The Healthy Dinner Dilemma

No matter who you are, eating is something you probably do several times a day.  If you are mindful of what kinds of food you eat, it is something you probably plan out.  And if you have a family, it is something you do several times a day and definitely have to plan out, to some degree.

Planning food shopping and meals can take up a huge amount of time.  I’ve tried to find ways over the years to make the process as quick, easy, affordable, and healthy as possible.  No, I’m not perfect and my family doesn’t eat gourmet plant-based meals every day, but all things considered, I’m happy with our meals 75% of the time.

Here are a few tips and tricks I use to make mealtime easier and more enjoyable for everyone:

 

Find acceptance for your mealtime abilities – The reality is that Monday through Thursday, I’m tired, I have to work the next day, and I might not feel like doing much in the kitchen after a long day at work.  I have to let myself off the hook.  OK, so there are people on Pinterest or Instagram showing pictures of fabulous, tasty, healthy meals they made. Good for them, but I have to accept that 90% of the time, that’s not my reality.  It’s OK.

Use Out of Milk or a similar app to organize shopping and meal lists – This has been a major win for me.  I started using the Out of Milk app a few months ago, and it is so good that I’d pay for it.  As soon as I run out of something, I immediately put it on my shopping list.  Then, when it’s time to do my big grocery shopping trips, I add meal items to my shopping list.  The app categorizes all my shopping items (produce, bakery, frozen, etc) so that I can easily see everything I need to purchase from a particular section of the grocery store.  Additionally, I use the To-Do section of the app to keep track of all the meals I have planned.  I never have to think, “What can I make for dinner tonight?!” I simply pull up my Meal List on the app and see all the meals I planned to make.  To make things even better, I can access a complete list of all the meals I’ve ever made.  That way, if I need meal inspiration, I just look back at all the dinners I’ve previously made and choose which ones are our favorites to add back to the list.

Use an online grocery shopping service – We have used Kroger’s Clicklist multiple times now with fairly good success.  There are other similar services from other grocery stores – you go to the website to add items to your virtual cart and select a pickup time when an employee will bring the bagged groceries to your car.  This service is excellent when I don’t want to spend 1-2 hours on a grocery shopping trip.  On the website, I either browse through items in a particular category (“frozen vegetables”, for example) or I type a specific item in the search bar and go directly to that item and add to my cart.  Occasionally there will be items I’ve ordered that are out of stock, but the store will substitute an equivalent item if you wish, at no extra charge.  The fee for online grocery shopping varies, but for Clicklist it’s only a few dollars – which is worth it to us.

Rethink your approach to dinner – Does dinner have to come from a “recipe”? Must a meal include cooking/baking to be considered a meal?  Are you somehow a less caring parent or partner because the food was very simple and quick?  Absolutely not!  Sometimes our dinners are as simple as baked potatoes, frozen broccoli, and pasta.

Keep a list of the most simple meals possible – I know for a fact that at least once or twice every week I will need an incredibly simple dinner plan.  I accept that and plan accordingly.  At any given time I will have simple dinners I can put together with minimal time and effort.  Here are a few of our go-to’s:

  • Spaghetti and marinara – option of adding veggies, vegan meat, or beans
  • Taco bar – tortillas, beans, lettuce, tomato, guacamole – whatever you like!
  • Pizzadillas – tortilla with pizza sauce, cheese of choice, toppings of choice, brown in skillet
  • Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese – mix it up with different types of bread and cheese
  • Deluxe Veggie Burgers & Baked Fries – frozen vegan burgers, toppings, buns, and baked fries
  • Zucchini & Corn Pasta – sauteed zucchini and corn added to pasta; throw in some sauteed tempeh, vegan butter, and seasonings
  • Beans & Weiners – incredibly simple – vegan hot dogs with baked beans (homemade or canned)
  • Summer Salad –  I’m loving romaine topped with avocado, strawberries, walnuts, vegan chicken, and mango vinaigrette

What do you do to make dinner planning and meal prep easy and healthy?  Tell me in the comments!

