Writing Prompt: The Kitchen Table

From my Sister Blog: Here is a universal themed writing prompt I use with my students that uses a powerful poem by Joy Harjo as a companion piece.

Glitter and Dog Hair

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
–Joy Harjo

As a writing teacher, I often use food as a prompt to help my students capture their stories. Food is universal and we have an intimate connection to the food that surrounds us.

Not only am I a food blogger, but I think that food helps a writer tap into their senses. Food is smell, taste, sounds, and texture. Food is comfort, culture, community, family, and a way…

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A Writer’s Sensibility: Bearing Witness to Your Creativity

“As a writer I have what I call my, “Monet Moments”. When I want to experience the world with a new lens. Mid-February I was watching the blues set in at night (on many levels). I wanted to snowshoe at dusk to experience the optical effects of light up close and personal and not just from the mudroom window. I have a trail carved around our pasture and approximately three and a half times around is a mile.

Glitter and Dog Hair

“Don’t scorn your life just because it’s not dramatic, or it’s impoverished, or it looks dull, or it’s workaday. Don’t scorn it. It is where poetry is taking place if you’ve got the sensitivity to see it, if your eyes are open.”
–Philip Levine, describing what he learned from William Carlos Williams

A shelf in my classroom with Monet reproductions.

Mrs. Sherby was my art teacher in both elementary and secondary school and I will never forget the lessons she taught at the Forest Park Schools. I still dream about her classroom – the way the clay smelled, the wide-narrow drawers where we stored our work-in-progress, and the baby food jars where we mixed custom colors of acrylic paint and dipped our paintbrushes.

Mrs. Sherby taught us about the Impressionism Movement and I was moved by Monet. I vividly remember learning about his haystack series and the way he patiently…

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Virtual Scavenger Hunt Poem: Word Bank Poetry Prompt

Make sure you check out my posts on my sister blog .

Glitter and Dog Hair

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”
-Steve Jobs

As a high school writing teacher, I am constantly looking for new ways to help my students find inspiration. While my creative writing students come to class prepared to create, sometimes encouraging my 9th grade English students to tap into their creativity is a challenge. This is especially true when I ask them to write poetry.

To help free up writer’s block and self-doubt, I tell my students that for their first draft I will not assign a letter grade for a poem but will give credit or no credit. If they turn it in, they get…

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Spring Fever is an Understatement

“Snow was falling,
so much like stars
filling the dark trees
that one could easily imagine
its reason for being was nothing more
than prettiness.”
― Mary Oliver

April 16, 2017 on the left.
April 16, 2018 on the right. Last year we were planting blueberry bushes and this year the bushes are buried under several feet of snow. There are 10+ foot snowdrifts in our pasture.

Meesha is a bundle of energy!

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!

Gentle Ollie taking a break. He LOVES the snow.

Remi our faithful protector is not sure what to think.

Giant April snow banks!

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! ❤

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. ❤

Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potato with Pomegranate Balsamic Vinaigrette

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
-Margaret Atwood

Though I refuse to wish my days away, I am dreaming of dirt season. Each day I watch the snow banks recede (or loom larger) and imagine the bulbs that I planted last fall begin to tingle with life. I can imagine the glossy blooms like plump scoops of pastel sorbet – hyacinth, tulips, and crocus – gracing our breakfast table in vintage milk glass vessels perched atop my great-grandmother’s lace doilies.

In addition to indulging in visions of frothy blossoms, I am researching new vegetables to grow. While in the past we have had good luck with tomatoes, squash, beans, and peas – this year John and I are taking gardening to a new level with a 32×70 foot hoop house. While it is exciting to be able to extend our growing season, it is a bit intimidating as well. I hope to share some of our trials and tribulations on my blog for others who want to grow more of their own food.

Since John and I have an affinity for Brussels sprouts, they are on the top of our to-grow list. While the health benefits of cruciferous sprouts are plenty (Brussels sprouts contain many phytonutrients that promote our health by protecting against cancer and fighting cholesterol), the writer in me marvels over the names of different varieties of vegetables. Even Brussels sprouts are poetic when lavished with titles like Jade Cross, Oliver, and Valiant.
As with much fresh produce such as kale, cabbage, and broccoli – the health benefits of Brussels sprouts are heightened when they are lightly steamed. However, John is wild about my roasted Brussels sprouts. The roasting process caramelizes the sprout and makes them sweet and savory at the same time. For this recipe I decided to incorporate another one of John’s favorites sweet potatoes minus the globs of butter, brown sugar, and marshmallows (sorry, Sweetheart) and a homemade Pomegranate Vinaigrette dressing.

(Printable recipe below)


To roast the Brussels sprouts (I roasted two bags) cut in half and spread on a baking sheet (cover with foil for easy clean up) and toss in the following mixture:  

*2 Tablespoons coconut oil (or your favorite cooking oil)
*2 Tablespoons of soy sauce
*I Tablespoon Dijon mustard
*1 Tablespoon minced garlic
*1 teaspoon cumin
*Black pepper to taste

To roast the sweet potato (I used two large potatoes), cut into small cubes and toss in a Tablespoon of oil, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a dash of salt and pepper.

I roasted the Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes on separate sheets since the potatoes take slightly longer. Roast Brussels sprout at 400-425 degrees for 30 minutes (depending on oven) and the potatoes for 45 minutes. Turn both at the midway point.

POMEGRANATE VINAIGRETTE
*1 cup pomegranate juice
*1/4 cup of vinegar (my favorite variety of vinegar for this dressing are either red wine or balsamic)
*1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
*1 clove of garlic
*1 teaspoon of red onion
*1 Tablespoon honey (more or less to taste)
*salt and pepper to taste

Blend well (The dressing will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator)

This dish can be made ahead and the sprouts and potatoes can be heated if you want to serve warm.

Arrange the Brussels sprouts and potatoes on a plate and add a few grapefruit segments. Sprinkle with gorgonzola cheese (blue, feta, or goat cheese make great pairings). Drizzle with a couple Tablespoons of dressing and sprinkle with extra crisp bacon or walnuts. Since my husband eats meat, I serve his with bacon, and I like walnuts or almonds with mine.

This dish can be served as a salad or side, and is delicious warm or cold. While fresh Brussels sprouts would be preferred, I used frozen – which makes this a versatile offering year round. Incidentally, frozen vegetables are healthy because they are flash frozen at the peak of ripeness.

For other seasonal twists on this recipe — serve with roasted cranberries, crisp apples, or fresh blackberries in the fall, in the summer toss with juicy cherries; in the spring early strawberries, and citrus segments in the winter for a splash of color, texture, and flavor.

The roasting technique, and the sauce that I use, also turns cauliflower and other vegetables (carrots, green beans, zucchini, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes) into magical creations. The roasting time will be shorter for more tender vegetables such as beans, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Roasted vegetables are versatile ingredients for vegetarians and meat eaters alike and can be served hot or cold and are great tossed into pasta, soups, or as the bed for salads.

Printable RecipeRoasted Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Potato and Pomegranate Balsamic Vinaigrette

As I watch the birds puff up their feathers outside our windows, I know that I am not alone when I say that I am aching for green grass, spring flowers, and the opportunity to poke seeds down into a plot of damp earth. Until then, one of the benefits of cool weather is being to enjoy living inside a cozy house with the fragrant aroma of roasting vegetables. It is my pleasure to share this recipe with you and make sure you check out my other recipes for more ways to incorporate a rainbow of produce to your menu.

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! 

january-goals

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!