Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Get More In Your Day- Movement

This week has challenged me; I am a mover. Anyone who knows me understands that sitting for hours is not conducive to my personality; even at my desk I am moving thanks to my stability ball 'office chair'. The problem this week? I am in a master specialist training requiring me to sit through several hours of lectures. It made me realize, many people do sit for hours on end be it work, choice, or physical restriction (often times I hear people do not realize they have sat for a long period due to distractions/entertainment).

Chatting with my fellow students during meals, I discovered not only are people often not moving, they are challenged with ideas to get moving more. Concerns over opportunity, safety, and the all out interest, or lack of, seem to be common. I love a challenge. It's time for some creative movement that is safe, flexible with our schedule, and not mind numbing.

My personal 'move it more's' challenge:

On the job:

* Parking lot
   Many of us have heard to park farther from our destination- that's fine, but let's take this a bit further and spread it throughout our day.
   I say, walk the parking lot! Every time I take a convenience break (potty) I take a stroll around the parking lot. This hint of sunshine and fresh air offer a wonderfully stimulating brain break.

* Stairs
   I didn't have stairs available to me in either of my locations, but if you have them use them. Stirring the cardio system is excellent for mental clarity and focus.

* Stability ball
   Stability balls offer core strength and gentle movement without being disruptive to the office environment. If you have a private office, gentle stretches can also help with long hours of desk time. (more to come in another post) My stability ball was not with me and I could tell; shoulders and back were sore and stiff after hours of sitting.

Once the day is over:

* Stop off at:
   The gym: Stopping off on the way home is much easier than leaving once you have arrived home.
   A park: Frugal and easy, parks are all over the place. As long as it is still light outside, a brisk walk is quick and easy.
   Trails: We have a few trails in our area and some subdivisions have walking paths. They are great.
^^^^I keep a spare pair of shoes and some 'walking clothes' in the car just in case I am not dressed for a walk.

* Play
   If you go home to children or a dog, play with them! Ben was very eager to walk, fetch, tug, and play with me when I made it home. Play is an excellent way to move and to enjoy our family.
   No pets or kids- play anyway. Shoot hoops, toss or kick a ball at a net, visit a batting cage, maybe even just swing a little while- it's fun!

* Garden
   My garden chores are never done, offering me an opportunity for some movement every time I visit it. Walk through, pick a weed, pluck some pests, and water it- all great moving activities.

So what's the point? We could all use more activity in our day, and our schedules don't make it easy. This month my focus professionally and personally is to find more simple, effective, safe, ways to get moving and share it with others.
Did I do all of these things? You bet. I promise not to share it unless I have done it!
What's your way to get more movement in your day?

Monday, September 28, 2015

For the Love of a Girl- Doc and Miss K

From the first moment they met, Doc knew he loved Miss K. This tiny human stole the heart of a giant long-eared grump.
For the love of this girl
paces the fence waiting for her to visit his pasture;
announces her arrival with what seems like enthusiasm- if a donkey can be enthusiastic.
For Miss K, Doc
withholds his nibbling habit
for the tender brushing fingers of her tiny hands;
allows mushy girl kisses to command his mighty presence.
Not only has Doc become rather mushy with her, but he even caved in to nibbling dried leaves instead of his preferred 'fresh green' leaves (though he does spit them out when she isn't looking).
He has been seen fretting over her as she climbs the slide, 
or works the garden.
Jealousy has been suspected when he sees her
petting Ben, 
or chatting with the goose.

Yes, it is quite mind boggling how such a determined beast can be brought to gentle grace by a tiny bundle of giggles and curls. 
He is the first to announce her arrival and the last to tell her goodbye.
He is the first name she calls when she gets here and the last visit she makes before going home.
For the love of a donkey, Miss K sneaks carrots and apples from the fridge- and talks everyone into a walk outside.
For the love of a girl, Doc humbles himself with gentle love and grace.
I'm just waiting for the day she finally gets him to 'sit' on command (she is working very hard on that one). 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

"Whole Living"- a New Direction

As a life long learner, and a nutrition educator, I have been furthering my knowledge base in nutrition, gardening, and agricultural practices- with a focus on frugal, practical, and functional. My life is in a season of change bringing with it a need for re-focusing- but in what direction? When your passions are many and somewhat broad, it can be a challenge to really zone in on a specific area of study or expertise. During a recent conversation with some youth, my mind was stirred at their questions, their direction of conversation, and their interaction with me.

