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a new planner, the Get To Work Book review…

get to work book review

I have a new planner, the Get To Work Book. It’s kinda awesome.

Irony: Buying a new planner and a few days later getting an email from your previous planner company asking “Why did you leave us?“. True story.

I’ve been using my new planner for a little over two months now, so we’ve had time to get comfortable with each other (i.e. I’m not unfairly comparing my new planner to my old planner). 😉  Before we go too far, here’s a little disclaimer: I am RIDICULOUSLY picky about my planners. I’ve gone through more planners over the years than I can count, and rarely repeated any. Looking for my perfect fit is a process.

My goodness, how the planner game has changed!

This year’s planner search started several months ago. My preference is for the academic planner (July-June) rather than the standard January-December. I like the way it sort of forces me to have a mid-year review of the progress toward my goals. Plus, I’m already familiar with my planner for when the New Year planning time rolls around.

get to work book reviewPretty early on in my planner quest, I came across the Get to Work Book, created by Elise Blaha Cripe,  but immediately dismissed it due to two factors. First its size (7×9). I’ve learned over the years that anything smaller than an 8.5×11 leads to frustration for me. It would be great if a smaller planner worked for me, but experience has proven otherwise. Second, at $55, the Get to Work Book was the most expensive (non-leather) planner I looked at. But after two months of looking, I found myself comparing every planner to the lovely, clean layout of the GTWB. With only two weeks remaining in my current planner, I caved and placed my order.

get to work book review

In true Beth style, after stalking my planner shipment online, once it arrived I didn’t open it. Just looked at the package…put it in the closet for a few days… Don’t question it. I’m an enigma to myself.

The shipping was super fast, even with my order being placed on a weekend. Kudos on that one. The planner was beautifully and thoughtfully packaged, and arrived in perfect condition even though the post office was hard on the box.

get to work book review

Once I finally got around to opening it (thanks for the kick Sara), the very first thing I noticed was a bit of a disappointment; the back cover was flimsy. In the video introducing the Get To Work Book, the creator specifically talks about the front cover being nice and thick (and it was), but the back cover, which has a little half pocket for storage, was half the weight of the front. It won’t last long the way I use a planner. Overall, if you are someone who takes their planner with them, I feel the covers are a bit “soft”. So for a measure of added protection, I took the clear plastic covers off my old planner (a 8.5×11), and cut them down to use with this planner.

The next frustration I experienced was with the 0-ring binder. Normally I love ring bound planners (and am changing my photography workshop planners to ring binding for 2016!), but this one just gives me headaches. It was so loose, I was able to just slip the clear covers in. That also means the pages slip out. I’ve “tightened” them by squeezing them a bit closer, but those rings bend almost every time I put it in my bag, no matter how careful I am.

Another binder related note, the planner is so thick, and the columns placed so close to the rings, I have to prop one side of the planner up on a book to “level” the sides out enough to use them. That’s kind of a pain, especially when I don’t have a book handy.

get to work book review

  • Note: Apparently I was not the only person to be frustrated with the issue of the back cover.  A couple of weeks ago I received an email from Elise (creator of the GTWB) offering a replacement back cover.  FOR FREE!  Yes, the woman stepped up and did the right thing. I am so impressed with this bit of customer service, I went to her site looking to see if there was anything else I could buy from her.

get to work book review

After (finally) cracking open my beautiful new planner, you know the first thing I did …? Take out all the inspirational quotes on the heavy card-stock.

Sentimental, aren’t I?

get to work book review

I felt a bit guilty doing it. I’m sure a lot of thought went into them, but twelve of them (one for each month) make the planner about 1/4″ thicker, and when you carry your planner with you, the size matters.

The layout is clean without distracting colors or graphics. It also maximizes use of the available space. Love me some efficient design!

I know there are those who want a “pretty” planner, with lots of colors so that they feel motivated to use the planner. My motivation to use a planner is needing to get $#!^ done. Maybe I’m a bit of a planner purist since I value function over flair. If you like to personalize your planner, the clean layout leaves plenty of blank canvas for you to washi tape, color and doodle.

get to work book review

get to work book review

There is plenty of space to make the planner your own, without unnecessary distraction. There is also plenty of room to stash my collection of sticky notes that are a mainstay in my planners. I use them for all those things that aren’t “set in stone”, and might need to be moved to another day.

The paper is a nice weight, and there was no bleed-through using my favorite Sharpie pens. The paper color is also a perfect off-white, which is easy on the eyes.

The next hiccup I experienced with this planner are the monthly tabs. They stick out well past the edge of the cover. My planner gets carried with me e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e. and that means these will get banged up. I’d love to see the next generation of this planner have the cover extend far enough to provide protection for the month tabs.


get to work book review

There is an “extra page” of graph paper at the month tab before the month calendar layout – for me, this is super frustrating.  When I grab the month tab, my expectation is for it to open to the monthly calendar. I ended up taping the pages together so that the monthly tab opened to the month. I miss having the extra pages for notes, but this was the workaround.

get to work book review - monthly view

It would also be nice if the major holidays were noted on the monthly calendar. I realize this planner ships all over the world, but it would be a great addition.

