Category Archives: Life

Farmers markets a highlight of summer

I love summer! You know after the long, cold winter our summers here in Minnesota just don’t seem long enough. So I am thankful that today I am able to sit out on my deck and type this blog post. As the hot sun is beating down on my skin, I get to sit here and write about one of my absolute favorite things about summer—the Worthington Farmers Market. Every Tuesday and Saturday in my town we have a farmers market. Buying fresh, local produce from people I know makes me happy and summer meals created with the local food purchased at the farmers markets are loaded with flavor and healthy nutrients.

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Farmers markets have gained a lot of popularity over the last few years as people are becoming more aware about the foods they eat and where they come from. People love the opportunity to buy straight from producers. It feels good to be able to ask questions about the food you are purchasing and a good number of the producers at the Worthington Farmers Market grow their goods without using harsh chemicals. This year, I am happy to see several vendors selling gluten free options. A few weeks ago I purchased a delicious, heavy, homemade bread with good ingredients that is gluten free. It was a real treat. Bread is not something I eat on a regular basis so I enjoy it sparingly.

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If you live in the Worthington area I invite you to visit our local markets. The downtown Worthington Farmers Market goes from 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays at the parking lot at Second Avenue and 10th Street and on Saturdays the market runs from 6:30 a.m. to Noon at Ace Hardware along Oxford Street. If you are not around Worthington, I encourage you to find a farmers market close by and enjoy all of the delicious produce and goods it has to offer!

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One of my favorite new recipes I have tried this summer came from Freya at 10 Acres Flat. She included the recipe with one of our weekly farm shares that had kale in it. The one thing I learned from this recipe is if you are eating kale fresh you should massage it so it is easier to digest and it also gives it a better flavor. Now, I know many of you are saying…ick, I am not going to eat kale but give it a chance! And if you don’t like it one way, try it another way. Kale is loaded with vitamins and minerals including calcium and vitamin c. In fact, did you know kale has more vitamin c than one orange? This is the first recipe I have used fresh kale. Usually, I throw kale in a morning smoothie or I sautee it with onion and garlic in butter or bacon grease. This salad was a hit at our house. In fact, my husband and I finished it off the first night I made it and I had to make some just a few days later because I was craving it. And of course, kale is something you can purchase at the local farmers market.

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KaelSalad

Kale Salad

1 bunch kale

1 avocado

Juice from 2 fresh lemons

2 tbsp. olive oil

1-2 tsp. local honey

1 cucumber, bell pepper, carrot or other favorite salad veggie

¼ cup sliced almonds or sunflower seeds

Salt and pepper to taste

Remove the stem from the kale leaves. Discard stems and slice kale into strips. Place chopped kale in salad bowl with about a ½ tsp. of real salt or sea salt and 1 tsp. of lemon juice. Rub the salt and lemon into the kale (like you are giving it a massage) for a few minutes until it turns a brighter green and is starting to look almost wilted or cooked. In a smaller bowl, mash the avocado and mix with remaining lemon juice, honey and olive oil. If it seems to thick add a dash of water. Pour over kale and stir well to combine. Add chopped veggie of choice and almonds or sunflower seeds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

NOTE: When I made this recipe, I chopped the avocado into pieces and did not mash it. The first time I made this recipe we used a red pepper, carrot, cucumber, fresh garlic and onion. We did not put the almonds or seeds on it. The next time I made it I used a carrot and turnips. As you can see you can be creative and come up with many variations of this recipe.

Please share your favorite recipe using fresh, summer produce with us here at Be Real Blog.

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Wellspring Devotion July 1, 2014

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Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)-Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

A number of years ago my grandmother gave me a wall hanging that reads, “Pray about everything. Worry about nothing.” Of course it is special because it was a gift from my grandma but even more it is a constant reminder, that worry is a waste of our energy here on Earth. And though I have read the plaque many times, it seems I often have to remind myself of its truth. When we get busy and life is circling out of our control we have two choices: we can choose to wear ourselves down with worry and negative thinking or we can choose to go to the Lord in prayer. Yes, it is really that simple!

