Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fyr Bal Festival in Door County

This past weekend was Fyr Bal Festival in Ephraim, WI. Ephraim is a village that lies on the Door County Peninsula and has been a vacation place for myself and my family for many years.
Every summer Ephraim explodes with the excitement of Fyr Bal Festival. This past weekend was the first time I had attended the festival. The festival re-creates traditions of early Norwegians celebrating Midsummer’s Eve. Artists, food, and musical entertainment lined the shoreline of Ephraim Friday-Sunday. I drove up to Door County Friday night after work and met up with Cammie, Justin, and Cammie's parents. We arrived in Ephraim around 9:30 pm.....decided to check into our bed and breakfast and venture over to JJ's La Puerta in Sister's Bay for some chips, salsa, and margaritas (JJ's is always a must!).After a good nights rest we spent Saturday morning getting coffee and brunch, shopping, and attending the Fyr Bal Festivities. We checked out the used book sale, walked the shoreline, at some festival food, (fresh whitefish sandwiches and Wilson's ice cream!!) and listened to some local music. Later in the afternoon we visited the confectionery down the road to burn some time....yes adults can still have fun in a candy store!

It was around 5:00 that we ventured down the road to some family friends to cook up the long awaited Frogmore Stew. Considering the fact that I have lived with Cammie on and off for about 4 years and have attended many family functions with her, it is remarkable that I had not tried her dad's famous Frogmore Stew. Considering this was my first Frogmore Stew experience I decided that it was entirely necessary to document the full cooking process.

After dinner we cleaned up our tables, ate dessert, and ventured across the road to watch fireworks on the beach! The fireworks were awesome and the rain held off...overall the evening was a blast! We decided to end our evening once again at JJ's...JJ himself wandered over and said hello. Chips, Salsa, and Bearnies were a perfect wrap up for the evening.

I woke up early Sunday morning and pulled Cammie and Justin out of bed. We started off our morning with a 5k run, followed by a much needed breakfast burrito from Good Eggs. Good Eggs may possibly be the best little breakfast joint ever! If you ever have the chance to stay in Ephraim, I highly recommend checking out this place. You have the choice of 3 different types of burritos, made fresh and to your liking right in front of you.

The owner was bubbly and entertaining. We chatted as he made 8 burritos, all varying in ingredients. He totally topped off my dining experience by asking if I wanted to add Sriracha to my wrap. DELICIOUS!

Overall my experience at Good Eggs was very memorable and I will most definitely be venturing back in the near future.

Overall the weekend was a much needed getaway. I was able to enjoy a couple of laid back days with my friends, eat some good food, and take in the beautiful atmosphere Door County has to offer. I'm hoping to make it back up to Door County once more this time I'm hoping to include camping in the agenda!

Eggplant Feta Casserole

My mom asked me to make dinner I decided to whip up a vegetarian casserole I found in my amazing casserole cookbook :) Not to brag or anything, but this may be one of the best cookbooks ever written! My friend Steph and I made this casserole a few weeks ago for a get together so I thought I would share the tasty recipe with my family.

The recipe is extremely simple and requires :
1 eggplant
1 zucchini 1 yellow summer squash
spinach (optional)
2 cans of diced tomatoes (fresh tomatoes if available)
crumbled feta cheese
Parmesan cheese
4 garlic cloves
1 medium onion
extra virgin olive oil
whole wheat bread crumbs
*Bolded text indicates ingredients I added

-Cut eggplant, zucchini, and squash in to thin slices. Salt the eggplant and let it sit for approx. 30 minutes.

-Sautee vegetables in olive oil until tender and golden brown (set aside)

-In same pan sautee garlic and onions in olive oil, add diced tomatoes (including juice) and simmer for 10 minutes

-In 9x13 inch casserole dish spread 1/3 of tomato mixture. Follow by layering vegetables (spinach if desired), feta, and breadcrumbs. Continue to layer sauce, vegetables, cheese, and bread crumbs until you use up all of the vegetables. Top with remaining sauce and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
-Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes...just enough to heat it through.

