Get Back on Track with Green Smoothies

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Full disclosure. I try to live a healthy lifestyle. I resist processed food. We raise our own chickens for eggs and meat. But every year when the weather starts to cool and the days shorten so does my my willpower.  As work gets busy and the holidays approach it becomes easier to stop planning and just wing it. As always, that leads to poor choices.  It happened again this year, as it always does.  By Halloween my healthy eating was out the window and my gym days became few and far between. By Thanksgiving I hadn’t been hitting the gym at all and the sniffles were creeping up on everyone in my family. By Christmas we were all full blown sick and just living the days to make it to bedtime.

But New Year’s Day always brings with it a time of renewal. I don’t set resolutions exactly, but it does always seem like a perfect time to pick myself up from the floor and get back at it.

One of the easiest ways to make my health a priority again is by incorporating daily green smoothies. Greens can be tough to get in the diet when you’re eating on the go. Putting them into smoothies allows me to have them as a quick breakfast or snack.

If you’re interesting in getting on track along with me, you should check out Simple Green Smoothies. Their website is packed full of tips and recipes and their thirty day challenge begins January 1st. To get in on this great thirty day experiment, all you have to do is sign up! It’s totally free! You get recipes for thirty days worth of smoothies including easy to use shopping lists! I do their challenges periodically  and I have to say that by half way through the month, I really do feel a difference in my well-being. I hope you’ll join me and let me know how it’s going along the way!

Do you already drink smoothies? Do you put greens in them or are you strictly into fruit smoothies? (If you haven’t tried greens in your smoothies yet, you’ll be amazed at these recipes. You can’t taste the green!)

Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides

Middlesex is the story of Calliope Stephanides, and the three generations of Stephanides before her.  The book follows the family from generation to generation from a tiny village in Greece to Detroit, Michigan. While searching for answers as to why she is different from other girls, Calliope uncovers a dark family secret and a genetic condition that has been hidden for many years.  Understanding that secret is what finally allows Callie to become Cal and to finally feel whole. 
Middlesex is an epic tale of a family’s immigration to the United States and what it means to become an American. It is an interesting look at how the history of our family can shape us into what we will become. Calliope’s story is at times heartbreaking, but written so truthfully it is beautiful.  This book is a little bit of a heavy read, and not for everyone due to some sensitive sexual material, but it is so beautifully written it’s hard to put down.  Jeffrey Eugenides is a master of words.

5 Steps to Take Down Christmas

 

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The presents are unwrapped and your belly is full of ham and sweets and all the Christmas goodies. The new toys are scattered across the floor and you keep stepping on little pieces.  The joyous hum of Christmas is fading into the background and reality is setting back in. You have to go back to work. There are a lot of boxes to put in the trash. There is glitter on everything…and pine needles.

The tradition in our house is to put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving, and take it down the day after Christmas. A month is long enough for me, though I know many people like to stretch the holidays a bit longer. If you are like me and want to de-Christmas your house as fast as possible, here are a few quick steps to get it done.

  1. Occupy the kids. This should be easy with new Christmas toys. You would think. I suggest you try to contain them in one room. I find that if I don’t do this, the Christmas decorations come out of the box as fast as I put them in. There’s nothing more frustrating than putting it all away and then finding rolls of ribbon unraveled across the family room floor.
  2. Throw out the old and ruined. If you have strings of lights that are half out and ornaments that are broken do yourself a favor and let it go (cue song in your head now- sorry it’s been playing out of every new toy in my house this weekend). Take care of this before you pack things away and you’ll save storage space and make next year a lot easier on yourself.
  3. Take stock of what you have. Now is a great time to hit the stores and replace those things you threw away. The stores slash prices 50-75% after Christmas. I know Christmas decorations are the LAST thing you want to spend your Christmas cash on, but you’re going to want them next year and then you’ll have to pay full price. If you just can’t bring yourself to do it, take note of all the things you’ll need to buy next year and write it all down. Store the list with your decorations so that when you unpack next year and begin to decorate there won’t be any last minute runs to the store to pick up six more strands of lights.
  4. Invest in proper storage. I used to shove everything into one big box as fast as possible and get it out of sight. Taking a few minutes to separate and store things properly will make a huge difference in next year’s Christmas spirit. We purchased a tree storage box with wheels last year and it really helped! I have also used bags like this. We have three trees, so I place the ornaments from each tree in separate boxes to avoid confusion. These boxes would  be perfect.
  5. Clean it up! You’re already sweaty and now the house is a disaster area. Go ahead and give it a thorough cleaning. Vacuum away the sparkles and pine needles and cookie sprinkles that are hiding in the corners. Scrub the germs left by house guests out of the bathrooms. Put away the new clothes and clean old leftovers out of the fridge. Finish the year with a fresh space and set the tone for a new one.