get to work book review - week view

The weekly layout is wonderful.  Near perfect. And I’m in love with the Monday-Sunday week! I hate having my weekend divided, so this is my preferred way of viewing the week. One of the major reasons I chose this planner was because of this weekly layout.  The MAIN reason – VERTICAL COLUMNS for the weekdays! Oh my goodness! L.O.V.E. I’m a list maker, and my brain works better seeing things listed in columns rather than rows. This is so awesome I would hug Elise just for this one feature, and y’all know, I’m not a hugger!

get to work book review - daily action items

The weekly layout has other inspired touches as well.  There are three spots at the top of each weekday, and they are a dream for noting those things which are the important/do not forget/must do items of each day. They are also perfect for keeping my workouts front and center, and meal planning.  Kinda crushing on them. <3

If I could change one thing with the weekly layout, it would be to change the weekend columns (Saturday and Sunday) to share one column (so two half-columns stacked). The weekday columns feel just a bit cramped, and that would free up a little more room in the weekday columns for writing.

get to work book review - weekly action items

I also love the three big Action Items for each week.  this is perfect for ongoing projects (ie. a to-do from the Project Page, see below), or things that will take more than a day to work on.

While this planner is smaller than I usually like, the layout is so efficient (no wasted space) it works like a larger planner. That said, I would still love to see this in an 8.5×11 size. Again, just a little bit more room to write would be divine.

get to work book review - goal worksheet

The planner also includes Project Pages at the end of each month, and they are pretty neat. For those goals or projects that you need a convenient way to break down, these pages have a lovely layout. And there is another sheet of graph paper opposite for more specifics for your goals, notes, or what ever you need.

get to work book review - monthly review

After the goal page there is a page for review. Just a little personal “check-in” about how the month went. This is a nice touch.

get to work book review - month tabs


Another tiny annoyance. No page bookmark/divider. Nearly all planners come with a bookmark. To me, that’s a necessary part of the planner. Again I created a workaround by first using a paperclip to keep my page marked.  Later I cut down an album bookmark from one of my Project Life kits to use as a bookmark.

  • Note: a bookmark has been created since I purchased my planner, but does not come with the planner. It is an additional cost/purchase.

On a closing note, I love that this planner is designed and made entirely in the USA.  I’ll pay a little more for that. The customer service is impeccable, and Elise has been very responsive to her customers, and more than willing to help make sure you are happy with your purchase.

That’s my rundown of the Get To Work Book!  Hope it helps you in your search for the perfect planner for you 😉

The 2016 planner is shipping now.

play hard, and have fun,


This post is about my planner addiction search, and my thoughts about the Get to Work Book planner.  This planner was my purchase, and I’m not affiliated in any way with the Get To Work Book.  These are just my first impressions of my new planner.

Is this the year you decide it’s time to improve your photography skills?  Follow this link to learn more about my Photography Workshops!!
To stay up to date (and for exclusive offers) sign up for the Elizabeth Wendland Photography NEWSLETTER. And “like” my FACEBOOK page to keep up with me on a daily (okay, who are we kidding, more like a weekly) basis 😉 and for lots of sportsmom related links from around the web.

5 tips for growing your healthiest tomato plants ever…

tomato plants - how to grow the best tomato plants ever

My passion for good food is no secret.  

Neither is the fact that I plant a large garden each year; which provides most of that good food.

Whenever anyone visits my garden, the one thing they always remark on are the tomato plants. The plants can easily reach 5 ft. tall, and are loaded with healthy fruit. This always leads to questions about how I grow tomato plants that look like that. Most of the time people assume that because we live on a farm and my husband is in agriculture, that we have access to some special “fertilizer” that “regular people” can’t get. Yes, I have been asked that, and uhm…no.  It’s all in the preparation. Really. Today I’m sharing my 5 tips for growing your healthiest tomato plants ever!

1.  Prepare the soil – add compost

Before you go to your local nursery and breath in that warm, moist, earthy-smelling air, – you know the air that makes you get all plant crazy – take a little time to get your vegetable bed in order. This part isn’t glamorous, but this is where your plants are going to live. If you skimp here, your plants will pay the price later in the season.

tomato plants - how to grow bigger tomatoes

Dig deeply where you want to plant your tomato; at least 14 inches wide, and 18 inches deep. Incorporate compost (NOT potting soil) with the existing soil. Blend it together with the existing soil until it’s a uniform consistency.

  • If this is a new vegetable bed, add enough compost to make a blend of 50% compost to 50% existing soil.
  • If you have very heavy or clay soil, this may need to be a 75%/25% mix.
  • If you want to add a little slow-release fertilizer, this is the time.  Mix it in well with the soil you just prepared.  You want the nutrients to be available in the root zone you just created, but you don’t want the fertilizer in direct contact with the roots.

2.  Select strong healthy plants 

Now it’s okay to go to the nursery and breath in all those heady plant smells! *sigh*

tomato plants - how to plant tomatoes

This part may seem like a no-brainer, but every year I see folks at the nursery select yellowed, and wilted plants because they’re bigger; over green, sturdy plants that are smaller.  Go for the healthy green and sturdy plants. The vitality of a good plant will have it outgrowing a weaker, larger plant, within a few weeks. And that healthier plant will outproduce a weaker plant all summer long!

