Mel welcomes you to her website devoted to promoting a peaceful, healthy, and grounded life. Please read the "about" section to begin which includes her background and credentials. Blog categories are available to search for your favorite subjects. Disclosure: This website does contain affiliate links.
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We recently left Alaska to visit our family in Georgia. Fortunately, the flight was pleasant with no hiccups, which was a possibility because of my travel companions. Our miniature schnauzer and daughter can sometimes exude bursts of energy so I wasn’t sure if our flight would be uneventful. I am happy to report both of these companions were awesome in flight.
Furthermore, I must brag about how awesome my family was during this first holiday apart. They delayed their Christmas plans until we arrived. They didn’t eat the traditional meal or exchange presents until we arrived. I know that must have been difficult but it meant a lot to all of us! We loved all of our gifts, especially the gift of family. Even though I still have more family to visit, it has already been a great trip so far.
The next holiday was New Year’s Eve (NYE). NYE was spent in Florida with my sister and her boyfriend. We had a great dinner (no reservation required) and had a low-key night out. However, I must mention one really neat thing we noticed while at the restaurant/bar was a young woman probably around 22 who had a perfect 1980s hair-style. It was quite shocking to see! After all, I haven’t seen hair like that since I styled my own that big during the late 80s. Is that fad coming back? I have no idea, but if so, there will be many ladies already experienced at teasing, spraying, and styling really big. (Smile.)
On a final note, 2018 is going to be the year of wellness surprises. The reason I know this is because I surprisingly brought the snow to south Georgia. (Joking… Seriously, it snowed just as hard for a while in Georgia as it did in Alaska. So much for warm weather…) For the new year, I plan on writing some of the same content you are already used to, but will also add new topics such as articles about essential oils. Not only will I discuss how essential oils can help you, but I will actually create wellness products too. The essential oil certification I earned last year will get plenty of use in 2018!
Please check in regularly. I also welcome you to leave comments or messages. I hope your new year is a wonderful one!
Time is such a valuable commodity. We don’t know how much of it we have left and yet, many times, we don’t stop to appreciate and process this very important fact. The holidays are especially a time when we don’t truly think about the concept of time. You probably know why, but let me explain. Christmas is tough for some people because of worries about getting the perfect gift. However, this should not be positioned as the most important activity. The most important thing you can do is cherish your family and make memories that will live long after the toys have broken or grown old. After all, we never know what tomorrow will bring. In fact, I truly wish some of my loved ones who have already left this earth could be here for me to share a conversation and squeeze in an endearing hug. Without a doubt, I decided long ago that every moment of this holiday would be spent enjoying people and promoting the reason for the season.
In fact, Christmas Eve kicked off with a Candlelight Service at a local church. Then, when Connor got home, we played games and snacked. Afterwards, we watched a Christmas movie and crashed because we know Christmas Day is always packed with activity after activity.
As usual, Christmas Day started with our annual breakfast of pigs-in-a-blanket and a tall mug of freshly made coffee. We then opened presents and made calls and texts to family and friends. The evening closed down playing games and watching a family movie with some of our friends. Overall, it was such a wonderful day. I will end the day with this. I hope your day was wonderful and that you cherished those people in your life on this joyous day that only comes once a year.
Christmas is the time for giving, sharing, and caring. I decided the best way to share some cheer was to host a cooking baking festivity at my house. I invited my immediate next-door neighbor, two neighbors from down the street (I met these two at my first neighbor’s home), and another neighborhood resident I met while walking McKinley the other day. Most of us frequently joke that we never make friends with anyone outside the neighborhood. This seems to be true, but we are open to making friends with anyone.
To kick off this event, I found some shiny invitations, filled these out, and dropped off to everyone like the neighborhood Christmas Elf. This was a full 5 days before the event because I made sure to text almost everyone about it as a “Save the Date” heads-up two weeks beforehand. However, call me old-fashioned, but I fully believe a hand-written note/invitation is still warranted and shows the person you think they are worth the time and effort. I sent out 6 invitations and only 4 ladies attended. (Invitation insert wording is listed near the end of this post, if interested in using.) Also, if you decide to host one of these yourself, you’ll definitely want to consider the fact that not everyone you invite will want to attend (or may already be busy.) Regardless of whether you require an RSVP, inevitably, people still won’t let you know whether they can attend. It happens.
