Category Archives: Things I Love Thursday

Then there was the time I fell off the treadmill..

After finishing a 5K, I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with this whole running thing. I took a week off, and then started getting up early to run. I mean early – my husband leaves for work at 6:30 and I run so slow if I want to get any distance covered I have to leave the night before.  Just kidding. I leave at 5:15. That’s AM. It’s ridiculous.

I could have kept running on the treadmill at a decent hour, but about two weeks before the race I fell off. To be entirely accurate, I hopped off to adjust the fan to a more favorable position (blowing directly on me – I was hot), and for reasons I still can’t understand, absent-mindedly tried to step back on the treadmill while it was, uh, milling.

It shot me off the back and in the process gouged my shins and knees. I had super ugly scabs and still have the “Something happened here. Something bad” look going on both knees.  And that was two months ago.  I get nervous when I hop on a treadmill now.  I think it’s the fear of the stupid thing I will do next, maybe stop to bend over and tie my shoes? 

So outside is the way to go. My dog has a little pack to carry her waste disposal bags and my phone (it has compartments…) and away we go. It’s fun. It’s peaceful. I feel AWESOME when I’m done. I felt like I owned this little three mile section of Grand Rapids. 

That was, until I hurt my shoulder. Running. It takes a special gift to hurt your shoulder running, so let me share it with you.

First, you don’t look at the ground. You look all around, at the pretty flowers that are blooming, the recycling bins  people forgot to take in, the rabbit that just saw your dog and is bolting away. Also, make sure you are running downhill, otherwise this won’t work as well. Next you’ll want to trip over a little bump up in the sidewalk, but make sure you dog isn’t aware of it. It’s only this way that you will be able to have your arm fully extended when you fall.  This is the crucial piece for ensuring shoulder injury, but downhill effect maximizes the amount of gravel that gets into your hands. And your knees. Oh, your knees.

I lost a little steam after that. I mean not that day, but in general. I’ve been out a few times since then, but I started cheating on running.  Doing classes at the gym. Zumba, even. I love to dance and have the temptation to quit running altogether and adjust my career goals to being a Fly Girl on the off-chance that In Living Color makes a comeback.

But I can’t. Just like running that stupid 5K, I had to do it. 

So I am running a 10K. It’s not until October, but given my propensity for ridiculous injury and extremely slow speed, I need to start now.  I would describe my relationship with running as the ultimate love/hate one. I feel like I need to kick it’s ass but in the process, it kicks mine. Did you notice? The only time I use swear words on Big Binder is when I’m talking about running. It’s a determination and an energy that feels like a competition; but I’m only competing with myself. And I love it.

For more Things I Love Thursday, check out the Diaper Diaries.

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A Black Belt By Age 10

We fell into Tae Kwon Do by accident.  A.P. was signed up for a track class at the Y in January, but it was cancelled so we quick stuck him in TKD instead.  What the heck, it was the same time slot.  Within two weeks we knew the kid was hooked.  He practiced all the time, but not how you would think a six year old boy would practice.  He is constantly kicking and punching, but surprisingly, not on his sister. 

The “Belt Test” was last night. This is a way bigger deal than I remembered it being. I took Tae Kwon Do in high school, but only made it up a few belts before I got punched in the face during a test and promptly quit.  I felt that a black eye was not becoming of a Pom Pon girl, and no amount of foundation was going to cover up that mess.

It was an incredibly long event and remarkably, all of the little ones sat and watched for the entire three hours.  Quietly. Not one child got out of line. Not one child pitched a fit. Not one child whined about being hungry or bored or even spoke unless it was time to speak.

Normally, even the promise of moving to a higher belt or getting to break a board at the end of the test would not be enough to keep a group of kids this size quiet for that long.  If A.P. continues on this track he will be a black belt in about four years. The panel of judges were supportive, but tough.  This is not one of those “everyone goes home with a prize” deals. You either do it, or you don’t. And if you don’t, you double down and attack it next time.

You want to see something impressive? Here is the list of “Home Rules for Children“.  It’s so old school; I love it:

1.Must show respect to their parents and family members at all times.

2.Shall greet their parents when they enter the house and tell them goodbye when they leave.

3.Will be truthful at all times.

4.Will maintain a good relationship with their brothers and sisters.

5.Must help with household chores.

6.Will keep their own rooms neat and clean.

