Shipt Grocery Delivery: A Review

Standing in the yogurt section, the clock was creeping closer and closer to 5pm.  It was the *delightful* bewitching hour and I was still holding my coupons, my grocery list and snack cup full of Cheerios dangling from my pinky.  I had a plan!  I had a list!  I had snacks!!  My toddler was getting cranky (getting cranky?  already cranky?), my baby-who-doesn’t-sit-still-ever was slipping all over the buckled seat in the front of the cart and I had only just accomplished about twenty percent of my shopping.  Not only was I trying to do a weeks worth of grocery shopping with my two kids, I wanted to bring these groceries home, unload, put them all away and have dinner on the table in less than 90 minutes.

So, when another seasoned mom with maybe 15 years of experience ahead of me walked by and muttered, “I don’t miss those days.  That is so tough!”, all of my desire to get this huge task accomplished deflated completely.

At that point I’m sure I grabbed a loaf of bread, some cheese slices and called grilled cheese dinner.  Which I realize is completely fine.

Since then I have added another little one to the mix and taking little people grocery shopping is just simply…awful.  And I love grocery shopping!  I can still hear my mother responding with, “Not today” to every. single. request. we made while she wandered the aisles trying to figure out what to cook for dinner.  She didn’t like taking us with her either!

ENTER: SHIPT grocery delivery.

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Oh, you haven’t heard of it???  Oh my goodness you are going to LOVE me!!!!  My sister first tipped me off to this hidden gem of God’s gift to all people (but mostly moms). Shipt is a membership-based grocery marketplace that delivers fresh foods, household essentials, and even alcohol (in select areas) from local stores. Through an easy-to-use app, friendly shoppers, and a commitment to exceptional service, Shipt simplifies lives and saves time for what matters most.  Let me help you get started!

First, download the free Shipt app.  Go ahead, I’ll wait…

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Second, start your grocery list right in the app.  You can be specific like “Heinz ketchup” or just “potatoes”.  Also, specify “ripe avocados” or “avocados for guacamole in 3 days” if you want.  If you can’t find an item, there is an option to make a special request.  For example, my kids take old-school Flinstone vitamins (not gummy) and those didn’t come up in the system.  I was able to describe them (color of the label, etc) enough that my buyer was able to find them.

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Third, buyers often contact you when they arrive at the store and ask if you forgot something (which I often do).  Once I asked for lightbulbs and she sought out a store associate to ask for help with my request and when they couldn’t find my specific, she tried to find an alternative for me per the associate’s recommendation.  This was KEY for me because truthfully, when I’m in the store with my three kids, I don’t have time to look for an associate much less wait to hear his/her alternative suggestions.  If I can’t find on a first quick scan, I just don’t get it.  My buyer actually had the time to find me what I really wanted.

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Lastly, the bring the groceries to your door and into your home (if you want them to come in).  Not only that, they can deliver so FAST!!  My sister told me she made her list and placed the order at 10pm and the groceries were on her door by 7am the NEXT MORNING!  My cousin (who also uses it) says she loves it for the peace of mind.  When one of her four kids gets sick, she loves knowing she can have Pedialyte, Tylenol, Kleenex, trashbags and a bottle of wine at her door without having to leave home if needed.  (And yes, they do in fact deliver alcohol as well).  I was even able to request my shopper knock instead of ring the doorbell because my little ones were napping.  #multitaskingatitsbest

10 Reasons to Sign up for Shipt TODAY!

  1.  Someone (who you can communicate with) does all your grocery (grocery items, paper products and household items) shopping for you.  They often even check before leaving the store if you forgot anything.
  2. If an item is out of stock or unavailable, your shopper can contact you to discuss substitutions (another flavor, generic, etc).
  3. If you don’t see an item you are looking for in the search menu, you can make a special request.
  4. You can shop online or just use the app.  (I actually found the app to be quicker!)
  5. Since Shipt is connected with Meijer stores in my area, you can log your receipt and get MPerks!  This was great news for me because I saved over $1000 each year for the last three years with MPerks.
  6. The turn around time for delivery is SO QUICK!  Sometimes you can get your order in an hour!
  7. Payment is all done through the app so your buyer doesn’t ever need your credit card info.
  8. Delivery is completely FREE for orders over $35!  Let’s be real…I have never spent less than $35 at a grocery store.  Ever.  (There is an option to tip your shopper at the end of the transaction when all your groceries are delivered.)
  9. The sale price is listed in the app or web page so you can choose an item based on price rather than name if you prefer to buy based on sales.
  10. Shipt offers services in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin.
  11. You never have to juggle a list, coupons and toddlers while filling your cart again!

BONUS: When you click on this link to sign up today, you get $10 of FREE groceries!  You can even try it for FREE for two whole weeks!

