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A Trip to France

I just got home from a week long trip to France, and it was pretty amazing. I have always wanted to travel to France, so getting this opportunity has been so great, and I am so appreciative of everyone who helped make this happen. I left on Saturday the 16th and flew into Paris. In Paris I got to see so many famous monuments. I went to the Eiffel Tower, and was even able to climb to the second platform of the tower.

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I also got to go to Notre Dame, which was so beautiful. I’ve seen many pictures of the church, but going inside and seeing it in person was so much better.

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We also went to the Louvre, which was really cool, but a bit to crowded for my taste. I was able to see the Mona Lisa in person, but the crowds around it made it impossible to get to the very front. The museum is so large, so I wasn’t able to see a whole lot of it.

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After Paris we drove to the Loire Valley. First we went to a chapel in Chartres. This chapel was very old and held a lot of history. It was so cool to be able to go inside it and learn about it’s past.

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From there we traveled to Chambord to visit a castle. This was amazing. It was so cool to be inside a place where kings and queens once lived hundreds of years ago.

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The next day we saw two more castles, which were also very interesting to see.

We then traveled to Normandy and saw Omaha beach, one of the D-Day beaches. We also went to the American Cemetery in Normandy. It was very sad to see where so many people fought and died, but I think that it was good that I went to these places and learned about their history. We also went to a museum about D-Day, and I was able to learn even more about the history of Normandy. We then traveled to Saint Malo, a beautiful town on the shore of the English Channel. The beaches here were so cool because one hour we were walking along the shore, and the next the water was all the way up to the city wall.

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From there we went to Mont Saint Michel, which is an old monk church.

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The next day we traveled back towards Paris, but stopped in Versailles. We visited the Palace of Versailles. It was very pretty, but like the Louvre it was also very crowded. We got to see the Hall of Mirrors, which was pretty cool since I have learned about the room in school before and have looked at pictures, and now I can say that I have been inside of it.

The gardens were beautiful as well, but they were so big that we were barely able to see any of them. Our final day was spent back in Paris, where we got to go to the Arc de Triomphe and shop on the Champs Elysees.

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On the 25th I flew back home. This trip was so amazing and like I said, I am so grateful that I was able to go, and I am so excited for the next time I get to travel and see more of the world.

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Luna Is Home

I am going to keep today’s blog short, but I have big news.  Luna, our new Golden Retriever came home today.  As you can see, she is going to be vicious!  I don’t anticipate that she will make a great watch dog.  But, she is super sweet and fitting in nicely.  She will never replace Stella, but she will make the pain of losing her a little easier.  Happy Saturday!

 

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Recipes

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

We were gifted a huge bag of rhubarb.  That with the rest of the strawberries I had in the freezer from last summer made a wonderful Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp.Rhubarb Ingr.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Filling

4 stalks rhubarb

3 cups strawberries

1 1/2 cup sugar

3 tbsp cornstarch

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

Topping

1 stick of butter, softened

1 1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups quick cooking rolled oats

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a bowl toss the chopped rhubarb with 3/4 cup of sugar and let stand for 20 minutes.  Toss the strawberries in another bowl with a 1/2 cup of sugar.  Stir both occasionally.  After 20 minutes, add the rhubarb to the bowl of strawberries, do not add the rhubarb juice to the strawberries.  Stir and add the cornstarch, lemon juice and vanilla.  Transfer to a 9 by 13 baking dish.

Combine all of the ingredients for the topping a mix master or bowl and blend or use fingers.  Blend until mixture is large crumbs.

Sprinkle the mixture over the filling and bake for 30 minutes.  Reduce to temperature to 325 and bake for another 30 minutes.  The fruit will be bubbling when done.  Let stand for 20 minutes before serving.  Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Enjoy!

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Cheesy Brown Rice Bake

I made an absolutely delicious casserole tonight without a recipe and with ingredients I had on hand.  I did not take pictures of the prep because I did not know it would be worth documenting, but decided to take a picture as it came out of the oven because I knew it would be good.

I am a Wisconsin girl, so I love a good casserole.  But, I try to avoid the typical Campbell’s Soup creations.  When I started dinner, it was with the intention of including my vegan daughter, who did not eat with us after all.   Oh well, more for us.  In the end this turned out to be a mix of vegan and non vegan options since she was not eating with us.

