Friday Five



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Hi! It’s me, Ashley. 😊 Hello there! It’s been a while…

February is finally here! Anyone else feel like January is the longest month of the year? Just me? January in Chicago is never my favorite time of year. This year was no exception – lots of snow, cold and so much fog!  Yesterday started with a higher than average temperature (a balmy 48 degrees!) and beautiful sunshine. ☀️ How has mother nature been treating you lately?


Speaking of sunshine, every year around this time I get the itch to ditch the cold and snow for a destination that’s a little more reliably warm with sunshine. Last year was the La Jolla area of San Diego (truly my happy place!). This year it’s going to be Florida. That trip will be coming up in February and I couldn’t be more excited.


Do you know who else is excited about the escape to Florida? Miles. Because it’s been so long since I’ve posted an update, I feel like I should probably mention that he is now 9. Yes, 9. I don’t even know how that’s possible. He is just like his mama and does best with that good ole’ vitamin D and sand between the toes!

By the way, Miles just celebrated his 8th liver transplant anniversary and next week it will be his 7th kidney transplant anniversary! We are always so thankful for his incredible life-saving organ donors Abby and Liz. 💚💙

While Miles lives a fairly normal life, we do get the occasional reminder that he has a suppressed immune system from the anti-rejection medications that he takes. In December he was pretty sick for three weeks and hospitalized for 6 days. The hospitalizations are far and few between these days, which I am so thankful for.

Widow life + dating…

Last week marked six years since we lost Ryan to colon cancer. Some days it feels like yesterday, other days it feels like it’s been so long since I’ve heard his voice. Many of you have vulnerably shared your own stories of loss, grieving, and caring and loving someone in your life with cancer. I appreciate hearing from you so much. It always helps to know that you aren’t alone.

I’ve learned a lot in the last six years about life, grief and moving forward. Some days are harder than others, especially with a 9 year old who would love nothing more than to have his dad in his life. We still talk about his Dad daily and do our very best to honor and keep his memory alive.

Last year I decided I was finally ready to put myself out there and enter the world of dating. May I remind you that Ryan and I started dating in high school and I was married by the time I was 20? I have never had to date in my life! May I also remind you that I work from home, thus the chance of meeting someone organically is slim to none? With that in mind, I very reluctantly joined the online dating apps.

Dating for the first time in your life at 40 years old is interesting, to say the least! I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I’m slowly but surely learning the ins and outs of online dating. It’s mostly been a positive experience, but it’s also exhausting and little bit tedious as well. I have a couple of fun stories too… it’s always an adventure!

I have so much I could say about dating but we’d be here all day! If you’ve got any dating tips, send ‘em my way! This is my dating profile pic, by the way. Can I just tell you how incredibly uncomfortable it feels to post pictures and information about myself on an app with the goal of trying to meet someone to share life with? Especially after being in a very happy, loving marriage for 15 years. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the whole concept!

Ashley Wagner

Valentine’s Day + Super Bowl!

Looking ahead into February, we’ve got Valentine’s Day coming up, and the Super Bowl! While I am absolutely rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs (big Travis Kelce fan here 🙂… love Jason Kelce too!), I’d be ok with a 49’ers win – their QB, Brock Purdy is a fellow Iowa State Alumni (go Cyclones!). It’s been fun to watch his progress and see his success.

What kinds of recipes do you like to make for Valentine’s Day and the Super Bowl?

“Friday Five” for February 2, 2024

Here are five things I wanted to share with you this week!

1. I just finished re-listening to the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. Self-improvement books are my favorite, and this one is definitely a good one. It’s all about making little changes in your life that add up to big results. I listened to it years ago and wanted a refresher. I can’t remember the last time I finished reading a physical book, but I love to listen to books on Audible. Any self improvement book recommendations? 

2. I’ve made this Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup three times already.  It is absolutely my favorite soup recipe this season. SO good. Try it before soup season is over and let me know what you think. :) 

bowl of creamy chicken noodle soup. Pot of soup sitting in background

3. Are you on TikTok? It’s one of my guilty pleasures at night to unwind. This week when I walked into hot yoga, I saw a guy that looked just like a cooking creator I follow on TikTok with 3 million followers. And then I realized it actually was him. So random! You can find him on TikTok @cookingwithdarryl

Do you have any favorite TikTok accounts that you follow?

4. We need to talk about Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce for a moment. I have never in my life been invested in a celebrity couple before. Ever. Celebrities just do not interest me. I couldn’t care less about which celebrity is dating who but let me tell you, I am so invested in this relationship. It is just so cute and wholesome. I think I might just be a hopeless romantic after all! Anyone else? Seeing all of the clips of them together, seemingly so in love, just makes me smile so big.

5. This expandable over the sink strainer/colander is my new favorite kitchen tool. A couple of weeks ago I was draining boiling water from a sauce pan by simply holding the lid on top… you know how that goes, right? I was sick with a head cold, got dizzy, and ended up dumping the entire pot of boiling water on my hand. It’s definitely the worst burn I’ve experienced both with the size of it and how much it hurt. It looked so bad! After that happened, I decided I should find a good colander. I highly recommend this one!

Weekly Inspiration

I’ll leave you with with a little bit of inspiration and a good reminder that comes from Theodore Roosevelt. It’s a conversation I just had with Miles yesterday when I noticed he was comparing himself to his friends in a way that was leaving him feeling down.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Theodore Roosevelt

It’s so easy to get caught up comparing ourselves to others. I catch myself doing it too, don’t we all? While I think that comparisons can serve a useful purpose, I think that sometimes they can leave us feeling less-then and more negatively too. Be mindful of who and what you’re comparing yourself to, and how you feel about yourself when you’re making the comparison. :)

comparison is the thief of joy - inspirational quote

I hope you have a wonderful weekend! We’ve got a couple of basketball games on the agenda, a birthday party, and maybe a walk or two outside to enjoy the 40 degree February warmth and sunshine! 😉



Hi, I’m Ashley & I’m so happy you’re here!

Ashley is the founder of CenterCutCook and a former teacher that now spends her days in the kitchen so that she can share her favorite recipes with you!