November=58 degrees…In Wisconsin…..Seriously??? Time To Trade In My Whisk For My Hiking Boots Once Again

As you can probably assume from the title, I am one VERY happy person. When I awoke Thanksgiving morning and saw the forecast prediction for the day after Thanksgiving was going to be in the mid 50’s I immediately put things into high gear. I simply looked across the room at my husband and he knew exactly what I was thinking……..he said calmly, “let’s get it all done today so we can hit the trail tomorrow.” I love how he understands me without me even saying a word.

As you can imagine I had a load of things on the to do list to accomplish with four days off for the holiday. We literally packed all our chores into one day, we got in our annual family hike for Thanksgiving morning, plus I made Thanksgiving dinner that same evening. Oh, I was so tired by evening but so happy to be free of the long list and just had a few things that needed tending to before we hit the long trail on Friday afternoon.

Thanksgiving family hike

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Then Friday arrived and I was excited to get in some warm mileage on a dirt trail once again before the snow arrives full blast. We arrived at our chosen trail head to find just us. I did not mind this at all, I parked our lone vehicle and it awaited our return.

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The temp on my vehicle upon arrival was a balmy 58 degrees. Amazing!!!!

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And a few steps into our hike and I had to chuckle. Clearly, this lone dandelion was not ready to give up quite yet on summer either.

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The trail was wonderful. Leaves crunched beneath our feet,

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signs of deer were everywhere,

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nature could be heard and saw along the way. It was so good for my soul…to just walk, listen, and breathe the air around us.

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The only thing that could have caused me any worry was that we were hiking during the gun deer hunt season here in WI. We did see many different deer stands, thankfully no active hunters during our time on the trail . And yes, in case you are wondering, we did also wear blaze orange for our own protection on this hike.

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With 3.3 miles Thanksgiving day and just over 4 miles Friday, we could all agree that summer is going to missed.

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Hiking, along with numerous other things we were able to pack into four days, left us all with a feeling of happiness. Add that to a fabulous Thanksgiving meal……along with my first ever homemade whipped cream (which turned out wonderful I may add) so my husband could enjoy whipped cream on his pumpkin pie along with everyone else…and I could not have been more thankful for anything else in the  world.

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Now, we all have to return to normal life once again and hopefully be ready for Christmas in a few short weeks. Sadly, I have a feeling I will not be hiking anywhere where that snow is not covering the trail come this time but who knows, maybe just maybe, wishes will come true.

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Thanksgiving Week Meal Plan

With Thanksgiving falling during this week my meal planning was a bit lighter than usual. Add that to a shortened work week for all of us and where no leftovers were needed for lunches meant a small break for me come dinner time. Although, I did still come up with some pretty yummy meals for the nights I did have to cook.

Here are the dinners we enjoyed this week.

Saturday: butternut squash with bacon and egg centers (My new favorite meal)

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Sunday: General Tso’s chicken and broccoli over rice (take out made at home)

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Monday: veggie marinara over cheese tortellini (meatless)

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Tuesday: Korean BBQ pork over farrow with homemade creamy coleslaw

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Wednesday: quinoa sweet potato chili (meatless) (recipe coming soon)

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Thursday: Thanksgiving dinner

Friday: left overs-stuffed squash with turkey,stuffing, and sprouts then covered with melted parmesan cheese.

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That sums up this past week in meals. As for the upcoming weeks ahead, I am excited to begin planning my Christmas menus. I am thinking about trying a goat cheese log with apricot preserves drizzled on top with some crusty bread or crackers on the side. I am also trying to come up with a yummy appetizer that is made using wonton wrappers since these have become a new family favorite.

Do you do traditional ham for Christmas?

What are your family traditions….if you care to share them?

 

 

Cranberry Orange Sauce

With Thanksgiving right around the corner I have been experimenting with making my own cranberry sauce. Yes, I will admit, I can and have easily devoured an entire can of the original jellied cranberry sauce on numerous occasions in my lifetime. Now, however, I know how terribly bad this was for me and no longer can even let the thought of doing this again enter my mind. However, Thanksgiving has to have cranberry sauce….doesn’t it??? Well, it does in my mind, so this is the one we are going to enjoy this year.

Cranberry Orange Sauce

12 oz whole cranberries (found in the produce dept of your local grocery)

1/2 cup sugar

1 granny smith apple-diced

1/2 cup orange juice (***See lower sugar option below)

dash of cinnamon

Clean your cranberries and put them into a medium sauce pan. Peel, seed and dice the apple and put this also in the sauce pan. Add 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup of orange juice and the dash of cinnamon.

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Simmer this mixture on medium/low for about 15 minutes. Cover the pan loosely since the cranberries will begin to start popping when they heat up.

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If you like your sauce chunky take them off a bit sooner and if you like your sauce smooth cook them until they easily smash into a smooth mixture.

