Pinterest A Grateful Life Lived: August 2014

Friday, August 8, 2014

Shale Hollow Preserve Metro Park

(Photo credit: Shale Hollow Preserve website)
     On my never ending quest to be an excellent babysitter, I recently stumbled upon Shale Hollow Preserve in the Lewis Center area.  I've taken the kids I watch to Highbanks and Alum Creek Dam, and they love exploring around and wading in the water.  But Shale Hollow Preserve is a brand new metro park and I was eager to see if it would meet the kids' standard for a good park.

     The park is located off of US-23, across from the Kroger and tucked back by a boat storage company.  I had seen online that it had some streams, so I was hoping it would be fun for the kids, who love water (RELATED: Babysitting and Boat Making).  There was a small parking lot in the entrance, surrounded by a grassy prairie area with a path that looped left and right.  We went left, down toward the woods and enjoyed a nice stroll among the large trees and green foliage.  We soon came to a stream and the kids eagerly looked at me, "Can we go in?"  I nodded, because I was thinking the same thing, and we wandered along the creek as we skipped stones.  We were discussing who had the stone-skipping record when we came to a clearing area that had very clean bathroom facilities and a picnic area.  Inside the bathroom, there was a map depicting the main loop (which we had just walked on) and the "off-trail exploration area" that was just beyond the clearing.
     I was so impressed with the exploration area!  It was perfect for kids.  There was even a small scavenger hunt that directed the kids from one area to another, giving clues in boxes.  At the fifth box, there was a nature stamp and a small booklet where kids could sign their name.  Although the stamp ink was dried out, I was still pleased with the scavenger hunt and the kids loved looking for the next clue-- such as "near a row of benches," which led them to an area with log pews by a campfire).
     After the scavenger hunt fun, we meandered along the creek, skipping rocks and looking for the perfect walking stick.  The creek seemed to be a very long one because we walked along it for at least half and hour and it still continued on.  It was flanked by a large, shale cliff on the left and beautiful rolling hills on the right.  The stream ebbed and flowed over the shale rocks and created many little waterfalls and deeper pools of water that the kids loved splashing in.

     All in all, I was very pleased with Shale Hollow Preserve.  The creek was a hit with the kids, the scavenger hunt provided a lot of fun and the trails and facilities were well maintained.  At first, the children were upset it wasn't the kind of park that had a playground, but they decided that it was pretty awesome by the time we returned to the car.  I would highly recommend packing your own picnic lunch and heading out to Shale Hollow Preserve.  It is a neat little park that is undiscovered, and an excellent location for childhood exploration and creativity.  Something tells me it won't be undiscovered for long.
(Photo Credit: Shale Hollow Preserve website)

 Check out my articles on other fun, free things to do with kids.  Whether you are in the central Ohio area or not, I've got plenty of ideas HERE!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Submission and Obedience