I have purchased my own membership, this is not a sponsored post.  Really liking the service helped me decide to share my honest experience with you.  However, I will receive credits through your use of the link above.

Have you tried a grocery delivery service?  What about it do you like?  How has it helped you?

Create Community: Eat Local Food

I cannot bring to mind anything that brings people together like food.  Food lets democrats and republicans, Christians and atheists, Bears fans and Packers fans come together and be civil.  Though my analogies are a bit dramatic, the sentiment is anything but.  When a friend is hurting and you have nothing to offer, you give bread and soup.  Meeting a stranger for the first time can cause a bit of anxiety, but a cup of coffee and a muffin seem to help bridge the gap.  It can be the ultimate peacemaker.

Thus, it is no surprise to me that one concept the attaches you to your home is eating.  There are those who eat to live and those of us who live to eat (certainly this evidence makes me guilty in this regard).  But if you are indifferent and forget to eat a meal (who are these people?!?!), even you have memories of a favorite meal with someone special or in a unique place.  One of the best ice breakers?  What is your favorite thing to eat off the Thanksgiving table?  Every person has a dish, and usually, a story to go with it.  That is why food is important.  It carries with it wonderful memories of people, of places that bring us happiness.

According to the National Restaurant Association, about one in ten jobs in the United States is in a restaurant.  When a restaurant is doing well, owners spend money locally helping improve local economy.  That, in turn, draws visitors from elsewhere, again, boosting the economy.  Think about what Food Network and shows like Diners, Drive-ins and Dives has done for little towns all across America!  It has even created another option of a vacation destination beyond resorts, shopping malls and amusement parks.

Cities and towns are even fighting to be known for a certain type of food.  Kansas City?  Barbeque.  Louisiana? Beignets and jambalaya.  Chicago?  Deep dish pizza and our signature hot dogs.  Philadelphia?  Philly cheese steaks.  When a town becomes known for a certain type of food, people love the hunt for “the best burger in town.”  And for foodies, places like New York, Chicago, San Francisco are a dream come true.

Mariachis, laughter and lots of food paint vivid memories of my first nights in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  I had just moved there with my friend and college roommate to teach at the local American school.  We were 22, fresh faced and excited for our new adventure with the added excitement of our first jobs.  Of all my experiences living there for two years, food was truly central to the experience.  Anafre (warmed beans and cheese served with tortilla chips), fried plantains and limonada (fresh squeezed lime juice with seltzer water) bring back memories of getting to know Honduran staff, fellow American travelers and the Honduran people.  Food was the way they invited us, and food was how we participated and learned about their culture.

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A French concept called terrior (“the taste of place”) was discovered by winemakers and establishes that a wine will taste like the place where it is grown.  The image of Meg Ryan in an old classic French Kiss comes to mind when thinking of this concept.  It also can be the same idea as a place being known for a specific produce: Georgia peaches, avocados from California, and Florida oranges, for example.

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The popularity of CSAs (community-supported agriculture programs) has brought greater attachment to towns all over the US.  In 1990, only 60 farms nationwide operated CSA programs.  In 2012, more than 12,600 farms did.  People who participate in CSAs are also more likely to be engaged in their towns than those who don’t.  “Seventy-one percent of civic agriculture participants volunteered in the community, compared to 48% of the general population.”  Studies have also shown that people who garden or farm have higher levels of neighborhood attachment.

Warnick interviewed Steven Schnell, a professor of geography at Kutztown State University in Pennsylvania.  He first noticed the power of story to connect food and place in, of all places, microbreweries.  They have exploded all over the US, but why?  Well, better beer, but also many of the microbreweries were utilizing names and packaging to reference local figures, sites or events.  It gave customers not only food and beer, but also a truly local experience.

Think about how the food you eat at home is distinctly local.  Where do you offer to take visitors so they, too, can have the true local experience?  Even simpler, what is your “best” in town?  What is your town known for and where is the best place to find it?  Not only will you continue to attach yourself to where you live, you get to enjoy the process as you go!

ACTION STEPS

  1. Find a restaurant in your town (NOT A CHAIN) and become a “regular”.  I’m not saying you’ll see Ted Danson suddenly serving your burger, but you might get to know the wait staff, owners and other locals.  Support local business, meet more neighbors, greater place attachment.  Win win win.  Don’t know where to start?  Google your town with “hidden gem”, “local”, “secret”, “neighborhood”, or “undiscovered.”
  2. Shop at your local farmers’ market or join a CSA.  LocalHarvest.org has a database of them or you can just search online using terms “farm share” or “CSA”.  Support local business, fresh/healthy food, greater place attachment.  Win win win.
  3. Try a one-week, “25-Mile Challenge”, eating only foods grown within 25 miles of your house.
  4. Plant a garden.  If this terrifies you, start REALLY small.  Maybe two herbs and one vegetable.
  5. Follow restaurants on social media.  Makes you aware of new menu items, promotions or even new openings.