Deeper Thoughts #1: Social Isolation/Otherness

This post is not a “how to” or filled with self-help from a non-professional.  It’s merely my musings on the subject of dealing with moderate social isolation and otherness.

The older I get the more I’m able to understand society and humanity better, though I have no training or education in sociology or psychology. Life is a great teacher if you pay attention to it.

I know that, generally speaking, people are who they are, from infancy onward. I’ve seen it firsthand through myself and now with my daughter. Some of the struggles and issues I had as a child are still with me in my mid-30s. I often wonder if when put on this earth, we are each given an overarching issue that defines our growth in life. I wonder if mine is social isolation and/or otherness.

As a child, I always felt apart from my peers. I have never once in my life felt as though I belonged to any group or social circle. It hasn’t been for lack of trying, and it’s not as though I’m a hermit that doesn’t work or never talks to people. In fact, if you asked people who met me as an acquaintance, they would probably describe me as friendly and sociable. But being friendly is only indicative of how we treat a person in the moment – it has no bearing on long-term social relationships or bonding.

I always had at least a couple of good friends as a child, but it was always incredibly rare for me to bond very much with anyone. I yearned for it actually, but it seemed so elusive for me. Instead of trying to cling to people, I backed off, believing it would make things worse if I seemed needy. By the time I graduated high school, I had one good friend and had never had a boyfriend. I had learned to keep something of a distance between myself and others, for fear of being abandoned, hurt, or tossed aside.

The fact that I grew up and found a great partner in my husband is very surprising to me. As a teenager I was afraid I’d never develop a romantic bond. I think two things in particular are the reasons why I have a great relationship. The first is that as I got older I did grow more confident in talking to others and asserting myself and my needs/wants. Secondly, my husband and I are similar souls and can relate to each other on many levels. I have more in common with him than anyone I’ve ever met. Believe me, I feel very lucky and am grateful for our relationship every day.

But a good marriage is not a substitute for strong social connections and platonic relationships.  Although I am in my mid-30s, I have not had the easiest path to forming relationships with co-workers or other parents.  Case in point: I was married in my last two years of college and didn’t socialize on campus, which was also an hour from my home.  Upon graduation, I worked adjunct at a small college and did not have an office, so after classes, I generally left campus.  I stopped teaching to work at my current job, where there are only two other employees, both of which are 20+ years older than me.  I have had only one child who switched schools last year, and I have never been able to form a connection with other moms. It’s been tough!  And what I have to show for my adult years is the dissolution of friendships from high school and college, while not forming any new friendships due to not really having any interaction with co-workers.

It’s lonely.  There are plenty of times I wish I could grab a coffee one Saturday with a like-minded female.  I live in a small rural community and sadly, there aren’t a lot of social opportunities.  I think things would be easier when I someday work for a different company (who knows exactly when that will be, though) or if I moved to the city.  For now, I often feel isolated.

Ironically, I am quite the introvert.  I don’t mind being alone, and am rarely bored when I’m alone at work or home.  However, I do long for platonic companionship now and then.  After being friendless for years, it does take a toll.  All-in-all I’m a happy, friendly woman who likes meeting new people, but the connections never seem to happen for me.  And if a connection could potentially happen, I’m so gun-shy that I’m afraid to take a leap and ask someone to “be my friend” – I guess this is the equivalent of being too shy to ask a guy on a date.  I think I’m more shy about being around women than I would be around men if I were single.  How odd!

If you are dealing with feeling socially isolated for similar reasons, or maybe because you’re a stay-at-home mom, or because you’re shy, or because a good friend and you recently parted ways, I understand wholeheartedly.  I think someday I will make a few nice connections, but in the meantime, I do feel the sting of a life with no truly close friends.

