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Welcome to My Venture!

Although my approach may be a bit unconventional, it is my greatest desire for this online journal to be a unique place where we can share life lessons learned from the many wonderful people–past and present– who profoundly touch our lives!

I sincerely hope you will feel inclined to comment and pay tribute to these great mentors by sharing your thoughts with me and this community.  It’s my goal for all who visit here to benefit as we participate and read one another’s insights.

I’ve learned that everyone has something to teach and something to learn!

Drink The Wild Air…An Ode To Summer!

Drink The Wild Air…An Ode To Summer!

I love living where I can experience all four seasons…but summertime definitely seems to bring its own brand of unique energy to everyday life…we always seem to find ourselves in that perfect juxtaposition between taking advantage of the flurry of activities that are available this time of year and enjoying some leisure time while still maintaining a little daily structure too!  Perhaps Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best…

Emerson's summer quote.
Summer days will be here and gone before you know it, so as much as we might love to throw caution to the wind and let summer evolve with carefree abandon…here’s a few suggestions that might help us each make the best use of our time while still allowing for plenty of fun!

Sun symbol.

 

Make a plan…but be flexible!

Kids…and mom’s deserve to sleep in a little and be a bit lazy the first few days of summer vacation, but after that, I think making a loose schedule is a good idea so you don’t find yourself in pajamas eating cereal every afternoon!  When our children were young, my husband and I liked to get their input on some of the things they wanted to do during the summer and write them down so they could check the list throughout the summer and see what was planned and when we planned on doing them–looking forward to something is good motivation for getting your daily routines accomplished. (ie. reading, jobs, practicing, etc.)  We also made it clear that depending on weather, work and other obligations, we might have to change things up on occasion, but that’s what makes summer so much fun…and a bit unpredictable.  While you may choose to be more flexible on some of your normal rules and routines, the mom/nurse in me always liked to maintain enough structure to ensure that my children were getting the nutrition, exercise and sleep they all needed.

Planning a summer schedule.

“Summertime is always the best of what might be…if you make a few plans!”  Charles Bowden

Sun symbol.

 

 Focus on quality time!

I worked part-time when my children were still home during the summer, so being more mindful of planning quality time together when I was home was very important to me.  You don’t have to go on a family vacation to make family time a priority.  Check your local Chamber of Commerce or city summer guides for unique things to do in the area where you live.  It’s amazing how many great adventures you can experience close to home–enjoying a ballgame, neon bowling, a fun water park, and hikes up local canyons were some of the things we loved to do…as well as reading a good book together, working in the yard, enjoying family game night, or trying some new places to eat out.  Connecting in these ways always seemed to create the perfect atmosphere for lively conversation and genuine appreciation for one another!  Lucky for me…I now get to do many of these same things with my fun grandchildren!

Mueller Park trail sign.

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt!”  John Muir

Sun symbol.

 

Take the road less traveled!

If you’re planning a family trip during the peak vacations months of summer and you want to avoid the follies of Chevy Chase and his family in National Lampoon’s “Vacation” movie, it might be a good idea to travel to a destination that’s a little less known but still packed with a lot of fun activities and great experiences.  We had a boat growing up and we often planned trips to lesser known lakes and marina’s during the peak summer months, allowing for calmer waterskiing water and a lot more choices when it came to picking a camping spot.  If a popular amusement park is on the agenda, going during the middle of the week obviously helps you avoid longer lines and wait times.  I’ve also found that planning a vacation before or after peak holiday weeks, like the 4th of July, usually makes any travel destination less crowded.  I recently joined an online travel guide group that gives suggestions for unusual things to do in each state–I can’t wait to visit some of them!  Even if your vacation spot is a well-known tourist site, browse the internet or a good travel book for some “off the beaten path” exploits!  I’ve listed a few other great travel tips in this post.

Off the beaten path ode to summer!

“You must be a little fearless to take the road less traveled!”  Lailah Gifty Akita

Sun symbol.

 

Try something new!

As parents, I think we all want to provide an assortment of new experiences for our children so they can try their hand at various activities that could become a fun new hobby or talent, but let’s not forget to get in on the fun ourselves–you just never know when you might discover something that helps define a new chapter of your life…and summer seems to be one of the best times to do that.  My husband believes that we shouldn’t just be observers of our children’s summer fun, instead, we should experience it with them!

An Ode to Summer! Biking Signs!

“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the human race!”  H. G. Wells 

I’ve started doing a little biking in the last few years, and while I don’t feel the urge to do it competitively like my husband when he does triathlon sprints, I find it’s fun exercise and a neat way to see our hometown from a different perspective.