If you would like to see the rest of our Create Community series, please click here.

All quotes and facts are from Melody Warnick’s research in This is Where You Belong.

What foods bring strong memories back to you?  Do you link certain foods with certain places you have lived or visited?  Have you ever participated in a CSA or visited a farmer’s market?  What did you like about it?

Jellicoe Road

Jellicoe Road
by Melina Marchetta

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Genre: Fiction, Young Adult

Summary: Things seem to just happen to Taylor Markham.  She is seventeen and living at boarding school because her mother abandoned her.  When she reluctantly becomes the leader of the territory wars between the Cadets and the Townies, Hannah, the only seemingly trusted adult she confides in is suddenly just…gone.  She doesn’t like her position in any of it, especially when she sees the leader of the opposing Cadets,  Jonah Griggs.  His leadership brings out the worst in her and they will be spending a LOT of time together.  As the summer unfolds, Taylor is forced to grapple with more questions until she starts to push back to discover the answers she has long searched for.

This is my first experience with Melina Marchetta and I do not often dive into YA fiction.  Marchetta intricately (and brilliantly at times) weaves past, present and sometimes even dreams together.  The text flips between plain and italicized sections, present and future, reality and dream sequences.

This complexity is what shows the expertise of Marchetta but at times it was so confusing!  Continually reading the jacket description kept me moving forward in the story (because it sounded intriguing and straight forward on the jacket!) but the storyline jumped around so much it was difficult keeping things in order.  After discussing the story with our book club, I concluded that I felt the sense of place lacking.  The sense of place might have grounded the context of the big story.

Secondly, I felt the characters weren’t developed enough to differentiate them well.  The story follows 5 kids on Jellicoe Road and since some of their names were nicknames or gender neutral, I kept getting them confused.  (Wait, was this the sister?  Or his girlfriend??  Oh wait, that’s a BOY not a girl???  Ugh!)  Sometimes, Marchetta would differentiate using italics but sometimes she wouldn’t.  (One reviewer said she listened to this on audio and she really didn’t like it for this reason.  It was SO HARD to tell characters-and narrators-apart from each other.  I can completely understand this would make the story even harder to follow).

Jellicoe Road weaves together an amazing story and ties up loose ends, which I appreciate.  Marchetta’s characters are flawed making them believable, the dialogue was good,  and (appropriately) they didn’t necessarily finish “happily ever after.”  The book does address some pretty intense and adult themes but the desire to solve the puzzle made it a great page turner.  Finally, deep loss permeated Taylor’s story but I also loved how the author addresses the importance of how and from whom we can receive love.

Do you have a favorite YA fiction book?  What was the toughest thing you had to experience in high school?

For other book reviews, click here!

Create Community: Volunteer

Certainly you have heard of random acts of kindness.  You’ve probably seen the Christmas-themed lists to “get you in the mood” for the season.  There is even a website focused on just this idea where educators teach it in the schools.  They have highlighted World Kindness Day (November 13), Random Acts of Kindness Friday (November 24), Random Acts of Kindness WEEK (February 11-17)!  Who knew?!?

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Random acts of kindness are great but they are just that.  Random.  Those little things can make a big impact on someone’s day, but maybe you loved the feeling you got when you surprised someone so much that you wanted to do more.  I’d like to compare it to your casual and sporadic toss of cash into an offering plate as opposed to your committed, designated and regular donation amount to your church or organization of choice.   There is something very encouraging to the receiver about a giver who is committed and consistent in their donation (whether it be resources, money or time).

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Habitat for Humanity

Volunteering is such a win-win for you and your community.  Not only do you personally benefit from serving in a cause that you are passionate about, but (even more importantly) you serve the people in your community.  That in turn, makes where YOU live even better!

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Local food bank: Food prep

In 2005, researchers from the National Conference on Citizenship counted the number of nonprofits in 3,100 counties all over the country.  A short three years later, the recession hit and they discovered something astonishing:  The towns with a higher concentration of nonprofits were less likely to become unemployed than those with less nonprofits.  “Just one extra nonprofit per one thousand people added up to a half percentage point few out-of-work residents.”

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Together We Rise: Helping Kids in Foster Care

I was amazed when Warnick started noting some of the jobs citizens volunteered to do: put on a police uniform to help patrol the streets (Pasadena, CA), man the front desk of city hall (Naperville, IL!!), direct lost passengers around an airport (Philadelphia, PA), write parking tickets (Deer Park, TX).  Not only did these volunteers help their towns by saving them money, but they probably had a much deeper respect for the people who do those jobs on a regular basis.  Think about it: my first job was a waitress at a breakfast restaurant.  Not only do I have a great appreciation for a great server, I’m pretty aware of when they are not doing a good job.  And yes, I do tip pretty well.

