Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I beg... to honor my father.

It is not often that I beg... but for this cause, I will.

You may remember that two summers ago my father passed away. He had been suffering from lung cancer, which happens to be the top cancer killer in the US (regardless of gender or ethnicity). Lung cancer kills almost twice as many women as breast cancer, and more than twice as many men as prostate cancer... and I know from first hand experience that it is a painful, horrible death.

November 2th, I am walking for the Lungevity Foundation whose mission is to have a meaningful and immediate impact on improving lung cancer survival rates, ensure a higher quality of life for lung cancer patients, and provide a community for those impacted by lung cancer. In order to accomplish their mission, LUNGevity funds the most promising research into the early detection and successful treatment of lung cancer. You can support me in one of three ways.

Simply donate on my event page. (Click the yellow 'Donate' button under my fathers photo.)

"Hope is not a dream but a way of making dreams become reality."

What I hope is that all of my friends, family, blog readers and subscribers will help me honor my father and donate even $1 to this great cause. I know that times are tough. I have over 700 blog readers and subscribers, and if they could all donate $1, I would reach my $1000 goal.

Thank you very much for any help you may provide... karma is smiling at you.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New England autumn in list form.

We are in the midst of a cool New England autumn. And I am late on my typical autumn blog post round-up. I know, I know... you have been waiting at the edge of your seat... without further ado:

• Here is a checklist to prepare your New England home for the fall/winter.

• I am sure you have already had your pumpkin fill- but here are some great recipes. (The pumpkin cream cheese- to die for!)

• Wait... 15 more pumpkin recipes? Don't mind if I do.

• While we are at it, how about some great fall harvest recipes?

• Check out some of my favorite fall fashions: sweaters, chunky tights, cords... cozy comfy clothes.

• And cool weather means one big things to me: SOUP!!!!

• A totally doable fall bucket list.

• If you have not roasted your pumpkin seeds yet You NEED to check out these amazing recipes. Seriously... pumpkin pie/maple pumpkin seeds??? Yummo!!!

And there is my autumn... in list form.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

5 Secrets To A Successful Marriage

I know, I know... ironic post for me to write at this point in my life. But I feel like I have learned a lot over the course of my marriage and I can be more honest about it than those actively stuck in a loveless, stagnant marriage.

#1 (And most important to me) You can not be selfish. It's simple. Stop and think about it... if 5 o'clock rolls around and one spouse is saying, "Oh, let me make dinner, you had a long day at work." And the other counters, "No, no, let me... you have had a trying day with the children." If these were the type of disagreements that happened in your household... how could you possibly go wrong? AND, what type of life lessons would you be illustrating to your children? There is simply too much "ME ME ME" in the world today and it has lead to stressed friendships, lack of empathy for community and neighbors and strained relationships.

#2 Affection. We all want to feel loved. You need to hold hands, kiss, run your hands through their hair, rub their shoulders as you watch that movie... If there is no affection, you are simply roommates. And this means sex as well. A healthy sex life between a committed couple is so very important. You need to make time, and each make the other feel wanted.

#3 You each need to be dynamic people. You can not simply rely on the other for your complete happiness. You need other interests, hobbies... moments away from eachother. Getting out and having interests in life will give you something to talk about, ways to challenge eachother and cause you each to rise in life rather than being stagnant, sitting on a couch in front of a television every night. You need to have your own time, your own fun... to be your own person.

#4 Date. Date. Date. Along the lines of not becoming a stagnant person, you also simply can not become a stagnant couple. It will never work! Go on dates. Whether it is once a week... once a month- just do it! And they do not need to be expensive or time consuming. It can be simple. A walk along the river, meet for coffee, have a picnic in your backyard. Make time for your relationship just like you make time for your kids, your job, a freaking oil change for your car. No excuses.

#5 Don't sweat the small stuff. I think this is a hard one. I am the very first one to get annoyed at the littlest thing: "Arggg, he did not take the trash out AGAIN!" But, really... really? In the grand scheme, who the hell cares? Pick the damn trash up and take it out yourself. How hard is that?

On the flip side though, communicate these small quirks at a non-combative time (as in, don't attack him over the trash can and start a battle.) But, on a quiet evening when things are going swimmingly, broach the topic: "You know it drives me batty when you walk out the door every single morning and past the trash can and never bring the trash out. It would complete my life if you would just take the trash when you go." Maybe he will listen, maybe he won't. If not, look at it in the grand scheme... is it worth raising your blood pressure or could you use it as an excuse to take a step outside and feel the sunshine on your face for a few moments?

These are my ideas... do you have any to add?

Go visit Mama Kat to read more Writers Workshop entries.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Green Tomato... BREAD???

We had a very abundant tomato crop this year from my one lonely plant. Two issues: they have stayed inexplicably green for weeks now.... and even if the ripened, all four of us despise tomatoes! I just grow them for sauce and salsa.

