True Love Plus Twelve

Do you know what’s a great event for married couples to attend? Weddings! We went to my cousin-in-law’s wedding last weekend, and it was just beautiful! It was held at a park, and the weather was perfect. The ceremony was so nice, and it reminded me of the promises I made to my husband all those years ago. Twelve years later we are a family of four. We’ve multiplied the love we shared back then. It’s amazing and wonderful how love can grow. 🙂

Before we headed out of town for the wedding, I ran six miles. My daughter asked me why I would run that far, and I told her it’s because I like to. (Of course!) I ran 4.25 yesterday. Slowly but surely I’m building my mileage back up. There has been a little chill to the air for some of my more recent runs. It was a little tough on the lungs, kind of a biting feeling, but the cool air feels marvelous to the rest of me! I keep telling myself that this will be the year that I keep running through the winter. I usually fall off for a few months and start back at it in December or January. I talked about this with one of my sisters-in-law over the weekend, and now I’m telling you. I better stick with it, or I’ll have to confess later on if I do drift away from it this fall.

So, you may recall that I stopped drinking soda when I was doing that Tony Horton cleanse last March/April. I’m still not drinking it – five months without my old addiction!! I’m so happy about that! On Sunday, my family stopped at this store that we’ve passed countless times. It sells apples, but its sign also boasted of its many varieties of licorice and root beer. With 81 varieties of root beer at hand, I did think about trying one. In the end, I decided not to. I don’t need it, and it’s easier for me to avoid soda altogether than it is to keep it to a minimum. I did try a root beer flavored licorice. Eh. Not great. I told my husband that it had been fun to check this place out but that I feel no need to go back. We have other apple orchards that we like to visit that are nearer to home.

Although I’m not planning to officially begin the school year for my children until next Tuesday (the day that our local schools will start), my children talked me into “letting” them do some school work yesterday. I just love how kids love to learn! My hope for them is that they will continue to enjoy learning throughout their lives!

I hope you all had a nice weekend too, and are off to a good start this week!

Late Summer Fun

Summer is ending soon, and work is busy right now, but we’ve still managed to have a few days of pure fun! (For the record, these days do include some work, but if I can have a good balance of work and play, that IS a fun day for me!)

Yesterday I took my children and my son’s friend mini-golfing. It was a beautiful day, and we’re within easy walking distance of a golf center. I wasn’t up for taking three young children to play real golf by myself, but mini-golf was a lot of fun! We also baked some cookies, which is more of a winter activity for us, but my son really wanted to bake cookies with his friend. Last night, our family went to a play, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. All the actors were children or teens from our area, and my daughter was thrilled to see her swimming teacher on stage. They did a great job! By the way, if you haven’t read the book, I recommend it. It has more detail than the movie, as I think is just about always the case. 🙂

I’m just about to take my children to a birthday party this morning, and we’ll be going swimming later in the day. Tomorrow we’re heading out of town for a wedding. Just fun, fun, and more fun (with work interspersed here and there).

We got two huge boxes of produce yesterday – a vegetable share and a fruit share. For dinner last night we had a great stir-fry, using my favorite orange-peanut sauce along with a chicken breast and tons of fresh squash, carrots, onion, and greens. We also had quinoa and watermelon that was pretty much bursting with sweetness.

We got several tomatoes and several avocados. Yes, you guessed it. Guacamole will be happening this week! I sure do love having all this fresh food! Ready made snacks (pluots, pears, oranges, apples, peaches, cherry tomatoes…) and flavorful items for cooking! We certainly notice a difference when the CSA season ends for the year. We’ve become a little spoiled, I think. Hmm. Is it spoiled or just the way it ought to be, having fresh produce that really tastes great?

Here’s what we got this week:

edamame, slicing tomatoes, red grape tomatoes, vitamin green bunching green, cucumbers, summer squash, yellow onions, Italian garlic, green bell and Italian peppers, gold potatoes, sweet corn, watermelon, another small melon that I can’t name, green and yellow beans, Thai basil, grapes, oranges, peaches, pluots, avocados, pears, and Gala apples (one of my favorite varieties).

What are you doing this weekend? I hope you have a good one (and a good Friday too)!