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Ready.gov: Plan ahead for disasters

Not only can volunteering give your mood a boost and extra dopamine, it gives you a stronger “place identity.”  While I might identify myself as a teacher or parent in my town, my volunteering creates an opportunity to join the collective “we.”  Our profession and families offer us a sense of good pride, while our service of others can offer an even deeper sense of community pride.  This creates a  greater place attachment to our town.

This quote from Warnick states it perfectly: “The cycle goes something like this: You volunteer, so your town becomes better, which makes it easier to love, which makes you more attached to your town.  As Abraham Lincoln purportedly said, ‘I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives.  I like to see a man live in it so that his place will be proud of him.'”

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Local cleanup after storm

Now, it has been proven that those people who stay in a town are much more likely to invest through volunteering (as opposed to those who move a lot).  Cities can be highly transient places, and yet, they often have the greatest needs.  A military wife once said to me that she had moved so many times and this one particular move was only going to be a one year term.  She hated the location of her new home and had no desire to connect.  But, when she did connect with a couple people in that community, she made lasting friendships that she deeply needed at the time.  Sometimes our shortest stays can have the greatest impact (on us and the community we serve).

So where do you serve?

Do you love someone who has been affected by cancer?  Do you love gardening and want to support the public gardens?  Are you a huge music fan and would enjoy supporting the symphony?  Maybe consider a Giving Circle.  Find a group of people that would all like to pool money together (so you can offer a larger donation) and then collectively choose what organization to support.  You can choose a different organization each year.  Whatever you choose, think about your passions and let that lead the way.  Not only will you enjoy the work, it will serve others and in turn make your home a better place to live.

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ACTION STEPS

  1.  Start with whatever brings you great joy or breaks your heart.  Is it homelessness in your area?  Check out shelters or soup kitchens.  Kids without good role models?  Consider Big Brothers Big Sisters.  Children in the foster care system?  Contact local agencies to see where you can help.  Even if you aren’t a church goer, consider contacting one in your area.  They often have a great list of what the specific needs are in your area.
  2. VolunteerMatch.org as well as the United Way has a wide variety of options for you to choose from.
  3. If nothing is seeming to fit, look at your town’s website.  They might need some volunteers.  Added bonus, you not only have a greater appreciation for the people who work in your town, you also get to see where your tax dollars are going.
  4. RandomActsofKindness.org has tons of ideas for quick little volunteer options.  These can often be fun for getting little kids involved too.
  5. If you’d like your donation to have possibly a bigger impact, check out GivingCircles.org to see how to get started.

*All quotes and facts come from Melody Warnick’s book This is Where You Belong.

If you would like to see the rest of our Create Community series, click here.

Have you ever volunteered anywhere?  What kind of service has been deeply rewarding for you?

Chunky Chicken Chowder

Isn’t it so funny that at the end of summer when the temps dip just below 70 degrees for 10 minutes everyone pulls out sweaters and pumpkin everything?  And then in the Spring when the weather warms up just barely over 65 degrees everyone pulls out shorts and tank tops??  Well, we had one of those *barely* chilly days this week.  And I wanted soup.  Specifically, Chunky Chicken Chowder (say that ten times fast!).

(Do you remember this past Spring when I wanted summer and it just wouldn’t come?  This was the soup I made then.)

So this soup comes together really quickly and has lots of good, chunky bites to keep you full much longer than your typical broth-style soup.  My favorite part is that there are two different types of meat: chicken breast and chicken sausage.  The fun part is that there are many different flavors of chicken sausage so you can slightly change the flavor each time you make this!  For this recipe I used this all natural brand:

First, take a large soup pot and add olive oil to the bottom of the pan.  Start warming the oil while you chop the chicken breast into bite-sized chunks.  Season with salt and pepper before tossing into olive oil.  While these brown, cut up the chicken sausage into similar-sized chunks.  When the chicken breast has cooked on both sides, add chicken sausage to warm through.

Next, chop red (or yellow) pepper, onion and red potatoes.  Also, finely mince garlic.  Add these to the pot and stir with chicken and sausage.  Let the vegetables soften (about 5 minutes) and then add kidney beans.

Finally, add fire roasted tomatoes, red pepper flakes and chicken stock.

Bring all this to a boil and lower heat to a simmer (about 10-12 minutes) for potatoes to soften.  Serve with shredded cheese, a dollup of sour cream and tortilla chips on the side.