While many are specialized in specific areas of study and knowledge, there is a need for someone to pull it together and be unique in their path of education. My chosen direction is 'holistic'- whole. It is time to gather the pieces of my knowledge base and blaze a path that meets a need often overlooked; holistic living, or whole living. Helping the average person worth withing their environment, utilizing the whole life, to move in a healthy direction physically, mentally, spiritually, and environmentally.

I have already been doing this for years- I just never realized it.

So bear with me on this journey as I seek to pull the parts together and make 'whole';
for myself,
for women,
for children,
for families,
for those around us.

Let's see where this new road takes us, shall we?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Our Farm Boy's Cinnamon Rolls

                                                           Farm boy's Cinnamon Rolls

There's nothing like a delicious home made cinnamon roll. The tantalizing aroma of hot bread and sticky cinnamon filling teases the senses. Our Farm boy is well known for his delicious cinnamon rolls. Today, after many requests. we share his wonderful recipe- adapted from an Amish roll recipe we found many years ago. These rolls were fair entries, sleepover treats, and many a holiday breakfast. Join me in the kitchen - let's cook up a batch!

Farm Boy's Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup mashed potatoes
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
4 eggs
2 packets yeast
1 cup warm water
5 cups flour
One cup of brown sugar mixed with cinnamon to taste
enough butter to coat the dough (approx. 1 TBSP)
1 stick of butter
1 cup confectioners sugar

In a large mixing bowl - yes large, a big one, mix the potatoes and shortening until no lumps are found. Now stir in sugar and eggs. Dissolve the yeast in the slightly warm water before adding it to the potato mixture. (I use the liquid from my potatoes for the water or whey from cheese making) Stir in three cups of the flour, then knead in enough flour to make the dough smooth but not sticky. (I usually just knead this particular dough right in the bowl) Cover your bowl and allow the dough to rise one hour or until doubled in size.
 On a well floured surface (I use the kitchen table) roll your dough to 1/2 inches thickness. You want a long rectangle shape. Lightly butter the surface before spreading the cinnamon sugar mixture all over- covering every inch. Starting on the long side closest to you, roll the dough into a nice log. Cut your dough into two inch rolls and place them on a greased baking sheet. (we found that using dental floss helps the rolls keep their shape better than cutting with a knife) I generally get 16 to 18 rolls per batch. When they are all cut, cover them lightly and let rise thirty minutes while preheating your oven.
Bake your rolls for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. They should be lightly browned and "dry" looking- no gooey dough.
While they cool, mix with a mixer one stick of butter with one cup of powdered sugar. Frost the rolls when they are cool and serve at your own risk...warning...they are addictive!

Doesn't that sound good?
Of course, now I need to walk a dozen miles to work them off!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Tasty Baked Quinoa- It's Healthy, You Know!

I don't know if you know this, but I'm a busy gal. You too? Well, then you understand the challenge of getting the chores done, yourself put together, and getting a healthy breakfast before you leave every morning- don't you. Thus the quinoa.
My fall back, go-to, make ahead breakfast dish is baked oatmeal. It's simple, filling, economical, healthy and rather easy to stir together. Having the oven preheating, I started stirring ingredients before actually gathering all of them when I realized- no oats. Yep. What do you do when you have already started and- no oats? Improvise.
Being one to never give up I scanned the shelves for a worthy substitute; sadly I haven't shopped in a couple weeks (hubby has been stalking the shelves for BlueBell, but that's another story entirely). I ended up with a bag of quinoa. Hm- challenging, to say the least.
 My first attempts at quinoa were rather flat and unflavorful disasters which caused my family members to write it off completely. Yes, I touted the amazing healthy benefits of this 'ancient grain'- the iron, magnesium, potassium- the Vitamin E and fiber. It wasn't until I decided to dump it in home made bone broth that we actually started liking it. 
So, with that said, the thought of putting this rather tasteless 'nutritional powerhouse' into my delicious baked oatmeal recipe seemed, well, sacrilegious.Not to be dissuaded, I picked up my bag of tasteless grains and set off on a quest to make them stinking delicious.

Cinnamon Baked Quinoa

You need:
3 cups cooked quinoa (see note)*
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup milk of choice (I used coconut)
1/3 cup liquid sweetener (I used agave)
   1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons oil of choice (I used coconut)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees; grease your 9"x13" pan with the coconut oil. 
Stir everything together in a bowl. Pour into the prepared pan.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until center is set and top has nicely browned.
*Note: 1 cup of dry quinoa cooked in 2 cups of water at a simmer for 15 minutes yields 3 cups cooked quinoa (red, white or multi-colored).
Variations I like:
Use maple for the sweetener.
Add in dried berries.
Stir in chia seed or flax seed or both (I used 2 tablespoons)
Serve with fruit on top!

