Signs Of Autumn Are Everywhere

Oh my goodness…..are you feeling what I am feeling here in WI? Although, I am not by any means feeling the gloom and doom of winter quite yet, I sure am feeling the signs of autumn.

Leaves are beginning to change colors on the tree branches.

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Some have already fallen from trees.

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And some are just starting to change. Fall is quickly approaching for sure.

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This is the time of year where summer is trying so hard to last just a few weeks longer.

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Iced coffees are no longer my preferred morning beverage…it’s now a big cup of hot coffee to take the morning chill off.

Soups are making a come back on my weekly meal list with no complaints from my husband or son.

For us here, we are living everyday like its the last. Fall is a great time of year to hike here in the midwest with much less bugs. We spent the entire weekend hiking waterfalls and with camping plans right around the corner….blogging is really going to have to take the back burner for a bit until I have more time. So just know that I am collecting photos and fun outings to share with all of you when time permits. And I can only hope you use what I share to get out and try something new and be inspired to enjoy the great outdoors as much as I do.

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As for now, I will be back as soon as possible….first I have to savor every moment before the snow begins to fall.

 

 

 

 

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Enjoying The Little Things

I have been really concentrating on enjoying the little things during this hectic time of year. With rude holiday shoppers, crazy drivers rushing from one place to another, and everyone stressed about the upcoming holidays it’s sometimes hard to find happiness. That’s why for me, I just concentrate on the little things to bring me happiness.

Lately, I have been feeling this need to come up with some new recipes for my family. I feel as if I have been stuck in a rut preparing the same old dinners and felt the need to change things up a bit. So I have been concentrating on making one new recipe a week….so far we have tried shredded brussel sprouts and glazed pork loin.

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While we are on the topic of food, I have also been enjoying the colder temps because I can make as much soup as I wish and everyone is willing to eat it. This is something that does not happen in the summer months.

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Along with good old comfort food, like roasted root vegetables and casseroles which are always a favorite at meal time and oh so easy to prepare.

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As the weather gets colder we find ourselves doing more short hikes around the area than longer ones. This is hard for me since I could literally walk forever on a dirt trail but at the same time, I am so thankful we have been able to still get out. We see so much wildlife when we hike here in WI and this is something that always brings a smile to my face.

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This last hike we did was cold….like really cold. And in one week the ponds have froze over and this means my hiking days are coming to an end fast here.

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This is not something that brings me as much joy as it brings my little kiddos that show up at my doorstep every morning for daycare but it is something special. Every year during one of the first snow falls my husband will get all dressed up and go outside and build a snowman that greets them bright and early in the morning. And that first snowman has been built already this year….and it brought such joy to so many people from neighbors to friends and family.

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Last but not least, let me show you our second jig saw puzzle of the winter. Normally we redo our stack of puzzles because let’s face it, there is no way to memorize where every piece goes in a 1000 piece puzzle so they really never get boring. However, once in awhile we will see one that just screams from the store shelf…..”buy me and put me together!” which this one did…..it’s so summer like that who could resist….right.

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What brings you joy in a hectic time of year?

Feeling Good About Being Back In The Kitchen

With the cooler temperatures I find myself getting the urge to do two things, #1 return to the kitchen and #2 research next summers destinations. IMG_5524

Although one takes much longer than the other, returning to the kitchen comes fairly easy to me. I am not a big fan of cooking in the summer months. It’s simply a waste of sunshine and daylight hours for me to spend time in the kitchen. If it’s above 75 and the sun is shining, you better be willing to grill out or make your own meals at my house because this mom is not cooking…..

Fall brings changes to our backpacks by adding gloves and hand warmers for trail hikes

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and it also brings changes to what we eat for meals on a daily basis. There is no more grilling for us once the temps hit the 40’s unless my husband is willing to face the cold.

Some of my fall/winter favorites start making appearances for those chilly mornings like peanut butter oats with sliced bananas.

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I also found that both my family and my daycare children enjoy egg omelet cups. Which is basically your choice of veggies sauteed and topped with an egg. Bake these for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees and tada…..you have enough to feed a crowd or enough for a day or three to grab and go.

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For lunch I love roasted veggies. Sweet potatoes are one of my favorites.

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And dinners are all about casseroles again. No more brats, burgers, and hotdogs plopped in a bun for dinner. I recently made stuffed manicotti for the first time and it was FABULOUS!!!

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And then there is soup. What can I say…..I LOVE SOUP!!! I could eat it for every meal, everyday, and during every season. However, soup would not go over well with my boys in the summer months….so I make it at least once a week as soon as it gets chilly.

