The Sweet Spot

“Good, old-fashioned ways keep hearts sweet, heads sane, hands busy.”
―Louise May Alcott

It is true that I shocked a lot of people a few years ago when I made a major lifestyle switch. A new name. Step kids. Yet, the most shocking revelation to many was that I made residence on a farm. When I reconnect with former students and old friends they often chuckle to learn that I am embracing my current crazy-chicken-lady status with wild abandon. Though, honestly, I think that my bond to nature has always run deep. I was born and raised in the UP of Michigan by hard-working parents who built a house with their bare hands (I am not kidding either. My father built his own sawmill and skidded and milled all of the lumber and built the entire house from the foundation up). When I met John, even though we are vastly different, not only did I instantly realize that he had my dad’s work ethic, but we had a lot of things in common. We both desired a life that incorporated tranquility, old-fashioned values, and a link with nature. Not to mention the synchronicity that was playing out in all of our lives. John, the kids, and I – came into each other’s lives at the perfect time. We made an instant connection. We needed each other.

I think often of the original homesteaders who cleared our land and built our home with trees cut from the property (the original section of our house is over 125 years old). When exploring our property you will find fences made from heaps of stones EVERYWHERE. The same stones that they toiled to remove, we now use to landscape the two ponds that John built, as well as repurpose for our flower beds and around the pool. I honor their hard work and feel that using these rocks give our projects more significance – it gives them a story.

My Renaissance Man John pensive in thought.

We are thankful for the rocks for landscaping.

I wonder how many years ago the apple trees in our orchard were planted? The trees give the landscape a personality. I watch them travel from each season and I feel moved by their beauty. The first hint of rosy buds takes my breath away. Their branches move from bony winter to startling green – then the most dizzying display of white and pink ruffled blossoms until their grand display – boughs drooping and heavy with fruit. The orchard shade is often where we pull up chairs to take a quick break from working in the hoop house. It is here that Lukas takes joy in being able to pop an icy root beer (kept just for him in the shop refrigerator) though he is always ready to share that first sip (he is a sweet and thoughtful boy). Were these trees planted in hopes that their canopy would someday provide shelter as well as fruit? Did the people who planted them rest like we do and marvel in the serenity around them? Did they listen to the haunting cry of the cranes and feel wistful when the sky aches green after a thunderstorm like I do?

Our apple trees were loaded with blossoms this spring.

The apple trees provide a lovely shady spot when we need to pause from a project.

Mid-summer the apples start to get big.

Rosy autumn apples.

The trees barren and waiting for spring.

Someday long after we are gone, will the owners of this farm wonder about us? Will they question who planted the peach and cherry trees, the blueberry bushes, the grapes, and the masses of tulips, daffodils, lilies, roses, and gladioli?

I have always wanted a front porch. Therefore, I was charmed the first time I visited John and saw his beautiful log home, with a covered porch. Now it’s “our home” – our happy place. It was thrilling last summer to close on our mortgage and become farm and home owners together. Our hard work is a legacy that we want to pass on to Avalon and Lukas.
The winters in the UP are fierce, which makes our summers twice as sweet. I feel it is my responsibility to soak up every moment of bliss in the summer and I have found that our porch is the perfect place to relax with lazy dogs (not Meesha – the youngest of our two German Shepherds – she will continually drop her throw toy at your feet).

Meesha ❤

Mid afternoon is best when the breezes blow (as a teacher I am afforded and thankful for this luxury). Early mornings and at dusk the zombie mosquitos tend to attack. Yet I’ve been known to enjoy a cup of morning coffee (though I prefer one of the ponds as a backdrop with our three clambering ducks: Lucky, Dante, and Beatrice) or a cold drink at night (usually while John is still working hard on a project).

Last summer I painted the rocking chairs bright red. I also love adding color with pots and collected treasures. In the summer I haul out the house plants, and because I am thrifty, I winter the ferns and geraniums. Last year I potted hostas in pots and they did lovely on the porch that gets plenty of shade. I then planted them around the pool in the fall (there’s always a spot for a hosta).


