Witness to Beauty – It’s All About Perspective

“The conclusion I have reached is that, above all, dogs are witnesses. They are allowed access to our most private moments. They are there when we think we are alone. Think of what they could tell us. They sit on the laps of presidents. They see acts of love and violence, quarrels and feuds, and the secret play of children. If they could tell us everything they have seen, all of the gaps of our lives would stitch themselves together.”
Carolyn Parkhurst, The Dogs of Babel

Meesha is the latest member of our family. <3

Meet Meesha, the latest member of our family. ❤

As a teacher I tend to mark the passing of time in marking periods and school events. This week we are hot-on-the-heels of semester one exams and last weekend finished winter homecoming festivities. The students that I have helped mentor as a class adviser are seniors and I was proud of their efforts decorating their hallway and winning the spirit pep jug for the fourth year in a row. My husband showed his support by offering to help chaperone the homecoming dance Friday night (in spite of a full day of work and an early wake up the next morning). It was entertaining to watch Lukas (seven) try out his slick dance moves and Avalon (ten) was pleased that for the third year in a row that she got to help with hallway decorating. As always, I am thankful that my place of employment is family friendly and I love that our kids get to interact with my high school students and their education stakeholders.

Lukas trying out his slick moves on the dance floor.

Lukas trying out his slick moves on the dance floor.

In my last post, Making Time For Ourselves, I shared my January goals. While I am happy to report that I am knocking my sleep, vitamin, and food journal goals out of the park – the formal exercise and water is still a work in progress. It is always perplexing to me that it is so difficult for me to consume water. I am ashamed to admit that many days the final bell sounds and I have not even touched my water bottle. At home I have been drinking herbal tea (my newest favorite Yogi brand Honey Lavender Stress Relief) so I am thinking that maybe I need to stock my classroom with tea as well.

My food journal has helped me be mindful of what I am eating and I have been keeping a pot of Three Bean Vegetarian Chili in the refrigerator (a filling option for dinner with a veggie burger or salad) and last week I made one of my favorite Mason Jar Salads, Israeli Feast, for my work lunches. Many of the messages that I receive are from people who are tired of eating salads and “rabbit food”. One of the goals of this blog is to help others try a wide-range of ingredients – and that salads do not need to be boring. My best advice is to fill your plate with a rainbow of fresh fruit and vegetables. Not only does eating the same thing over and over get boring, but it also prevents our bodies from getting a wide-range of nutrients. In order to keep myself from repetitive meals, I like to try different combinations. The Israeli Feast is a non-traditional salad recipe that uses hummus and quinoa tabouli in place of salad dressing. For last week’s version I added avocado to the hummus to amp up the nutritional content with healthy fats.

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fullsizeoutput_1139fullsizeoutput_113afullsizeoutput_113cWhile I still need to work on moving more, my Fitbit is showing increased activity. On Saturday and Sunday I made a concerted effort to get outside and make the most of the sunshine and blue skies. In fact, the views from our property were so inspiring that I have to share them with you. The recent addition to our family, Meesha a two-year-old German Shepherd, is a bundle of frolicsome energy. She made an incredible subject for an impromptu photo shoot and her and Lukas made the best workout buddies. We did not even both to put on our snowshoes but traipsed around in the snow. Let me tell you, it was a workout and I sure can feel it today in my legs and back end. 😉

I cannot believe how much energy Meesha has!

I cannot believe how much energy Meesha has!

My step son Lukas loves to play outside - he is 100% Yooper and farm boy.

My step son Lukas loves to play outside – he is 100% Yooper farm boy.

On sunny days we open up the chicken coop so our sweet hens can sun themselves.

On sunny days we open up the chicken coop so our sweet hens can sun themselves.

John has put HOURS into setting up our new hoop house. We are eager for spring to start planting vegetables.

John has put HOURS into setting up our new hoop house. We are eager for spring to start planting vegetables.

Run Meesha!

Run Meesha!

I hope you are doing well on meeting your healthy goals. If you are struggling, do not give up – each day (every hour) gives us the opportunity for a fresh start. This week I am going to work on my water intake and will be striving to get in more activity. Join me in making time for yourself. Do something that you enjoy doing and seek out beauty. When I grab my camera and go for hike it is much more enjoyable than the gym. Not only am I doing something good for my body, but I am also nourishing my creativity and filling my senses.  It is all about perspective. While winter is not my favorite season, I cannot afford to miss the beauty around me. Especially when I have a gorgeous, energetic dog and adorable seven-year-old to keep me motivated and inspired. ❤

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Our little guy Lukas is always up for an outside adventure.