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For more recipes and ideas click on over to my recipe page. Enjoy!

Tell me…..what are some of the things you bring back to the table when the temperatures drop?

Do you have any favorites?

It’s Time To Prepare Some Freezer Meals

Every once in awhile I take a weekend morning and prepare some of our favorite freezer meals. This weekend seemed like the perfect time do do just that after waking up Saturday morning to another few inches of snow covering everything.

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I knew we would not be hiking, kayaking or doing anything outside so why not fill the freezer with fast, easy to grab and go meals for when we are having fun in the outdoors and don’t feel like cooking.

I started out browning the meat to prepare crock pot chili. I knew it would be simmering away for a few hours and could be finished up later on in the day, so this was the first thing to start.

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Later that afternoon, I prepared some spaghetti and layered it all in glass containers to freeze.

While I was tending to the spices for chili my husband had a pile of veggies to get cleaned, cut and ready for a huge batch of soup. I love soup and so do all my daycare children. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, I could eat soup every day.

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After that was put together and simmering, I began preparing a couple loaves of zucchini bread. These are perfect for a fast breakfast since we both get up at the butt crack of dawn every morning for work. They also freeze very nicely and are super quick to grab and throw into the pile of camping food for an easy, fast breakfast for those last minute pack up and go camping trips. (Hint hint…..we plan to do a lot more of these this summer) IMG_3779

My final dish was lasagna. This is my absolute favorite recipe for lasagna. It’s fast, easy, healthier than most, and needs to be prepared hours before which means later on all you need to do is preheat your oven and bake. No mess later in the day when your tired and exhausted from a full day of fun…..or work. We actually ate this for dinner and then I froze the rest for later in single serving portions.

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After all this it was time to head to the gym. Which again, I am happy to say, I made it both Saturday and Sunday.

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As for the rest of this week, I am simply hoping for nicer weather. I really miss walking in the morning and not being able to play outside with the kids. Apparently, it’s suppose to be 60 degrees by the weekend……I’ll believe it when I see it.

 

What is your favorite freezer meal?

 

 

 

Getting Through The Winter Blahs

52 days from today we all get to change our clocks again. No matter what the calendar says….this is what marks the end of winter for me. More hours of sunshine is instant happiness for me. However, until that days arrives I often feel blah. It’s hard to cook, clean, work, and all around function some days. Although, somehow I do it, everyday! Which made me pay attention to what has been helping me get through these days of blah.

In the winter one of the biggest things I struggle with is feeling warm. I actually believe some of this is mental, because if everyone else is comfortable, why am I always cold? I have found a few solutions to help me with this issue. I eat a lot of soup. I would bet I eat soup at least 5 out of 7 days a week. Homemade, boxed or in a restaurant, it really doesn’t matter to me. I love soup.

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Another thing I have been experimenting with is hot tea. My son is a huge tea drinker which made me start trying some teas. He is into the loose leaf tea and has so many different flavors that I would not even know where to start. So I recently found some sample size tea and bought two different flavors. Both of which I am really enjoying on a daily basis. IMG_3300

One big thing that brings me joy anytime of year is my job. Daycare can be stressful, difficult and exhausting…..believe me, I have been there! Lately, however, the two boys that I have, who have grown up together since birth at our home, have turned into toddlers and have begun playing so nicely together. It’s great to just sit back and watch them figure things out on their own and work together.

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Winter for me is my time to get organized, clean, and sort through items we no longer want. Let’s face it, in the summer my weekends are spent paddling something somewhere and my weekdays are spent outside running through sprinklers or having water balloon fights, which means nothing inside gets done for months. But that’s ok, that’s what winter is for. Anyhow, I finally made an attempt to organize our food shelves upstairs. Ever since they changed from boxes to zipper bags in many food items, my shelves have been a disaster!!! Boxes used to line up nicely and stack beautifully. With the amount of food we consume between my family and the daycare children, I often will open the door to find a complete unorganized mess of zipper bags. Here is the before picture:

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So I bought a few vacuum seal containers to hold some of the food items that we use the most. I then organized and cleaned out this area. I plan to try this for a week or so and I will then go back for a few more containers if needed. So far it’s been a success. Here is the after picture:

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I would have to say by far the biggest thing that has changed this winter for me compared to others is that a group of friends and I have started going out for lunch once a month together. You may think once a month is minimal but this gives me something to look forward to every month. We have done it a few times so far and have plans in the making for the next month already. I am really loving this time and believe it is really helping me get though the worst of winter. IMG_1918

That’s how I have been trying to beat the winter blah feeling here in WI.

