. 
I love these bar stools.
I wish I had picked up this. 

The girls all had a great time at the dance. Audrey said it was nice to go without a date for once because she could hang with whoever (and because she has been in awkward situations before because of having a date). I was glad to hear that because this had been a stressor for us in the last couple of weeks. Its really good to hear what she is thinking and how she is processing growing up things like this. I spent a lot of time praying for her (and me) about this dance. It is one thing to say you'll let your child learn to make her own decisions but it is another thing to actually let that happen.
My IG recap of the night. We love our pretty girl!

We totally crashed the next day- oh wait- Super Bowl. Audrey went over to hang with more friends and we stayed home. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Winter Iowa Games Snowshoe Race

If you remember back in December I mentioned I was going to run a snowshoe race. It was part of my plan to keep moving during the winter. 

So December comes to a completion with me finding a different pair of snowshoes built for running. They are narrower and lighter than my other ones. I found them via a post on Facebook and the seller said I could try them out before I bought them. So I met Amber and a few other strangers in Des Moines for a run at 5:30 pm on New Year's Eve day. (Amber wasn't actually a stranger since I had briefly met her last year at the Maffitt Lake race.) I strapped them on and went for a four mile icy trail run with her. I could tell that they worked for what I needed though when I got home I had developed my first black toenail ever and so I would need to adjust how they fit. No problem. I had a month until the race. Except that it never snowed of any amount in the month of January around here! My mom told me Waverly/Cedar Falls had plenty of snow so I knew the race would still go on. I headed out to find some snow somewhere to adjust the snowshoes and the closest I could come up with was some icy trail. I was going to count on my three previous snowshoe outings from over a month ago for the race. (I had kept up my running.)

I drove up the night before and spent the night at my parents. In the morning, my mom joined me at Hartman's Nature Center in Cedar Falls. This is the second year for the snowshoe race in the Winter Iowa Games and The Runner's Flat in Cedar Falls hosts it. The race timing is by Trekman Racing and they both do a great job. 

Here's a race participant note that is a suggestion, not a criticism. Race directors, please keep in mind that not everyone racing is from the area. Things such as parking and restrooms and gathering spaces are details that are easy to include in the race information at the time of registration. For those of us coming from out of town, these details beforehand help us plan better for ourselves and our families/others when we take time to travel and join a race. It doesn't have to be elaborate but I think it should be included with the race description. That way, no one has to wait or chase down emails or Facebook notices.

We geared up and warmed up in the nature center's building and a few minutes before race time, we clipped on our snowshoes and gathered at the bottom of the hill where the starting line was. The race course was indicated by flags or spray paint and it was suggested to not run over the painted snow so others could follow the course. A shouted "Go!" and we headed out. 

This is all of us.
The weather turned out beautiful and snowing. There was no wind to drive the snow into my face and besides the fact that snowshoe running is actually quite a workout, I thoroughly enjoyed my run. 
I saw a couple of people wipe out when their crampon on the bottom of their shoe hit a tree stump. I found the hardest part of the run was the sections through the tall grasses simply because the snow hadn't pack down as easily from the faster runners. Sure, there was some good hill sections which I let myself walk up instead of forcing myself to run. I wanted to have fun while trying something new. The only thing I had to prove was just that- trying something new.

Swear to you, I'm having fun. I'm just mostly trying to breath here.
Did you know snowshoe running can burn up to three times the calories as running? It also uses your quad muscles slightly differently because of all the lifting to clear the snowshoe. After my first two practice runs of the winter I would complain of my "lifters" being sore.

There were two races going simultaneously, a 5k and a 10k. I chose the 5k and the 10kers took a second lap. 5k was plenty far enough for me. As I came into the last clearing, I could hear my mom cheering for me, the same as in high school. Afterwards, I stood around and cheered more runners coming in. I also got my picture taken with three complete strangers by a guy taking pictures for the Eastern Iowa Department of Tourism. Funny because of the four of us, only one was truly from eastern Iowa; Cedar Rapids to be specific. I'm obviously not and the other two girls were foreign exchange students- one from Germany and the other from Switzerland, I believe. Anyway, we won't receive any monetary compensation for the use of our likeness.

We went back into the nature center and warmed up with hot chocolate. I talked more with my photo buddy and then talked with another runner. That's one of the things about races. You can make connections pretty quickly.
They confirmed all the race results and handed out awards. The Iowa Games break down the age divisions into five years for the adults. I placed second in my age group. Of course, there was only two of us in that group to begin with but I'll take it and not dismiss it. Trying something like this was the win and getting a medal is just bonus. Plus, the boys think its pretty cool their mom got second. 

