If you would have told me back in the middle of March when we closed up our school buildings due to a rising pandemic that our lives would still not be back to normal by October, I would not have believed you. Though, what does that mean anymore? While I admit that I am growing tired of the phrase, “The new normal” – doing things differently than we did before may be a reality that we are facing. Also, because I try to be a glass half full sort of person, maybe adapting and changing some aspects of our lives is not necessarily a bad thing.Goal Setting: Making Human Connections in the Classroom — Glitter and Dog Hair
“Victory Gardens showcase patriotism in its truest sense, with each of us taking personal responsibility for doing our individual part to create a healthy, fair and affordable food system.”
As I sit at my computer to type this for a column I write for a local magazine, I am sure that I join many of you with thoughts whirling with wonderment at the challenging times we are facing. While it is early April, by the time you read my words it will be May. That brings me a huge sense of relief – perhaps our lives will be somewhat back to normal by May? Though, what does that mean anymore? While I admit that I am growing tired of the phrase, “The new normal” – doing things differently than we did before may be a reality that we are facing. Also, because I try to be a glass half full sort of person, maybe adapting and changing some aspects of our lives is not necessarily a bad thing.
When I think back to a few months ago I never imagined that “Zoom Meetings” and “Google Meet-Ups” would become the way I learn how to communicate with my high school students, fellow educators, and administrators. I could not fathom “Shelter in Place Orders” or the bickering I would witness on social media over Essential vs. Non-essential workers. Yet, here we are.
As a teacher, a writer, and a blogger I repeat constantly how one of my guiding philosophies is that our writing is a time capsule. As uncomfortable as it is at times, we are experiencing history and whatever medium we choose to document the Covid-19 pandemic will become a primary source for future generations.
My husband, as a police officer, is one of those Essential Workers and I have to give him credit for being full of grace under pressure. Whenever he detects that I may be feeling anxiety over a situation, or feeling stressed out he reminds me to put things into focus. He is known to ask me, “Is the house on fire? Is it an arterial bleed? Then things are going to be okay.” When I hear his voice of reason it always makes me giggle a little and realize that I need to calm down and not panic. Needless to say, I relied on him often in the past couple of months.
One of the things that has helped me stay centered during a time of confusion and uncertainty is to rely on the things that bring me joy. This means nourishing my family with healthy foods and leaning on nature (even when it dumps two feet of snow on us like it did yesterday). However, there is a sense of satisfaction knowing that the weather is temporary. Our days are already much longer and soon they will bring warmer weather.
Over the past couple of months I have read several blog posts and comments from friends on social media stating that they have enjoyed a slower paced life and being able to sit down as a family to enjoy a home cooked meal together. Perhaps that will be something positive that many families will take away from these trying times and continue to practice?
Home cooked meals are one of the cornerstones of my husband and my marriage. Not only do we delight in making dinner in our own kitchen, but we pride ourselves in raising much of the food ourselves. Having a little extra time at home has brought even more cooking into the mix. Not only did my husband and step son make banana bread and homemade peanut butter cookies, but they also tapped and boiled down maple syrup from our own trees.
In addition to cooking, we started our Victory Garden. Those familiar with history know that during WWII families were encouraged to grow their own fruit and vegetables to help supplement the food rations to aid the war effort, but also to boost the morale of the citizens. Now as you may know from reading my columns, gardening is not something new to the Waldos. However, I dare say that I approached it this year with renewed gusto and vigor. With our family trying to take fewer trips to the grocers, having a backyard full of fresh greens, herbs, and vegetables is even more appealing. So I thought I would share some tips that I have for how to start your own seeds in your own home.
If you have a small home, with limited space, as long as you have a sunny windowsill – you can get seeds to sprout. I find that our windows with eastern exposure and morning sunlight do the best.
While you can purchase fancy seed trays and pots, I make sure to save all of our large yogurt/cottage cheese containers for tomato seeds. Since I like those seedlings to get quite large before transplanting them into the ground, the larger containers allow the roots to grow. A tip from my mom for tomato seedlings is to allow a fan to circulate a couple weeks before getting them into the ground and plant them deeply. The fan allows them to strengthen and become more resilient to the elements outside.
Another great tip if you love to recycle is to keep the large clamshells that you purchase greens in. You can fill them with garden soil and they make the best mini-greenhouses.
Once you are ready to move the seedlings outside, you can move them to a bed outside, or utilize a container garden. For years before I had the land that I do now, I grew gorgeous tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets. Herbs grow great in containers, as well as peppers, and you can even buy or make trellises and grow peas, beans, and cucumbers in large pots or buckets.
