Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My "12 Things" List for Newlyweds

It seems to be fairly common these days to run across lists of "10 Things" or, if you are on Facebook, it might be "100 Things". They are usually fun, sometimes light-hearted, and occasionally poignant. Once in awhile, they go viral like Kate Connors "Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls", which was excellent, by the way.

In the course of my life, social events have tended to come in seasons. One year it will be graduations. Another, weddings. This past year has been one of weddings. I have had the opportunity to witness the beginning of five marriages within the past year, and it has had me thinking about what sort of advice I would give to newlyweds, based on my 33 years of experience of married life. Once I started making a list, it easily came up to twelve things. I expect someone else has had a similar idea and posted it somewhere, but I intentionally did not research it, as I wanted this post to be reflective of my experience. Some of these have a biblical basis, as I think that is important, and others are just what I've learned over time. So here are my

Twelve Recommendations for Newlyweds:

1. Be each other's family. Once you say your vows, you become each other's immediate family. What was your immediate family is now your extended family. Put each other first.
2. Be stubborn. By this, I don't mean stick to your guns in an argument. That can be pointless. What I mean is that you should be stubborn about making your marriage a success. Don't give up easily. There are many reasons why couples throw in the towel. I would encourage you not to give up when one of those things comes into play in your marriage. You will be a better person for having made your marriage work.
3. Build routines together. Routine home maintenance and cleaning is not always fun, especially if we come to it with the wrong attitude. I would encourage you early on to establish good habits for keeping things tidy. If you don't know how to do that, visit the Flylady or Totally Together. They both have some good recommendations.
4. Let your love "grow-up". Typically, relationships that lead to marriage start with romance - that sensation of being "in love." Now don't get me wrong, romance is a good thing, and well worth the effort to keep alive in a marriage, but being "in love" is different than "loving". Loving is what you choose to do when you discover that she doesn't know how to put the cap back on the tube of toothpaste, or when it becomes apparent that he forgets where the laundry hamper is when he takes off his dirty socks. It's a conscious choice, and you know your love is growing up when you choose to love despite the circumstance you find yourself in.
5. Don't go to bed angry. This is biblical - Ephesians 4:26 states "In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry." This can be difficult, especially if you are one, like me, whose anger tends to escalate easily and reverse slowly, but it's worth having a good nights sleep and not waking up grumpy and with things yet to be addressed to take care of your issues as they come up. I would also add a caveat to that - keep short accounts. Don't dig up the past when you argue - stick to the issue at hand.
6. Be each others biggest fan. I don't mean be joined at the hip, or even to do everything together. I mean cheer each other on. My husband has always enjoyed photography. I've never been particularly good at it, but I love the work he does, and I let him know that I'm proud of him and praise his work. He reciprocates with my hobbies that he doesn't actively participate in.
7. Support and defend each other. Do not let anyone else speak ill of your spouse in your presence. Sometimes it is hard enough to keep up a good attitude within the framework of marriage. Do not let anyone else add fuel to the flames of a bad attitude.
8. Keep disagreements private. Don't argue for all of the world to see, and especially not in front of any children you may have. This may seem unpleasant, but this includes supporting your spouse in front of others even if you disagree with him or her. Get behind closed doors before you vent.
9. Be ready to give 100 percent to the success of your marriage. You may have heard that marriage is a 50/50 deal. Not so. If you are not willing to give 100 percent, how will you face the situation when your spouse has nothing to give? One of the vows my husband and I repeated at our marriage ceremony included "in sickness and in health". When the time came that I was sick for two years, my husband picked up the slack. I had little to give, so he covered for us both.
10. Make memories together. Remember all those special times you spent together while you were engaged? That should not end. Keep doing the things you enjoy together.
11. Cultivate your relationship. Keep talking to each other. Stay connected. When the children grow-up, you still want to know each other and have memories together.
12. Be a student of your spouse. Get to know their likes and dislikes. There are many stereotypes of men and of women, but stereotypes are meant to be broken. Find out what is specific to your spouse, and have some empathy for them. You would want them to do the same for you.

I am sure this is not an exhaustive list, nor is it a list of ways to fix your spouse, but hopefully it contains a few kernals of wisdom that you will find useful if you happen to be newly married. And, if you are a newlywed, my hope for you is a long and happy marriage!

