Twelve 5ks in 2014 – Our Year of Racing

February 17th, 2015

“I think exercise tests us in so many ways, our skills, our hearts, our ability to bounce back after setbacks. This is the inner beauty of sports and completion, and it can serve us all well as adult athletes.”

–Peggy Flemming

Early last year Jenny set a lofty goal for herself – she wanted to do twelve 5k races in 2014 (one per month). She kicked off the year colorfully by completing her second Color Run. In February she invited Christina to join her for the 36th Annual Runner’s Den Pancake Run. Always one for a challenge, Christina signed up for a handful of races too. By mid-year they were right on track, having finished half a dozen. Life got in the way for a few months but they dug in and crossed the finish line many times throughout November and December to end the year strong with a big stack of race bibs to prove it!

Below they share their thoughts on racing and chat about what they learned:

First, why? What made you want to race twelve 5ks in 2014?

Jenny: Exercise is always something I have not been good at keeping up with, so I wanted to do something that would keep me consistently working out. I have done a few races over the years, including two half marathons, and I find that my biggest motivator to stay moving is knowing that I have paid money to participate in an event. I am the one that suffers on race day if I don’t keep up with my walks, so the thought of losing money by not doing the race usually trumps my laziness on those days where I debate working out.

Christina: Honestly, at first it was just a way to spend more time with Jenny. But, I quickly discovered that I loved the feeling of crossing that finish line! Signing up for monthly races is also a great motivation for me to work out in between races.

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What was your favorite race and why?

Jenny: My two favorite races were The Color Run and The Hot Chocolate 5K, but they both will be better this year because I didn’t get to participate in them with Christina last year, and I always have more fun when she’s there. Both races are extremely organized, which appeals to the control freak in me, and both have really fun elements (color and dancing or a big mug of chocolate at the finish line).

Christina: That’s a really hard question! I loved them all! If I had to choose I would pick the 4 mile race that Jenny and I did on the 4th of July. It’s my favorite race because it was the hardest race I ran all year. It was terribly humid that day and well over 100 degrees. I woke up grumpy and exhausted. I was having such a terrible morning that I pouted when Jenny wanted me to wear my Sparkle Skirt! You can imagine how well the race went. I was a hot sticky mess the entire time and there were moments during the race where I had tears in my eyes because I was so frustrated and didn’t want to finish. I did finish though (in my Sparkle Skirt) because I refused to quit.

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What have you learned from this challenge?

Jenny: Racing has taught me to be more independent. Now, I don’t mean doing the races, as I love racing with Christina, but we often don’t actually race together. We will both go our own pace, push ourselves to do the best we can, and enjoy our time together before and after the race. We even have an unspoken agreement that whoever finishes first will be waiting at the finish line with a bottle of water for the other girl. Other than race day, I am on my own when it comes to keeping up with my routine, and have become comfortable with it, and making myself accountable for my workouts.

Christina: I’ve learned a ton. The biggest lesson so far? Squash the negative thoughts you have about yourself. In my opinion it’s the most self-destructive thing you can do. One of the things I love the most about running is all of the time you have to think. When I first started the challenge, there was definitely more walking and muscle cramps then running. I would hobble along beating myself up every step of the way – despite the fact that I pushed through the discomfort to finish each and every race! One day “Titanium” by David Guetta came on while I was running and with every verse I felt more and more powerful. I sang the chorus out loud and it was as if I was singing to myself – you shoot me down but I won’t fall I am titanium cut me down but it’s you who’ll have further to fall…raise your voice, sticks and stones may break my bones I’m talking loud not saying much…I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose fire away, fire away. I listen to that song on every run and it makes run faster. I am titanium. We can’t control what other people think or say about us. But, we are in FULL control of what we choose to say and think about ourselves. That’s real power.

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What are your racing plans for the future? Are you going to try for twelve 5ks in 2015?