3.  It’s all in how you plant it

Gently slide your plant out of it’s little plastic pot. If the plant is in a peat container, gently peel away the peat (you can throw that peat into the planting hole).  If the roots are completely wound around inside the pot (root bound), and you see more roots than soil, return the plant for another.

tomato plants - how to grow bigger tomatoes

This plant looks perfect.  Beautiful white roots, with plenty of soil visible and no wrapping around inside the pot.  Gently pull apart the roots at the base, so that they will spread out when planted.

tomato plants - how to grow the best tomato plants ever

This next part is hard. Taking that beautiful new plant you just brought home, and yanking a bunch of the stems and leaves off seems counterintuitive; plus it’s just hard (for me at least) to destroy any part of a health plant.  It will be worth it though.

tomato plants - how to grow bigger tomatoes

See all those little leaves and stems along the bottom few inches of the plant? Just pinch them off. It’s okay. Honest.

tomato plants - how to plant tomatoes

Tomatoes will throw out new roots all along the stem of the plant.  Bigger, healthier root system = bigger, healthier plants.*

tomato plants - how to plant tomatoes

Place your plant in the hole you’ve prepared for it.  Gently spread out the roots, and hold the plant upright as you slowly fill the planting hole with soil.

tomato plants - how to grow the best tomato plants ever

The stem that you stripped of leaves should be below soil level, and just the top few inches of leaves will be visible.

*You can’t do this with most plants. If you plant them deeper than the soil level of the container they were in, they will rot and die.

4.  Direct the water where it needs to go

When it’s watering time, it’s easy for the water to run of the top of the soil and not get to where it’s needed most; the root system. Take a few minutes after you’ve planted your beautiful little tomato, and create a moat around your plant. This creates a dam for the water, and will help direct it down into the root zone.

tomato plants - how to grow bigger tomatoes

Now water your new plant. Make sure to give it a good soaking.

5. Protect and support your plant

Finally, give your plant the support and protection it needs. If you are in an area where the temperatures dip down at night, a water wall can help keep the plant warm and cozy during the chilly nights. Just remember to not leave the water walls on during high daytime temperatures, or you will damage (or kill) the plant you were protecting.

tomato plants - how to grow the best tomato plants ever

Give your plant enough support. Select a sturdy plant support. A good quality tomato cage or support will last not only this season, but many more.

tomato plants - how to plant tomatoes

These wonderful plant supports have ben with me for the last five years, and are about to begin year six in the garden!

tomato plants - how to grow bigger tomatoes

Just in case you need a little reassurance, this photo was taken only a month after planting. You can see the tomatoes (the plants closest) are plenty big!

Follow these simple tips, and enjoy the healthiest, most productive tomato plants ever!

p.s. please recycle your plastic plant containers after planting. Most facilities now accept nursery pots 😉

play hard, and have fun,


Have you decided to up your photography skills in 2015? Click this link to learn more about my Photography Workshops!!

To stay up to date (and for exclusive offers) sign up for the Elizabeth Wendland Photography NEWSLETTER. And “like” my FACEBOOK page to keep up with me on a daily (okay, who are we kidding, more like a weekly) basis 😉 and for lots of sportsmom related links from around the web.

how to make a Rubik's cube tissue box cover…

how to make a rubies cube tissue box cover -

Do you spend time waiting in the bleachers (or the parking lot) at practices, pre-game warm-up’s, between tournament games, etc.?  You know you do 😉  Today I’m letting my geek out, and doing a little crafting that’s perfect for those hurry-up-and-wait moments.  It’s small, only a few pieces, light weight, and doesn’t take an engineering degree to figure out.  A couple of years ago I saw this Rubik’s Cube Tissue Box cover on an episode of The Big Bang Theory and knew I had to make one for myself.  It took a while to get around to it and figure out the correct sizing, but it’s finally done.  I made a few mistakes along the way, but here’s my take on how to make a Rubik’s Cube tissue box cover.


  • plastic canvas – enough for 5 pieces measuring approx. 5 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches (my piece was 13 1/2 x 22 1/2 inches, enough to have some left over if I made a mistake)
  • yarn – red, yellow, orange, blue, green, and white, approx. 4 feet for each color block (up to 36 feet per color)
  • yarn – black approx. 40 feet
  • needle – large-gauge blunt

Rubik's Cube Tissue Box Cover instructions - as seen on The Big Bang Theory

You will need to cut the canvas into five pieces.  Each piece will be 37 lines x 37 lines (or 36 open squares), they will be just under 5 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches.  This means each color block will be 12 open squares. For the fifth piece (the top) you will need to cut a hole in the middle for the tissues.  Measure in 13 lines from each side.

Rubik's Cube Tissue Box Cover instructions - as seen on The Big Bang Theory

To make it easier to get the multi-stranded yarn threaded through the needle eyelet, put a little piece of tape on the end.   Snip off the tape before you start pulling the yarn through the plastic canvas.

how to make a rubies cube tissue box cover -

With my first square I tried “covering” only the outside (the part you see) of the canvas with the yarn, but this lead to two problems.  First, the plastic canvas showed through the strands of yarn more than I liked.

how to make a rubies cube tissue box cover -

Second, it made the piece curl up.  I had to take it all out, and start over.

Rubik's Cube Tissue Box Cover instructions - as seen on The Big Bang Theory

When you start each color block, leave about 1 1/2 inches of yarn to tie the ends together.