Christmas is so full of fun and magic, but it feels pretty good to pack it all away and start fresh again.

What tips do you have for me to speed up the de-Christmasing process?

Christmas Magic

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My three year old daughter is afraid of the dark. When she wakes in the middle of the night I hear her little feet scrambling across the hallway, heading to me through the darkness as fast as she can go. On rainy mornings, when the curtains are drawn, she won’t get out of bed without me.

But this morning I felt her rise early before the sun. She crept out of the bed without a word and tiptoed into the dark family room. My husband and I watched to see if she’d make the trip alone. I called out to ask what she was doing (though I already knew). She quickly ran back and whispered to me, “Mommy, Santa’s been here and he remembered exactly what I asked for! Come see!”

Sometimes all we need is a little magic to help us overcome our fears.

A little belief in something bigger than ourselves can carry us through the darkness.

 That’s my wish for you as this Christmas season comes to a close: that you’ll believe in something bigger than yourself, that you’ll let your Faith carry you through the darkness, and that your life will have even just a little bit of magic.

Merry Christmas! Many Blessings to you and yours!

 

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron

The Shadow of the Wind is set in post-war Barcelona. The story begins with young Daniel being taken  by his father to the cemetary of forgotten books, where he is allowed to select one book to keep but must promise that he will take care of it for the rest of his life. After falling in love with the book, Daniel decides to find others books written by the same author. He soon finds that no books exist, as they have all been destroyed by a mysterious figure that collects the books and burns them. Intrigued by this, Daniel sets out to discover the story of the mysterious author and just what may have happened to him.   The Shadow of the Wind is actually two stories in one. As Daniel learns more about the author, Julian Corax, he finds himself unraveling secrets that have been buried for thirty years.  A long, winding novel, The Shadow of the Wind is beautifully written and spellbinding. The translation from Spanish is superbly done. This book is written as a novel should be. It is an epic story told with words that will paint pictures in the reader’s mind When you are ready to really dig deep into a story pick up this book, but read it slowly and carefully and savor it.  This book was clearly written to be read by those that have a true love of books.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

There were no surprises in Gatlin County. We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere. At least that’s what I thought. Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  There was a curse. There was a girl. And in the end, there was a grave.”
 
Ethan Wate plans to escape his small southern town as soon as possible. That is until the girl he has been dreaming of (literally) walks into his school. Lena Duchannes is dark and mysterious and Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her. To make matters worse, she lives in the creepy mansion at the edge of town with her recluse uncle that no one has seen for years.
 
Ethan soon learns that Lena comes from a family of “casters,” more commonly known as witches, and Lena may be the most powerful of them all.  But danger looms just days away. On her 16th birthday  Lena will be claimed light or dark and the choice is not hers to make.
 
I really enjoyed the blend of a dark Gothic supernatural world with a simple southern town. As a lover of southern literature, I really appreciated the nod to the history and magic of the south. Beautiful Creatures is a young adult book that can be enjoyed by all ages. The themes of light and dark, old and new, and the power of both magic and love resonates with readers. I have to admit, in the current trend of turning every book into at least a trilogy, part of me wished this was a stand alone book but the characters are interesting enough to carry it through a few more stories.

A Tiny Adventure: Circling the Sun

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Have you ever found yourself so lost inside a book that when it ended you were stunned to find yourself here instead of there? Isn’t that the most wonderful feeling? I just returned from colonial Africa where I have been spending time with Beryl Markham and her band of glamorous expats. Well actually I was reading Circling the Sun by Paula McClain.  I love when a book is so well written that it engulfs all your senses. With this book, I swear to you had to brush the red African dust off my hands each time I finished reading.

Beryl Markham was a beautiful, willful woman who was raised in the wilds of Kenya. She became the first female licensed race horse trainer in Africa (and possibly the world) and also the first woman to fly across the Atlantic from east to west. Her life is filled with amazing adventures and stories of bravery and grit.  She lived a remarkable life, one that can tend to make other women feel small.

