Ditch the Holiday Hustle

Ditch the Holiday Hustle

With the hustle and bustle that surround us this time of year, it can feel exhausting to try to cut through the noise and find a moment of calm for ourselves. I love this post by Lysianne Unruh that asks 5 simple questions meant to help you focus on what matters most during the holidays.
Click here to read Lysianne’s original post and put her wise words to use in the coming weeks.
Transformed by Nature

Transformed by Nature

I found myself chasing butterflies at the Cole Road Prairie one afternoon.  While my goal was to capture images for a new website, the result was actually much more.  I truly felt transformed by my experience in nature.

When first arriving at the prairie, my mind and body were tight with stress from a morning full of deadlines, issues, and screen time.  At first, my head was still back at the office. But little by little, as I paused for a photo here and there, I became more mindful of my surroundings and my senses took the lead.  

The sights of dancing butterflies and bees softened my stressed face into smiles. The sounds of birds and insects brought a song of joy to my heart.  The fresh air and scented flowers filled me with new energy. The breeze and sunshine on my cheeks felt invigorating. I was like a new woman, at least for that day! 

That particular day helped me personally and profoundly experience some of nature’s health benefits that I had been reading about.  This field of study has grown from Dr. Qing Li’s research on shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, in Japan. Since then researchers in the U.S. and beyond have studied the benefits of forests, parks and green spaces.  Essentially, through science, they are trying to understand nature’s wisdom. 

A growing body of research suggests that time spent in nature can provide numerous health benefits.   Research compiled by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/90720.html) states: “Exposure to forests and trees: boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress, improves mood, increases ability to focus even in children with ADHD, accelerates recovery from surgery or illness, increases energy level, improves sleep.”  Wow, that’s quite an impressive list of benefits, check out their extensive bibliography too.

Recent research looks beyond “if” being in nature is beneficial and asks “how” it might work. One theory suggests having all the sensory stimuli might reduce brooding.  Essential oils such as pine and cedar, have also been studied for their positive effects. Even elements in the soil may produce mood-enhancing effects. This is a young field of study based on ancient ideas, and the results are looking promising!

 So next time you want to feel restored and rejuvenated, visit a natural area.  And when you get to your favorite place in nature, let your senses take the lead.

Meet Me At The Table: Reducing Food Waste

Meet Me At The Table: Reducing Food Waste

The holidays are quickly approaching and if your family is anything like ours, food is the centerpiece to your festive celebrations. There seems no better time to aim a spotlight at food waste. By some estimates, nearly half of the food grown, processed and transported in the U.S. goes to waste. (https://www.feedingamerica.org/our-work/our-approach/reduce-food-waste)

I have been blessed with abundant food my entire life. Living on a farm and growing our own vegetables, we grew up with hands-on experience in how much work it took to produce food. Planting, weeding, tilling, harvesting, and preserving all those veggies was back-breaking work. We fed and watered our livestock and chickens every morning and every evening – 365 days a year. So although we never had to wonder where our next meal would come from, we learned a deep respect for food and the hard work it took to produce it. It was ingrained in me from birth – do not waste food.

Gaining Awareness

Food is wasted in many forms. It’s the food left on our plates when we are full. It’s the head of lettuce long forgotten on the bottom drawer of the refrigerator. It’s the apple that’s not perfectly shaped or the tomato that has a blemish on its skin. It’s the food that’s gone past its Best-By date.

It is encouraging to see the saving food movement continuing to gain steam in our country. Food waste is now taking center stage across many arenas and large food companies are leading the way. As part of Kroger’s #ZeroWasteZeroHunger focus, they recently announced a new brand for their stores. In 2019 they will debut Peculiar Picks. This brand is focused on decreasing waste of ugly produce. Those fruit or vegetables that are slightly imperfect, yet still perfectly good to eat and part of an estimated 6 billion pounds of unused produce in our country.

My family will attest, sometimes begrudgingly to the fact, I am a food rescue geek. Food saving is a challenge. What can last night’s leftover turkey be turned in to? Not all attempts are popular in my house, but many are. Do a Google search on ways to use leftover anything. You’ll be amazed at how many results you get.

If saving food isn’t something you’ve given much thought to, it’s never too late to gain awareness. Every small step contributes to less waste of resources and less waste in our landfills. Start simple, buy less food – food saving and money saving. Learn what the Best-By dates really mean on food. They are not expiration dates. Most of the time, depending upon the type of food, the item is good for long after that date. Most vinegar based foods, pickles, ketchup, mustard, are good nearly indefinitely.

Always Remember the Freezer is Your Friend

Nearly everything can be frozen. Those berries that are just about to go bad in your refrigerator, give them a quick rinse and toss them in the freezer. They’ll taste great in a smoothie in the middle of winter when berries are hard to find. Little bits of this and that, leftover veggies, freeze them all together to add later to a vegetable soup or a stew that you cook up for your family on a cold, snowy day. That ground beef intended for the dinner you instead ate out, freeze it. Even that leftover green bean casserole can be frozen. It makes a great addition to a cream-based soup.

Other Food Saving Hacks

Here’s a food saving hack we use often in our house: the French fries that come home in the doggie bag but never get eaten, chop them up and fry in some bacon grease for quick and tasty potatoes with your breakfast. Full disclosure -Yes, I do save all bacon grease and use it all the time in all sorts of ways. No, it’s not as bad for us as we are lead to believe. That’s a topic for next time. Has milk been in the fridge awhile? Freeze it in small containers for when you need just a little bit like in mashed potatoes.

Bananas brown quickly. One thing I recently noticed, organic bananas take longer to ripen. So if you won’t be using them right away, you might want to spend a few extra pennies for the organic. We all know not to put bananas in the refrigerator because they will brown. However, I’ve found that once they are ripe, putting them in the refrigerator will slow down further ripening. The skin will darken but the banana inside is good. Of course, they can be frozen for bread. I freeze them skin and all.

Reducing food waste is vital to our world. Water is a precious resource that is wasted when food is wasted. Meat not eaten is an animal’s life wasted. Remembering this fuels my passion to find even more ways to save food and share that information with as many people as will listen. If we could all make just small adjustments in our own lives, our efforts together will make a significant impact.