Rubik's Cube Tissue Box Cover instructions - as seen on The Big Bang Theory

Once you’ve stitched the color block, pull the yarn underneath, and tie the ends together.  Next, stitch between the color blocks with the black yarn, covering the plastic canvas.  When you have completed all five sides of the cube, use the remaining  black yarn to “sew” all the pieces together.  It’s that simple 🙂

Rubik's Cube Tissue Box Cover instructions - as seen on The Big Bang Theory

This next step is completely optional.

Tissue boxes are not square, but Rubik’s cubes are.  The Rubik’s cube tissue box cover will be bigger than your tissue box.  When the cover was finished, it felt a little bit floppy because of the size difference, so I grabbed some black foam core that I had left over from another project.

how to make a rubies cube tissue box cover -

To “firm up” the cover, cut two pieces of foam core to 5 1/4 x 5 1/4 inches, and two others to 5 x 5 1/4.

Rubik's Cube Tissue Box Cover instructions - as seen on The Big Bang Theory

Assemble with your trusty duct tape, and slip it inside your awesome new tissue box cover.

how to make a rubies cube tissue box cover -

And Bazinga! you’re done!  When you create your own Rubik’s Cube tissue box cover, I’d love to see it.  Please stop by and post a pic of it on my FB page.  Until next time.

play hard, and have fun,


p.s.  Don’t feel like you need to follow my pattern, but I would strongly suggest creating your pattern from an actual Rubik’s Cube.  The first “pattern” I created, while pretty to look at, turned out to not be possible on the cube itself.

p.p.s. A piece of plastic canvas, and enough yarn to complete the color blocks, fit neatly inside a waterproof quart size ziplock bag.  😉

5 things you can do in your backyard garden, right now…

5 things you can do in your backyard garden, right now - raised bed garden

early summer garden – in raised beds

This year we will be celebrating 50 years of Earth Day! This seems like the perfect excuse to chat a little about backyard gardens! I’m the first to admit, there is always more to learn about gardening, and like most people, I’m out here planting stuff that I think will be yummy to eat 🙂 While I have some training, most of what I’ve learned about gardening came through years of experience; trials, successes, and failures.

Honestly, it’s a miracle I enjoy gardening at all, considering my early years of gardening were relegated to digging out rocks, and pulling weeds in my parents garden. As a kid, I never got to do the “fun” parts of gardening, like planting things, picking things, and watering things! And while I loved my parents, don’t make the same mistake they made with me, get your kids out in the garden with you – and let them do the “fun” stuff! Let them dig trenches, plant the seeds, water the plants, and pick & eat food right there in the garden. Here are 5 things you can do in your garden, right now, to get ready for the growing season.

5 things you can do in your backyard garden, right now - gardening in raised beds

raised bed in garden



Seed catalogs have been arriving in my mailbox since January – you might have a few as well (and if you don’t, they’re easy to request). These catalogs offer a much larger selection of seeds (and often, seedlings) than what a garden or big-box store will carry. They are also more likely to include heirloom varieties. Choose things that are well suited to grow in your area. I get the majority of my seeds from Territorial Seed Company. Why? Because they have test gardens in my area of the Pacific Northwest. That means I know that the things they grow, will most likely grow well for me. Keep in mind as you make your selections, of the mature plant size. It’s easy to get excited with all those plants and seeds, and then overcrowd your garden plot. This will lead to reduced yields, and disease. Resist the urge! 🙂

  • plants that sprawl include: pumpkins, squash, melons, (indeterminate) cucumbers…
  • plants that get big include: zucchini, (indeterminate) tomatoes (especially cherry)…
5 things you can do in your backyard garden, right now - raised bed garden

Lettuces – Flashy Trout’s Back, Red Sails, Bullet, Outredgeous, and Hyper Red Rumple


Having a successful garden requires you to understand your growing conditions. A little bit of observation and research now, will lead to a healthy and successful garden later. Make sure you know if your garden plot gets full sun, partial sun, or is shaded. Then make sure to choose plants that will thrive in those areas. If your garden plot gets shade for much of the day, you may never see a ripe tomato, which would be sad, but that same plot could be perfect for lettuce, spinach, chard, and other crops. You also need to know the average first and last frost dates, for your area. Your local state extension office may be able to offer more detailed information. Know these dates before you make your plant selections. Choosing a tomato that takes 100 to mature when your growing season is 90 days, will lead to disappointment.

  • full sun = 8+ hours of sunshine – tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons…
  • partial sun/shade = 4-6 hours of sunshine – root veggies like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beets…
  • shade = 4 hours of less of sunshine – lettuce, chard, spinach, kale…
5 things you can do in your backyard garden, right now - deer in the garden

deer are garden pests


This covers a wide range of critters, bugs, and possibly a nosey neighbor 😉 Learn about the major pests: deer, rabbits, squirrels, birds, etc. and develop a plan to deal with them before they do damage to your precious plants. My biggest pests are deer. They eat everything, and have a special affinity for hot peppers, tomatoes and watermelons (just before they ripen 🙁  ). This required me to build an eight foot fence, and I also use water scarecrows to help keep the deer away.