Our little guy Lukas is always up for an outside adventure.

It's a winter wonderland in our backyard.

It’s a winter wonderland in our backyard.

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Making Time For Ourselves in 2017

Greetings, Friends. I hope that the holiday season has been kind to you and that you have spent time with friends, family, and have had more laughter than tears.

My step daughter Avalon selected this tree from our field.

My step daughter Avalon selected this tree from our field. I wanted an old fashioned tree in red and greens. Next year I want to add homemade ornaments.

As 2016 takes its final bow, I find myself full of reflection. Forty-five years of experience has taught me to not have regrets, but to believe that everything happens for a purpose (even if we are too close at the time to realize that gifts come in multiple wrappings and disguises).

I believe that we are our worst critics and that we must focus on the positives in our lives and not wish time away waiting for the things that we long for. We must focus on the now, while planning for the future. Even small changes can impact our tomorrow and help us achieve our dreams. 

I decided that I could reflect on the past year and beat myself up for all the broken promises I made (to myself or others), or I could focus on the strides I made to live a full life. I will be listing my achievements in my private journal and will thank my family and friends for the support and love that they have bestowed on me.

As we pass into a new year, I will continue to plan, grow, and set goals. On the top of my list for 2017 is for my husband John and I to continue making our family’s financial health a priority, to raise the majority of our own food, and to be the best role models that we can be for the two beautiful children that we are raising.

I'm willing to bet that this will be one of Avalon's favorite Christmas presents. <3

I’m willing to bet that this will be one of Avalon’s favorite Christmas presents. ❤

Lukas has his own personal Super Hero. <3

Lukas has his own personal Super Hero. ❤

In 2016 my healthy goals were put on the back burner due to a multitude of excuses and I need to make time for myself in 2017. Are you with me? Are you ready to invest time and energy on yourself? As we know, when we take care of ourselves it enables us to take care of others better. We are better spouses, parents, children, siblings, leaders, bosses – and all the others roles we serve in our lives.

I decided that I needed to put my January goals “out there” in order to commit and achieve them. Studies show that we are more apt to achieve our goals when we write them down and post them in a prominent location.

What are your goals for the next month? Make your goals achievable and realistic. Once we have achieved our goals our success will snowball and we can confidently make the next steps to finding our balance.

Leave a message here (or private message me) if you need support and are willing to give support to a healthy community of individuals. I am willing to create and moderate a private group on Facebook if there’s enough interest (Find and like my FB page in the right corner of the page). There’s nothing to buy – no cost, no strings attached – just the willingness to put yourself first for a few times during the week and focus on your healthy goals.

I promise to make time for myself in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. Join me. We are worth it! 

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Avalon is a sweetheart and bought this plaque for my classroom. I always tell my students that "Knowledge is Power" - though age gives us wisdom beyond knowledge. Life teaches us many lessons.

Avalon is a sweetheart and bought this plaque for my classroom. I always tell my students that “Knowledge is Power” – though age gives us wisdom beyond knowledge. Life teaches us many lessons.

A couple of months ago we welcomed Meesha into our family. <3

A couple of months ago we welcomed Meesha into our family. ❤

Meesha is a Daddy's Girl. <3

Meesha is a Daddy’s Girl. ❤

Isn't she gorgeous?

Isn’t she gorgeous?

While I love the chicken themed gifts John and the kids selected for me, my favorite is the wrapping. Avalon wrote this sweet message for me. <3

While I love the chicken themed gifts John and the kids selected for me, my favorite is the wrapping. Avalon wrote this sweet message for me. ❤

The Crazy-Chicken-Lady gifts. Love them!

The Crazy-Chicken-Lady gifts. Love them!

Cilantro & Lime Infused Shrimp Tacos with Crunchy Cabbage

Cilantro & Lime Infused Shrimp Tacos“I remember my childhood names for grasses and secret flowers. I remember where a toad may live and what time the birds awaken in the summer — and what trees and seasons smelled like…”
-John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Our gladiolas are blooming which is a sure sign that fall is peeking around the corner.

Our gladiolas are blooming which is a sure sign that fall is peeking around the corner. I love to sit right here and have coffee in the morning and/or iced tea in the afternoon.