John can’t look at the porch without thinking it needs to be power washed. Yes, our hens free range across the porch in the morning. Though, there’s only so many hours in the day. Plus, it’s the imperfections that make life worth living. A reminder that life is beautiful in spite of flaws – temporal and fleeting – but worth savoring and working hard for our dreams.
July is the sweet spot of summer since we are set free of time commitments (softball/baseball games and youth theatre). Last July we were truly able to surrender to family dinners, home projects, the backyard fire pit, and star-gazing.

This year July will be different since we are planning a large-scale home addition (doubling the size of our living quarters) and we are also planning a long-awaited vacation to Alaska with Avalon and Lukas. My husband reminds me so much of my father and he can build anything. I am excited to watch our living space grow and eagerly await the memories that we create as a family.

It is almost February, and the snow continues to gleam – a white and frosty landscape as far as the eye can see. Until then, our porch awaits. A character in our story. A graceful reminder of when people lived their lives outside. The reason why John and I fell in love and are committed to work hard together to create a life worth putting all of our eggs into one basket. ❤

Remi and Meesha our loyal companions.

Putting all our eggs in one basket. ❤

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A Love Affair With Cooking: Roasted Beet Soup with Ginger and Coconut Milk

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”
― Edith Sitwell

I have said it before. Food. It should be simple. We should eat to live. Yet, we have an intimate connection to the food that surrounds us. Food is comfort, culture, community, family, and a way to celebrate and nurture others. Food is smell, taste, and texture. It even has socio-economic implications. While there are many emotional associations with food, I try to remember that the bottom line is that food is sustenance and fuel. Therefore, it is important to put wholesome food on the table for myself and family.  

If you are like me, the pleasure of cooking runs deep. It includes carefully selecting ingredients at the market (or even better, growing our own). It involves all the  slicing, roasting, sautéing, and simmering that brings a dish to the table. However, part of the enjoyment for me also comes in the presentation. I believe that we feast with our eyes first and the joy I find in a pretty plate of food back to my childhood. My mom made even a simple lunch elegant by serving mac-n-cheese (almost always homemade) on her cream wedding china with the delicate gold band and lime Jello (sometimes with grated carrot) in footed pressed glass dessert cups (purchased with Gold Bond stamps from the IGA). She taught me that meal time was an event that was worth our time and attention and I try to pass this lesson on to my own family. Sometimes this means something as simple as a sprig of fresh mint in John’s glass of iced tea when he’s working outside on our farm, a whimsical straw for Lukas’ smoothie, or Avalon’s handwritten name cards when guests pay us a visit.

Winters in the UP of Michigan are long and cold.  I winter my front porch geraniums in the window sills of my classroom, and in the mudroom of our home, so in the heart of winter their scarlet blossoms can remind me of July. Red is one of my favorite colors and I am naturally drawn to foods that are bright and vibrant as well. Tomatoes, bell peppers, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, and apples are high in antioxidants and protect us against cancer and heart disease. I always remember learning in school that blood-red vegetables help fortify and our own blood and immune system.

Beets are one of those vegetables that people seem to either love or hate. I grew up adoring my mom’s pickled beets and as I grew older I enjoyed roasted beets as a side or in a salad. While it is an acquired taste (my husband did not enjoy this recipe and he does like beets). I thought that I would share a recipe for you that uses this root vegetables as a main ingredient. This dish would be a perfect starter course for a romantic Valentine dinner. Afterall, beets are earthy, sensual, and when roasted take on a sweet taste and luscious texture. The color of this pureed soup is exquisite and begs to be ladled into a pretty bowl with a backdrop of glowing candles and soft music. Corny? Perhaps. However, trust me, if soup can be sexy – this one is! If only my husband John would agree. 😉 

ROASTED BEET SOUP WITH COCONUT MILK & GINGER
*2 bunches of beets (roasted)
*4 cups of coconut milk soup base (I found locally in Wal-Mart. You can substitute four cups of vegetable or chicken broth and ½ can of coconut milk from the Asian food section)
*1 rib of celery, chopped
*¼ cup chopped onion
*1-2 cloves of minced garlic
*½ inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
*Olive oil (couple of Tablespoons)
*Salt and pepper to taste
*Optional – garnish with chopped cilantro or dill

I found this product at Wal-Mart and I will buy it again.

