NatureAmy

caring for creation while caring for family

Month: March 2016

Why I don’t want a “successful” blog

You may have noticed that things have been quiet on the blog for the last couple of weeks and I have not posted anything new.  I wanted to apologize to my loyal readers (Hi, Mom, Dad, and Grandma!) and let you in on the why…

I started this website because I love to write (and had not written for fun in way too long) and I love to teach and share; I wanted a place to share my passions and I have really loved this new experience.  I loved being a mom and a teacher and I loved my life, but I wanted an outlet – something that was just mine – to be able to share my heart.  This blog is the result of that longing.

However, I also did a lot of research on how to make a blog successful (i.e. attracting large numbers of visitors and making an income) and I started to feel very overwhelmed.  I spent a good amount of time trying to make sense of the world of successful blogging and the more I read, the more I felt in over my head.  I am not a business woman and I have no desire to sell anything.  In fact, I want people to buy and consume less, yet the world of “successful” (read money making) blogs is about selling products and essentially become an advertiser.  Annoying popups and flashy ads make money.  I started to feel like I needed a degree in marketing and business to be successful.  I felt like I needed to be flashy and impressive to draw in an audience and the whole thing was making me feel sick to my stomach and very uncomfortable.  I started to stress about the number of visitors on my website and likes on my Facebook page and as my anxiety grew, I realized I needed to take a step back to remember who I am and why I started a blog in the first place.amy crop

I am a teacher at heart and an encourager.  I believe in living a simple and lighter footprint life by consuming less and loving others more.  I love to eat healthy, get outside into nature, and create sugar-free recipes. I want to encourage people who find my site no matter where they are in life.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think there is anything wrong with monetizing a blog and working hard to increase an audience. Most of the bloggers I love are monetized and it does not bother me, but it just isn’t for me.  I may occasionally promote a product that I really, really love or become an affiliate of a company that I truly respect and admire (like Trim Healthy Mama, the one company I am affiliated with currently), but that is not why I started this blog and it is not what makes me happy.  

The second reason I have stepped back a bit at this time is I am finding it hard to get back on track after my miscarriage. Everyone told me to take time to heal and grieve and process the loss.  But, I am the type of person that wants to jump back into everything immediately – I’m fine, I’m strong, etc. – but when I tried, I just felt overwhelmed and I cried – a lot.  So I have had to take some time to quiet my soul and to allow myself space and time to heal.  I am getting there, but I am not there yet…selfie

I will get back to writing some posts soon, I promise. I have several in the works currently.  Plus, I have been listening to some great audio books recently and am feeling inspired to write some more about living simply.  I will also be writing more about our journey to live greener lives with less negative impact.  And, of course, there will be more recipes and healthy living tips.  And, hopefully, some great guest posts, as well!

This blog has only been around for three short months, but I am blessed beyond measure with the number of shares and pins my posts have gotten and the positive feedback I have received.

Thank you for reading, my friend,

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Healthy Sweet & Sour Chicken ~ Sugar-free, Gluten-free, Dye-free

My family loves Chinese food – well pretty much any Asian food actually.  My husband especially loves it because of his many food allergies, especially to dairy and gluten.  It is pretty easy to get Asian food that he can eat.  However, finding Chinese food without a lot of sugar is hard!  So we have not spent a lot of time at his favorite local Chinese restaurant recently.  Sorry, Honey…

Everyone in the family loves the classic Sweet and Sour Pork or Chicken recipe – loaded with sugar, red food coloring, breaded and fried, and completely bad for you.  So I was on a mission to make a Sweet and Sour sauce that not only was healthy, but also was lick the pan – can I have more, please – good!  I finally perfected the recipe!  And, not only is it cheap, it also does not have any special ingredients that you cannot find at your local grocery store! Score! (All my recipes have no special ingredient options – check more out here.)

This recipe is an Energizing (E) meal, meaning it is low in fat and higher in healthy carbs, if you follow the Trim Healthy Mama plan (read why I love THM here) when made with chicken breast and eaten with brown rice (I love eating rice with sweet and sour sauce – yummy!)

There is also the option to make this dish a Satisfying (S) meal, meaning it is higher in healthy fat and low in carbs, when made with pork and no rice.  It is easy to make into a Crossover for those skinny kids or husbands in your life (this is my life) or if you are at or near goal-weight or pregnant or nursing.  However, when doing a pork S option, you will need to pull the amount of pineapple to just a small amount and increase the amount of vegetables.   Since pineapple is a high-glycemic fruit, it really can only be a garnish. Therefore, there needs to be no more than two tablespoons of pineapple per serving for an S meal.  So, if you choose to make this an S meal with pork, use 1/4 cup of drained pineapple tidbits instead of the full can of pineapple.   Of course, if you do the E option, no need to worry about the pineapple!

