Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Before we get to the holiday baking, I thought I would take full advantage of all the pumpkins and make some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. I bake cookies every week for my husband’s lunch, usually, I bake Martha Stewart’s Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. The recipe for the Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies is from Delish.com and they are/were delish. At the present time, they are almost gone—just two left for the hubby’s lunch through Friday! Hence why no picture, but I do have a lovely photo of my Martha Stewart Crisp and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies on my IG feed.

The last few weeks of autumn have been busy as usual. There is always a lot of planning of my time. Thankfully my health has been great though I cannot say the same for my husband. Every year he gets allergies from ragweed–which is what we thought he had six weeks ago. Turns out he had something like a bad allergy, but not quite the flu, and it has really held on. It really is impossible not to get sick when your co-workers come to work full of sick. He has now been given a large bottle of sanitizer and a can of Lysol because neither one of us want him sick for his vacation–he takes 10 days every November and a week in December and that’s all the time he takes off from work–no sick or personal days in over 20 years. We’ve got a lot planned for his vacation time. This year we are going to be having an old-fashioned Christmas which I will be blogging about soon. I will also be blogging what products I use to stay healthy and keep a strong immune system going. Until then enjoy your family, Thanksgiving week and weekend if you celebrate it, and be well.

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What I wish I could have told my younger self—and other birthday ramblings

The day has come– I’m turning 54 and I know it’s cliche to say it, but I sure don’t feel like 54 is supposed to feel. Though how do I know what 54 is supposed to feel like? Growing up 54 was close to your grandparent’s age, edging up on social security. Gosh at 55 I’ll be able to get free coffee at certain restaurants and 10% discounts on other retail stuff. I think at fifty-four I should feel accomplished. I think I should feel comfortable in my life, perhaps at ease with all the decisions I’ve made. No doubt I should have a regret or two and maybe aches and pains and pills on the nightstand. Thoughts should be toward retirement, travel, and life insurance policies.

I laugh sometimes at the sheer craziness of being in my fifties. The other day my husband and I traveled to Madison Wisconsin to start my birthday week with a nice meal and some light shopping. We visited a beautiful neighborhood in Madison that I could definitely see us retiring in. A couple of times I pointed toward people I thought were interesting and suddenly I thought–OMG, those people are my age. One was having a hard time with their walker and so my husband stepped up and lent quick assistance and all was well. Another person was having a hard time with an elevator and so we stepped up and held the elevator door open until she could wheel into the elevator. We are often handy like that having both worked, side by side, in a nursing home. It didn’t hit me at the time, but seconds later I said out loud “I’m the new old” and my husband nodded. Which of course to me meant that the people I was helping were in my age range. Either one of them could have been me. Now I know 54 isn’t that old, but consider this–out of all the people I’ve known in my life—friends, boyfriends, co-workers, and acquaintances, over 1/2 of them have passed away. My childhood/teen/young adult friend passed away over a decade ago, and several friends of mine who were younger than me have passed away, along with many co-workers I’ve had over the years. I’ve lost three “best friends” over the past thirty years. All gone way too soon. There isn’t a year that goes by that I don’t wonder what any one of them would look like or how their life would look had they been given more time on this earth.

So, what would I have told my younger self if I could? Here’s what I would have told her– stop worrying because in one week or one month everything is going to change again. Listen when someone tells you everything will look better in the morning because, perhaps it’s magic, but it does. Don’t give all of yourself to people who are just in your life for a minute–when they walk away seemingly without a care they leave a great big void in your heart and soul. If it doesn’t feel right don’t do it. Respond don’t react and don’t let emotions control important decisions. Use your head not your heart sometimes. Don’t believe for one-minute material possessions can fill a void. Unconditional love fills you up not things you buy or think you need.  Be frugal. Moderation in all things no matter what things we’re talking about. Stay away from people who don’t want the best for you. Stay away from people who hold grudges, or don’t appreciate you, or judge you without knowing you.  Accept you will be rejected by people simply to be rejected but it’s not the end of the world. Be yourself and when people walk away from you because of who you really are–consider that a blessing because you wouldn’t want people in your life who don’t want to be a part of the real you anyway, right? Take better care of yourself and try as hard as you can to see a future for yourself. Don’t give up. Don’t stop trying. Believe in yourself even when no one else does. Take risks. Travel everywhere you can afford to travel. Choose jobs or a career that makes you happy and that you enjoy doing every day. Thrive vs. survive.  Surround yourself with good people and walk away from bad.  Don’t leave the door open even a slight crack for toxic people to crawl back into your life. Sometimes you have to walk away from someone in your life in order to protect them from the truth. Learn how to say no. Learn when to walk away. Learn when to stay.