Preparing beets can be a bit messy but their sweet flavor and silky texture makes
them worth the mess.

Cut the beets into several pieces. Scrub well and leave the peelings on. If you
have smaller beets you can cut in 1/2 or thirds. Once they are done roasting the peels will slide right off. Roast the beets for 40 minutes at 450 degrees (time may vary depending on your oven). After 20 minutes give them a toss. Let the beets cool a bit before removing the peel.
Saute the onion, celery, garlic and in olive oil until soft. Add the ginger and saute for a few minutes. Add the coconut milk base (or stock and coconut milk) and add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes and puree soup in the blender. Warm the soup to serve. If you desire, garish with a sprig (or chopped fresh dill) or cilantro (both flavors work well with beets).

Printable Recipe HERE: ROASTED BEET SOUP WITH COCONUT MILK
One of the benefits of living in a cold climate is that winter allows us to spend time inside and enjoy the pleasures of cooking. Remember to nourish your body with a rainbow of vegetables so your health benefits from a variety of nutrients. With this soup, you have the color red covered! If you love beets as much as I do, make sure you check out my other recipes that use beets (Links to recipes below).

Roasted Beet, Mango, and Blueberry Salad with Orange Dill Dressing

Scarlet Salads in a Jar with Cherry Chipotle Vinaigrette
Peach Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese, Pistachios, & Raspberry Orange Dill Dressing

Giving Myself Permission to Write Again

“Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”
― Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

One of the things that I love about having a blog is that I make promises out loud. That makes me more apt to follow through. It gives me the impression that people are listening and paying attention. 😉 One of my public resolutions for 2018 was that I would commit to a weekly blog post. As I get my blogging stamina back, I have given myself the permission to stray from posting recipes and to simply start writing again.

My dear friend Jane contacted me and said that she would love to read some of my poetry on my blog. My path crossed with Jane years ago as a HEN member (Holocaust Education Network). We spent time together in New York City, Poland, and Israel. During those travels our HEN group wrote, shared stories, and documented our journey with thousands of photos. Jane encouraged me to go back to some of my old journals and blog some of the pieces that I had written along with my corresponding photography. I had to confess that I had thrown out many of my old journals because they were painful reminders of my previous life. It made sense at the time. I wanted to move forward. But in reality, I’ve been holding my breath.

Jane reaching out to me meant more than I can possibly explain. It was the gentle nudge that I needed. I explained to my friend that I have had a block over the past few years and that I had not written much poetry. I attributed this reluctance to write as my heart was still in stages of healing. It sounds ridiculous to type that out – because what can be more healing than poetry? Jane told me, “It’s good to be a butterfly or a grain of wheat. Sometimes we need to break in order to release our better selves.” I needed to hear that. It looks like I have some poetry to write.

In order to understand my journey, I am going to share this piece. It is difficult for me to read and I was not sure if I was going to post it here. I decided that it is part of my story. A part that I kept from many by my carefully manicured social media posts. I try to keep things positive.Yet, that is the beauty of poetry. It allows us to process even the most complicated experiences.

I think that I am ready to start writing again. Thank you, Jane. ❤

_________________________

Going Back to the Sand Box

Come home on steps of grit and palm to wait
for clocks to start.  The Tigris bullets our nest
with pearls and I pretend to live.

In love
you reach.  I flinch. Your finger on phantom
trigger.

Christ you are a killer.  You murder
my sleep.  I wonder what dreams you coil
into concertina shrouds.

You lacerate Inanna,
smoke her bones like hash or lentils.   Our bed
is filled with sand.