Quick and Easy ingredients to Sweet and Sour Pork or Chicken Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds chicken breast (for E), cut into 1 inch cubes
  • Mineral salt
  • 1 tablespoon Coconut oil 
  • 1 cup chicken broth (I use my homemade bone broth)
  • ½ cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons THM Super Sweet Blend, or 4 Tablespoons Truvia (about 12 packets), or sweetener of choice
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½-1 teaspoon Glucomannan powder or ½-1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum, to thicken
  • 1 – 20 oz. can of pineapple chunks in juice, drained (see not above if making an S meal)
  • 1 bell pepper – whatever color you want

Makes 6 servings

  1. Cut up the meat into 1 inch cubes, or bite size pieces. Sprinkle with salt.
  2. Cut up the bell pepper (whatever color you want to use) and any other vegetables you may want to add.  We had asparagus on the side with this meal, but it would have been very good cut into bite size pieces and added to the dish!  Open the pineapple and drain it.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet and add the meat.  You may want to do this in batches to better brown the meat.  I like to cook the meat through and then let it turn golden on each side for more of a crunch.
  4. In a small/medium sauce pan, add the broth, vinegar, sweetener, and tomato paste.  Still and heat to simmering.  Add the glucomannan or xanthan gum by sprinkling it in slowly as you whisk the sauce.  This is important or the thickener will get clumpy and won’t thicken properly.  Let the sauce simmer for a minute or two and then turn off the heat and let cool.  It will thicken more as it cools.
  5. Add the vegetables to the meat and cook together for a minute or two.  Add the sauce and let simmer together so that the flavors can marry – this does not take more than a few minutes

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    The cooked meat and veggies ready for the sauce (left). The sauce and other ingredients cook together for a few minutes before serving (right).

Serve over brown rice if you made the E option with chicken breast – the rice is so yummy with the sauce.  Now I just need a THM fortune cookie recipe and my life will be complete.

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Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  Clicking on these links and ordering products or services will result in a small commission for me.  It does not cost you anything extra, but helps keep this website going and is much appreciated. Click HERE to use my Trim Healthy Mama Affiliate Link.

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Hope Unfolding: How God met me in the midst of my miscarriage

Warning: This is a story of hope, but also of loss.  If you have recently experienced loss, my prayer for you is that my story brings encouragement and light to you. These are hard days, but our Jesus never leaves us in the midst of the pain. I am sharing my story in the hope that it will touch your life at this time.                                            ~Amy

Have you ever had something happen at just the right time that you know it had to have been God? A God-incidence, if you will? Maybe it was a song coming on the radio that you needed to hear?  Maybe it was a random encounter with a person that felt like a divine appointment? Or maybe it was an encouraging word or a book or blog post at just the right moment? It is times like these that feel like divine encounters.  Like God is reaching out to hand us a special gift or lift us out of a pit when we need Him most.  This happened to me recently.  I am completely blown away by how our Savior loves us each individually knowing exactly what we need before we even know that we need it.  Let me tell you my story…

I was very excited to get an advanced copy of one of my favorite blogger’s new book in the mail.  Becky Thompson of Scissortail Silk has a heart for encouraging mothers and God has used her to do just that for millions of women around the world in the last couple years through her blog, www.beckythompson.com. As a blogger, I was able to get an advanced copy of her new book, Hope Unfolding: Grace-Filled Truth for the Momma’s Heart, to review before it comes out on March 15th (read on to win a free copy for yourself!)  I was excited about this unexpected perk of being a blogger (I am still quite new to this) and was very happy to read the book since Becky is a wonderful writer. But, I had no idea of the divine appointment God had just placed in my hands as I pulled the book out of the mailbox.  I had no idea that I was about to experience one of the most tragic (yet very common) events that parents go through and that God had given me this book for that moment.  

A review of Hope Unfolding and a story of peace in the midst of loss... NatureAmy.com

The reality of trying to stage blog photos at my house – Oh well, isn’t she cute?

When I got the book in the mail a couple weeks ago, I had just come back from my first midwife appointment for my fourth pregnancy.  We were very excited about having a fourth kid and I was about 8-9 weeks pregnant.  However, the first appointment was disconcerting, not exciting, as I thought it would be.  The early ultrasound showed a little baby that was measuring about 3 weeks behind schedule, although there was a nice heartbeat.  The midwife was unconcerned, she thought I must have my dates off – I was concerned, I did think my dates were pretty accurate, but I thought she must have mismeasured.  I was to come back in two weeks to see how the baby had grown and remeasure…  