While I do not enjoy saying goodbye to summer, I love the feeling of transition that fall brings. There is elegance in autumn that is not present in other seasons. Now that I live on a farm, I am finding that I trust my senses more to announce the transition from summer to fall in the landscape. I watch the birds circling the sky, measure the way the morning light filters through the pasture, and I capture various scents in the air.

August Sky

August Sky

Our spring chicks are now full grown hens.

Our spring chicks are now full grown hens.

I LOVE our duck! Even if he refuses to go in the beautiful pond that John made for him.

I LOVE our duck! Even if he refuses to go in the beautiful pond that John made for him.

It’s truly been a magical summer and I feel like I have so much blogging to do to catch up. June started with a trip to New York City and ended with our belated honey moon to Alaska.

My husband built a pond/waterfall, installed a pool, created gardening spaces for me, and did various landscaping projects. We got approved for a grant from the USDA for a hoop house/greenhouse (which will be delivered in the next few weeks) and we added a new rototiller and sawmill to our farm equipment.

Our hotel was only a few blocks from Times Square and Central Park

Our hotel was only a few blocks from Times Square and Central Park

One of my students won a national writing award with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and I was presented with a medal and certificate of achievement.

One of my students won a national writing award with the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and I was presented with a medal and certificate of achievement.

Prospecting for Gold in Chicken Alaska

Prospecting for Gold in Chicken Alaska.

One of our "off the grid" camping spots .

One of our “off the grid” camping spots .

Alaskan Fireweed and Mountains

Alaskan Fireweed and Mountains

Our Golden Retriever Ollie even relaxed in the pool this summer.

Our Golden Retriever Ollie even relaxed in the pool this summer.

The beautiful pond John built and my adorable step kids.

The beautiful pond John built and my adorable step kids.

The weather this summer was gorgeous and I walked laps around the pasture for exercise (sometimes while playing “Alien Hunter” with my step son) and we had evening fires in our backyard (which almost always involved a dance party with my step kids).

Lukas received this cool back pack from Uncle Nick. It holds all the essentials that an alien hunter needs: alien proof goggles, food source (snake), guns, and a radio. The radio also serves as an invisibility cloak ray gun (helpful to hide from the Queen..though she can still smell us). I love his imagination!

Lukas received this cool back pack from Uncle Nick. It holds all the essentials that an alien hunter needs: alien proof goggles, food source (snake), guns, and a radio. The radio also serves as an invisibility cloak ray gun (helpful to hide from the Queen..though she can still smell us). I love his imagination!

Speaking of my step kids, I have to give a shameless plug to my sweet stepdaughter Avalon’s YouTube Channel. She is ten years old and I have featured a few of her recipes here on my blog. Not only does she love to help me in the kitchen but we love to shop together and she shares my passion for writing, social media, and being creative.

Avalon and I had a spa day and got our back to school haircuts.

Avalon and I had a spa day and got our back to school haircuts.

Her “House Tour Video” is absolutely adorable and I think that her sparkling personality really shines through. Now that the pool is installed the sunflowers are ready to bloom, I told Avalon that she needs to do an update. Make sure you check out her video, give it a like, and if you leave a comment it will really make her day. This week we hope to record a video together of our new clothes for the school year. Avalon thinks that I need to start adding videos to my blog. What do you think? 😉

Avalon’s YouTube channel.

Autumn marks a time for fresh starts and in our house it means getting back to the basics with a new school year. Since I am a teacher, I join my kids in embracing an early bedtime routine, homework (in my case grading and lesson planning), and setting academic and personal goals.

As busy as our schedules get, I do not want to abandon our family dinners around the table. Last fall Lukas (who is now seven) declared that we should have Taco Tuesdays – and we obliged. Sometimes it may end up being Taco Monday or Thursday – but taco night is a hit in our household. Not only does it suit the meat eaters and the vegetarian in our house, but also the leftovers easily convert into salad, nachos, soup, or pizza. Depending on what we have in the house we prepare guacamole, spicy rice, refried or black beans, seasoned meat, and serve up sour cream, cheese, peppers, onions, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, and a variety of sauces.

Since we have a farm we raise our own pork and chicken (and soon beef), but my husband also loves seafood. For this recipe I came up with a simple marinade for shrimp (that would work well with any protein). Vegetarians could also use it to marinate squash, which is abundant in gardens and the supermarket this time of year.
The shrimp tacos also receive a burst of flavor and satisfying crunch from a cabbage slaw that is dressed with the same marinade as the shrimp.

