Whole Living Gal


Drinks: Green Juice and Ginger Tea

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Is there life after Facebook?

Let me get right down to it: I quit Facebook and I’m not looking back. 

 

The first day was hard – my good friend was having a baby and I felt like I was missing out on the whole thing and I thought for sure I’d be the last to know when he was born, his name and all the important stats. 

 

You know what I did instead of check Facebook? I texted a friend. And she texted me back. Then, when the baby was born and the whole world (it seemed) was looking at his adorable pics on Facebook, this same friend sent me a pic of him…via text. 

 

So I didn’t miss out. 

 

It’s gotten easier and easier to break away from this online world that both connects and alienates at the same time. 

 

There are a million reasons I love being off Facebook, but mainly I’ve taken stock of the real community around me and I feel so blessed. For me (and I know this isn’t for everyone), Facebook gave me a false sense of connection – I felt I had connected with a lot of people because I “liked” their statuses or commented on a photo. But really, there had been no actual interaction. And for this extravert, this false sense of interaction was hard. 

 

So I’ve been more intentional about connecting with friends that I am doing life with – texting, emailing, and – wait for it – picking up the phone and calling (gasp!). 

 

I’m also a really competitive person, so reading everyone’s highlight reel made me feel inadequate and under-equipped – as a friend, as a mother, and just as a person. 

 

I should be clear that I’m not anti-social media or even anti-Facebook. I know not everyone is me, and maybe Facebook is great for you. I’m not going to twist your arm and tell you being off Facebook it will change your life. But maybe it will. It took a lot of pressure off mine and I feel I’m breathing a little easier. Maybe I’ll pop back on at some point and learn to live in the world of Facebook with some boundaries, but for now, I need the space totally away. 

 

Wherever you are in terms of social media usage, I think it’s healthy to have conversations about how technology is shaping our lives. 

 

I’m curious if others have thought about leaving Facebook or have tried it in the past…? What are your thoughts and comments about life-after-Facebook?


Bread and Wine: a book review

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When Shauna Niequist offered bloggers the chance to preview her latest book, Bread and Wine, I said “yes, please!” And so this is the subject that brings me back to this lonely blog…

There are two things I loved about this book: it inspired me to get [back] in the kitchen cooking real food, and it encouraged me to invite other people around my table. I’ve done a great job at the first since I set down the book, but honestly, my table feels maxed out right now with three little ones, so it doesn’t get many visitors. That’s okay for right now. 

I think my favorite chapter was the one about weeknight cooking, which included simple, whole foods, and creative ideas for cooking on the fly during the week. I’ve used these tips a number of times since. 

I also felt like I got a good glimpse of Shauna’s cooking rhythm – the spices and foods she generates toward (yes to goat cheese and absolutely no cinnamon). I loved this part because I am so curious about how other people feed themselves, not just on the fancy days when they have you over for dinner, but on the everyday grab-and-go lunches and the rushed dinners. 

I was hoping – and expecting – the book to be less personal essay and more expository. With a title like Bread and Wine, I expected more theology, or at least spiritual insight. But besides two chapters book-ending the piece, Shauna didn’t really go there. It’s her preference, really, but I was disappointed because I really wanted to hear her insight on these topics, but was left with stories about her own personal life. 

However, this is Shauna’s style, and this book certainly solidified her place in the personal essay section of the book store. And she does it well, so, that’s something. 

I’ve tried the enchilada recipe and it was as heavenly as Shauna talks it up to be in the book. So, so good. This recipe alone is worth gathering a crowd or splitting it into a couple of pans and sharing it with a friend (or your mom and dad, which is what I did). 

Other recipes I’m dying to try: Brannon’s Caesar Salad, Mango Chicken Curry, Nigella’s Flourless Chocolate Brownies. Oh, and the Blueberry Crisp. Oh, wait, and the Gaia Cookies, too. And, I’ll want to try the soups, but now that spring is around the corner, I’m moving away from soup season. 

I think we all love hearing stories, especially when they’re told in a personal way (that’s one reason we read blogs, right?). And when those stories relate to life and friendship and food, it makes for a rich book.

Have you read Shauna’s book? Are you planning to pick up a copy? I’d love to know what you think of it. 

Also, what inspires you to get into the kitchen and cook good foods? Springtime? Warm weather? The smell of the grill? I say yes times a million to all of these – I’m so ready for food that is grown in (or close to) my own back yard. 


