"But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philipians 3:13b,14

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Surviving the "Rush Hour" Without (much) Fast Food or Stress

It's that time of year again!

School starts. The activities begin.

The time crunch of "Rush Hour" hits. You know, the late afternoon/early evening.... you're supposed to pick kids up, drop them off, eat dinner, clean up, get ready for the next day...

....that rush hour.

I have found, over the years, that I CAN NOT survive the "Rush Hour" days without some preparation. Mostly, I have found that planning meals and organizing/setting out stuff ahead of time can make these busy days about a million times easier. Here are some meal ideas:

Use your Crock Pot:
One easy way to ensure that you have a somewhat nutritious meal that is ready to go- use your Crock Pot! This is also a great idea if you have people in the family who need to eat at various times through the evening. Here are some of my favorite recipes:
Plan, Prep, Make Ahead:
There are plenty of meals that the prep work can be done ahead of time. Casseroles, sandwiches, soups, salads, etc. Even if you have a crazy busy evening, there is usually a little time in the day that you could set aside and prepare for the dinner hour. For example, if I was going to serve Turkey BLT's for dinner, I would cook up the bacon , slice the tomatoes and leaf the lettuce, set the table and lay out all the non-refrigerated stuff, cut up salad or fruit to be served with dinner..... all of this may take a half hour. But usually I'll have that half hour to give in the early afternoon, so I make sure and plan ahead!

Casseroles are a great way to make dinner ahead of time. I will make the casserole to the point where it would go into the oven, then throw it in the refrigerator until an hour or so before dinner, then throw it in the oven! Casseroles are great too, because they make good leftovers, and generally stay warm for a few hours, so it is handy if your people need to eat at different times. Here are a few good casserole recipes:
Think Ahead
Many times, a few minutes spent thinking ahead can save you a TON of stress. For example, on the nights when one kid has youth group and another has scouts, I can think ahead to what clothes need to be clean, if I need to prepare a snack, if there are forms that need to be filled out..... and DO those things. Then I set the needed items in a central location, so that I don't forget them. When you have younger kids, simple things like laying out the clothes they need to wear for an activity saves time AND annoyance. There is nothing worse than being 5 minutes late already and realizing there are no clean socks. Or that one shoe is missing. Oh man, those types of situations make me crazy!!

I am a big list maker, and have been known to put sticky notes on my steering wheel or on the front door if I think I will forget something. This way you can avoid the panic of "Oh crud I forgot the juice I was supposed to bring....it's still in the fridge.." when you get to scouts. Notes and lists are your friends.

Cut Yourself Some Slack Sometimes:
There are some days when things just go sideways. The whole day is stacked with unexpected events. I have learned that sometimes, it's ok to just take a deep breath and announce that we are driving through and getting dinner on the way to some activity... or I'll feed the kids breakfast for dinner. Or I'll make PB&J sandwiches. Sometimes you can't plan for every situation. The good thing about purposefully planning most of the time is that when you have days like that, they're isolated events rather than patterns. And we all know that happens. Life happens.

To sum it up- a little planning goes a long way. Try it and see how much more smoothly your "Rush Hour" operates. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Why I Hate Myself (And Why You Shouldn't)

There are some thing in life that tend to be pretty predictable.

Death. Taxes. The fact that there are no "free lunches".

For me, another sure thing tends to be self-loathing.


The problem is, I know myself pretty well. I know my strengths. I know my flaws.

Why is it always so much easier to observe the flaws than it is to focus on the strengths? I am not sure. But I know that it is.

When I get into that "nobody likes me everybody hates me think I'll eat some worms..." tailspin, it is hard to feel good about myself. It's a challenge to feel secure and confident. I tend to feel like the people around me see me as annoying, obnoxious, loud, rude...... the list goes on and on. (I am sure that people DO feel that way sometimes! I talk a lot, I tend to laugh loud, etc......) I wish I could ask for reassurance sometimes, but then I feel weak and needy. I don't like feeling weak. Or needy.

A good friend of mine pointed out this week that I tend to talk badly about myself. (Thank you my friend. I have been needing to address this for a while and you gave me the push I needed!) I usually do it in a funny, self deprecating kind of way. But deep down, most of the jokes I make about myself...well..... I guess I am just saying them so I can laugh at myself before anyone else has a chance to do it first.

Am I suggesting that I NEVER look at my weaknesses, my sin, my flaws? Of course not! I understand that we need honest self-reflection and there are habits and actions we need to change. I grasp the need to be truthful with others and ourselves about strongholds in our lives, and to be accountable.

