Setting Healthy Goals

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

― T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

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

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

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

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

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

I am thankful for our cozy log home.

I am thankful for our cozy log home.

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Mighty Mac.

The Mighty Mac.

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

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Thank you, John!

Thank you, John!

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Luke’s Kiwisaurus Green Smoothie

Luke's Kiwisaurus Green Smoothie by Produce with Amy“Talking about abstract things is important. Having big, wild conversations about concepts like art, music, time travel, and dreams makes it much easier when you’ll eventually need to talk about things like anger, sadness, pain, and love.”
―Tom Burns

Trixie and LukasIn my past two posts I introduced you to my step-daughter Avalon and today I am introducing you to my step-son, Lukas. Luke is six and he is an extremely entertaining and intelligent little boy. He has his father’s witty personality and knack for storytelling. Every morning when I wake him up for school Lukas shares with me the dream he had the night before and it usually involves a dinosaur in some shape or form. Lukas loves to play with Legos and he is a natural artist. One of the first gifts that I gave the kids was a box filled with paper and art supplies and Luke has spent hours creating masterpieces. Without fail, Luke has the capacity to make me smile even when I am feeling sad or grumpy. It is a pleasure and honor to be able to share his sunshine with you.

Last weekend was quality Lukas and Aimster time (Aimster being Lukas’ latest term of endearment for me). Avalon had a friend over for an overnight on Friday and spent the night at her friend’s on Saturday and I figured it was the perfect time for Luke and I to spend some one-on-one time. On Friday we cuddled with our new kitty Trixie while we giggled, laughed, and Lukas told me silly stories.
Luke and Trixie

My friend Kay shared a photo from UPAWS on Facebook of a sweet little tortie named Suzy Q. I fell in love with her and the next day my husband John adopted her for us. We named her Trixie (my favorite books as a little girl were the Trixie Belden series).

My friend Kay shared a photo from UPAWS of a sweet little tortie named Suzy Q. I fell in love with her sweet face and unusual markings and the next day my husband John adopted her for us. We named her Trixie (my favorite books as a little girl were the Trixie Belden series). Trixie has quite a fiesty personality and we all love her so much.

Several weeks ago Lukas decided that he wanted his own smoothie blog post (especially since I posted two of Avalon’s recipes). “I want to be famous too,” he told me.  While I explain to him that I am far from famous, Avalon and Lukas are always in awe of how many people I know when we go shopping or dine at a local restaurant. I have explained to them that when you are teacher you make many lasting friendships with many of your students and parents. Aside from being a teacher, I have held quite a few jobs in the area that involved working with the public and on occasion I do run into someone who knows me from my blog. Avalon, Lukas, and I talk a lot about being friendly and about how being a kind person can speak volumes about you to others. We also talk about the importance of attendance (both to school and work) and how you should not just show up but that working hard is important too.IMG_5705

I have told both Avalon and Lukas a story that one of my former students, Tori Lauren, shared during a 10th grade final exam. My students were instructed to write and present a This I Believe essay and Tori wrote about how her parents taught her from an early age that every person or opportunity could be a potential job interview. While going into the grocery store in her hometown her parents would remind her behave because, “she may want to seek employment there one day”. I will never forget Tori’s eloquent essay and the wisdom passed on from her parents. Whether this insight is literal or metaphorical, as human beings I do not think that we should overlook our networking potential and the first impressions that we make (regardless of our age). Tori and her siblings are hardworking 4-H kids and some of the best students that I have had in my teaching career. Now I am passing her wisdom on to my stepchildren. How cool is that? While many people profess that teachers make a difference — I firmly believe that students make a difference too! My students help shape my lessons and my teaching practice and I am thankful to be a life-long-learner.

IMG_5671While I do try to be a guide for my step children in teaching them valuable life lessons, sometimes we just like to act silly. We love to cuddle up and watch television together (an adjustment for me since I have never been much of a tv watcher – and the Disney channel is a completely new experience for me). Sometimes we read together when I tuck them in at night and I always love the Lukasisms that result in our time together. Some of my personal favorites are as follows:

Lukas: “Amy, when you were a carnivore did you like to eat Spinosaurus?” (I suppose forty-four years old to a six year old does sound ancient. 😉 )

When we were at Red Lobster:
Amy: “Lukas are you going to eat your shrimp too?”
Lukas: “Amy, I like mystery. When I twirl my pasta I like to be surprised if I get a shrimp!”