Some things I’ve learned over the years that I often share with those at the shelters I volunteer at are–don’t fear failure rather fear never making an attempt to try something. Throughout my life, I kind of sat around waiting for the right time, the right place, the right this or that. There is no right time -there’s now.  Do it now. Try it now. Even if you fall flat on your face you will have tried which is so much better than waiting because you’re afraid. I let emotions control me just about my whole life. I had a lot of issues growing up that I kept quiet about. I grew up in a household where you didn’t talk about personal stuff. My step-father often said “children should be seen and not heard.” And he lived by it–no giggling, or laughing, or roughhousing allowed. My mother didn’t believe anyone ever had any problems as bad as the problems she had.

I have learned so much in the last fifteen years–way more than I could ever put into words. One thing that I definitely want to express to anyone reading is–be careful about what you do to your body, the people you surround yourself with, the jobs you take just for the money, and the things in your life that stress you out. All of this has a direct effect on your health. My body is full of scars and wounds of a not so well lived life. Thankfully twenty-five years of smoking haven’t given me any surprises -yet, but I’m so glad I quit 15 years ago. Choosing to work in healthcare and stay working in facilities that always worked short destroyed my back. Working in group homes where I was often thrown around or hit trying to restrain/keep patients safe has caused me years of pain from broken fingers, toes, and a neck injury. Not knowing that there was always something wrong with me due to childhood trauma caused me to live a life of bad decisions, choices, and mistakes most of which were made from a place of fear rather than a place of love. I’ve spent the last 10 years trying to heal my body and mind after discovering that I’ve been living with PTSD for most of my life.

So as I approach the wonderful day of my birth I must say–I am glad I made it here. I am sad that those I was close to as a young adult are no longer here to share old age with. We spoke often of how we would all look in our fifties and what we’d be up to. The things that make me the happiest are the simplest things in life. Ironically as a teen, I wanted nothing more than to get away from country/farm life and travel the world. Yet for most of the last twenty years I have lived in or near farmland. It’s impossible for me to think I could ever live anywhere else except a place where there are fields of hay and cows a mooing. Have I ever mentioned on this blog how much I love cows? I do. Being humble is a good thing and every now and again eating humble pie is also a good thing. Saying no works. I fully admit at 54 that there are a few things I should have done better. I regret that when I made choices I didn’t consider myself in the choice. So many things in my life would have been different. I regret that throughout my life I may have helped and been far to generous to people that wouldn’t have even given me a glass of water if I was dying of thirst. I regret spending so much time listening to family members lie and allowing them to use me. Thankfully that chapter has come to a close. I regret not being good at the things that should have come naturally to me like motherhood. It took me until I was in my forties to see that what I’d needed most in my twenties was love, support, and maturity. Becoming a mom wasn’t my magic pill or fix. Everyone wants you to believe being a mom is a natural thing you get once you deliver your baby. It’s just not true for every mom. Well, it just wasn’t true for me. I wish that my parents would have believed I could be a better person almost twenty nine years ago now–but they didn’t and honestly neither did I. They simply believed I was acting up and behaving immaturely and not responsible enough to do the right thing. I was some of those things, but I was also an addict and had recently been diagnosed with depression, and was suffering from heartbreak and abandonment. I wish they could have seen my need for their love and support.