_____________________

It is haunting for me to read this poem that I wrote in 2007.  I was taking a poetry workshop for my Master’s degree at a local university. It was a confessional piece and writing about my struggling marriage felt raw and uncomfortable. Years later, after everything that happened; when I relive these words my stomach sways. I still feel the pulse of trauma, anxiety, and dread. The signs were there, but I was in too deep. At times it felt like we were both drowning and maybe that is why I held on tight. I held on and he sunk deeper and deeper. Like sand running through my fingers, there was nothing that I could do to stop it from happening. It was full speed and slow motion all at the same time. Paralyzing. Quick Sand.

Three years have passed, and I am still not able to write about “it.” I say the word it – giving the event a persona– a personal pronoun. It felt like it had a tangible shape and form.  It was foreboding post-it notes littering the house. It was cryptic text messages. It was a love note scrawled on a brown paper liquor bag. It was a loaded shotgun. It was a knife. It was a bottomless wound.

A friend posted a quote on Facebook. It said, “When you can tell your story and it doesn’t make you cry, you know you have healed.” Obviously, I am not there yet. As I type these words, tears spring from a well that should be dry. I want to be there. I want to let go. I want to forgive. But who do I have to forgive first? Him? Myself? The enabled or the enabler?

I can say that as time goes by my breathing becomes less labored. I found a man who as a law enforcement officer understands the relationship between trauma and PTSD – along with having your heart and dreams crushed. For the first time in over a decade – I feel safe. As corny as it sounds, we are saving each other. We believe that our paths were destined to cross. Meant to be. We have so much in common. Everything is connected — there are no coincidences. Synchronicity.

Nothing is ever perfect, but I no longer hear the war drum thrumming. I never bolt up in bed — fearful. I never feel vacant and alone. I feel alive.

At night our room is quiet. Peaceful. I feel content knowing that the kids are tucked in downstairs. I hear the dogs stir — and that feels comforting too. Most nights I sleep until morning. But if I do awaken, I am not frozen with fear, but do so with a thankful heart.

Early this morning, I stared out of the skylight and was mesmerized by star glitter. I imagined the shape of the trees outside because I have memorized them. In my mind’s eye I counted the five dogs, the chickens, the turkey, the duck, and the cat, and realized that nothing was missing. I am here. He is here. They are here. We are here. 

Often at night, we take turns reaching out for each other. A simple act. Maybe deep down we are both still afraid. Haunted by absence. Reflex. His hand on the small of my back. My lips on the nape of his neck. I am soothed by his breathing. Steady. Strong. Safe.

Only a few grains of sand remain.

I am rewriting my story. We are writing our story.

That is all that I can say right now. These words will have to be enough. ❤

Chicken Coop and Remi at Dusk

The original structure of our home is over 120 years old and was built from logs from our property.

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Top Ten Recipes of All Time (Five Year Blogiversary)

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
― Soren Kierkegaard

It was a short, three days, back to work after a relaxing winter holiday. Today is day #6 of the January Productivity Challenge and I am staying true to my goals. Our house is slowly getting reorganized and I am dedicated to a weekly blog post. I have missed writing and reaching out and making connections with others over healthy living. It feels good to fulfill my promise to myself (even though this is only the first week). Trust me, I savor every comment left here – and on Facebook and Instagram. It is rewarding to learn that others enjoy my recipes, my photographs, and my musings. I too find the support that receive in return is priceless. To my faithful readers, thank you for being part of my journey for the past five years. To those new to my blog, welcome – I hope you enjoying browsing my posts and find something that is helpful to you. ❤

I shared my intentions for 2018 with my students this week and I had them too create their own SMART goals. I suggested that they start by making a goal for the month of January and that in February we would access and plan accordingly. They were able to create a personal, family, academic, extra-curricular, or “Act of Kindness” goal. I modeled many examples of goals with them and we discussed how setting small, realistic, and measurable goals can help us achieve success and how, ultimately, this taste of success can snowball into larger accomplishments throughout the course of lives.

