2 of the kids playing in the tent

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Vacation

We’ve been out of town for the past week. Be prepared for lots of posts about the trip when I get back home. Camp food, hiking, camping in general … lots of great info to come. I can’t wait to share it all with you guys.

Celebrate Your Milestones

Very cool new features!

The WordPress.com Blog

Once in a while, it’s important to stop, catch your breath, and look at your accomplishments before you move on to the next thing — to put a stake in the ground that says, “I made it this far!”

Today, we’re rolling out a couple of notifications to help you celebrate your blog activity milestones. From now on, whenever you hit a milestone for how many followers your blog has (5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and beyond), you’ll get a badge:

We also created badges to celebrate when you receive lots of likes from visitors:

In addition to celebrating your achievements, we wanted to notify you when you’ve had a particularly good day for receiving likes or new followers. From now on, we’ll let you know of your best days for such activity:

Keep in mind that we’ve only started counting your best days this March.

We all blog for different…

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Working out, making progress, earning my body!

On the advice of a friend, I took my measurements a few weeks ago. Initially, I was really mad at myself after taking the measurements. How could I have let myself go this far off course and get to this point? However, after the anger wore off a fire lite up inside of me. Since that day I have wanted to make the changes in my lifestyle. I want to be healthier and more active. That will make me a better wife and a better parent.

I have been walking and working out several times a week. I choose to either walk, jog, do yard work, or workout on one of my workout games on my Nintendo Wii. Tonight, I went for a walk/jog. Last week when I went for my first walk/jog I was barely able to jog for any distance at all. I went further than I expected, but still not very far before I was out of breath and feeling like I needed to stop. When I go for my walk/jog I go to a park near my house. There is a track around a pond. 1 mile is a little less than 3 times around the track. Last week I walked/jogged a total of 3 miles. I wasn’t really tired or out of breath at the end of the 3 miles though. It took me an hour to walk/jog my 3 miles.

Tonight, I had several errands to take care of, so I didn’t have as much time to be able to work out. For half a second I thought about skipping my workout. Thanks to my new-found motivation I quickly pushed those thoughts out of my mind and off to the park I went. Being short on time, I was only able to get in 1.5 miles. However, I did that in only 20 minutes!!!! I did one mile in under 15 minutes! Last week I was only able to jog for 1/4 or 1/3 of a lap before i had to stop. This week I was jogging half a lap before I stopped to walk. I didn’t jog on every lap that I took. Next time I hope to jog on every lap that I take for half of the lap.

Oh, and when I rechecked my measurements last I was down by an entire inch on every single one of my measurements. I will recheck my measurements in the morning tomorrow. I have not lost much weight yet since starting my new workout schedule, but I know that will come if I just keep working at it. My goal weight is only 25-30 pounds away. It would make me ecstatic to reach or at least be close to that weight before the end of 2012.

Camping Menu Plan

My husband is quite the outdoorsy guy. However, I never have been that much into the outdoors … that is until about 5 years ago. He finally talked me into trying out tent camping. I truly thought that I was going to hate it and that then we would never have to do it again. I was totally wrong. The exact opposite happened. I LOVED it! Our first trip was only for one night. The next trip was 2 nights, then I got brave and we went for 4 nights. After that, I was totally hooked!

In April of 2011, we went took my bravery to a new level. We went further away and to a place that had lots of hiking trails. Once again, I did not expect to enjoy something. Big surprise … I was completely wrong. I couldn’t wait to go camping there again so we could try out even more of the hiking trails. So we decided to go back again for a week in the Fall of 2011. We went on long hikes and had such an amazing time. Before we came home from the Fall trip, we reserved our campsite for this Spring. Our Spring trip is now only a few days away. Excited does not begin to explain our feelings. We can’t wait to observe all of the beauty of spring in bloom and enjoy some quality family time together.

Tonight my husband and I sat down to plan our menu for the trip. Sure, we could easily just have burgers, hot dogs and brats all of the time. But that would get boring for us pretty fast. We also do some dutch oven cooking while we are camping. It varies up our options for cooking so much. You can use the dutch oven for breakfasts, soups, casseroles, and even desserts! I am so excited about our menu that I felt like sharing it with all of you out there reading my blog. Maybe it will inspire some of you to try out something new! Oh and we don’t really do anything special or fancy for lunch each day. It is pretty much sandwiches each day for lunch since we usually are out on hikes and activities during the day. So, I won’t be including our lunch plans in the blog post.