     Wouldn't it be great if we could all just run around doing exactly what we want?  I would start with running every red light and clearing every shelf at my local Dick's Sporting Goods.  But...if you decided to run every red light too, we might have a problem eventually.
     When I babysit, I frequently get the line: "But I don't want to!!!!"  Sometimes, I respond with an eloquent and gracious comment.  Other times, I respond by saying, "Well, it's not all about you."
     Yet, I'm a huge hypocrite when it comes to getting what I want.  I turn around and whine like a five year old when I'm interrupted at dinner or someone ate my last frozen yogurt bar (RELATED: Frozen Bar Face Off).  In fact, the concepts of obedience and submission have been on my own backburner for far too long.  I've tried to dance around the subject of obedience.  After all, my plan is much better than the plan of the creator of the universe, right?  Uh.... ya, that's where I get a little red in the face.
     And yet, it is true.  I walk around like I know better than God, and He needs to be following my orders.  Yikes!  It is then that I sheepishly remember verses like Psalm 18:30: "As for God, His way is blameless (NASB)."  Or how about James 4:7, which says, "Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you (NKJV)."
     These verses, along with others, don't leave much open for interpretation.  We are to submit to God because His ways are much, much better than ours.  We are also to submit to the authority He has place in our lives (Romans 13:13).  And while this provides a sense of relief that it's off our shoulders and we can trust God with matters in our life, it tends to make me a little anxious.
     In fact, I was struggling with this very issue on Saturday night when I cracked open my Bible for some time with God.  "It makes sense," I rationalized to both myself and God, regarding a poor decision I intended to make.  
     I reassured myself with every page I flipped to get to my bookmark.  "I know much better and I know this is the right decision.  Plus, if these people are actually correct, then I can just obey later and it's all good.  And in the end, you will forgive me anyway if I am wrong.  But I'm not.  I'm right.  I'm right, God, so it's ok to disobey.
     As soon as I finished this mini pep talk in my head, I began to read where I had left off the night before.  Sure enough, James 4 was on the docket and I starting reading about the importance of submission.  I quickly decided that reading some of the Psalms would be  "more encouraging," but not before I got a good dose of correction from God.  I was wrong.  Flat out, 100% wrong.  Even if I'd been correct about the disputed matter, which I wasn't, I would've been wrong.
     Why?  Because God's word makes it clear that we are to submit in obedience to the authorities God has placed in our lives.  Now, there are special circumstances where we are instructed to disobey, but in my situation, that wasn't at all the case.  James even references Proverbs 3:34, saying: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (NKJV)."
     What is proud about disobedience you may ask?  Well, it assumes that we know better than God, for one.  In essence when we disobey God's instructions or the instructions from authority He's placed over us, we are saying: "You don't know what is best, I do.  So, instead of listening to you, I'm gonna do this my way."
     Yep.  That pretty much sums up my experience the past few weeks.  I kept trying to surrender control to God.  But all the while, I was telling Him that He had to do things the way I wanted.  I wanted to be free from trying to control everything, but I didn't want to take the path He had for me.  Thus, no freedom for me!  But when we recognize the pride behind disobedience, when we see it as the sin it is, we take the first step towards coming into alignment with Christ.  For me, it meant a serious heart talk and a lot of writing.  After that, we need to repent.  We need to turn away from the disobedience and choose Christ.
     It is super hard to do that, believe me.  But be encouraged friends: God will bless your obedience!  His plans are much better than ours, remember.  So when you choose to lay down your will, be ready to pick up all the blessings He has in store for you!  Plus, you will find a deep communion with the Father when you are living in obedience rather than disobedience.  When we come into alignment with Him, we allow His spirit to flow and His love to pour out of us.  This doesn't mean that turning from disobedience will be easy, but it does mean that the more we choose to do so, the better benefit we will see!  
     Take a step with me this week and identify and area of disobedience or lack of submission in your own life.  One thing that helps me is writing a little sentence or short paragraph every day about how I'm doing with my obedience and what I am praying for regarding the struggle.  Join me in seeking more of God and less of our sinful nature.  And like I said before, be ready to pick up all the blessings and abundance of Christ that will come when you lay down "me me me." (RELATED: Are You Spiritually Face Washing?)

10 Ways to be Awkward on an Airplane

     Inspired by my recent trip to St. John, as well as my other summer travels (RELATED: Off to Eugene), comes a sequel to the ever-popular "10 Ways to be Awkward in the Gym Locker Room."  We're taking it plane-side people: 10 Ways to be Awkward on an Airplane.
     I've contemplated, observed and creatively-brainstormed.  So, here's a list that will give you a chuckle in the least.  My hope is that some daring reader out in the blogosphere will get some guts and put my post to the test.  If your long flight needs a little excitement and you've read through Skymall Magazine three times already, give my list a run for its money.  The ideas are bound to keep jet lag at bay and keep the flight crew on their toes!

1. Do some final prep for your beachside vacation and use your tray table to paint your nails...and toenails.

2. Grin at your seat-mate.  No blinking.  No looking away.  Just stare right into those eyes until the dude/lady gets so creeped out that they request a seat change.  That means you've won! (Bonus points if you look like Nicholas Cage)

3. Put in your headphones and, GUYS: Softly sing some Celine Dion, GIRLS: keep them guessing with a few lines of Jay-Z followed by some Bob Marley.