Chunky Chicken Chowder
Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 12 oz. chicken sausage, chopped, flavor of your choice
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 6 small red potatoes, chopped
  • 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 t. hot sauce OR red pepper flakes
  • 15 oz. fire roasted chopped tomatoes
  • 2 Qt. chicken stock or broth
  • Garnish
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • sour cream
  • tortilla chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat soup pot to medium high. Add olive oil.
  2. Chop chicken into bite-size pieces and season with salt and pepper. Saute chicken until cooked through.
  3. Dice chicken sausage and add to the pot. Next add garlic and let cook 2 minutes.
  4. Add peppers, onion and potatoes. Cook 5 minutes, then add red pepper flakes and fire roasted tomatoes.
  5. Finally, add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for 10-12 minutes until potatoes are tender.
  6. Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips and fresh cilantro if desired.
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http://www.thecomforttable.net/chunky-chicken-chowder/

What do you reach for first when the season turns?  What do you crave when it starts to get cold?

White Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Admittedly, I come out of Labor Day weekend every year whining and moaning a bit.  I LOVE summer and am so SAD that it is over.  Here in Chicagoland, the Fall chill has already started.  This picture was taken this morning:

I have a love/hate relationship with this tree.  Twice a day I pass this tree to take my daughter to school and pick her up.  It is the same tree every year that starts to turn so early.  Just a couple of leaves on the top taunt me saying, “Say goodbye to summer, fall is already on its way!!”

But.  When I finally concede that summer is over, I really do love Fall.  I do!  The leaves changing in our area are truly beautiful and I enjoy cooler temperatures, wearing sweaters and scarves and sitting by the fireplace.  Living in south Florida for two years had me answering the common question “How can you handle living in that COLD?” to which I always replied “the same way you handle living in the oppressive heat of summer–inside!”

What I actually like about the cold, however, is that it gives you a good reason to slow down.  It gives you an excuse to snuggle up to a great movie or bundle under blankets and read a great book.  When I lived in Florida I felt like I didn’t have enough down time because my Midwest mentality says if the sun is shining, you better be outside taking advantage!

Fall means pumpkin spice for a lot of people.   I don’t really jump on board with pumpkin spice in my coffee.  But!  I will take a delicious slice of White Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread with my coffee, thank you very much!  What a tasty way to ring in the new season!

If you would like the see the recipe and how to make it, hop over to Hannah’s blog alifetransformedblog.com!  Full details on how to make it (along with the recipe!) are at A Life Transformed today.

 

Create Community: Enjoy Nature

Welcome to Fall and welcome back to our Create Community series.  This week we are talking about Enjoying Nature where you live.  If you missed our previous posts, be sure to check them out here:

Create Community for Yourself

Place Attachment

Walk More

Buy Local

Be a Good Neighbor

Do Something Fun

Let’s be honest, it is so easy to love where you live if it looks like this:

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Or maybe this:

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I have had the opportunity to live a lot of places and with varying climates.  Climate seems to be a BIG deal for me.  Living most of my life in the Midwest, I am very accustomed to the four seasons.  I did, however, live 2 years in Honduras as well as 2 years in south Florida where there are really only about 2 seasons: HOT and a-little-bit-cooler-than-hot.  There are reasons we take vacations in places that have weather very different from where we live.  It is refreshing and new and feels so good to get out of our norm.

When I grew up in Indiana, everyone complained about the grey winters (and they are pretty grey).  Living in Chicago, everyone complained about the bitter cold winters (again, pretty bitter cold, but much sunnier than east of Lake Michigan).  Hondurans and Floridians complained about their rain and heat.  All of these things are true.  A good family friend once said, “If everyone would stop complaining about the cold in Michigan, get the right coat and hat, you would actually LOVE living here!  There is just SO MUCH to do here, all year long!”

His enthusiasm caught my attention and he is completely right: Even south Floridians would enjoy the cold of winter if they had the proper gear.  Skiing and snow boarding, tubing, ice skating, snowmobiling, maybe even just hiking.  There is something almost sacred about the quiet that comes in the first blanketing snow of the winter season.  Conversely, Midwesterners could learn to appreciate the Florida summer heat once their blood thins a bit and then they have access to water almost everywhere.

Now keep in mind this is coming from someone who isn’t truly considered the outdoorsy type.  However, I grew up skiing and the exhilaration of standing at the top of a mountain is pretty incredible.  As an adult I’ve come to realize how the simple gift of fresh air can bring a new perspective on a particularly stressful or frustrating day.

“Studies have shown that spending time in green space improves immune function, lowers blood glucose levels in diabetics, boosts cognitive functioning and concentration, lengthens attention span and strengthens impulse control.  On the flip side, Dutch researchers have found that people who spend less time in nature have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, back pain, migraines, upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections and more symptoms of ADD/ADHD.  Pulse rates and blood pressure soar along with their stress and anxiety.  They’re more likely to be clinically depressed.”

