Camping… FINALLY!

It was a very busy summer for Kyle and I with Kyle being away most of the summer. But now that Kyle is back home and back at school, we finally were able to find a free weekend to get away and enjoy a little nature. We went to Governor Dodge State Park, the same park that I wrote about several blog posts back. It was our first time camping there, but it was nice to know our way around.

We had some special guests with us, and if you are friends with me on social media and saw pictures from our trip, I am sure you were asking… Did they get a dog? Sorry to break the news, but we didn’t. (Much to our cat’s relief) We were dogsitting last weekend and asked if we could take Squishy camping with us. It was Squishy’s first time camping, and I think he had a great time! We also had our friends Megan and Reed spend the night on Friday. It was also Megan’s first time camping! A lot of firsts on the trip.

We got there Friday night after work and set up camp. It was quite the ride up to Wisconsin with three people and a pug in the front seat of Kyle’s truck. We played cards, made s’mores and enjoyed the stars. A note on stars… Growing up in Iowa, I have always been able to see stars anywhere I’ve lived. I never really thought about not being able to see them until Megan mentioned how weird was to be able to see them even in town here in Iowa. It’s crazy how we take small things like stars for granted.

Anyways, Saturday morning we got up, made a hearty breakfast on the fire (bacon, eggs and gluten-free pancakes… what else do you eat camping?). We went on a hike to see the waterfall at the park as well as the beautiful fall colors.


Megan and Reed


Kyle and I



The whole gang!

After Megan and Reed left, we spent the rest of Saturday hiking, making pizzas in Kyle’s camping oven, listening to the Iowa game in the truck, taking Squishy to the lake, and enjoying a fire together. It was nice to finally have some time to get away and just enjoy our time together. It seems like since the wedding, we haven’t had much time to breathe, and this weekend was exactly what we needed.


I can’t believe it’s almost October! It finally starting to feel like fall and winter is right around the corner. I can’t wait! I guess it’s time for some fall-themed blog posts!

Part 2: Our Real Food Journey

A few weeks ago, I talked about our family’s switch to a real food diet. This is part 2 of the post because I keep thinking of things that I want to include in my post about real food. I am so passionate about eating this way because if you think about, it is how our ancestors ate. It hasn’t been until really this century that people started eating food that was made in a factory, packed with chemicals. Before that, people grew and made most of what they ate. And this is what we are going back to.

It’s definitely not easy in a world where every food seems to have something added to it. But going back to the basics has been a great change for us. You feel different when you limit the amount of sugar you eat and are more conscious of how you are fueling your body. I remember coming home from classes in college, completely exhausted and in a fog. I thought this was normal, but now I know it’s not. Switching my diet has dramatically changed the way I feel and the energy that I have. It’s amazing how minor changes can add up to such a drastic change.

One issue that we have faced switching to real food is the cost. With Kyle in school, our budget can be tight. The recommendations on many of the blogs and books that I’ve read suggest to eat organic. We can’t do that right now. Instead, we decided to grow our own vegetables this summer so at least we knew where they were coming from. Otherwise, the other fruits and veggies that we eat are not organic. For meat, we were able to purchase 1/8 of a cow that was raised near Dubuque. This has helped save money on locally raised meat. We also buy eggs from a local family. But as far as pork, chicken or turkey goes, we buy what we can. Living in Iowa, we are pretty fortunate with what meat we can get locally and at a good price. Everything else that we eat is very basic. We make our own bread, muffins, cookies, etc. (Even if we do use sugar, we know exactly what is in them.) We don’t buy shredded or pre-cut cheese. We only buy blocks of cheese. I now buy half and half for my coffee rather than flavored creamer. I don’t buy any cereals, crackers (only Triscuits), chips (only tortilla chips), cookies, etc. We basically skip the aisles of processed foods in the store.

It is much more time consuming, but I feel better making everything myself. Our shopping trips are much different now, but I know that these changes will help us for years to come. I love cooking and love knowing that my hard work will hopefully help our family live healthier lives.