When he helped me gather eggs from the chicken coop and clean them and put them in the refrigerator:
Lukas: “You know what, Aimster? I was built for this!”
Amy: “Built for what, Buddy? Farm chores?”
Lukas: “Yes, I should probably go mow the lawn now.”

Last week while waiting to hop on the school bus:
Lukas: “Kiss me now! My kisses are magic.”
Amy: “Okay, Luke. You are too cute!” *smooch*
Lukas: “Aimster, I love your fluffy hair!” *my heart melts*
It’s true, he does. He loves to snuggle up to me and he loves to nestle his face into my hair. He tells me that I smell like ice cream. Considering how much this little boy loves ice cream, I take that as a giant compliment.

Speaking of ice cream and sweets, as a new step-mom with a bit of a healthy food I try to keep a bowl of fruit in the house at all times. obsession, I am still trying to find balance between what my kids want to eat and what I think that they should eat. John and the kids love their sweets and I am always trying to find ways to health up their meals. As I have shared in my last two posts, they are wild about Greek Gods Yogurt and I always try to keep fruit in the house. Lukas LOVES cantaloupe and we go through a couple of bunches of bananas a week. This fall Avalon has been enjoying pears and Lukas will devour grapes. I do still buy ice cream and we often have cake and cookies in the house — but John and I also try to find balance and encourage the kids to try different fruit and vegetables.
Greek Gods Strawberry Honey Yogurt

For the smoothie that we are sharing today, Lukas was passionate about including kiwi. He also thought it should have bananas and strawberries. We decided to add a bit of yogurt to the mix and he agreed to even add some spinach. (Adding greens is a huge step – last year at this time he would not have even considered drinking a smoothie – not to mention adding spinach to it).
Ready to blend

If you have never had spinach in smoothies before – you have to try it. Spinach is naturally sweet and you (and your kids) will not even know it is in there. My best friend Heather had her daughter Mackenzie convinced for almost a year that the smoothies she made for her were green because of the kiwi she put in them. One day Mackenzie saw one of my posts on Facebook and said to Heather, “Mom, Amy puts spinach in her smoothies?” 😉

The following is how I made Luke’s smoothie. John and Lukas both thought it was too tart for them. Therefore, if I made it again for them I would add extra banana or raw honey (or even fruit juice) to sweeten it a bit. Lukas drank about half of his – which I consider a huge victory since it contained a lot of fruit and greens. Baby steps!

Lukas making his smoothie!

I bought Lukas two Jurassic Park vehicles this weekend for being such a good boy when he went shopping with me. He wanted them to part of his blog post.

I bought Lukas two Jurassic Park vehicles this weekend for being such a good boy when he went shopping with me. He wanted them to part of his blog post.

LUKE’S KIWISAURUS GREEN SMOOTHIE

*2 medium frozen bananas
*3 peeled kiwi
*1/2 cup of frozen strawberries
*1 cup of Greek Gods Honey Strawberry Yogurt
*2 cups of spinach
*1 cup of water or fruit juice (more or less depending how thick you want your Fresh mint from our herb garden.smoothie…I made Luke’s with water)
*Optional – sprig of fresh mint. (Even though it’s November I was surprised to find mint still growing in our herb garden. It has been a very mild fall in Upper Michigan)
*Top with whipped cream (This was a MUST HAVE for Luke’s smoothie)

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This recipe made two green smoothies

It fills me with joy to know that I am able to positively influence my step kids and encourage them to eat more fruit and vegetables. They both had a spectacular first marking period in school and we are working hard to make sure that the rest of school year is the same.

Avalon's 4th grade school picture.

Avalon’s 4th grade school picture.

Lukas' 1st grade school picture.

Lukas’ 1st grade school picture.

I bought Lukas and Avalon rewards for their success in school this year. Avalon chose a journal and we picked out an art book for Lukas.

I bought Lukas and Avalon rewards for their success in school this year. Avalon chose a journal and we picked out an art book for Lukas.

Luke’s teachers all comment on what a kind and thoughtful little boy he is and that he has a heart of gold. We received an email from his teacher that he was observed giving his snack that we packed him to a new boy in their class because he didn’t have one. John, who is a police officer, always tries to teach the kids to be kind to others. Obviously, his lessons do not go unnoticed and we could not be prouder.

As you can see, Luke's green smoothie is dinosaur approved!