What have you found to be important in your marriage? Leave me a comment and tell me about it!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Few Hidden Gems in Wisconsin

So, it's been a little while since my last post. I beg your forgiveness for that. I've been in the field doing research, including a camping trip, so I'd have things to tell you about. [insert big grin, here]. Be warned - this may be a bit longer post than usual. Hopefully you will find these things interesting enough to cut me some slack.

One thing I love about living in Wisconsin - and it may be true of other places, as well, but Wisconsin is what I can tell you about from experience, is that any time you get in your car and go for a drive - and it doesn't have to be very far, you will find something interesting that is worth stopping to investigate. On a recent short trip out to Verona I made a stop at Millers and Sons Supermarket. If you haven't been there and you're in the area, be sure to stop by. While it's easy to find a grocery store in most places in Wisconsin, Miller's is it's own kind of grocery store. It's a local small business, though the store is spacious and offers a good variety of choices. The produce is always fresh and looks beautiful. They also have an in-store deli with a nice selection, and their cuts of meat are mouth-wateringly fresh and ready for the grill. The day I was there, I needed a card for a shower, and was pleasantly surprised that one small corner of the store has not only cards, but some cute crafty-type gifts if that is what you're in the market for. My final stop at Millers was at the Faygo machine on my way back to my car. Anyone who knows me knows I don't drink much soda. Frequently when I go out to eat water will be my drink of choice but, occasionally, a locally made soda tastes really good, and Faygo makes good soda. The red pop I had that day was a real thirst quencher!

Timbers Bar & Grill, Black Creek, WI

On our recent trip up to Boulder Lake, one thing I didn't tell you about was the place we stopped at for lunch on our way home. You won't find Timbers Bar and Grill in Black Creek on Tripadvisor if you're looking for place to eat, but you should still stop. They have reasonably priced bar food that is served fresh and hot. It happened to be a Sunday when we were there, and they had the Sunday lunch buffet set-up, but that didn't appeal to any in my crowd. I had the cod sandwich, and it was excellent. Norm had one of the wraps, and raved that was good. I tried a bite, and could see why. The sauce they use is light and has a really nice tang to it. Definitely worth a stop if you're up that way!

Ledge County Park - Dodge County, WI

Campsite "J" - Ledge County Park

When people camp in Wisconsin, there are many choices, most notably the beautifully maintained State Parks that dot the state, as well as many private campgrounds that typically offer more amenities. One thing that should not be discounted though, is the county campgrounds. One that is located a short drive from Madison is Ledge County Park in Dodge County. The campsites are generally roomy, and the trees help to offer a modicum of privacy. We camped from a Thursday to a Saturday, and there were only about 5 other campsites that were occupied. They have good hardwood for sale at a reasonable price if you want to have a campfire. We were also able to collect some downed dead wood to keep our fire going, which was really appreciated as the first of the cool nights hit when we were camping.

Wine bottle holder at Bugsy's Best

The cheese case at Bugsy's Best

Wisconsin has some great names for it's towns, often with native american roots. You've heard of Waunakee? It's the only one in the world, you know. Or Oconomowoc? I've heard television announcers stumble over that one. How about Kekoskee? If you haven't heard of Kekoskee before, well, now you have. And if you happen to go to Kekoskee, be sure to stop at Bugsy's Best. They carry many Wisconsin-made products to whet your appetite, and when it's as hot as it has been recently, an ice cream cone really hits the spot. I had blueberry cheesecake ice cream in a waffle cone - stupendously awesome! They also carry Wisconsin-made cheese, and a variety of other eclectic choices. Check out the picture with the home-made wine bottle holder. I just have to figure out where I'd put it if I got one of those. The building that houses Bugsy's has been in the Lechner family for some time, and has been used for other purposes, so there is a pictorial history in the building, as well as an old water wheel that you can see through the glass casing. It's a very cool place to stop! 
Beef sticks and cheese curds -
how much more "Wisconsin" can you get?

And that's all for now. Hope you're having a great summer. Leave a comment and tell me about some place unique or special that you've visited this summer.