7.Must keep their body, hair, and teeth clean at all times, every day.

8.Will not interrupt adult conversations.

9.Will study their schoolwork at school and at home.

10.Must show respect for teachers and peers at all times.

Children who do not obey their parents may be reduced in rank.

tae kwon do clipart

These are the lessons I want A.P. to learn. Respect, leadership, discipline. Maybelle also wants to begin classes in the fall.  Her motives are different; she would like to know how to “beat down bears”.  Fast forward 10 years, and I will make certain that all the boys in her high school know that she and her brother are both black belts.  I love this ancient martial art, and what it can teach to my very modern kids.

For more Things I Love Thursday, check out The Diaper Diaries.

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Filed under Active Kids, Things I Love Thursday

Things I Love Thursday

I read a book! Actually I read a lot of books, but this one was the non-fiction variety which are usually very informative (the nerd side of my brain likes that part) but very dry (the fun side of my brain takes a nap).  Such was my expectation for Made From Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life. Plus, it’s categorized as a memoir which is a French word that means: “diary; typically one that probably didn’t need to be published.”

And…I was wrong.

I had a weird response to Made From Scratch right away.  I was calm. Jenna Woginrich peacefully invites you into her world, which is one of Corporate America by day and homesteader by night.  Can a writing style be called hospitable? Yes? Good.  Then this is a perfect example.  You feel like you could be friends with this kind, honest girl right away.  She makes you feel welcome

Essentially, it’s about self-sufficiency.  Raising your own chickens. Beekeeping. Baking your own bread. Grinding your own coffee beans (with a hand-grinder, mind you). Not because there is a financial crisis, or because it’s the cool thing to do.  Because it gives you a satisfaction and peace that cannot be had from any other source.  I was so invested in this book, I think I may have been drooling just a little while reading the first few chapters.

Then the chapter on sewing started.  I had the same reaction as I did when I was reading Eat, Pray, Love and I got to the Pray part which was; crap. Why are we leaving Italy? I like it here, with the good food. Unlike Eat, Pray, Love though Made From Scratch sucked me right back in.  I still don’t really want to learn to sew, but I do see it as a measure of self-sufficiency.

Sewing was a gateway skill, which lead to things like working your house dogs (with carts!),and raising Angora rabbits.  She encouraged seeking people with the knowledge you want; and gave you just enough talking points to get you started.

Then came the homemade mountain music. That was the chapter that drove it home for me. I’ll admit it:  I spent a few hours looking for a dulcimer online.  I’ve been to a ton of folk music festivals, loved the bluegrass music on the campus busses at the University of Georgia, and have I mentioned that I am related to Maybelle Carter? Pickin’ is in my blood; or tipping back a jelly jar of moonshine while I listen to it is, anyway.

Jenna Woginrich is hilarious, but there are also parts of the book that made me cry.  The simple life is not easy, but it’s real. I loved reading this book, and I love what I learned from it. I did receive a copy of this book to review, and I seriously hope I wasn’t supposed to send it back, ’cause I’m not gonna.

For more Things I Love Thursday, check out The Diaper Diaries.

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Everyone is all excited about produce right now.  And they should be – growing season is a pretty big deal.  The Farmers’ Market’s season opener is this Saturday and while I like the idea of the Farmers’ Market being open, this is Michigan.  We aren’t growing much of anything yet.

I reserve the right to be excited, though.  We’re still a bit shy of enjoying even asparagus, but we can start chowing down on another spring treat:  goat cheese.  Some of you already know all about this fantastic little cheese, and a few of you think it sounds gross to eat cheese made from goat’s milk.  You’re the ones I want to work with right now (but cheese-plate veterans please check back in momentarily for a delicious recipe).

So why the spring? Well, you know how your allergies are driving you crazy? It’s all of the stuff blooming, right? Bad for your nose – good for the goats.  They love all the yummy wildflowers and tasty things popping up in their pastures.  The mama goats start producing milk for the spring babies, and the taste of their spring snacks gets into their milk. Is this doing anything to entice you to try it? Maybe I should try another approach.

Goat cheese is soft, and creamy.  If you’re in West Michigan, try and find some from Dancing Goat Creamery.  It’s so yummy. There are different varieties, but they all have a slightly tart taste. And if that isn’t enough, I read that goat cheese is hip and it doesn’t smack you in the face.  I’m telling you, I am a barometer of food trends.  No one believes me. Actually, I don’t care. I just want you to try new things. And avoid foods that smack you in the face. Who needs that?