As far as seeds go, we like to purchase our seeds in bulk because they are more cost effective. As long as they are stored in a cool, dry place (a jar works great) they will keep for up to five years (or more).
In addition to planting our Victory Garden, one of the things that I have been trying to do to stretch our grocery trips is to make multiple meals out of one main ingredient. Therefore, I have been sharing on my social media accounts tips to help others do the same thing. Since we raise our own pork and chicken, I made the recommendation for others to purchase a whole ham or whole chicken. For example, a ham can be made into sandwiches, ham and scalloped potatoes, and you can toss the bone into your pressure cooker (or on the stovetop) and make bone broth that can then become a pot of Ham and Cheesy Potato and Broccoli Soup. A pork loin can be slow cooked in the crockpot with potatoes and carrots for a delicious roast. The extra meat can be seasoned for tacos and the juices from the roast can be thickened with flour and butter with sausage added for breakfast biscuits and gravy.
The same can be done for a chicken. Our Easter dinner was a chicken roasted in our pressure cooker. I reserved the drippings and thickened for gravy and then reserved the carcass for homemade bone broth. The bone broth can be put in jars and frozen(with about an inch of head room so the jars do not crack) or can be used right away as the liquid to cook flavorful rice or make a pot of chicken soup.
Do you make your own Bone Broth? If not, here is my basic recipe that I believe is a staple in any kitchen, but especially a Victory Garden or Quarantine Kitchen.
*One chicken carcass (I take all, or most of the meat off. You can also use chicken thighs or legs if you have them. Of course this method works with turkey as well).
*4-5 cups of water
*One onion halved (I leave the peels on)
*Few carrots (leave the tops on if you are using whole carrots)
*A few celery ribs (I use the tops that often get discarded)
*A few cloves of garlic or minced garlic (if you use whole – no need to peel)
*3 Tablespoons of vinegar (it helps draw out the healthy minerals the bones)
*Salt and Pepper
Pressure cook for 45 minutes. If using a stove top or crockpot method you can simmer for several hours (the longer the better).
This is just a basic recipe, and you can change the flavor profile by adding other herbs and seasonings. You can add rosemary, thyme, ginger, parsely, cilantro, lemon, and even hot peppers.
As I write this I am not certain what is in store for the future. However, I want to wish you the best and hope you are safe and healthy. Please feel free to reach out to my Facebook page or comment here if you have any gardening, canning, or cooking questions. I am not an absolute expert, but I have learned a lot of tips and tricks over the last several years.
The most important thing to remember in a time of uncertainty is that we are in this together. Check in on each other and let us continue to make our communities a safe place to live. Make sure to do something that brings you joy.
If you have never gardened before, I guarantee you will not regret picking up this healthy hobby. Whether you try to put up enough vegetables for the entire winter like my family does, or simply grow a little kitchen herb garden, there is something incredibly satisfying about growing your own food. If you ask me, nothing tastes as fine as a fresh, juicy garden tomato still warm from the sun. May is the perfect time to start your Victory Garden. Get growing!
“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television.”
Anticipation. The promise of summer has grown stronger each month. From the moment my daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips starting showing off – I have been waiting for the distinctive rattle of the cranes as they touch down in our pasture, the smell of fresh mown grass, and the warmth of slightly pink shoulders after a day in the garden. Not to mention, strawberries that finally taste like strawberries and tomatoes that taste like tomatoes. Knowing nothing will ever be as wonderful as that first bite.
As a young girl I always anticipated summer days so I could swim, ride my bike, and attend Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp. Since my birthday was at the end of the month, when school was not in session, my mom would always make a special treat for to me to bring to my classmates on the last week of school. I remember the year she made homemade cupcakes and topped each one with a gorgeous pink icing rose. I was so proud of those birthday cupcakes that I can still remember handing out each one.
One of the benefits of being a teacher is holding on to that anticipation of the end of the school year. While it ends up being a whirlwind trying to tie up all the year’s loose ends by wrapping up grading, tucking away my classroom, and finishing the end of year reports. However, when that final bell rings – I still feel the rush of freedom that comes with time off for vacation and projects!
While I feel fortunate to have the luxury of time in the summer, I have to be careful to make sure that I am productive. While it may sound tempting to lounge around in pajamas drinking coffee all day, I try to start my mornings with a schedule (imagine that) to make sure that my time is structured. This year part of my morning routine includes exercise and a green smoothie.
I prefer a tart smoothie over a sweet one (especially in the morning) unless I am drinking the green smoothie in place of dessert. If you are new to green smoothies, I always recommend starting with spinach since it is naturally sweet and easy to blend. A frozen banana is also essential. The banana imparts sweetness and makes the smoothie cold and creamy.