My Award-Winning Chili Recipe

My neighbors had a chili cook-off a few weeks back. Since my husband was out of town, I was dragging my feet about whether or not I wanted to tackle making chili and dragging all three of my kiddos to the party all by myself. But I decided to go for it, and I’m so glad I did.

It was fun to try everyone’s chili recipes and there was quite a variety of flavors – everything from the traditional bean and beef chili (that’s what I brought) to a spicy mushroom-and-black-bean goodness. It was a night talking about food and cooking while eating and drinking – what is there not to love?!

Well, I ended up getting first place! I was so excited! I’ve never won anything food-related before. I can already tell that the competition is heating up for next year’s round…I’m planning my next chili creation already…

So, here’s my throw-together chili recipe (guestimates, only). The key, really, is cooking it FOREVER and seasoning the heck out of it…with those tricks, you can cover a multitude of wrongs. Oh, and buy good ingredients. I used really good ground beef and organic veggies. If you can manage to cook your own beans from dried, that will only take it up a notch (I didn’t bother this time).

Heather’s Award-Winning Chili

1.5 lbs ground beef, browned on the stovetop with seasonings
3 cans beans, drained & rinsed (use whatever you like – I think this time I used black, white, and red kidney)
3 cans fire-roasted, diced tomatoes (get the fire-roasted!)
1 cup (about) of diced onions and peppers (I keep a mix of this frozen so I can just throw some in chili or tacos or whatever)
1/2 cup (about) frozen corn
seasoning to taste: I use Penzeys Original Taco Seasoning and Ancho Chili Peppers (ground), salt and pepper and a little bit of agave or natural sweetener.

- Throw all ingredients in the crock pot along with about a can of water. Let simmer on low for 6 hours or so, stirring occasionally. You might have to add more water as it cooks.

Ain’t fancy, but it’s delicious! Enjoy!


Check one, two… Is this thing on…?

I have a song going through my head for this post that sounds something like this:

“Is there any-body out there?
Is there any-body out there?
Someone I can trust (huh)!”

Anyone remember that song? Circa early-80′s…conservative Christian music…?

Anywho – I’m back.

I think it’s been about 8 months since I blogged. In that time, I carried and birthed a baby boy, who is now almost 4 months old. I know I’m bias, but he is the cutest baby ever and I love him to bits.

Having 3 kiddos, 3 years and under has been a whole lotta crazy, but it’s fun. My children are sweet and thoughtful (nature, probably not nurture :) and I love to watch them forming relationships with each other.

This morning, Dashiell (pronounced DASH-’ll) was sittting in his Bumbo (are those things recalled?!) and the girls were dressing him up, giving him toys and reading him books. It was so cute and he was loving it.

So the precious moments (thought I’d keep the 80′s theme going here) are what have kept me away from the blog…oh, and the piles and piles of laundry and dishes and dirty diapers and mealtimes and bedtimes and, and, and…

[I have been micro-blogging (which is a term I recently learned) on Instagram (heatherehammond) if you're interested in following me there.]

But it’s good to be back. I have a few posts in the works – including my award-winning chili recipe and some gluten-free information.

In the meantime, is anyone still reading…? Is there anybody out there…?


Exercise Fizzle

Well, it’s been a few weeks since I implemented round #2 in my winter pursuit of exercise during pregnancy – mainly, dropping our gym membership and hitting the treadmill at home and doing a prenatal yoga DVD.

To tell the truth, the exercise is starting to fizzle out a bit. I’m sure it’s a combination of a number of things:

- It’s easier to make exercise a priority when I’m going to the gym, dropping the kids off, and getting some time to myself. It’s harder when I have to entertain toddlers simultaneously while hiking it on the treadmill or becoming a jungle gym during a yoga session.

- We’ve all been sick. This has been the craziest un-Michigan winter of all time – very little snow and crazy changes in temps from day to day. It seems like everyone has been sick – and we’re never able to get fully well. I don’t like to push myself too hard physically when I’m sick, saving my energy to fight off the illness.

- Much to my dismay, I can’t keep up the running. I feel great while I’m running, but the last two runs have sent me, hours later, to bed with a heating pad somewhere. I had to come to terms with the fact that even though I’m only about 20ish weeks along, my belly is making some serious horizontal progress (even strangers are surprised that I’m not due until June) and it’s causing strain on my muscles that just can’t take the hard pounding of running. With running out of the picture again, I lost a little of my motivation. Although, I have learned the benefit of simply putting my treadmill at an incline and kicking up the speed – I’m achieving some serious and embarrassing-looking speed-walking in my basement!

