NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Hopefully Not-So-Hostile Dietary Takeover

I spent 9 hours yesterday at my parents house educating them about food and diabetes, constructing a week's worth of meal plans and snacks for each of them, inspecting their current food supply and then going to the grocery store with our list.

We filled the cart with fruit, vegetables, nuts, ground turkey and light dairy products.  When we got to the register the total bill for a week's food for the two of them came to about $130, but next week should be less because there were quite a few items that will carry on into the next few weeks. We didn't know what cereal we would be buying for Dad to have every other morning, so we had to read some labels in the aisles. One of the books I read said it was important for the cereal to be oat, barley or bran based and to have a minimum of 4 grams dietary fiber. I was so busy looking for those parameters that I forgot to also check calories and carbohydrates. He discovered that the Oatmeal Squares cereal we bought turned out to be very high in those areas. Luckily we bought Kashi's Heart to Heart honey oatmeal cereal also, so he'll be switching to that instead.

We also stopped at the Calphalon Outlet Store to buy some vegetable keeper containers. When we got back to their place I washed them and filled them up with the fruits and vegetables so that they would stay fresh all week long.

The key to a diet that will stabilize blood sugar is smaller, high fiber, low carbohydrate meals and snacks eaten frequently throughout the day. We're also aiming for increased water intake and lower calories to encourage weight loss. I used the internet to find websites that give calorie and carbohydrate information for food to determine portions and get all our statistics for the form I printed out. I'm going to call them at the end of every day to see how it went and they are going to make notes about any difficulties they had and why. At the end of the week we'll meet again to discuss what worked and what didn't and make a plan for next week. It should take much less time because all the homework is done and they will shop on their own after the next plan is made. Today my father is planned to eat about 180 g carbs and 1500 calories, which was at the top end of our goal due to the mix-up with the cereal. My mother is planned to eat about 156 g carbs and 1100 calories, which is a little under goal so she may add something throughout her day if she's feeling hungry.

I'm excited about their goals and they are too! Hopefully it will all come together and they will stick with it and change their health for the better. I will make weekly updates on how this plan works out. If anyone has any questions as I go along, feel free to contact me for additional information!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Learning to Take Care of Yourself

A few of the blogs I've been reading have prompted me to write a post about healthier lifestyle changes. The Good Luck Duck wrote a post about cheap healthcare and the importance of preventing disease, or rather referenced another blog's post about it. Sharon over at Gains and Losses has a tab at the top of her page referencing her weight loss story and I certainly can relate to her story of struggling most of her life with weight loss.

1990- Katrina born, 1st anniversary                               1992 - Cory's christening
Easter 1996

 When I said I wanted to "grow" with Wayne over the years, this wasn't what I meant! But, I was totally inactive and completely uneducated about food. The one bright spot was that I had quit smoking in 1997 and Wayne quit after my father had a stroke in 2002. The year 2003 was a turning point for both of us in relation to our weight and health. Wayne was suffering with a disc injury that eventually had to be operated on, putting him on disability leave from work for 6 months. I went back to work part-time to make up for some lost income, and by the time he went back to work I was struggling with plantar fascitis from cheap shoes and standing on a concrete floor. I put on an additional 20 pounds during this time due to the increase in time spent "resting my feet", bringing me to my high of 205 pounds, while Wayne had also put on 20 pounds eating ice cream and peanut butter cups in an attempt to "feel better" while recovering from his surgery.

In 2005 a co-worker was having a little success going to a weight loss doctor, and I knew the extra weight was not helping my situation with my feet. I was also starting to be worried about my future, which I didn't want to include diabetes or other weight and diet related diseases. I made an appointment, got my information packet and medication, and lost 4 pounds the first week by following directions. I took Meridia for 2 months, losing 25 pounds, then stopped taking the medication and began the struggle on my own. I didn't exercise much that first year due to my continuing battle with my feet, and had trouble keeping my weight stable. Eventually my feet healed and when I added exercise things improved and more weight came off. I started off by walking, then walking faster and farther, and a year after I started walking I began running because the walking wasn't enough to keep the weight off anymore. I hit my lowest weight of 140 in the fall of 2010 and have rebounded back up about 10 pounds, but have held steady there. I don't run as much anymore due to problems with arthritis in my knees, so hiking has become my key exercise and I walk 6 days a week to maintain a healthy weight.