All-Natural Haul: I Bought THIS Not THAT (a sort-of Anti-Haul…)

No doubt, I am a very budget conscious person.  I have a family, a dog, a mortgage, and am pregnant with my second child.  As such, I definitely do not have a lot of disposable income to spend on myself every week or even every month.  It is important that I weigh the pros and cons of each skincare/makeup/wellness product I buy.  Sometimes it really is worth it to buy the more expensive product, but sometimes it just isn’t.  Here are a few purchases I’ve made in the past few weeks and why I chose it over a more or less expensive option.  I’ll also talk about whether or not I would buy said product again. [Is this post an “anti-haul”?  Not really…but there are parallels…]

I bought Nourish Organics Face Cream NOT Osmia Organics Purely Simple Face Cream – With medical bills to pay and baby items to buy, I’ve been significantly curtailing how much I spend on my beauty products.  I felt a basic face moisturizer would be an easy place to buy a less expensive option.  After doing a bit of hunting, I settled on the Nourish Organics Face Cream, when what I really wanted was something like the Osmia Organics face cream.  The only upside to this was that I saved a lot of money – the Nourish cream was about $19 for 1.7oz, and the Osmia is $60 for 1.5oz.  Would I keep repurchasing the Nourish over something more high quality like Osmia?  No, not if I can help it.  The Osmia is vastly superior, feels better on my skin and seems to hydrate better.  However, it’s also possible there are still other more affordable options out there that I simply haven’t tried yet.  Then there is the matter of all the ingredients I prefer to avoid in my skincare and, well…it gets tricky.  I touched on this frustration on my post here.  In the end, it will still have to come down to how much I can afford to spend when the time comes to buy another moisturizer.

 

 

 

I bought Lily Lolo Mascara NOT Hynt Beauty Mascara – When I was placing an online order about a month ago, I really wanted to buy the Hynt Beauty Nocturne Mascara, but decided to purchase the Lily Lolo Mascara instead.  The Hynt is $24 and the Lily Lolo is $19.50.  Even though I’d tried the Lily Lolo in the past and disliked it, I thought I’d give it another shot because I was saving money.  A mistake.  I still really dislike the Lily Lolo formula, no matter how many people love it.  I find it to be very thick and it often makes my lashes clumpy.  I’m using it up because I don’t want to waste it, but that’s it for me – I won’t buy the Lily Lolo again, even though it’s cheaper than other non-toxic mascaras.

 

 

I bought Juice Beauty SPF 30 Oil Free Moisturizer NOT Kypris Pot of Shade – Personally, a chemical-free non-toxic physical sunscreen everyday is a must.  So many of the natural sunscreens are outrageously expensive.  Yes, they have amazing ingredients, but I cannot afford upwards of $100 on a sunscreen.  I was looking at the Kypris Pot of Shade Heliotropic, which looks very nice, but at $68 for 27ml (slightly less than 1oz) it is quite pricey.  Instead, I purchased the Juice Beauty Organics SPF 30 Moisturizer which is $29 for 2oz and it contains the same 20% non-nano zinc oxide as Kypris.  Yes, the Juice Beauty has a couple of less-than-stellar ingredients, like ethylhexylglycerin, but as it is one of the last ingredients, I compromised on this.  Would I repurchase the Juice Beauty sunscreen if I needed to save money again?  Yes.

 

 

 

I bought Desert Essence Organics Haircare NOT Innersense Organic Haircare – I’ve tried quite a few non-toxic/green beauty hair care brands.  Josh Rosebrook, Innersense, Rahua, Briogio, and more.  The problem with me and high-end hair care is that I simply don’t need fancy ingredients. Right now I have virgin hair that leans oily and all I really need is a decent non-toxic volumizing shampoo and conditioner for my fine hair.  Nearly all of the high-end green brands I’ve tried tout how moisturizing they are, which is great if that’s what you need…but I don’t.  I did play with the idea of trying the Innersense hair care line for volume but at $26 for the 10oz shampoo (“Hairbath”) and $24 for the conditioner (“Create Volume Lotion”), I find $50 for a shampoo and conditioner set to be completely unnecessary for my hair needs.  Thus I went back to my much loved Desert Essence Green Apple & Ginger Shampoo and Conditioner, which I can buy on Vitacost for around $6 per 8oz bottle.  I will say that their ingredients aren’t 100% ideal to me – but they certainly are far from bad.  My hair gets weighed down so easily by other haircare, and I know this set won’t do that.