Lukas helped me plant cilantro this summer and he loves adding it to our homemade guacamole and salsa made from our homegrown tomatoes. Have you noticed how kids are willing to eat healthier and try new foods when they help grow and prepare it themselves?

Lukas helped me plant basil, dill, and cilantro in an old tin tub and it is flourishing!

Lukas helped me plant basil, dill, and cilantro in an old tin tub and it is flourishing!

Ingredients:

I recently fell in love with Penzeys spices. My husband enjoys this Cajun spice in alfredo pasta and on eggs too.

I recently fell in love with Penzeys spices. My husband enjoys this Cajun spice in alfredo pasta and on eggs too.

*1 pound of raw shrimp
*1 bunch of cilantro
*1/4 cup chopped onion
*1/2 small cabbage
*3 juiced limes and zest
*2 Tablespoons of olive oil
*1 Tablespoon of Cajun seasoning
*2 teaspoons of sugar
*Salt and pepper

IMG_4036CILANTRO & LIME MARINADE
Pour the following marinade on the shrimp (remove shell and tails):
*Juice and zest of two limes
*1 Tablespoon olive oil

*2 minced cloves of garlic
*1 Tablespoons of Cajun spice (more if you want extra spice. Since the Cajun seasoning that I added already had salt, I did not add any additional)
*1/2 cup of fresh chopped cilantro

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IMG_4047CABBAGE SLAW:
*Chop ½ of the small cabbage
*Juice and zest of one lime

*1 Tablespoon olive oil
*1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
*1 clove of minced garlic
*2 teaspoons of sugar
*Salt and pepper to taste

Ideally, let the shrimp and slaw sit for several hours in the refrigerator (it works well to make the night before). You can grill the shrimp or cook over the stove top until the shrimp turns pink. Serve the shrimp and cabbage on flour tortillas with spicy ranch dressing. You can buy many versions in the store or add salsa to ranch dressing. For a healthier version you can add salsa or hot sauce to plain, fat-free Greek yogurt.

PRINTABLE RECIPE HERE: CILANTRO & LIME INFUSED SHRIMP TACOS

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I hope your family enjoys the fresh flavors of these tacos as much as mine did. Make sure you check out these other recipes for versatile Taco night: Spicy Brown Rice and Snappy Salsa, Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette Dressing, Homemade Taco Seasoning, Layered Refried Bean and Guacamole Dip, Confetti Salad.

Thank you for following my blog and while I have a lot of my plate in the coming months with a new school year, thesis writing, an internship, and motherhood, but I am going to try my best to keep posting. Until then make sure you follow my page on Facebook, Instagram, and I would love to hear from you! ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Savor Summer with an August Green Smoothie Challenge

Summer Green Smoothie Challenge by Produce with AmyAugust is almost here and I would love for you to join me in savoring the last days of summer by participating in a Green Smoothie Challenge. The goal is to drink one Green Smoothie a day (using my recipes or yours) and you can post on my Facebook page, on your social media accounts (make sure to tag me), or here on my blog to help stay accountable and I will be doing the same!

I have a month’s worth of green smoothie recipes with weekly shopping lists and I tried to keep them simple and affordable by taking advantage what is fresh and ripe at our farmer’s markets and supermarkets. You can swap out any ingredients that you wish and please share your favorite combinations. 

We start Monday and here is the shopping list for week #1.

*Spinach (3 ~ nine ounce bags of spinach)
*Bananas (5-7)
*1 peach
*1 nectarine
*1 fresh pineapple
*1 avocado
*2 limes
*1 ~ twelve ounce bag of frozen raspberries (or 2 containers of fresh)
*1 ~ bag of fresh or frozen cherries
*1 bunch of parsley
*1 bunch of cilantro
*1 bunch of fresh basil
*Fresh ginger root
**Coconut water (optional ~(regular water works fine but there are many health benefits to drinking coconut water. It can often be found in the Latin food or heath food section of the supermarket. I usually buy one large can per two green smoothies…or a couple liter containers).
*Chia seeds (Optional – you may also use flax or hemp seeds)

Find the recipes, the other shopping lists for the month, and tips and tricks if you are new to green smoothies here: http://wp.me/p31v4R-Vb

╰ ☆ ╮ƸӜƷ╰ ☆ ╮Please CLICK SHARE and help spread the green smoothie love!╰ ☆ ╮ƸӜƷ╰ ☆ ╮

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I. You. We Are Worth It!