Most of all what I’ve learned and would tell my younger self is that you ultimately as an adult make your own bed–so you need to be careful how you go about doing that. Your parents are responsible only up to a certain point for how things turn out in your life. There comes a point where you must figure out who you are and what you want in life. Sometimes you make mistakes but then you know you’ve got to own those mistakes. Last but never least in all things have a plan b because life is unpredictable.

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!!

Perfect Pumpkin

Now while pumpkins are plentiful is the time to start buying and baking–because pumpkin has so many health benefits not known to the general public.

About 10 years ago now my husband and I were in the middle of trying to adopt a greyhound. Our love and desire to have a greyhound become part of our family was huge. After most tracks in this country stopped racing greyhounds, local agencies formed to help people/families adopt the retired greyhounds. The one we were trying to get had really bad teeth (potential of hundreds of dollars of care) and she also had problems with her stomach also due to the poor diet given to racing dogs. Time and again at meetings we heard stories of how the foster families and forever families were always using pumpkin with their greyhounds. Pumpkin will bulk up their stool, settle their tummies, and boost nutrition. Unfortunately, because of where we were living at the time, which lacked the appropriate space for this particular greyhound, we did not adopt her.

I’ve never forgotten how much I learned about pumpkin–here’s what I know:

  • It’s rich in vitamin A
  • One cup of cooked pumpkin is 49 calories
  • High in antioxidants that may reduce your risk of chronic disease
  • It’s high in beta-carotene, vitamin A and vitamin C–boosts immunity
  • The nutrients in pumpkin are good for your eyesight
  • Nutrient dense, low calorie, may produce weight loss
  • Antioxidants lower risk of cancer
  • Is packed with fiber
  • Promotes healthy skin
  • Versatile foodstuff that you can add to anything–wraps, salads(cooked) veggies, stews, soups and more

Some people may not know this but pumpkins are a type of squash. Pumpkins and squash belong to the same family called Cucurbitaceae.  Every year I bake up two dozen squash and pumpkin, then let cool, place in freezer bags and freeze. We then are able to eat squash every single month, almost, until the next year’s season. If one or both of us is feeling ill I will make up a pumpkin risotto. Pumpkin risotto does the trick every time. Here is the recipe–Pumpkin Risotto

I also roast all my pumpkin seeds for snacks and to add to bird food.

When you’re done with your pumpkins instead of throwing them into the garbage, where they’ll just clutter up a landfill, choose to break them up and set them out in a place where the birds and other small animals can get to them.

As we head into the season of sickness I would also like to add this article that has natural health remedies such as pumpkin, ginger, rice, and sweet potatoes that help manage diarrhea, nausea, and flu-like symptoms.

Until next time– stay healthy and happy!

Putting the container garden to bed & more!

Some of my container garden is going to try to overwinter in our apartment again–

My evergreen will be kept on our deck and wrapped in a wool blanket to protect its root ball. This has proved to be a very successful way for me to keep my evergreen tree alive. I’m hoping the ornamental grass, which I think is Variegated Japanese Sedge ( unfortunately I threw away the care instructions/plant ID), will survive too. Most of the birds I’ve been feeding have migrated south for the winter. The last time I saw a hummingbird at the feeder was the first week of October. The Orioles left first and then the finches followed. I set out peanuts and other assorted nuts for about a month and the nuthatches, several chickadees, and some tufted titmouse were able to get their winter stores set up. Now they too are gone and I’ve stopped feeding until sometime early spring when a few early birds will arrive back in this area.

What’s next in gardening?

Well, I planted a packet of tulips and narcissus and those along with my hens and chicks will be overwintering in the garage–insulated with newspaper and burlap. I’ve also got three boxes of paperwhites to start sometime around the holidays.

I lost the battle with my first fiddle leaf fig because it wasn’t properly draining. Truthfully I think it was dead when I bought it as the leaves were quite pale green. This past Saturday I was in a local greenhouse discussing my luck or lack of with a local gardener concerning fiddle leaf figs. She had one that isn’t doing great but isn’t dead yet either and she gave it to me to see what I could do with it. I’m hoping to nurse this one back to full health. I’m learning every day new things about plants and flowers that I will gladly share as time goes by.