What I am suggesting is that I need to start being a little bit nicer to myself. I need to take joy in the gifts that God has given me and be proud of them. (Not in a yucky, sinful pride way. In a humble, thankful way.) I need to calmly say, "Thank you" when someone gives me a compliment. What I usually do is make a joke that negates the compliment by explaining why it isn't true, or why I am not worthy of praise. I need to acknowledge in my prayer life the successes in my life and give thanks for them, instead of only acknowledging my failures and sin and desire to change.

I believe that God created me. On purpose. FOR a purpose. It occurred to me, when I was thinking about all of this, that THAT is the key- remembering that I was put together with care, with forethought, with skill, with a design. Wow. That makes me glad. It makes me see that I have value.... even when I mess up. Even when I'm not perfect, and I fail. Even in my weakness.

I can't hate myself without somehow saying to God, "You screwed up."

..and I KNOW that's not true. God doesn't. :)

So, that is what I'm working on. I hope I'm not alone.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why The Worst Training Run is the Most Valuable

We all have them.

Those training runs that are just terrible. You know, when you can tell within the first few steps that you don't "have it" that day. (Now, I am NOT talking about injury here. Just the days when your "get up and go" isn't present, or for that matter, anywhere nearby...).

Sometimes I'll go through spells where nearly every long run is that way. Usually it will last for a month or two.

The first time that happened, I freaked out! I was thinking, "Maybe I am just not meant to be a runner. Maybe I have had all the good miles I'm going to have....".

But it passes. And while you're waiting for that to happen, let me share something with you. Those bad, horrible, no-good runs...... they're valuable. You learn so much about yourself. You have to dig deep. You have to push through. You have to leap the mental hurdle of "I can't DO this." I think of this as mental training. You are developing mental toughness.

That's a good lesson to learn. Especially if you're going to do endurance races. Because there's times in those races where you have bad spells. Times when you have to talk yourself through a rough patch. Work on your mental fortitude. Having difficult training sessions is the perfect opportunity to practice that! You can figure out what works for you- what things to think about, what helps you in the arena of food or hydration, what things make it worse..... all of those things are great to know!

Another benefit to a bad run is the ability to overcome the urge to quit. Because let's be honest, there are times when you're running by yourself, and you know that YOU are the only one who will really know the difference...... that's when you find the little stubborn, hard-core, strong piece of grit and determination that says, keep going. You learn how to use positive self talk to get yourself through. Sometimes that means just finishing the run. Sometimes that means keeping a certain pace. Whatever it means, every time you overcome the urge to quit, you gain something. You test a part of yourself that you learn, over time, to trust. I know, for me, that "don't quit" part that exists inside of me has gotten stronger, and has helped me overcome challenges in many races.

...and guess what else? You use that same skill in life! Seriously. The same skills I have learned when I am pushing through a tough training run or a rough spot in a race have helped me many times when I'm up against a wall in real life. You learn to keep putting one foot in front of the other, not dwell on the bad, and keep pressing on!

...I promise you, any athlete who has done a number of races will tell you this- mental toughness counts. It gets you through. So it is a great thing to have the opportunity to practice this.

So the next time you have a bad training run, remember, you're still training. It's just that you're doing mental training. And remember how valuable that is, and be thankful for the chance to "flex" your mental muscles.

....and reward yourself with a nice bowl of ice cream afterward. That helps too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Make Your Own Hot Buttered Mall Pretzels and Pretzel Bites

Today was one of those days that I had to "roll with the punches". Nicholas woke up with a fever and a tummy ache last night, and pretty much was up the whole night, off and on. So I only slept an hour or two. So I had this monstrous "to do" list that was quickly pared down so that I could get some more sleep. Which I did.

It's funny how kids make you slow down sometimes, and it turns out to be a good deal. I actually had some nice chats with both my boys, and still got a bunch of work done. I have to get through my lesson planning, as the new school year starts for us in two weeks, and I spend most of the summer happily avoiding paperwork. It was good to get some of that accomplished.

Yesterday I said I would post this recipe, this amazing, yummy, everything-you-hope-it-will-be, recipe. Make these. They aren't even difficult. But they ARE crazy delicious.

Here's what you need:
2 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (or one packet)
7/8 to 1 cup warm water (I used 1 cup)

1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
coarse, kosher or pretzel salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Put all the dough ingredients in the bucket of your bread machine. Start the machine on the "dough" cycle, but you only need to take it through the knead process. When it stops kneading to rise, you can take the dough out. It will be quite slack, and sticky. (Alternately, if you don't have a bread machine, just knead it for about 10 minutes by hand, or in a kitchen aid for about 5 minutes.