5 things you can do in your backyard garden, right now - Sun Gold Cherry Tomato

Sungold Cherry Tomato


This will be unique to your particular family, and there is no right or wrong. If you never eat tomatoes, don’t plant them. Love salad blends from the grocer? Plant a lettuce mix! Plan to make your garden a place you will enjoy, full of food you will actually eat. Involve your family in this process, and if you have kids, honor their input. An exception: if your pea-hating child wants to grow peas, let them! It could be an excellent way to help them get over their dislike of trying new foods. One year I let my daughter plant Fennel, because she thought it was pretty. I’m still trying to get rid of that plant, but she loved it, and that made it worth it. 😉

5 things you can do in your backyard garden, right now - mushroom compost

mushroom compost that I mix with my garden soil and homemade compost


Maintaining a healthy garden does require quite a bit of work between the fun of sowing seeds, and the yummy conclusion of harvest time. Plan now to get any necessary compost, watering hoses, garden tools, water walls, cages, trellises, etc. so that you have them when you need them. Little seedlings can go from healthy to dead in a matter of hours if the soil moisture isn’t maintained. If you have to be away for an extended time, get a water timer to make sure those precious seedlings stay moist. A great source of information for me here in the PNW are my lovely Sunset books; The Sunset Western Garden Book, and Sunset Western Garden Book of Edibles. Simple and comprehensive, a truly lovely combination.

Remember that every season is unique and has its own set of challenges. Every crop failure, or success, is a lesson learned in what we need to do. And when you eat the produce from your own garden, you will know that all the hours spent in the garden, are completely worth it.

Do you have a garden?
Do you have a favorite vegetable that you just have to have? Please tell me about it, I love trying new foods 🙂

keep the green side up,


*disclaimer – I’m not affiliated with the business or products I recommend in any way, I just think they are awesome, and wanted to share with you. 😉

roasted hazelnut pie base… aka your favorite pie, but better…

Roasted Hazelnut Pie Base. Hazelnut Pumpkin Pie.

When it comes to good food, Thanksgiving really gives us a chance to shine. There are a few things I make that seem to create a lot of interest. Earlier this year I finally responded to the requests about how to make homemade yogurt, and this time it’s my pie. The great thing about this recipe for Roasted Hazelnut Pie Base, is that it’s simply an addition, and it will enhance nearly any pie. It’s your favorite pie, but better.

Roasted Hazelnut Pie Base works wonderfully with pumpkin (my favorite), apple, and berry pies. And being that I do live On The Nut Farm, it’s just possible that I may have more recipes featuring hazelnuts than your average Joe. 😉 

Roasted Hazelnut Pie Base  aka… Your favorite pie, but better

3/4 c. toasted and finely ground, hazelnuts  (about 3/4 – 1 c. whole nuts)

1/3 c. brown sugar, firmly packed

4 T. butter, softened

1/4 t. vanilla

salt, just a pinch

Mix the ingredients, just until they come together into a paste. Press into the bottom of you favorite pie crust. Bake at 450˚F for 10 minutes, until bubbly. Allow to cool completely, then bake your pie as usual. Your favorite pie, but better!
* this makes enough for one deep-dish 9-9 1/2 inch pie.

The details…

hazelnuts, whole hazelnuts, cracked hazelnuts, filberts

toasting hazelnuts –

This is a super simple process that greatly enhances the flavor of the nuts, so don’t be tempted to skip this step 😉  Oh, and you may want to have more nuts on hand than the recipe calls for because they are oh, so yummy, when toasted!

hazelnuts or filberts

Spread the nuts in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Toast in a 350˚F oven, shaking the pan every few minutes, until the nuts are lightly browned and fragrant, about 5-10 minutes. You will know they are almost ready when the skins begin to crack. Be careful not to let them burn 😉

roasted hazelnuts, roasted whole filberts

Pour the warm nuts onto a kitchen towel (one that’s a little rough is best), and rub the warm nuts vigorously to loosen the skins.

roasted and skinned hazelnuts, roasted and skinned filberts

This is one of those recipes where making substitutions will not give you a good final product. Please don’t be tempted to use margarine in this recipe. The water in margarine does not play nicely with the oils from the nuts, and you will have a disappointing mess.

roasted hazelnuts, hazelnut pumpkin pie

grinding hazelnuts –

Again simple, but a little care is needed. You can grind the (cooled) nuts in a blender or food processor, the key is to do just a few at a time.  Go slowly, just a few pulses, otherwise you will end up with hazelnut butter, which is super tasty, but not what you’re looking for in this recipe.

ground hazelnuts, ground filberts

Press the hazelnut base evenly into the bottom of your pie crust.

Roasted Hazelnut Pie Base. Your favorite pie, but better. Hazelnut pumpkin pie

Get ready for the most intoxicating smell! Oh my goodness, this is the best part. Watch the baking time closely, and you may want to place some aluminum foil, or a pie crust guard, around the edges of your pie crust to keep it from burning.

Roasted Hazelnut Pie Base. Hazelnut pumpkin pie. Your favorite pie, but better.

Once your pie base has cooled, use as you would any other pie crust.

Pumpkin pie with roasted hazelnuts.

That’s it, simple and sumptuous. Enjoy!

keep the green side up,


living simply…

beautiful moon set over the coast range, oregon

moon set over the coast range… simply beautiful

To live a simple and fulfilling life, is one of my greatest goals. The things I choose to place value on will lead me to this road, or away from it. For me, it all boils down to my family and home – nothing else truly matters. And, if those two things are the priority, everything else will fall into place.