Warnick in her book found that in addition, green space builds social cohesion, the companion to place attachment.  It is what helps create the environment needed to live in the neighborhoods we hope to live in: friendly, inviting, welcoming.  There seem to be a better sense of community among people who are surrounded by green spaces and nature.

Another component which I haven’t mentioned yet is our access to water.  I was fortunate enough to grow up very near Lake Michigan (Indiana, Michigan and now Chicago).  My apartment in downtown Chicago actually had a view of the lake (if I craned my neck and smashed my face against the window).  But, when I got outside it was just a short two blocks walk to feel and smell the lake.  Standing at this exact spot at Fullerton and Lakeshore Drive in Chicago and I vividly remember thinking, “Is it possible to fall in love with a place?”

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What I really loved was the hustle and bustle of the city AND the proximity to Lake Michigan.  If you have been reading here for any length of time, you know my affection for Lake Michigan.  But I think I really realized how much I need to be near water when I moved to Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  It is the capital city in the center of the country, hours from the oceans that touch each side.  Not only that, it is a city in the valley between mountains, so much so that you have to get special certification to land an airplane in the Tegucigalpa airport.  After living there a while (my whole stay was two years), I realized how much I was missing water.  We did make it to the coasts in Honduras and other central American countries which brought much peace for me but I never realized how much I missed it until I didn’t have easy access.

Where you grow up often determines where you will settle.  Of people who grew up on the coast, 73% later settle in a coastal area; 63% who grew up among forests settled in a similar landscape.  The nostalgia of where we grew up seems to draw us again when we settle.  It might not be the same town but might have the same landscape.  Enjoying nature where we live can give us that familiar echo of home.

Try looking at your town in a new light.  What about the green space do you notice?  Are the local parks beautifully landscaped?  Do you have walking/biking trails?  How is nature highlighted where you live?  Be sure to take some photos and share them using #createmycommunity.

Action Steps

  1. If you have kids, make it a goal to visit all the parks in your town.  It is a fun way to explore hidden pockets you wouldn’t otherwise know about.  If you don’t have kids (or dogs), grab a book or your coffee and just go sit at a bench and enjoy being outside.  Leave your phone behind!
  2. Check to see if your town has a local nature center.  They can give you information about trees, plants and flowers that grow in your area as well as wildlife.  Ours has hands-on activities for kids,  a preschool, rooftop garden, outdoor amphitheater, walking trails and they even sell local honey!
  3. This should be obvious, but take care of where you live.  Pick up trash and be diligent about not leaving behind garbage when visiting a local park.  Every outdoor space is only as good as the people who take care of it.

Butterscotch Apple Crisp

There is a great picture book list that comes from Sarah Mackenzie that I’m loving right now.  I have mentioned her here before, but she runs an organization called Read Aloud Revival, encouraging parents to build their family culture around books.  She sends you a list each month of her favorite themed books.  So this month it has been apples.  Who knew there would be so many books about apples? Well, we have been reading them.

So, when we were invited to a cookout with friends for small group, my mind instantly jumped to apples.  Now, I’ll be honest, I usually don’t think of apple desserts as my favorite, but the first time I tried this?  It was fantastic.  Butterscotch Apple Crisp is not only perfect Fall treat to get you in the mood of the season, it has that *little something* different that makes it special.

The great thing about crisps?  They are quick and easy to assemble and even better with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top!  Let me show you how quickly this comes together!

First, grab this handy contraption: the apple peeler-slicer-corer.

These are fairly inexpensive and are great for potatoes as well.  I have also made my own applesauce before and these make everything quicker.  Once you have your green apples peeled, sliced and cored, lay them into a baking dish.

Next, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Combine butterscotch chips, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in small bowl.  Sprinkle over the apple layer and bake for 20 minutes.

While this bakes, mix the topping.  Combine flour and brown sugar in a mixing bowl.  Cut in cold butter with flour and sugar mixture.  I use this tool to cut in the butter.  If you don’t have one, just use a couple of forks and mash the butter into the flour/sugar mixture until butter is the size of small peas.

Finally, stir in chopped pecans and rolled oats.  For a cleaner counter, I used this chopper to quickly chop all the pecans.  I love this tool to chop celery for chicken salad or onions because my husband really hates the smell of onion and this seems to contain it a bit.  Also great for herbs, or in my case, nuts.  {This recipe seems a bit fussy with all the gadgets, but I do think they make the recipe quicker.  I do have all these tools and do actually use them so I felt it was worth mentioning.}

After 20 minutes, sprinkle the oat/nut mixture over the apples and butterscotch chips.  Bake for an additional 30-40 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is lightly browned.  Cool slightly and serve warm with ice cream.  I hope you enjoy this delicious, warm Butterscotch Apple Crisp!