2006 - lean and mean!

But, as I kept gradually getting smaller, Wayne kept gradually getting bigger. This past year he started taking high blood pressure medication and at his last visit to the doctor she told him that high cholesterol medication was next if he didn't do something to improve his diet. I've been trying to nudge him, sometimes nicely, sometimes not so nicely, but with his work schedule I have no control over his eating habits. He works rotating shifts and overtime, and from day to day I don't know what time he'll be home so planning meals is impossible. Since Katrina left home I can't even cook a meal knowing someone else might eat it since Cory is gone for days at a time as well.  He has been trying to add more physical activity outside of work, but it's been sporadic and I'm very worried about his health.  Since I lost my excess weight and made a commitment to myself to be fit I am so much more energetic and happy and wish my husband would get to the place in his heart and mind where he puts this as a priority for himself as well.

Tomorrow morning I am going to start my parents on a new path. My dad has been diagnosed with diabetes and my mother with fatty liver disease. Perhaps watching them succeed will motivate Wayne to jump on board, too. They aren't too thrilled with my planned hostile should be an interesting experiment, but more on that next time!

South Dakota 2011

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

KD Park and North Branch Conservation Area

I've had to work every other day this week and it's been in the 90's every day so I've stuck close to home for my walks. I hit the North Branch Conservation Area which is part of the Grand Illinois Trail that runs through Richmond, Illinois and Genoa City, Wisconsin before turning back toward Hebron. They've done some prairie restoration out there and there are lots of birdhouses and wildflowers along the trail which is used by hikers, bikers, and snowmobiles in the winter.

We had rain the night before for the first time in two weeks and the birds were very active.  I know very little about birds but would like to learn, so if I've identified these birds incorrectly please let me know! It looks like the first picture is of tree swallows, I can't tell what the one by the hole of the birdhouse is unless it's a juvenille tree swallow. I was about to give up on the second one until I got almost to the back of the National Geographic Field Guide and determined it must be a Dickcissel. What a pretty call it has!

This morning my neighbor and I checked out KD Park, a new Kenosha County Park on Route KD. Very original name, isn't it? A former gravel quarry, the KD Park encompasses 234 acres of land and a 39-acre lake.  A 36-acre wetlands within the park has been identified as a critical species habitat  because the site supports two rare bird species (Forster's Tern and Great Egret).  It also supports a healthy tick population because Margie found two on her in my car on our way home! Somehow I was spared, even though I kept nosing around on the edges of the 2.5 mile trail looking for wildlife.

And in my front yard this morning I found these guys foraging in the flower beds. The little one might be a chipping sparrow, but I checked two different field guides and the internet without determining what the gray one is. Help me! I'm getting ready to run some errands now and might stop at the McDonald Woods in Lake Villa, Illinois. Hopefully I'll see wildlife and not a red-haired clown!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Kettle Moraine - Paradise Springs and Scuppernong Springs

After I hiked the Scuppernong Trail on Sunday I still had some time to kill before being able to settle in to my campsite so I headed over to Paradise Springs Nature Area.

It's a paved looped trail that leads to a catch and release trout fishing pond. At the far end of the loop is the spring house. The interpretive signs in the spring house were missing and/or vandalised so I had to look up the history on the internet: in the 1800's an individual visiting a local farm drank water from one of the springs and believed it to have healing/restorative power.  He promoted this idea and word spread, creating a booming spa and recreation era that actually was the basis for the forming of Waukesha county. Hard to believe this was once a resort area; now this part of Wisconsin is nothing but farms and small towns. Eagle is so small that there was no restaurant open for me to have dinner and no grocery store either so I had to eat a bag of potato chips from the gas station!  I didn't get a picture of the spring house because people were using it to cool down.  I wandered around the pond and took pictures of the twelve spotted skimmers and tadpoles instead.