Cheesy Brown Rice Bake

1.5 cups brown rice

3 cups water

8 ounces mushrooms

12 ounces frozen broccoli

4 tbsp butter (Kerrygold is the best)

1/4 cup flour

2 cups milk of choice

8 ounces mozzarella cheese (I used vegan because it melts so much creamier)

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup whole wheat panko crumbs

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

 

Boil rice in 3 cups of water, per instructions.  Fry mushrooms in 1 tbsp of butter.  In heavy pot melt remaining 3 tbsp of butter, when melted add flour.  Whisk the flour and butter until smooth, add milk.  Once thick add the mozzarella cheese and stir until melted and smooth.  Stir together rice, mushrooms, cheese blend and broccoli.  Pour into casserole dish and sprinkle with Panko.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minute,  5 minutes before taking out of oven add the parmesan.

Honestly, this was delicious.

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Use The Library

In the last year I have noticed that my local library (also my employer) has started to print our annual savings on our receipts.  As you can see in the photo below (I know, it’s a terrible picture), I have saved a significant amount of money since January 1, 2018.

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I do not know what every library has to offer, but I know that mine offers a lot of resources that can help keep one within their budget.

Books – I almost never buy a book.  I check out everything from the novels I read to the cookbooks I use.  My husband checks out his homesteading books and computer books from the library.  That is not to say we never purchase books, but most of the time, those books are purchased from Goodwill.

Movies – Our library carries recent releases, several copies in fact.  They have a program called “It’s Your Lucky Day”.  Those are hot movies that give a 3 day check out window.  I can safely say that at this time Black Panther is flying off the shelf.  These movies are all free.  We watch the majority of our movies from the library. The one exception would be the Super Hero movies.  My husband collects those, so we purchase those movies.  We also rarely go to the movies, opting to stay home instead.  I do go to the movies a few times a year with my mom or my girls.

Cellular Hotspots – Yes, you can check cellular hot spots out from the library.  I know people who cannot afford internet who utilize this.  Those who are traveling also check them out to preserve their data.  Again, free.

Newspapers – Newspapers can be expensive.  Reading the paper for free at the library can save a lot of money in subscription costs.

Magazines – This is one area I need to get better about.  I do not check magazines out.  I have looked at my library and the magazines I subscribe to are not available yet.  Maybe someday they will be.  But, I see a lot of people who come in and check out their favorites every month.

Wii Games – Why buy video games that you know your kids will get sick of?  If you find one you love from the library, then buy the game.

CD’s – I check out CD’s to listen to and then return for something new.  It keeps variety and I don’t have to spend $15 for the album.

Audio Books- I enjoy having a book going in my car CD player.  I can multi task, get some reading in while running errands.  Win Win.

Storytime – Storytime is free and it such a great way to introduce little ones to reading.

Youth Programs – In the summertime, libraries have weekly youth programs for children.  My kids have seen magicians, animals and helped plant a garden in the summertime youth program.  All for free.

Adult Programs- Last night, our library had a take and make activity for adults.  They made wind chimes.  The adults had a great time, gathered with community and took home a decoration for free.

Book Clubs – I would guess that most libraries have book clubs.  Again a free activity that probably focuses on the book, not the wine:) 

Kids Summer Reading Programs – When my kids were little, they participated in the reading programs at the library. We got into Wisconsin State Parks, museums and the zoo at a reduced cost or for free, just for reading.

I am sure that the library offers even more than I could come up with.  I talk about this because I hear and read about people trying to save money.  When I saw my savings this year, I was shocked.  We so easily forget about what is readily available to us in the age of online shopping.  It seems so much easier to shop online than to just go to the library, but that trip can yield a significant savings.

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Today’s haul from the library

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Living a Life of Intention

Several months ago, I left my job in the insurance/financial industry.  I won’t get into the reasons of why I left.  I am not even sure if I have a concrete reason for why I left.  I guess it was a lot little reasons.  In a nutshell, I was not happy.  I had been there for 4 years and had spent 3 years, 9 months trying to find a reason to leave.  Instead of finding a reason to leave, I had a million reasons for why I needed to stay.  My husband had been encouraging me to leave for a couple of years, knowing that I was not happy and that my health, both physical and mental were suffering.  So, with Eric’s encouragement, I put in my 2 week notice and left my former company on February 28th without a job lined up.  I had posted my resume online requesting NO INSURANCE inquiries.