Butterscotch Apple Crisp
Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 lb. tart apples, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 11 oz. pkg. butterscotch chips
  • 1/4 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • Topping
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 stick cold butter
  • 1 c. chopped pecans
  • 3/4 c. rolled oats

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice and thinly slice apples and lay in 9 x 13 baking dish.
  3. Combine butterscotch chips, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl and sprinkle over the apples.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Mix flour and brown sugar for topping. Cut in cold butter until butter is the size of peas. Stir in nuts and oats and pour over apples.
  6. Bake for an additional 30-40 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is lightly browned.
  7. Cool slightly and serve warm with ice cream.
7.6.7
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http://www.thecomforttable.net/butterscotch-apple-crisp/

 

 

 

 

 

Create Community: Do Something Fun

We return to our Create Community series this week with the topic of Doing Something FUN!!  If you missed our previous posts, check them out here:

Create Community for Yourself

Place Attachment

Walk More

Buy Local

Be a Good Neighbor

The concept of doing something fun seems so easy but when you are new to an area (or have been doing the same thing for a decade) in your town, it might feel a little harder.  And of course, the concept of fun is certainly subjective.  The writer Emily St. John Mendel noted, “Edmund Wilson once wrote that no two people ever read the same book and I’ve come to believe that no two people ever live in the same city.”

Image result for city neighborhood

Think about how cities have branded themselves (usually with the strategies of companies to highlight the best of what the town has to offer).  You know a few of them: Pure Michigan has become the alluring slogan for all the lakefront views all over Michigan.  And you know the one from Vegas: “What happens here stays here.”  If you live in one of these, you might not agree or even like these slogans, but they have certainly drawn people to both of these examples.

Image result for pure michigan

Warnick discovered in her research that a town is what you think it is.  Even if it isn’t as glamorous as the bigger/better town next door, you can rebrand your town even if only in your own mind.  She found a study done in 2008 by Gallup and the nonprofit Knight foundation called “Soul of the Community.”  They talked to adults in 26 cities to determine how emotionally attached they were to their communities and why they felt that way.  Polling was done in cities of varying sizes from one million down to less than 20,000.

What their study found was very interesting.  It wasn’t the good schools, affordable housing and safety (what most realtors use to sell you a new home) that created the strong sense of place attachment.  The three qualities that created the strongest sense of place attachment and place satisfaction?  Social offerings, aesthetics and openness.  When citizens feel like there are lots of things to do, it is beautiful to look at and welcomes all kinds of people, they are deeply attached to it.  Secondly, the more attached they were to their cities, the better the city did economically.

Image result for town center

So, if you have things in your town you enjoy doing (maybe even on a regular basis), it creates a sense of attachment to where you live.  If you don’t love where you live, consider investigating some new things in your town that you haven’t experienced before.  Maybe use Google to help you identify what are your town’s strengths.  Not every town is good at everything, but your town is certainly good at something.  Make it your mission to find out what they are.

Image result for football game

Warnick admittedly is not a sports fan.  At all.  But someone suggested to her she attend the local university football game.  I loved her thoughts on this, “In all these ways–intense loyalty, the group identity, the sense of ownership–sports fandom is oddly reminiscent of place attachment…This experiment helped me see the very real link between rooting for your hometown sports team and rooting for your hometown…They do it because they love their city and the team’s victory is the city’s victory.”

Image result for running path

Lastly, if you are still struggling to find things to do, create your own.  Find a local park and find a new routine there.  Pack a lunch.  Read a book.  Enjoy a hike.  Try one new local restaurant this month.  Maybe even consider attending the local football game.  Ultimately, your place attachment has everything to do with the positive memories you have in your town.  So do something fun!

ACTION STEPS

  1. Try to make a list of 10 local sites, historic landmarks, tourist attractions, parks, museums, statues and events.  Use Google or even Facebook to help you find some in your area if you need help.
  2. Inquire about any local festivals as they offer a great sense of community pride.  When you are shopping local, ask the shop owners if they are aware of special events.  Often they have a better awareness of the goings-on in your area.
  3. Even if you are still struggling, do what you love where you live.  Runner?  Find a local half-marathon.  Home chef?  See if any of the local shops offer cooking classes.  Book worm?  See if the book store offers book club and author events.

Should you decide to try a few new things, please use #createmycommunity so we can see what new activities you are enjoying!