TADDDAAAA! Jared even enjoyed my dish...and he swears he only eats meat ;) Enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Walkin' For Gramps :)

This past Saturday morning my alarm sounded at 5:30 AM.....SOOOO EARLY! As I struggled to get out of bed and prepare for the day ahead of me I reminded myself that today was they day I was walking for gramps!

This past weekend I particpated in the Vince Lombardi Cancer Walk in Milwaukee with my grandma, mom, and aunt. This was my first year particpating in the 5k. I particpated in memory of my Grandpa Frey who passed away last spring from cancer. He was such a positive and inspiring individual. I will always remember him to be someone who looked on the bright side and could spin any negative into a positive. My family has decided to make the event an annual tradition in effort to remember by grandpa and suppport others who have been affected by cancer. The walk/run was held at the Milwaukee Zoo. Sadly the weather was cold and dreary, but we made the best of it and flew through the zoo! Overall it was a fun event to particpate in; my grandma, mom, and aunt mentioned that the event had a much greater turn out last year. I'm assuming that the weather had a large role in the small crowd this year. Hopefully this time next year I won't be wearing a sweatshirt and leggings in June!!

As my summer continues I have plans to run a couple of trail runs (5k and 10ks), as well as, the Medtronic 10 Mile in Minnesota (October). I'm really looking forward to a more casual training program and integrating Yoga/Spin into my weekly work out routines. So far summer has provided me with a more calm and casual work out schedule which I have been thoroughly enjoying. Overall I've decided that I don't want running to become a 'chore' or 'requirment' in my daily schedule...that is why I intend to rotate activities and run when I want rather than following a 'strict' training schedule.

This weekend I'm off to Door County! It should be a nice relaxing weekend filled with friends, beer, warm weather, and Fyreball Festivities. With that being said, I'm sure I will have many weekend adventures share come Monday :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

just found..thought I'd share

I had the day off work today and took advantage of some relaxation time. I came home late this afternoon to make dinner with my family. Upon dinner clean up I ventured up to my room to get a few things organized and after cleaning out some school stuff from the past semester I re-read a narrative piece I submitted for one of my English courses. I took an old journal entry from last summer and expanded on the piece of writing. Around this time last summer Jared was in boot camp and my family and I went to San Antonio, TX to watch him graduate from Lackland Air Force Base. The hot and humid weather we have been experiencing this week reminds me of our trip to Texas. Just thought I'd post this piece....

Open, honest, and humorous. These are three words that I would use to describe my relationship with my brother. Ever since childhood I can remember my brother and me being good friends. Jared has always been the stubborn and loud little brother while I remain the older and compassionate sister. We grew up playing games, hanging out with mutual friends, and even participating in after school sports together. Rarely argumentative or mean to each other, Jared and I tend to embrace our similarities and common interests. Within the past couple of years our relationship has without a doubt gotten stronger.

I currently live and attend school in Milwaukee; Jared lives in McFarland with my parents. Between our busy schedules and the distance Jared and I have to take advantage of anytime we get to spend with each other. We talk on the phone regularly, meet each other for lunch or dinner when in the same town, or plan outings to meet at. Although Jared is done with school he still lives at home, which often leads to frustrating phone calls and long drawn out conversations on how he needs to move out because “mom is driving me nuts!” These conversations humor me, but again make me grateful for our open and honest relationship. I try to give him encouraging words of advice based on my own experience growing up. It wasn’t until recently, however, that we kept in touch this often. It was after Jared decided to become part of the Air Guard that I feel we officially became best friends.