I had been in the insurance industry since before I graduated college.  In fact, I worked at an insurance company in high school and worked at that same company for summer vacations.  When I graduated college, I naturally found a job at another insurance company.  When my kids were born, I stayed home with them and worked in retail part-time for several years.  That was strictly spending money, 15 hours per week at Yankee Candle does not pay the bills, but it was a fun place to work and I was happy.  When I decided to go back to work 9 years ago, my resume only attracted insurance companies, so back I went.  Knowing with 100% certainty that I was going to hate the industry, the job and for the most part, my 8am to 5pm existence.  Boy was I right!

When I took the job I recently quit, it came with a 50% pay increase, better benefits and more security.  It seemed like a no brainer, but when I accepted, my stomach sank and for 4 years I survived on Tums.  I did not listen to my inner voice, that was a huge mistake.  For 4 years I went to work, dreading the day ahead of me.  Every Sunday night depressed me and I lived for the weekends. When I had a day off, it was like Christmas for me.  A coworker once remarked that I loved days off more than anyone she knew.  I was more than a little embarrassed, but she spoke the truth.   I used to mark every day off of my desk calendar because it marked the end of another day of being there.  I told my coworker who asked why I did that, that I marked the days off so that I knew what the date was immediately if asked.  It seemed plausible.  When I told my kids I left my job, I told them to never stay at a job that makes you so unhappy that you are excited to mark off the days of your life, which is what I was doing.  In a nutshell, I was living in a soul sucking environment, I never should have stayed with it as long as I did.

When I think about my departure, the phrase “death by a thousand papercuts” seems like the perfect description.  Like I said, I can’t think of one instance, other than the one that finally set me free, that made me so unhappy.  There was just a lot of little things, that is no way to live.  I would encourage anyone who is reading this that if they feel like this, reexamine your life.  We only get one trip on this planet, make it worth it.

I knew I had to find a job that allowed me to live a life that made me happy and allowed me to live my values.  I value my family, friends,  community,  the environment, a free exchange of ideas and living a life with intention.  With those ideas in mind, I felt like I hit the jackpot when I saw a job opening at my local library.  I will spare the boring details of how I got the job, but I did get the job.  I have not had heartburn since March 1st.  Seriously, it immediately disappeared when I left.  I no longer dread Sunday nights.  Yes, I have to work Monday morning, but I enjoy my job and truly enjoy everyone I work with.  I am working in my community.  What says community more than a local library in a sleepy suburb? I work with people who share the same values I do and we talk about it.  I no longer have to pretend I am something I am not or keep my mouth shut so I don’t offend.  I have time to pursue the things I want to do.  My hours are reduced and while they do not conform to the normal 8-5 workday, I am able to sleep in a bit and spend time with my husband and daughter in the mornings.  I have also lost weight.  I have more time to exercise and spend a lot more time moving.  Being chained to a desk all day is a recipe for weight gain no matter how well take care of yourself.  Simply stated, I am happy.

 

 

 

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Summer Vacation

My youngest daughter is on summer vacation. She has one week at home and then will be taking a school trip to France.  I am very excited for her, but also very jealous.  France is on the top of my bucket list and I have never been there.  I have traveled overseas a few times, but never to France.

This trip has been in the works since December 2016.  I am so grateful that she goes to a school that is able to provide these opportunities to their students.  I told her to bring me back a souvenir that smells like lavender.

Our garden is planted and the lettuce has gone crazy.  Salads are the vegetable of choice right now.  We have more lettuce than we can use and I know that sadly, some will go to waste.  Our asparagus is done for the season, but the strawberries will be ready for eating as long as the animals leave them alone.  As always, we patiently wait for the abundance that August and September will bring.

The chickens are growing nicely and will be laying eggs by September? They have settled nicely into their coop.  Our dog, Odinn, does like to stare them down.  The beehives are very active.  Eric mentioned that he got stung yesterday. But, considering how many are flying around, that is not surprising.  The herbs have also been planted and are growing nicely.  I cannot wait for fresh pesto!
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Enjoy these summer days.  They have so much to offer.