Furthermore, I wanted everyone to enjoy some snacks and beverages while baking. I prepared snacks and a wine spritzer, but had plenty of non-alcoholic options too. My wine spritzer had white wine, pineapple-orange juice, diet sprite, and pure cranberry juice in it. I poured this in my punch dispenser until it tasted acceptable. (You can also add some club soda if you want.) Snacks to fuel all the cooking included: little smokies (which are mini sausages in a low sugar barbecue sauce), chips and salsa, mini French bread baguettes, AND a cheese, cracker, and fruit plate.
Everything turned out great! We had a wonderful time. Although, I believe it would have been helpful to share plans to avoid duplicating recipes. We were lucky. Even though there were two peanut butter items, there were no two identical cookies. We ended up making date balls, peanut butter fudge, peanut butter cookies, thumbprint cookies, ginger cookies with lemon icing, and snowball cookies. Also, I made fruitcake cookies the night before the party to free my oven for others’ items. In the end, I hope this post helps you plan your next ladies event! This would be a great party before Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or even before Thanksgiving.
Items to Purchase before the Party
Pretty invitations (1 month ahead)
Holiday themed tablecloth (2 weeks before)
Holiday themed plates and cups (2 weeks before)
Snacks of your choice (one savory, one sweet, and other snacks planned 3 weeks ahead)
Decorations (if you haven’t decorated already)
Gift bags and tissue paper (for everyone to take cookies home in)
Wording for My Invitation Insert If you are able to make it on __________, please bring your favorite cookie or candy recipe and the ingredients. (I will have plenty of eggs and milk.) I have a few pans we can use but if you happen to have a baking sheet, bring it as well. We will keep the oven busy! This festivity should be a fun one — no stress! We will learn from one another, share cookies, and socialize! I have already purchased bags and tissue paper for us to use to take home a variety of cookies for our family and friends. Also, I plan on having a yummy beverage for us all (with and without spirits) and a few snacks too. While not required, feel free to bring anything snack-wise or beverage(s) to share. Thanks, _____________.
Lastly, do not forget after the party is over, you can enjoy the cookies for up to 2 weeks during the holiday season. This is a win-win festivity.
There has been so much going on recently that I’ll have to combine two topics and share the others with you next week.
First, I’ll discuss Christmas Towne! (By the way, I literally just said that in my best movie trailer announcer voice.) In my former small town in Georgia, I always looked forward to a fun community Christmas celebration that occurred the first Saturday of December. It was always top-notch with special performers, amusement rides, local dancers and singers, and more Christmas cheer than can be put into words. The kick-off was a Christmas parade and the entire thing was FREE, well, except for the vendors. Last year, my daughter and I prepared a thermos full of hot cocoa and sat on the street, along with hundreds of other people, and watched the parade. Initially, I thought our move here in Alaska would end that. However, I got a surprise when I discovered an event for local communities that lasted more than one day.
Last weekend, we went to a Boy Scout camp turned Christmas Towne in Chugiak, Alaska. I thought it would be a fun outing for the family since there were supposed to be free crafts for visitors to create, reindeer, and a Santa Clause. When we arrived, we began strolling through the village to eventually get greeted by a lady. She asked us if we knew where we were going or whether we needed help. Of course, we answered that we needed help. She pointed out things that were going on in the Towne. Since we went with our neighbors down the street, we had company too, which was nice. There were definitely crafts for children (and adults) to create in the main building where Santa was located. Caris and I wanted to take a picture with Santa, which we did, but Santa ended up not being very nice. In fact, he mocked my southern accent, openly, and with a laugh. I almost allowed my good-spirit to fade away and comment how Santa shouldn’t do that, but decided it was pointless. Instead, I decided it wasn’t worth him crushing my spirits and moved on cheerfully to the next location.
After we finished crafting, we met a reindeer. Caris really enjoyed it. The wonderful lady who was responsible for the reindeer told a great story about her job as the oldest elf and intrigued us all. We also had a snowball fight! There was a huge field of synthetic snowballs that wouldn’t melt and we all spent about 15 minutes playing around with those. Another feature at the Towne was a Smores making area where anyone could spend time warming up and, if desired, make some smores. All-in-all, it was a very fun day and it was FREE!