So, how can I do this? To create the life I want? I guess it’s fairly simple and boils down to two questions. Is it necessary? Will it bring joy? The important thing to remember is that all choices take work. Things will not magically change because I say I want X,Y, or Z.  I have to choose the life I want with intention and purpose. Our lives are as simple or as complicated as we choose to make them. Decide what is truly important to you. Eliminate everything else.

breakfast date with husband

breakfast date with Mr. Awesome… simply necessary

Like so many of you, my life revolves around my family. Mr. Awesome and I decided early on that we would put our relationship first, and our kids second. A lot of people think this sounds horrid. They think that we should always put our children first, that they are the most important thing in our lives. I disagree. I believe that if, as parents, we don’t work at having a strong relationship, that the family unit might not stay a family unit; and how is that putting children first? So we strive for time together, just the two of us. We spend time doing things that we enjoy. We date each other. Our children see what a healthy relationship looks like. Finding time to do this isn’t easy, but it is essential to having a marriage that will outlast our children moving away from home.

planting garden corn

planting the garden… simply hard work

Society as a whole, has become more focused on the acquisition of things than on relationships. Much of my “living simply” revolves around deciding to be content with what I have. It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others – to see what others have that we don’t. I’ll share with you a pet peeve of mine…  my garden. When people see my garden they frequently say “Oh, you’re so lucky, I wish my garden looked like that!“. This makes a little cranky. Why? Because we have worked on it for years… we are still working on it. We have dug rocks out of it. Dug in manure into it. Taken out trees to expand it. Put up fencing to protect it. Every year we spend hours and hours working on it. It isn’t luck, it is a choice. We didn’t buy tickets to Disneyland, we bought blocks to build raised beds. We didn’t go to that great concert by that awesome band. We put up fence posts. Do you see what I mean? You can’t compare your life to mine, or anyone else’s. Not valuing what you have will only lead to sadness. Sometimes I struggle with the feeling of the people around me not understanding my choices. But, they are the choices that feel true to my values.

The choices I make certainly aren’t for everyone. Do you know:

  • I absolutely detest shopping, and limit my grocery shopping to once a week or less?
  • I only own two pair of jeans, one for the garden and one for town?
  • I have no cable or satellite, and my internet is one step away from dial up, so there is no “streaming” anything?
clutter-free kitchen countertops

clear kitchen countertops… simply clutter-free

When people who don’t know me visit my home, they often ask if I just moved in. I like clean, open spaces. Clutter stresses me out. When my home and the things around me are cluttered and messy, my mind feels the same way. My productivity slacks off, and I get cranky. It’s hard to focus on what needs to be done when there are too many things vying for my attention. When I’m feeling stressed I start going through all the closets and drawers, and purge anything that doesn’t fit my definition of useful.

Time is at a premium around here. Working for yourself can be boon and blessing, and it can quickly take over every aspect, and free moment, of your life. Mr. Awesome works insane hours. My kids schedules seem to change on a whim. “The regular 3:00 practices are going to be at 6:00 this week?  Uhm, sure.  No problem…”  😛  You get the idea.

So what matters most to you…? Your family? Your church? Giving back to your community? Volunteering to help those less fortunate? Would someone from the outside looking in, be able to tell what you place value on, by the choices you make?

keep the green side up,


what summer looks like where I live…

looking out over Saddle Mountain Oregon

looking out over Saddle Mountain

note: this post was written as a guest post on another site, with the topic being assigned.

Since getting the request to write on the topic of “what summer looks like where I live”, I’ve been going round and round about how wide to cast that net. Since deciding where we should go camping each summer is a family activity where everyone gets input, I decided it would be fitting to share some of our favorite places to go camping in western Oregon!

You might have heard me say how blessed I am to live in the beautiful Willamette Valley. That’s not something I just say, it’s true, and I try to appreciate the beauty around me every day. Sometimes in the middle of the dark, rainy winter, it can be a bit tough to find the beauty, but when I look out and see the radiant green valley, even in the middle of winter, I manage to at least appreciate the rain. Summer though, summer makes it so easy to love living here!

Coquille River Lighthouse, Oregon

Coquille River Lighthouse

Along the Southern Oregon Coast, you can visit the Coquille River Lighthouse near Bandon.

Florence Oregon fishing boat dock

Florence, Oregon

A trip along the Southern Oregon Coast wouldn’t be complete without a stop in Florence.

Three Sisters

Three Sisters

If we venture over the Cascades, the climate changes to desert and we have a whole new area to enjoy. The Three Sisters are hard to miss as you head south.

Paulina Peak, Paulina and East Lakes

Paulina Peak, Paulina and East Lakes

A hike to the top of Paulina Peak rewards you with views of volcanic lakes, Paulina Lake and East Lake. If you look toward the bottom right you can see an ancient lava flow.

Obsidian at Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Obsidian at Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Newberry National Volcanic Monument is an ancient obsidian flow. Walking on black volcanic glass is an amazing experience.

Little Lava Lake

Little Lava Lake

While we’re in the area, some fishing at Little Lava Lake is in order.

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

If we go just a little further south we get to visit Crater Lake National Park. At 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States and one of the ten deepest lakes in the world!