“Respect your body. Eat well. Dance forever.”
― Eliza Gaynor Minden 

My nine-year-old step daughter Avalon never walks. She prances, glides, and pirouettes. Even when she runs, Avalon has the grace of a gazelle. Her little brother is her best pupil and she teaches him all of her latest dances. His jazz hands are exquisite!  😉

One of the best family purchases that we have recently made is a Bose SoundLink Bluetooth speaker (in the color red – of course). The sound quality is wonderful and it gives great ambiance to our family dinners. It is portable and easily moves room-to-room and this summer it will help with yard work and give spirit to our time in the pool and hot tub. Plus, it helps us MOVE MORE by dancing! In recent days Avie has taught me a couple of her dances and while it results in an uproar of laughter,  it is also helping me reach my step goals on my new Fit Bit Flex. The idea of spending hours at the gym on a treadmill or elliptical makes me shudder. But dancing with my step kids? Sign me up!

Can you see that dot of hot pink? Yep, that's Avalon. Watch...her...go! I think that she's my new personal trainer. She'll be shouting out cadences to me in no time!

Can you see that dot of hot pink? Yep, that’s Avalon. Watch…her…go!
I think that she’s my new personal trainer. She’ll be shouting out cadences to me in no time!

Buying a new activity monitor was a huge step for me. For months I have been grumbling about my lack of energy and the weight that crept on this winter. Now all that I can say is why did I not purchase one sooner? Last night my Fit Bit encouraged me to walk two miles after dinner so I could reach my step goal when before I would have had a hot cup of tea and relaxed. I have been using it to track my calories and water, and I will also be logging my weight every Sunday morning.

When I purchased my fitbit I made sure that I purchased a few extra bright colored bands. A girl must be fashionable too. ;)

When I purchased my fitbit I made sure that I purchased a few extra bright colored bands. A girl must be fashionable too. 😉

Speaking of weight – with reluctance I finally took the plunge and stepped on the scale. I really did not want to because I tend to get a tad bit obsessed by the number. However, I felt that it was time to be honest with myself and I need to have a measurable goal to stay accountable. I was semi-correct in my last post when I said I could tell from the way that my clothes fit that I had put on around fifteen pounds. Sadly, it is closer to twenty. The good news is that after a strong week of sticking to my healthy goals – I was able to take off 2.4 pounds. What a feeling of empowerment after many false starts and stops in the last few months. .

While I am a teacher and am fortunate that I have the ability to be on my feet and am able to walk around my classroom for most of the day, I have gotten out of my habit of walking during lunch and making sure that I move more during the day. That is an added benefit of my Fitbit since it encourages me to move at least 250 steps each hour (from 9-5). This means that I will definitely be walking during my lunch time and I will be taking a lap around the hallways in between classes (which serves double-duty since it is also a great way to monitor hallway activity). In the past it was all of these small little changes that helped me take weight off, and most importantly, keep it off (which I am determined to do again).

For the month of May I am building on the April goals that I shared a couple of posts ago. I am raising my water goal to 64 ounces a day, will continue to be moderate in my intake of starchy carbs, increase my consumption of vegetables, and I am replacing the 30 minutes of activity with 10,000 steps a day.

As far as exercise goes, I really do not have a viable excuse. The property on which we call home is stunningly beautiful and my Fitbit helped me compute that three times around our pasture is a mile. Not to mention that our four dogs guarantee that I have the best walking buddies around. Remi our German Shepherd does not let me out of his sight. ❤

Remi, Ollie, Louie, and Gracie help keep me motivated.

Remi, Ollie, Louie, and Gracie help keep me motivated. I will never tire of the view of our backyard/pasture.

I love to watch the world outside my door wake up.

I love to watch the world outside my door wake up.

The fresh air is intoxicating. I LOVE SPRING!

The fresh air is intoxicating. I LOVE SPRING!

In addition to the goals I already listed, I am also going to add breakfast into my routine. While I love green smoothies and believe in the power of breakfast – I do not always make time to do so for myself in the morning. I do a great job taking care of the others in my household, but I often put myself last.