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In Philippians chapter 4, it says “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines thanksgiving as the act of giving thanks and a prayer expressing gratitude. One of the most important parts of this verse is how it tells us to pray about everything. We should pray when we are happy. Pray when we are sick. Pray when we are going through difficult times. Pray when we don’t know what to pray for. It is easy to turn to God in prayer when things are really bad but it is just as important to pray when things in our life our going well. Romans 8:26 tells us, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For, we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” This verse reminds us that when times are so bad we do not know what to pray for the Holy Spirit will guide us. There is no problem too big or too small to take to the Lord.

Prayer for the week: Dear God, Thank you for allowing us to bring everything to you in prayer! What a great feeling it is to know you will take all of our earthly burdens and worries upon you. When I start to worry and waste my energy please remind me to bring my problems and prayers of thanksgivings to you. In your precious name I pray. Amen.

Discussion questions:

Am I taking my worries to the Lord in prayer?

Do I pray prayers of thanksgiving to God thanking Him for all I have?

What will I do this week to “worry about nothing and pray about everything”?

Wellspring Devotion June 3, 2014

When I first wrote this devotion (on May 4, 2014) I was not sure if I would share it on my blog. It is emotional, it is truthful and it shows me as the sinful being that I am. I quickly realized my blog is called Be Real for a reason and in order for us to grow and change and become closer to God we have to sometimes take a hard, honest look at our lives and realize where we need to spend some time. I have read this particular devotion many times since I wrote it and it is helping me stay focused on the areas I really need to work on right now. Each day, I have tried to remember to pray for the “gentle and quiet spirit” mentioned in 1 Peter 3:4.

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Psalm 51:6-13-“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.”

A few weeks ago in church, a song leader in our church read the words of this Psalm with music playing peacefully in the background. It was a day my heart was heavy and filled with sadness because I had treated people in my family poorly. I used harsh words that hurt them and I was sure not showing Christ’s love with my actions. It is so easy to take out our frustrations and pain on those closest to us and it is also where it can cause the most hurt. After a night with not much sleep, the church service on this particular Sunday could not have been more fitting for where I was. That powerful reminder that we are sinners and we need the blood of Jesus to wipe us clean and make us new again is just what I needed to hear.

Not sleeping well, being overwhelmed with sad emotions, realizing my behaviors are hurting people gave me a much needed wake-up call on that day. Sometimes we have to feel so sad about what we have done so we can take the proper steps to correct the situation.

During the sermon on that same Sunday our pastor read 1 Peter 3:4-“but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is in God’s sight very precious.” Awww, how those words spoke right to my calloused heart. And I wrote quickly and boldly in my Bible. “I pray for a quiet spirit.” I even circled the word quiet spirit and wrote “Amanda needs this,” in the margin of my Bible. We are all a work in progress and for those of you who know me well you know that there are times when a quiet spirit is needed. I am so filled with passion and energy that sometimes I come off so intense without meaning to be. How thankful I am that our God is a patient God and He loves me even with all of my shortcomings. And it is only with God’s gracious help that I can begin to work toward that gentle and quiet spirit.

Right after the song leader read the above verses from Psalm, we sang “Amazing Grace My Chains are Gone.” What appropriate timing. From a very young age, Amazing Grace has always been one of my very favorite songs. When I heard it when I was young it would bring tears to my eyes and many times give me goose bumps. This Sunday in church I could not even sing all of the words to this beautiful song because I was so overcome by tears and emotions. I always said I want this song at my wedding, funeral and any other important times in my life. Apparently, this was a pretty important Sunday teaching me some lessons I really needed to hear.

Prayer for the week: Dear Lord, Help me to start each day with your everlasting love. Let your joy fill my body so I can do your will in the place where I am. Please help me to see my shortcomings and ask you for forgiveness. Give me the strength to make changes in my life so I can be more like you. When the devil is creeping into my life, help me to see his lies for what they are. And when he is attacking my life, let me cling to you and the Bible for my shield until that wonderful day when you will return. In your precious name I pray. Amen.

Discussion questions:

Do you have a daily habit that helps you remember to live each day focused on God?

Is there an area of life where the devil has been bringing you down to keep you from growing closer to God?