An Ode To Summer! Tennis Lessons!

Signing your children up for classes with your city’s recreation programs is a great way to let them try a new sport without having to invest a lot of money until you see if they like it.  On a whim, my daughter had her girls try tennis lessons; not only did they love playing, they seemed to have a natural knack for it too!!

Sun symbol.

 

Keep it simple!

While we look forward to the opportunity to spend more time together as a family during the summer months, filling our days with the millions of options available to keep us busy and entertained, there is only so much parental energy–and our children’s congenial attitudes are not limitless.  I’ve found that if I didn’t over-complicate my life with things I thought I “should” be doing all summer, that my days naturally went smoother…besides, it’s good for kids to see that every minute of every day doesn’t need to be planned out and that the best summer memories are often those where they just enjoy some good old-fashioned leisure time.  I also tried to have some down-time after lunch when my kids were home.  They could read or play a quiet game in their rooms or perhaps watch a TV show for half an hour.  I’ll admit though, I’m happy that I raised my family before the great drawing force of the internet–my kids weren’t distracted by social media, living vicariously through their friend’s summer activities…instead they couldn’t wait to go outside and create their own adventures, letting their imaginations go wild!  (I’ll never forget the wedding they held in our garage, complete with dandelion bouquets and vanilla wafer refreshments!)  When my oldest daughter and her husband were looking for a place to settle down and raise their family, I loved it when she told me that she wanted to find a neighborhood where her kids could grow up just like she did…where they walk out the front door to friends who ride bikes, sell Kool-aid, run through the sprinklers, and play for hours on end using the simple creativity of their own minds!

Ode To Summer! Koolaid for sale!

“From here to there, and there to here, fun and funny things are everywhere!”  Dr. Suess

As parents we can often feel pressured to have everything Pinertest” perfect when it comes to entertaining our children…but their simple artistic efforts are what matter most when doing an activity; the stress levels are kept in check too.

When we get together as a family now, listening to my kids reminisce about their fun childhood summers fills my heart…those days have set a good foundation for all the wonderful times they enjoy now as they raise their young families!

Summer fun quote.

“Every summer has its own special story!”  Tribute Journal

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

I’d love to know how you balance your summer activities.  Do you have any summer traditions?

–Best summer wishes to you!  Mary

Wanderlust! Planning Your Next Travel Adventure!

Wanderlust!  Planning Your Next Travel Adventure!

My father was definitely bitten by the wanderlust bug…he and my mom traveled extensively throughout their lives and broadened their view of the world and the eclectic mix of people in it!  While I may not be driven to travel to the extent that my parents did, I want the adventures I do go on to be as fun and meaningful as possible!!

wanderlust

Travel Planning Tips:

While it may sound a little starry-eyed and somewhat dreamy to grab a back pack and head out to roam the world with wild abandon, most of us only have a certain amount of time and money for traveling, so making a few key plans ahead of time is essential to making our travel dreams come true!  Lucky for me, my daughter-in-law, Whitney, has become very proficient in knowing how to plan vacations that allow for a good mix of touristy experiences combined with activities that follow the unbeaten path, so to speak!  Here are some of her travel tips to help make planning your next adventures a lot easier!

Wanderlust! Planning Your Next Travel Adventure!

“And then I realized…adventures are the best way to learn!”  The Traveler’s Chant

♦  Tech Savvy

While Whitney may claim that she isn’t the most tech savvy travel guide, (I have seen her work travel magic using her iPhone, however) she has found that a recent article in the New York Times, see it here, to be a helpful resource in suggesting Smartphone apps that will guide you around a new city.  There are some fun travel Instagram accounts to follow that showcase unusual places explore as well, @passionpassport and @kirstenalana are a couple of favorites!  Also, since finding good food is synonymous to a successful adventure for most people, Whitney suggests using the Yelp app as a main “go to” for finding great local eats for wherever you may find yourself…it does broad searches for highly recommended restaurants in any particular area you are visiting.  Whitney says there are great user reviews on this app and has rarely served her wrong.

not-all-who-wander-2

Since Jake and Whitney have had to privilege of traveling extensively while he serves as a dentist for the Army, they’ll be the first to tell you that your travel ventures should include exploring all the hidden gems right where you live!

Bratwurst in Bamburg, Germany! www.mytributejournal.com

(Bratwurst in Bamburg, Germany)

Finding a good place to eat when you’re traveling can be a little tricky, but food reviews on a reliable phone app can lead you to some amazing local cuisine!  