As I was reading her story, I was so moved by the greatness of her life. I imagined what it must have felt like to be a pioneer for women. I wondered at the pride she must have felt to have blazed the trail for all the women behind her. And then I admit I felt a little sad that I will never be that kind of woman. My path in life is not to have great adventures or fight injustice. Chances are I will never find myself in a situation where I need to be bold and daring and make history.

My life is a quiet service.

It’s easy to see others as more interesting. We can lose ourselves in the monotony of daily life. The endless mountains of laundry and dirty dishes, the schoolwork, the meetings, the weeknight dinners, and Saturday birthday parties. But we all serve a purpose. It’s God’s challenge to us to find it. It may not be to pioneer. We may be warriors in our own ways. Between the amazing adventures, Beryl Markham was also a wife, a mother, and a daughter. At some point, she had to make dinner for someone.

There is glory in the small things as well.

We can not know what path our life will take or the impact it will have on the world. We aren’t supposed to know. In reality, Beryl Markham’s life was riddled with controversy and her spirit never seemed to truly settle. I won’t have a life that inspires epic novels, but I have a family that loves me and I seem to have found my purpose. And that’s enough for me.

As for my taste for great adventure? Thank God for good books.

What have you read lately that got you thinking? Or maybe just got you lost?

Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

Arlene has a dark secret. Ten years ago she made a deal with God that if He would just help her keep it she’d never come back to Alabama again, but promises are hard to keep and the south is calling her home. Arlene and her boyfriend Burr make the long voyage to Alabama as Arlene’s story unravels and her past comes back. What really happened? Is it possible that the truth can come in many different versions? Is there a chance for redemption?

You know I have a soft spot for southern literature, especially books that conjure up the thick heat of a summer day and the slow fluid movement of a small southern town. I picked Gods in Alabama for that reason, but was pleased to find the book had much more to offer. The author uses vivid and honest language to paint the story from Arlene’s point of view. I will warn that Arlene can be blunt and sometimes crass.  The book is full of sexual references and seedy behavior so readers of a more timid nature may find it a little much. 

What I liked most about the book was how Joshilyn Jackson was able to craft such an unreliable narrator. It’s rare in books to find that you simply aren’t sure if you can trust your narrator, or even like her at times. The story is ultimately a who-dunnit wrapped up in good gossip. As you read you won’t be sure who you’re rooting for, but it’s a good ride all the way to the end.

Five Minute Friday: Seasons

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I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday. Write for five minutes, no edits, and see what comes out. It’s harder than it sounds. Today’s prompt was seasons.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

Oh how true that is.  The Christmas season is one for love and for celebration, but today’s prompt has me thinking about the seasons of my life.  Each one has its challenges and blessings. Each one is an opportunity for growth and experience. With each season I surprise myself at how much more I have to learn.

In this season of life I am a mother to a young child, a wife that struggles to get it right, a daughter that is only now beginning to truly see through my own mother’s eyes, so many things.  This is a season of struggle, of constant juggling, of shortcomings and not enough to go around.  But it is also a season of understanding, of setting limits, and learning to say no.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

This season can be a difficult one, but I know all too well how quickly they change. Before I can blink she will be grown and I will have moved into a new season of life, a slower one with a little more silence and a little more solitude. Because as quickly as the seasons come, they go again and the world keeps turning. There will be a time when my husband and I can have a whole conversation, an uninterrupted hug, and a lazy morning in bed. Those days will come, but in this season we will embrace the chaos and the fast pace and learn all that we can before the seasons change again.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

I tend to stick to fiction when I’m reading. An autobiography would typically be last on my list of books to read, but I kept hearing great things about Tina Fey’s book Bossypants so I decided to give it a shot. The book follows Fey through her childhood in rural Pennsylvania all the way to her life as a mother and producer of the show “30 Rock”. It’s really just a rambling look at a person with a pretty interesting life.

I really enjoyed the book. I got a few good laughs and even a little insight into life.  I was surprised by how much I could relate to her life as a mother trying to balance her family life and work. I really appreciated her honesty about her feelings towards herself, her appearance, and her perception of the world around her. Plus it’s full of helpful little advice nuggets like, “If you are a woman and you bought this book for practical tips on how to make it in a male-dominated workplace, here they are. No pigtails, no tube tops. Cry sparingly.” And if you haven’t read Tina Fey’s “Letter for My Daughter”, Google it. It’s an excerpt from Bossypants and it’s fantastic. Overall it’s a fun, short read. I highly recommend it.