 

 

 

I bought Raw Rev Glo Peanut Sea Salt Bars NOT Lara Bars or Luna Bars – Thus far, the Raw Rev Glo bars are the only protein bars that check every single box on my wishlist: high protein, high fiber, very low sugar, minimal ingredients, vegan, moist, tasty, and somewhat affordable.  I bought a box of 12 bars for $22, which equals about $1.80 per bar.  I can buy Lara or Luna Bars or close equivalents for around $1 per bar.  However, the cheaper bars always have something undesirable – the Lara bars are high in natural sugar and not as high in protein as I’d like.  Luna bars aren’t as high in fiber or protein and have a lot of ingredients.  I’m willing to pay more for a high quality bar I actually enjoy eating.

 

 

 

I bought Nature’s Way Alive! Prenatal Gummy Vitamin NOT Garden of Life MyKind Prenatal Vitamin – This has been a difficult choice.  On the one hand, of course I want to take a high quality vitamin while pregnant, but on the other hand, I’m not sure if there is a substantial difference between a medium quality drugstore prenatal and an exponentially more expensive natural vitamin.  I had the GoL MyKind Prenatal in my hand at Whole Foods, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay $40+ retail for a one month supply of prenatal vitamins.  Additionally, I have a very difficult time swallowing large pills that have a dry, grainy texture like these.  I took some early in my first trimester and the pill would usually get lodged in my throat and I began to dread taking my vitamin. The daily serving of the GoL MyKind Prenatal is 3 pills! I found the Alive! Prenatal Gummy for around $15, and while far from perfect, it was a reasonable cost for a decent vitamin.  I’ve read about how lower end vitamins are made – it’s not great.  But these seemed like a compromise.  They are gelatin-free gummies, have a fruit and veggie powder blend, and have all the vitamins I most need.  They do not contain iron, but I’m supplementing my iron.  Would I keep repurchasing more affordable vitamins?  I don’t know.  The high-end vitamin and supplement market is still a head-scratcher for me…I’m not decided on whether or not the extremely high prices are justified.  If money were no object, I would absolutely buy the most high-quality vitamin available, although that still doesn’t take into account how difficult it is for me to swallow large vitamins.

What products have you purchased lately that made you think about cost, quality, and value?  I’d love to hear in the comments!

 

My Favorite YouTube Channels

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I don’t have cable and don’t watch a lot of Hulu or movies (and when I do, it’s almost always in the evenings with my husband for an hour or so).  This means I get most of my “TV entertainment” from YouTube – which showcases a ton of quality content makers!  I’m always on the lookout for new-to-me channels.  What follows is a list of some of my favorite channels right now, by category.  I’d love to hear suggestions for your favorite channels!

 

Home (Design, Organization, Cleaning)

  1. AtHomeWithNikki – She has such a lovely personality and exceptional design taste.
  2. Do It on a Dime – If you like budget friendly home decor/organizing ideas, she is great.
  3. Molly Sims – I love Molly’s videos; topics range from home, kids, recipes, decor, and more
  4. VasseurBeauty – This girl is so likeable and has fantastic home hack/cleaning/DIY videos!
  5. Clean My Space – A recent find – I always love a good video with cleaning tips

Budget & Finances

  1. Sugar Mamma – Canna is smart, savvy, and fun to watch – lots of financial information
  2. Rachel Cruze – A mom who really knows what budgeting and financial freedom is all about

Natural & Inspirational Lifestyle

  1. Alli Cherry – This Cali girl hits on various topics, natural living being very prominent
  2. Christine Kobzeff – It’s beautiful to look at life through Christine’s eyes
  3. HolisticHabits – Although she sporadically uploads, her videos are all great
  4. Infinite Waters (Diving Deep) – Self-improvement from a West Coast vegan psychologist
  5. Kendra Atkins – Another lovable Cali girl.  Uploads are primarily beauty and baby related
  6. Laura’s Natural Life – A holistic nutritionist who also loves green beauty
  7. Shannon Sullivan – Well-rounded content on health, beauty, cooking, wellness, and more