So will my kids eat it? Yes and no. Yes, there is a way I can prepare that so that they will eat it but no, they will not just spread it on a cracker and chow down.  I found this recipe years ago when I had some vegetarian friends over for dinner, and everyone – my kids AND the vegetarians – liked it.  I don’t use canned beans because they are 1) expensive 2) salty and 3) mushy and I think it is a culinary crime to use goat cheese and fat-free sour cream in the same breath, let alone recipe.  Other than those two changes, this is the recipe I have used many times:


2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1 cup chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup salsa

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 (19-ounce) can black beans, undrained

1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro

1 (4-ounce) package goat cheese, crumbled

8 (8-inch) flour tortillas

1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

1/2 cup salsa


Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and saute for 3 minutes. Stir in /2 cup salsa, cumin, and beans, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes or until thick. Mash the bean mixture slightly with a potato masher. Remove from heat; stir in the cilantro and goat cheese.

Spread the bean mixture evenly over 4 tortillas; top each with 1 tortilla, pressing gently.

Heat 1/4 teaspoon olive oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 quesadilla, and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Repeat the procedure with the remaining olive oil and quesadillas. Cut each quesadilla into 6 wedges. Serve with fat-free sour cream and 1/2 cup salsa.

I love (Things I Love Thursday) goat cheese! It’s real food (Real Food Wednesday) , and this recipe is real fuel (Food Is Fuel Friday) for real kids.

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Scholastic Warehouse Sale

It’s time to start thinking about all of those long, hot summer days.  They seem so appealing right now but when they get here they’re just so… long. And hot. One of our big summer activities is to participate in each and every one of the Summer Reading Clubs around town.  I am crazy competitive with these things.  I spend a good 20 minutes every night logging books we read that day onto the forms from the various clubs.  It’s a sickness, really. 

My kids both learned to read this year.  Yes, they are two years apart but this particular skill blossomed in both of them at pretty much the same time.  That means I need a fresh stash of books that they haven’t memorized.  You know, to keep their skills sharp.  It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I am insane when it comes to buying kids’ books.  Also complete coincidence that I am have read the same books over and over.  Yup, I am doing this for my kids.

In my opinion the best place to get this fresh stash of books is at a Scholastic Warehouse Sale.  Around these parts, it happens but twice a year; once in May and once in December.  If you aren’t in West Michigan, check out the Scholastic Website to see if there is a warehouse sale by you.  There is a coupon to print too, but you have to spend $50.  For me this is not a problem.  I suggest you take a calculator to keep track of what is in your cart, and that you do not take your children.  Or at least, do not take my children.  They have proven themselves impossible to have a good browsing experience with.

The sale in Caledonia is at 8280 Broadmoor SE on Wednesday, May 5 through Wednesday May 19.  I LOVE these sales and I can’t wait to go! For more Things I Love Thursday (and a giveaway!), go to the Diaper Diaries.

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Earth Day Activity

Many, many years ago I worked as a volunteer at the Kalamazoo Nature Center.  I had grown up watching this place expand from a little building with some animal bones hanging around in it to a stunning, award winning Nature Center.  I was a long way away from having kids at that point, but I felt a real pull to teach kids about nature.  Fortunately, I was teamed up with Pete Stobie, an amazing naturalist with an incredible talent for connecting with children. 

For the KNC’s Earth Day celebration, I was assigned to the “Down To Earth In Your Backyard” tent.  The activity at my table was Cookie Mining, and I remember thinking “when I have kids, I am TOTALLY going to do this with them“.  I have been dragging around a photocopied activity page since 1997.  Really. 

The sheet makes me giggle, because it notes that the cookies for this project were donated by Gil’s Market.  Anyone familiar with Kalamazoo will know that stepping into Gil’s was a bit of a time machine itself; back when grocery stores were little, slightly dirty and did not include an “International Foods” section unless you count about 24 inches of shelf space donated to Old El Paso products.

So cookie mining is an idea whose time has come.  It’s a perfect Earth Day activity, because all you need are cookies.  There should be one for each participant.