Produce with Amy May Goals

I decided that I needed something different for breakfast and I found that our local Target now carries Vega plant-based protein powders and shake mixes. I bought the Vega Essentials vanilla shake mix and this morning threw it into my Vitamix with almond milk, frozen banana, spinach, pumpkin, and cinnamon. It was exactly what I needed and I cannot wait to create other flavor creations with what I have in the house. If you are looking for smoothie recipes, check out my smoothie tab.

I love the burst of plant-based Vegan protein this mix gives me.

I love the burst of plant-based Vegan protein this mix gives me.

In my last post I shared how a couple of weeks ago I had my eyes checked and found myself getting fitted bifocals (difficult to stomach since I have never needed glasses before). My husband picked out the frames for me because I could not even look at myself in the mirror. I do not have to wear them all of the time but they are starting to grow on me. So much that I am already thinking of what I want my second pair to look like. 😉 As several of my friends pointed out, glasses can be a cute accessory (and the fact that my husband and I each have vision insurance is a wonderful benefit).

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I am thankful that each day (each hour, each meal etc.) gives us the opportunity for a fresh start. While I could beat myself up for putting my exercise on hold and not making myself a priority – the strides that I have made in the past few weeks is the empowerment that I need to set and meet healthy goals. Last year I made a couple huge lifestyle changes – not only did I marry an incredible man but I also became a step mom and started a new degree program at Northern Michigan University. While I am familiar with life in the rural Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I now live many miles away from town and (much to the surprise of my friends and family) I am adapting to “farm life”. As I learn how to mesh my healthy goals with a hectic lifestyle, I know that I will learn many important things on the way.

Speaking of my new lifestyle. If you have been following my farm activities, check out how BIG our ducks have gotten! They certainly are not babies anymore. Neither is Lukas! I cannot believe how much he has grown up since fall. His reading is soaring (thank you Mr. Sandell) and his two front teeth are starting to emerge.

Lukas and Daphne.

Lukas and Daphne.

I cannot believe how much Lukas has grown too! ❤

Thank you for being part of my healthy community. I would love to hear the goals that you are setting for yourself. Remember, if you feel overwhelmed small goals are a great way to achieve success. When we feel successful, it helps to create a snowball effect and we can build on our goals as we go. If you are not moving now, ten or fifteen minutes a day is over an hour of activity a week. Add in a couple of servings of fruit and vegetables a day, make sure you are hydrating yourself with plenty of water, and do not make the mistake of putting yourself last. We are worth it!

 

There Is No Better Time Than Now

Finally the sign of spring that I was looking for in our yard. The bulbs that I planted in the fall are starting to awaken.

Finally the sign of spring that I was looking for in our yard. The bulbs that I planted in the fall are starting to awaken.

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them…”
― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek 

In June I will be forty-five years old. I have never been one to feel hemmed in by numbers, but I confess that in the past couple of years — I feel my age. While in my 20s and 30s I had boundless energy, now I notice the difference if I am not getting enough sleep. I can put weight on much easier (and take it off much slower) and I need glasses for the first time. Last week I joked on Facebook that it was a sign of aging when a hot date with your husband meant getting your eyes checked. I was not laughing when I got fit for bifocals. Though the doctor said that I would be fine with just reading glasses, I decided to get bifocals to also correct a slight distance vision issue (for night driving). My husband John and I tried to take the sting out of our bifocals by declaring how fortunate we both were to carry insurance from our employers (something I did not have in my early 20s. That’s a benefit of aging, right?). I made John pick out my glasses because it felt strange to wear them and I could not look at myself without being too critical. Maybe I will share a photo when my glasses come in if I can mange to get used to them.

In addition to ordering glasses, I have been doing well with the April goals that I set for myself in my last post, Setting Healthy Goals. While I have been lacking in water a bit, I have been moving more, watching my starchy carbs, and have been incorporating salads and more vegetables with every meal. I have found that bread is something that I cannot go without out so last week I bought one of my old mainstays, Food for Life Ezekiel bread. I love the bread with a smear of avocado, hummus, or natural peanut butter, and I enjoy it when it is made into toasted garlic bread.

While I am acutely aware that I will be forty-five in June, one number that I do not have the slightest inkling about is my weight. After I stepped down from leading Weight Watchers meetings, so I could spend more time with my family, I decided that I would not allow myself to be a slave to the scale. In fact, it has been close to a year since I have monitored my weight on one. While it has been unbelievably liberating, this winter I have managed to put on (in my best guess from the way my clothes are fitting) around fifteen pounds. Last Saturday I was horrified to find out that the summer capris that I bought last year do not fit. 😦 Sadly, it was exactly what I needed to get my rear-in-gear.