Rhubarb and asparagus are sure signs of spring

It is really starting to feel like spring. Earlier today my husband and I went on the search for fresh asparagus and we came home with enough for several meals. It is still crazy to me that around here people go out searching for asparagus because it grows wild along the road ditches. For us it is a fun thing to do and I must say my husband is much better at spotting it than me. I say it is because I have not hunted for it until I came to Minnesota. In southern Iowa, we had large asparagus patches in our gardens.

Today, we just drizzled the asparagus with olive oil and some Real Salt or seasoning salt and put it on the grill! It was delicious. I could eat fresh asparagus every day! And it has such great health benefits. It contains glutathione, which is a potent antioxidant that helps detoxify the liver, it is a natural diuretic and it is contains fiber, iron and other important vitamins. So if you don’t have your own asparagus patch head on out and try to track some down so you can enjoy its delicious flavor and all of the health benefits that go along with it.

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And tis the season for fresh rhubarb! I was so happy to get some rhubarb from my mother-in-law this weekend. Rhubarb is a sure sign that spring has arrived. And I love the tart flavor that rhubarb brings to the table.

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I decided to create a new recipe today using the rhubarb. And I am pleased with how it turned out. I used organic raw cane sugar in the recipe  and it has a rich flavor kind of like brown sugar so it worked very well in this recipe. Originally, I was going to use only rhubarb but when I had just under 4 cups of rhubarb I decided to add just over 1 cup of strawberries to the mix. I used my last bag of frozen strawberries from our local strawberry patch, Schumacher’s Berry Farm. Thankfully, in less than a month we can go pick more fresh, local strawberries. For this recipe you could use all rhubarb or you could use 2.5 cups of each. Enjoy in moderation. You will notice this recipe has more sugar in it than a lot of recipes I post but with rhubarb the sugar is necessary to help reduce the tartness. I choose to use raw cane sugar because it is less processed. (That does not mean you can overindulge though…too much sugar, is too much sugar.)

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

4 cups rhubarb

1 cup strawberries

3/4 cup organic raw cane sugar

3 tbsp. corn starch

Topping

1/2 cup gluten free oats (if you need gluten free)

1/4 to 1/2 cup organic raw cane sugar (depending on sweetness you prefer)

1/4 cup almond flour

1/4 cup butter

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In large bowl, mix the strawberries and rhubarb with the cornstarch and one cup of raw cane sugar. Place in an 8 x 8 baking dish. In medium bowl, mix oatmeal, almond flour, raw cane sugar and butter. Pour evenly over the top of the rhubarb and strawberries. Bake for about 30 minutes.

 

 

The Daily Apple puts down roots in Worthington

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I am filled with mixed emotions as we prepare to rename my Worthington, MN, health food store. I am of course excited to see a new name come into play, but I am sad to see the Schafer’s name go. You see the Schafer family had a long business history in the Worthington community. It is a part of our small town’s history. I am so grateful I was able to purchase the health food store from Irma Schafer in 2008. I will never forget how scared I was that day as I took the keys from 93-year-old Irma and realized this is mine. My initial thought was, “Now what in the world am I going to do…” I have so much respect for the Schafer family for believing in me and allowing me to carry on Karl and Irma’s legacy. I am so happy I have gotten to know Herb and Stefanie Schafer and their children. I am forever grateful to them for selling Schafer’s Health Food Store to me.

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The top photo above shows Irma Schafer in front of the store on July 15, 2008-the day I purchased it from her. The second photo shows the Schafer’s sign that I had put up shortly after I took over and that is the sign that we took down on Saturday to make way for our new one.

Vitamins and natural health will continue to be “the core” of The Daily Apple but we have “branched” out and added many new “slices” to our small business including clothing, purses, jewelry, kitchen gadgets, vintage and all sorts of unique items. And soon we will be launching an online clothing boutique so people can shop from anywhere in the U.S.

A lot of people have been asking where our new name came from. It goes back four years ago when I opened a store in Storm Lake, Iowa. We spent a great deal of time brainstorming and coming up with a name for that store knowing it would eventually be the name of the Worthington store also. We chose The Daily Apple because often we think of apples as healthy and the name also has a general store feel to it which covers all of the other items we sell. I then went through the lengthy process of trademarking the name to protect our logo and our brand.  We feel our name change will also help us better market both stores. We will mention both Worthington and Storm Lake in our advertising since these two towns are only an hour and a half apart.