 There wasn't much else to see, so I drove back to Ottawa Lake and parked across the street at the Scuppernong Springs Trailhead. The hiking trail is a former railbed that led to Eagle Lime Products company that mined marl here almost a century ago. A strange oversight doomed the company. While the process of incinerating, cooling and packaging the lime was simple, the large-scale machinery needed to make the business economical required large amounts of fuel. Scattered hardwood trees in the vicinity quickly fell to the axe, followed by less useful softwoods. Scouts discovered a thin vein of "coal" north of the marsh, near Ottawa Lake. It was probably a peat deposit. There are no coal deposits in Wisconsin. Company officials also discovered that farmers in the region preferred to haul marl themselves from local sources. The firm's competitors in the quicklime business routinely ran even larger-scale operations, further eroding its bottom line.

After only six years of actual lime production (1908 to 1914), mining and processing operations ceased. Some of the ruins are still located along the trail.

Further along the trail there are several bridges crossing the Scuppernong River. I couldn't resist taking off my shoes and climbing in to explore.

All good things must come to an end (especially when the rocks are covered with sharp little barnacles and you forget to pack your water shoes) so I got my shoes back on, finished the trail, and headed to my campsite.

I set up my tent cot, opened up my gourmet dinner of potato chips from the gas station, and settled in to read "Timeline" by Michael Crichton on my new Kindle. It was great to read hands-free and it didn't take me long to get used to the slight blur when you turn the page.  When I reserved this book (six months ago when I bought the Nook and returned it...don't get me started on the library reservation system!) I didn't realize that it was one that I've already read, but it's a great story so I was happy to read it again, especially since it was free!  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Sweet Angeline's in Richmond, Illinois

When my neighbor and I went for a walk on the trail going through the town of Richmond about a week ago, we discovered that a new baker has set up shop. They even let us sample some of the mango cake with cream cheese frosting, and that was all it took to get me hooked!

I decided to buy four different treats to bring home and try.  I got the cinnamon roll, a mango mini-cake, the chocolate cupcake and the mint cupcake. They were all sinfully delicious, but the mint cupcake was my favorite. Everything was so good that the chocolate came in last...definitely not how it usually goes!  She also serves pannini sandwiches and sometimes homemade soup and I'm looking forward to stopping in for lunch sometime, too.

 Margie and I stopped in again today to celebrate my birthday, and I couldn't resist coming home with another box full of goodies! I got the mint cupcake, the cinnamon roll, the bourbon vanilla cupcake and decided to try a spinach-swiss croissant as well.  I tried the pecan roll today with a cup of tea outside for our celebration, and Margie had the chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting and an expresso bean on top.  It was good...but the mint cupcake still wins, hands down!

 I just couldn't resist writing up an entry about Angela's goodies and hope she is successful in her new business and that I'll be tempted for a long time with her bake shop just minutes from my home!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Kettle Moraine State Forest - Scuppernong Trails

For my birthday I decided to go camping by myself at the Lake Ottawa Campground in Kettle Moraine State Forest. I've been to some of the hiking and mountain biking trails in the forest but thought it would be a good time to see the rest of the Southern Unit. Most of the other parks within a 2 hour drive were booked up on Sunday night, so I figured it would be a good time to cross this off my to-do list.

After stopping at the ranger station to pay for my campsite I headed over to the Scuppernong trail system. There are three trails that start out together and then branch off for varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. I chose the green trail which was the  longest, but cut across via the Ice Age National Trail at one point and trimmed it down to about 4 miles.  Where the trails all began together it was getting pretty steady use for a late Sunday morning, and seemed to be especially popular with runners. The trail itself was a nice packed sand, with some embedded rocks and the occasional tree root on some of the hilly sections.  Since Wayne and I seem to always be going fast, I decided to take it slow and try to find insects to photograph.

 I also pulled some garlic mustard, just couldn't stop myself! When we were at Kohler-Andrae a ranger told me about "galls" on plants being filled with insects, so when I spotted one on my hike I couldn't resist cutting it open to see for myself.

I took a left on the Ice Age trail when the opportunity arose, and the trail was narrower and led deep into the forest. My only companions were the chipmunks and squirrels crunching on the leaves.

 Eventually I linked back up with the green trail which was much more open and getting pretty warm with the midday temperature hitting about 90. Flowers were in bloom in the full sun, and the moths, butterflies and skippers were loving it!

