Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What are you thankful for?

    Americans often think of the month of November as the month for giving thanks because of Thanksgiving.  While I believe we should be thankful all year round and not just one month a year, November provides us with the opportunity to take a step back an truly think about what we are thankful for.  My Mom, (I think this is her homeschooling/teacher nature coming out of her) puts together the "Thankful Tree".  We are each given a paper leaf to write what we are thankful for, at dinner each night.  They are then displayed on our living room wall for everyone to see. 

     Nothing is too small, nothing is too big to be thankful for, so it got me thinking about what I am thankful for, here are a few of the BIG ones...

My family, we are crazy, loud, nosey, large, kind and unbelievably caring.  Many people are always surprised at how close we are to one another, thinking that being from a large family we wouldn't get along... that so is NOT the case.  Growing up family was and is everything, if you didn't get along with siblings, you didn't get to play with friends.  We are always there for one another, no matter what the situation, time or place.  We love each other even if we can drive each other crazy.  I would be lost without them!

My parents, they are two of the most generous, loving, kind, and caring people I know.  They've made me into the person I am today.
My sisters - we have the craziest relationships and are able to make each other laugh at the drop of a hat.  They are constantly there for me and offer support when I need it the most.  They keep me sane... most of the time!
My brothers and the guys that are practically my brothers - They constantly talk cars, sports and other "guy" stuff, but I know that they would come to my defense if I ever needed it, all the way down to my 10yr old brother!
My nephew and niece... they don't get any cuter than this!!!  I love being an Aunt!

My Extended Family - a HUGE number of people from both sides of the family, that always make every holiday and family event crazy, loud, and SO MUCH FUN!

Great Friends - They've been with me through thick and thin.  Some of the best memories I have are from hanging out with them...

My Interior Design Company - It was a HUGE leap of faith to branch out on my own and pursue my dreams and there isn't a single part of me that regrets the decision!!

The ability to not take myself too seriously - Being able to enjoy the moment and be able to laugh really makes life more enjoyable!

Shots of Crown Royal - A tradition in honor of my Grandpa that marks every family Holiday.  We love and miss him!

 These are just a few of the things I am thankful for... What are you thankful for???

Monday, November 19, 2012

Grandma Oke Doke's Apple Slices

     My grandparents were two of the most incredible people you would have ever met.  They raised 5 children and have 23 grandchildren, not including those who have married into the family, and 12 great-grandchildren.  They have both passed away and are missed daily by their family and friends but we keep their memory alive.  They originally lived on the Southside of Chicago but moved to Wisconsin in the last few years of their lives where they had a summer home for many years.  The property has numerous apple trees that my grandfather kept pristine care of over the years.  My grandmother would make apple slices every time she had family coming over.  She would bake them right before any of us were to arrive so that the house smelled of apple pie.  We were allowed to "sneak" a piece when we got there but nothing else until dinner.  There was always something magical about those apple slices, they tasted like Heaven (if Heaven had a taste I guess...).  Since they have both passed away, my Mom and her siblings have tried many different times to recreate her apple slices.  We've never  been able to get the recipe perfect - I think the secret ingredient that my grandmother added was her unconditional love for each and every one of us.  I know that sounds cheesy but it is true...  So I have taken it upon myself to bring the apple slices to our major holiday parties, to bring a little bit of grandma to the holidays.  I hope you enjoy, it is definitely a family favorite!!

Grandma Oke Doke's Apple Slices:

You will need:
    ~ A deep cookie sheet
    ~ An Apple peeler
    ~ Knife

    ~ 4 Sarah Lee Pie Crust (because of time I often buy the premade ones)
    ~ 12-16 Apples depending on the size of the apple
    ~ 1/2 cup Butter
    ~ 1 sp Cinnamon
    ~ 1/2 cup Sugar
    ~ 1/2 cup packed Brown Sugar
    ~ 1 tsp Nutmeg
    ~ 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
    ~ Powdered Sugar
    ~ Milk/Water
    ~ Pam, or a non-stick cooking spray

   1. Start by peeling and cutting the apples into small bite-sized pieces.  Place the apples in a bowl with the lemon juice, be sure to mix while adding more apples.  The lemon juice keeps the apples from turning brown.
  2. In the bowl with the apples mix in the cinnamon, sugar, brown sugar, and nutmeg until all the apples are coated.  If you need more of these ingredients feel free to add!
  3. Spray the cookie sheet.  Unroll 2 of the pie crusts and place them together on the bottom of the tray, so that the entire cookie sheet is covered.  Feel free to use a rolling pin and some flour to help the crusts fit the tray and go up the sides. 
  4. Add the Apple mixture to the tray.  Cover with the last two pie crusts, same process as before, crimp the edges so that  the pie doesn't ooze out.  I wouls place a piece of tin foil in the over under the tray just in case the apples ooze over the sides.
  5. Bake at 350 for 45minutes - 1hr or until golden brown.
  6. Let the Apple Slices cool.  While waiting for it to cool, take the powdered sugar and a 1/4 cup of milk mix together to make the icing.  Adding powdered sugar until you get the consistency you desire.
  7. Serve and Enjoy!