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When I decided to leave my teaching career and buy a health food store, it was a huge leap of faith and many people wondered what in the world I was thinking. I had a real desire to see a small town, main street business continue. We know the story all too well of small “mom and pop” businesses closing up shop because it is too difficult to compete in today’s marketplace or in some cases business owners cannot find someone who wants to buy the business and keep it going. I had a strong desire then and even more so now to help keep this community I call home vibrant.

To each and everyone one of you, near and far from Worthington, if you support small, locally owned businesses I want to say thank you! Really, I want to say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! Your support is appreciated so much and it is because of people who make this conscience effort that small shops like Schafer’s Health Food Store and now The Daily Apple can continue for many years into the future. Small businesses have a huge impact on towns all across this country. In just over five years, we have given thousands of dollars to local organizations. We support the local YMCA, 4-H, school activities, charity benefits, the local food shelf, United Way, ….the list goes on and on but you get the gist. We volunteer our time to make our communities a better place to live.

During the last six years, we have slowly updated and expanded Schafer’s and with the changes it is time to give our store a name that reflects all we have to offer. As our new sign says, “The Daily Apple. Health. Clothing. Gifts.”

If you live around the Worthington area we invite you to The Daily Apple’s grand opening party this Tuesday, May 20 at 207 10th Street in Worthington. We will be giving away free apples and we will have yummy appetizers for you to enjoy. All clothing and scarves will be on sale. And we are looking forward to the Red Shack Stamped Jewelry Make and Take Party from 3 to 7 p.m.

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Kora’s Blueberry Muffins taste delicious

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When I had the chance to hang out with my two-year-old niece Kora last week, one of the first things we did that morning was make muffins. I just can’t say enough about getting kids involved with the cooking. The kitchen is a great place to talk to kids about what is healthy. And it is good for children to see where food comes from and that there are many options available for making food. Food is much more than processed junk out of a box. When my nieces ask for fruit snacks, my new answer is “Ok here is some fruit what kind do you want?” It is fruit and it is a snack. How did we get to a place where fruit snacks are handed out everywhere and they are brightly packaged and many times very sneaky in their marketing tactics. I believed for many years, fruit snacks were a healthy snack. Well, obviously I was not reading the ingredients back then, I was just going off the name. The fact the name has fruit in it makes us think it is healthy. So even when the package says,”100% real fruit juice” Fat Free,” “Gluten Free” or “All Natural” do not be fooled. When we turn over the package and look at ingredients it is startling. Most brands have at least two or three artificial colors, sugar (and sometimes more than one kind of sugar) and when I was reading labels for this blog post I also came across some brands that had artificial sweeteners in them. And yes, there are some organic fruit snack brands that do not have artificial colors and other harmful ingredients. However, I recommend these only as a special treat. They are still packaged and processed with lots of sugar and they can be an expensive snack. When time allows, choose real, whole food for your kids.

It is important for kids to be involved with making healthy, real food.  Both of my nieces really enjoy helping in the kitchen. When they come to visit me cooking is always one of the fun things we do together. The recipe I had decided to make was blueberry muffins.

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I started off asking Kora if she likes blueberries. She said yes but I was not sure I believed her because she can be a pretty picky eater. So I took the blueberries out of the freezer and gave her a couple to eat. She ate them and said yes I like them. I told her we were going to put the yummy blueberries in the muffins we were making.

My teaching background of course always shows through in the kitchen too. We talk about what color the blueberries are and we count how many eggs are in the recipe. Cooking is a great opportunity for learning about counting and measuring. We even practice words in Spanish while we are making the muffins. Kora’s first job was to put the silicon muffin cups onto the cookie sheet. We counted them in both English and Spanish when she got them on the tray.

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This is a new recipe I put together. I wanted a muffin recipe that used applesauce because I still have some unsweetened applesauce in my freezer that my sister and I (with Chloe and Kora’s help) made last summer. I was really curious to see if Kora would eat the muffins once they were baked. Trust me, I had nothing to worry about. She loved them and wanted to eat only muffins for lunch. I really think when kids are actively involved in food preparation they are more likely to eat what is on the table because they had a part in making it. OK, so I was not super surprised when my two-year-old niece liked the muffins because she helped make them (when kids help prepare food they are always more excited to eat it) but when my husband asked on Sunday morning if we had any blueberry muffins left, I knew they must be good! We both really like them and in fact, I made another batch this week. If we don’t eat them fast enough I will freeze the extras.