Sooo, with an armful of green tomatoes, I set out on Facebook to get a great recipe for them. I got a lot of great responses (and no shortage of Fried Green Tomato jokes), but, as to be expected, the winner idea was from my farmer friend. He suggested a bread (akin to zucchini bread) where there girls would basically not even know the tomatoes were there.

And i worked.

I grated 2 cups of the tomatoes and used a recipe I found on Allrecipes. (Be sure to squeeze out a majority of the juice, they are pretty darn juicy), added a few mini chocolate chips, and the girls devoured an entire mini loaf in one sitting.

It wasn't until Annika caught me snapping the photo of the bread that she put two and two together, "HEY! Did you put those tomatoes in this bread???" Mwahahah... why yes! But that did not stop them from eating another entire loaf after dinner for dessert.

It was moist, yummy and a great use of my garden bounty.

A few other recipes for your green tomatoes:

Green and Red Tomato Corn Soup
Green Tomato and Peach Salsa
Caprese (I LOVE a good caprese!)
Easy Jam
and, yes, Fried Green Tomatoes

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Selfless Versus Selfish

I rarely, if ever, do this... but I feel like writing today. Writing a long-winded, rambling post of the thoughts trapped in my head. No pretty pictures and probably only a post my mom will bother to read... but I'm ok with that.

The topic: Selfishness... or selflessness... or a combination of both.

In my new journey in life, there is one word, one trait that I have been very sensitive to lately. I have spent so much time soul-searching, researching, rediscovering what I want from my life (and by extension) the lives of my daughters. And one word that always comes back to me in contemplating the success of all areas of my life is selfless.

Perhaps it is easier to discuss the antonym: selfish.

Selfish. I find myself thinking this about so many people I encounter in my life. I have recently (within the last couple of years) recognized that life is very short and we have finite time to spare for the people in it. I have made a conscious effort to pare back friends or acquaintances that simply don't fit.

And the majority of these people don't fit in my life because they are selfish. That seems to be the criteria that I always come back to.  Have you ever had a friend that you are talking to and their eyes are vacant and you just know they are not listening to you... they are simply waiting for their turn to speak. They could not care less what you have to say, but they really want you to pay attention to them and listen to their voice?

Yeah, somehow I seem to attract these people in my life. And, as I have started to recognize it more, it has also made me wonder: is this just a new phenomenon in our society? Self-centeredness? I mean, we do have a new culture of always propping our children up and protecting them from ever falling down. We are supposed to make them feel like the most important person in the world. Children always win now and are never losers.

But is this taking away all empathy and genuine kindness and caring for others?

I see it outside of my close friendships as well. While I was on the board of my daughters parent-teacher group, we could not get parents to volunteer to save out lives. We would BEG for parents to volunteer just ONE HOUR out of an entire school year. In a pool of approximately 1000 parents or guardians, we would have the same 10 people constantly giving their time. You get the math there? 1/10 of 1% of our school community could not find 1 hour in an entire year to do something selfless.

And, lest you think that one organization is an anomaly... I volunteer on a few different projects in our city... and I see the same dozen people out of tens of thousands at all the committee and board meetings.

Aren't we taught to put others first anymore? I would certainly put my children first... a significant other and other family next... and then maybe myself. And even friends before myself in many situations.

And it's just the simple things... when you know a friend is having a hard time, do you make quick check-in: "Hey, just wanted to see how you are doing?" Do you know how that little gesture can mean so much to someone?

When Acadia started kindergarten in August, I made a big deal in social media about how much I would miss her and how difficult it was to say goodbye to my baby. And that day, I got multiple texts, calls, FB messages, Instagram messages asking how I was doing. It made a rough day for me go so much nicer. It was also a testament to my current friends and people I choose to surround myself with. They care. They took 30 seconds of their day to check in with a friend.

It's sad, but there are just so many people out there who just do not care anymore. They do not know what selfless is. They put themselves first and foremost. The sad part is all that they are missing out on it life.

I have discovered, as cliche as it is, the more you give in this life, the more you get. You give of yourself, your time, your friendship, your money.... whatever you have to spare... and that is exactly what you get back.

Of course we are always evolving and changing, but I am happy with the people that I surround myself and my girls with at this point. They see kind people, they see me trying to be kind... and hopefully I am setting up a template for how they might lead their lives.

I will consider my life complete when I have raised three kind, empathetic, selfless ladies who are giving back more to this life than they are taking. Ladies who can surround themselves with the same type of people and be complete and fulfilled because of it.

Wow... did you make it to the end? What is your take on selfishness versus selflessness?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Best Family-Friendly Hiking and Walking Trails Around Concord, New Hampshire

If you know me, you know I spend a lot of time outside with my girls. And, although we live in a "city", we have seemingly endless option for hiking and walking trails in our area.  I feel blessed to have access to such a variety of trails literally within minutes. I can take my kindergartner out for a quick hike in the morning before she goes off to school at noon and start both of our days with a great breath of fresh air.