My medal is folded up in a plastic bag in my hand. No big medal ceremony here.
Next winter is a long way off and I'd like all this snow to melt sooner rather than later but I may be running this again next year.

If you're interested in snowshoe running, I've a Pinterest board with links and such so you can read more but really, its just running in snowshoes.

Race course report: Besides my comments above, the Hartman Nature Reserve is tucked along one side of the Cedar River. The facilities include a large room with a fireplace and indoor bathroom facilities. We parked in the upper lot and walked down to the building. The course started further down the hill. It snaked its way through tall prairie grasses, up the side of a hill, back down and along the river before making its way across more grass and some wide path trails. Finally it mounted up a short hand grabbing climb followed by a long steady climb , curved around, made a sharp descent only to go right back up before the final 100-200 meters 'til the finish. That was this year's course. All the hill ascents were pretty much straight on or wove around in a manageable trail versus off camber. There may be more than that but that what's my brain remembered. I would say the course was very doable for a beginner runner as there was a 7 year old girl who had never run a 5k or snowshoe race before and she made it (with her mom's help).

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

IERA Banquet, '14

In January, the Iowa Enduro Riders Association held their annual awards banquet. It has been almost 2.4 months since we last saw our friends so we had to go. Oh, and we had some prizes to collect.

Just like Ben in his first year of racing, Luke placed 3rd overall for the season for his first year. He may not have always had a top finish in each race but he ran more races than some of the other higher finishers and that gave him the points edge for the 3rd place spot. The boy in the middle was first and the boy in the hat was 2nd. This was for the 50's class.

As you know, Ben races his heart out in every race. He had a couple of goals this year. One, to place first overall. Second, to beat a certain kid in the 85's class, which he did in several races. He probably had more goals, like to beat all the 85's even though he rides a 65. All the boys are shown in order starting with Ben.

Bill's riding has really improved and he started finishing in the top 5 or 6 toward the end of the season. It gave him a 4th place finish for the overall season in the Senior B class. These guys are not listed in order and at least one didn't attend the banquet. 

You may remember that last year the winners were awarded trophies. The year before that was a metal sign. This year they were given pit boards along with some other swag. Ben also received a personalized jacket. Here's the feeling among the kids definitely and a couple of the moms I talked with. We think the pit boards are fine, but there is nothing like getting a trophy when you are a kid. A real award. To my understanding, a different local club hosts the awards banquet and I'm guessing they also decide the type of award. That's why there is such a difference. It's fine but I can tell you I have a really hard working 11 year old who is kind of disappointed he doesn't have a toppling trophy to set on his bookcase in his room for his first place efforts. (Mom note: maybe it doesn't have to be toppling)

In any case, the prizes weren't over with. On each table is a pile of keychains, pamphlets, and stickers galore, which if you visit you can see all plastered on Luke's bedroom door. Then everyone is entered for door prize drawings. The prizes line the wall. Well, one of the first names drawn was Ben's and he picked up a brand new super nice helmet. Uh, not sure what Bill got. I got a bag of sample Mary Kay products! Then I was just telling everyone at the table how we don't need any more hats and what does Luke come back with? A hat!! Two hats for him that night.

Besides awards for points places, an award is given to every rider who races every race of the year. It's called the Iron Man award and wouldn't' you know it, Ben did it. In big part to his dad, who got his bike ready and drove to every race even when it got rained out throughout most of June and we kept racing until they were all made up!! (Bill sat out one race.) The prize given to each Iron Man was a personalized cooler, and folding chair and next year's membership paid!! (No hats.) 
All that plus t-shirts and sweatshirts… good thing we drove separate vehicles!

Here are my hard working boys and man! Even if they didn't get a single thing, I would still be proud of them! 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Two New Cookies, Three Recipes

Some things never change about college kids. I'm not going to go into a full discourse but I will tell you that 1. They always think your kids are cute and fun. 2. They crave being in a real home (even if they live in an apartment). 3. They love homemade food. 

I had a breakthrough myself. I didn't make any new recipes to try out on them! This probably isn't something you consider blog-worthy and it kind of isn't except in my case. I almost always make something that I've never made before when having people over. Its kind of a big deal in my recipe world. 

Hang on, before you yawn and turn away, I'll share with you what I did make.  

I made one of those cookies pictures above… and another one.
But I thought you said…

It's getting complicated here.

I made chocolate chip cookies and chocolate peanut butter cookies for the girls. Both of which were not first timers for me. But in the picture above, which I made for high school small group leaders, it was a first time for each of those.