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Kora’s Blueberry Muffins

2 ½ cups almond flour

¾ tsp. baking soda

3 eggs

2 tbsp. organic, unrefined coconut oil

1 tsp. organic apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. pure vanilla

1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen will work)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a glass bowl, mix the flour and baking soda. Melt coconut oil. Then mix in the eggs, applesauce, honey, coconut oil, vanilla and vinegar. When mixed well stir in blueberries. Put in muffin tins and bake 15 to 19 minutes until a nice golden brown color. If you are using muffin tins without paper liners be sure to grease the pan with coconut oil.

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Wellspring women share favorite Bible verses

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A few weeks back it was the night before Wellspring devotion group and I had not written a devotion. Life had been really busy and I just did not have it in me to get a devotion done. I knew that writing one would be stressful, so my friend Stephanie had the idea to have each woman bring a favorite Bible verse to share! This turned out to be a wonderful idea and it was great for us to dig into our Bibles and choose a verse to share with the other women. The discussion was awesome and when the devotion group was over that morning, I was so glad that we decided to do this. It was exactly what we needed that morning. God definitely knew what he was doing.

Sometimes when life is so busy, we must have the courage to step back and realize we cannot do everything. We must prioritize and only do what we are able. And when I made that conscience decision to not write a devotion last time, I had to let the guilt and self-destructive words go. Instead, of being really hard on myself and feeling like a slacker, I tried to embrace my decision and feel relaxed about it.  And my am I glad I did. The Bible verses shared were powerful and each woman had a story to go with why they chose that particular verse. We all agreed it was hard to pick just one verse.

Here are the Bible verses that were shared.

John 1:9-“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”

Song of Solomon 2:4-“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.”

1 Corinthians 13: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Isaiah 40:31-“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Psalm 23- “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

1 Samuel 2:25-“If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him? But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.”

1 Philippians 4:13-“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

In the 10 months since we started Wellspring it has definitely enriched my life! It is such a blessing to be able to start the day surrounded by positive, God-loving women. If you are wondering, Wellspring is a morning devotion group focused on encouraging women to relax, recharge and renew their faith with God’s word. Life is busy and filled with many distractions. Wellspring is a time for women to grow and pray together. Women from Worthington and the surrounding area meet the first and third Tuesday of each month at 7 a.m. in the Family Room at Grace Community Church. One of the things I really like about this group is that it is women from all walks of life, women from a variety of churches. In fact, attending a church is sure not required, we want all women who long to know Jesus more to join us and be encouraged by the word of God. If you live in the area and would like more information please feel free to email awalljasper@yahoo.com or send us a message on our Facebook page.

Do you have a favorite Bible verse to share? Feel free to leave a comment!

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Holistic pregnancy coach offering class in Worthington

When I met Sandra Fraser Maurer and her husband in my store back in August, they had only been in town for a few days and my health food store was one of their first stops. I could tell right away they were cool people who care about healthy food and healthy living. I will not forget the day Sandra told me she was a doula. To be honest, I had no idea what it was. I actually went on the Internet and looked it up so I knew what she was talking about. Yes, I feel silly now (but hey, cut me some slack I have never given birth) and to be honest doulas are not something you hear a lot about in these parts. That is why I am excited to write this blog post.

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In Sandra’s words “a doula offers physical, emotional and informational support during pregnancy and birth.” To learn more check out her website Whole Beginnings Doula Services. It is so much more than these few words on paper.

Being a holistic pregnancy coach/doula was not always in Sandra’s plan. In college she majored in art therapy and she worked in that field for a year and was very stressed out. She decided to try being a nanny. “I loved it. I spent a lot of time with moms and I heard a lot of birth stories,” she remembered. “One woman was a women’s health practitioner and she had lots of books and I became so interested in the birthing process.” During her five years as a nanny, she also became a certified yoga instructor.