Looking for some other great thanksgiving recipes??? Try these:

Appetizer - Keenly Kristin
Adult beverage – ModlyChic
Side Dish – I’m Gonna Fly
Squash Dish – Cute-Ecakes

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cross Country 2012

    Over the summer I was asked if I would be willing to be the Cross Country coach for my High School Alma Mater, The Willows Academy.  I was thrilled with the prospect but so nervous to say yes considering the sport didn't even exist at our school until after I left and I am a long distance runner.  I think I have run 1 official 5K, and training for a 5K and speed is totally different than running long distance but I agreed despite my reservations.
    It ended up being the most amazing season ever!  The first few summer workouts saw 11 girls, slowly once school started the team grew to 18 girls, which is the highest number to ever participate in Cross Country.  I was thrilled! 

   As a runner, I have learned the importance of strength training and conditioning as well as the importance of a variety of workouts so as to fight off boredom.  We did things like the Deck of Cards workout (see my post on that amazing workout), long runs, speed workouts with hills, 1/2mile repeats, fartleks, Indian runs,  Ladders, Friday Fun runs, Mile repeats, conditioning, etc. 

   It was incredible to watch the girls meet their goals and then have to set new goals for the season to continue to challenge themselves.  We made it to Sectionals as a team and then had an individual qualify for State.  They all worked so hard throughout the season and I am so proud of each and every one of them. 

    Just a few fun pictures from the season!

Fun Run Friday - Tie Dye Day

Maine East Race - 6 out of 9 runners received Medals!

We like our Bling!!!
Fun Run Friday - Neon Day
Excited for our 2nd place trophy despite the pouring rain!
After running Regionals...
Fun Run Friday - Halloween

Bring on Sectionals
After Sectionals while waiting to see if anyone is heading to state!

Julie is going to State!!!

So proud of her finish at state...19:58 - fastest time all season!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Top 10 Tips for being a good Cross Country Coach

We're Going to State!!!
     I don't want to pretend that I am the most amazing Cross Country Coach out there - but I was voted ISL Coach of the Year...  This season was certainly a learning process for me, to say the least, but I think it is important to pass on some of the things I learned throughout this season.

1. A Plan for the Day!
      I know this probably seems like a no brainer but it is harder than one might think to plan out the activities for the practice.  Doing this keeps the flow of practice going, as well as keeping practice on time and helps the runners to hit their goals.

2.  A Back-Up plan for the day!
      Something that could be done inside if the weather unexpectedly turns nasty.  We had a few practices this season where I was flying by the seat of my pants to make sure they had a good workout because what I had planned couldn't happen because of inclement weather.

3.  Spice up the Workouts!
       It is so easy to get bored with the workouts if they are the same thing over and over.  Add in a variety of things like Long Runs, Conditioning, Core Exercises, Speed Work, Fun Runs, etc.

Fun Friday - Yoga and Just Dance!

4. Have consequences!
      This one probably sounds HARSH but it works.  If your team knows in advance if they don't meet certain goals that there will be repercussions, they are more likely to push themselves to do better.  Something we would do were mile repeats. They would be timed on their first mile, I would write down their time, no tell them what it was and then have them run the mile again in which they would have to beat their previous time.  Since I know what their paces are, it was easy to know if they were pushing themselves or not.

5.  Add in Conditioning and Strength Training!
       Alot of Runners do not realize the importance of Strength Training and Conditioing, but it can make a HUGE difference.  Strength training and conditioning improves your overall health and fitness, it helps to prevent injury and increases overall strength.  Core conditioing is key for runners.

       It is super important to track everything so that you know if your runners are improving.  They also like to know stats, how many miles were logged, how many push-ups they did, their best times, etc.  My girls this year logged over 150 miles, 300 push-ups, the biggest improvement was over 6minutes for a 5K and our fastest time was 19:58.

7. Set Goals!
       At the beginning of the season I hand each runner a notecard, that they fill out with the following information: Name, Grade in School, Estimate on current 5K time, Goal 5K time by the end of the season, Top 3 reasons as to why they run.  It is great to periodically look back through the cards during the season and see if their goals have been met, and if we need to set new goals.  At the end of the season I give them back to the runners, so that they can see how far they have come.

8. Cheer for Others!
        There were two things that really amazed me this year... 1. There was a girl who was running completely by herself, she had no other teammates.  One person at each meet to Cheer her on.  She was an incredible runner, so why not cheer for her, even if she is technically competition.  2. I was at a few different meets where runners saw the coaches calling out and writing down times, they asked what their time was and the other coaches completely ignored them.  Why not tell them where they are at?! So I quickly shouted out times to them.  There is nothing wrong with cheering for everyone, it shows you have good sportsmanship! DO IT!!

9. Walk the Walk... Talk the Talk!
        The one thing that I think surprised my team the most was that I would be out there running with them more often than not.  I would run with them, challenging them to push themselves a little harder, a little farther.  Showing my support for those at the front of the pack and those at the back of the pack.  We did a Hill workout the one day and I made them run the hill and then do a large loop once they came back down, I would pick a random runner and challenge them up the hill, just running hill after hill.  It provided good competition and a challenge, "I can't let coach beat me!"

10. Have Fun!!!
         I think this is the most important tip!  This is probably a no-brainer, but it helps to give the runners a little variety in their runs, makes the season more enjoyable and entertaining to say the least.  We did Fun Run Fridays, each Friday had a theme, like Neon day and then a fun activitiy such as a scavenger hunt, a pizza run, etc.  It was so fun to watch the girls get into it!

Fun Run Friday - Halloween Scavenger Hunt!!