Take the dough out of the bread machine and flour it well, then place it in a bag to rest. (By the way, I thought this was odd. "Place it in a bag to rest"? Sounds like something a mobster would say. But I am a recipe direction follower, so I did it. Let it rest about 30 minutes.

By the way, not only does it sound weird, but it isn't the worlds' best idea- it stuck to the bag. I got most of it off, but next time I would flour the dough a little more, and maybe throw some flour in the bag too. Whatever, it wasn't a big deal.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces and let it rest again for 5 minutes (this time outside the bag, on a floured surface):

Meanwhile, make up the baking soda/water solution. Mix up the warm water and baking soda in a shallow bowl. Make sure the baking soda is dissolved. And preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Get out your salt. I used this coarse sea salt from the grocery store. I am sure there is "pretzel salt" but that seems like a scam- I'll bet the charge you more because they call it pretzel salt. Coarse salt is coarse salt. I hate when they give things fancy names and then try and rip you off.

Now get out two baking sheets and coat them well with Pam, or cover them with parchment paper or non-stick foil. Now you're ready to make some pretzels!!

Basically you roll each dough ball into a long snake (think back to play-dough fun days and do that!) and shape into pretzels. My snakes were about 24" long. I made 4 large pretzels, then cut the other dough snakes into "pretzel bites"- those were GREAT~

After you shape them, dip them in the baking soda solution, put the on the prepared baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt. I used a bunch of salt, but I like stuff really salty. Use your own judgement.

Here's the bites:

And here are the sheets, ready to go into the oven. Ok, FYI: When the oven is 500 degrees and you lean in to rotate the baking sheets and you have a silver charm on your necklace- THAT CHARM GETS STINKING HOT!!!!!!!

....that is all.

Bake at 500 degrees for 8-9 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. They should be golden brown. Have 3 Tb melted butter ready with a pastry brush for when they come out of the oven.

Brush all the pretzels with butter until all the butter is used up. Now go find a secret spot and take several pretzels with you. Oh, and bring something to wipe your hands off with. You're gonna need it.

I got this recipe from http://www.kingarthurflour.com/ - they have some AWESOME stuff!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

8/22 Baking Day- Photos and Recipes

I woke up rested this morning.

Mondays are the day of the week I get to sleep in. <Insert angels singing here>

One of my favorite things is to go down and make coffee and sit out in the backyard, looking out at the sky. This morning it was gorgeous- clouds all over, blue sky, and green trees.

It is good to do that, you know? Have a routine with something that you look forward to. I love Monday mornings.

Plus, Monday is baking day- another thing to look forward to!! Here's what I made:

Hot, Buttered Mall Pretzels. And I made some into Pretzel Bites. I will post the recipe tomorrow, but let me tell you...... These. Are. Amazing. Wade went on and on about them. The boys loved them. My dad said I needed to immediately make another batch and give them all to him. They were good. VERY good. You can make them for the week and reheat in the microwave for snacks!

I made a double batch of waffles for the freezer. I usually make these Multigrain Waffles, but the boys requested Eggo Waffle- like waffles, so I made this Waffle recipe instead. We had some for breakfast, then I cooled them completely, and put them in sandwich sized Ziploc bags (two per bag) and stuck them in the freezer. They can go straight from the freezer to the toaster in the morning for a quick breakfast!! Wade likes to take them to work, toasted and sandwiched with peanut butter. They are yummy!!

Oh my. I made this for lunches this week- it is Curried Mango Quinoa Salad. I will post this recipe later this week. It is GREAT!! I think it would be good with some chicken added too- I may try that too!!

I sliced bananas and bagged the for the freezer for smoothies. We have really been going through them lately, mostly because I have been having more protein smoothies after my workouts!! I have been enjoying them!!

For lunches, I made a batch of these yummy M&M cookies. I used this cookie recipe, but substituted about half a large bag of milk chocolate M&Ms for the chocolate chips. Wade was happy- he LOVES M&Ms. I may try these again in the future with pretzel M&Ms. Oh yeah.

Then I made yet ANOTHER batch of Whole Wheat Pita Breads. I love them with hummus. I have been going through them lately, for snacks. I used two yesterday to make pizzas- just add some tomato sauce, cheese, and toppings! Easy and REALLY good!!

Steamed Rice

Friday, August 19, 2011

Apple Fritters and Wedding Bells.....

I love the group of friends that I run with.

I really love the fact that everyone likes to eat.

We started a tradition last year, when one of our friends, Karen, got married, called the "Run to the Altar". Basically we all wear some kind of veil get-up (mine was a bandanna attached with a clip to my hat) and do our usual Friday morning run. But instead of our usual meal afterward (which is this oatmeal) we have these babies...:

So this week it was our friend Allie's turn!