Now, to change subjects, you know I can’t leave you without a wonderful keto recipe creation. Yesterday, I made a delicious keto pizza with a cauliflower-pesto crust. It really tasted amazing with our bacon topped side salad. The recipe is below.
2 bags of cauliflower florets
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 TBSP of your favorite pesto
A clean kitchen towel
½ cup of Mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Your favorite pizza sauce
Your favorite pizza toppings
Steam cauliflower with the smallest amount of water needed to do so. Drain. Then, put cauliflower in Vitamix (or whatever mixer you own) and make into a smooth paste like texture. (I received a Vitamix over 5 years ago from Micah and it is the best machine for kitchen creativity. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about mine. There is a link below if interested in checking it out.) Then, dump cauliflower onto the middle of a clean kitchen towel. Start getting water out of the paste. I pull together like a bag and push out as much as I can. My towel held so much water it began dripping! So, I opened it up and used some clean paper towels to get the remaining fluid off.
Next, preheat oven to 450 degrees and put cauliflower paste into a bowl. Add the garlic powder and pesto to mixture and mix well by hand. Once mixed, put cauliflower mixture onto a non-stick sprayed tinfoil covered pan. Shape the mixture into the pizza shape you like. (I always prefer a circle.) Make sure it isn’t too thin, but you definitely don’t want it too thick or it won’t be crispy. I sprinkle a little more garlic powder on it at this stage. Bake for 12 minutes until starting to look brown on edges. Take out of oven and spread a thin amount of pizza sauce onto paste. Add meat (if you want.) I added ground turkey. Then, top with a generous amount of mozzarella cheese. Bake for 7-10 more minutes, based on your oven’s cook time until top is brown and cheese looks bubbly. Serve with a side salad. Our side salad had mini bell peppers, diced boiled eggs, cheese, and bacon on it.
As I have already said before, I have some awesome neighbors! Early last week, my neighbors invited us and a few other families to go ice fishing on Saturday with them. It ended up being a spectacular time! The place where we went fishing wasn’t too far from our home which was even better. When we woke up, we realized the day was going to be warmer than usual at around 35 degrees. (That seems funny to say especially coming from over 100 degrees in the summer with the heat index factor.)
We loaded the truck and headed toward the lake. Once we arrived, everyone loaded up their sleds and transported all of their goods from the parking lot to our claimed spot on the lake. On the way down, I decided to FaceTime mom and dad so they could see some of the ice fishing adventure too. They even got to meet my neighbors. Super cool… In fact, Micah took a picture of me holding up my phone showing them around (shown below.) Also, since Caris hurt her knee the night before, we pulled her to our camp location on the sled. She liked the sled as most children do.
Once we pulled all of our goods to our camping area for the day, the holes were already drilled by my neighbor with an auger. We haven’t purchased a sled yet but should definitely put that on our list. We waited until one of the other families finished and borrowed theirs which made it easier to transport.
After seeing the entire thing go down, I now feel one step closer to going on my own ice fishing adventure. My neighbors also own an Eskimo Portable Ice Shelter and added a heater to it to create a warming tent. It was very comfortable actually. I brought some hot cocoa and we enjoyed that as well. It was definitely one of the coolest things I have done in a while. I think it helped that I caught the first fish of the day, shown below. It was so much fun! Listed at the bottom of this post are some of the major things to consider purchasing to make your first ice fishing experience wonderful. If you are an experienced ice fisher-man or ice fisher-woman, please feel free to comment on some things you think are required for a wonderful (and comfortable) family-fun day adventure.
Things needed for a great ice fishing day:
Tiny shrimp for bait
Small fishing pole rigged with small hook and weight
Eskimo pop-up tent AND a sled
Hot cocoa already prepared in a thermos
Micah has been very excited about winter weather in order to break in his new Snow Machine. Being able to access places that aren’t accessible by any other means, except maybe bush planes, is an exciting way to see some beautiful places in Alaska. Most recently, he went to Petersville in the Dutch Hills to check out some territory. He said the most awesome thing was being able to go to the foot hills of the Alaska range to get a great look at Denali. Since it takes some skill to be able to ride the machine, he is getting practice now but the entire family will join him in the future when he becomes more proficient.
