Archives for February 2014

Bringing Healthy Back…

The days are long and gray. I’m tired.winter, new england, snow, storm, winter storm, white, gray, maine, happy, cold, comfort food

As I struggle to find sunshine and energy during our winter snow fest here in New England, I decided that perhaps starting my day on a healthier note is essential. Sounds like common sense to most people, but being a creature of morning routine, I usually wake up, make my way to the coffee pot, hook up my IV and kick-start my day with a jolt of caffeine on an empty stomach. Food usually doesn’t debut until 10:30. Which in and of itself is totally unhealthy.

coffee, latte, heart, Lil's Cafe, Lil's, Kittery, Maine, warm, cafe

Not my home coffee but my coffee fav, Lil’s Cafe in Kittery, ME. They make a beautiful latte!

Now I will say, I do eat well overall. At least I try to for the most part. But I have always struggled with breakfast and I’m starting to realize that my kids are noticing which is why I know I must change my ways.

So, not being a breakfast person I knew I had to start small. I also knew I had 3 big limitations to work around:

  • No gluten, sugar or dairy. We recently cut these out of our diets. Surprisingly, this limitation actually made my options easier because I had less to choose from.
  • No time. It’s the morning rush and as much as I’d like to, I know I won’t getting up earlier to cook eggs and bacon. Bad mom.
  • No desire. Keeping in mind I am content with a cup of coffee and I don’t like food first thing in the morning.

Here’s what I came up with for my new breakfast favorite:

Ta-daaaa! Homemade Coconut Yogurt With Fruit, Nuts, Shredded Coconut and Chia Seed!strawberry, banana, chia, coconut, yogurt, paleo, diet, healthy, walnuts, crate and barrel, food porn, foodie

I read a super easy recipe from XOJane.com on how to make coconut yogurt at home. Love it! Mine never sets up like the article says it will, but it tastes great and works perfectly. I am however looking into purchasing a yogurt maker now that I know how much I love the stuff! Trader Joe’s has Chia seeds and Organic Shredded Coconut. I used walnuts, but I bet pecans and slivered almonds would be great. Add your favorite fruit and voila! Yum! A healthy, FAST breakfast.

homemade, yogurt, xojane, mason jar, easy, diy, foodie, healthy, paleostrawberry, banana, morning, breakfast, easy, deliciouswalnuts, juliska, healthy, paleo

 Hope you try this quick, healthy little breakfast alternative! Be sure to get the recipe for the coconut yogurt HERE from the XOJane site! If you try it, be sure to post comments or suggestions below. Happy eating!

 

 

 

The Other West Texas Giant

“You just kind of drive through it. Push on the gas.” He was so calm.

west texas, ozona, sonora, el paso, marfa, bump gate, ranch, cattle, sheep, oil, livestock, dust, interstate, taylor box,

My jaw clenched,  left eyebrow frowned and good ol’ right eyebrow raised high in an arch of stubborn New England skepticism.  My future husband smirked at my reaction.  Although his lilting Texas drawl was bursting with trust, the sheer craziness of “just driving through” a 4′ tall, 10′ wide gate made of solid steel bars, was anchoring my right foot. We weren’t going anywhere. New England skepticism: 1, Texas Bump Gate: 0.

“You can do it.  Just go kinda slow, then push through.”

skull

 

Thousands of what if’s and why’s flooded my brain as I slumped my shoulders in frustrated despair.  Why can’t I just get out of the truck and open the gate?  What if I break the gate? What if I break the truck? Or the horrifying question – what if the gate swings back and hits us? This swinging behemoth of steel, wood, pulleys and cables was scaring the hell out of me.  Instinctively my future husband read my mind and said again, “You can do it.  You won’t hurt anything.”

The parched dirt below the parched tan 1975 Chevy  Silverado cracked in the scorching Texas sun. Hungry buzzards screeched overhead watching a death march below.  I felt like I was in a wild west shoot-out with steampunk villain.

rusty truck, wild west, west, vintage, texas, ozona, sonora, junction, ranch, cattle, sheep, oil, gas, classic

No, not the 1975 Silverado, but another beauty and former gate bumper.