After graduating high school he found himself on the path of pursing heating and cooling with a small independently owned company. While attending night classes and working full time Jared became burnt out and uninterested in his profession. The majority of Jared’s friends went off to four year colleges, leaving him home alone. He had reached a point in his life where he felt helpless and deserted. Unsure of what he wanted to do he began to discuss the possibility of joining the military. It was through careful research and time that Jared decided to consider the possibility of joining the Air Force. Prior to committing to anything he wanted to get his facts straight. To do this he met with family friends who were or still are committed to the military and discussed the pros and cons that come with being a service member. He toured the Truax Air Base in Madison to develop a better feel for what would be his future work environment. He even attended multiple introduction meetings to discuss the specific job opportunities in the Air Guard. Confident in his research and with a gut feeling, Jared decided to officially sign the paper work and commit the next four years of his life to the Air Guard. I can remember the day he came home from the recruiting station. He approached our kitchen door with a grin from ear to ear; his face was beaming with happiness. His first words were, “I know I made the right decision.”

It was in June of 2010 that Jared left for San Antonio, TX to attend boot camp. For three months the only form of communication I had with Jared consisted of written letters. It was during these three months that I not only feared for my brother’s safety, but also became the proudest sister ever. Never before had I been exposed to Jared’s personal writing. It wasn’t until I received my first letter that I became aware of Jared’s honest and emotional writing. He began his first letter with “I got your letter a couple days ago but haven’t gotten the time to write till now. You have no idea how refreshing it is to hear from you. I miss everyone so much, but the weeks are flying by. You’d be proud, I can run 1.5 miles in 9 ½ minutes. I think that is pretty good considering I’m not an avid runner. I’ll run that race with you when I get home.” It was through words and honest text that Jared expressed his emotions, accomplishments, frustrations, and stories. For the first time Jared told me he was lonely, sad, and frustrated. But he also told me that he was motivated, proud, strong, and taking on the role of a leader. It was through pen and ink that Jared and I developed a strong and extremely powerful friendship. As the next three months passed by Jared and I continued to write. Receiving mail became an anticipated daily routine; I always had my eye out for letters from Texas, but before I knew it I was on a plane to see Jared graduate from the Air Force in San Antonio, TX.

I will never forget the day that I watched Jared graduate from boot camp. For the first time in 90 days I saw my brother’s face. I can remember the day like it was yesterday. My family and I woke up at the crack of dawn and arrived on base at 5:30 am. The graduation ceremony wasn’t scheduled to begin until 12 pm, but we arrived early to catch a glimpse of the airman’s run. This was the morning run that Jared and his flight participated in every morning; normally this run isn’t open to the public, but today it was open to viewing for family and friends. I was especially excited for this run because Jared was fortunate enough to be picked out of his flight to represent his group as the guide on bear. This role meant that Jared would have to attend extra training and commit to additional responsibilities. Ultimately he was what his commander viewed as a top and superior airman; he would lead his flight in march and carry the flag during all of the ceremonies preceding the airman’s run. It was on this particular morning that hundreds of families and friends lined a two mile stretch of road, all anticipating the same anxious emotion of seeing a loved one. I remember staring at the hill to my left, desperate to see any sign of movement. It was at 7 am sharp that we saw the top of an American flag peak over the horizon. My heart raced and my eyes glazed with tears of anticipation. I looked to my right to see my mom and dad holding each other, both expressing emotions of pride and excitement. As we awaited for the runners to pass us minutes seemed to turn into light years. The warm and humid heat became overwhelming. Sauna like rays struck down on my pale and freckled face. I recall peering down at my dusty flip flops. My toes were covered in reddish tinted sand. I kicked some rocks and leaned against the curb, suddenly reacting to the sound of chants. Before I knew it groups of men and women in mesh shorts and different colored t-shirts were passing me. Jared had informed us prior to flying down that he was in flight 407 and that his group would be wearing neon yellow shirts; he would be the last person in the group carrying the flag. The only problem was there were multiple groups in yellow shirts; I feared missing his group. I quickly thought of something that I might recognize. I recalled that he bought new Nike tennis shoes prior to leaving for boot camp. I stared down at the black pavement in attempts to pick out a single pair of tennis shoes amongst the hundreds of stomping feet. Suddenly I spotted his yellow tennis shoes! I glanced up to a young man holding a flag and saw my brothers face. It was strong and determined. It was sun kissed and cased in sweat. His eyes. I will never forget his eyes. They were courageous. It was at this instant that I became overwhelmed with emotions. This was the first time I had seen my brother in over 90 days. It was only a quick and sudden glimpse, but it was my brother. As I turned to watch his flight continue their run toward the South I exhaled. I exhaled happiness, pride, nervousness, and satisfaction. Jared did it! My younger brother did it. My heart was racing with excitement and relief.