 

Creature Comforts: September 2017

Happy September everyone!  Hope you had a great Labor Day with your family.  We had all kinds of fun at a local amusement park, a day in the city and family time.  It was a great way to end the summer.  If you follow me on Instagram, you know I even tried to sneak in a little reading too.

Our Creature Comforts series continues and I wanted to share a little about some fun things that I tried or enjoyed this month.  For our previous post in the series, click here.

Garlic Shrimp in Coconut Milk, Tomatoes and Cilantro is a quick stew cooked in a light, tomato coconut broth with a hint of lime and cilantro. Simple enough to make for a weekday dinner yet sophisticated enough to serve to company. Serve with a little brown basmati rice to soak up the delicious broth.
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ONE// SkinnyTaste Garlic Shrimp in Coconut Milk, Tomatoes and Cilantro

My love for trying new things is great when I want my kids to have the ability to eat foods other than PB&J and macaroni.  But, sometimes trying new dinners on a weeknight can be disastrous when it takes 30% longer because you are just learning how the meal is supposed to come together.  YOU GUYS.  This meal took about 15 minutes to put together, the hardest part was cooking the rice.  If you have a rice cooker this meal is so quick.  Healthy, easy and so tasty it is PERFECT for a weeknight meal.  Quick tip: Make sure you choose shrimp that have already been peeled and deveined for quicker assembly.

If you are wondering, you cannot taste the coconut milk at all, it just gives it a creaminess without using cream.  We loved it because it is warming (perfect for Fall and Winter) but also light (so great for Spring and Summer as well!).  If you need nutrition values, click the link above, SkinnyTaste always provides them as well as WeightWatcher Points if that’s your thing.  (This is also gluten free, paleo and Whole30 approved!!!)


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TWO//  Book Darts

I do believe this puts me firmly in the book nerd category #sorrynotsorry.  These are tiny brass “arrows” that point to the exact quote or paragraph you want to remember or refer back to in your next discussion.  I think I’ve sold my whole book club on how great they are!  They are super slim and don’t mark your pages at all.  Using them for only a couple of months,  I feel as if I might need to purchase a ton of them to highlight all my favorite books!  In this set you get 50 darts for $12.

Revlon Matte Balm, Sultrysource

THREE//  Revlon Matte Balm

This is one of those things that I grabbed on a whim and have been so glad to have it in my bag.  It has great pink color and I really like the matte finish.  The color sultry is my favorite color, but there are lots of choices.  And, at this price point, you can choose all different styles.  It feels so moisturizing and even comes in a variety of finishes (matte, glossy, etc).

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FOUR//  The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins

This book was given and recommended by a friend and have really been enjoying it!  It is the story of a young Irish gypsy boy in the 1950’s.  When his grandfather dies, his universe shifts a bit.  He likes the mobile life he lives with his family, but his father puts him in school to finish his holy communion.  Only about 100 pages in, I’m enthralled by this boy and the life his family leads.  If you love historical fiction, check it out.  Expect to see a review soon!

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FIVE//  Who What Wear brand at Target

Have you heard that Target is phasing out the Merona and Mossimo brands??  A sales associate tell me so I don’t have official confirmation from the company, however, they seem to be making up for it by launching new lines and this newest one has me very intrigued.  Found this summer when wandering with a friend, I was impressed by the cute styles and really good prices.  This particular dress above is less than $35!  The cute blouses and skirts are what originally caught my eye but they also seem to have some more casual pieces as well.

Nike Kids' Revolution 3 Running Shoe Toddler Shoesource

SIX//  Famous Footwear

Back to School shopping is always fun for me.  The former teacher in me loves all of it.  But, when I was traipsing all over town to find my kids new shoes I was NOT a happy camper.  I wanted them measured so I could make sure they were wearing the right size and frankly I wanted them to be happy with the look and feel of the shoes before I purchased.  Our outdoor mall had ONE store  that sold kids shoes and their selection wasn’t big enough to cover all of our needs.  (Not Macys?  Not DSW??  Nope.  They don’t sell kids shoes.  What???)

Anyway, while in Famous Footwear the sales associate told me their deal (Buy One Get One 50% off is good in store and online…and even a combo if needed!!)  That deal even includes sales and clearance!  They had tennis shoes for my kids but not dress shoes in store for my daughter and she said they would honor the deal part online and part in store!  And, if you buy online, you get an additional 15% off and free shipping on orders over $75!  If that weren’t already a great deal, you can ship free to your local store (if you don’t have a $75 order) and return all orders in store if they don’t work out.

This was totally a good deal for me.  We measured them in store, then ordered multiple choices online.  We got all the shoes we needed, returned the ones we didn’t and everyone is set for school.  You might be surprised all the brands they offer so be sure to check them out!

What have you been loving lately?  I would love to hear if you have tried any of these products!

 

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