Celebrating Life

Got produce? Gardening tips to make summer's bounty last

Share your garden's bounty this summer.During summer, whether you have an abundant vegetable garden, receive a weekly community-supported agriculture box of veggies, or just couldn’t stop buying produce at the farmers market, you may be asking yourself, “What do I do with all these vegetables?”

Here are some ideas of what to do with excess produce before it wilts away.

Use a seasonal cookbook
Summer is a great time to eat fresh, local food. There are many seasonal cookbooks, From Asparagus to Zucchini, A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce is one of my favorites. I like that it’s published by Wisconsin’s FAIRSHARE CSA Coalition – they know their seasonal veggies!

I haven’t tried it yet, but FAIRSHARE recently published a companion to Asparagus, titled Farm-Fresh and Fast: Easy Recipes and Tips for Making the Most of Fresh, Seasonal Foods. It’s on my short list!

Basil drying

Preserve what you can’t eat
Garlic, many varieties of onions, and down the road, root vegetables and winter squash, will keep a long time. Just eat as you need them. Drying and freezing are a couple of great options for small-scale food preservation. I dry herbs by tying them in bunches and hanging in a warm dry place out of the sun (house or garage attic are great for this). A food dehydrator can dry just about anything. No need to buy one, I got one from a friend who had an extra, or keep an eye on your local second hand stores.

Freezing is a little more involved, but nothing that you can’t do with a little research and hot water (really). And if you want to learn more about canning, search online for a water-bath or pressure canning class. They are usually 2-3 hours each.

Share your bounty
If you’ve simply got too much food to eat and no time or desire to preserve it, share it!

  • Pack up extra produce and go introduce yourself to a neighbor you’ve been meaning to get to know better.
  • Encourage healthy snacking at work. Slice up some produce and bring in a vegetable platter. Boast about where it came from.
  • Donate it! Many food pantries now accept any quantity of fresh produce to share with their communities. My community garden organizes a collection bin and last year, we donated more than 300 pounds of fresh produce to several Madison, Wis.-area food pantries. Your donation won’t be on that scale, but will be just as appreciated.

Josh Feyen - the Urbane Farmer shares his “raised-on-a-farm” wisdom and writes about urban farming and organic gardening topics on his personal blog, too.

30 Days of SummerEditor's note: However you spend it, summer has a wonderful, effortless way of bringing us closer to the ones we love. In this spirit, American Family invites you and your family to join us for our 30 Days of Summer celebration.

Throughout the season, we’re featuring ideas - like gardening - for family fun and safety with our communities on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Google Plus. We’ll also offer opportunities for you to share your own summer experiences with us. Visit the American Family Insurance Facebook page today and throughout the summer to join the 30 Days of Summer celebration with your own comments, stories and pictures!

Posted by Josh Feyen on Mon, Jul 22 2013 10:40 am

5 reasons we all scream for ice cream

Christina and Mia enjoy sharing their ice cream.Some of the best moments in life are the simplest ones – like eating ice cream. For a moment in time, nothing else matters except savoring this sweet treat. It’s one of my favorite things to do with friends or family in nice weather, for a bunch of reasons.

Ice cream tastes so good. My favorite sundae is the Caramel Pecan Drizzle sundae Michael’s Frozen Custard. It’s heaven in a bowl with warm caramel topping and toasted pecans – not many ice cream shops toast the nuts to give it that buttery and salty goodness.

Sometimes the anticipation is just as good. Last night I mentioned to my two-and-a-half-year old daughter, Mia, not exactly eager to leave school, if she came home and had supper, I would take her out for ice cream afterwards. Of course, that’s all she talked about from that moment, through dinner until we got into the car to head for Culver’s frozen custard. She had vanilla sundae with sprinkles, I had chocolate and mint Oreo – super yummy and super fun. That’s us in the photo.