Speaking of last Saturday, it is amazing the difference a week can make. While the week before we were getting hit with record setting amounts of snow in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – last weekend we were greeted with gorgeous 70ish degree weather. It was the perfect time to head out to enjoy a nature hike and get oxygen into our lungs. John took us to Autrain Falls (for local folks it is a lovely spot on M94 between Chatham and Munising) and I was able to capture the beauty with my new camera.

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In addition to some local sightseeing, we also were able to get some work done at home. My step-son Lukas is learning to drive our tractor and he helped John pull rocks from our property to decorate and protect my flower beds. Luke (with help from John) also took an impromptu dip in the creek on our back property. 😉

I love my new camera.

I love my new camera.

John, Lukas, and Avalon. You have to love spring hikes in the U.P. Shorts and Bog Boots! ;)

John, Lukas, and Avalon. You have to love spring hikes in the U.P. Shorts and Bog Boots! 😉

Lukas learning to drive the tractor.

Lukas learning to drive the tractor.

Since the snow is nearly gone I have been taking advantage of the network of trails on our property and have been taking long, spirited walks around our pasture. Incidentally, I tried a pair of my capri pants this morning and I was wildly surprised that they fit much better than they did last weekend.

While I was not going to set a reward for accomplishing my April goals, I decided that I would reward my efforts and help increase my motivation by purchasing a Fitbit activity monitor this week. I will make sure to post my step goals and if there is any interest, maybe I will start a challenge on my Facebook page.

I am pleased that my husband has joined my quest to eat more vegetables and fresh produce. We both have been feeling like we are in a food rut and nothing sounds appetizing. As I said earlier I am trying to cut down on starchy carbs and this does present a bit of a challenge (we love pizza and pasta). John has been very receptive to large dinner salads and I thought that I would share one that he has asked for several times in the last few weeks (trust me, getting this man to ask for a salad is a victory).

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Ingredients: romaine lettuce, spinach, strawberries with caramelized pecans, avocado with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice, cucumber and feta cheese, Gorgonzola cheese, Newman’s Own garlic balsamic vinegar dressing (though it would be great with one of my dressing recipes), steak with Penzey’s Arizona spices, Parmesan cheese, and sautéed onions and mushrooms (added right before serving). While I try to stick to vegetarian and plant-based meals,  I did have a piece of wild salmon on my salad (as I have done in the past year on occasion). This salad is more proof that salads do not have to be boring and that they are filling when you load them up with fiber rich produce and protein. What is your favorite salad combination?
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In the coming days I will not beat myself up about putting on winter weight, but I am determined to do something about it. As I learned after joining Weight Watchers in 2007 (and losing 50 pounds) that making small changes in our lifestyle can transform our bodies and lead to lasting results. I am worth the effort – and you are too! Please join me in welcoming spring and putting our health first. Forty-five years old in June? No problem! I am ready to take on the challenge with style, finesse, and energy. Age is just a number and I have always been a late bloomer. ❤

A mini falls at Autrain Falls.

A mini falls at Autrain Falls.

Luke and Avalon loved splashing around.

Luke and Avalon loved splashing around.

I took off my Bog Boots and enjoyed the icy water.

I took off my Bog Boots and enjoyed the icy water.

A little "dip" in the creek on our property.

A little “dip” in the creek on our property.

The dogs loved taking a dip too. I love this photo of Ollie. He looks like a lion but he is as gentle as a lamb.

The dogs loved taking a dip too. I love this photo of Ollie. He looks like a lion but he is as gentle as a lamb.

John started cutting and peeling logs for our home addition and covered deck.

John started cutting and peeling logs for our home addition and covered deck.

Our ducks and new chicks are getting big.

Our ducks and new chicks are getting big.

Shakespeare II greets spring with a spirited Cock-a-doodle-do!

Shakespeare II greets spring with a spirited Cock-a-doodle-do!

Setting Healthy Goals

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“April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.”

― T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

It is far from lilac season in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This fact is reinforced by the presence of our second snow day of the week today. Monday our spring break was extended with a day off and this morning the snow is billowing from the sky which granted us another snow day. A few weeks ago we were graced with mild temperatures and I was thrilled to see that the tulips and daffodils that I planted last fall, and the tiger lilies that I planted last summer, were beginning to emerge. Now they are covered with a thick blanket of snow. I keep telling myself that this will make their eventual blossoms all the sweeter.

