Climbing Walls, Canoes, and Capture the Flag (Retreat Recap)

It’s Monday morning, and I feel like I must have been hit by a train this weekend.  Soreness everywhere.  Our youth group retreat was a huge success.  Here’s the play-by-play:

We arrived at Camp Willow Run Friday night just in time to catch the end of the sunset, settled in to our boxcars (the cabins are renovated boxcars… I realize that might sound weird, but it’s actually very cool, :)) and had our first session in our meeting room.  We played a few icebreaker games, including Extreme Elves, Wizards, and Giants (it’s like Rock, Paper, Scissors, with different/bigger motions, teams, and chasing.)

Elves, Wizards, Giants(Sorry for the blurry iphone photo…)

We ate some snacks, introduced our lesson theme for the weekend–What You’re Worth–and talked about how we are often our own biggest critic.

Saturday morning we made our way to the dining hall at 8:00 for breakfast–biscuits, sausage, gravy, grits, eggs, cereal, fruit… Mmm.  This was the first time I’ve been dairy-free at camp, and it was so tough to turn down those biscuits!  After breakfast we met for our second group session.  We played telephone charades, which is a hilarious game for those of you who haven’t played it!  The clue is given to the first person in line, then acted out person-to-person (getting skewed a bit along the way.)  The last person in line guesses.

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At one point the boys acted out “going on a first date,” which the last person guessed was, “kissing.” (Parents, you should probably have a chat with your boys ;-))  The girls acted out “whitewater rafting,” which the last person guessed was, “dying on a boat.”  Lots of laughs all around!  In our lesson that morning we discussed the impact other people have on our sense of self-worth and how we can tune out those negative messages we receive.

Before lunch we played capture the flag–always a favorite with this group.

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Headbands, eye black, game faces–we are serious about Capture the Flag.

We ran around in the woods for over an hour, sprinting after opponents, sprinting back to safety after jailbreaks.  Only a few band-aids were needed at the end of the game, so I consider it a success 😉  I did manage to sustain a 4-inch cut on the back of my thigh when I was forcefully tagged just before crossing back to my side.  Ahem.  Battle scars.

For lunch we ate burgers, fries, and fruit cocktail.  Power lunch for a busy afternoon!  After lunch we went canoeing…

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…played nine-square (like four-square, but bigger, and 3-D)…

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Nine-square was a huge hit;  we may need to invest in some PVC pipes!

…and climbed the wall and braved the Giant Swing…

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Whew, it was a full afternoon!  For dinner we had spaghetti and salads, then headed back outside to play some more nine-square (yes, every free moment we had was filled with nine-square.  To quote one of the boys, “Nine-square is life.” 😉 )

Later that evening we met inside for our third group session.  In my last post I mentioned that sometimes we play games whose sole purpose is to make me laugh.  Saturday night we played, “Sock Wars.”  It was one of those games that could either really be a hit or really flop…and turned out to be hilarious. The object of the game is simple:  be the last person with a sock on your foot.

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The result was total chaos.  It was like the Hunger Games, with socks instead of murder.  Some people hid.  Some people attacked.  Alliances were formed.  They were ruthless.  Unfortunately I was unable to upload the video, and the photos don’t quite capture the madness, but you get an idea. 🙂

For the sake of not making this post too much longer than it already is (thanks to anyone who is still reading!,) I’ll finish with a Cliff Notes version of the rest of the weekend:

Campfire.  S’mores.  Third lesson:  God is our biggest fan, and we are worth more to Him than we can comprehend.  Grog (outside, nighttime game in which one person is the “Grog” and tags people, and everyone else must find hidden pieces of a flashlight, assemble, and defeat the Grog by shining the light on them.  In other words, more running around :))  Sleeping hard.  Breakfast.  Games.  Fourth lesson:  building up others so they know how much they are worth to God.  Nine-square.  Home.

It was a full weekend, to say the least.  I loved being able to spend quality time with this group–laughing, playing, encouraging.  Retreats always remind me what a cool job I have, and what an awesome opportunity I have to be part of the lives of these youth.