It’s hilarious to watch a little kid eat it. When I mention ice cream to my daughter, the first thing she always seems to say is, “I want to get messy.” And that’s usually part of the deal. Ice cream is all over her face, hands and clothes and she loves it.

It’s nostalgic and comforting. Eating ice cream has always been a symbol of good times. Whether it’s my dad making homemade malteds or getting a bag of dilly bars from Dairy Queen. Even hearing the sound of the ice cream truck in the distance brings back great memories of being a kid.

It makes people smile and brings them together. No matter what we’re doing on a family vacation, it’s always extra special if there’s a visit to a Kilwin’s ice cream shop. Just mentioning it gets us grinning and sometimes doing a little happy dance. I’m not sure if it’s that smell of warm waffle cones, or that they have a toasted coconut flavor. That place is legendary for our family. 

30 Days of SummerEditor's note: July 21 is National Ice Cream Day. How are you celebrating? Leave a comment and share your favorite ice cream memory. Or join the conversation on Facebook as American Family Insurance shares ideas for the season during the 30 Days of Summer

Posted by Christina Harkins on Sun, Jul 21 2013 7:09 amChristina Harkins is a strategic communications editor for American Family Insurance.

Marathon Man

Tim Gundeck has competed in marathons in all 50 states.

On Sunday, in Missoula, Mont., I completed my goal of running a full marathon in all 50 states. It was the culmination of a goal I have been working on for 18 years.

My journey began in 1995, when I took up running to lose weight. With a young kid and a wife in school, I didn’t have time to exercise in the gym at night. Running seemed like the perfect way to lose weight, because all I needed was a pair of running shoes, and I could run anywhere, at any time.

I started out running a mile a day, and then as I got in better shape and felt more confident, I gradually increased my daily mileage. Eventually I decided to run some races, starting out first with 5K/10K races and working myself up to a marathon. I decided to do the Disneyworld Marathon as my first full event.

I had no issues with the 16-week training program and ran the Disneyworld Marathon in four hours and 10 minutes in January 2000.  It was an awesome experience, running from park to park and seeing and hearing the crowds cheering us all on during the race.

Then in 2002, a friend talked me into running the Twin Cities Marathon with him. Running through the Twin Cities was incredible, and the crowds were even bigger than at Disneyworld.

It was there I really caught the marathon bug — and was hooked.

So I ran the Chicago marathon the next year and Macon, Ga., marathon shortly after. When in Macon, I learned of the 50 States Marathon Club. As you might conclude, this was a club comprising runners whose goal is to run a marathon in every state.

During the next couple of years, I started doing three to four marathons a year and eventually completed state number 10, South Dakota. After completing marathons in 10 states, I was eligible to become a member of the 50 States Marathon Club.

My next goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I increased my mileage to 50 to 60 miles a week and worked at increasing my speed. My happiest day ever happened in Boise, Idaho, in October 2007, where I ran a three-hour, 28-minute marathon  — and qualified for Boston.

By 2008, I was running six to eight marathons a year. I was enjoying traveling around the country, meeting all kinds of great people and running through some great American cities. In 2009, I ran the marathons in both Boston and New York City. Others were in Tucson, Ariz.; Little Rock, Ark.; Fargo, N.D.; Denver, Baltimore and Anchorage, Alaska.

By now I was running so many marathons that I qualified to join the Marathon Maniac club. This is a group of marathon runners who qualify by running multiple marathons in a short time. I was able to qualify joining the “maniacs” by running two marathons a week apart.

In May of this year, I completed state 49 in Maine. That leaves July 14, and I will then complete my goal.

Running has given me such an opportunity to see every state in this great country of ours, at seven miles an hour with a pair of running shoes. I’m happy I got off the couch 18 years ago and took the first step of this journey.

Editor's note: Here’s a list of all the marathons Tim has completed.

Posted by Tim Gundeck on Tue, Jul 16 2013 1:16 pmTim Gundeck is an application development engineering specialist with American Family Insuranc.e

Stop to celebrate summer's little moments

30 Days of SummerGrowing up in a family of five kids, you can imagine the kind of chaos that embarking on our summer camping trip created.