“We moved to Worthington in the middle of my morning sickness,” said Sandra. Now Sandra and Bryan are the parents of a baby girl, Fiona, who was born in March.

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In honor of Mother’s Day, Sandra will be offering a free class at Schafer’s Health & Gifts on Monday, May 12 at 5:30 p.m. Click here to register for the class. “I want to connect with women locally who might want guidance through pregnancy and birth,” Sandra said. “I want to be a resource for moms because they are a big part of the community and the world. Mothers can change the world if they feel their motherhood journey is being honored and well treated.”

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This class is for you if: you are an expectant mama, you are considering or planning on expanding your family, you want to do everything you can to create the joyful pregnancy, birth and postpartum you deserve, you are just starting to learn about holistic nutrition, you already love nutrition and health and want to learn how to start to apply that to motherhood or if you work with mamas-to-be and want to know how to help them more.

All women who attend the class will be able to take home Five Keys to Nourishing Your ‘Mama Spirit’ in pregnancy, Mama Nutrition Inventory and Mama Nurturing Inventory. Sandra is generously providing these at no charge to everyone who attends the class at Schafer’s. The regular price for these resources is $97.

Sandra hopes the local class will connect women who are pregnant or new moms. “Everyone can read books about pregnancy and birth but having a mentor and other women to connect with through it is important,” she said.

As I said earlier, I am not a mom and have never went through the experience of pregnancy and birth but I have learned so much from Sandra about supporting women in pregnancy and especially post-partum! I am so grateful to my sister and brother-in-law who have allowed me to witness the birth of each of my nieces! It is truly the most amazing, miraculous thing I have ever been a part of. What a blessing to see one of God’s new creations enter the world. What I have learned from Sandra and her blog posts is valuable information and I hope I can use it to be more supportive of new moms.

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Zingers make drinking water fun and flavorful

Remember when I wrote a blog post at the beginning of this year called, “New Year: A time to make healthy changes.” There is a lot of great information packed into that one post (for those of you who are new to my blog and want some tips for getting healthier you can click here to read it). The very first tip I wrote about was drink plenty of water! Again, I just can’t tell you how important it is to drink a sufficient amount of water on a daily basis.

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One of my favorite new water bottles is the Zing Anything Citrus Zinger. This bottle makes it easy to add real fruit flavors to your water and enjoy the flavor all day long! It is so simple! I received a Citrus Zinger bottle as a gift in October while I was in Texas and as soon as I saw it I knew it was something I wanted to order for The Daily Apple Worthington and The Daily Apple Storm Lake! What a genius idea to flavor water naturally! Yes, I know a lot of people think they do not like plain water. Trust me, I hear this every day! It is important that we realize here that not all water is created equal. So many people grab zero calorie drinks marketed as flavored, healthy waters. What many people do not realize is these waters are loaded with icky chemicals and artificial sweeteners. So before you grab for a flavored water, be sure to read the label and find out what your are really ingesting.

Here’s an idea—make your own flavored water and it will be cheaper in the long run and much healthier! And using a reusable bottle is much better for our Earth (with Earth Day just around the corner what better time to start using a reusable water bottle).

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Zing Anything makes two styles of bottles to infuse water. The first one I owned is the Citrus Zinger. This bottle works great for lemons, limes, oranges, cucumbers and even more. It is easy to juice the fruit in the bottom. This bottle has a lid that screws off to open and drink out of. I have come to like the Aqua Zinger bottle a lot because it has a straw in it and so it is easier to drink on the run or at work near the computer. This bottle has a different style of grinder. It works better for berries. For great recipes from Zing Anything click here.

The bottle that makes me the most excited is the brand new bottle designed for kids! (We actually had moms asking for a kid’s version of the Citrus Zinger even before the company released the kid’s zinger).  It is smaller and with a straw so it is perfect for teaching kids to drink water. Adding fruit to the bottom makes it fun for kids and it shows them ways to incorporate fruit into their diets.

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Zing Anything bottles are so easy to get excited about and I am so happy that this company has given me two products to give away! Be Real blog is now just over three months old and I think it is a great time for a giveaway. We are giving away an Aqua Zinger and a Citrus Zinger. And this contest has now ended. Congratulations to Michelle and Terri who were the lucky winners.

