24 February 2012

Friday Bake Day: Lenten Edition

In the spirit of Lent, and abstinence of meat on Fridays for some, here is a super simple Salmon Loaf recipe. I love to bake this one and serve over rice for an easy meal.

...and I as was writing this post I saw a recipe in Runners World March 2012 magazine for Mini-Salmon Loaf. Same idea, just "slider" or kid sized!


Salmon Loaf
Recipe from Grandma Nancy (that woman knows a lot of recipes, I know!)

Oven at 350 degrees

1 lb. can salmon, drain (Look in the Canned Tuna section!)
1 can cream of mushroom/celery soup (10 ¾ oz)
1 beaten egg
1 cup dry bread crumbs (Probably won’t use whole cup)
½ cup chopped onions
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients. Depending on how moist/dry you would like the loaf to be, use less bread crumbs the recipe calls for. I like to make it a little more moist so I can reheat the loaf several times without it drying out. Place in greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Mini-Salmon Loafs (adapted from Runner’s World March 2012)

Oven at 375 degrees

2 x 5 oz. wild salmon, drained
1 cup frozen chopped spinach (thawed for cooking)
1 diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped dill
Juice from ½ a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
½ cup quick-cook rolled oats
2 large eggs
Salt & pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients. Divide among greased muffin cups. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

21 February 2012

About Me

Hello Reader!

I am glad you found my corner of the internet! I hope you enjoy this blog as much as I enjoy writing on it!

My name is Erika and I am the author of this blog.  I originally created this blog in 2011 as a way to keep in touch with family & friends as we scatter throughout the country. This blog has blossomed into a great way for me to share my passions and I am happy to share advice on life, running and cooking. 

After growing up in a small town in Michigan, I left home to attend Albion College in Albion, Michigan. I majored in Economics and was a part of the cross country & track & field teams.  I loved being part of a team and running became a large part of my life, and still is.
It took two years of running after me, literally, for my husband to catch me. We both ran cross country & track at the same college and didn't start dating until my senior year. We married in the summer of 2011, after we both graduated. As if two graduations and a wedding weren't enough excitement, three days after our honeymoon we moved to Pennsylvania so my husband could attend medical school.

My husband is in his first year of medical school and hopes to become an emergency room Doctor. I work full time at an electrical distributor, yes I sell light bulbs!  We don't have children or pets yet, but in time I am sure we will have both!

I am an avid runner, reader and life liver.  (and a total sucker for chick flicks!)

My goal is to share my thoughts, life lessons and passions with the online community in a way that makes others inspired. Although my blog is still an infant, please feel free to contribute, link or comment. I love to hear about and from you!

Thank you for reading my blog. I really appreciate it. Let me know what you would like to see more or less of.

19 February 2012

New Look!

Back when I started this blog I thought it would be a good way to let family and friends know what was going on in our lives, now that we are hundreds of miles apart. I quickly found that I like writing on this blog more than just what is going on day to day.

So I hope you like the new look and new set up. I am going to focus on three categories: Life, running and cooking.  

Life- I know this a broad category and maybe one day it will get narrowed down but for now I will write about life advice, experiences and the little joys. I want to share with you all the awesome things life has to offer! I am always striving to find true happiness, energy and peace in my life. I hope this blog helps you find what you are looking for too.

Running- Behind my faith and love for my family, running is up there on my list of important things. I love running, exercising and being outside. I hope this category shows you the joy and peace running can give you. Especially as a woman, I hope I can give you practical & useful advice. I am not a running expert, but I hope my passion can give you motivation to run!

Cooking- This category is a work in progress! Since living on my one after college and getting married, I find myself in the kitchen often. I love to bake and cooking has become a great joy. I love to learn new recipes, kitchen tools and cooking styles. I hope this category can give you "I learned it the hard way" advice so you too can learn to like cooking. I am not the best chef, but I find myself reading, learning and using more cooking advice which I want to share. 

My goal is make this blog more focused on a few things, in hopes that I can share my passions with others. 

I hope you find enjoyment and practical advice for you life.  

What would you like to see from me? What kind of things interest you? What do you want more (or less) of? 


16 February 2012


I can't take credit for what I am going to blog about today. I wish I had the wisdom to figure this out by myself. It took someone who knows me better than anyone else to look at me, with honest and truth, to verbalize what I have always thought about happiness. All the thoughts that swirl in my head every day can mean nothing without believing in this. 

Happiness makes you successful. 
Success does not always make you happy.