Jenny: I will definitely be knocking out at least a dozen races in 2015! I am going to copy Christina in adding some longer races to my repertoire though (I have signed up for a 8K and 9K this Spring and a 15K in December). Christina and I are also planning on taking part in the Star Wars Half Marathon next January in Disneyland. That long-term goal will help me to stay motivated all year. Due to medical reasons, I was not allowed to run in 2014, but with those restrictions now lifted, I am looking forward to training to actually run my first 5K. It will be challenging, but I am excited to be “lightning on my feet,” like Taylor Swift.

Christina: I plan to keep running! I don’t have any major plans I just know I want to run a bit faster and a bit further. I absolutely want to run twelve 5ks in 2015! I also want to do a few 10k races too. I ran the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll 10k in January and it confirmed that 10ks are a good next step in my running journey. Once I have a few 10ks under my belt the next big step will be to register for my first half-marathon. Eek!

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Do you have any tips for new walkers/runners?

Jenny: I would say to be patient with yourself (and I will have to do that this year myself in working towards my running goals), and only compete with yourself. I have a friend, Matt, who has been running for years and if I compared my pace and progress to where he is, I would give up and never race again. Everyone who is a runner had to start somewhere, and those successful successful people you know who are successful all do the same thing – they run on a regular basis and they push themselves to always do a little better than they did before. So, on day one1, you may pace at a less than desirable (to you) rate, but each time you go out, push yourself to run a little further or up your pace a little. Your time reduction will be slow to start, but before you know it, you will be able to drive that time down and you will be amazed at what you did. Also, everyone has occasional bad days. Don’t let them get you down, and just get out there again and push it!

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I also want to note that if you aren’t a runner, or you don’t like running, walk! I have never run a race, including either of my half marathons. I know it’s intimidating when you go to the racing sites because of course, all the pictures are going to be people running. Don’t let that stop you from participating. In almost every race I have ever done, most of the people in it are walking at some point. Don’t be embarrassed if you are a walker. Be proud that you went out there and raced!

Christina: Yes – but I will warn you all of my tips are very basic! 1. First, invest in the right gear. Don’t go out and spend a ton of money! It will take you some time to figure out what you like. Start with running socks and a good pair of shoes, a supportive sports bra, a top made from wicking fabric and something to hold your phone/iPod. Second,2. Y you have to run a lot. It sounds so simple but most people (including me) think you can head out on day #1 and run comfortably. The truth is – at first it’s going to suck a little, you’ll be slow, you’ll be sore and you might not be able to go very far. Just know that each day will be a little easier then the last. The more you run, the more you’ll be able to run. Don’t be hard on yourself…just keep running. Finally,3. R remember to enjoy the journey! Don’t get me wrong, most days I have to push myself…really hard. But, I’m a big fan of fun too. I run in tutus, silly hats and covered in color. I pump my arms and sing out loud when an awesome song comes on during a run. Why not? Life isn’t always be about how quickly you reach the finish line, sometimes it’s about how much fun you had (and how good you looked) getting there.

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Ready to sign-up for a race? Check out these blog posts:

Green Beer, Wet Chalk and Raving: 5K Fun Runs
Fuel Your Fire: Coconut Almond Energy Bars
Racing in the Smartphone Age
You CAN Race a Half Marathon

Want to join us? Hashtag your 2015 race photos with #twelve5ksin2015 or #thewildernessgirls. We can’t wait to see your pics!

  

Resolution Revolution

January 29th, 2015

I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions, as a rule. I feel like it’s a way to set up way too many goals for myself that I won’t end up achieving, and I tend to like to set goals throughout the year, and not at the beginning (because “everyone else is doing it”).

Christina inspired me with her recent post on her resolutions for this year, and it made me realize that if I kept it to a handful of goals, I could probably be successful.

Here are my goals that I hope to achieve this year:

5Ks, Redux: Last year I walked in 14 5K races. This year I want to walk in at least 12, and do at least one longer race (and considering I just signed up for the Hot Chocolate 15K in December, I would say that one should be achievable). 5Ks keep me motivated to work out other days of the week, so the more active I can be, the better.

Skincare Maintenance: In March, I will be 37, and in my 37 years I have done pretty much little to nothing to take care of my skin for any extensive length of time. I usually get some revelation during the year that “This is it! I am going to focus on skincare from here on out” only to totally falter a few days later. This time I decided to start small, upgrade my facial products and commit to wash and moisturize my face every morning and night. I also want to increase the number of facials I get a year from one to more than one.

