Musings

Five Favorite Things

Awhile back, in the pre-baby era, I used to write monthly update posts. Ain’t nobody got time for that no more! Ha. But I do miss having a space to share randomness, so I’m going to try to share (regularly) my favorite things. I thought about implementing a schedule and/or categories… but nahh… I’ll just keep it simple!

Chewy Peanut Butter Brownies | The Pajama Chef

ONE: I haven’t done tons of baking lately, but we hosted our church community group on Sunday so I decided to make dessert to go along with our simple dinner (baked sliders–half ham & provolone, half turkey & swiss, a big salad, and chips). I made these Chewy Peanut Butter Brownies and everybody went crazy for them. Well, almost everyone. Apparently someone doesn’t like peanut butter and chocolate together, but likes them separately? Weird! Oh well, more for me! There were only a few left and now I’m contemplating making another batch just for us.

TWO: Before our baby was born, Ben and I had lots of free time, especially on the weekends (obviously). Now we don’t have very much unstructured time (obviously), and the time we do have on the weekends is filled with all the minutiae that we didn’t get to do during the week. In an effort to incorporate more rest into our weekends, we’ve been considering what it looks like in our life right now to treat Sunday as more of a Sabbath and less of an extra day to get things done. It’s definitely a mindshift, and one we aren’t perfect at… but this article has been something I’ve been considering lately.

THREE: Running has been my thing for 19 years now (eeek I feel old). I started running in the spring of my 7th grade year, in 1998, and never really stopped. Though I’ve run many a race before, I loved running in the Rock ‘n Roll Nashville Half Marathon on Saturday. It was quite hot and humid, but I finished and I only walked at water stops. I was quite proud of myself and am anxious to sign up for more races now!

FOUR: I don’t watch much TV but lately I’ve been catching up on DVR’d episodes of Victoria, on Masterpiece. I am in love!! Anyone else??

FIVE: I’m psyched to read Becky Wade’s newest book, True to You. My copy came in the mail yesterday and it was hard to leave it at home when I went to work today! I’ve reviewed Becky’s other books on my blog so I was excited to be part of the blog tour for Becky Wade’s True to You. She’s having a Facebook party tomorrow, and everyone’s invited! Read on for more information.

Raise your hand if you’re ready for Becky Wade’s new series! Celebrate the release of book one, True to You, with Becky and other readers on Facebook on May 4th during a fun author chat party at 8:00 PM EDT (that’s 7:00 Central, 6:00 Mountain, & 5:00 Pacific)! Becky will be chatting about the book and answering your questions about the new series, and of course, there will be plenty of fun giveaways too!

Pre-order your copy of True to You so you’re ready for a fun book discussion. Find out more about the book here.

Hope to see you on May 4 for Becky’s True to You Facebook Party!

What are your favorite things lately?

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Musings

Fuel Yourself for Exercise

So, I used to post once a month on a blog called Today’s Housewife. During fall 2012, the group decided together to stop posting due the busyness of life and families and such. Though sad, I enjoyed being part of the group. As of early January, the blog was officially taken down. But I don’t want to lose my recipes, so periodically I will be reposting them on here. Enjoy!

~

from September 23, 2010… update: now I’ve been a runner for about 16 years [since spring 1998!] and have now run 4 marathons including one with Ben! These tips are still true today, four years later. Hope they help you! 

Sarah and Ben after the mini marathon.

So, I’ve been a runner for about 13 years, including 10 years of competitive team running.  Currently, I am in the early stages of training for a marathon (my second) and trying to convince my husband, Ben, to run one with me!  Though I have sat through countless lectures on nutrition as part of team education and read many articles about healthy eating, it has only been over the past few years that I have truly begun to understand the connection between nutrition and exercise.  It may seem elementary, but what you eat contributes to how well you can exercise.  Nutrition needs do vary based on your exercise goals (training for a marathon versus general fitness), but regardless of your aspirations, there are five basic tips I have learned and seek to practice in my life to fuel myself for exercise.