Our sweet golden retriever Gracie does not let anything get her down. Look at that smile!

Our sweet golden retriever Gracie does not let anything get her down. Look at that smile!

Ollie, like his sister Gracie, also loves the snow.

Ollie, like his sister Gracie, also loves the snow.

I am thankful for our cozy log home.

I am thankful for our cozy log home.

 

Last week John and I took the kids to Lower Michigan and spent a night at Soaring Eagle Waterpark in Mount Pleasant. Needless to say, fun was had by all and we cannot wait to go back! The weather did not cooperate on our drive home, but thankfully the Mackinac Bridge was open and my husband who is an expert driver – got us home safe and sound.

Avalon and Lukas had a blast at the water park and they can't wait to go back.

Avalon and Lukas had a blast at the water park and they can’t wait to go back.

Lukas and Avalon with Granny Barb, Don, and Maddy.

Lukas and Avalon with Granny Barb, Don, and Maddy.

The Mighty Mac.

The Mighty Mac.

We enjoyed our time downstate visiting with family and friends and while we were sad to leave, it always feels great to arrive home and be greeted by our pets. We have added a couple cuties to our farm. Finally, after a year of convincing, John agreed to get a couple of ducks. Avalon and I each named one. I chose Daphne and she named one Mo. I cannot believe how fast they have grown. This means that John will be adding a pond to his long Honey-Do list this summer.
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In addition to the excitement of spring break, John surprised me with a new camera. I have wanted one for YEARS and I had my first opportunity to snap a few photos at  the Pigs-N-Heat Fire Relief hockey game that John plays in each year. I am proud that my husband participates in an event that helps so many families in our community.

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Thank you, John!

Thank you, John!

Words cannot express how thankful that I am for my camera. My lifestyle has changed drastically in the last year. As I adjust to my new role of step mom, pursue an Education Specialist degree at Northern Michigan University, and continue my career as a high school teacher – along the way I have not made time for myself. The camera is one of John’s gentle reminders that I need to make myself a priority so I do not get burnt out. Photography is one of my passions and I cannot wait to record the world and share the images with my readers.

Along with taking photos I will continue to try to encourage my family, and my online family, to make healthy choices when it comes to food. While my step kids are fans of processed food and do not share my love of fresh fruit and vegetables, I have learned to take baby steps in encouraging them to eat healthier. One of the breakfasts that I made for them over spring break I call Strawberry Cheesecake Parfaits.  🍓🍧🍓 I use The Greek Gods Honey Vanilla yogurt, strawberries, crumbled graham cracker, and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. To some people this may not be a healthy breakfast and I agree that it is more of a dessert. But getting my step kids to eat any fresh produce is a victory! 😉 For those that are watching their waistlines, the yogurt is indulgent and a little goes a long way – therefore, you can health-it-up and pile on the berries.

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imageAs I have shared in my last couple posts, my healthy goals have taken a backseat to a hectic lifestyle. Therefore, I am starting small with re-establishing my healthy routines. For the month of April I am committing to a minimum of fifty ounces of water a day, thirty minutes of activity, increasing my vegetable intake, and limiting my consumption of bread, pizza (homemade pizza is one of our family favorites), and chips (tortilla chips are my biggest weakness). Like in the past, I hope that being successful with these goals will help them snowball into bigger goals. When summer comes we have a lot of plans and I want to have the energy to tackle all of our projects.

April Healthy GoalsI am a goal person and I find that when I set achievable goals for myself that I am unstoppable. When I attach a reward to my goals – I find success even more eminent. However, for now I am just going to embrace my goals and will set a reward for my May and June goals. I challenge you to set and share your goals here or on my Facebook page. Studies show that when we write out our goals, post them in a prominent place, and share our goals with others we are more apt to achieve them. I hope that you are enjoying your spring and I promise to give an update soon. As warmer weather approaches I look forward to gardening and sharing more of my fresh recipes with you.

 

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Sometimes I have to pinch myself to remind myself that I am not dreaming. What a gift it is to live in such a wildly, beautiful place.

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Our property is a dogs’ paradise. Is it any wonder why we have four dogs?

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Ollie has such a sweet and loving personality. Look at how gentle he treats the ducklings.

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It is the best feeling to be greeted by a wagging tail and the boundless love of a golden retriever.