Get Off the Grid…Sorta: How do I say that I want to take a break from social media without sounding like the people who post “Facebook is evil! That’s it! I am deleting my account” and then are back days later? I don’t think Facebook is evil. I love social media. Too much. And that’s why this year I need to take a little break. I have two issues that are me issues with social media. First, I am constantly checking it, and thus never really “in the moment” whether it’s at home or with friends and family. Second, I compare my life to what I am seeing online, not remembering that others are also just posting the good stuff. So, it gets me down sometimes. I am human and it happens. I took a one week break already, and it’s much easier than I thought. I don’t want to be off it altogether, but just develop a better relationship with it so that I don’t become obsessed again.

Stop Being So Defensive: That says it all, really. I have found over the last few years I have become increasingly defensive with a temper that’s set off by a very short fuse. I don’t know how it happened, but I am hoping to readjust my attitude this year. I am finding that just pausing and thinking before reacting is helping so far. Wish me luck on this one – it’s going to be the most challenging!

Christina and I have been hiking every week, and share a desire to stay active, so I know that she will be checking-in with me to make sure I stay focused.

I wish you all luck with your resolutions!

New Year, New Resolutions: 2015 Edition

January 8th, 2015

If I’m honest, 2014 kicked my butt. Looking back, there was no single event that made the year rough, but rather a collection of painful circumstances. 2014 was a blister on the back of my ankle that just wouldn’t heal. It was annoying, it slowed me down, made it hard to move forward and it just plain hurt. I know I’m not the only one because I watched some of the people I love most wade through their own Bog of Eternal Stench. Is there anything worse than watching your favorite people struggle? Scrolling through my news feed on NYE, it was clear that lots of people were thrilled to put 2014 behind them.

But you know what? I’m ready to rock 2015.

I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions. I think I had it right in 2014 when I kicked all of my stale resolutions to the curb and resolved to enjoy life more. What do I want to do in 2015? More of the same! So, I’m sticking with a couple of my resolutions from last year and adding a few new ones too. Here’s what I came with:

Capture More Memories. While I did take more photos in 2014, I didn’t get very many of Rob & I. This year I want to have a photographer snap some photos of us with our dogs. I got a Fuji Instax for my birthday last year and have had a lot of fun documenting our little family’s daily life. I printed lots of photos too! This year I want to explore creative ways to print photos, DIY a display space for my Insta prints and hang a gallery wall of family photographs in our home.

Be Stylish. I love fashion – but all too often I haven’t allowed myself to wear the clothes I’m crazy about for fear of what others might think. It’s time to clean out the closet, both literally and figuratively. I want to explore fashion, define my style and learn how to dress my shape.

Make Money Being Creative. For most of 2014 I was in a creative role at work and I loved every minute of it. While it was the hardest work I’ve ever done I’ve never been happier or more fulfilled. Unfortunately, my position was eliminated in late September. While I am super grateful to have been hired back in a different role, I am now desperate to find a way to make money being creative and working with my hands. Total side note: I also intend to spend more time here! Creating content for our little site makes me so happy and I didn’t do nearly enough of that last year.

Make Good Choices. This is the big one for 2015! I need to get my act together. While 2014 was the year of the 5k (I ran 12!) it was also the year of my scale going up and down a number of times. In 2015, I need to pay more attention to what I eat. I also want to be more active and spend more time outdoors. And, over the last few years I’ve made a conscious decision to use ditch toxic cleaners and personal care products for natural alternatives. This year I need to explore alternatives for the products I’ve been too stubborn to get rid of (Scrubbing Bubbles I’m lookin’ at you). This one is really all about living with intention and treating my body right.

No year will ever be without its struggles. BUT, this year I am determined to stockpile love, laughter and all the goodness I can get my hands on so that I have something to cling to when life gets rough.

After all, in the immortal words of David Wooderson, “you just gotta keep livin man, L-I-V-I-N.”