The images you see below are from his first Snowmachine journey.
Meanwhile, while Micah was gone, Caris and I continued in the Christmas spirit and wrapped a few presents, went shopping, watched movies, and played some games.
Sitting here on this beautiful Wednesday, I had several thoughts come to mind. Brainstorming about which topic I wanted to discuss with you today, I decided on Chico Hot Springs. Why? I guess because I am looking out to snow-covered streets and realizing this is the beginning of winter with much more snow and darkness to come. Reminiscing about the beauty of the hot springs warms me up…
Last summer, Micah, Caris, and I drove from Anchorage to Georgia. I’ll spare you the details of why that trip occurred, but on the way back, we enjoyed many stops along the way. I felt like a tamer version of the Griswold family. (I love the Griswolds. As a child, I liked the children more. Now, I relate more to the parents. Clark Griswold is a character!)
While in Montana, we stopped at the beautiful Chico Hot Springs hotel and health resort. I am so happy we took the hour drive off the beaten path to visit this place. It was well worth it! Not only is it listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior, but it just feels good to hang out there. In 1910, the place was considered a medical facility because of the power of the healing waters in the springs. I can tell you it makes you feel wonderful. I can only imagine if I had this option in my backyard or nearby neighborhood. I would visit all the time. Since we stopped randomly to stay at this place, we lucked up because they were almost fully booked. The lady at the front desk said we would have to stay off site in one of their cabins, but would be charged the same rate as being on the premises. The springs are beside a bar, restaurant, and hotel, and is essentially one part of a tiny town. There is a clothing shop and other places to purchase items to make your stay comfortable. Children are all around excited about the hot springs and the town. Nearby, there was also a camel riding activity that Caris enjoyed. I didn’t know if she would be in sensory overload or be brave enough to ride the entire time, but she rode on the camel, named Butter, with a guide without issue.
Since we had a cooler packed with foods, we made our way to the cabin not knowing how lucky we were! When we arrived, we were met with a beautiful, private, and spacious cabin with a great view of the mountains. In fact, this place was so awesome that we would really love to build a cabin like it one day. If you get the opportunity to visit Chico Hot Springs, do it! Regardless of whether you luck up in the cabin, or stay in one of the on-site rooms, you will be happy you did so. The children will love it and parents will too! Shown below are some pictures from that spontaneous adventure.
I was talking to my mom the other day and told her we are swimming regularly now to get in some low-impact exercise. She questioned me in a perplexed way, “SWIMMING?” I then had to explain to her that we decided to join a gym with an aquatic center in order to get some much-needed pool time. Even though we’re in Alaska, we can still enjoy swimming in the local gym’s salt-treated pool. Caris and I on one of many gym adventures are shown below.
Initially, when we first visited to consider joining, I thought the place was too much facility for us. After all, we are used to gym equipment, a little treadmill/elliptical, and occasional summer swimming. However, this place had all that and more. They even have one of the best detoxing options — a steam room and a dry sauna. Caris and I like steaming, or using the dry sauna, at least once a week while refueling with a Kombucha (fermented tea.) Caris tells me the steam helps her release stress. For any child, much less an autistic child, to have this happen is amazing. I feel like we are sweating out the bad and putting back in the good when we drink our Kombucha simultaneously while steaming. Even though I read about health topics all the time, I wanted to see if there was any evidence I could share with you to support our perception. I discovered a fairly recent article where Assistant Beauty Editor Runa Bhattacharya said, “Both steam rooms and saunas make you sweat, which can help unclog your pores and give your skin a flushed, glow-y look… Saunas use dry heat, which makes your pores release more sweat, while steam rooms have more moisture in the air, which can help plump up your skin…” (D’Angelo, 2011, p. 1). Well, now, this sounds like we’re on to something with this steam/sauna schedule.
Furthermore, the reason why Kombucha is so good to consume at the same time is because it is a probiotic and probiotics can help our immunity. I have also heard that it is great for arthritis and joint issues but according to Krieger (2014) there is no evidence to support these claims. However, based on my experience, it is worth a try if you can get your hands on some good quality Kombucha. I typically buy either the “GTs” brand but I have been branching out and really like the “Brew Dr.” versions as well. I always feel wonderful afterwards and have that “glow-y” skin D’Angelo (2011) mentioned. These two are shown below if interested.