Tell them they will be able to eat the cookie soon, but for now, they have to follow your directions.  Say, “We are going to go cookie mining.  Your job is to remove all the chocolate chips very carefully“.  Give them a few minutes to do this, then when they are done tell them they just have to do one more thing.  “Please put the cookie back together again”.  This is the best part, because they freak out.  They’ll laugh, but you have to stay serious and act like you asked them to do something perfectly reasonable so they’ll try it.

It won’t take long for them to realize they can’t do it.  Here is where you use the activity to illustrate a bigger point; tell them, “This cookie reminds me of the Earth.  You can only remove so many things from it before the whole thing crumbles, or in the Earth’s case, it can’t repair itself.  Whenever we make a change – develop land, or change a habitat, it’s like taking one chocolate chip out.  Take too many, and we can’t fix what we have done”. 

The kids will be very sad, but it’s a profound learning moment.  You can say, “Let’s talk about some ways we can do for the Earth while we eat our cookies”.  You can talk about recycling, or walking or riding bikes instead of driving, or composting – something the kids can participate in. 

My kids have heard about the recent mining accident, and I feel a little opportunistic doing the Cookie Mining project with them right now, but at the same time, it is the truth.  If you have talked with your kids about conserving energy, they will understand the connection between using less energy and requiring less coal.

I LOVE Earth Day, and trying to teach my kids their role in caring for their planet.  Yes.. I know it’s Saturday.. but if for more Things I Love Thursday, go check out the Diaper Diaries.

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Filed under Country Day Homeschool, Things I Love Thursday

The Heritage

Is it possible? Have I really never blogged about my favorite restaurant? For shame.  Sorry, favorite restaurant.  We are going as a family tomorrow night for the first time.  Sometimes I really miss the coziness of the ‘baby stage’ of life; but this is one of those things my husband have looked forward to our kids being old enough to do.  Like Disney, only (slightly) cheaper. 

Grand Rapids is ridiculously fortunate in the restaurant category.  We might be a little chubby, but we have a lot of good food here so cut us some slack.  There is no threat of a shortage either, since the Secchia Institute at Grand Rapids Community College keeps cranking out award winning chefs.  One of the instructors is Angus Campbell; who even has his own TV show.  You can have Paula Deen and Rachel Ray – I will take Angus any day of the week. 

Those fine students have to practice on someone, and I am more than happy to be a guinea pig at The Heritage Restaurant.  Note to vegetarians – they do not actually serve guinea pig; but they do have some incredible vegan dishes.  The food is interesting, and different, and expertly prepared.  In a ‘real’ restaurant (not affiliated with a school) the prices would be about three times what you pay here. 

The servers are actually culinary students, so they might not be as smooth as you have had at a fine dining place but for me it is an advantage.  I keep them at my table for way too long asking questions and they are thrilled to be able to tell me all about the funky ingredients and preparation techniques.  I am getting horribly distracted by the menu and may never finish this post if I don’t just choose a few items, so let me tell you what I would like to try tomorrow. 

For an appetizer, the Crispy Duck Ravioli: “stuffed with duck confit, caramelized onions, dried cherries; served with tangerine sauce and orange marmalade.” 

I want the kids to try The Rock: “thin slices of beef strip steak in a soy, garlic, and ginger sauce grilled at your table on a very hot rock.” 

I also want to try the Duet of Asparagus Salad: “marinated and grilled green and white asparagus with fried quail egg and toasted pinenuts; served with asparagus soup and lemon mascarpone cream” because I just want to have eaten a fried quail egg. 


I’m stuffed by the time the entree gets there, so I try and find a good take home option. They wrap the leftovers in little swan shaped tinfoil packages. It’s so cute. 

I think I’ll go with Choucroute Garni: “grilled country pork chop braised in a clay pot with sauerkraut, dark beer, slab bacon and house-made sausage”  ’cause I have never eaten out of a clay pot before plus beer and bacon in the same place is just awesome. 

The deserts are not on the menu because they change, but they are all amazing.  And I should know, because I don’t care if I have to be wheeled out on some kind of cart; I am going to eat desert.  The servers are great at suggesting wine pairings because they know so much about food and what tastes compliment each other.  If you don’t live in Grand Rapids, look for some sort of culinary institute around you.  If there aren’t any – ROAD TRIP!  I love the Heritage and you will too.  For more Things I Love Thursday, head over to the Diaper Diaries



Filed under Things I Love Thursday