Cold Summer Treats – What’s your best bet?

Remember when Dairy Queen offered a choice between soft-serve ice cream OR yogurt in any of their desserts? Maybe you don’t. It was a L-O-N-G time ago. At any rate, I do remember, and I’ve been disappointed that they no longer offer it for all these years. There aren’t any frozen yogurt joints in small town Minnesota that I know of, though I am aware of at least a couple now that I’m in “the big city.” 🙂

I was thinking about the whole thing, and wondering if there is any benefit to choosing frozen yogurt over ice cream anyway. Maybe it’s one of those marketing tricks, where you FEEL like you’re making a healthier choice because you’ve been manipulated by someone’s ad campaign. I honestly had no idea, and I decided I’d like to find out more.

While I was at it, I thought I’d look at the difference between regular yogurt and frozen yogurt. That’s another perceived healthy choice. I often serve berries with yogurt as a dessert and feel like I’m offering something better for us than frozen yogurt or ice cream. But is it true? (Embarrassed that I never actually looked before.)

I searched online for nutrition data for a variety of ice cream or yogurt products. I tried to stick to vanilla so I’d be comparing apples to apples, or rather vanilla to vanilla. I did throw in a plain yogurt to see how that would compare to all the flavored options. Here’s what I came up with:

You’ll note varying amounts of calories, fat, carb and protein. If you’re talking vanilla frozen yogurt versus vanilla ice cream, I’d say the fat content would probably be the factor to consider. Are you concerned about 5 grams versus 1 gram of fat per serving? Do you think it tastes better with more fat? For my particular needs, though, I think the vanilla Greek yogurt is the clear winner. I’m not a big meat eater, so I’m always looking for protein. The Chobani Vanilla flavored Greek yogurt is pretty comparable to the others in calories, but look at all that wonderful protein!!

I feel somewhat redeemed. My perception of the healthiest treat turned out to be the actual best choice for me.

As far as going out for a nice cold treat, I suppose it doesn’t matter all that much if I go for ice cream or frozen yogurt, as long as it’s all done in moderation, eh?

Do you ever get carried off in food marketing claims? Have you ever been surprised to find that your perception of “healthy” didn’t necessarily match up to the nutrition facts? Like I said, in this case my perception was pretty accurate, but I’d be willing to bet there are other things that aren’t so accurate. I’m going to have to keep this in mind and put some of my other assumptions to the test as I think of them.

Chop, Mix, Relax, Enjoy

It’s not unusual for me to enjoy the task of cooking, but since coming home from vacation, I feel like I have really appreciated it more. After eating on the run while we were gone, I’ve enjoyed getting my hands on the food – beyond bringing fork to mouth. A few nights ago, for instance, I made a favorite lentil recipe and breadsticks. It involved chopping vegetables and kneading dough – really getting my hands on the food. I’ll admit, I don’t always feel this way, but on the really good cooking days, these tasks are so relaxing. I’ve even described it as a form of meditation. Similar to running, I can be alone with my thoughts as I mix, measure, chop and knead, and the rhythm of my movements only contributes to the relaxing feeling.

I’m not always a solo cook. I also spend time cooking with my children. That’s fun in a different way. Sometimes I even step back and act as supervisor while my children take on the food prep task pretty independently. (Just yesterday they made pancakes for our breakfast with very minimal involvement from me. :)) I recall one occasion when my husband and I cooked a meal together in recent months. I enjoyed it, but it is not our reality very often.

It’s the solo cooking, though, that serves as the relaxation, the meditation.

If you love to cook, maybe you can relate. If you don’t enjoy cooking so much, maybe next time you’re in the kitchen you can consider the potential relaxing effect of your repetitive movements. Hypnotic in a way – chop, chop, chop, you’re beginning to feel relaxed, mix, mix, mix, you’re growing more and more relaxed…

I think the meal can even taste better and satisfy more when the cooking experience itself has been enjoyable. I once read a book that claimed that preparing food with love literally made the food healthier, affecting the enzymes somehow. I rolled my eyes at that, but I can feel myself slipping fairly close to that kind of claim. I’m not claiming better health benefits, though, just more enjoyment in the end product when I’ve also enjoyed the process. Boy, I must be enjoying my time in the kitchen.