I do want to include this disclaimer: Even though we have made a lot of changes, we aren’t perfect. There are still things that I love and haven’t completely given up. But it’s all about balance, and eating more of the better than the bad. So please don’t think I’m a hypocrite when I am enjoying my once-a-week pop.

Here are some of our favorite real food recipes (linked to original sources):

Whole-Wheat Carrot Applesauce Muffins

Maple Cornbread

Whole Wheat Machine Bread

Turkey Pumpkin Chili

20 Minute Healthy Italian Turkey Bean Soup

Sweet Potato Sloppy Joes

Spinach Turkey Loaves

Peanut Noodles with Vegetables and Peanut Sauce


Part One: Starting our Real Food Journey

A Busy Couple of Weeks!

It’s been two weeks since I posted, but it has been for a GREAT reason! In the past two weeks, I’ve hosted two Walk to End Alzheimer’s! I don’t normally post about walk since this is my home away from work, but these walks are the biggest event of our year. It was a crazy but super fulfilling experience.

The Dubuque walk was first on September 6th. I’ve been preparing since before I started this job for this year’s walk. I had a great walk committee that helped line everything up for the day, connect with our teams and walkers and help focus everything that we did around our true mission- helping and supporting those with Alzheimer’s with the hope that some day we will find a cure. I honestly didn’t know what to expect with this year’s walk with it being my first year on staff. I didn’t realize how much goes on behind the scenes and how much you have to rely on your volunteers to actually make the event happen. But, I can honestly say it went better than I could have ever expected. It was completely worth the 4 a.m. wake up call that morning.

Here’s some pictures from the walk in Dubuque:


The crowd before the walk


High school choir singing the national anthem


The opening ceremony


The promise garden- walkers can write who they are walking for on the flowers and then take them home


Fact and figure signs along walk route


Thank you walkers!


The beautiful promise garden- truly a garden of hope


My wonderful supervisor and mentor


I love seeing the children play in the flowers. It brings this disease full circle. Alzheimer’s affects the entire family.



My wonderful committee!

We surpassed our fundraising goal and the total continues to grow. Thank you Dubuque community for supporting our cause.

And then last week was the Maquoketa walk! The whole walk started in the Atlanta airport… strange right!? I ran into our now walk chair in the Atlanta airport as we were delayed returning from two different conferences. We started talking and the rest was destiny as they say. The entire community of Maquoketa came together to make this walk a HUGE success. And again I can’t say thank you enough for making my job easy!

Here’s some pictures from the Maquoketa walk:

photo 1

photo 2

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photo 4

photo 5What an experience the last two weeks have been. I am beyond thankful to get to experience this amazing display of compassion and love by people affected by this terrible disease. I hope that our walks give them hope and something to look forward to each year.

And walk season continues! Now that I’m done with my walks, I get to help out at two more walks! Let the fun continue!

Starting our Real Food Journey

Last spring, I watched the documentary “Hungry for Change” on Netflix that dives into the processed and fake food that we eat every day. It sheds light on the amount of sugar our society consumes, the chemicals that we put into our bodies and how food has transformed from something that we grow or raise to something we create.

I love watching documentaries on Netflix, so the only reason I started watching this film was because it was recommended by Netflix. But wow. This documentary opened my eyes and moved me to take a look at what I was putting in my mouth. After digesting all of this new information, I shared with Kyle that I thought that we might want to look deeper into and see how this compared to what we were eating.

I’ve always considered myself to be a healthy eater, but what I didn’t realize was how much fake “stuff” and chemicals I was eating! I wasn’t eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, and even though I tried to control my pop addiction, I found myself drinking pop several times a week. I was exercising almost every day, but I was falling short of eating and living well.

After realizing that we needed to make a change, I was hungry from more information about real food and reducing the amount of chemicals and sugar that we ate. I started searching Pinterest and came across the blog, 100 Days of Real Food. I had stumbled upon a goldmine of information about switching to real food. Lisa takes you through the “rules” of real food. These rules helped us decide how we were going to change and switch up what we were eating and buying.