Happy New Year! XOXO

Desk Refresh

December 18th, 2014

Things have been tough at the old “day job” this year. I work for a large company that I really love, but there have been a lot of changes these past few months and not all of them were positive. For several weeks, I worried that I might be laid off and…well, to be honest, that was genuinely awful. I had six years’ worth of files and desk clutter plus some nervous energy to burn so one day I started to tidy up my desk. That led to purging emails, and that lead to cleaning out cabinets, which led to purging paper files and when I was done, I had an extremely empty desk. I slashed my stash of work documents down to the bare minimum and shuttled my personal items home to sit in a sad heap on my desk.

A few more weeks passed and I was not laid off (although some really amazing people I love were and that was unbearable). In the aftermath, I had to try to find some semblance of normal, but my desk was clinically sterile, morale was at an all time low and all of my creativity was sapped. That’s when I came across a bit of inspiration online entitled 54 Ways To Make Your Cubicle Suck Less. I felt like it was meant for me and I greedily devoured the ideas. Next I hit up Pinterest and compiled a page of inspired office spaces in black, gold and neutrals.

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I chose the color scheme because I liked it and because many of my desk accessories were already black from a prior attempt at improving the space. In addition, I’ve seen a lot of gold in decorating lately and I really like it. I figured with a little gold spray paint I could create some fun pieces to complete the look I was going for.

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First, I built the twine and clothespins photo holder featured in the article that inspired my desk revamp. For this project I simply picked up decorated clothespins and strung them on twine. This allows me to display photos and change them out easily. I have more pins if I want to add more photos and it lets me keep things fresh. One thing I noticed while shopping is that there are a finite number of choices in pre-decorated clothespins. If you find there aren’t any you like you can use washi tape over undecorated clothespins to customize your look.

The moment I saw the gold Nate Berkus stapler was love at first sight. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. My old stapler was a red Swingline and I loved it as well, but this new one was just so shiny. I couldn’t resist. While I was at Target I scored some gold and white washi tape. I used the tape on a great free printable by Nicole Joelle that I framed and then accessorized my pencil cup and tape dispenser with the same tape to tie the elements together.

I may have shared before that I’m a plant slayer. I can’t keep a green thing alive to save my own life…until I met the succulent on my desk. This little guy’s tenacity has earned him a permanent space and I promise to water him once in a while and try really hard to keep him alive. In order to make my hardy little plant fit in with the theme of my desk, I added a few gold touches. For this project, I used a small terra cotta pot (available for less than $1 at Home Depot) and taped off the rim. Terra cotta isn’t easy to paint because it tends to flake so I used three coats of Krylon gold spray paint and Krylon crystal clear as a clear coat sealant. So far, the paint is staying put and it looks fantastic.

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I am fortunate to work in an office that allows pets. Often people will come to visit my desk with their furry little business partners in tow and I like to have something to welcome them properly. To make this cute little treat jar I simply super-glued a miniature dog to a metal jar lid and spray painted over it. In fact, when I first made this a few months ago I used turquoise paint. To update and make the piece sync with my desk refresh, the turquoise paint served as a primer coat for the gold I sprayed over it. It turns out my favorite part of this desk makeover was actually another makeover. If you decide to make yourself a treat jar – think dinosaurs, race cars or other small toys for people treats – be sure to get a spray paint that works well with plastic and metal so that the paint on your figurine doesn’t stay sticky to the touch.

All in all, I spent less than 2 hours and $50 on the projects shown here. The result is a desk that I’m proud to call home for 40 hours a week. It’s clean, functional, and comfortable. Most of all, it has a few special touches that make it all mine. Do you have some favorite items that make your workspace feel a little more like home? We love to hear from you, so please weigh in below in the comments.

Wine Tasting Party: The Experiment Continues

November 20th, 2014

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Earlier this year I hosted my first wine tasting party, and it was a learning experience, for sure. I don’t look at wine the same way, and after one get-together, I had a new sense of confidence when it came to talking about wine. But one wine tasting does not as sommelier make. As the saying goes “practice makes perfect,” so I took one for the team (aka you) and attended another wine tasting party with our newly formed group.