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Here’s to lots and lots of ‘zinging’ healthy water!

Amanda

 

 

My aunt’s incredible weight loss journey

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This is a blog post I have wanted to write for a while and after just spending a week with 10 of my family members, including my aunt Jolene, in the Dominican Republic now seems like a great time to tell her life-changing weight loss journey. The photo above is a photo of us taken just a few weeks ago in the Dominican. Even when we were on a relaxing tropical vacation hundreds of miles from home Jolene was disciplined and I was inspired watching her dedication to her new lifestyle changes.

You see between May 15, 2012, and Sept. 16, 2013, Jolene lost more than 139 pounds and what I love most about her story is she has done it right—by exercising and radically changing the foods she eats.

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“I had been a gym member at Anytime Fitness in Mt. Pleasant since it opened and I went faithfully in the beginning and then I quit going and for 1½ years I did not go,” recalls Jolene. “Then they had an offer for personal training get five sessions for the price of three and I decided I needed to start going to the gym or quit my membership.”

And she credits her personal trainer Carlos for changing her life. “It took him three months to convince me I needed to change my diet. He kept telling me diet was 70 percent and exercise the other 30 percent to lose weight.”

During those first three months, Jolene trained twice a week with Carlos and went to the gym other times but she did not want to quit eating the carb-laden, processed foods (especially ice cream) that made up the biggest part of her daily diet. When she realized the exercise alone was not helping her drop weight she started to try a few of the recipe ideas that Carlos gave her.

“I thought I will try it and see and I can always go back to cheating at what I eat like I did every other time I tried to diet,” Jolene remembered. “The minute I started eating the way he told me to the pounds started falling off.”

“I used to drink diet soda all the time,” Jolene explained. “I went cold turkey on pop and started drinking lots of water. I drink between 100-120 ounces per day.”

Jolene, who was a picky eater when it came to healthy choices like vegetables, has learned to like many foods that she used to despise. “It’s like you always say Amanda you have to try things 10 times or so before you acquire a taste for it,” she said. “As I started eating more vegetables and incorporating more into my diet my palette changed.”

Over the years, Jolene has tried nearly everything available on the market to help with her weight loss but time after time she did not get the results she desired and they left her feeling disappointed and like a failure. She is adamant in letting people know diets don’t work. “It’s a lifestyle change. You can’t look at it as diet. You have to make lifestyle changes,” she said. “You have to be ready and dedicated and determined. No one can make you do it until you are absolutely ready in your mind.”

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Every morning on our vacation, Jolene got up and ran on the beach and one morning Jolene and my cousin Emily and I did boot camp on the beach. Wow, these girls are in good shape and pushed me to work hard (and thanks to Carlos for providing Jolene with the “boot camp” work out). This dedication is definitely a lifestyle change and as we all know change is never easy. Exercise has now become a part of Jolene’s daily routine. She continues to go to the gym five days a week. She works on endurance and strength and is training to participate in a Mudderella event this spring and she plans to participate in some more 5Ks. And there might even be a 10K in her future. Time will tell!

When people ask Jolene how she eats she describes it as clean eating. She tries to avoid processed foods most of the time. Meats and vegetables are the bulk of what she eats. In the summer she grows her own garden and eats and preserves the produce from that. When vegetables are not in season she buys fresh or frozen ones at the grocery store. She avoids canned vegetables because of the extra sodium they contain.

For others looking to lose weight Jolene offers these words of encouragement, “Take it one day at a time, making small changes that you can do for a lifetime.”

Not only does my aunt look completely different on the outside, but she has seen many other benefits from losing the weight. She is no longer on blood pressure medicine and is no longer pre-diabetic. And she has the same warm, caring spirit she has always had but she is more outgoing and willing to try new things. Just a few years ago, Jolene would never have agreed to go on a tropical vacation. It is exciting to see her have a new outlook on this adventure we call life

After vacation Jolene knows without a doubt she will keep this weight off. On vacation, she ate more carbs than she does on a regular basis and she noticed a big difference in how she felt. “I had that miserable feeling like I had all the time before I started eating clean,” she said. “To be honest, Saturday when I got home I was ready, really ready to get back to eating healthy. I don’t want to feel tired and miserable all of the time anymore.”