♦  Travel Books

Since I have given Whitney and my son some as gifts, I can vouch for the fact that one of the first things they like to do when planning a trip is check out a good guidebook by a veteran traveler; some of their favorites are the various editions of Lonely Planet and the Rick Steves travel books.  These can be found on their respective websites or of course, Amazon.  Whitney says that once you’ve decided on your travel destination, a guidebook is integral in helping you get a quick overview of the area so you can decide on the things you’re really interested in doing while you’re there.  Once those decisions are made, you can do a more in-depth study and make reservations for lodging and activities for a less stressful travel experience.

Travel tips.

Rick Steves also has free downloads via iTunes of his self-guided tours that give detailed information on about any vacation spot you’d ever want to explore!

Neuschwanstein Castle in Gorgeous Germany! www.mytributejournal.com

(Neuschwanstein Castle in Fussen, Germany)

Travel books about Germany will recommend that you visit the Neuschwanstein Castle, better known as the Cinderella Castle.  We read about the history of the castle beforehand, but were glad we went on a guided tour where we learned more about King Louis II, (Mad King Ludwig) who had the castle built!

♦  Websites

Because of its prolific collection of information, Whitney most often turns to Pinterest when planning a trip; she searches by location which proves to be a great source of first-hand experiences by bloggers and other ordinary travelers who often share unique things to do at your chosen vacation site that you might not find elsewhere.  Whitney has also found two reliable websites for reserving a place to stay when they travel.  Booking.com gives you a number of hotels in your designated vacation area with honest reviews.  After a few years of using this website, Whitney advises looking for places with customer ratings of 8 or higher.  Another valuable online resource for reliable room accommodations is AirBnB.  Whitney and Jake have grown to really love staying in the types of places offered by this reliable travel website.  It allows you a variety of rental options from homes to single rooms that often give you a unique flavor of the local charm of an area when you’re traveling.

Travel quote.

Whitney recommends AirBnB accommodations if you are traveling with a young family or big group, because of the availability of a variety of rental places that allow you the chance to enjoy a home-type setting with room to spread out, as well as space for fixing meals, then you don’t always have to go out to eat!

The Sound of Music bike tour, Salzburg, Austria! www.mytributejournal.com

(Sound of Music Bike Tour in Salzburg, Austria.)

Whitney was able to book tickets online for the amazing bike tour for the 50th anniversary celebration of “The Sound of Music” movie a few years ago.  By doing so, we avoided the risk of the event being sold out when we got there.

♦  Word Of Mouth (And Other Miscellaneous Travel Tips) 

Military life naturally lends itself to rubbing shoulders, so to speak, with other fellow travelers, so most often, Whitney has found that nothing beats word of mouth recommendations from those who have already experienced some fun adventures in the places she and Jake are wanting to visit!  While living in Europe, Whitney joined a Facebook group page of other families stationed in Germany that became a wonderful resource to rely on for fun travel ideas; it was also a great forum to be able to ask questions and get specific instructions on things they needed to do to prepare for any upcoming trips.  Depending on what your plans are, you’ll need a checklist to pack accordingly, ie. backpacks and camping gear for hiking and other outdoor activities, etc.  Knowing what kind of weather to expect also helps you know what clothes to take.  Having a current passport and knowing money exchange rates is essential for travel to foreign countries.  I’ve outlined that in more detail in a previous post here.

Confuscious travel quote.

Whitney can’t stress enough the benefit of doing a little research about the places you are going to visit beforehand.  She has found that a basic travel plan with room for flexibility is a must; doing this helps her appreciate the culture and history of travel destinations much more.  Often, it requires little more than hopping on Wikipedia to learn about the special places they’ll be touring.

Cooking class in Florenece, Italy!

(Walkabout Tuscany cooking class in Florence, Italy.)

Word of mouth proved to provide us with one of our most memorable experiences in Italy.  Whitney heard from some friends about an outdoor farmhouse cooking class overlooking the hills of Tuscany–it fulfilled every expectation and more!

  A Bird’s Eye View

Despite the fact that it’s hard sometimes to have some of our family members scattered about from New York City to Germany over the last several years, my husband and I have had the good fortune of being able to take advantage of having the best tour guides while visiting our children in their assorted adopted hometowns; there is nothing quite like a bird’s eye view of a special destination from someone who actually lives there and knows all the unique things to experience in these wonderful places.

Ernest Hemingway "Moveable Feast" quote.

Since Jake enjoys traveling as much as his grandfather did, it has been so much fun to see how he and Whitney collaborate to create lovely travel adventures…and now their sweet, little boy, Elliot, is all too happy to be able to join them. 

Tips For Planning Your Next Travel Adventure!

“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us!”  Traveler’s Creed

I hope these tips help as you look forward to planning your summer adventures!