Mt. Hood Ski Bowl ski lift

Mt. Hood Ski Bowl ski lift

A swing back to the north takes us back to another of our Northwest volcanoes, Mt. Hood. While Hood is famous for its year-round skiing (right now Palmer Glacier is hosting all the Olympians training for Sochi), there’s an awful lot of fun to be had there after the snow melts.

Cape Mears Lighthouse

Cape Mears Lighthouse

A swing back to the beautiful north coast of Oregon means more light houses to visit.

Ft. Stevens State Park Battery Russell

Ft. Stevens State Park Battery Russell

I’ll finish this little tour at the tip of Oregon. A visit to Ft. Stevens and Russell Battery is a must for anyone interested in WWII history.

trails through Ft. Stevens

trails through Ft. Stevens

While we’re there, there are plenty of trails to hike…

Cosmolabe Geocoin

Cosmolabe Geocoin – sadly stolen after we enjoyed finding it

And since our family loves geocaching, there’s always awesome loot here.

geocache twinkies

geocache Twinkies…

Sometimes a geocache yields another kind of surprise. Twinkie anyone?

wreck of The Peter Iredale

wreck of The Peter Iredale

Old ship wrecks, yeah we have those too!

Oregon coast monoliths near Pacific City

Oregon coast monoliths near Pacific City

And the gorgeous monoliths scattered along the coast take my breath away every time.

keep the green side up,


refreshing your spirit…

running is hard - Elizabeth Wendland Photography - Portland, Sherwood, Oregon

note: this post was written as a guest post on another site, with the topic being Refresh.

As I sit down to write on this topic of “refresh”, I must say part of my mind is screaming “hypocrite!”, because this is something I struggle with every day. Some days I win. Some days, well, not so much 🙁

Maybe you know what I’m talking about. You know you should be doing something to refresh your spirit. You know you need some time to yourself. You know that putting everyone else first all. the. time. is not healthy. You know, you need down-time to refresh and revive your spirit, or eventually your going to snap, but… And that’s the thing, there’s always a but. There is always something demanding your time, your energy, your attention, your skills. You feel like you can’t let anyone down. You don’t want to say no to your kids, your spouse, your job. But… at the end of the day, you’re at the end of the day. You have spent another 24 hours doing for others, and you feel spent. You feel lonely. You miss you.

suggestion or command? Elizabeth Wendland Photography - Portland, Sherwood, Oregon -IMG_0368

Refreshing your spirit need not be a huge, time consuming, or expensive thing. Sometimes when we think about refreshing our spirits, we only consider the big ways to refresh. Vacation. A week off (or two!). And while those times are important, it’s the little daily moments of refreshment that keep us going. Maybe a nice massage is your perfect respite. It might be a half hour in the early morning where you sit with your warm cup of coffee and your journal. It might be that quiet time when the rest of the world seems to have settled in for the night, and you curl up in your chair with a good book. It really doesn’t matter what your “thing” is, it just has to be something that allows you to be quiet. To be alone. Alone with yourself. Alone with your thoughts. With your worries. With your hopes.With your dreams. Remember those?  Dreams…? Your mind needs time to hear the quiet whisperings of your heart.

run because you love the feeling of living - Elizabeth Wendland Photography - Portland, Sherwood, Oregon

I’m going to tell you a little about how I refresh my spirit. Exercise. And my exercise of choice… running. There is an unfortunate predilection toward depression in my family. Especially among the women, and I (unfortunately) am not immune. Thankfully a routine of regular running keeps most of my personal demons at bay. Not everyone is so lucky, but for me running is my Prozac. Without it, well let’s not talk about that right now. For me, running is the only thing I’ve found that banishes every other thought and worry from my mind. I’ve run through…

  • fear
  • happiness
  • anger
  • sadness
  • love
  • frustration
  • loss

if I didn't run I'd have gone crazy by now - Elizabeth Wendland Photography - Portland, Sherwood, Oregon

Running is the only thing that stills the constant barrage of thoughts, ideas and worries, that seem to bounce around in my mind nearly every moment of the day. Don’t get me wrong, running is not easy or fun for me. It is a challenge. Every. Single. Day. Sadly, it is no easier for me to put on my running shoes today, than it was last week, last month, or last year; but I do it, because I must. It keeps me sane, and for that, I force myself to lace up. It sounds terrible to say “force”, but that is the truth of it. Even though I know how much better I will feel when I’m done, it’s still an exercise in mental fortitude to take those first steps. There are a couple of sayings I hear over and over from runners. They make me think I may not be alone in my battle…

running never takes more than it gives back - Elizabeth Wendland Photography - Portland, Sherwood, Oregon

or maybe this sounds better…

dead last is greater than did not finish - Elizabeth Wendland Photography - Portland, Sherwood, Oregon

It would seem that this may be a demon that I battle forever. As I wrote this, something tickled my brain. Something told me I had been here before, so I went searching.  Sure enough self- criticism and denial were waiting there to greet me.

And a final thought to make you smile, before I send you along to the next lovely teacher to read about her take on the refresh theme…

what I feel like when I run - Elizabeth Wendland Photography - Portland, Sherwood, Oregon

Made you smile, didn’t it! 😉

keep the green side up,


update:  so many of you have emailed or private messaged me this morning about this post. I cannot begin to express how humbling it is that this has touched so many of you, thank you. I will be responding to every single one of you. Please be patient as I work my way through these messages. Thank you, again.

the birds of spring…

American Goldfinch

Anyone who says pigs can’t fly, has never fed American Goldfinches!