For me this logic makes so much sense. So much sense that I didn't even stop to really think about it. I have been going around for YEARS (!!) trying to be good at everything. I ran around finding the "best" education, getting outstanding grades, a successful job, trying to be a more successful runner, looking for a more successful position or job, and the list goes on. Seriously. Why? What for? So I could go around touting my success? So someone else would look at me and say "Wow, she is successful"?

Did that make me any happier?  Nope.

This is a slightly hard realization for me. See, I always thought there was more to happiness but I just couldn't come up with a concrete reason. Perhaps I didn't know any better or didn't want to face the fact that success is superficial. By acknowledging that success is not as important as I have made it to be, then all my hard work seems to be in vain, and pushing me further away from true happiness. Why admit to that?

This morning I was excited to tell my husband about possible advancements in my job.I had talked with my boss yesterday and we had discussed where my career could be headed, what training I could do help myself succeed and how long that might take. After I told him all this, he looked at me, said "That's great honey" and without anything further went about his routine. It bothered me that he didn't seem excited, he didn't even ask a question about it. I confronted him about it, asking why it didn't seem like he cared. He replied with "I do care but is that always going to make you happy? ...you think success makes you happy but really you should be thinking happiness makes you successful."

Just like that. Like it was a simple fact he figured out long ago. What? Where did I miss that note? I read every thing I find about success I can. How did he just know that?

Then I cried.

I cried because I realized how right he was. I had always done more to be more successful. Successful to whom though?  If I thought success would make me happy, why have I been sad or upset about my success?  I was not living to be happy but living to be successful in other people's eyes. I have been trying to do my best to look good on a resume or make my parents proud. My success was not defined by what made me, ME, happy. 

Enough. I decided this morning that I had had enough of that thinking. No more. I cannot, and should not, go through life trying to be the most successful person at everything I do. I need to focus on what makes me happy, not on how successful I think I could be. It's exhausting to try to be successful in order to reach happiness.

 I want to be happy; success will follow.

I am lucky to have someone around to tell me when I am wrong. I won't be heading down this path again. 

15 February 2012

Spring Cleaning: Decultter with SimpleMom!

Project: Simplify 2012
March 5-30, 2012 (already on my Google calendar!)
Hosted by SimpleMom

I am really excited about this idea... Who doesn't nee d a little spring cleaning inspiration? After being cooped up inside all winter, why not get rid of some of that junk you found you don't need!? I love the idea of sharing the before and after with others too, this way I am accountable for what I do (and don't) get rid of! I already have my rooms to attack picked out!

Visit www.simplemom.net for more info!

14 February 2012

Fitness: A Life Goal

One of the great parts about my job is the people I work with. Yeah, some times it's like living in the movie "Grumpy Old Men" but they seem to think I am tolerable. There is only one other person who is not either
a. old enough to be my parent, or
b. old enough to have memories of the year I was born.

This other person, who happens to one of the 8 men I work with, is close to my age and martial status. His wife also works and they have no children yet. He and his wife have been our dinner guest before and I enjoy talking with him when we have a break. He works on the warehouse side and I work in the office. Recently he started coming to me with questions about getting into shape. He heard I was an avid runner and knew a little about fitness. I realized that he is really excited and energized to get into shape. He is over weight for his height and would really like to feel better overall. He always has lots of questions and tells me about his new goals. He went from being a couch potato to running for an hour. I know he has worked hard over the last six months and he continues to be an inspiration for staying fit. As he says, fitness is more than just being in shape, it's a life goal to stay healthy.

All this newbie energy has made me think about my routine, running and overall fitness. I have days where I feel too tired, sluggish or unmotivated. His questions made me dig deeper into my brain's advice column (I swear some times that thing overacts! I have a lot of advice!). I thought about all the successful or unsuccessful habits I have learned over the years. A lot of people get in shape, but it can be difficult to find lasting fitness. Below are some tips on how to keep fitness in your life.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert, doctor or even guru. The following is my own thoughts, opinions & findings