- Though the nausea of the first trimester has disappeared, I’m facing my own set of second-trimester whoas, including dizziness, headaches and migraine syndrome. I’m not complaining (well, kind of), just facing the facts and understanding my body’s limitations.

Overall, I’m able to get about 3 good sessions on the treadmill a week and sometimes I can sneak in a yoga session, too. My time exercising, overall, is greatly reduced (my treadmill sessions are 20-30 minutes instead of 40-50 minutes). I’m trying to be realistic about my schedule, my health, and my life with two toddlers. I’m doing the best I can for now, and trying to remember that life comes in waves, in seasons, in stages. This is a season…


Sowing Goodness: Plant, Cultivate, and Harvest a Healthy Life

“People reap what they sow. Those who sow to please their sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; those who sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Gal 6)

I’m planting a garden this year – my first one ever. So I’m thinking about the imagery of a garden in other ways, too: the types of seeds we sow, but more specifically, what kind of harvest we will reap, depending on what we sow and what we cultivate.

The seeds of goodness that I want to plant in my life are ones of health. I want healthy relationships, a healthy approach to the work of my hands, a healthy investment in my relationship to God, a healthy balance (and challenge!) of exercise, a healthy dose of rest, and clean, whole, healthy foods nourishing my body.

But just as we do not reap a harvest the same time we plant the seeds in our gardens, so the seeds of goodness that I plant in my life take time to cultivate and nurture before they grow to a harvest.

Paul knew this would be difficult and he gives us the encouragement to “not become weary in doing good” (Gal 6). Cultivation takes discipline and the small, simple, daily acts of choosing goodness and health all day long. This can be a drag, but Paul reminds us that we will reap a harvest if we keep it up.

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A new seed of goodness that I have planted is the discipline of rising early – before my children – to spend time with God. This has not been easy since I’m pregnant and still have an almost-2-yo who wakes up at night sometimes.

But I made the commitment, and God has been faithful to meet me in that time. I set a realistic goal of “early” – knowing that I wanted to pick a time that I could maintain daily, but also knowing that sometimes that would mean my children would wake during my quiet time. I have slowly pushed the time back to wake up even earlier because I have begun to crave the time alone with God.

I’m about a month into this practice, and it doesn’t seem to get any easier…but I know it’s a seed of goodness and cultivating this discipline is worth it – there is a harvest of goodness on the other side – a deeper walk with my savior – that I crave which pushes me through the difficulty of the bleary-eyed early mornings.

What gets me out of bed most days? These verses from Hosea 10 that I memorized:

“Sow for yourselves righteousness/Reap the fruit of unfailing love/and break up your unplowed ground;/for it is time to seek the LORD,/until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.”

It is time to seek the LORD. I say this to myself as I lie in bed with my finger on the snooze button…and what I hear instead is: Get your butt out of bed and press into the LORD…it will be worth it. And so I do…

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If we keep up the work of planting and cultivating goodness in our lives, we will reap a harvest.

So let us not become weary in doing good – in pursuing health in a holistic, whole-person way. Let us continue to pursue discipline: drinking water, eating whole foods, making time for God, exercising…knowing that God is honored when we make good choices to take care of our temples.

In this way, our garden of goodness becomes an act of worship. And when we see the fruit of our labor, celebrate and praise God, because he is the one who makes things grow (1 Cor 3:7).

What seeds of goodness are you planting and cultivating these days?


Green Smoothies

I love a good smoothie. There’s nothing like drinking something sweet and creamy and smooth that is also secretly packed with vegetables and nutrients. And there’s nothing like being able to throw anything-from-the-fridge into a blender and know your toddlers will drink it…and ask for more.

Last week, my friend let me borrow her Vitamix blender so I could see if the machine was all that it was cracked up to be. I will gladly spill my love of this machine if Vitamix promises to send me a blender in return. (*ehem*)

The machine-of-my-dreams aside, we’ve been making a lot of smoothies recently. One rule for my smoothies is that I have to add something green – kale, spinach, chard, peas, whatever I have on hand. These greens are packed with nutrients and when your smoothie is packed with fruit, the bitterness of the greens is hidden. But how do I do that, you ask? Let me count the ways.

I found this Double Green Smoothie recipe on wholefoodsmarket.com and I’ve made it a handful of times. I love that it calls for lots of greens and the fruit and dried dates make it so sweet.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups unsweetened non-dairy beverage, such as almond, rice or soy
2 dried apricots or 4 pitted dates
1 banana
1 cup chopped kale leaves
1 cup spinach leaves
1/2 cup fresh or frozen berries

Method

Combine non-dairy beverage, apricots, banana, kale, spinach and berries in a blender and blend until smooth.