As you can see, Luke’s green smoothie is dinosaur approved!

Make sure you check out my smoothie tab for other smoothie recipes. As well as Avalon’s Kid Friendly Recipes.  Right now is the perfect time to gear up for my December Green Smoothie Challenge with 31 days of printable recipes and shopping lists.

I hope that you are having a wonderful autumn and stay tuned because my next post will be a new Mason jar salad recipe. It is John’s favorite salad and I have been meaning to share it for months. Thank you for reading and I would love to hear about some of your favorite kid friendly healthy recipes. As a new mom, I am finding that truly does take a village. Lukas was happy to share his smoothie recipe with you – we hope that you enjoy it!
Luke

Trixie and her rescuer, John. He might not always admit it, but he's a softie. John will probably be Trixie's favorite. She will remember who saved her. So will I.

Trixie and her rescuer, John. He might not always admit it, but he’s a softie. John will probably be Trixie’s favorite. She will remember who saved her. So will I. ❤

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Luke's Kiwisaurus Smoothie

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Avalon’s Red Berry Smoothie

Avalon's Red Berry Smoothie by Produce with Amy“Strong women. May we know them. May we raise them. May we be them.”~Unknown

It is my pleasure to introduce you to a brand new blogger who is very special to me. Her name is Avalon, and as of June 30, 2015, she is my step-daughter. Avalon is a beautiful little girl (she looks just like her mama Kimberly).

Meet Miss Avalon

Meet Miss Avalon

Not only is Avalon a beauty – she is intelligent, graceful, a great singer, tech savvy, loves to read, and she has a bubbly personality. Avalon enjoys helping me out in the kitchen and it is my pleasure to teach her how to cook. At an early age my mom taught me the health benefits of eating fruit and vegetables and lovingly showed me how to create a feast from a variety of ingredients. Because of this, I am resourceful and I have a passion for cooking fresh food from whole foods. I want to pass this healthy lifestyle down to Avalon and her little brother Lukas (who also is quite handy in the kitchen). I love our family dinners and I am always encouraging the kids to try new foods (even though if they are reluctant at times – baby steps). It is hard enough having to acclimate to a step-mother. Add into the equation that she is a vegetarian AND a teacher and imagine what a readjustment that is!

IMG_2173I do apologize for being away from the blog for so long, but as you can see, I have been engaged in a great deal of lifestyle changes.

For my plant-based friends, you may see a few changes/options in some of my recipes.

When Lukas and Avalon’s dad John and I fell in love we knew we were meant to be. Yet, we also knew we would have some differences in opinion on food.

While I try to maintain a plant-based diet, John is aIMG_3272 hunter and hobby farmer who raises free range chickens and other livestock. While I still do not eat meat, I have been eating free-range eggs and I do eat a small amount of dairy (homemade pizza is a staple in our house nearly once a week). I promised John that I would not try to convert him, Avalon, and Lukas to vegetarians, but I would encourage them all to incorporate more fruit and vegetables into their diet. I love that John does not want to have to rely on factory farmed meat and it is our long-term goal to produce as much of our own food as possible. Next year we are hoping to acquire a hoop house to help extend our rather short growing season in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I can get lost in the beauty of our home and land.

I can get lost in the beauty of our home and land.

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I put the yogurt containers to good use this spring when I started our squash and tomato seedlings.

I put the yogurt containers to good use this spring when I started our squash and tomato seedlings.

When I started spending time with Avalon, Lukas, and John – one of the first things that I learned was that they all have a sweet tooth. So I tried to find healthier desserts that would satisfy both their craving for something sweet and my obsession with healthy food.

Many years ago when I was cutting out artificial sweeteners, I discovered Greek Gods Yogurt. If you eat dairy and you have not tried this brand – you are missing out. John and the kids instantly agreed that it was better than ice cream and now it is common for them to go through three containers a week. I cut up fruit add a dollop of yogurt and sometimes sprinkle on granola and whipped cream. Avalon’s summertime favorite is watermelon and strawberries with honey vanilla yogurt. Though, for her smoothie recipe we tried the black cherry flavor and Avalon said it may be her new favorite. Right now she is in Virginia visiting her mom and she asked me to stock up on it for when she gets home. I find this brand in all of our local supermarkets, but Target seems to have the best price (it’s often on Cartwheel for 20% off).