They also remind me that I am getting older, and my body can’t endure as much as it once could.  Here’s to hobbling around like an old woman for a few days. 😉

Youth Retreat Weekend + Yet Another Easy Dinner

In just a few short hours, Andrew and I will be on our way to North Carolina with a few van-fulls of teenagers.  It’s spring retreat weekend for the youth group, and I am SO excited!  We are going to the beautiful Camp Willow Run on Lake Gaston, where I was a camp counselor during my summers in college.  CWR has a special place in my heart, and I am thankful for a job that takes me back there every year.

This morning I slept in as long as I could (7:15, then tossed and turned until 8… oh the joys of getting old 😉 ) in anticipation of the craziness that will be the next 48 hours.  In previous years, I’ve arrived home Sunday feeling like I was hit by a bus due to all the running around we’d done.  Here’s a quick flashback to last year:

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Capture the flag in an excellent wooded arena (this photo doesn’t quite capture the intensity of the game, but it is always hardcore!)

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Games I created for the sole purpose of making myself laugh 😉

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High ropes course

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Silly team-building activities

Throw in some good food, canoeing, a sunset over the lake, and great Bible studies, and it makes for a pretty epic weekend!  This year we are doing the climbing wall and giant swing rather than the high ropes course;  I can’t wait!

This week has been super busy in preparing for the weekend, so our dinners have been simple and easy, and workouts have been a bit shorter and lower-intensity as well: Short weight-lifting session Monday (like, 20 minutes in the living room with the TV on,) walk on Tuesday, yoga Wednesday, 30-minute easy run Thursday.  I wrote about our easy Monday/Tuesday dinner here, and our Wednesday/Thursday dinner was this:

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Baked chicken breasts (cut into smaller pieces to cook faster) marinated in Balsamic vinaigrette, leftover quinoa, roasted beets, and beet greens.  I started to make a marinade for the chicken and then thought, “Nope.  Not happening.  Balsamic vinaigrette will taste great.”  I told Andrew it was a secret family recipe. 😉

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I’ve said this before, but when in doubt about cooking a vegetable, slice it, toss it with olive oil, add salt and pepper, and throw it in the oven at 400 degrees.  Roasted beets?  Two thumbs up from this girl.  Andrew handled the greens, and they were pretty tasty too.  Both the chicken and the beets were done in about 20 minutes.  Can’t beet that (pun-intended…bahaha :-D)

Now I’m off to finish a few last-minute details for the retreat.  I hope to give a quick post at some point during the weekend, but if not, I will be back Monday.  Please pray with us for safe travel and no injuries, big or small!

What are your plans for the weekend?  Any quick and easy dinner ideas for busy weeks?

“What is that smell?”

Catherine:  “Ew, what is that smell?  Is it the trash?”

Andrew looks guilty.

Catherine: “Did you fart?”

Andrew:  “No…”

Andrew’s gaze drops to something on the kitchen counter–a just-opened package of kimchi.

[Kimchi–a traditional Korean side dish made from fermented cabbage; Andrew’s impulse buy at our most recent trip to the grocery store.]

Catherine: “It’s the kimchi?

Andrew: “Do you want to try some?”

Catherine:  “My first two guesses were the trash and a fart.  No, I think I’ll pass.”

😉

Italian Chicken Sausage and Mushroom Quinoa Pilaf

I love to cook.  And I love to cook with real, whole ingredients.  But sometimes Monday evening arrives, and I don’t feel like starting anything from scratch.  For such occasions we keep a few easy meals in the freezer.  One of our go-to proteins is precooked chicken sausages:

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This particular brand came from BJ’s (wholesale club,) but there is a natural brand we really like from Kroger as well.  Here’s why I think these are great:

1. I know what all the ingredients are without having to do any research.  Chicken, vegetables, spices.  I am a firm believer that if you don’t know what something is you probably shouldn’t eat it (not often, anyway), so I really appreciate this list of ingredients.  Plus, the nutrition facts aren’t too shabby either.

2. They taste fantastic.  The brand we find at Kroger (I can’t think of the name at the moment) has a chicken-apple flavor that is so good.  This was the first time we’d tried the Italian, and we will definitely buy it again!