This recipe is for a surprisingly simple and refreshing summer classic. You can control how much banana and lemon you add depending on the level of tartness or sweetness that makes your taste buds happy.
*3 cups of spinach
*1 lemon (juice and zest)
*1 cup of raspberries (fresh or frozen
*1 small frozen banana
*1 cup of water (you can use coconut water)
*A handful of ice cubes
*Optional – chia seeds and/or fresh mint
It always makes me feel productive when I share a new recipe and focus on healthy living. I have plenty of projects this summer that will help fill the void of my empty classroom and I have to fuel my body properly to accomplish everything on my list. I hope you join me in lifting a glass to celebrate summer.
Make sure you check out the other green smoothie recipes on my blog. In fact, I have an entire month of green smoothie recipes, with printable shopping lists, posted in case you want to commit to a healthy challenge.
Tips for those new to green smoothies
1. Start by adding a small amount of greens. Spinach is naturally sweet.
2. A frozen banana is essential. It gives the smoothie sweetness and makes it creamy. Buy a couple of bunches of bananas a week and when they ripen, peel and toss into a bowl or bag in the freezer.
3. Fresh ginger root helps mask the grassy flavor of greens that have a stronger taste (such as kale and dandelion greens). Raw ginger also helps promote digestion, as do parsley and cilantro (it may sound odd to add cilantro to afruit smoothie, but it is a wonderful and unexpected addition).
4. If you do not like bananas you can use dates, maple syrup, or raw honey for sweetness.
5. You can add other liquids other than water: coconut water, milk, almond or coconut milk.
6. Chia seeds are filling and are a great source of calcium, protein, and Omega-3.
7. Protein powder and Greek yogurt are great additions to make a smoothie filling.
8. We use a Vitamix blender at our house, but if you do not have a high-powered blender, blend up the greens and liquid first and then add the fruit (cut up in small pieces) a little bit at a time. When you freeze your bananas you will want to slice or break them into small chunks.
I am not sure exactly how it happens. It may come in the form of a manual, a hardcover book – or in modern times – the password to a secret website. However, I am fairly certain that when one becomes a grandma, somehow you receive underground information on the art of sandwich making. In my personal experience the grandmas of the world seem to know exactly how to satisfy even the pickiest grandchild’s appetite.
Trust me, I will never forget the day when my step-children Avalon and Lukas both took a sip of their “pink milk” (Strawberry flavored milk) and declared that it tasted just like Granny Barb’s. Talk about feeling jubilant!
I still remember my mom’s frustration when she could not get my brother Jamie’s sandwich quite right.
There was a bit of tension in her voice as she picked up the phone to call my paternal grandmother Edna Armstrong, “Okay, now what brand of bread do you use? And the peanut butter? Do you spread it on both pieces? ”
“What brand of margarine?” (Don’t judge – it was the 70s).
“Do you put it on before or after the peanut butter? How thick? So there is no jelly or jam on the sandwich? Cut at a slant or lengthwise?”
While my mom may not have “mastered” the perfect peanut butter sandwich at this point in her life, she knew that cutting the sandwich wrong could be detrimental to the entire process.
After she put the phone down on the receiver we both turned to Jamie and studied him intently. He was all of six years old, complete with big blue eyes, rosy cheeks, freckles, and a fringe of sandy brown bangs. He took one bite. Put the sandwich down and shook his head.
“No. It still doesn’t taste like Grandma’s!”
My maternal grandma Hilda Puskala, after rearing seven children, had a large brood of grandchildren. One of my sandwich memories of Grandma’s kitchen was her and my mom making Pickle and Bologna. She would haul out the metal grinder and clamp it to the kitchen table. I can still hear the squeak of the handle as they processed the ring bologna and dill pickles. For the perfect sandwich spread she would mix in mayonnaise (or was it Miracle Whip?).
While Grandma and Mom would mix up pounds of Pickle and Bologna in a large McCoy mixing bowl with pink and blue stripes, my Aunt Christina and I would fight them for space at the table with her Fuzzy Pumper Play-Doh Barber Shop. Anyone who grew up in the 70s knew that the meat grinder and the Play-Doh barber shop were soul mates.
I wasn’t sure if Pickle and Bologna was an Upper Peninsula thing, but my husband John (who hails from Muskegon) said he remembers his grandmother making it too. After a quick Internet search, I found recipes for this sandwich spread (most from the Midwest) that are probably inspired from someone’s frugal grandma.