Wanderlust! Planning Your Next Adventure!

“Never stop exploring…you become a better person when you’re curious about the people and the world around you!  Life is an adventure!”  Jake Wilding 

What travel tips do you swear by when you go on vacation? 

–Safe travels!  Mary

The Cookbook Challenge! Healthyish!

The Cookbook Challenge!  Healthyish!

How can you not stop and browse a cookbook with this title…I mean seriously!!!  Aside from the clever, eye-catching title, this cookbook is full of fun, easy recipes that will restore your faith in the fact that healthy-ish can be really tasty too!

The Cookbook Challenge!

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces, just good food from fresh ingredients!”  Julia Child 

As the weather eases into summer, we naturally seem to be more active and are inclined to eat healthier as fresh produce is more available, but as the saying goes…people who love good food…are always the best people…and I believe that food should always be healthyish!

"Healthyish" cookbook.

“My main goal is to give you good, doable recipes that fit into your real lives.”  Lindsay Maitland Hunt

Lindsay Maitland Hunt is a recipe developer who has devoted her career to creating recipes for everyone from college students to busy families to seasoned home cooks.  In the introduction of her cookbook, it states that Healthyish, is for anyone on the move, working long hours and trying to live a bit more healthfully.  There are 131 satisfying recipes included, with straightforward instructions, using as few pots and pans as possible, and ingredients that won’t break the bank.  Not to mention, you can find the ingredients at your everyday grocery store.  That my friends…is my kind of cookbook!

Healthyish Recipes I Love!

This cookbook is quickly becoming one of my favorites for finding easy recipes for packing my lunch to eat on the run at work, as well as great meals for when you need to fix dinner quick; it’s one of those cookbooks that when you look at the recipes, you think to yourself, “Oh man, why didn’t I think of this?”  Such serious goodness!

Apple Slice “Cookies”

There are three different recipes for these yummy Apple Slice Cookies, but really, the sky’s the limit–so try creating your own concoction of this versatile snack!

Sliced Apple Cookies!

My favorite is: Yogurt Peanut Butter Granola Apple “Cookies”

1 small sweet apple (such as Fuji or Gala)

Yogurt (I like “Oui” yogurt by Yoplait)

Oui yogurt for apple "cookies"!

1/2 cup Peanut Butter Granola (There’s a recipe for this granola in the cookbook, but you could just use one you like the best, which is what I do.)

Cut apples horizontally into 6-8 thinish slices.

Poke the seeds out of the center of each apple.

Spread slices with yogurt, then top with granola.

I’ll often sprinkle on some chocolate chips too.

Old-School Pizzeria Salad

This is one of my most favorite recipes from this fun cookbook.  Like the author, it reminds me of the salads my family got with our pizzas when I was growing up.

Old-school Pizzeria Salad.

3/4 cup canned chickpeas (garbonzo beans) rinsed well

2/3 cup chopped giardiniera pickles or banana peppers

1/2 cup cubed Provolone cheese (I prefer it grated.)

1/2 cup sliced salami pieces (You could use pepperoni.)

2 Tbsp. Dried Oregano Italian Vinaigrette (Recipe below.)

Ground sea salt and black pepper to taste

2 cups baby arugula or any mixed greens

Mix all the salad ingredients together in a salad bowl.

You could also add sun-dried or fresh cherry tomatoes.

Fold in the arugula or mixed greens just prior to serving.

Homemade Dried Oregano Italian Vinaigrette

This salad dressing recipe adds a welcome tang to any simple salad!

1-1/3 cups olive oil

1 cup red wine vinegar

2 tsp. dried oregano

1 Tbsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Whisk together in bowl until ingredients are completely combined.

Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 1 month. 

Shake well before each use.

Mason Jar salads.

The author suggest that a great way to enjoy this salad at work or on a picnic lunch, is to layer the ingredients in a bottle, putting the arugula in very last. 

Healthyish! Recipes for real life!

One of the things I love about this cookbook is how the author suggests changing how you serve food to give it a fresh reboot that makes for the best festive eating!   (These veggie, cheese and meat skewers have become a favorite snack!) 

As stated in the introduction of this cookbook: “Healthyish works if you’re just getting started in the kitchen or if you’ve been at the stove for years, because the author has developed each recipe with the home cook in mind.”  All I know is that I can’t wait to try more recipes in the section titled: “Treats” –they all look amazing and pretty healthy to boot!

Eating healthy quote.

“A healthy outside starts from the inside!”  Robert Urich   

Here’s to happy, healthyish eating and a wonderful summer!

Any easy, “healthyish” recipes you love that you’d share with us?

–Mary