3.  They are super easy to make.  The package actually contains two separate packs of five sausages;  we only opened one, sliced the sausages in half, lengthwise, and warmed/browned them in a skillet.  So simple!

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(Andrew’s plate)

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(Catherine’s plate)

We made a mushroom quinoa pilaf with sun-dried tomatoes to go with the sausage, plus some sauteed lemon-garlic spinach.  If either of those sound fancy, don’t be fooled: all we did for the quinoa pilaf was put the quinoa, sliced mushrooms, olive oil, and chicken broth in the rice cooker, then add the sun-dried tomatoes at the end.  The spinach was about as easy:  Saute garlic in olive oil, then add fresh spinach, and continue to stir and add more spinach as it wilts.  Squeeze lemon juice in before serving.

Everything was done in the time it took for the rice cooker to finish the quinoa (30 minutes, tops.)  Very easy, and quite delicious for a quick, weeknight dinner!

Active Dates

The way I see it, working out with one’s significant other accomplishes two tasks at once:  1. strengthening the relationship and 2. staying physically fit.  You get all the benefits of exercise–lower risk of heart disease, better mood, lower stress, better sleep, etc.–plus the added benefit of spending quality time with the person you love and knowing they are reaping those benefits too.  While we certainly do not work out together every day (Andrew does not share my passion for running,) we try to squeeze a few “active dates” into our weekly routine.

Yesterday afternoon we pulled the bikes out of the garage for the first ride of 2013 (with the exception of riding my bike to the start of the 10k last weekend, but that was for transportation purposes.)  There is a great park a few miles from our house, so we biked there, cutting through neighborhoods to avoid the main roads.  This particular park has a paved path as well as some dirt and root filled trails on which to ride–it’s a pick-your-own adventure park. 🙂  We opted mostly for the trails.

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In some places the trail was so narrow and had so many roots that it was less of a ride and more of a “keep your hands on the brakes and your butt off the seat” controlled downhill. 🙂  To add to the adventure, it’s inchworm week!  Okay, I don’t think “inchworm week” is a thing, but right now there are tons of those little green guys hanging from trees.  As we rode through the park we’d have to lean one way or the other to avoid running into them, and we stopped periodically to pick them off ourselves.  Hah!  (And just in case you were wondering, our wedding occurred during inchworm week last year.  As my grandmother often reminds me, “It was a lovely day… even with all those green worms everywhere.”  Thanks, Grandma 😉 )

In just a couple of hours of biking yesterday, we accomplished great things for our hearts, marriage, and general well-being, which may not have occurred if we’d chosen to sit on the couch watching TV all afternoon.

Here are some other ideas for active dates that can easily be incorporated into your week (especially now that it’s warm outside!):

      -Taking a walk after dinner

      -Hiking on a Saturday

      -Throwing a frisbee in the yard

      -Kayaking

      -Taking a yoga class

      -Playing tennis

      -Swimming in the river/lake/ocean (whatever is nearby)

      -Rock climbing

      -Exploring downtown

So many great possibilities!  Whatever you like to do, just get out there and move with your sweet thang 🙂

Do you have any active dates planned for this week?  

And Now We Wait (Garden Update)

All the vegetables have been planted.   We’d been spending a little time each evening this week putting seeds and plants in the ground, and we took a few hours Saturday to finish the work.  Now we wait.  And water.  And wait.

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Andrew is proud of this garden.  Don’t you forget it. 😉

Looking at the photo above, here’s what’s in the ground:  on the right, tomatillos, cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, pimento peppers, green beans, broccoli, carrots, and Swiss chard.  On the left, cantaloupe, cucumbers, pumpkin, zucchini, yellow squash, and watermelon.  In the pots we have strawberries and lots of herbs.

We planted the broccoli, Swiss chard, beets, and carrots almost two weeks ago, and they are starting to emerge from the ground.

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We transplanted the tomatoes and peppers this week and are still using popsicle sticks to help some of them straighten (the cages will be great when they are bigger, but they aren’t doing much at the moment.)