Vegan Food & Recipes

  1. HealthyGroceryGirl – Registered Dietician with lots of healthy recipes and some miscellany
  2. Hot For Food – “drool worthy” vegan recipes
  3. SweetPotatoSoul – Unique and delicious vegan recipes are Jenné’s primary content

Beauty

  1. Caroline Hirons – International facialist and beauty lover who knows her stuff.
  2. Jenna Catherine – Natural beauty lover from Canada: tutorials, reviews, and more
  3. Kathleen Lights – By far the most loveable mainstream YouTube beauty guru
  4. L’amour et la Musique – Her words: “Beauty rituals as energy work.” Thoughtful.
  5. Lisa Eldridge – International makeup artist.  The REAL thing.  Amazing.
  6. MakeupTIA – Beauty lover with the best video and [occasional] vlog editing
  7. Sophie Uliano – One of the originals of green beauty and wellness.  Love her.
  8. ttsandra – I could listen to Sandra talk about makeup for hours.

ASMR

  1. Gentle Whispering ASMR – I love ASMR deeply.  Maria is classic!
  2. WhispersRed ASMR – Excellent quality, well thought out ASMR
  3. After A Fashion ASMR – Extended length ASMR with a great soft voice

Vitacost Order #3

A post where I share what I recently purchased on vitacost.com and why!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Desert Essence Whitening Plus Toothpaste – This toothpaste was nice, but the downside for me was the cool mint flavor was almost overpowering.  It’s easily one of the strongest mint toothpastes I’ve tried.  For that reason, I can’t bring myself to repurchase, although we did use up all of this tube.

 

 

Dr Tungs Smart Floss® Natural Cardamom

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Tung’s Smart Floss – A frequent repurchase, this is the only floss I’ve used for about two years.  It just gets my teeth cleaner than any other floss I’ve tried.

 

 

Garden of Life Organic Kids Probiotics – Another product I’ve purchased over and over.  My daughter doesn’t love the chalky consistency, but she will take it every morning out of routine.  I actually take this as my probiotic as well.  The quality is very good and I like for us both to take a daily probiotic.

 

 

Source of Life Animal Parade Multi-Vitamin Gummies – I’m constantly trying to find a high quality gummy vitamin my daughter actually likes.  She greatly dislikes chalky chewables so I try to find decent gummy vitamins.  These are a pass.  We are still using them up, but she doesn’t like them.  I have to agree – they have a strong “medicine” type of smell and taste about the same.  I won’t repurchase.

 

Now Ultra B-12 Liquid – A solid B-12 supplement that is good to always have around.  My husband, who eats some meat, even likes taking this in the morning for an extra boost.

 

Natracare Baby Wipes – I always keep baby wipes in the car for sticky faces and hands.  This particular brand has some oils added into the wipes, so they are less drying than some other brands.

 

Honest Company Conditioning Detangler – Another staple in our house.  This is easily my favorite natural leave-in conditioning spray I’ve tried, and that includes some high-end leave-in conditioners.  The vanilla orange scent is light and fresh and it moisturizes my hair and my daughter’s without weighing it down or looking greasy.

 

Honest Multi-Surface Cleaner – Maybe this is a product that is easy to DIY, but it’s convenient to add it to my Vitacost cart when I run out.  It’s what I use for cleaning countertops and tables because it works and it doesn’t leave a film or streaky residue.

 

Vitacost Organic Microwave Popcorn – I’m not a huge fan of the microwave popcorn bags, but I pick up these every so often for convenience.  My daughter and I share one occasionally when we watch a movie.  This brand in particular seems to burn quite easily before all the kernels have popped, so I have to be very vigilant when I put it in the microwave or I get burnt popcorn.

What are your favorite items to buy on Vitacost?