The cute blue, orange and green solar lights are something my husband picked up at Shopko when they went on sale for $5.00 and we love them. They definitely brightened up our deck all summer long.

Here is what my container garden looks like today–

Until next spring this post concludes container gardening 2018. Happy fall and winter everyone.

Looking forward to future posts, I will be posting about taking care of fiddle leaf figs, fall food storing, fall/winter food recipes, and at least one post soon on supplements I’ve been using for low-iron, seasonal depression, and also chewable vitamins and are they doing anything for me?

Squash Varieties

Fall is really here in Southwestern Wisconsin with temperatures overnight of 40 and in the upper 50’s during the daytime. I was hoping to get a lot more accomplished this month, but colder than usual early October temps have dampened my plans. We’ve been trying to take a walk in a favorite spot for almost three weeks–rained every weekend. Now for almost a month, we’ve been trying to go to a corn maze and yes you guessed it, it has rained every weekend. This weekend is set to rain all weekend so I’m assuming we’re going to have to hang up what we want to do until next year. Once November hits long duration outdoor events come to a halt. We do hike in a local refuge all winter long, but only on days above freezing. Though last year we did take one brisk hike when temperatures were in the teens. My container garden is almost gone and it’s time to clean things up. Of course, I planted the pumpkins too late again. All the flowers on the plants that came up were male so no pollination happening this year. Next year I’m going to start my pumpkins when they’re supposed to be started and that’s in June. This weekend I am going to plant tulip bulbs in some of the dirt left from herbs I grew and mulch them with pumpkin plants. Our tree and my prairie grass will both be overwintering on our deck. I’ve brought in my beautiful rosemary plant and I am planning on trying to overwinter rosemary again.

It’s fall decor time and we’ve purchased squash (pumpkins) just as we do every year– but this year is a bit different. Thanks to someone I follow on Instagram I’ve learned how to identify squash varieties (way more than my lovely picture above) and also what each variety is good for. Usually, I buy pumpkins for decorative purposes. Not unlike many millions of other people. I know they’re food, but when they’re bought I have no intention of eating them as food. Once they look soft we chop them up and feed them to the birds. Sometimes I’ve dried/baked the seeds and fed them to the birds. This year I am going to carve one pumpkin and bake the other two for pie. I will still throw the seeds to the birds to give them extra energy for their flight south or to get ready for winter. Currently, I’m feeding nuts to a nut hatcher and several chicadees/titmice–that are storing them up for winter. The nuthatch, chickadees, and titmice live together in a small community all winter, watching each other’s backs and protecting their communal territory. Which of course I find so neat because prior to winter the nuthatch is all business/and a bit selfish and doesn’t look like he gets along with anybody. I am definitely the ant in the ant and grasshopper fable. I can definitely appreciate the planning and the storing of food/ winter preparation well before the snow flies.

Until next time–enjoy your fall and on the other side of the world happy spring!

Seasons of Change

Just one more day and fall is here. Where we live we can tell when the season is changing by the changes in our local traffic. Also the upper edges of the bluffs in our area start to show their fall colors and the produce at the market changes from tender sweet fruit and vegetables to the kind better stored in root cellars and processed into canning jars. While there are still green beans at Farmer’s Markets, they’re not as tender as they were in June. Our last haul included half a dozen acorn squash and several zucchini with the last of summers cucumbers. This growing season marks the second year of our seasonal only eating. What does seasonal eating mean?