This time, our host was “Renaissance Woman” Laura Marlowe. Laura is a print production manager by day, and remodels house rentals, makes jewelry and cooks amazing food (including homemade bread) in her spare time. She is a superwoman and amazing friend.

In our second tasting party, Laura decided to focus on white wines, taking us through everything from Chardonnay to Marsanne. As with our previous tasting, none of us could agree on what we liked or didn’t like, and I am finding that is the point. It’s almost like looking at art – everyone will come away from the wine with a different view.

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I don’t like Chardonnay’s, and view them as buttery and blech, but they are a popular wine, and there were those at the tasting who disagreed with me. These tastings are teaching me that “taste is in the taste buds of the beholder” and it’s ok to not like what everyone else does, or dislike what everyone else spits out. It’s all about trying a variety of wines and finding what you like.

Here is what we learned from our second experiment:

Keep the tasting notes simple
We found a real winner in our second set of tasting notes, put together by Laura (you can download a PDF of our notes here), and designed by fellow taster, Pamela. We went from a very complex form to a four step process. We debated adding “suggested” words to it, but decided that it was best to let people come up with their own descriptor words, rather than be guided by someone else’s words. We have already reused the same note sheet again at a subsequent testing with one change – we have the host add the wine information in the “Wine Facts” section before the tasting. Writing all the information down was a struggle and made the pace a little sluggish, so we decided in the future that we wanted that information pre-printed (I am working on creating an interactive version of this PDF for a future post, so stay tuned!).

Eat up!
In our first tasting, we ate before we started tasting, because that’s what all the sites I read said to do. The idea was that you would eat to have something on your stomach, and then drink water to cleanse your palate so that you could truly taste the wine. I call poppycock on this one. For our white wine tasting, we drank while we ate, and we discovered something amazing – food pairings! It became a fun game to figure out what foods made each wine taste better or worse (sometimes a cookie paired best, and sometimes a spicy salami). Christina has become a true master of this game. Make sure that you have a good variety – salty, sweet, spicy, savory – so that you have lots of options in what you are pairing with each selection.

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There’s an App for That
Before the tasting, a couple of our participants had discovered a fantastic wine app called Vivino. This free app allows you to catalog and rate wines you have tasted, scan or search wines to see how others have rated them, and discover what wines your friends are drinking by connecting you with your Facebook network of friends who also have the app. All of this can be done by simply taking a picture of the label, which the app then uses to find the wine within its database. You simply rate, make any notes, and save. I have used it several times when I am buying wine as a way to ensure I am buying something that is rated well. As a side note, we aren’t being sponsored to promote this app, we just really love it.

Wine Guide
This was truly Laura’s contribution, and something that has proven to be a great addition to our wine tastings – a wine guide. You can customize the guide to include a variety of wines, or if you are focusing on one wine, you can expand on fun facts for that particular variety. It gives your guests a take-away guide to keep on hand so that they can continue their learning at home, and have something to reference the next time they want to try something new. You can see an example of the guide she created for her party here.

After just two tasting sessions, we have really started to hone in on what works for us as a group, from the format to the food to the tasting notes. The key has been assembling a group of people who are like-minded in our desire to learn more about wine, and agreement to allow an environment where people can be open and honest with their opinions.

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Before the end of the year, I will bring you a summary (including a list of what we tasted) for our most recent tasting on champagne/sparkling wines.

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Cheers!

How Is It November Already?

November 13th, 2014

Have you ever had time get away from you and then realize months have passed right before your eyes? We just totally had that happen.

In April we posted that we were going to take a few weeks off for vacations and other events taking up some time in our lives, and that few weeks quickly turned into a few months. After our latest annual Fall Foliage trip, we realized how much we missed sharing our stories, so we are happy to announce that we’re back! Starting next week we return with posts on what we have been up to while we were away, as well as sharing some of our favorite holiday tips for 2014.

We truly value all of you that come with us on this journey that is “The Wilderness Girls” blog and hope you will join us again as we strike out on more adventures in the coming year.

Welcome back! And seriously, how is it November already?