Let them cool and enjoy.

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***Less sugar option: To make this dish with less sugar, change out the orange juice for water and add orange zest instead to the mixture when you cook it.

NOTE: I like my cranberry sauce quite tart which this recipe is. If you enjoy the sweeter version simply add more sugar to your desired liking.

 

 

Food Allergies and Family Meal Traditions Are High On My Priority List This Year

With the arrival of November and then December right around the corner, I have been working on revamping our holiday meal traditions. I am determined to make them cleaner and healthier for my husband to be able to enjoy without feeling the ill affects afterwards. Since finding out artificial sweetener was the cause of all his abdominal issues for the past few years, I have been working diligently at cleaning up our diets even more than before. We no longer have food in our house with artificial sweetener BUT some of our holiday family traditions that we are not willing to give up are going to be prepared a bit differently this year.

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Take for instance the stuffing to go with the turkey at Thanksgiving. Typically, I buy the sage flavored bread cubes and prepare stuffing using these, chicken broth, poultry seasoning, celery, onion and dried cranberries. This year however, I have been reading labels like crazy trying to find a bread crumb/cubes that do not contain any artificial sweeteners. Breads are a big downer since most companies use this stuff in place of the more expensive basic sugar. Thankfully, I finally found one at Costco and we gave it a try one evening for dinner. Sweetened with real sugar and molasses, this one is perfect….now…does it taste good?

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Yeah….The trial dish came out wonderful although, I did not have any dried cranberries to add to the dish. I am however, thinking that I may go even healthier and substitute pomegranate berries instead or dried cranberries. That sounds tasty and should be even less sugar in the long run.

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Another big change we have to make is to the Christmas morning pull apart cinnamon bread we have once every year. Our original recipe is here and has been a family tradition since our son was little. It is a fabulous recipe and cooks perfectly while we open gifts and is ready to enjoy by the time the gift wrap is all cleaned up. However, this year we picked up the box of Jello cook and serve pudding one night wile grocery shopping to read the label and BAMMM full of artificial sweetener. Super big downer for us. So we made our way over to the natural organic section and thankfully found one brand of cook and serve that used real sugar and nothing fake. I don’t know who was happier, my husband or my son since this is a favorite among them both and my husband feels bad that some things we have had to give up have not been easily replaceable with an alternative yet. So this year will be using this pudding mix with all the other same ingredients and still be able to enjoy our once a year family breakfast together without illness to follow.

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I also recently had a friend tell me that Annie’s Homegrown makes refrigerator biscuits. I finally found them in the grocery store I always shop in and was very happy to see no artificial sweeteners in the ingredient label. You may wonder why I even had to read it but I will tell you for certain that not all organic products are artificial sweetener free. Seriously…can you believe this??? So as always, I read the label and smiled when I got to the end. This will be perfect for the holidays since #1 I am not fond of baking and #2 they are quick and easy. Plus, I can go back to preparing my husband favorite meal of chicken potpie that we had to give up since the original refrigerator biscuits we always used have ingredients in that we are no longer consuming.

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And then we have to issue of get togethers and parties to attend with numerous amounts of foods with any variety of who knows what in them. Much like when his employer puts on food Fridays….he rarely participates and never eats something homemade without being able to read the label first. When we go to others homes we will always bring a dish or two that he knows is “safe” food. And thankfully, for both sides of our family get togethers, we do the hosting so 90%-100% of the food is prepared by us and he knows he can enjoy what ever there is at the time.

I am still trying to figure out whipped cream since we are not able to find a single one that does not have artificial sugars in it. I may give a go at making my own with heavy whipping cream and sugar to see how it turns out. Apparently, its easy to do from what I read….I may find out for myself real soon.

It’s really is amazing the products we have found that contain so much artificial sweeteners in them since this all came about. From cottage cheese, mouthwash, to cold medicines….its in so much stuff. It’s not shocking to me anymore why we are all suffering from one ailment or another….since the food, medicine, and personal hygiene things we use everyday are tainted with chemicals instead of real ingredients. My hope for everyone this holiday season is to stay safe, read your product labels, and educate yourselves on what you and your family are putting in your bodies. It’s been life changing for our family!

Do you have food allergies to work around in your family at holiday times?

When everyone is asked to bring a dish to pass do you ask them to prepare it with out the ingredient that causes issues?

 

 

Life Lately….

As you all know if you have been reading recently I have mainly posted new trails for you all to try. Well, that’s because a lot has been happening in the background of life that I have been trying to gather and sort through in my mind. So I thought I would give you a break from trails and hikes we have been enjoying and focus on other life topics today.

Starting with…..we just celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary. I can’t believe it’s been this long…seriously over half my life I have been married to this amazing man that puts up with my crazy ideas. It’s been fun so far….and we are far from finished. So as we begin another year of life together I can only hope the fun continues.Stay tuned….