We discussed how even a simple health goal (like sleeping for 8 hours a night) can help us become better humans. It can lead us to be better academically and can help us have stronger relationships and interactions with others. We talked about how everything is connected and that we become better stewards of our lives when we are taking care of ourselves and planning ahead.

In my own goal setting I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to happen with my weekly blog posts. While I love creating recipes, a new recipe a week does not fit with my lifestyle right now. I am am a busy teacher, wife, and step mother. However, I am determined to share more. More photos, more musings, more aspects of my daily life, and (as a friend requested) maybe poetry and some of my creative writing.

For this blog post I decided to do some research and analyze my site statistics. Today I am going to share with you the top ten recipes from Produce with Amy in the past five years. With the exception of one green smoothie recipe, the most popular posts have been salads. It was not surprising, because I get more questions and feedback on Mason jar salads than any other recipes. I pride myself in taking the “boring” out of salads. Even my husband John has turned into a “salad person” and frequently asks for a salad with dinner, for a snack, or in a jar for work.

Here they are, starting with the most popular first (LINK TO POST UNDER PHOTO):

#1 Glowing Green Mason Jar Salads with Avocado Vinaigrette Dressing

 

The end of the school year is racing at me. I find that prepping my lunches and dinners makes healthy eating a snap. If you find yourself in a pinch at mealtime you cannot go wrong with salads in a jar.

#2 Mason Jar Salads: Fresh, Visually Appealing, and Versatile (Classic Salad Bar in a Jar & Waldorf Inspired Slaw)

#3 Paradise in a Jar Salad with Blueberry Lemon Dressing

#4 Harvest Rainbow Mason Jar Salad with Creamy Pesto Dressing

#5 Mediterranean Mason Jar Salads with Greek Vinaigrette

Sweet and Savory ingredients make these Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salads with Pumpkin Vinaigrette Dressing a seasonal hit!

#6 Apple-a-Day Mason Jar Salad with Pumpkin Vinaigrette
#7 Israeli Feast ~ Mason Jar Salad (with Tabouli, Hummus, and Olives)

#8 Garden Fiesta Mason Jar Salad

Summer on a plate!

#9 Watermelon and Cucumber Splash Green Smoothie (With or Without the Greens)

#10 Confetti Salad in a Jar with Creamy Chipotle Dressing

If you have questions about any of my recipes, please do not hesitate to ask. I love hearing from others that are also on the quest for a healthier lifestyle.

Thank you for helping me celebrate Produce with Amy’s five year milestone.  I am hopeful that 2018 will be full of inspiration that will inspire a plethora of new recipes and posts. Happy New Year and may yours be full of creative and healthy productivity! ❤

 

5 year Blogiversary Productivity Challenge

Happy New Year! Today marks Produce with Amy’s FIVE YEAR anniversary. In that time I’ve shared over 120 healthy recipes and have made connections across the globe. My life had made many twists and turns (both traumatic and triumphant) throughout these five years and I look forward to what the future holds.

I anticipate that 2018 will bring on a writing streak, because I miss blogging. As an English teacher I daily tell my students that our stories matter and I want to be a role model for their words. Recording the world helps us understand how everything is connected and that our path, intentions, and deeds are relevant and important.

If you are so inclined, please like my
Facebook page and subscribe to my blog here too.

To be honest, I have had a difficult year. I hit what felt like a huge roadblock when I was diagnosed with Hashimotos disease (thyroid). I have been on meds for going on five months now and feel like I am getting some of my energy and stamina back. I really want to kick things back into gear and get moving on projects. I am a full time high school/middle school teacher, am a step mom to two energetic kids, and my husband and I own a farm. Therefore, I have been feeling overwhelmed by things that need to be “caught up” at home. This summer we are taking on a HUGE project and adding an addition on to our home. It would help immensely if I could get our household organized and get back into writing, creating recipes, and being overall creative. Does this sound familiar at all to you?

Do you have a project that you have been meaning to work on? Do you have a linen closet that needs straightening? A wardrobe that needs to be organized or items donated that no longer fit? A guest room that looks more like a junk room? How about a pantry, cabinets, or drawers that need some attention? Well, I have a challenge for you!