  • Stay hydrated. Water is the best way to do this.  Find out what temperature your prefer water (I like it ice cold), and how many ounces your favorite water bottle/glass holds.  Then drink and fill it up enough times each day to get in at least 8- 8 ounce glasses!  Water doesn’t have to be boring either—try adding lemon, cucumber, or orange slices to your water to make it fancy.  Staying hydrated fuels your muscles to help you move well and not feel weak during exercise.
  • Eat regularly. Life is busy, and regardless of your life status, it can be hard eat three meals a day.  There are many ways to plan ahead so you can have healthy and tasty meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Making a meal plan, setting out breakfast the night before, and freezer cooking are just some of the ways I make sure that my husband and I will be well-fed and not tempted to get take-out.
  • Eat a variety of foods.  All foods provide our bodies with different vitamins and minerals.  We need carbs and fats and protein and more, which can be found in a variety of foods.  Don’t worry about knowing specific about each vegetable or fruit or grain—no one food is perfect, and different colors equal different nutrients.  So fill your plate with colors!
  • Be educated about your food choices. There is a lot of hype surrounding eating organic, vegetarian, local, etc.  I personally am not a vegetarian and do not eat all organic or all local.  However, I do believe in knowing where my food comes from and being educated about nutrition and issues with food production in this country.  Some of the most helpful resources I’ve found in educating myself have been by reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, as well as In Defense of Food and Food Rules by Michael Pollan.  These books have made me consider the nutritional benefits found in foods that have been packaged in different ways: frozen, canned, or fresh—local or sent from 2,000 miles away, and has also challenged me to consider the effects processed foods can have on my body, especially as an athlete.  This applies also to everyone too—even if you don’t consider yourself to be an “athlete!”
  • Be flexible, and give yourself grace.  No one is going to eat completely healthy all the time.  Sometimes we crave sweets or salty foods, and it’s okay to indulge your cravings at times.  Some people try to eat healthy and clean about 80% of the time, and indulge the other 20%.  Others may follow stricter guidelines.  Moderation is key.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in the technicalities of eating and nutrition to the extent that it becomes the end all, be all of our self-perception and life.  That is not healthy.  What is healthy is enjoying food for what it is and what it does for us, without becoming obsessive.  God gives us grace in all areas of life, including our food choices and nutrition.  Let’s believe that!
Reviews

Book Review: Wooden and Me

I don’t quite recall how I found Dallas’ blog, Day-by-Day Masterpiece. Maybe she found mine. All I know is that Dallas and I started emailing back and forth and realized we had a lot in common–a love of food, books, friends, etc. But more than that, she was in grad school at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, which happens to be my hometown. AND her grandparents [all four of them] graduated from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio… my alma mater. What a small world. 🙂 We got to meet up once for a lovely coffee date at Panera before she moved back to California, and that was great fun. We’ve kept in touch over blogs and the occasional email.

Wooden & Me: a book review on thepajamachef.comSometime in the winter, I received an email from Dallas telling me about a new book written by her dad,  Woody Woodburn, called Wooden & Me: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach & Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece.” Woody is a writer, family man, and runner [with a nearly 11 year long daily running streak], and had the privilege of a lasting friendship with longtime UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. Long story short, Dallas asked me to review her dad’s book on my blog and I happily said yes. I read this book during March Madness and wish I was organized enough to post my review around the time of the NCAA Basketball Championship, but I wasn’t. No matter though–this book is inspiring and meaningful no matter the time of year, because it is not all about basketball. [So don’t click away if you aren’t a sports person.]

Here’s a description of the book:

As a longtime newspaper columnist Woody Woodburn is often asked to speak to civic groups – and the person audiences invariably want to hear more about during the Q&A afterward is Coach John Wooden. Listeners at these talks, as well as readers of Woodburn’s national award-winning columns, over the years have encouraged him to write a book about his experiences with Coach. Now he has with the memoir Wooden & Me: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach and Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece.” It was in 1987 as a young sports writer and near-newlywed that Woody met Coach, who soon became a friend and mentor through the births of Woodburn’s two children and their growth into young adulthood; the death of Woody’s mother; career decisions; and more. … Just as Coach John Wooden was beloved and revered by people of all ages and all backgrounds, readers from teens to parents to grandparents, basketball fans and non-fans alike, will find Wooden & Me enlightening and inspiring.

And as usual, my five point review:

  • I loved how well written and well researched this book was. As a librarian, quality is SO important to me, and sometimes with memoirs the research aspect can take a backseat because the author knows the person/subject so well. Not so with Woody Woodburn. You can tell he’s a good author from the beginning, and it shows.
  • I loved how passionate the author was about not only writing about his and his family’s friendship with Coach Wooden but also about teaching his readers about Coach Wooden’s philosophies. This makes the book very encouraging and motivating.
  • For me, probably the most challenging thing about reading memoirs [and even blogs too] is that it can feel somewhat intrusive to get that much into someone’s life–especially someone you don’t even know! I feel like the author has found a good balance between being open about his life and family, without being too revealing.
  • On the flip side of that, part of what makes memoirs and blogs so enjoyable is the opportunity to connect with the author. Though I’ve never been a UCLA basketball fan or even truthfully a fan of John Wooden, I did feel a certain attachment to him because he’s a Purdue grad. I loved learning more about him and his commitment to education and teamwork, things that are missing on some college sports teams these days. It’s so inspiring to consider his legacy too!
  • This is a quick read, but it’s also a book to savor over and enjoy bit by bit because of the wisdom imparted here. Dallas has been celebrating her father’s book and Coach Wooden on her blog this year so you can follow along here and get a taste of the book all year long! Thank you so much to Dallas and Woody for thinking of me and allowing me to review such a great book.

What are you reading lately?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks for the chance to read this great book!