It’s a Wilderness Out There

April 23rd, 2014

Dear Friends,

April has been a full, exciting and, frankly, exhausting month for The Wilderness Girls. We have traveled for work and for fun and for work again. Big events, heavy workloads in our day jobs and family members who needed our help have made it tough to post on our regular schedule so we are taking the rest of April as a mini-vacation to rest, recharge and get ahead of our crazy schedules.

We love our readers and our blog and we appreciate your support. See you in 2 weeks!

Warm Regards,
Christina, Jenny and Rachael

Organize It: Navigating the Grocery Store

April 16th, 2014

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Grocery shopping is hands-down one of my least favorite chores. It’s crowded, people aren’t paying attention and by the time I get through the checkout line and to my car, I am ready for a stiff drink and a nap.

Even with all the chaos in the store, I have found a sure fire way to shop as quickly and efficiently as possible, and get out relatively unscathed. Just like my tips in my last post — Organize It: Meal Planning Tips — the key is planning and organization.

Step 1. Make your grocery list.

Once you have your meals planned for the week, make a list of everything you need for those dishes. After that, add staples — like milk, eggs and bread. Finally, add any miscellaneous items you are in need of like cleaning supplies, soap, toothpaste, etc. (I keep a pad of paper and pen in my “junk drawer” in the kitchen so that I can write down items that we run out of immediately. It helps me to remember them when I go to make my grocery list.)

Step 2. Organize your grocery list to the schematic of your store.

Have you ever gotten all the way through your list only to realize that you forgot an item that is on the other end of the store? Me too. The solution to this is to organize your grocery list to the flow of your store. So, you will group all produce together, and then group items by aisle.

For example, see my list (top) and crude (er, I mean, super amazing) drawing of the layout of my local grocery store (bottom):

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You can see that I go from right to left in the store, and I have my items grouped by aisle from right to left. Doing this keeps me from having to look at my entire grocery list every time I go to a new section of the store. I just have to review the list for that particular area of the store. I have had far fewer instances of getting home and realizing I forgot something by doing this method (although it does still happen, usually with ice, because I am so happy to be done that I forget to ask the cashier to add it to my bill).

This method will be tricky at first, but the more you do it, the easier it will be, and you will then be able to combine steps 1 & 2.

Step 3. Organize your cart.

Ok, you have your list and you are ready to go. So, now what? When you get to the store, make sure to set up your cart before you get started. I like to put my reusable shopping bags in the top basket in the cart and then I keep my list and a pen in my purse along with the bags.

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I also make sure that I have my store’s loyalty card and payment card ready to go in my wallet. There is nothing that stresses me out more than realizing that my debit card is not in its normal spot when I am halfway through the checkout process.

Step 4. Divide and conquer. (If you bring a shopping buddy.)

This step I can only do if my husband comes with me to the store. If you have an organized list, you can easily put your shopping buddy to work! When we are in the produce section, for example, I will assign items for Bryan to go and gather, and we then are able to more quickly get through our list and get home.

If you have kids that are old enough that you feel comfortable with them helping with this step, it’s a great way to get them involved in the shopping process.

Step 5. Review and check.

After you get through each aisle/department, do a quick visual check of your cart and list and ensure that every item you have checked is actually in your cart, and that you haven’t missed any items on the list.

Step 6. Get out of there!

You did it! You survived your weekly trip to the grocery store! Now it’s time to head home, put away the groceries, clean your reusable bags (I make this a part of my grocery process so that I remember to it every time), and put your feet up. You deserve it!

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Do you have any tips on surviving the grocery store? Share them in the comments below.

Happy shopping!

I Pinned It, I Did It: Microwave Fudge

April 14th, 2014

My Mom is pretty famous in our family for her fudges. She makes a chocolate fudge with marshmallows and walnuts that is always a hit at parties and people can’t seem to get enough of her peanut butter fudge. At Christmas time she creates an assembly line and sends bricks of homemade fudge in those small Priority Mail flat rate boxes from the post office. The truth is, she doesn’t really enjoy making the fudge. It’s quite a chore for her with all of the cooking and stirring over a hot stove and watching to be sure you don’t scorch the chocolate or overcook the peanut butter to a dry, crumbly mess. In fact, watching her make fudge over the years made me not want to try it for myself because it seemed like way too much hassle. That is, until the day I read about Dark Chocolate Almond Fudge.