I really liked it- my family was slower to come around; still scarred from their first devastating encounter, I guess. Never the less, it is a great recipe that freezes well, reheats nicely, and is quite portable if you have to eat at the office (or in the car in a parking lot- don't ask). 
Maybe next time I can try oats with quinoa, or baked barley- even some psyllium husks. Okay, maybe that was too far!
Anyway, if you try it let me know what you think!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Miss K & Uncle J

There is a special bond that grows in the heart of a child; a bond shared with a person that just 'gets them'. For Miss K, her 'person' is none other than the farm boy whom she affectionately calls 'My J'. From the moment they met, she just knew he was her person.
J put her swing on his old swing set and introduced her to the magic of 'flying'. 
Ready, set, go!
Higher and higher!
Giggles abound as the bond grows.
J shows her how chores are done; patiently walking with her hand on his pant leg. It's quite a sight to see this very tall guy being led by such a small girl, but they fit. 
Miss K knows where there is a J there is food! Nothing is sacred when she finds you eating a tasty lasagna or a cup of pudding. The conversations here are priceless! She has been known to barter a snack for a story; after all a growing boy and a growing girl need that, right?
She knows J is the perfect guy for taking a walk with, or taking swimming. He is okay with mud pies and fishing (because you know a swimming pool has fish, don't you?)
Together they play hard, get all sweaty, and cool off in the little pool.
They are a perfect pair- he never talks and she never stops!
Two of a kind.
Full of fun and mischief.
Always ready for a good laugh, 
or an energizing game of peek-a-boo.
Miss K and J

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Fostering a Creative Life

A recent conversation stirred my mind- the topic? Creativity, or- more specifically- a creative lifestyle. We batted back and forth the ideas/notions that creativity is a thing some people have and some people don't. 'Creativity is for 'art people' not everyday people.' That confused me. I don't see myself as 'art people', yet I do see myself, my family, my kids as creative.

I decided to define creative as I see it:

Create: to make something new; to bring into being something that was not before

Creative: engaging the imagination

A creative life: setting an environment for involving the imagination

These are my personal definitions; the ones that lead me to believe each and every one of us has creativity- even a need for it. Most of us have either buried it ourselves or had it buried by someone/ something along the way.

Sit still, Keep clean. Don't make a mess. Study hard. Take a test. Be entertained. Work hard. None of these statements invoke notions of creativity, instead they stifle it. These things are not necessarily wrong; just out of balance. The realities and demands of our lives need a creative balance to them.

The work side educates, provides, and produces. The creatives side relieves, relaxes, and rebuilds. They go together, or they should. Where do we find creative? You may say, like my friend, 'I'm not crafty or artistic.' You don't have to be. Creative is self-expressed and grows from our individual interests... but it must be fostered.
Our minds are so numb from everything pressing us, we no longer know our interests!

So how do I foster it when I don't know what it is?
Put stuff in front of you and see what happens.
When I introduce children to creativity, I simply put stuff in front of them and let them go. Various paints and papers, craft items, glue, natural leaves, sticks and string, fiber supplies such as yarn and fabric are all items to put in front of you. Dig a small corner of your yard and stick some plants there. Doodle or color... give yourself a child-like opportunity to relax and do something new.

If you have children at home, like I once did, designating a 'creative space' is wonderful. A small table in the corner, a desk, or even a spot on the porch can give opportunity without pressure. Sit and do it with them, but be careful not to dictate perfection; that is not the goal. Expression, release, and rest is what we are going for. Let them, and yourself, display your results- no matter what they are!
- A note: your child might scribble black crayon all over a paper; beware your reaction. Only they know what emotions, feelings, frustrations, or interests sparked that. Let them release it safely here. You might feel like doing it too one day (some work days go that way, am I right?)

A word of caution:  be open to the possibility their creative niche is not the same as yours...their creative language, their medium....may not match you!
My son plays guitar, works with leather, and build things- one daughter paints, sketches, and does digital arts- another knits, crochets and does beautiful thread work... I quilt, garden and humbly paint/sketch. We are each drastically different in our medium, muse, and approach to creativity! Be open to the reality... we are all different!

Growing up, it never crossed my mind that I was allotted creative expression... but I was. Gardening, sewing, nature, time to color or play.. these things were always in front of me and available to me (I even studied art for a time). The key to fostering a creative life is to let it happen without pressure or force. Make it available to you and your family- you will be surprised how relaxing it is!