Tell me, have you found anything that works for you?

What is your hardest month to get through in the winter? (Mine is February)

 

 

Is It Possible To Have Too Much Summer?

It it possible to have too much summer? In my opinion NEVERRRRRR!
Especially since I deal with seasonal affective disorder(SAD) every year.

As much as I want to ignore the facts, I have to admit, I think our summer has officially ended. Last week it got immensely cooler, leaves are falling everywhere, and I am feeling the need to make some changes to adjust to the season.

I have started adding soups back into our meal rotation. I love soup all year long but make it rarely if ever during the summer months. Now is when I find we spend more time indoors and my creativity in the kitchen runs wild.

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Another big change I typically make during this time of year is by adding flannel sheets and an extra blanket to our bed. Is there anything worse than crawling into a cold bed at the end of a log day? No there is not! Although, this year we finally decided to make a purchase we have debated for awhile. We bought a down comforter for our bed and let me be the first to say……I LOVE IT so far. It’s so warm, yet light weight, and most importantly, not too hot for my husband to sleep comfortably also. My hope is that maybe we can get by this winter without the need for flannel sheets. Time will tell.

Talking about heat and warmth…..I sort of have this obsession every year to make it to the same date on the calendar that I do every other year before feeling the need to turn our furnace on. I know, odd, but it’s always a goal for some reason. Last year we caved finally on Oct. 21…..we’ll see this year how long we can last without heat. (HINT: Baking in the morning always helps reach this goal)

As the darkness creeps in earlier every night I have been finding myself actually going to bed super earlier than normal. I am not a night owl as it is but 7:30 p.m. is somewhat too early. After dinner we typically get in some sort of exercise and then it’s pretty much bed time for me. I battle this all winter and something I have found that passes time quickly and keeps my mind from dreading the season so much is jigsaw puzzles. There has been talk of digging them out and getting one started, but so far I have held back from taking this step. I just don’t know for how long I can continue to avoid it.

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Last year I was advised by my doctor to try Vitamin D for my SAD symptoms. I finally did and have to admit, I did notice that taking it did lighten the depressed mood I feel for months. I plan to start this in the next week or so, to get a good start on it before we change our clocks and it’s practically dark before I am even done working. This is when my seasonal depression really affects me the most.

And last but not least, I bought my first Christmas gift a few days ago. I am not a last minute shopper simply because I can’t tolerate the crowds. I am a list maker and I stick to it. I write down who we all need gifts for, make a budget, and write an idea for each person on this list. This makes Christmas shopping so easy. There is no wandering around aimlessly with no idea what I am looking for. It’s in,out, and done!

Do you struggle with winter?

What have you found to help you get through it?

How does your lifestyle change during the winter months?

 

 

Another Weekend of Frigid Temps

My husband thinks I freeze much faster than he does thanks to my very low blood pressure. I thinks I freeze simply because it’s freezing. Now normally I  would research his statement and see if he is correct, but you know what? It really does not matter to me, either way I still freeze and I do not like it!!! OK, enough complaining, let’s move on.

Saturday morning we woke up bright and early to make our way to Milwaukee for a day of shopping. I could hear the wicked winds blowing outside before even raising my head from the pillow and knew it would be a “soup for lunch” kind of day. Since we already had plans to enjoy lunch at Whole Foods I was pretty happy. Although, before lunch could happen we had to get some shopping done.

Usually I get to this area twice, maybe three times a year. So when I do, I stock up on all our favorites, especially from Trader Joe’s. After TJ’s we traveled to REI, which is bound to cost a few bucks and take a lot of time. Since we are outdoor enthusiasts this is by far our favorite sporting goods store. On Saturday it just happened to be their “garage sale day” which means tons and tons of great deals:) We must have spent almost two hours in this one store but left with so many goodies. I was very happy with the results.

Saturday night we celebrated Valentine’s Day with my hubby making bread bowl smoked salmon salads for us. (My absolute favorite) Again, with the frigid temps lingering on we found ourselves just hanging out the rest of the day. It was really quite nice to say the least.

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Onto other things….how are you all doing with the February health challenge of forgoing fast food for February? It’s it a struggle? You are half way done, are you hanging in there? I have to say, being that I work from home and we very rarely do fast food, I am not really struggling with this one. I have not done fast food, such as McDonald’s for at least 8 years, probably more. This is one thing I am pretty thankful for. It was a hard habit back then to break, but I don’t miss it what so ever.

You know what started creeping into my mind last week? Our Spring chore list…..is it too early for that? Well….maybe a bit.

How was your weekend?