Here, one of the very first signs that spring is on its way, arrives with a racket. Birds. Lots of them. As the first teasing warm days appear, so do my winged friends.  The bright yellow of the American Goldfinch, is a welcome spot of color after the long dreary winter months.  I keep a list of all the birds that have been seen in (and over), my yard. Everything from the constant company of the little Junco’s that flit around, to the Bald Eagle who soars over the yard on the way to his nest. The bird count is now over 50!

I would like to send out a huge thank you to my talented daughter Avery, who contributed several pictures to this post through her endless patience watching and waiting for a chance to catch many of these birds 🙂 Now, on to more birds!

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

A large portion of the spring-time racket is caused by this guy, the Pileated Woodpecker. Not only does he create a riot of noise as he drills into tress looking for a meal, but his loud, shrill call pierces the air all around him.

Violet-green Swallow in a Bluebird box

This Violet-green Swallow is laying claim to this Bluebird box.

There is one bird who we watch for with special anticipation. The calendar may say spring, but for our family, we know it’s not here until the swallows arrive. The little Violet-green Swallows wow us with their wild acrobatics. It’s impossible not to smile as you watch them swirling and diving through the air. They come swooping through the yard on dive-bomb like missions, gobbling up all the little insects that become active with the warmer weather. They move about so quickly this picture of the mama swallow staking out her box, is the only decent picture of them I have.

Juvenile Oregon Junco

Juvenile Oregon Junco

This little guy is a juvenile Oregon Junco. Exploring the world with his newfound freedom, he flew into the shop through an open door, and perched on the highest spot he could find.  🙂

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Some birds are bigger than others, and there is a wide variety of hawks in the area. This Red-tailed Hawk likes to sit on the fence posts around the garden waiting for lunch to make an appearance.

Yellow House Finch, Black-headed Grosbeak, Black-capped Chickadee, Red House Finch

Yellow House Finch, Black-headed Grosbeak, Black-capped Chickadee, Red House Finch – photos by Avery

All the movement and color make for a very happy, active yard.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove – photo by Avery

This Mourning Dove thinks she’s invisible. Their “crying” in the early morning hours gives them their unique name.

baby Anna's Hummingbird

baby Anna’s Hummingbird

 juvenile Anna's Hummingbird

juvenile Anna’s Hummingbird – photo by Avery







adult Anna's Hummingbird

adult Anna’s Hummingbird – photo by Avery

The dominant species of hummingbird in the area is the Anna’s Hummingbird. It’s great to be able to watch them throughout the season.  Not long after hatching they are little more than a ball of fluff with a very long beak! They have an awkward “teenage” phase just like people do, but by the end of the summer, they are sporting gorgeous colors.

Western Bluebird eggs

Western Bluebird eggs

Even with all these feathered delights, there is a favorite… The Western Bluebird. We have placed a smattering of custom-built boxes around the yard, just to entice them to come and stay.  One year, a record-setting 8 eggs were laid in one of our boxes!

Western Bluebird

Western Bluebird

Due to declining numbers, the Western Bluebird was once listed as a “sensitive” species, but thanks to non-profit volunteer groups, this bird is making a strong comeback. As I write this, mama and papa Bluebird are “house hunting”. They go from box to box, trying to find the one that is just right.

keep the green side up,


the earliest signs of spring on the farm…


Being able to live here year-round on the farm is a blessing, but during this particular season, it’s extra special. The cycle of new life is continuous here. Something new is always coming into its own. That also means something old is quietly receding. Did you see it?

filbert/hazelnut pollen haze

It happens so fast. Life comes and goes. If you don’t take a minute to appreciate it, it may be gone when you come back. Just a couple of weeks ago the trees had yet to show any signs of the leaves that were to come, and instead were busy releasing clouds of pollen into the air (and turning my truck a lovely shade of yellow/green).

spent filbert catkins

A short time ago the catkins in the trees positively glowed chartreuse. Now they have completed their job and already hang limp and lifeless, ready to drop to the ground and become compost that will nourish the fruit they sent their pollen out to create.

new spring garlic

The garlic, planted into the cold damp earth last fall, is already making quite a showing for itself.

crimson clover

The clover, sown in the fall as a cover crop, is such a beautiful, intense green it makes your eyes ache to look at it. It seems to get taller overnight.

flowering cherry tree

The earliest flowers are making appearances as well. This flowering cherry blooms well before anything else.

Daphne Odora

The Daphne, with its absolutely intoxicating scent is in all its glory now, so I breathe it in deeply each time I step outside, for its season is also short.

earthworm gatherings

The soil is gaining new life too. The earthworms have been busy taking last years straw (and anything else they can find) down into their holes. For some reason it always makes me smile to see all the little “circles” they gather up during the night.


The lettuce, planted such a short time ago, will be providing salads for dinner before I know it.

raspberry leaves

The raspberries are sending out their first tentative leaves.

rhubarb buds, rhubarb plants in spring

And the rhubarb with its almost neon colors, seems otherworldly.

Everywhere I look things are changing. New life comes and goes. And I know when I look again… tomorrow… next week… next month… it will all be different. Beautifully different.

keep the green side up,