I tried not to worry too much and life went on… Meanwhile, this book arrived in the mail and I started to read it.  It is an easy read, beautifully written, emotional in parts, funny in others, and very transparent about life as a mother today.  Becky’s stories bring hope to all parts of motherhood, and as I read it, I thought of so many mothers that would get so much from this book as well.  It really is a book that any mother would love – I could not recommend it enough. (And I am so excited to be giving away a free copy – I know that God has someone in mind who really needs to receive it!)  I really enjoyed reading it, and I got a lot out of it, but I still had no idea the real reason God had placed this books in my hand until Saturday morning.Lock-Screen-2

Thursday night, I had started to spot a little, just a tiny bit of bleeding.  I was definitely concerned, but I had spotted in my first pregnancy (it is very common, especially in the first trimester) and it had been nothing.  Friday was my second son’s birthday and we had a family trip to the zoo planned.  He was ecstatic, to say the least, and he had been looking forward to this day for months.  I was so worried that I would miscarry on Friday and ruin his birthday.  I am so thankful that we had a beautiful family day together celebrating my second born.  I spotted a little more throughout the day, but still nothing much.  Saturday morning, though, I knew without a doubt that God was calling this baby home. 

I have a special chair in the corner of my bedroom (I am sitting in it now) that was a gift from God. Yes, I actually asked God for a chair, and it showed up with a “FREE” sign on it along the road later that same day – exactly the type of chair I had pictured in my mind.  The chair has become my prayer corner, my own personal “War Room”, and I was sitting in it, crying, and talking to God on Saturday morning.  I decided to finish reading Hope Unfolding – I was only pages from the end and the book was a welcome distraction.  I picked it up and I read these words, written by another mother, another mother who, like so many others, had gone through what I was experiencing right then.  

“Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to imagine Jesus there in the room with you right now. Yes, right where you are sitting. I want you to invite Jesus to come and be present with you. It can be as simple as a whispered, ‘Jesus.’… He comes to bring peace and healing and wholeness. That’s what He wants to do for your achy mommy heart right now.” (Hope Unfolding, p. 194)

And although Becky Thompson had no idea that she had written those words just for me, God did.  He made sure that I had a copy of that book in my hands, before it had even reached store shelves, because He loves me…  And just like that, Jesus was right there beside me, in my room, by my chair.  He always is with us, but it isn’t often that I feel His presence so clearly.  And in that moment, as He spoke love over me through the words of a book, I lifted up our precious little fourth baby and placed him or her into His loving nail scarred hands.  And I cried (and I’m crying now as I write this) knowing that this little one was being held now by my Jesus and that I would one day meet this precious soul in Heaven.  

And do you know what happened next?  This was a gift that I was not expecting, but I am oh so happy about – I was flooded with an unexplainable peace.  Over the next few hours my body finished miscarrying my little one, but I was not scared.  I was not in much pain, and it was a quiet and peaceful process at home.  I felt God’s presence with me and was filled with God’s peace.  My three children did not know what was going on, we had not told them about the pregnancy yet, but they knew I was not feeling well.  Their sweet presence, as well as my husband’s, throughout the afternoon was such a gift.  My 21 month old daughter, who is usually too busy to snuggle, wanted to be snuggled and loved on all afternoon and into the evening, which brought me such comfort, as well.  The process was strangely peaceful and full of hope, love, and grace.IG-Square_Print3

I had no idea when I asked for an advanced copy of Hope Unfolding to review in an email weeks before that God would use it as an opportunity to usher in His presence and shower me with love on that hard Saturday.  But God knew I needed it.  For that is who our Heavenly Father is – He is Love and He is Good. He is continually speaking love over us. He is always near to us. But, so often I am too busy to hear Him or notice His presence. Is it the same for you, my friend?  Have you taken a moment today to listen to your Father’s loving voice?  To feel His presence near you? Because He wants to speak love over you today, whatever you are going through right now… He wants to bring you peace in the midst of the storm that is raging around you because He loves you! All we need to do is ask.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

Matthew 7:7-11


Enter to win your free copy of Hope Unfolding

THE GIVEAWAY DETAILS

Finally, you have a chance to win Becky Thompson’s new book Hope Unfolding for yourself! To watch a preview video about the book and read the first couple chapters for free, click here. It will be released on March 15th and I hope to have a copy in the winner’s hands as soon as is Amazon-possible!  This giveaway will be taking place on both Facebook and Instagram (@amylovesnature).  Please click over to either one of those outlets for a chance to win!  If you do not have either of these social media accounts, you can send me an email at amylovesnature [at] gmail [dot] com and I will put you on the list!  You may enter on any or all of these places for a chance to win!  While you are there, please make sure to like, follow, or subscribe to those accounts!  This giveaway will be closing at 6 pm Pacific Time, Friday, March 11, 2016.  You may enter up to once per day on each of these outlets to increase your chances!

This contest is open to all US Residents for a good old fashioned paperback copy of the book. (I am sorry, I can’t ship internationally at this time.)  I will send you a message on Facebook or Instagram or by email if you won and will send you your copy as soon as you send me your address!