We will arrive on a Friday afternoon. So we chose an easy meal since we will have to set up camp once we get there. Bratwurst, and chips … plus the kids will want to have smores too. So that will be it for the first night.

Saturday morning we will have buttermilk pancakes, sausage, juice and coffee. Got to have the coffee after all! Ha ha! Saturday night, we are going to have pork chops and stuffing in the dutch oven. This is such a simple recipe but it tastes so wonderful with so many levels of flavor.

Sunday – We opted for a simple breakfast of cereal for this day. We don’t want to get burnt out on cooking every meal. Dinner will be one of our faves at home. Tacos! It is just as easy in the middle of the woods as it is at home, I promise!

Monday – Breakfast: Biscuits, sausage and gravy. The biscuits will be cooked in the dutch oven by my awesome hubby. He is the biscuit maker in our house. 🙂 I don’t have his recipe, but if any of you want it, I may be able to persuade him to give it to me for you all. 😉 Dinner: Chicken Kebabs. We will add some red onion, pineapple, sweet potatoes and green peppers in with the chicken to round out the meal. Then we will have Chocolate Cherry Surprise Cake in the dutch oven for dessert. Oh my rich, chocolatey goodness!

Tuesday – Breakfast: Pancakes, bacon and juice. Dinner: Chili Cornbread bake in the dutch oven. This is another simple recipe. Pour canned chili into the dutch oven. Top with cornbread mix that has been mixed according to package directions. Then you cover and cook for 20-30 minutes until done.  We will use 2-3 cans of chili to feed all 5 of us.

Wednesday – Breakfast: Another easy breakfast day, just cereal or poptarts. Dinner: Burgers and chips. Then for dessert a pineapple upside down cake in the dutch oven. Fruity, cakey … who could ask for anything more?

Thursday – Pancakes, breakfast meat, juice. Dinner: Grilled Chicken with a side of bacon spuds in the dutch oven.

Friday is the day we leave to head back home. Breakfast will be biscuits and whatever breakfast meat is leftover. Then lunch will depend on if we still have sandwich stuff left or not. If not, we will just stop at a fast food place for lunch on the way home. Below you will find most of the dutch oven recipes the we will be preparing on this trip. I hope you guys are inspired to try some of this out on your next camping trip or even in your own back yard!

Bacon Spuds

Ingredients: 1 large potato per person

1/3 onion per person

2 or 3 slices bacon per person

salt and pepper

Instructions: Set the dutch oven on coals to heat. Slice the bacon into small pieces. Peel and cut onions into 1/8ths and break them apart. Peel spuds and slice into 1/4 inch thick slices. Dump the bacon in the D.O. and stir until about half-cooked. Spread the bacon evenly over the bottom of the D.O. Spread the onions on the bacon. Pour the spuds on the onions. Shake quite a bit of salt and pepper on top. Set the D.O. over a solid bed of coals. Place the lid on and cover with coals.
Cook for about 45 minutes, turning the D.O. and lid in opposite directions every 10 minutes or so. The bacon grease in the bottom should keep things from burning, but it’s fine to check after 20 minutes if you’re getting antsy. The spuds are done when they are tender to a fork.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Topping Cake Batter
4 Tbs. butter 1 yellow cake mix
1 cup brown sugar 1 cup pineapple juice
8 pineapple rings 1/3 cup water
8 maraschino cherries 3 eggs
1/3 cup oil
Prepare Cake Topping: Melt butter in bottom of a 12″ Dutch         oven. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over butter being careful not to touch         the sugar once it has begun to dissolve into the butter. Carefully place         pineapple rings on top of the brown sugar, 7 around the outside and 1         in the center. Place a maraschino cherry in the center of each pineapple         ring.

Prepare Cake Batter: In a mixing bowl combine cake mix, pineapple juice, water, eggs and oil; mix well. Spoon cake batter carefully over the top of pineapple rings. Spread batter evenly to edges.