  • Plan for it. Making fitness a part of your every day plan makes the goal easier. If I plan each day to run 5 miles in my head, on my calendar or blog then I am more likely to do it. I like to do list, checking off things reassures me I am on track. 
  • Tell someone! When I tell my husband, family members or friends about my fitness goals I am much more likely to make them happen. Telling other people makes me accountable for the goal. I like going back to them and telling them how I accomplished my goal too!
  • Write it down. Writing about fitness goals or failures provides reflection or support. If I keep track of my good running weeks and my not so good days I can look back and remind myself it will get better. Everyone has days when they feel better than others, those bad days can become more motivation to work harder. I spend about 5-10 minutes every day logging my workout in an on-line journal with my GPS watch system. 
  • Stay motivated with variety. I am not always the best resource for this tip, but when I try it I always feel better. About a month ago I was really struggling to keep up my mileage so I took a few days off  running to do whatever I wanted during my workout time. I took a new class at the gym, which I love now! I swam, which made me feel great without putting stress on my legs. I focused on weight lifting and figured out it really only takes 15-30 minutes to lift, thus I can add it to my regular running days.
  • Sleep. I mean really really really sleep. A good 10 hours. Try it on a weekend. Don't set the alarm. Don't make plans for the morning. Let your body recover. This can do wonders for both your body & mind.
  • Eat by listening. Crazy as that sounds, read a great article about listening to your body as a way to eat. I have started to really hone in on this idea and it is working well. I noticed right away that if I eat what I want when I want it I crave healthier options naturally. That apple sounds way better than a Snickers bar at 3 pm.
  • Drinks lots and lots of water. This tip always makes me feel better. Our bodies are made up of water, we need more water than soda, juice or coffee. Extra bonus: drink a glass of cold water first thing when you wake up in the morning. Your just spent 7-9 hours without fluids, your body is craving water. The temperature of the water makes your body work a little harder to heat up the water so it can use it properly, giving you an extra calorie burning boost in the morning.
  • Make it easy to workout. Lay out your workout gear ahead of time. Make a water bottle and put it in the fridge before work. Pack everything you need to workout & take it to work with you. Workout right after work. Make your workout space at home some place easy to get to, easy to move in and clutter free. Get the right gear and equipment. 
  • Keep in mind that fitness not only boost your self confidence but can also give you energy to help those you love. By staying active you can prolong your life, giving you more time to spend with those you love. Being healthy also means you can run, skip, jump and play with your children & grandchildren some day. Keeping your health a priority will let you do so many awesome things. One of the saddest things I see in my family are those who did not put their health first, those people, along with their families suffer because of those choices.
  • Enjoy what you are doing! No matter what you choose to do to stay healthy, enjoy it! By loving what you do each day you have have both purpose and enjoyment in fitness. I think that is the key to staying healthy your entire life. Not everyone is made to run marathons or rock climb, but finding an activity you enjoy you are more likely to keep at it!
You might have heard all of this stuff before. Magazines, on-line articles and fitness experts have great advice too. Check out a variety of opinions or research to find what's right for you. I hope you strive to make fitness a life time goal!

What do you do to stay healthy? What kinds of activities do you enjoy? Find any great motivation lately? 

12 February 2012

Friday Bake Day on Sunday: Chicken & Rice

Honestly, weekends fly by. So yes, my weekly commitment to post a recipe on Friday has moved to Sunday this week. This weekend was extra special as my husband received his student doctor white coat. So that is my excuse!

But, I still owe you a recipe...
This recipe always makes me think of long family dinners spent conversing around good food followed by warm coffee. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does.

Chicken & Rice Bake Dinner
Recipe from Grandma Nancy

4 Boneless Chicken Breast-halved
1 Tbs. vegetable or olive oil
2 cans (10 3/4 oz.) Cream of Chicken soup
1 1/2 cup Chicken Broth
1/4 tsp. salt/pepper
2 cups Rice, uncooked (Brown Rice works too!)
2 cups Broccoli
2 cups Shredded Cheese

1. Heat oil in skillet. Add chicken, cook until chicken is browned
2. Add soup, broth, broccoli, rice, salt & pepper to skillet. Cook on low heat for about 5 minutes.
3. Place all ingredients in oven casserole dish. Top with shredded cheese.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour. (Cook longer if using brown rice) 

Ta Da! That easy. 

Now go bake!

04 February 2012

Living Disconnected

I often receive criticism because I seem "disconnected" to many of the modern conveniences we take for granted. Family members and friends alike all comment on my absence from social media, online communities or texting.

"Why don't you [insert action here] like every one else?"
"Why don't you post every single picture you take of your self on-line?" 
"Why don't you just check [some sort of social media]?"

It is not that I am against or opposed to any of the above actions. Truly, if I hated social media and on-line communities would I have a blog? I don't think I would even bother if I didn't see the benefits of writing on this blog. There are many ways to express yourself on-line, blogging is my chosen venue. 