“This is nuts!”  was the only thought reverberating to the tips of my shaky toes.  I finally hit the gas, pushed the gate open and drove through.  The back swing of the gate came inches from scratching down the side of the truck as I plowed through in a cloud of dust, gas fumes and fear. But I did it.  I opened my first Texas bump gate without killing anyone.  My future husband laughed.  This was my crash course in the rare West Texas bump gate.

Wikipedia offered this definition as to what a Texas bump gate is:

bump gate is a drive-through gate used in rural areas to provide a barrier to livestock that does not require the driver to exit the vehicle, open the gate, drive through, and then close the gate. By contacting the swinging bump gate with the front of a vehicle and then accelerating, the bump gate is pushed open, allowing the vehicle to pass. This requires some skill to avoid the gate swinging back and striking the vehicle. Accordingly, a bump gate is unsuitable for long vehicles.
The bump gate self-closing mechanism consists of two cables mounted on the gate, and also on an elevated crossbar. The gate does not swing on a conventional hinge. Instead it is fastened to cylinders that encircle a post. When the gate swings open, the swivel action causes the cables to raise the gate slightly. After the vehicle passes through, gravity causes the gate to swing like a pendulum (parallel to the ground) until it settles in the closed position.
While not a common type of gate, it has been observed in several locations in West Texas.

If you’ve never seen a bump gate before they seem to defy all logic and common sense.  Plowing through an imposing steel structure seems, well, crazy.  But then I realized that the swinging ton of rolled steel IS actually the most common sense approach to opening the gates out where the days are long, hot and lonely.

bump gate, bump, texas, dusty, dust, ranch

Approaching a gate that has clearly been bumped before.

From a rancher’s perspective, why would he want stop their truck and get out to open as many as 20 or more gates on a 104 degree August afternoon? Especially when they could stay in the cover of their truck and drive through them saving precious time and energy.  It’s practical.  West Texans are practical and the bump gate’s simple reason-for-being reflects the pragmatic ideology of the ranchers using them.

But it’s also a recipe for some naive “city-slikah” Yankee to come down and really mess things up…

A few years ago my father-in-law entrusted my husband and I to drive his brand new truck down from the dealership in Dallas. My husband drove our truck and I followed him in the new one.  The 6 hour trip to Ozona, TX was smooth and uneventful.   I heaved a sigh of relief as we drove onto their ranch. We made it!

Fueled by a desire to finish the drive we rashly decided that to get up to their house (another 20 minute drive from the entryway) we should double up on the bump gates and drive both trucks through at once so we could save time and I wouldn’t damage the grill on his dad’s new truck by bumping the gates.  My husband would bump with our truck and I would follow him closely in the new truck and drive through behind him.

I think we were both a little nervous.

The gate swung open as my husband plowed through and I punched the gas and followed.  Time stopped when I saw the gate swinging back at me – FAST!  I swerved to the left to try to avoid the inevitable screech, crash, metal twisting convulsion that ensued.

Thankfully, my in-laws still talk to me.  And I think he’s had a few more bump gate mishaps judging by the fresh scars that now adorn his truck.

kids, family, ranch, texas, heat

Future gate bumpers

To me, the bump gates are an integral part of the West Texas culture.  They’re hard working, unapologetic, and strong.  Just like the landscape.  Just like the people.

ranch, west texas, rancher, family, life, work, outside, hard work, sunshine, heat, dust

Brother-in-law and niece at the ranch

 

 

 

 

 

So you want to take the kids to the Louvre, eh?