After the run we met Jared in a large and open parking lot. Hundreds of family members and air men circled the lot, all in search for a familiar face. I thought to myself, “How in the world will I find him?” It was at this point that I wished I was ten feet tall. I contemplated climbing a tree, but objected to this embarrassing action. I looked at both my parents; they shrugged their shoulders and said, “Guess we’ll just have to wait for it to clear out.” Not sooner did my dad finish his sentence that I saw Jared along the far edge of the cement. He peered out to the crowd with a frustrated and anticipated look. Without thinking I ran. I pushed through groups of families and streamlined it in Jared’s direction. I looked up again and recognized that he noticed me. He smirked and shook his head in embarrassment. Within seconds I embraced my brother with hugs, laughter, and tears. I recall my brother pulling away and reaching for his sleeve; his face smeared with tears. His first words were “Hey. I’ve missed you.” This short phrase and statement will always remain in my heart. So simple and common, but in the moment, ever so powerful.

Reflecting on this empowering and emotional day makes me realize the amount of respect and pride I have for my brother. Today I can still look in Jared’s eyes and see the dedication and passion he has for his career. I can tell he is truly happy and confident with his current lifestyle; he is now working full time at the Truax Airbase in Madison, WI and has been awarded three honorable airmen awards since his return from boot camp. As the youngest airman on his base, Jared has earned both respect and value from his colleagues based on his dedicated and passionate work ethic. Just the other day Jared called to tell me he had been offered an advancement in his office. I could tell from his voice and rapid speech that he was extremely excited. As I congratulated him over the phone I couldn’t help but feel somewhat flattered that he had called to tell me about his achievement. He knew that I would want to be updated on this opportunity and it made me happy to know that he was thinking of me. Jared will always be my hero and inspiration; just a year ago he was lost and unsure of where he wanted to go with his life and today he is making advancements and strides in a field he is truly passionate about. He found who he was and has done nothing but prospered from his initial decision. Scenarios such as these have led me to appreciate the close bond that we have. Jared is my brother and best friend and I know that he is someone that I can always turn to.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Finally....Summer is HERE!

It has been a goal of mine for the past couple of months to start a blog. I want a place to upload new photos, share my new kitchen creations/recipes, and document my running and racing adventures! Since school is over and I finally have some free time I figured what better time to start my blog than now! I have offically moved home for the summer. My belongings have been loaded up, organized into rubbermaid containers, and stacked into my parents basement for safe keeping. I'm actually looking forward to moving back home for the summer. I'm excited to spend more time with my family and friends, live closer to my boyfriend, explore Madison, attempt to maintain a box garden, and spend lots of time being active outside! I've been done with school for the past three weeks or so and I've already been busy with work, weekend getaways, running, and baking :) I have also been enjoying the farmers market on Saturday mornings, relaxing at the Union Terrace, and reading books for enjoyment. As the weeks progress I hope to update this blog with new pictures, stories, and adventures!

Over Memorial Day Weekend I ran in the Madison Marathon. I ran the quarter marathon this year with one of my best friends. Gus helped me celebrate after I got home from the race!

My parents came downtown to cheer my on and see me finish! They have been so great in supporting me through all my races in the past year! :)

My mom found Sara and I at the starting line and snapped a picture before our race. It was so fun to have someone to run with! We both finished our 6.5 miles time 55:05! I was so happy with this time, considering I struggled to train consistently during finals and the end of the semester.

My family and I celebrated Jared's 21st Birthday at Capital Tap Haus up on the square. We had so much fun! After the Tap Haus we ventured to the Nitty Gritty to get Jared's free beer mug and meet up with friends.