That being said, I don't engage in every form of social media or social connection there is. Neither my husband or I have texting on our cell phones (I even still have a "flip phone"). We don't have cable. We pay a set amount for an allotted amount of internet usage and when it's gone for the month we stay off the internet. These things might seem silly to others, but the truth is...

We like living life "disconnected".

Now, we don't live in black holes. I love my Google reader and get updates from various news sources daily. We both watch the news on a regular basis. I check my e-mail daily. I write on a blog and try to contribute to on-line communities as much as possible. My husband has a lot of school work on-line and watches many lectures on the internet. 
There are many reasons we choose not to stay connected 24/7. It's expensive to have the latest phone (not to mention the phone plan!). Cable is a large cost as well. We both like to spend quiet time at home relaxing. We both have other hobbies that don't require being in contact with people every second. The list goes on...

But when it comes down to it, we like life to be real, exciting and engaging

Life is so short. Being too connected does not bring me any more happiness. I don't need my cell phone to give live updates to the latest Facebook happenings. I don't have to chat with all my friends 24/7.  And I don't need to watch all the crud that is on tv. Honestly. 

I have grown up with wonderful technology that brings millions together in great ways. I am glad technology has advanced to better human kind. But I don't need it in my face at all the time. 

I am sure the criticism will continue. People will find this no texting capability strange and "old fashioned" (I once last a potential friend after she told me she'd text me and I said I didn't have texting but she could call. She never called). I might not know who is dating who at any given second or where some one went for spring break, but I certainly know what is important to me. 


Friday Baking Day: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ok. I know chocolate chip cookies are like the essential baking recipe that everyone has in their arsenal, but they are my favorite to bake & eat so I thought I would share my version. 

No lying,  chocolate chip cookies are a staple in your diet too. It's ok. 

Grandma Nancy's Chocolate Chip Cookies 
  • 2-1-/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I like the dark ones the best!)
  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
2. Combine flour, baking soda  & salt in a small bowl
3. In other bowl, beat butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, to butter mixture.
4. Gradually add butter mixture to flour mixture. Stir in all chocolate chips.
5. Make spoon size balls and place on un-greased cookie sheet.
6. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until cookies are golden brown.
7. ENJOY! 

I try to always keep chocolate chips in our house, you never know when the mood strikes you to make cookies!
Over the holidays, while our friends were over, the mood struck us to make cookies! Even the boys got in on the fun...

Baking Boys

Mine is the one in the apron.

Hard at work!

What kind of cookies do you like? What's your favorite cookie recipe? Any guys in your life like to bake?

01 February 2012

Resolve Check In

Wow, it's almost the end of January already. Before you know it, spring will be here!

I thought it was time for a check in on my resolutions. 

1. Put things away, right away: I am doing much better in this category! I have improved my skills as well as gotten rid of a lot of junk. Thus, I have less to put away. It's a wonder I went this long without figuring out that was easier than continuing to pick up crap I don't need. Less stuff = less cleaning, see #2.

2. Buy less = clean less: Not only have I not bought things I don't need but I have gotten rid of things I had but didn't use. Less stuff = less cleaning.  This really is a better way to live.

3. Clean a little each day to make it easier: Almost. I do well for a few days but the weekend seems to throw off my groove. I am not perfect at cleaning, but taking care of little task each day cuts down on my total time spent cleaning. I make an effort to make our bed every day, start the dishwasher before going to bed and start laundry in the mornings when I can.

4. Create a "black book" & keep it up to date: I told my husband about the "black book" and he asked why a married woman needed a book of all the men she dated. Um, come again? Yeah, I was not aware of the synonym of "black book".  
So no, I didn't not intend to create a book with a list of men I have dated. What I wanted to do was create a binder with all the relevant information about my husband & I. Like our insurance information, hospital visits, medical history, contact information, etc.. I have named the book "The Albano's" instead.
And, check! I did it last weekend and printed it out. It is all set and up to date.

5. Do more things I love: Check. I spent more time with my husband. I ran a lot. I started a new knitting project (and almost finished it!). I love my life and this goal is going well.

6. Lose 10 pounds: Um. We'll check into this one in a few months.
7. Get rid of things I don't use/ don't take things I don't need: Ok. This goes with my first & second goals. It is a work in progress, but I did clean out my closet yesterday...

So far my 2012 is going well. I am happy with the goals I set for myself. It's always a sign of good goals when they are realistic and make improvements to my daily life.  I have lots of time left in 2012 to make my other goals realities.