Five years ago I launched “Produce with Amy” to serve many purposes. Ultimately, I wanted to share my healthy recipes with the world, but I also wanted to keep myself accountable to eating more fresh fruit and vegetables. I knew that this would serve my health well and that a diet rich in nutrients would propel me to be more productive. Guess what? It worked.

For the month of January 2018, I challenge all of us to be PRODUCTIVE. If you want to participate all that you have to do is pick a number of minutes each day to work on a project. It may be as little as 10 minutes or as long as 60. Set a timer and get to work and when the timer goes off you are done for the day. I guarantee you will be pleased with the results after 31 days. I know that this challenge will help inspire me to do some household chores after a long and exhausting day at work. I also hope it will help me carve out some time to write a weekly blog post.

Today I started off this challenge with a HUGE project. I am organizing my clothes closet and makeup table. I’m putting my spring/summer clothes and shoes in totes (it’s never too late) and going through all my fall/winter clothes and selecting outfits for the next several weeks. I did some New Years shopping yesterday and bought some beautiful new wardrobe pieces and I want to maximize my mix-and-match options. I LOVE clothes and I want to simplify my morning routine (sleep is very valuable to me) and feel great when I go to work each morning. Tomorrow I will commit to 20 minutes of another project and hopefully my productivity will snowball from there.

If you let me know you are interested I can post a daily thread on my Facebook page and to stay more accountable we can post what we accomplished in our daily time-frame. If it is a large project (like a guest room) you may want to take before and after photos to help celebrate your victory.

I hope that you join me in celebrating Produce with Amy’s Five Year Anniversary with a burst of productivity. Please share this post with others who may be interested in joining us.
 Happy New Year! May it be healthy, productive, and full of insight and direction.

These signs are in my classroom. I think we can all benefit from embracing the positive. ❤

Spaghetti Squash Soup with Tomatoes

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver

As the wind howls and snow falls outside I contemplate this beautiful scene. We had an incredible growing season in our new hoop house and I cannot wait to see what 2018 brings for the Waldo Farm.

As 2017 takes its final bow, I imagine that I am not alone as I reflect on the past year. 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. 

What if we decide, as we reflect on the past year, to not beat ourselves up for all the broken promises we made (to ourselves or others), and we focus on the strides we made to live a full life? What if at the same time we made small and manageable resolutions and intentions to plan, grow, and set goals? Imagine entering 2018 with a mindset that allows us to move forward with wisdom and courage.
My goals for the New Year, as every year, are to focus on my health. After being diagnosed with Hashimotos disease this fall I have had to take many deep breaths and learn new things about my body. I profoundly believe that taking care of ourselves allows us to better take care of others. Since we have to eat every day, the way we nourish our bodies seems to be a natural start. While my taste buds naturally gravitate to fruit and vegetables – I can easily be lured into treats and indulgences that are heavily processed (especially over the holidays). Therefore, I have to make time to prepare wholesome food in my own kitchen.

While you will find a wide array of salad recipes on my blog, in the winter months I enjoy accompanying my greens with a steaming bowl of soup. Broth based soups help fill you up at mealtime and even make a satisfying and guilt-free snack. I love filling my stockpot, or crock-pot, with vegetables and have found that sliced cabbage or spiralized squash make a wonderful substitute for rice or pasta.

In the soup recipe that I am sharing with you today, I use spaghetti squash to bulk up the bowl.  This was a recipe that I shared back in 2013 and it is one that I keep going back to. This year this soup is extra special to me because I was able to can tomatoes from our hoop house and had a bounty of spaghetti squash. Of the benefits of growing squash in the summer is that when kept in a cool place it will last for months. Plus, I have noticed that local supermarkets offer a wide variety of squash throughout fall and winter. Some people are intimidated by the task of preparing squash, but they actually are not labor intensive.

Is there anything more lovely than garden tomatoes?