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As the leaves start falling this means less sunshine and that for me is like a death sentence. Here in Wisconsin most people hibernate all winter long. I see my neighbors come and go but don’t talk with them for months since I very rarely step foot outside in the winter months by choice.  I don’t even walk to the end of the driveway to pick my own mail in the winter months. Sad but true….it is what it is. I am simply not a winter lover!!! So as of October I always begin taking my “sunshine vitamin” (Vitamin D) to help with the winter blues that typically hit me hard by January.

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On the brighter side of things….we have planned one last camping trip of the 2017 season before the snow flies here in a few days/weeks. You really never know when it will happen…..so hopefully we make it through this last trip without a light covering of white stuff on our picnic table. I am excited to get out one last weekend and enjoy nature before it all freezes over. I am a bit up in the air but I do believe we will be sleeping in our SUV this time around and using our new SUV curtains we made a few months back.

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Soon after all this happens,Thanksgiving arrives which we are planning once again to keep up with the tradition of a Thanksgiving morning hike. Many people do some type of turkey trot but we would rather hike a trail than be surrounded by a bunch of runners/walkers. Looking back to last year reminded me to dig out the blaze orange once again since its deer hunting season in our parts during Thanksgiving.

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And after Thanksgiving comes the big Christmas holiday. This year we plan to simplify and not be so stressed out by who wants what, where, and when. Christmas is always a big stresser in my life. Why does everyone put so much pressure into two days of the year….like honestly, its two days?To make this less stress, we already have decided on a few things, we have already discussed our family gatherings and thankfully all I have left to do is the menu planning. Well, and gift buying but that is fairly easy at this stage of life.

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I have been getting back to making some family style meals with the colder weather upon us now. Summers meals can be almost anything after a long hot day of playing outside for my job. Fall and winter offer me more time in the kitchen(often with the kids helping) to prepare more thought out meal plans. I have been concentrating on two meat free dinners during the week and one on the weekends. This soup blend I found has been changed up a variety of ways and so far they have all been winners.

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Casseroles are back in the rotation once again and are a family favorite.

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And our son even surprised us one night by making french onion soup which was so yummy.

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As for workouts…..this has been the biggest change recently. Yoga has been my “go to” to help strengthen and get some flexibility back in my thoracic spine area. Physical therapy was an option but both my MD and my chiropractor suggested trying yoga before physical therapy since this is suppose to offer more benefit. Without a doubt, I am feeling better already….so for now yoga is scheduled into every single day.

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And four days a week I am back at the gym. Walking has become difficult to do since the sun is leaving us faster every evening that passes by, so the gym is my “go to” for cardio. Plus, in my opinion, movement is medicine!!! I feel so much better after a gym workout than I do if I do not go. Which means there really is no question of whether or not I need to make this happen. So once again, until the days get longer, I am back at the gym on my trusty elliptical.

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That should do it for today.

Anything your curious about….let me know?

Do you change up your workout routines as the seasons change?

 

 

National Trails Day Hike-2017

Did you hike a trail for National Trails Day this past weekend? I sure did and it was exactly what I needed to recoup from the week and recharge for the week ahead.

I solo hiked a trail about an hour from our home that weaves through a water way which I thought would end up being a bit cooler. Ha, was I wrong…although for me, this was just what I needed, a good sweaty hike. It’s no secret I LOVE SUMMER HEAT!!!! Thankfully, I grabbed a cooler for cold water, sunscreen, and my summer boots before leaving home.

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I arrived mid morning since I knew this was a hike just short of 4 miles and storms were predicted by dinner time so I wanted to be off the trail early and not later. Plus, I had a crap ton of other things I needed to get done at home. However, in the summer, my pleasure always comes before chores since summer is short and chores can be accomplished all winter long.

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I love this hike since you are literally following a path right through Lake Butte des Morts and there is so much to see and explore on this winding path.

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I love the peacefulness of hiking solo. You can go at your own speed, stop when you want to explore, sit and rest if you wish or just simply walk and let all the thoughts in your head roll right off your shoulders the farther you walk.

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By the time I finished the trail it was 85 degrees, breezy, and gorgeous. I, just having breakfast so far, found myself hungry and very thirsty so I changed shoes and grabbed a snack for the ride back home.

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Where did you hike for National Trails Day?

 

 

Photos Speak Louder Than Words-Memorial Day Weekend 2017

Since photos often speak louder than words…..let me recap Memorial Day weekend for you simply using photos and very few words.

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Wow, what a weekend!!! We finally dusted off our paddles from the long winter, had a little fog one morning, rain another morning, and relived a place that we use to take our son every year when he was smaller. We enjoyed dinner outside at our favorite place….the front porch and we all are feeling rejuvenated and ready for a great summer ahead.

Did you do anything fun you care to share….if so feel free to comment?