No compensation was received for these endorsements. These are given because I visited these places and thought them worth writing about.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

So, what does Independence Day make you think of? For me, because of the military history of my family, it is deeply personal. I know the sacrifices we have made as a family because of time family members have given. No, our family didn't lose anyone in a conflict, but we certainly know families who have. And then, on a smaller scale, there are the birthday and Christmas celebrations we didn't get to share with loved ones. The relationships we would have liked to cultivate that didn't happen. It's for this reason that I stand and put my hand over my heart when I hear the Star Spangled banner or see the flag flying at a parade. It seems a small thing, to give a moment to remember the cost of the freedoms we enjoy. God bless you if you've given time to serve our country!

And then, of course, there is the food! I've been developing a recipe for baked potato salad, and this last week I finally documented the ingredients. Here's something a little different from the standard potato salad. Give it a try, if you like:

Baked Potato Salad
Baked Potato Salad
2 C. sour cream
1 C. mayonnaise
1 T. horseradish
1 T. brown mustard
1/2 C. milk
1 t. sea salt
1/2 t. granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
1 T. dill weed
fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 lb bacon, fried until crisp
3 green onions, whites and greens, sliced finely
3/4 C. celery, finely diced
5 lbs potatoes, baked and cooled (I used russets, but red potatoes work well, too)

Mix the first 9 ingredients in the bottom of a bowl that is large enough to mix the entire salad in until thoroughly blended. This helps the flavors to begin blending while you're peeling and dicing the potatoes, and ensures that when you're mixing the salad the dressing gets all the way to the bottom of the bowl. Snip or crumble the bacon into fine pieces. Add bacon, celery, and onion. Stir just to mix. Peel the potatoes and dice as fine as you can stand. The finer you cut them up, the better the dressing will flavor the potatoes, but I can't always stand to cut them too finely just because it takes time.  If you're using red potatoes, leave the skin on. This shortens the work time and adds color to the salad. Sometimes we eat this right after I make it, but it's really better if you have time to refrigerate it for a few hours or overnight. The flavors meld and it becomes comfort food of the first order.

Corn Tomato Salsa
What to do if you serve corn on the cob one night, and have a few cobs left that didn't get eaten? How about this:

Tomato Corn Salsa
1 large tomato, diced finely
2 -3  cobs of corn, remove corn from cob
1/2 t. sea salt
3 T Cilantro, snipped
Granulated garlic, cumin, chili powder, and black pepper to taste.

Stir well and enjoy!

And then, of course, there is the standard summer holiday fare that includes brats. We couldn't live in Wisconsin and not enjoy brats on occasion. Since we had something else in mind for today, we had our brats last night. Doesn't this look good?

Brat and grilled veggies
The brat is a tomato basil brat that I got at Aldi's for a reasonable price. The zucchini and potatoes were sliced thin and coated with olive oil, then cooked on a foil pan on the grill. The zucchini is seasoned with sea salt, fresh ground pepper, dried parsley and basil. The potatoes are seasoned with sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and a few sprinkles of vinegar.

Verdict: all of it was really good. Only thing to improve was that the potatoes could have used a bit more vinegar.

Hope this whets your appetite for that wonderful July 4th you're going to enjoy today!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Food! It's got to be about Food!

Well, maybe it does, and maybe it doesn't. I haven't been on for a bit, due to a busy life. Last week my busy life included teaching 3 - 6th graders in Vacation Bible School. It was a lot of fun, but wearying. We did some cool projects, including making pocket pals and tooling leather bracelets. Pastor Kevin did a great job on the bridge illustration during the opening session on the last night. It was a fitting finale. All in all, I had a good time, and I think the kids did, as well.
Now, back to the food. Between Norm and I, we're always trying different things in the kitchen. One of my recent attempts involved making home-made hummus. Yes, that includes starting with dried garbanzo beans. I've cooked dried beans at various times over the years, and am most familiar with the old "soak 'em overnight" method, but this time I tried something different that I read about here. I baked them in the oven for two hours without soaking them, first. They turned out great! I used this recipe for the hummus I made, substituting an equivalent amount of cooked garbanzo beans for the canned beans. Here is the finished product:

The true test of a new recipe at our house is how quickly it gets eaten up. This definately passed the test - it was gone the same day! Tune in again tomorrow to find out what else I've been experimenting with in the kitchen.