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Another trick I use for any smoothie I am making is to blend the greens first with liquid (unless you’re using the blender-of-my-dreams, then you can throw everything in at once and it all gets blended up smoothly). For regular-speed blenders, this allows the greens a great opportunity to break down and less of a chance to take a bite out of kale when you’re drinking your smoothie.

I love blending my greens with unfiltered, organic apple juice. The juice adds a nice sweetness to counteract the greens’ bitterness. But if I don’t have that on hand, I might blend it with a little non-dairy milk or even just plain water.

Then I add frozen fruit, bananas, sometimes a carrot or a stalk of celery, yogurt if I have it, flax meal and/or flax oil, cherry juice concentrate and whatever else I have on hand.

Blend and serve.

My girls love to drink with a straw because it’s more fun. Either way, a smoothie is an excellent way to pack more nutrients into your diet in a pleasing and delicious (and fun-with-a-straw!) way.

Enjoy!

(Photo from wholefoodsmarket.com)


Winter Pregnancy Exercise Round #2 (…the cheap version)

The winter is still in full affect here in Michigan and my belly is getting bigger, so I am digging into my creativity to come up with a new, at-home winter exercise plan that doesn’t include a gym membership (because we had to drop ours – *tear*).

I took stock of what I love about the gym and what I am regularly doing when I’m there. Aside from the childcare, I can easily re-create much of what I love:

1. Yoga: I love this and it’s a “must” for me right now during pregnancy. I dusted off a prenatal yoga DVD and am borrowing another from a friend so I can have some variety. It gets tricky trying to do yoga and keep two toddlers entertained, but sometimes they get involved with me and I love that they get to SEE me exercise.

2. Cardio: Yoga is great, but I’m discovering that a good cardio routine keeps me balanced on a whole, new, lovely level that no amount of downward facing dogs could produce. I started asking online about treadmills, and I found a free one from our church’s online marketplace! I can tell you over and over that God cares about how we take care of our bodies, but this, to me, was tangible proof. It’s such a huge blessing to receive this treadmill right now. We’re replacing the belt and it will run just like new (pun intended, of course!).

So there it is, my winter plan. The trickiest part will be occupying the toddlers while I exercise. But as with anything, I think once they get used to my routine, they’ll settle in and let me be. And I love that they will see me exercise and have an opportunity to get involved. That’s one reason I loved running with the double jogger this summer because I love for them to be a part of my healthy lifestyle choices.

And remember how I was talking about needing more time in my day? Well, cutting out the drive to and from the gym and the time it takes to check the girls in and out of childcare, I’m already gaining some new space in my day.

We have one more week to enjoy our gym membership, so I’m savoring the childcare and all the amenities while I can. But I’m excited to try round 2 of this exercise plan. I love a good challenge.

What free or cheap ways do you exercise and stay active?


Priority: Rest

Alright, I’ll go ahead and say it: there are not enough hours in a day.

I don’t always feel this way, but this week, it’s droning along in my head and heart.

There is so much I want to do – and it’s good stuff, too. I want to write more, I want solitude, I want to do more thrifting and sew my own pillows and refinish some furniture.

But I have two toddlers and I’m pregnant. So sometimes, instead of writing a brilliant essay that I just know publishers would clamor over, I am sitting on the floor coloring with my girls or emptying the dishwasher again or turning over another load of laundry.

Or sometimes, I’m just sleeping.

For me, right now, nap time is about naps. Most of the time, I can’t sleep – my mind runs a million miles an hour and I usually think about food: what’s for dinner, what food I can plant this spring, next week’s meal plan and what’s for the next snack…you get the idea – food! (I mentioned I’m pregnant, right?)

Even if I don’t sleep, I make myself lie down and treasure nap time for resting. In the same respect,  evenings are for sleeping. These days, I’m going to bed between 8:00 and 9:00pm. Starting about 5:00pm, I start counting the minutes until I can go to bed again.

The real truth is that there is enough time in the day, but my priority right now is rest and sleep. I know these are vital to health, but it’s hard to put them on my to-do list and check them off – I never feel accomplished after I take a nap.

But rest should find its way onto my to-do list, and maybe yours, too. There are seasons for everything and right now, my season is one of rest. I still have my daily to-do lists and laundry and essay ideas and attempts at quiet time with God, but for now, I’m embracing rest.

What a great season for it! I think the high today is somewhere in the teens – there’s no better time to hibernate than winter in Michigan.

I’m embracing my new priority: rest.


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