 Even one of the running doggies got into the spirit:

There was also some wedding socks (worn by a MALE):

I am telling you, we know how to run, eat, and HAVE FUN!!!!!!!!!

Here's what you need for the fritters:
  • 2 cups All-purpose Flour

  • 1/2 cup Sugar

  • 3 Tablespoons Sugar

  • 2-1/4 teaspoons Baking Powder

  • 1-1/4 teaspoon Salt

  • 2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon

  • 2 whole Large Eggs

  • 3/4 cups Whole Milk

  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

  • 2 Tablespoons Melted Butter

  • 2 whole Granny Smith Apples, Peeled And Diced

  • Powdered Sugar (optional, For Dusting I think the glaze is a billion times better)

  • GLAZE (optional- except not really. Make the glaze you won't be sorry)

  • 1-1/2 cup Powdered Sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon Vanilla

  • 1/4 cup Milk

  • Oil for frying

  • Whisk all the dry ingredients for the fritter batter (say that fast 5 times...) in a mixing bowl. Then whisk the wet ingredients together in another bowl (except the apples, you're gonna fold those in after you mix the two together). Then mix the wet and dry ingredients together.

    Then peel, core, and chop the apples. If you're a lucky duck like me, you have one of these awesome apple doo-dad thingys:

    Fold the chopped apples into the batter.

    Then heat up a few inches of oil in a skillet:

    I used my cookie dough scooper thing to measure and drop the batter into the oil, but you can use tablespoons, or even make them larger if you would like. You're going to heat the oil up enough that when you drop a bit of the batter in, it begins to fry briskly and pops up to the surface almost immediately.

    Fry them up until nice and brown on both sides, you'll flip them halfway through. I think it took about 8 minutes total to cook them, but just keep your eye on them.

    Drain on paper towels. Then whisk together the glaze ingredients, and dunk the fritters.

    Yummmmmm..... these really, truly rock. They are so so so so so so so so (infinity) good.

    I got this recipe from the Pioneer Woman's website, at http://www.pioneerwomancooks.com/ her stuff is AWESOME!!!!!!

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    Don't Leave Home Without......

    So, I am in training for the Tucson Marathon! The race is in December, and I am hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon at this race. Here is my previous blog post about this race.

    This is a new kind of training for me, I am training for speed- which doesn't come easily or naturally for me. My first marathon was a 5:01, my PR is a 4:28, and I have to run a 3:40 or faster. Needless to say, I have quite a gap to bridge. I am confident though, that with dedication and discipline (and a GOOD RACE DAY) I have a shot at it!!

    Here are some of the things that have become "essentials" in my training. It is rare for me to do a workout without using most, if not all of these items!

    Pure Protein brand protein powder. I love this stuff. I use it to make this smoothie, and this one. It's low in sugar, doesn't taste nasty (some of the powders are seriously SICK) and blends well.

    The Blender Bottle. I have been using this to mix the protein powder (I use the chocolate flavor for the "just water" mixing) with ice water for a quick way to refuel after workouts. The little wire ball thingy makes sure all the powder blends up smoothly, with no lumps, and if you add ice water it gets nice and thick. I, of course, bought the hot pink bottle. I heart pink.

    The Stick. I have already mentioned this sucker in a previous blog post, but it is worth a second plug. This. Thing. ROCKS.

    Okole Stuff. For those who have run long distances, this is Body Glide's smarter, prettier sister. It goes on easily, doesn't rub off when it gets wet, and WORKS!! With all the speed training I've been doing, if I use this stuff, I do not chafe. I (foolishly) used Body Glide instead on Sunday's run and chafed the crud out of my arm and right below my sport bra. Lesson learned. Use the good stuff.

    My Garmin Forerunner 310xt. My friends pitched in and bought me this two years ago for my birthday and I LOVE IT!! It is easy to program speed workouts into the Garmin and it tells you when to start and stop! I love the workout log it creates- you can download your workouts wirelessly to your computer. The feedback I get from looking at my past workouts is very helpful. LOVE this!!

    Hydration, for me, makes or breaks a run. If I get behind with my hydration, I can't catch up. So for short runs (Usually those less than 10 miles) I will take this bottle- the Ultimate Direction Fastdraw. It has a great zipper pouch where I keep chapstick, gu and my keys.

    For longer runs, I LOVE my Nathan HPL 020. It has a 2 liter capacity bladder, and plenty of easy-to-access pockets to stash gu, snacks, and a camera or cell phone, and of course, chapstick. I hate chapped lips when I'm running.

    There you have it! My current can't-live-without-it list. (If I could add a wish or two to the list, I would add "no injuries" and "stiff tailwind".)

    Happy running!