To be honest, I cannot imagine eating Pickle and Bologna today, but I remember eating it as a child. While I probably enjoyed my mom’s, I guarantee it was not as good as when she made it with Grandma.
So in the spirit of Grandmas everywhere, I am introducing a new sandwich spread to the mix. After all, one day – way into the future I may add — I may be a step-grandma. Therefore, I need to work on my sandwich game (just in case no one delivers me that precious manual).
This is “healthed up” version of a traditional egg salad. I do put in a lot of crunchy additions, so you can make edits based on your personal preference. To cut down on fat and add an extra boost of protein, I substitute cottage cheese for salad dressing or mayonnaise.
I will also add that while I do tend to take an old-fashioned approach to cooking and do not invest in a lot of fancy gadgets, purchasing a pressure cooker (such as the popular Instapot) has been a game changer for hardboiled eggs. Since our eggs are so fresh, I didn’t even bother hardboiling them before because they were impossible to peel. Now I put them in my pressure cooker and use the 6/6/6 method. I cook at high pressure for six minutes, let sit in the pot for six minutes, and immerse in an ice bath for six minutes and the shells pop right off like magic. However, I have found that the number of minutes that I cook them for depends on how many eggs I am cooking, so you may want to experiment. Since I have an 8 quart cooker, I can hard-boil 3 dozen or so eggs at a time.
NOT YOUR GRANDMA’S EGG SALAD
- 6 large whole hard-boiled eggs (since our eggs are farm fresh from our happy hens, I often have to vary the amount due to differing size)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
- 1/8 cup chopped onion
- 1/8 cup chopped bell pepper
- 1 cup 1% low-fat cottage cheese
- 1+ Tbsp apple cider vinegar (I add several Tbsp for tanginess)
- 1+ tsp yellow mustard
- 1 tsp dried dill weed or fresh to taste (fresh is even better)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- *Optional – sugar (if you are used to a sweeter tasting salad dressing)
I think it’s crucial to the taste of the egg salad to let it sit overnight to marry the flavors. It may get a bit runny, but you just have to stir and it will be perfect.
This egg salad may not be as creamy as you are used to, so you can add a touch of mayo or even a small amount of plain Greek yogurt.
Another great addition for healthy fat and flavor is a mashed avocado.
While the egg salad that I remember from childhood was always on white bread, I like to further break tradition and serve as a dip for crackers or celery, and make an open faced sandwich on rye or dark bread with lettuce and tomato. You can also make a tortilla wrap — or if you are watching your starchy carbs — serve on a bed of lettuce or use it to stuff a tomato.
While my egg salad may not be the version that my grandmother’s made, that is okay. Because as corny as it is, we all know that the secret ingredient that made their food delicious was love. ❤
As I create recipes, I try to enhance flavors with ingredients that reflect this unconditional love. We must nourish our bodies with food that is kind to us and that helps us reach our health goals and our potential.
It is an understatement to say that it has been a long winter. I wish you beautiful days full of the luxury of sunshine, songbirds, and green. In the coming weeks, take advantage of milder weather and plan a picnic. While you are at it, whip up some egg salad sandwiches. What a perfect way to celebrate spring and the Grandma Edna and Hildas in our lives!
“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.”
My life took a drastic turn a few years ago when I met my husband John and fell in love with him and his two beautiful children. While I adore our busy life, I have found that I neglect to make time for my own creativity. While I love posting my recipes here — I decided to start a sister blog to dedicate to creative writing. Don’t worry, I will still post here — but my new blog is my challenge to honor my creative impulses and connect with my inner artist. I will document my world — whether I am tending to the kale in our hoop house, canning tomatoes in our 130 year old log kitchen, watching our kids practice hockey on the rink, spending time with the chickens or our pack of dogs, or traveling to the wilds of Alaska (where we hope to retire one day).
The title of the blog, Glitter and Dog Hair, was inspired by my step daughter Avalon. As a bright middle school student, her grades are important to her. After buying supplies for a science project she promised me that she would apply the bright turquoise glitter that I bought outside (and not inside our tiny house). Needless to say, that did not happen. My husband discovered the mess before me and made sure to calm me before I could react (her science project was spectacular after all). Ultimately, we shook our heads and laughed — my husband shrugged his shoulders and responded, “Our life is composed of glitter and dog hair, Darling!” Throw in a few chicken feathers and stinky hockey equipment and that sums it up perfectly. Becoming a step mom at 44 was not an easy task. While the beauty made me fall in love, I am learning to embrace the messy parts too. In fact, I would not change our life for anything.