Seasonal eating means purchasing and eating food around the time the food was harvested. Which for us means, we eat asparagus in the spring and then will not eat it again until next spring. Same for tomatoes, rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, and sweet corn. I have processed and frozen green beans, zucchini, beets, and squash to eat this winter. The reason we do this is two-fold: for one we want to eat food that is freshly harvested and preferably very local to us (grown within 50-60 miles of us), secondly we find this is a wonderful way to support our local farmers. Essentially they grow it and we are there come harvest to buy it and eat it. And we buy a lot of it. We eat as much sweet corn as we can handle. This year that mean approximately 100 ears were eaten by two people in this household. I ate over 11 pints of strawberries (each time picked fresh that morning) and about the same amount in raspberries plus I had 35 ripe peaches and 15 ripened pears. Together my husband and I ate 5 bunches of asparagus, 10 bunches of fresh carrots, 2.5# of green beans, 15# new potatoes, 10# of fingerlings,10# of fresh beets, 12 bunches of fresh spinach, 12 bunches of fresh lettuce, lost count on the cucumbers, and 20 peppers of various color. I alone have eaten 50 tomatoes since July. Now as the season changes we’ve begun consuming apples, squash, and zucchini.

All total from the first week of June until the first week of September we spent approximately $25.00 a week (roughly $350.00) on local produce in two different Farmer’s Markets. Prices are never lower for produce then when they are being harvested. During the summer months our meals consist of lots of fruits and vegetables and very little meat (1 maybe 2 meals a week with meat), and almost no unhealthy snacking. So we save a lot of money throughout the summer.

Prior to eating seasonally we would purchase substandard tasteless produce that was not local to us all winter long. Now–we store some of summers bounty up for winter eating and then come fall we’re buying squash, apples, and zucchini that we will also enjoy all winter. Through out the winter months we will not buy any produce in the store except lettuce and bananas. No matter how bad I might want a tomato in my winter salad, I will not buy any tasteless ones out of season.

Pictured is our favorite tree on the south shore of Devil’s Lake right behind the snack shack. One or the other of us has been photographing this tree since 2005.

Like the seasons of growing and harvesting food each one of us is in a season of our life. I am currently in mid- fall where a lot of my foliage has changed color and some of it may now be lying on the forest floor. There are still bits of rare green here and there but for the most part fall has been declared.

I hope I’ve given you something to think about and that perhaps you and your family might consider seasonal eating. Thank you for stopping. Below are two informative sites that discuss seasonal eating, why it’s better for you and your local community, and lastly how eating seasonally can save you a lot of $.

Eating Seasonally Food Guide

Why eating seasonally is better !

 

The Beginner’s KetoDiet Cookbook by Martina Šlajerová– a book review

I would venture a guess that everyone on Planet Earth has heard about the Keto diet. I follow at least 50 people who have tried it this year. Often to me anyway, the diet seems complicated and in the back of my mind, I’ve always got several questions about what it all means, and how successful any one of them have been on it.

Until I reviewed The Beginner’s KetoDiet Cookbook by Martina Šlajerová. Here is the review I recently posted–

The Beginner’s KetoDiet Cookbook is an informational cookbook that thoroughly explains the science behind the Keto diet and with that offers easy to follow recipes, with easy to understand instructions, and fairly easy to obtain ingredients. I enjoyed the informative parts early on in the book and loved the easy to understand charts. I would describe this book as being one of the most user-friendly cookbooks out there for those interested in trying the Keto diet. I tried several of the recipes with my favorite chapter being soups and salads. I also loved the garlic and herb focaccia and brie egg muffins. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is planning to try the Keto diet. In The Beginner’s KetoDiet Cookbook you will find food swaps, substitutes, carb counters, instructional information, a Keto staple grocery list, tips for success, recipes and so much more.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher Fair Winds Press for giving me the opportunity to review The Beginner’s KetoDiet Cookbook by Martina Šlajerová.

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The Month of September means–

Baking several loaves of banana bread (and freezing them), visiting the apple orchard for the first time and trying Paula Reds, and surprises like my new guinea impatiens blooming again. This pretty sherbet colored impatiens has been blooming off and on all season. It has outperformed EVERYTHING I planted this year. In the last 8 days, we’ve had between 20-30 inches of rain (depending on where you are located in this county). Everything is wet, saturated, and in most cases ruined. Luckily because of where we are located– second-floor apartment on a hill, we were not flooded. Summer is almost gone and then we will settle into fall with more apple picking and squash baking and then eventually await the spring seed catalogs. Where does time go? It’s lost somewhere between intent and actual doing–never to be held, never to slow down, never to be captured. Always lost.