And now, as the autumn leaves start to turn, I thought I'd share my favorite local hikes so that you can go experience some great local views with your own family.

#1: Mt. Kearsarge
Probably my favorite hike in our area is through Rollins State Park up Mt. Kearsarge. It is only a 1/2 mile hike to the top and offers amazing 360 degree views:

and, in the fall, offers gorgeous colors:
While it is an uphill hike over rocks and roots, I have taken my children since they were 3 and able (or willing) to walk 1/2 mile. Once at the top, they can climb the lookout tower or simply adventure around the top of the mountain:

The fees are: $4 for adults; $2 for children ages 6-11; children ages 5 and under and NH residents age 65 and over are admitted free. Pets ate permitted.

#2: Merrimack River Outdoor Education and Conservation Area
I just discovered this gem this week... and thank goodness! It is gorgeous. There are 2 miles of level trails that meander through gorgeous forest:

past the sloping banks of the Merrimack River:

I will be coming back here often and will even be snowshoeing here in the winter. 

From I-93: From I-93 take Exit 16. Turn east at the end of the exit ramp. Following the brown and white "Conservation Center" signs, go to East Side Drive (Rt. 132). Turn right onto Eastman Street. After 0.3 mile, turn left onto Portsmouth Street. Travel on Portsmouth Street for 0.1 mile. Turn right into the unpaved parking area.

#3: Marjory Swope Park
This is a nice trail that is just one year old. It is a very easy uphill climb that is 1.45 miles round trip. It offers a gorgeous view of Penacook lake:
I have not yet hiked it in the fall... but can only imagine the colors will be fantastic. I would definitely call this hike moderate since my 4 year old and myself can go up and down in less than an hour.

Look for big owl sign right on Long Pond Road.

#4: Oak Hill
This is a 2.5 mile round trip hike up to a fire tower on the top. This is not one of my favorite hikes as it does not offer views unless you climb the fire tower. (I do not like heights, so I did not climb the tower, but my 12 year old did report gorgeous views from the top.) I access the trail via Shaker Road. I might consider it a bit more challenging for smaller children, simply due to the length, but have easily hiked it with a couple of 3 and 5 year olds.

#5 Jim Hill River Walk to Daisy Beach
This is an easy (but often buggy) walk through the woods. It takes you along the river at some points and even to a hidden gem of a beach: Daisy Beach. We love this swimming spot as there is a great rope swing:

It is not a well marked trail, but you can find Daisy Beach at the bottom of the trail map (marked by the picnic table). I think it may be approximately 1 mile into the beach, but there is a whole trail system which can take you much longer if you are so inclined. Watch for wildlife around here, we have seen everything from chipmunks to foxes on our travels.

#6 Sewalls Falls Recreation Area
This is probably the area where we spend most of our time hiking. We love to relax on the sandy beach: 

Or walking along the trails or railroad tracks and enjoying the gorgeous views of the river. We like to go to the end of Second Street behind Beaver Meadow Golf Course and enter there... and use the trail map to navigate your hike.

#7 Contoocook River Park Trails
My daughters really enjoy this hike as it brings you great river views as well as an access to a dam and waterfall that the girls love to climb around on. (Not for the faint of heart if you fear your kids jumping off the dam!) But the scenery looking down the rocky river is amazing:

This is also our favorite snowshoeing trail in the winter. It is smooth and well groomed and easy for the little 2 to navigate:
You can access the trail head at the end of Electric Avenue (off Washington Street in Penacook.)

#8 Rolfe Park Trails
This is our second favorite snowshoeing trail. And its proximity to Rolfe Park makes it a great hike for smaller kids since they can play in the park at the end. It is only about 1 mile to hike around the entire trail. While there is not much in the way of views, it is a simple hike for those less inclined.

#9 Weir Road Boscawen Town Forest Trail
I have not actually hiked in here, but I do know that the wider trails allow for mountain biking, cross country skiing, hiking and snowshoeing. The trail takes you around Beaver Pond and can be accessed via Boscawen or Concord. This is a 4 season maintained trail system.

#10 Blackwater Dam
This area is another multi-use area that allows for hiking, horseback riding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, hunting (gun and bow), fishing (brown and rainbow trout, perch, sunfish, pickerel), canoeing, and snowmobiling. From I93 take Exit 17 Head North on Route 4, South on NH 127 and you will see the dam. Bring a picnic lunch and you can an entire afternoon of adventures here.

#11 Hannah Dustin Memorial
This is our quick jaunt to a picnic spot with a bit of history infused. The hike is basically following the railroad tracks and some trestles. The memorial is actually an island at the confluence of the Contoocook and Merrimack rivers and provides some beautiful scenery and leaf peeping along the river. (You may want to read up a bit on Hannah in case your kids ask what's up with the statue of the lady holding up 5 Indian scalps.)

From I-93: Take exit 17 to Route 4 west. Hannah Dustin Memorial is directly off Route 4 with a sign and parking area.

Enjoy your hikes and please tell me if I have missed any.