And because I love to share, here are the recipes for my breadsticks and lentils. Remember my improvised hamburger buns? Well, the same combination works great for breadsticks.

Curried Lentils (from The World’s Healthiest Foods)

Ingredients:1 cup brown or green lentils, washed and picked over
4 cups + 1 T vegetable broth
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, chopped
2 medium carrots, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
2 medium celery stalks, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
2 cups finely chopped kale (I skipped, because I didn’t have any on hand.)
2 t curry powder
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
3 T chopped fresh cilantro
salt and black pepper to taste

Rinse lentils in strainer and sort through, removing debris.
Heat 1 T broth in medium soup pot. Cook onion in broth over medium heat for 5 minutes stirring frequently, until translucent.
Add garlic, carrots, celery and kale. Continue to saute for another couple of minutes. Add curry powder and mix to bring out its flavor.
Add rinsed and drained lentils, broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until lentils and vegetables are tender, about (45 minutes)*. Add cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.

*The recipe says 30 minutes, but I’ve found that I need to cook at least 45 minutes in order for the lentils and vegetables to be tender.

Soft Breadsticks

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour (give or take)
2 t sugar
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2/3 cup milk
3 T butter, melted
2 t sesame seeds (optional)

Directions:Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Gradually add milk and stir to form a soft dough. Add more flour if dough is too sticky, more milk if it is too dry. Turn onto a floured surface, knead gently 3 to 4 times. Roll into a rectangle and cut into 12 breadsticks. Place melted butter in 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan. Place breadsticks in butter and turn to coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 450 degrees for 14 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

I’ve used this recipe to make the hamburger buns, which ended up more like sandwich thins. I’ve made the breadsticks. I’ve rolled it and cut it into different shapes for fun. My children gobble them up!

I know, my phone photography leaves something to be desired, but you get the idea.

When it comes to food, do you enjoy the process of making it, the end result, or both? Or (and this is hard for me to imagine) is food simply your fuel and enjoyment doesn’t come into it at all?

Good Monday Morning!

Good morning! I hope you had a nice weekend. I did. I was not quite as ambitious as I might have been, particularly in the cooking department, but I did tick off some of the things that I had really hoped to do.

I went out for a long run on Saturday. After a good four to six weeks of running for 30 minutes at the maximum, getting back to longer runs has felt challenging (and good). Staying in shape is as important as getting in shape! You know the saying, “Use it or lose it,” – well, I think it’s quite an accurate statement. I covered 8 miles running and taking occasional walking breaks, and I’m happy with that.

Another great thing to check off the to-do list was mowing the grass. I don’t always enjoy the task itself, but I love it when it’s done! My husband putzed around in the garden a bit too. We have several green tomatoes. I’m looking forward to eating them someday! (I hope.)

We also did some shopping – did you know that kids can grow out of their clothing astonishingly quickly sometimes? We did some reading – we finished book six of the Narnia series. Only one book left! We played some games – bocce ball in freshly cut grass anyone? 🙂 (Yes, I know. I’m obsessed about cutting the grass. I think it’s because it can be hard to find the time to get it done.)

As for cooking, I really didn’t do a lot. We had BLTs with some of our big beautiful tomatoes from the CSA. Great tomatoes always beg me to make BLTs, I swear. I also made some veggie stuffed pobalanos, roasted and stuffed with summer squash, onion, garlic, carrot and cheese. Yum! We also ate canteloupe, watermelon, cucumbers, arugula – basically a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits with no cooking required, supplemented with one dinner out. Who can complain about that? Not me!

On today’s to-do: grocery shopping (done!), a training for work (done!), paying bills, preparing for a meeting for our homeschool group, playing outside with my kids, and from there, we’ll see. Looks like a beautiful day!

I hope you have a fantastic day!!

A Subtle Change in the Air

I can’t help but notice a little change. It’s nothing drastic. It’s still plenty warm out. School hasn’t started quite yet, but still… Things feel subtly different. While at a playground with my children mid-afternoon the other day, something in the way the light touched the trees, the grass, even the way it painted my skin was different. There seemed to be a glow about all these ordinary objects that I see everyday. I basked in that sunlight, feeling grateful for a beautiful day and the opportunity to enjoy some time at the park with my children. It dawned on me that the slight glow to the sunglight, the way it touched everything in a slightly different way, was a sign of autumn.