The recipe for Avalon’s smoothie made two large glasses, so if you want an individual serving, you may want to reduce it in half. I have to say that Lukas is not a smoothie fan and he drank all of his. It is that wonderful!

Avalon and her smoothie creation

Avalon’s Red Berry Smoothie

*1 frozen banana (I highly recommend frozen bananas for smoothies since they give it a creamy and cold texture. I buy extra bananas each week and when they get ripe I peel and toss into a bag in the freezer so we always have them on hand)
*1/2 cup of Greek Gods Black Cherry Yogurt
(You could substitute a plant-based coconut, soy, or almond yogurt)
*1/2 cup of frozen cherries (fresh if you have them on hand)
*1/2 cup of watermelon (watermelon freezes well but we used fresh)
*1/2 cup of strawberries (we used fresh that we picked at a local farm)
*1/2 cup of raspberries (fresh or frozen)
*1/2 cup to 1 cup of water (depending on how thick you want it and if you are using frozen fruit. You could eliminate the honey and use fruit juice instead.)
*Tablespoon of honey (you could use your favorite sweetener if you do not eat honey)
*Optional ~ fresh mint for garnish (I grew chocolate mint and the kids LOVED it. Avalon wanted John to try a leaf when he got home from work. The mint would also be great blended  into the smoothie.)

Blend well, serve, and enjoy!

Avalon and Lukas enjoyed their smoothie for breakfast but it would make a great dessert as well. It is a great way to sneak more vitamin and mineral rich fruit into your kids’ diet. Plus, it will help them stay hydrated in the heat.

Printable Recipe HERE —-> Avalon’s Red Berry Smoothie
Pin the recipe HERE.

Avalon's Red Berry Smoothie

As always, it is my goal to keep sharing my healthy recipes with you! Thank you for the continued support and the messages and comments that you have sent during my absence. I am excited to announce the news of my marriage and I cannot wait to share more glimpses of our life on the farm. It is gorgeous here and it feels exactly where I am meant to be.

Since I do not have a sweet tooth and try to stay away from sugar, I have not shared many dessert recipes on Produce with Amy. However, now that I have a family who loves sweets I will be striving to find healthy versions that they enjoy. John and the kids bought me a beautiful Kitchenaid mixer for my birthday so I do not have a proper excuse not to bake.

My sexy new Kitchenaid mixer. I have wanted one FOREVER! Thank you, John.

My sexy new Kitchenaid mixer. I have wanted one FOREVER! Thank you, John.

In addition, we have a garden full of zucchini and an apple orchard laden with fruit – so we will not have a shortage of healthy ingredients this fall. Plus, with a beautiful new blogger in the house – and a brand new Mac Book Pro – Avalon and I may have to try our hand at video blogging!

Make sure your scroll through the end to check out more photos.

Please feel free to share Avalon’s smoothie recipe and please leave a comment and stop by my Facebook page to let her know what you think! Make sure you follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and the other social media tabs at the right of the page. Thank you for joining me on the journey to eat more fruit and vegetables!

Avalon Trying the Chocolate Mint from our Herb Garden

Avalon Trying the Chocolate Mint from our Herb Garden

Lukas is Sold on the Smoothie

Lukas is Sold on the Smoothie

Avalon says that you have to try it!

Avalon says that you have to try it!

We picked strawberries in Trenary the day after our wedding!

We picked strawberries in Trenary the day after our wedding!

Healthy and Happy Kids!

Healthy and Happy Kids!

I love that John's shift this summer allows us to eat as a family. We try to eat Al Fresco when possible.

I love that John’s shift this summer allows us to eat as a family. We try to eat Al Fresco when possible.

Our Wedding Day: John, Avalon, Lukas, and I with my Mom Karen and my best friend Kim.

Our Wedding Day: John, Avalon, Lukas, and I with my Mom Karen and my best friend Kim.

Avalon, Lukas, and Amy.  We got married outside by Lake Superior and it was a cold, blustery day. However, as you can see by our smiles - we didn't let the weather interfere with our happiness.

Avalon, Lukas, and Amy.
We got married outside by Lake Superior and it was a cold, blustery day. However, as you can see by our smiles – we didn’t let the weather interfere with our happiness.

We got the kids a pool for their birthday. Summer is the time for spontaneous, make-up free selfies!

We got the kids a pool for their birthday. Summer is the time for spontaneous, make-up free selfies!

Avalon's Red Berry Smoothie