Bake: Cover Dutch oven and bake using 10-12 briquettes bottom and 14-16 briquettes top for 45 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched.

Let the cake cool for 10 minutes or so in the oven with the lid cracked. Next run a rubber spatula around the inside edge of the oven to loosen the cake. To turn the cake out, first lay a piece of parchment paper across the top of the oven so it lays flat and replace the lid so that it holds         the paper in place. Make sure you have an available lid stand resting on your table for the next step. Using gloved hands place one hand on the lid and the other hand under the oven and carefully lift and flip the oven over so the cake falls onto the lid. Rest the oven upside down on the lid stand         and tap the bottom and sides of the oven lightly with your hand to make sure the cake didn’t stick. Then lift the oven off the lid. The cake will be resting on the parchment lined lid and can be cooled this way or slid off the lid using the parchment paper. Allow cake to cool slightly before service.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream as topping.

Serves: 8-10

Chocolate Cherry Surprise Cake

1 chocolate cake mix; prepared as directed 1 egg
1 (20 oz.) can cherry pie filling 3 Tbs. sugar
1 (8 oz.) brick cream cheese 1 tsp. vanilla
Pour prepared cake batter into a greased 12″ Dutch oven. Spoon cherry pie filling into clumps over cake batter. In a small mixing bowl cream together cream cheese, egg, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Drop by tablespoons over top of cake.

Place lid on oven. Bake using 8-10 briquettes bottom and 14-16 briquettes top for 1 hour or until top center of cake springs back when touched.

Serve warm with whip cream as topping.

Serves: 10-12

Dutch Oven Pork Chops

6 pork chops; center cut, bone in 1 (20 oz.) can sliced peaches
salt and pepper to taste 1/4 cup apricot preserves
1 box stove top stuffing for pork 1 Tbs. dijon mustard
4 Tbs. butter; melted 1 Tbs. dry minced onion
1 1/4 cups hot water
To a 12″ Dutch oven add stuffing mix (including seasoning packet), butter, hot water and juice from canned peaches; stir to mix then spread evenly. Season pork chops with salt and pepper and arrange over top of stuffing. In a small bowl mix together preserves, mustard and minced onion. Spoon preserve mixture over top of chops and spread to coat. Arrange sliced peaches over the top.

Cover oven and bake using 8-10 briquettes bottom and 16-18 briquettes top for 60 minutes.

Serves: 6

Bestselling Author Shares 3 Tips for Building Your Blog Audience

Very interesting!

The WordPress.com Blog

After moving from New York City to Chicago and getting married, Rachel Bertsche realized that her new life was missing one crucially important thing: a local best friend. So she decided to go on one friend date every week for a year, and she documented her quest on a WordPress.com blog at MWFseekingBFF.com.

But before Rachel even started the blog, the 27-year-old writer put together a book proposal based on her search for a local BFF, and successfully pitched it to agents, and then editors. She says, “After I sold the proposal, I decided to start a blog so that I could have a place to document my journey and some of the research I was finding. I also wanted to start building a community and to engage with readers.”

It’s now been over two years since Rachel first launched MWFseekingBFF.com. So did she accomplish her blogging goals?…

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Lace Up and Give Yourself 30 Minutes

This is my goal as well. So well stated that I had to share it on my blog as well.

Small stuff

Sure people are always saying don’t sweat the small stuff. I want to switch this up a smidge. Sure don’t sweat the small stuff … but enjoy the heck out of it! It amazes me how often people try to turn everything into something negative.

There are people who no matter what is said or done they will always find a way to spin it into something negative. Is nothing allowed to be fun, happy and positive anymore? Sure I know that the world can be such a stressful and awful place, but isn’t that even more reason to stop and enjoy all of the happy times even more?

I am going to choose to enjoy all of these small moments and forget about all of the ‘haters’ who try to rain on any of my happy parades! I think we all should do the same and then the world would be a much happier place. I want to elaborate more, but I am tired from a busy day out enjoying a gorgeous Saturday filled with fun and errands with the family. More next time …

From an Uprising to an Arrest …

Last week, my 12 year old became an advocate for the Invisible Children. She watched the Kony 2012 video that several friends of hers shared with her. Millions of people watched this video in a matter of hours. It is an internet sensation and leading news story on just about every news channel. It should be a leading news story. The tragedies that those people have been having to endure for decades absolutely breaks my heart.