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We decided to buy 4-packs of herbs rather than grow them from seed for no reason other than impatience. 🙂

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Oregano, cilantro, thyme, parsley, rosemary, and basil.  (Not pictured: dill, peppermint, and lemon balm)

In addition to the edibles, most of the flowers are in bloom now too!

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I’m going to miss the tulips when they are gone…

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I will not miss the one odd azalea on the left 😉

I don’t think I can fully, accurately convey my excitement about the vegetable garden, but this photo brushes the surface:

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What are you growing this summer?

Two Weeks Dairy-Free

Two weeks ago I embarked on a 30-day dairy-free challenge due to some stomach issues I’d been having.  Today I thought I’d check in at the halfway point with some thoughts on the process so far.

How I Am Feeling Without Dairy (Warning:  This might be TMI.  My apologies.)

-Prior to giving up dairy, it was not uncommon for me to get a stomach ache at some point during any given day that required me to lie down for a little while.  As you might imagine, that is not a super convenient thing to have happen.  I am happy to report that there have been no such stomach aches in the last two weeks!

-Also prior to this trial period, my stomach was regularly so bloated that it was noticeable, not just to me, but to Andrew (only when prompted;  obviously he would never say, “Geez, Catherine, your stomach is so big!” :-D) This has not been the case at all since giving up dairy!

-This could partially be due to the nicer weather we are having, but I’ve noticed that I am not experiencing that “it’s 2 p.m. and I’d really like to take a nap on my desk” tiredness.  Similarly, I have felt more rested and am quicker to get out of bed in the mornings, despite being on the exact same sleep schedule.

-Bottom line:  I feel generally better.  A lot better.

Dairy Products I Have Really Wanted in the Last Two Weeks:

-Ice cream, ice cream, ice cream.  Last Saturday after dinner we stopped by Ray’s for dessert.  Ray’s is our go-to place because they have ice cream as well as frozen ice (dairy free) options, so we could both find something delicious.  As we looked at the menu that night, raspberry ice just wasn’t going to cut it when the people in front of us were getting hot fudge sundaes and double scoops of “midnight craving” ice cream.  I left empty-handed and a little bit sad.

-Prior to going to Ray’s that night, we celebrated our anniversary at Bonefish Grille.  I ordered the shrimp & scallops…and then realized I couldn’t have the lemon butter sauce with them.  Their other sauces are delicious, but that one just goes best with those scallops.

-Cheese on anything.  Or by itself.

-Iced Caramel Macchiato.  I passed the Starbucks in Target one day last week and saw a big banner with this on it:

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Mmm.  I know they can make them with soy milk, but there’s not a chance in the world it tastes as good, which leads me to…

Dairy-Free Products That Make This Bearable:

Trader Joe’s Vanilla Soy Yogurt–It definitely has a bit of a soy taste, but the vanilla masks it some.  I take it with my lunch in a glass container with some frozen berries, and it’s pretty good!

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Purely Decadent Dairy-Free Ice “Cream”–It’s not ice cream, but it’s a nice post-dinner substitute.  TJ’s also has a great dairy-free cherry chocolate chip flavor.

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The One Time I Cheated:

-As I mentioned, last weekend was our first anniversary, and we had  (gluten-free) frozen wedding cake to eat!  Funny story about the wedding cake: We did a smaller, nice gluten-free cake for Andrew’s sake, and bought regular sheet cakes for the majority of the guests.  While we did have many GF guests, we had a lot of cake leftover.  Like, the entire bottom layer of this guy:

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We sliced the leftovers and put the slices in zip-seal bags, two per bag, and froze them.  We have actually been eating eating our wedding cake throughout the year!  😀  At least we knew it would still taste good?  Anyway, I did eat some wedding cake, which had dairy, but we both took a Lactaid pill with it so I didn’t notice any adverse effects  (romantic, right? ;-))

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In conclusion, the evidence is not stacking up in favor of dairy, but I do feel a lot better, so I suppose it is bitter sweet.  I will give another report when the 30 days are over!  Thanks for bearing with me on a potentially TMI post. 😀