SPAGHETTI SQUASH AND TOMATO SOUP

  • 6-8 cups vegetable stock
  • 28 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • Quart of tomatoes (large can)
  • 1/2 large chopped onion
  • 3 ribs of celery chopped
  • 1 bell pepper chopped (I use 1/2 yellow and 1/2 red)
  • 1 large carrot chopped
  • Large cooked spaghetti squash (Approximately 10 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon each of oregano, rosemary, and basil

To prepare the squash simply pierce with a knife, or fork, and place into a shallow baking pan that is filled with water. (I bake the squash whole and use about an inch of water).

Bake for approximately 60 minutes at 375 degrees (the time depends on the size of your squash).

Let cool and cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and use a fork to shred the squash. It will naturally pull apart in strands that will resemble pasta.

To prepare the soup, sauté the onion, garlic, celery, pepper, and carrot in the olive oil until soft and add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for 30-45 minutes. Makes 15 cups.

You could cut the recipe in 1/2 and it would still make a generous pot of soup. I like to make extra to freeze. You could add beans for protein and add any other vegetables such as zucchini and mushrooms. It is delicious, filling, and the addition of tomato sauce makes it taste similar to spaghetti.

When my friend Jackie made this soup she added a dollop of cottage cheese and a sprinkle of Parmesan and said it tasted like lasagna. Add some croutons or a slice of garlic bread and you have a satisfying meal that will keep your healthy resolutions in check.

Whatever your goals are for 2018, make sure that they are achievable and realistic. Setting small goals helps us achieve success that will snowball and we can confidently make the next steps to finding our balance. Let us make sure to make time for our health in the coming weeks, month, and year. Trust me, we are worth it!

I was also able to can tomatoes and salsa from our tomatoes.



Unconditional: A Father’s Love

“The heart of a father is the masterpiece of nature.” 
― Antoine François Prévost d’Exiles  

John and Lukas at the Lakeview Arena in Marquette, Michigan.

I call this series of photos from Christmas day 2017, “Unconditional Love.”

We have had subzero temperatures in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but that has not stopped my husband John from building an ice rink in our backyard for Lukas. While Lukas has ice time twice a week at the Lakeview Arena in Marquette, Michigan – what little boy doesn’t dream of having his own backyard rink?

The ice rink is on the side of the apple orchard. Next year we will find a more permanent location. We have plenty of room on our farm.


I watched him, like countless time before, from the warmth of our home. He didn’t know I was watching. The light this early evening was brilliant and the air was crystal cold. Most people would be inside, but not him. The chickens needed water and the ice rink needed another layer from the garden hose. 

A labor of love. Love of his children, nature, and animals. An artist, not taming the wildness of Michigan, but helping to transform it into something even more beautiful.

Our life is not perfect. We have moments – we have trials and tribulations. Sometimes our present is dictated by past mistakes we have made. Yet, the future is ours to weave out of the wilderness of our hearts. Fresh open spaces. Raw and real.

It is moments like this that I try to capture. When I tell the kids to come to the window and watch with me. Moments like this that I pray that Avalon and Lukas remember. The things that their dad does out of unconditional love in even bitter conditions. His hope that their life is rich – and honest – and simple – and full of wild, beauty.

A life carved out of ice, sunshine, rocks, green spaces, branches, wagging tails, flocks of birds, and love. 

Sometimes we make mistakes and have to say “I’m Sorry.” Sometimes we have to push past the pain and try again.

Unconditionally. We are proud to call this resourceful, Renaissance man ours. Thank you for the legacy you are crafting.

You can see his breath in this photo. Cold!

Our German Shepherd Meesha is John’s loyal helper.

There’s always time for a game of fetch.

John’s Christmas present from Avalon, Lukas, and I. He loves it!

I ordered the watch from Eli Adams Jewelers. It’s gorgeous and their customer service was excellent.

Lukas ❤

 

Ollie has been keeping close to the house, but he loves to roll around in the snow. He’s an old dude, but is the most loyal buddy!

Remi watching the kids tear into their Christmas gifts.

John modeling his hockey gear with Dad.