 

 

Reviews

Book Review: Chasing Hope

Today I have a fun book to review for you: Kathryn Cushman’s Chasing Hope. When I saw this title on the list from Bethany House Publishers‘ awesome book review program, I was immediately drawn to it because it’s about RUNNING! Aka my favorite thing ever. Maybe even more than cooking or baking. Or reading. It’s close. But anyway, this book blew my expectations out of the water–it was a great read. I hope you like the review! 🙂

Chasing Hope book review | thepajamachef.comHere is a description of the book from the publisher:

After her Olympic dreams are dashed, Sabrina Rice distances herself from everything to do with running—until the day she sees Brandy Phillip racing security across campus. When she meets this troubled teen, Sabrina realizes she’s Brandy’s best hope to salvage a life about to spiral out of control.…

And as usual, my five point review:

  • Though I loved that the book centered around running, I was a bit hesitant to read it because it was set in contemporary times. Sometimes contemporary Christian fiction [or even general fiction] can be dated, super quickly. But I was pleasantly surprised that this one wasn’t, and I think that Kathryn Cushman may have even tried to keep away from that by not talking about technology or tv or movies or music. So, yay!
  • I really enjoyed watching the relationship between Sabrina and Brandy develop. Their grandmothers certainly had something to do with it, and so did Sabrina’s faith in God, but the choice both made to pursue a relationship was explored really well.
  • One thing that I was not a big fan of was that the running/training aspect of this book was not at all realistic. Or, at the very least, it didn’t match my experience at all. I’ve been a runner for nearly 16 years [gasp] and just felt the training details and race strategies were a bit contrived. Maybe my experience has just been different, but regardless, it just seemed a bit silly. Some aspects of running are spot on–like the need to train hard, work hard, and show up for competition. But the “training sessions” were just odd. And the fact that they took place at 5 am, outside in the dark, just doesn’t seem safe to me. But regardless…
  • Sabrina, as a character, is very inspirational. She had a college scholarship for running and had Olympic dreams, but both were dashed due to uncontrollable issues [didn’t want to spoil it for you]. Her character could have been blue, mopey, and sad… and while she IS those things at times, she is so hopeful and forward-looking. I love that. What a great ideal for what to do when life doesn’t turn out like you plan.
  • Finally, the author keeps the reader focused on the story by continually asking question after question about what Sabrina and Brandy are going to do, about Sabrina’s love interest, about family relations, etc. I always wanted to know what would happen next! This book did not disappoint and I hope you check it out soon! 🙂

What are you reading lately?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Bethany House for the chance to read this great book!

 

Bars, Desserts, Family, Recipes

Pumpkin Brownies

So I have totally been slacking on Pumpkin Month. 😦 But don’t despair! I have some great pumpkin recipes to share this week that I am so, so excited about to make up for it. First up is one of my absolute favorite fall desserts… Pumpkin Brownies. Normally I am a brownie purist, but this time, I’ve made an exception. Pumpkin is a fun add-in to any recipe, so why not experiment with pumpkin in my brownies?

Pumpkin Brownies via thepajamachef.com

I first made these brownies last fall, but they disappeared before I ever got a photo. That is just a tiny glimpse into just how delicious they are, because this happened several times. Making the same recipes over and over again is just not something that I do–there are too many good recipes out there so it is very rare!

Needless to say, I was incredibly excited about fall this year so that I could have an excuse to enjoy these festive fall treats. These brownies are rich, fudgy, and chewy–everything a perfect brownie should be in my book. Combined with layers of spiced pumpkin cake, Pumpkin Brownies make the perfect festive seasonal treat that even the non-pumpkin obsessed can love. [If you read regularly, you’ll know that I’m referring to my husband as one of the members of that club. :)] Slivers of these brownies are delicious any way they are served–warm out of the pan, at room temperature, or chilled from the fridge, though I have to say that room temperature is best.

If you’ll excuse me now, I’m going to go hobble off and lament the fact that we don’t have any of these brownies freshly baked. They would be the perfect recovery fuel for the Columbus Marathon on Sunday. We’re still feeling the soreness of the day, but we finished and had fun running together. I’m so proud of Ben finishing his first full marathon! Even if it’s his first and only marathon, he did an awesome job pushing through the pain and helping me run through some unfortunate knee pain that I’ve never experienced before. If he hadn’t been there, it would have been easy to give up, but instead we kept at it and crossed the finish line hand in hand. It was a great experience that I loved sharing with my husband. 🙂

Reader Question ~ What’s one of your most recent proudest accomplishments?

Pumpkin Brownies

  • Servings: 24
  • Print

from anecdotes and apple cores

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 15 tablespoons [2 sticks – 1 tablespoon] butter, melted
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs
  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch pan with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, stir together flour and baking powder. In a large bowl, combine melted better, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time and then fold in flour slowly until completely incorporated. Divide the batter in half evenly into two bowls.

In one bowl, stir in cocoa and chocolate chips. In the other, stir in pumpkin and spices.

Spread half of the chocolate batter into the bottom of the dish. Pour half of the pumpkin batter on top. Repeat the layers and then drag a knife through the layers gently to marbleize it. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool and cut into squares.