What we took away from her challenge was:

  1. 5 ingredients or less on the label
  2. Read the label!
  3. Watch out for hidden sugar and high fructose corn syrup
  4. Eat more fruits and veggies
  5. 100% whole wheat is a must
  6. Shop and buy products locally
  7. Cook/bake your own “junk food”

I have so much to talk about regarding real food, and I am so passionate on the subject. What we put in our mouths affects our health more than, I believe, anyone wants to realize. In part 2 of our real food journey, I will talk about how we started to change the way we ate.

My Hope with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Kyle and I participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge after we were nominated by some of our friends. Check out my ice bucket challenge!

Check here for Alex’s Ice Bucket Challenge video

But let me get on to the point of this post. This post isn’t about the fact that I participated in the challenge; this post is about what I hope this challenge does for philanthropy and the non-profit industry. When I first saw this challenge pop up on my Facebook feed, I was skeptical about the impact and motive behind people dumping water on their head. But the challenge continued to grow and grow, and soon it filled my newsfeed as I’m sure it filled yours. I really hoped that this challenge wasn’t just a way for people to say they were supporting a cause but not actually donating to further it. Working for a health non-profit, my hope was that people actually saw the need to provide financial support to the cause.

And that is exactly what has happened. The ice bucket challenge has raised over $88 million to date, and the total continues to rise. I don’t care if you think the videos are stupid or are a way for people to show off. This is working. It’s opening peoples eyes to the need to support non-profits, and I believe that people are understanding the need especially in the area of health charities. For conditions like ALS, it is not profitable for for-profit organizations or companies to fund research. It is up to our society to fund research for conditions like ALS. I hope this challenge opens people’s eyes to charitable giving in general because without our gifts, our society won’t move forward. These causes affect all of us in one way or another, directly or indirectly, and without your gift, these causes can’t and won’t move forward. Without your gift, these global issues would go untouched.

Please, consider how you give and what causes you are passionate about. And GIVE!

First of Many Adventures in Canning

Canning has always been something Kyle has wanted to try.  I have a little canning experience from 4-H and with my mom, but I’ve never been through the entire process myself. Since we had a lot of fresh produce from our garden, it was the perfect time to take our first swing at canning!

We grew tomatoes and bell peppers this year in our container garden, so salsa was the perfect recipe to use up all of the produce we hadn’t eaten yet. We used a recipe from the blog An Organic Wife.


I prepared the salsa, while Kyle figured out the canning part. The recipe called for jalapeno peppers, but we didn’t want the salsa to be too hot. We found mild hatch peppers at the store and substituted those in. Next time, we will probably use hot hatch peppers for a little more flavor.


We don’t mess around with peppers in our house. But I did over estimate the strength of the peppers and probably didn’t need to use gloves. You can never be too careful!

DSC_0900_1I cooked down the salsa while Kyle prepped the jars.

DSC_0888_1And after 2 hours we ended up with 4 jars of salsa! All of the jars sealed, so I think we had a successful night! We fell in love with canning, and you can expect to see more blog posts about canning. I think it might become our new hobby…

The Summer in Review

I can’t believe that the summer is almost over! It’s crazy to see all the school buses again on my way to work. Kyle and I spent the majority of the summer apart, and while this might seem strange or terrible to most, this has been the norm for us for the last 5 years. We’ve never spent an entire summer together. Kyle spent his summer working as a hospital chaplain and moved back in with his family. It was wonderful to have this as an option since none of the chaplain sites are close to our home.

Even though it was hard to live apart, Kyle truly enjoyed his time in the hospital, and I know it was hard for him to leave his patients and coworkers. But selfishly, I am so happy to have him home. I joked before he came home that it was like we were moving in together all over again since we only lived together for a month after the wedding before he moved.

Most weekends, Kyle and I were able to spend some time together. We tried to spend as much time outdoors, and we ended up finding one of our favorite parks in our area. We stumbled upon Governor Dodge State Park on one of our outings and ended up exploring the park several times. We fell in love with the beautiful beaches, lush forests and serene lakes.


Still a few weeks of summer left, and then my favorite two seasons! Let the adventures as a married couple begin!