Of course I am aware that the summer is drawing to a close. How could I not know? Before last week’s vacation, I was devoting a lot of my time to preparing for the upcoming school year. My eyes have seen the date on the calendar, and I have done most of the things that needed to be done before summer’s end. I know.

Somehow, though, I haven’t felt it.

That day at the playground, my senses detected the evidence of the changing seasons. I finally felt what I knew was coming.

As soon as I get that feeling, I begin to look forward to some of our favorite autumn things, all the while trying to get the most out of these last days of summer. Being outside becomes a greater priority. (We have to enjoy this warmth while it lasts.) Trips to the park feel more necessary. (Soon we will be busy with schoolwork.) Quiet reflection, preferably in a sunny location, feels all the more wonderful. (Soon our schedules will be tighter, allowing fewer moments of pure relaxation.)

Our CSA box this week reflected the time of year as well. We are currently in the season of bursting boxes of produce, most of which is very familiar.

This week’s box contained: watermelon, butterscotch melon, mini musk melon, red potatoes, summer squash, cucumbers, Italian garlic, sweet Spanish onions, arugula, edamame, sweet corn, variety tomatoes, red grape tomatoes, roaster peppers, and orange/red Ukraine peppers.

I plan to spend the weekend working in the yard, pulling out some favorite recipes and perhaps trying something new as I cook with all that wonderful produce. I hope to get out for a long run and play outside with my kids. My intention is to make the most of these late summer days in my work and play.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

You may recall that we decided to give gardening a try this year. This, in addition to our CSA, had the potential to provide a great abundance of produce. I really wasn’t concerned about an overabundance because 1) We could share and/or preserve any excess, and 2) We aren’t experienced gardeners – who knows if we’ll get anything from our garden?

The reality? We have enjoyed modest amounts of food from our garden. We got to enjoy our radish plants at three stages. When they were quite young, we thinned the plants and ate the greens that we had picked.

Of course, we ate the radishes as they ripened.

Finally, for the radish plants that didn’t produce good radishes, we let them go to seed and ate the seed pods. We’re still in that last phase. Radish seed pods were a new one on us. Thanks to our CSA, we learned that we can harvest and eat them.

We got a small pea harvest. Nothing to brag about, but I enjoyed eating ‘our’ peas.

The watermelon are still a mystery. We’ve had many blossoms, and we’ve seen some teeny tiny baby watermelons. It doesn’t appear that they are developing, though, and I don’t know why.

Of all the corn we planted, we had only six plants come up. We just harvested four ears of corn the other day (for the four of us) and had them with our dinner. They didn’t develop very well either, with lots of bald patches.

I had just been reading about how the pollen from the tassel at the top of the plant needs to touch each of the ‘silks’ protruding from the husk to cause each kernel of corn to develop. Since our corn came up so sparsely, with one stalk here and another there, I wonder if they might have been better pollinated if the plants had been closer together. I don’t know.

And our tomatoes? We left for our vacation with three little green tomatoes beginning to grow and some additional blossoms. I feared they wouldn’t survive our absence. They are in pots on the deck, so they need regular water. In fact, the tomato plants were VERY dry and rather shriveled when we returned. Those three tomatoes had grown a bit, and with water, the plants have perked up quite a bit. I’m still hopeful for tomatoes in our future, though maybe only three.

Our herbs have done fine. I’ve used a lot of basil, a little dill and rosemary here and there, and some mint on occasion. The basil grows back very well after I’ve taken some, and the mint is out of control!

As you can see, our food production was meager. (If only I could live on mint…) I have still enjoyed the garden and the experience of growing even a little bit of our food. I can see that we have a lot to learn if we ever want to produce a significant amount of our own food. Thankfully for us, we also have a box of vegetables from our CSA each week. We haven’t lacked vegetables at all. It’s not as exciting as growing it ourselves, but it’s pretty close. I do love ‘our farm.’ 🙂

Do you garden? How does your garden grow? Pointers very much welcome!!