This video was a great way to discuss how so many terrible things happen all over hte world and how in lots of cases no one seems to be able to do anything to help the victims. It really is so sad that awful things like this happen and so many of us don’t have the ability to do something that we truly feel is helping. Sure we can post this video and talk about it and hope that the word of mouth causes enough of a stir that the government steps in and doees something about it. But even if the government steps in more, would it really do any good to help? No one can say.

However, as mad as it makes me what the people in Uganda are struggling with, I think I have found something that infuriates me just as much if not more. Jason Russell, one of the creators of this uprising, reached out to the youth of today. He felt like this would be the quickest way to get the word out for his cause. And it worked! However, fast forward to this week. He has been detained by the police and now hospitalized due to what they are calling “an unfortunate incident.”

It is really upsetting to me that someone can be such a huge advocate for protecting children and then have “an unfortunate incident” which would be very upsetting to all of his new fans and followers. What happened to the heroes who didn’t have addictions, breakdowns and incidents? Am I still naive enough at age 33 to think that heroes like that ever truly existed? Maybe I just had blinders on and didn’t see the bad when I was younger.

I know that I am asking for too much … but sheesh! It feels like my children can’t look up to anyone these days! The majority of celebrities and icons that my kids have looked up to in their lives so far have fallen from their heightened status. And most oof them have fallen HARD. These aren’t just “unfortunate incidents.” These stupid choices that people in power are making have a negative effect on the children who are looking up to you. Please try and make wise choices instead of going down the path where you fall from grace and land smack on your face. It isn’t just you that it hurts.

I apologize for my rant. This just really gets my goat! The Kony 2012 cause is an amazing cause. Hopefully this “unfortunate incident” doesn’t tarnish the cause and make it more difficult to accomplish.

Letting Go

They say the first step to solving a problem, is to admit that you have a problem. Ok, I will admit it. I am a bit of a control freak. It’s really kind of weird because there are lots of things that I am so incredibly easy-going about. However, the things that I am particular about I am a total control freak about those. Here are a few examples …

Folding Clothes – Before I got married and had kids, I didn’t really care how the clothes were folded. However, now that I have been trying to do laundry for people other than just me for the past almost 13 years … I have really become a fanatic about the way things are folded.

My kids – I am a total mama bear and control freak when it comes to my kids. I am sure most parents are this way though. I want to know everything that is going on with them at all times. One of my kids has some health issues and I am all over those keeping track of her medications and such. I have either volunteered or worked at the school ever since my kids started school.  I just want my kids to know that I am their biggest advocate and I have their best interests at heart at all times.

Giving 100% – Ok, this is the one that I think a take a bit too far. When I do something, I give it my all. And I do mean my all. I want it to be the absolute best that it can be. About 11 years ago I worked as a temp. I would do such a good job at my temporary assignments that I would work myself out of a job before the contract was up. Of course, that hard work usually leads to bigger and better things for me. But I seriously don’t just give 100% … I usually push myself and go above and beyond. The problem with this is, when I don’t feel recognized, or appreciated for all of my hard work. I get very irritated.

My plans – When I plan something out, I expect it to go exactly the way I have planned it. That is totally unreasonable, and in my head I know that it is nearly impossible. But for some reason when things don’t go just according to plan … I flip out. I know, you are all now thinking that I am a total whack job. HA HA HA!

Ok, now that I have let you all into that crazy place that I call my brain … LOL … let’s get back to the point. This year I am trying to take a step back and let go of many of these issues. “Why do I need to be in control of this?” is what I ask myself. Sure, I still get all uptight over things. It isn’t like I can wave a magic wand and make all of those things go away in my head. But I am trying to be better about it.

What about you all? Is there anything that you are a control freak about? Is there anything that you are trying to change in your life? Take my advice. Even baby steps in the right direction are a good thing. So that’s what I keep on doing. Baby steps towards a calmer and still totally awesome me!

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