 

Graze Snack Box Subscription: A Review

Like most families, we snack around here.  Ideally, snacks are convenient, tasty, moderately healthy, and free of bad ingredients (hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial food dyes, to name just a few).

The problem is, when someone wants a snack, they often don’t want to have to think too hard about what to grab.  Often, we eat fresh fruit as a snack, but there are plenty of times we want something else.  Then there are times when we need a portable snack that can be thrown in a bag.

Ideally, I wanted to find snacks that the whole family would be willing to eat – not just me.  I tried Graze because I had a coupon code for a free 4-snack box.  I like the idea of individually portioned shelf-stable snacks that range from savory to sweet.  They aren’t organic, but they are completely non-GMO, and they do not use artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, or hydrogenated oils.

You can customize what types of snacks you get in the preferences of your account – you can choose to have only vegan snacks, or gluten free, or dairy free, for example.  Also, there is the option of going through the snack list one-by-one and choosing whether you want to “trash” a snack, try a snack, like a snack, or love a snack. This helps customize snack boxes to fit your desires.  In short, you don’t actually get to hand pick the snacks you’ll be receiving, but you essentially narrow the field down to a list of items you are happy with receiving – so the actual box you receive it a bit of a surprise.

As far as frequency of boxes, you can choose to receive a box once a month, every two weeks, or every week.  I currently receive a snack box every two weeks.

I know boxes like Vegan Cuts are quite popular with a lot of people, and I’d like to try that snack box, too – but the month to month subscription is $22.95.  An 8-snack Graze box is $11.99.  So for now, I’m going to stick with Graze.

One complaint I have is that Graze sends a separate Nutritional Information sheet in the snack box for just the snacks included in that particular snack box.  That means that individual snacks don’t have nutritional info or ingredients listed on the packaging.  For me this is annoying, as I attempt to monitor my calories every day and would like to see the product info on the actual snack, not on a separate piece of paper.

The majority of snacks in the Graze menu contain nuts, seeds, crackers, beans, dried fruit, or some “healthy” sweets, like “flapjacks” aka granola bars, peanut butter dippers and oat & spelt cookies.  I like the variety of flavors and spices, as it helps to keep snacks interesting instead of eating smoked almonds or plain pretzels for the 1000th time.

Another very nice focus the company has is that each snack has some kind of nutritional benefit.  Snacks are either listed as 150 calories or less, high in protein, high in fiber, or high in vitamins and minerals – every snack has a positive nutritional aspect.  I really appreciate that.  Sometimes I really need protein, but other times I just want something to munch on that isn’t too high in calories.  The snack boxes give me a little of everything.  I also like that there are some sweet treats available that are healthier than typical grocery store kid snacks. My daughter likes sweet treats, and it’s nice to be able to give her a pre-portioned Graze snack that I can easily see is 120 calories and contains no bad ingredients.

Overall, this snack box is a really convenient addition to my family’s food options.  My daughter, husband, and I all enjoy the snacks which is saying a lot – we are all picky in our own ways and we’ve all had snacks we’ve enjoyed.  So far, not one of our snacks has been thrown away because it tasted bad.  Some items we’ve enjoyed more than others, but overall I’ve been very happy with the selections.   Even if we were to receive a snack that we didn’t like, it’s simple to mark that snack as “Trash” on my Graze profile and I will never receive it again.

Do you subscribe to any healthy snack boxes?  If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments!

Comfort and Wisdom with a Side of Encouragement

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Comfort

A phrase I’ve used to comfort myself many, many times in my life: “This, too, shall pass.”

If there is one thing we can count on in life, it is that things are ALWAYS changing, evolving.  If you let it, that thought can be of great comfort.

The Serenity Prayer is an oldie but a goodie, “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change what I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Look back in your past at all the pain, anxiety, fears, hurts, and struggles you have had.  And then know that not only have you survived it all, you are stronger, wiser, and even happier because of those struggles.

 

Wisdom

Think before you speak, especially during arguments.

Along the same lines, “Before you speak, ask yourself: ‘Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?'”