“Maybe we should just go get dinner instead…”

louvre, museum, paris, France, art, art history, da vinci, winged victory, mona lisa, denon, kids, travel, les halles, ste germaine, notre dame, glass, im pei, vacation

photo: www.louvre.fr

I sighed watching an endless line snake around the Louvre’s famed glass pyramid. The kids shuffled their feet, exhausted after a long, hot day absorbing a city that overwhelmed their young senses. Tourists clattered.  The sounds of a distant cello echoed from underneath a stone entry. Cigarette smoke carried laughter through the air. Feeling depleted, I felt my enthusiasm wane.  I just wanted some water, shade and somewhere cool to sit. But thankfully my husband, stubborn and sweet, persevered.  “We’re here.  We can do this.  Only if it’s we spend a few minutes inside, let’s at least try.” He was right.  This was our chance to bring the kids to the Louvre and rely on the pre-planning and research we did to make this moment work.

parents, kids, travel, explore, curiosity, Egypt, Egyptian art, museum, antique, archeology

For as many things as our family fumbles through while traveling, visiting the Louvre is one thing I feel like we got right.   A little strategizing and planning made our visit to the Louvre in August with kids, stress free. To be perfectly honest, I was completely (and pleasantly) shocked.

What made it work?

1. Paris Museum Pass. Our strategy started with the purchase of four Paris Museum Passes. If you are not familiar with the Paris Museum Pass, they are worth their weight in gold especially if you are traveling with kids.  You pay once for a 2, 4, or 6 day pass and have access to a myriad of Paris’s top spots (including the Louvre, Rodin, Arc d’Triomphe, Pompidou and more).  By using the pass we eliminated the pressure and cost of buying four individual tickets at each sight which, as a result, eliminated the need to make a general admission fee “pay-off”. We didn’t feel the pressure to spend max-time at any given spot and knew we could come and go as we pleased.

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http://en.parismuseumpass.com/

But that is not the best part.  The greatest perk of having Museum Passes at the Louvre is that you skip the general entry line.  There is a separate (and when we were there – empty) entry line for Museum Pass holders. We strolled right past that  long, snaking line in front of the glass pyramid and walked right onto the escalator down to the lobby. Right then and there the Museum Pass paid for itself!  It was like having a FastPass at Disney!  Best. Thing. Ever.

2. Go late.  The Louvre is open late on Wednesdays and Fridays.  The last entry is at 10pm. We arrived at 8 and although it was late, the crowds and mammoth tour groups had waned.  We were grateful. The absence of tour groups was apparent when viewing famed works like the Mona Lisa. Don’t get me wrong, it was still crowded, but not enough that our kids couldn’t get a front row, close-up look at the famous smirking lady.  The lighter crowds were manageable.

And because the crowds are lighter, the Louvre lets artists set up in the main halls to paint under the canopy of the world’s greatest masterpieces.  Our kids were witness to some amazing art; past, present and future.  It was pretty incredible.

3. Know what you want to see.  We planned for three scenarios: must see, would like to see, and will see if the kids haven’t crashed yet. Of course the Mona Lisa which is housed in the Denon Wing was the primary piece we wanted the kids to see.  Most of the other pieces we chose were also in the Denon Wing, and we knew that keeping our visit isolated to one wing was probably the best idea for our family.  The Louvre is vast and paring our visit down helped tremendously.

summer, louvre, mona lisa, crowds, France, Paris, denon, travel, explore

4. Read ahead.  Give your kids an idea of the pieces they will see before you visit.  This helped because we didn’t have to spend our limited time getting them up to speed on what they were seeing.  It gave us the opportunity to revisit the work and talk about things we already discussed. We could prompt them with a few, “remember when we talked about XYZ?” It piqued their curiosity, and they asked a few questions but we didn’t feel the need to recite a diatribe about the who, what, where, and when of each piece.  Our reading let us sit back and enjoy what we saw.

5. What we forgot to do?  Study the Louvre map for exits and bathrooms!  It sounds so basic.  This was the only “ugh!” of our time there.  We got caught up in the artwork and the crowds and before we knew it, we were stuck in the Egyptian section and couldn’t find a fast route out.  We all had to use a bathroom.  We were all ready to go.  I checked our map, but every “Sortie” only led to more tunnels and corridors. Next time we visit, I will study the map like a HAWK.

map, paris, louvre, wing, art, lost, found, denon, sully, richelieu, children, travel, museum

theotherparis.net

As with any trip (with or without kids), a little planning goes a long way and the Louvre is certainly a testament to that.

Do you have any tips to share? Please do in the comments below!