While I am frustrated that I am not actively writing stories and poems. Perhaps it is because I am on creative overload — there is inspiration everywhere that I look. I hope my creative pursuits and prompts help you, or someone you know, discover your voices. Our words matter. ❤ Also, follow along on Instagram and Facebook. Thank you!
“In a world where news of inhumanity bombards our sensibilities, where grasping for things goes so far beyond our needs, where time is squandered in busyness, it is a pleasure and a privilege to pause for a look at handiwork, to see beauty amidst utility, and to know that craft traditions begun so long ago serve us today.”
A handful of years ago, when my niece Kristine was in high school, she gave a demonstration speech on how to can dill pickles. After her presentation, when she told me that there were students in her class that did not know that pickles were once cucumbers, I was shocked. Really? How could this happen in a rural community in Upper Michigan where vegetable gardens commonly sprout in backyards? I guess that I took it for granted that others grew up in a household similar to the one in which I was raised. Pre-bread machines my mom always made homemade bread, cake and frosting were whipped up from scratch, macaroni-and-cheese did not come out of a box, and on a weekly basis stock pots of aromatic soup simmered on the stove.
Did we eat junk food and drink soda? Yes. Yet, my mom always made sure our diet was balanced out by home cooked meals and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Even when we spent long, summer days at the beach the slow-cooker was preparing some sort of wholesome, savory dish. Fast food did not exist in our hometown (aside from the seasonal drive-in restaurant) and take-out and dinners at restaurants were rare and special indulgences.
Granted, times have changed, but I think that in we need to go back to the way some things were in the past. My mom grew up in a large Finnish-American family with six other siblings, and because finances were lean, they had to learn how to be resourceful. I am thankful that Mom passed this resourcefulness on to me. I am equally thankful to have married a man who wants his children to be raised with these same values.
The next time you are in line at the supermarket, reflect on the choices in your cart (and even other shoppers around you). It is common to hear (and participate) in conversations about how expensive groceries are these days. Yet, when you take a look at what is tossed into grocery carts there often are cheaper alternatives. Think of how many raw potatoes can be purchased for the price of a bag of potato chips. How many bags of dried beans can be purchased for the cost of canned? Compare the cost of individually packaged instant oatmeal versus a tub of old-fashioned oats. While they may be expensive, how many cherries or grapes could a twelve pack of soda purchase?
While I try to keep my grocery cart limited to whole foods, I do confess to convenience food purchases. Though, I try to be more mindful of making our favorite meals by scratch, because not only is it more economical, but more nutritional as well. Plus, I like to believe that when I stretch my grocery dollar I can afford to put more organic offerings on our table – or an extra evening out at a local restaurant.
Not only are some convenience foods easy to make, but cooking from scratch helps us avoid putting chemicals into our bodies. The next time you pick up a can of soup carefully scan the ingredients. How about salad dressing? Can you pronounce the long list of additives and preservatives? If not, you might want to think about making your own.
In addition to dressings, I find that a great way to perk up salads and other meals are pickles. Growing up, pickles were an important food group in our house – as were straight up cucumbers. My grandpa Puskala often served us sliced cucumbers from his garden and vinegar for breakfast (probably because that is all that we wanted to eat). My Grandma Hilda’s canned dill pickles and crock pickles were a family favorite and my mom followed her canning tradition. In fact, my mom is known to can over one hundred quarts of pickles in the fall because she gifts them to people throughout the year. The smell of pickle brine is one of my fondest memories from childhood.
Today I am going to share with you my Grandma’s dill pickle recipe. By August most gardeners are up to their ears in cucumbers and if you do not garden yourself you can find them readily available from a neighbor or the farmer’s market. Pickles are one of the easiest items to can because you only need to use a hot water bath (use a large stock pot that will allow water over the lids) and you do not have to pressure can the jars. My canner/stock pot will prepare 7 quarts at a time.
I like to use one quart wide mouth jars and you will also need lids with bands. Sanitize the jars in the sanitize cycle of your dishwasher or in a pot of boiling water. If you are boiling the jars, boil them for 30-45 minutes and make sure you boil the lids and bands and well (I boil the lids for 5-10 minutes).
BRINE (bring to a boil when you are ready to can)
2 Quarts of Water
1 Quart of Apple Cider Vinegar
½ Cup of Canning Salt (Make sure that you buy canning salt and not regular table salt)
You will also need:
Dill (fresh and/or dill seed. I recommend fresh dill – but seed will work in a pinch).