It took me about 3 hours to complete my 4 miles...glacier speed for me, which was appropriate in this land shaped by glacial activity! I only rested once, and while I cooled down I thought about Peggy over at Camping Tales and how she camps and explores alone often. I was having a great time by myself, but maybe someday I'll be lucky enough to share an adventure with her in her neck of the woods! But instead of looking out for spiders I'll have to keep an eye out for 'gators!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Kohler-Andrae State Park

We made it to Kohler-Andrae State Park a few miles south of Sheboygan just before dark, and after checking in with Dianna at the visitor center we took a pull-through site for 2 nights. We were a little surprised when we got to it because it wasn't like any pull-through we'd seen before.

Our "site" looked just like a parallel parking spot to me, but it turned out to not be as bad as it seemed. In the wooded area next to the site was a path leading to a fire ring and picnic table, and the wooded part of the site was quite large.  We thought about changing sites in the morning since we didn't need to unhook from the truck for the night, but decided it didn't matter because we'd be on the go the rest of the day anyway.  We scoped out the rest of the sites and for a larger camper like ours we liked sites 8, 10, 17, 23, 26, 28 or 33.

 In the morning we rode our bikes through all the camping loops and had three deer sightings while riding around.  We also stumbled upon a teepee site for rent.  The teepee is $34-37 a night, and was equipped with cots, a fire ring and a picnic table but no pets allowed. I bet little kids would love it!

Another feature we've never seen before is access to a beach wheelchair. 

 The notice was posted at the Sanderling Nature Center that we biked to only to find out they didn't open until 12:30. We read up on the details of the keel section of the Great Lakes Schooner "Challenge" built in 1852 that  had washed ashore and was on display. Wayne wondered why they never make any effort to apply any kind of coating to preserve these items so that they last and I'm betting it has something to do with having been in the water. He said it didn't matter if it didn't last anyway because in 200 years people would probably be using time travel for their vacations and they could just go back in time and sail on a schooner themselves!


 We parked our bikes at the Nature Center and accessed the 1/2 mile Creeping Juniper Nature Trail from the parking lot. It started out along Lake Michigan as part of the Dunes Cordwalk with a view of the lake and benches for enjoying it. The cordwalk then turned and looped around through the dunes back toward the Nature Center. We had it all to ourselves, and read the interpretive signs about the plant community which included poison ivy, so stay on the trail! Also prevalent was wormwood, goat's beard, orange hawksweed and tons of milkweed. The park is one of the stops for the migratory monarchs, so maybe we'll come back in August and try to catch sight of them.

After two hours of biking around the park we decided to drive into Sheboygan for lunch at the Brisco County Wood Grill where the river empties into Lake Michigan. It had a sports bar type of interior, which I'm not a fan of, but the food was EXCELLENT! I don't eat out very often because vegetarian options that are fit to eat are hard to come by, but they make a killer mediterranean salad. I got it with the grilled chicken, and the chicken was so tasty that I ate that too! I had wanted the southwest chicken wraps because they had black beans, but they were pre-wrapped so I couldn't omit the chicken and they were deep fried as well. I just don't like deep fried food except for the occasional order of french fries. Wayne had the seafood linguini and pronounced it delicious also.  When we were done eating we walked out their back door right onto the boardwalk and spent the next two hours exploring the lakefront area. There was lots to see from shops and restaurants to kayakers, fishing boats, ducks, the Coast Guard building, the Yacht Club, Marina and of course the lighthouse, not to mention the crowds of folks out enjoying the beautiful June weather we're having.


On Friday morning we went for a short bike ride and then hiked the Woodland Dunes Trail which had signs describing some of the trees in the woods. I'm terrible at tree identification, and these guys were so tall that the plaques weren't too helpful since the leaves were too far away to see! The park also offers boating, fishing, and swimming and has playgrounds and a bathhouse available also. It's easy to see why it fills early and weekends are booked in advance, so we'll have to plan our next visit ahead of time if we want to stay longer. I had wanted to come back Sunday night by myself since Wayne was working doubles this weekend and Monday is my birthday, but I'm going to go to Kettle Moraine Southern Unit instead. I've hiked most of this park but never stayed overnight, so I'll get a chance to hike the trails on the other end of the park as a gift to myself.