Be kind to others, because you never know what battles he or she is fighting.

Would your mother and/or father be proud of the things that you say and do when they are not around?

Our children and grandchildren will inherit this earth.  Let us leave it better than we found it so that they can lead happy lives.

The media unrelentingly exploits the negativity in the world.  There is still so much good and love and progress out there that we aren’t shown.  Believe that it is there, look for it in everyday life and you will see it.

 

Encouragement

Look at what you’ve got and make the best of it.  It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

If you want the world to change, you MUST start with yourself.  In other words, be the change you wish to see in the world.

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind – C.S. Lewis

 

Our Lovely, Peaceful Fall Day

lakeSunday, October 9, 2016

8:30 a.m. – Drinking organic coffee we made in our French press (we’re both addicted to it since I bought it about three weeks ago). My husband asks if I would want to go to a lake about a 45 minute drive from home.  I’m on board. We pack up the kid and two dogs and are driving by 10:15.

11:00 a.m. – By this time we’ve made it to the college town that sets on the outskirts of the scenic lake area.  We go to a flea market, a Halloween store where my daughter tries on two costumes, both of which are “too itchy”, and finally stop to eat lunch before heading towards the lake.

1:30 p.m. – Finally arrive at our first stop where we hike for a while with a whiny little girl, one very smart, obedient dog, and one somewhat ditzy dog. I try to keep my sanity as I am interrupted 10-20 times while I take photos.

The sky is clear with just a few wispy clouds.  There is a breeze and it is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  Basically, the weather you’d expect in heaven.  Just perfection.

bugMy daughter is very curious about nature and always, always gets dirty.  I’ve learned to embrace and even enjoy the fact that she loves sticks, leaves, cute bugs, dirt, puddles, and sand.

2:15 p.m. – By this time, we’ve driven to be right on the lake. It’s lovely and the dogs and kiddo are loving being in nature.

scavengingOn the beach, there are things to be inspected by a curious little girl.  But under the trees, in shady spots, there are signs of autumn…

wetleavesI love the way leaves look when they’ve fallen to the ground but not yet decayed.  So beautiful and fragile.

rocksGathering pebbles on the edge of the lake.  I loved collecting rocks as a child.  I think it has to do with some unconscious childhood desire to connect back to the earth.

2:45p.m. – We drive a short distance to our final stop.  While the little one plays on a playground and literally buries her Barbies in the sand, my husband and I sit with two tired dogs under some shade trees.

dogs3:00 p.m. – Feeling genuinely blessed.  I’ve been dealing with ongoing health issues lately (I know, I should join the club, right?) and it is physically and emotionally draining at times, especially when I still work full-time and have a child.  Having days like this recharges me and makes me feel loved and at peace.

shadetrees3:15p.m. – Stop for gas and snacks – the husband has nuts and iced coffee, I have water and a granola bar, and kid has an ice cream sandwich, which is a special treat that she doesn’t get very often. Dogs have lots of fresh, cool water.

4:15p.m. – Husband and I get home and crash together in bed for a nice late afternoon nap.  Little girl plays very quietly (we always cross our fingers that she won’t be too loud – I was pretty vehement before we took a nap for her to play in her room right next to ours very quietly).

6:00p.m. – Little girl and I make homemade vegan chili and cornbread together.  I liked the cornbread but it got a thumbs down from her and husband…not sure why.  Oh, well.  The chili was good.

9:00p.m. – Everyone is settling down for the night: two little dogs, one little girl, and one husband and wife.  Nighty night.

10:30p.m. – Finally get kid to settle down and go to sleep after letting her watch a movie past her bedtime.  It’s OK since today is a holiday and she doesn’t have school.

You know how sometimes in interviews, a person is asked to describe their perfect day? This was pretty close for me.  Although it wasn’t like we were sipping coffee and eating croissants in Paris, it was special and beautiful nonetheless. Happiness comes when you create it.  I hope this post has inspired you to have a beautiful fall season and to try to get outside and enjoy the weather!