Alum Powder (Can be found in the spice and pickling sections and it helps make pickles crunchy)
*Optional for spicy peppers
Crushed red peppers (could also use jalapenos or other fresh peppers)
Choose the shape of the pickles that you desire (chips, spears, whole, or thin sandwich slices). I like to can a variety of shapes.
While you are packing your jars, make sure that you bring the water in your canner (large stock pot) to boiling. The water should be over the jars when you place them in the canner.
In the bottom of the jar place ¾ teaspoon of alum powder, a generous helping of dill (stem and all), crushed garlic cloves (I put three per jar), and peppers if you desire a spicy pickle. Then pack the rest of the jar with cucumbers. I recommend placing them in carefully and packing them thoroughly (or else you will have lots of room in the jar).
Once the cucumbers are firmly packed, fill the jar with the boiling brine, leaving about ¾ inch of head room at the top. Put on the lid and tighten the band (firmly – but you do not have to overly tighten).
Place the jars in the canner and TURN OFF the heat and let sit for 25 minutes. My mom taught me that this is the secret to crunchy pickles. If you continue to heat the water, the pickles may end up mushy.
After 25 minutes remove the jars and let sit until they seal (this may take up to 24 hours). While it is frustrating if you have a jar, or two, that does not seal. You can refrigerate these pickles and give them a couple of weeks to “pickle” and eat them within the month. In the same way, if you do not want to can the pickles you can make crock pickles using this brine and let them sit in the refrigerator in a large jar(s) or a bowl or crock.
If you love pickles as much as I do, you have to try my grandmother’s recipe. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to leave a comment here, send me an email, or stop by my Facebook page.
Imagine this winter, when you pop open a jar of pickles and remember a steamy summer day when your kitchen was filled with the fragrance of dill. These pickles may remind you of your childhood and like me, you may appreciate the old-fashioned. I would wear a dress over jeans any day, I love the word ice-box, and I believe in setting a beautiful table. I believe that food made with love, and attention to detail, tastes better. Give these pickles a try and let me know what you think!
Here is a video that my stepdaughter Avalon made last summer when I taught her how to make pickles! Isn’t she the cutest?
“Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
― Mary Oliver
Snow days in April are not unusual in the UP of Michigan. However, that does not soften the blow. As John and I discussed yesterday, April snow storms usually torment us AFTER the majority of our snow has already melted and it is gone within a couple of days. However, over the past couple of days we received over THIRTY inches of snow ON TOP of the snow lingering from the winter.
While it is depressing and feels like a setback to our growing season, the kids were thrilled to have two snow days off of school (this teacher did not complain 😉 ) and the weather outlook for the next couple of weeks looks hopeful. We should be seeing temperatures close to the 50s by the weekend and into next week. That means that it should be close to 100 in the hoop house.
Speaking of the hoop house: check out these photos of John, Avalon, and Lukas digging it out yesterday after the storm.
The dogs were in their glory and were exhausted last night after a spirited frolic in the snow!
Avalon and I took advantage of our snow days to create a new video for our YouTube channel. As you can tell from the video, this new medium is a little awkward for me, but Avalon is a natural! In this video we share a few of the things that we “cannot live without”. It was a blast to film it together and we hope to be able to create more content about our farm, recipes, and DIY projects.
Please make sure to subscribe to our Channel: Superior Maple Grove Farm and leave us a comment to let us know you were there and what kind of videos you would like us post!
I hope that your spring is going well and that you are excited about gardening. I will post updates as we get our seedlings planted in the hoop house. I also promise to post more healthy recipes to help you put your homegrown, or farmer’s market produce, to great use. Thank you for following our adventures. If you are in the snow belt like we are – stay warm, stay safe, and hold on tight — spring is near! ❤
I have exciting news, the Waldos are making plans for the summer. My family has made a commitment to join me in blogging. In addition, we are going to start vlogging together. After receiving many questions about our farm projects, we thought creating a YouTube channel would be a great way to share and log our progress. It will add a layer Produce with Amy and serve as a time capsule for our projects. Our hope is to help others who want to grow their own food, be resourceful, and learn with us on this journey to maximize our health and productivity. We are enlisting our community to help us move forward with our creativity. Thank you!
Today we made our first video to launch our family YouTube channel, Superior Maple Grove Farm. We hope to post our DIY projects and our farm adventures. From creating an eco-system for bees, building ponds, growing food in a high tunnel/hoop house, and raising chickens – our hope for this channel is to share our challenges, victories, and dreams for the future. Of course I will continue to make recipes and we will make sure to address Avalon and Lukas’ interests as well.