If you are a mom, or if you know a mom, this book is for you.  It would be an amazing gift for someone (think baby shower?) and will likely be passed around to all your mommy friends – I already have a wait-list for my copy – LOL! The book will be shipped to you via Amazon as soon as it is available on March 15th.  I am praying for just the right mama to receive it – I know it will make a big impact in your life, just as it has for me.  Blessings to you!  Now, let’s get this giveaway started!

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To buy a copy of Becky’s book (or pre-order her next one) simply click on my Amazon Affiliate Link:

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The Final Downton Night: Healthy Lemon Poppyseed Scones ~ THM FP

If you have been a loyal watcher of Downton Abbey for the last six years, you are likely in a mix of emotions today.  Not only are you dying to find out what is going to happen to the Crawley family and the staff downstairs, if you are like me, you are devastated that it is coming to an end. (Of course, if you are reading this from the UK, you already said your goodbyes…) In our house tonight we will be celebrating with a British inspired dinner (Bangers and Mash, anyone? Cauliflower mash for me), and of course, tea and scones for dessert while watching the show.

Healthy Lemon Poppyseed Scones - THM FP, Sugar-free, Low Carb, Dairy-free, Gluten Free - NatureAmy.com

In honor of this momentous occasion, I have been working on one last scone recipe (check out my blueberry and cranberry scone recipes).  I love scones with my tea, but since giving up sugar because of my sugar addiction and becoming a Trim Healthy Mama (THM), my old standby recipes are no longer an option.  One of my favorite scones is Lemon Poppyseed – I love that combination – and after some tweaking, I’ve come up with a winner.  This recipe is a Trim Healthy Mama Fuel Pull (meaning it is both low in fat and carbs) when made with THM’s Baking Blend.  I also wrote a no special ingredients option that is a bit higher in fat and would fall into the satisfying “S” meal category.  These scones are a little drier than my other scone recipes because they are not made with fruit.  Scones are usually quite dry and adding butter or clotted cream (yummy!) solves this issue. However, if you want to keep this scone as a Fuel Pull, you may want to add some sugar-free berry jam like I did.  (I used the Slim Belly Jelly recipe from the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook.)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup THM Baking Blend  (or substitute 2 tablespoons coconut flour, 1 tablespoon flax meal, and 1 tablespoon almond flour, this would be an S, because it is higher in fat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of mineral salt
  • 1 heaping tablespoon THM Gentle Sweet (or 4-5 packets Truvia, or use sweetener of choice)
  • zest from half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon poppyseeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut oil (or butter)
  • 1 egg white (or 2 tablespoons carton egg whites)
  • 1/2 – 1 tablespoon of almond milk or juice from lemon if you like it very “lemony”

Healthy Lemon Poppyseed Scones - THM FP, Sugar-free, Low Carb, Dairy-free, Gluten Free - NatureAmy.com

  1.  Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Mix the baking blend (or flours), baking powder, salt, and sweetener together in a bowl. Zest the lemon and add the poppy seeds.
  3. Add the coconut oil and mix together so that it is crumbly and a biscuit-like consistency.
  4. Add the egg white and mix together.  If it seems too dry, add  almond milk or lemon juice until you get to a firm consistency that holds its shape well, but is not too dry.
  5. Place parchment paper on your baking sheet and dump the dough onto it.  Form the dough into a square and then cut it through the center to separate into two beautiful triangles.

    Healthy Lemon Poppyseed Scones - THM FP, Sugar-free, Low Carb, Dairy-free, Gluten Free - NatureAmy.com

    My baby girl ate half my dough before I could get it in the pan, so mine only made one scone. Your recipe should make 2.

  6. Bake in the oven about 15 minutes until just golden. Let cool a bit and enjoy!
The joys of creating recipes with kids - so much fun, but you have to share!

The joys of creating recipes with kids – so much fun, but you have to share!

You can choose to keep this a fuel-pull by eating this as is, or by adding some on-plan sugar-free berry jam.  To enjoy as a satisfying S-meal, go ahead and add some butter or Devonshire Clotted Cream.  And, of course, make sure to steep a cup of black tea (I will be having Tetley British Blend decaf – it is late at night!) with a splash of milk or cream and a bit of stevia.

Healthy Lemon Poppyseed Scones - THM FP, Sugar-free, Low Carb, Dairy-free, Gluten Free - NatureAmy.com

Spread with some sugar-free berry jam, it was oh so good! I managed to get a small piece away from my daughter!

Do you have your hanky ready? Now we are ready for the perfect evening (and last Downton Night – sob!)

Cheerstelephoneamy

Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  Clicking on these links and ordering products or services will result in a small commission for me.  It does not cost you anything extra, but helps keep this website going and is much appreciated. Click HERE to use my Trim Healthy Mama Affiliate Link

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