As my mother frantically filled our industrial-sized cooler with enough hot dogs and baked beans to feed a small country, my siblings and I scurried about looking for lost swimsuits, fighting over beach toys, and trying to coax our stubborn dog into the back of our ancient Volkswagen van.

“Bus is leaving!” my Dad used to holler, honking the horn as we scrambled to get in - fishing poles sticking haphazardly out the windows, and our dog naughtily sneaking nibbles from the picnic basket. This chaotic routine greatly amused our neighbors, along with our inevitable return to the house to retrieve whatever beloved stuffed animal someone had forgotten – and just couldn’t do without.

You’d think this yearly circus we went through to go camping would have gotten tiresome, but it never did. To me, it signaled the long-awaited start of summer – but more importantly, it was a rare chance for my whole family to spend time together. Whether we were relaxing around the campfire, hunting for frogs in the lake, or playing card games, these moments are the ones I will always remember and cherish.

Whatever your own, fond recollections of summer may be, the truth is this time of year has a wonderful, effortless way of bringing us closer to the ones we love. In this spirit, American Family invites you and your family to join us for our 30 Days of Summer celebration.

The American Family Insurance 30 Days of Summer Throughout the season, we’ll feature ideas for family fun and safety with our communities on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus. We’ll also offer opportunities for you to share your own summer experiences with us. Whether it’s catching fireflies, a day at the ball park, or waiting for the neighborhood ice cream truck, 30 Days of Summer seeks to celebrate and protect the little summer moments that can inspire lifelong memories.

Visit the American Family Insurance Facebook page today and throughout the summer to join the 30 Days of Summer celebration with your own comments, stories and pictures!

Posted by Grace VanDeWeghe on Thu, Jun 20 2013 1:27 pm

What does Dad want for Father's Day?

What are you getting Dad for Father's Day?I've never been big on gift-giving for Father's Day. I'm pretty reserved and practical. I don't wear ties much. I appreciate the simple things fatherhood provides - like time and experiences with my family. 

The rest of the world seems to be different. Holidays like Mother's Day and Father's Day skew toward retail, using these special days to get us to buy the latest gadgets, ties or $19.99 flower bouquets that last a few days. 

This year, AskMen.com put together a list of the 10 best gifts for Father's Day. It's a fun and visual look at popular items for today's busy Dad. (I mean, who wouldn't want a new set of golf clubs?).  

But lists like these always ring a bit hollow for me. 

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate giving and receiving gifts - any time of year. But I'm more interested in what those gifts can create. Like No. 10 on AskMen.com's list - grilling tools. I love to grill dinners for my family in the backyard. Would new grilling items help? Sure. But the better part of that gift is how it enhances the time I get to spend with my family.  

This year, my family and I are spending Father's Day together at a Major League Baseball game. I can think of few things more enjoyable on a summer day than going to the ballpark and experiencing the sights and sounds with my kiddos. (My only regret is not getting to spend some Father's Day time with my dad.)

This year, I appreciate the gift of game tickets and having the health and means to get there. But I will remember how my kids reacted to the day's events more. 

What does your dad want for Father's Day? Hopefully, you can spend some time together this year with the Dads in your life.

Leave a comment and win this cooler/grill combination!Editor's note: Leave a comment on this blog post, and tell us your best Father's Day gift idea. For doing so, you'll have a chance to win this grill-cooler combo (see photo to at right). This giveaway closes Monday, June 17, 2013 at 12 p.m. CST.  One entry per email address is permitted. We'll select the winner using random.org and announce him/her the following Tuesday, June 18, as an update to this post.  We'll notifiy the winner via email and ask her/him to provide a mailing address to receive the prize; if the winner does not respond within seven days, the winner forfeits the prize and another winner will be selected.

Posted by Tom Buchheim on Mon, Jun 10 2013 10:34 am
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