We believe in reciprocal education and hope our viewers learn something from us and we hope to learn from you. Thank you for watching! The Waldos – Amy, John, Avalon and Lukas. ❤
Subscribe to our channel here: Superior Maple Grove Farm
”It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here right now…with its aches and its pleasures…is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.”
Last week I made a confession on my personal Facebook page. I always try to keep Facebook lighthearted and focus on the positive. It doesn’t feel the proper place to whine and complain (that’s what my husband John is for 😉 ). However, I had to admit that I have been struggling for a while.
John has been trying to get me to go for a medical appointment for a couple of years. Truthfully, it’s been a point of contention with us. I kept promising I would make that appointment and I never did. Even my dad jumped in and told me to go to the doctor. I kept telling them I was fine. After all, I’m a healthy person. I never get sick (not even a cold or the flu).
My issue has been extreme fatigue, weight gain (as you may be aware I have posted about this MANY times) that I cannot lose (believe me I have been trying), anxiety, and depression. While my vanity HATES the weight gain (I am a miserable overweight person) – the most difficult has been the anxiety and depression – because I’ve never suffered from either before. It has been frightening. I know that it’s been difficult for my family too. I’ve been IMPOSSIBLE to deal with.
I have been writing it off as aging and all those lovely female hormones that women must deal with. Maybe at forty-six my metabolism is REALLY slowing down. Of course I should be tired, I get up early and work hard. I am a relatively new step mom. I am busy! I kept telling myself that the anxiety and depression was a symptom of past trauma and stress. After all, I had gone through a lot in the past decade. I still was healing.
However, this summer I have been dragging. No motivation and I have to push myself to do things (even the things that I enjoy doing).
I finally made that appointment. The turning point was my step son and step daughter’s reaction to a LARGE bruise I had on my leg (incidentally the same leg I suffered a blog clot that led to a pulmonary embolism in 2007). John was beside himself and pushed harder for me to go. I felt horrible – the look on their faces – terrified and concerned about me. I knew that I had to go.
My doctor listened to me. I explained to her how I DO eat healthy (It’s honestly very common for me to eat salad even for breakfast). I was a Weight Watchers coach for eight years. I have been advocating a healthy lifestyle for years and have a food blog with over 100 healthy plant-based recipes. I wear a fit bit and over the past year it does not matter if I get in 2,000 steps or 20,000. My scale has been stuck on the same number for over a year (after gaining 30 pounds). I no longer follow the WW plan, but I am a healthy eater. I eat primarily a vegetarian diet (with some seafood), fill my plate with vegetables, and I am not a big sweets eater. I have been journaling my food and calories. I’ve tried reducing calories, increasing calories, watching starchy carbs, paying attention to protein, and minimizing processed food. This spring/summer I dramatically increased my activity and I have only lost a few pounds. My husband John has commented many times that I should not struggle with my weight the way I do because of my healthy food choices. For example: while he indulges on calorie rich desserts at night, I opt for fresh fruit, berries, or even raw vegetables.
To add insult to injury, my anxiety is getting worse. I feel like crying all the time (and sometimes I do). Often my anxiety masks itself as anger. I told John that when I was a little girl and woke up from a nap I would be extremely crabby. So much that my parents called me Obstinate Amy. Let’s just say that nickname has resurfaced (even though I’m sure John would like to use other words).
As I said before, my doctor listened to me and after my physical she ordered a series of blood tests and then an ultra sound of my thyroid. Yesterday I was diagnosed with Hashimotos Disease. Basically, my antibodies are elevated and my body is attacking my thyroid. Thus, nearly all the symptoms of Hashimotos or Hypothryoid, I have been having. Yesterday I started my prescription for WP Thyroid and hopefully I will find my balance again.
No, it’s not great news, but it’s treatable. Plus, I have some relief because now I have answers. I have not felt like myself for some time and it was extremely disconcerting. I have never felt like this before – it is really horrible. (Incidentally, the bruising was not a concern and went away in a week. It was caused by all the work I was pushing myself to do – weeding the hoop house and planting 120 gladiola bulbs and other flowers around our farm).
When I posted my recent diagnosis, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from family and friends. However, what was the most surprising, was how many people I know suffer from thyroid conditions. While some people came straight out and sympathized and gave tips and support — I was shocked by how many private messages I received. The messages were all from women who either did not feel comfortable discussing the issue publicly, or wanted to offer additional resources that I could consult. The more alarming part was how many women said that they felt that they were suffering from thyroid issues, but how they have been unable to receive answers. Either their doctors did not listen, or the testing did not turn up any results that would point to their thyroid. Yet, deep down they knew! I gave out my doctor’s information and we discussed never giving up – to continue to seek out answers.