After the swim and steam yesterday, we ended up walking around the neighborhood. It snowed all night through noon, so there was lots of snow all around. One thing I didn’t realize until I lived here in Alaska is that walking on melted snow can be treacherous. When the snow turns to ice… EEK!(Do you remember that commercial where the lady falls and can’t get up? Yes, I do too and I do not want that to be any of my family.) Icey sidewalks aren’t fun when you want to go walking for fun or are simply trying to get from point A to point B. However, snow cleats are a great snow tool and there are many different name brands of these. Fortunately, since I did my homework weeks ago, we were able to walk around in the Subzero brand. So far, so good… I would recommend these to anyone visiting a cold climate prone to ice. I found some that look very similar to ours.
Lastly, I will bid you farewell and leave with some recent pictures we took of the scenery near our neighborhood.
D’Angelo, J. (2011). The steam room at the gym: Does it actually do anything? Self. Retrieved from https://www.self.com/story/the-steam-room-at-the-gym-does
Krieger, E. (2014). Kombucha: Is it really good for you? The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/2014/10/28/7ba5f68a-5ad6-11e4-8264-deed989ae9a2_story.html?utm_term=.6d7a848bbbf9
How long have we been in Alaska again? Oh yes, a little over 2 months… I am not sure the reason, but a day seems like 2 or 3 days. A week here feels like 2 weeks. Time is completely different. For the most part, everything is different.
Today, I’ll share with you some really neat experiences we’ve had right by our home. As I have already mentioned in several prior posts, some of our neighbors are amazing people. The family across the street from us has chickens. These chickens have the Shangri-La of chicken coups built by them, of course. What else would you expect from tough Alaskans? Caris was impressed by being given permission to pick up some eggs to take home with us. The best part of that experience was breakfast the next morning. Since we eat eggs for breakfast 99.9% of the time, this was something we needed anyway. These eggs were fun to pick up and functional (because we ate them almost immediately.)
If you noticed in the breakfast picture, avocado is another of our breakfast favorites. I read about how food can help heal (or help hurt) us AND I have a lot of health books too. I know avocados are some of the superstar foods. Our skin loves these little fruits. In fact, since these little gems are full of lutein and zeaxanthin to help protect our skin from harmful UV damage (Roberts, Green, & Lewis, 2009), the benefits go beyond beauty. A few other benefits include being heart healthy, good for weight maintenance, and great for balancing hormones for some people (Shatzman, 2015). Okay, I will move on past my obvious love of avocados.
Most recently, we were invited to our other neighbor’s house for a Halloween party. They had the best decorations and great food too. Caris enjoyed hanging out early in the night. She dressed as a baby in a cute onesie. I threw some stuff together for about $4.00 and said I was “Halloween tacky.” Micah didn’t wear a costume and Connor didn’t participate this year. Yes, Donald Trump was there too.
Roberts, R. L., Green, J., Lewis, B. (2009). Lutein and zeaxanthin in eye and skin health. Clinics in Dermatology. 27: 195-201.
Shatzman, C. (2015, July 13). 6 foods that balance your hormones for younger looking skin. Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.prevention.com/beauty/hormone-balancing-foods-better-skin
Last weekend, we went back to Point Woronzof to enjoy the beach. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we saw ravens, mountains, airplanes taking off, and even a cargo ship. We heard the gentle sound of small waves crashing and felt the warm sun on our cold faces. It was quite lovely! If you want to learn more about Point Woronzof, I found a great website to review. The website is located on the references list.
Since Point Woronzof is beside the international airport, we were very close to some of the exiting cargo planes heading toward Cook Inlet. I hope you enjoy the images and the video too. Please forgive McKinley’s squeal in the video. I still haven’t figured out how to get her to calmly greet other dogs. She instead opts for the much harsher approach of squealing as if to say, “I am here, come meet me!”
Happy Sunday (or whatever day it is),
Point Woronzof. (n.d.). In Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Retrieved from http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=viewinglocations.pointworonzof