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Photo credit: Mary Younkin, barefeetinthekitchen.com

I’ve known food blogger Mary Younkin of Barefeet in the Kitchen for several years and I have always admired her work. Her recipes are delicious and well-tested. She offers a wide variety and includes lots of gluten free options if your family needs them. She also has the perfect recipe for Dark Chocolate Almond Fudge and — get this — it only takes 90 seconds in the microwave!

I figured 90 seconds was within my candy-making skill set and it met my threshold for prep time so I had to try it. It was a hit. Everyone loved it and when I shared how quick and easy the recipe is, my tasters were astonished. This got me thinking about Mom’s peanut butter fudge. What if that could be accomplished in 90 seconds as well? If I used the basic recipe from Barefeet in the Kitchen what other concoctions could I create?

Using Mary’s ratios and method, I created a few more varieties of quick microwave fudge. Check out her blog for the exact recipe and technique.

Dark Chocolate Orange Fudge
This one was a fan favorite among my taste-testers. The consensus was that this reminded them of the chocolate oranges that are popular at Christmas time. The texture was soft and the orange flavor was just right.

You can make this variety by substituting the following ingredients: 1 bag (12 oz) of dark chocolate chips, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 stick of butter, and 1 teaspoon of orange extract

Peanut Butter Fudge
Taste testers really liked this variety, but the consistency was really sticky. I ended up using a chef’s knife to cut this into small squares but I had to run the knife under hot water between each cut. I then loosely wrapped it in parchment and stored it in the fridge. Once cut, the squares dried a bit and became firmer. I think letting this one hang out in the fridge for an extra day exponentially improves the texture.

You can make this variety by substituting the following ingredients: 1 bag (12 oz) of peanut butter chips, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 stick of butter, and 1 teaspoon of Mexican vanilla extract

Mint Chocolate Chip Fudge
This one was a whim and I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out, but I wanted to re-create the essence of mint chocolate chip ice cream. It worked and everyone loved it. Of all of my experimental batches, this had the firmest texture and cut most easily. While it doesn’t necessarily beat a chocolate craving because mint is the predominant flavor, it is a nice sweet bite after a meal.

You can make this variety by substituting the following ingredients: 1 bag (12 oz) of white chocolate chips, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 stick of butter, 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract, and 3-4 drops of green food coloring. I garnished this with a handful of miniature semi-sweet chips I picked up in the bulk food section to complete the mint chocolate chip ice cream look.

The ease and popularity of these varieties has inspired me to try more. I have plans to try layering flavors to create Dreamsicle and root beer float fudges. Christmastime recipes are dancing in my head and they include dried cranberries and crystallized ginger. The possibilities are endless!

Are you a recipe modifier or do you go by the book? What variations might you try on this tasty recipe? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Ready for Takeoff: Flying with My Dad

April 8th, 2014

FINAL_JB_FlyingwithDad_041014_1

This past week, I flew to Dallas for a business trip. I am not the best flyer, but since it’s the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B in most cases, I have learned to deal with it over the years. The scariest moment for me has always been as the plane speeds down the runway and takes off.

When I was a kid, my dad had a little trick for getting me through this phase of the flight. He would say “Jenn. We have to help the plane take off, are you ready?” and as the plane would race down the runway, we would turn our arms so they were on our laps but facing up, and we would move our hands upward in a jerking motion, as if we were helping to lift the plane from below. We would sometimes even grab the armrests and pretend we were pulling them up. Anything we could to “help” the plane into the air.

You are going to laugh, but whenever I can, I still do this (Bryan will vouch for that). When I can’t, the thought of it makes me smile, and distracts me enough to get me through the takeoff.

This is a memory I cherish because any time I fly, I think of my dad, and the weird habit he gave me to get through takeoff.

Do you have any superstitions or acts that help you get through stressful times that you learned from your parents? I would love to hear your nostalgic moments in the thoughts below.