Through all of this, John has been incredibly supportive. I know that I have been a deplorable person to deal with. I am thankful that he was persistent in making me go in for an appointment. I know that if I kept refusing he would have had to really use his “police voice” and some of his training to drag me to the medical center. We were at that point.
Maybe as I move forward I can encourage others to listen to their bodies (as I failed to do) and pay attention to those around them who know and love them. My doctor said that thyroid conditions often go undiagnosed and untreated in women because they easily appear to be symptoms of pre-menopause and aging. Because of the anxiety and depression thyroid conditions can also be misdiagnosed as a mental health issue. Please do not assume, like I did, that your symptoms are not treatable. Do not write off changes in mood, energy, and weight as pre menopause, menstrual cycles, or aging. If you are not happy with the answers you get, seek a second opinion, a third, or a fourth — and do not be afraid to reach out to your community for support and advice.
I will use this diagnosis as an opportunity to educate myself. From the past I know that nutrition plays a huge role in how our body heals and I will continue to advocate for healthy eating. It may take some time, but I will figure out what my body needs to thrive again.
In the next few months I will be educating myself and making sure that I am reaching for whole and non-processed foods. I am going to regain my energy levels and get back to my productive self.
As I heal, I am continuing to enjoy our beautiful farm. This week I have been on a pickling spree – and canning my ultimate favorite DILL PICKLES! I am trying to focus on the blessings in my life and taking in the beauty around me. It is amazing how much better I feel when I reframe my attitude and breathe in positivity.
I am thankful that John chose me to be his life companion, for making my health his priority, and for taking care of me (in spite of my obstinance) 😉 Oh how much I love him. ❤ I also appreciate my family and friends who have offered words of wisdom, love, and support. It means more to me than I can express.
Do you suffer from Hashimotos or other thyroid conditions or love someone who does? I would love to hear what has helped you/them heal. I welcome any nutritional advice and would enjoy hearing from others who have embraced a thyroid healthy lifestyle.
Make sure you too are listening to your body. While I am ashamed that I waited so long to make that appointment. I am supremely grateful that I did. We are worth putting ourselves first. When we are healthy and full of energy, we can take care of the others in lives so much better. I am ready to tackle this next adventure. No more excuses. I need to be a priority in my own life. ❤
“I don’t know what rituals my kids will carry into adulthood, whether they’ll grow up attached to homemade pizza on Friday nights, or the scent of peppers roasting over a fire, or what. I do know that flavors work their own ways under the skin, into the heart of longing. Where my kids are concerned I find myself hoping for the simplest things: that if someday they crave orchards where their kids can climb into the branches and steal apples, the world will have trees enough with arms to receive them.”
-Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
Summer is here and it has been wonderful to the Waldos so far. Year #16 of teaching is in the books and I have been blissfully enjoying mornings of reflection. June translated to a cup of coffee, sleeping kids, snoring dogs, and the fragrance of lilacs and apple blossoms in our tiny, cozy home. I am recharging for the new school year by filling the well with the beauty around me. My focus this summer will be growth – in the garden, in my writing, and in continuing to develop myself as a wife, mother, and teacher.
While nothing is perfect, and we have our moments (we are both set In our ways) I am thankful to be building a life with a man who puts providing for his family, and our safety, as his priority. I can’t stress enough how hard John works. Both in his profession and his personal life. Our home is a labor of love – demonstrated by the sweat equity he has put into our land. While the appraisal showed us a dollar amount – the legacy we have to hand down to the kids, because of his steadfastness, is priceless.
Thank you, John for strength in the face of adversity. While many people would have raised the white flag in defeat – you stood your ground to keep
this beautiful farm and give Avalon and Lukas a safe and secure childhood. In doing so you are providing them with the opportunity to learn about the delicate balance of nature, see where their food comes from, and sustainability.
Thank you for allowing me to be part of your world. In a few weeks we celebrate the two year anniversary of our marriage – but in reality – we’ve been searching all our lives for each other. Corny? Yes, but true.
How thankful we are to the family and friends/co-workers who have helped us in countless ways. Through turmoil, heartache, and divorce and onto fresh starts – our network of support has uplifted and kept us going. ♥️
I know we will encounter rough patches, but we are a team. I’m ready for the next chapter of our adventure. After signing the mountain of paper work in June the world looks different. The focus is clearer and the colors are richer. Home has a new definition for me – and I am ready to stretch and fortify our roots together. 🌱🌱🌱
I’ve always believed that dreams combined with hard work pays off – no matter your age. I love John, Avalon, and Lukas. I love our story.