All of the following recipes are from Annie's Eats

White Chocolate Chunk Macadamia Nut Cookies- I used regular white chocolate chips. I didn't use any coconut flavoring but I think it would taste awesome with it added. These tasted good the first day but the flavors really melded together nicely the second day.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies- I have been craving chocolate peanut butter cups lately. This is not my norm. But this recipe looked so yummy and as it turns out, really is yummy so I made it again. 

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies- Ben is okay with me occasionally making a different kind of cookie but if I stray too long away from a plain chocolate chip cookie, he gets grumpy. These cookies don't disappoint. 

As a testament of the yumminess of these cookies, the girls took home extras for the ones who couldn't make it or themselves. I hope you enjoy these too! 

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Friday Five- In Complete Sentences

Must. blog. Think. in. complete. sentences.

1. I bought Luke a set of red Solo cups. He is elated. They are for stacking and playing with, people. 

2. We are all better-ish. Audrey still has a cough but it isn't keeping her home from school or speech or pep band or play practice or student council or church. 

3. I'm running outside through all of this weather we are having in Iowa. With a couple of warm days, read that as anything near or above 30 degrees, I have overheated from too many layers. Not such a bad problem to have.

4. Ben is a super fast snow shoveler. I'm not sure how he is so fast. I guess he shovels snow like he rides dirt bikes. 

5. We had a group of Salt girls over last Monday for the evening. They were a delight and it was so much fun to hear their ambitions and struggles. They got a little happy-sighy when they heard how Bill and I met. We got a little older when we heard they were born the year we met ('93). 

Well, I better stop now. It looks like I completed a few full sentences and I don't want to push my luck. Have a great weekend. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Keeping Fresh Ginger

Yesterday I did my victory lap of "everyone is better and we're back to our routine"! It feels so good.

I also shared the recipe for Tom Kha Gai soup and mentioned that it is easy to keep the main ingredients on hand. If you've ever purchased fresh ginger and had it go bad fairly quickly, you may be wondering about my statement about keeping it on hand. 

Wonder no more, my friends! Here's how to always have fresh ginger. (You want to always have fresh ginger. It is so yummy!)

This is a small knob of fresh ginger. It's all that I had left before deciding to take these pictures.

Scrape the skin off with the edge of a spoon. Can you see the flesh?

Place a piece of plastic wrap on the counter or draped over a container and grate the ginger finely. I don't have a microplane grater and this works just as well for me. The idea is that you want to keep the pulp and the juices.

Roll up the plastic wrap, smooshing all the pulp and juices together into a cylinder. Twist the ends, place in a plastic bag and freeze.

Now you have fresh ginger all the time, just cut off however much you need.

At a loss for what you might use fresh ginger in? 
For supper try Chicken and Vegetable Lo Mein (It calls for shiitake mushrooms but I use regular mushrooms). 

I'll stop now. What about you? What do you love to use fresh ginger in? 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Home Alone with Soup

I am home alone today.
I will be from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.
This is the first day in 10 days.

We have had a round or two of the flu/cold here. It's been mainly settling on the kids. Luke started things up at 3:30 am Sunday morning. Then, Ben got hit with it. I tell you, I have never seen a kid actually turn green before until Sunday night. He came upstairs to tell me he didn't feel well and well… we soon knew he didn't feel well. It took him all week to recover. On Tuesday, Luke was back to school but Audrey stayed home along with Ben. The day started out with both of them in bed. Then they moved out to the family room. One in the bean bag and the other on the couch. When I checked on them again, they had switched places. And another check had them back to their original spots. Luke was very concerned about his sick siblings (that he infected). 

Bill and I didn't get sick, amazingly. I did have a day where I had that ominous feeling and so promptly settled myself down to rest but no yakety-yak. Thank goodness.

Meal times consisted of toast, applesauce and ramen noodles. For all three meals. I had practically forgotten how to cook. 

But by day 4 with Ben I was looking for ways to just get his stomach to settle down. I had come across a soup recipe that I decided to try on him because it was yummy and had more nutritional value than noodles alone. 

It's Tom Kha Gai or Thai Coconut Soup. 

It's very easy to keep all the main ingredients on hand and super easy to make. It might seem spicy but I don't think it is. The flavor is subtle and the broth is creamy yet light, so easy on the stomach. 

I'm a fan, obviously. Ben is not quite. Of course, he really only loves chicken noodle as far as soups go. I made that Sunday night and now he's better and off to school. Audrey came home early yesterday because she needed to get ahead of a cold but she's in school today.

I'm home alone today.
Did I mention that?

I think I'll have some leftover soup.