4. Pull out a banana and either, A.) Begin mashing it with your knees or, B.) Peel it and promptly throw away the banana and eat only the peel.

5. Ask your seat mates to be your "accountabilibuddies" and help you avoid licking the elbows of other passengers during the flight, a deep inner struggle of yours.

6. Begin yipping like a dog when the jet engines fire up, slowly increase your pitch and volume as the plane zooms down the runway.  As the wheels lift up, cease barking and give one long moo.

7. Ask your seat mates if they would like to see pictures of your "little babies,"and proceed to flip through an extensive mini photo album of elm saplings and small ferns.  Here's the creative challenge: each tree must have an Italian name.

8.Inform fellow passengers that you are indeed a certified Zumba Mime.  Superman-jump into the aisle and begin leading an exercise class full of dancing and invisible ropes.

9. Ask a seat mate to switch seats because you are extremely uncomfortable wtih your seat's proximity to the (imaginary) planet, Tifgorn.  Wait two minutes and then ask to move back.  Tifgorn just migrated across the galaxy and you're uncomfortable again.

10. Begin reading a Dora the Explorer book, all the while pretending that you aren't.  Let out an exhilarating "Swiper no swiping!"  Then, glance around and lower your head in shame.


     So, who is willing to risk their reputation for the comedic relief of airplane passengers worldwide?  I know I'd crack up if someone did this on my next flight.  If you aren't brave enough to try any of these though, have you seen any crazy stuff on airplanes?  Comment below!  I'd love to hear your airline stories!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Enlightened Ice Cream Bars vs. Yasso Greek Frozen Yogurt Bars

     Somehow, I've made it this far without mentioning my deep love for Yasso bars.  I've made it clear that I love greek yogurt (RELATED: Quick Snacks for the College Health Nut), but I'm guessing that the lack of freezer space in my college dorm room led me to leave Yasso bars off the list.  These things are delicious: 80 calories of protein and healthy fats that come in many amazing flavors. 
     Bear with me though.  I'm going to be a little unorthodox.  In case you haven't noticed, this post isn't titled "Food Review of Yasso bars."  See, while I am a diehard Yasso lover, I also found these new bars by Enlightened that I've just go to share.  While my parents were gone for a second week on St. John, I did a heck of a lot of grocery shopping.   After wandering the aisles of Kroger for an hour, I came to the frozen food for my beloved Yasso bars.  To my dismay: They were fresh out of every flavor but one that my family doesn't like as much-- chocolate raspberry-- so I grabbed some Enlightened bars.  They were less expensive and pretty comparable, so I figured I'd give them a try.  It sure beat running to another grocery store for the Yasso bars.  Anyway, when I finally tried one of the bars that night: I was shocked.  It wasn't just was GOOD!  My Yasso-obsessed-mind was confused and my taste buds were rocked. So now, the question becomes: Which is better?!  
     This simply isn't a fair question though!  They are both heaven in my mouth.  Rather than sway you one way or the other-- because I don't quite know myself-- I'll just present the facts and you can go out and try these two delectable treats for yourself!

Yasso Bars

chocolate fudge, mint chocolate chip, dark chocolate raspberry, sea salt caramel, peanut butter cup, raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, vanilla bean, mango and coconut

Nutritional Information*:

Fudge Blueberry
Calories 100 80
Protein (g) 7 6
Sugar (g) 13 12
Carbs (g) 17 15
Fat (g) 0 0

*Nutrition varies by bar, but all bars have 6-7 g of protein and 80-100 calories

These bars are the more expensive of the two brands.  At full price at Kroger, a box goes for $6, which is an awful lot!  I found coupons the last time I bought some (buying groceries for the family), but that isn't usually the case.  However, Kroger has had a digital coupon for them lately, so hopefully that continues.  It helps me rationalize my extreme addiction to these things.

My take:
My favorite Yasso bar has to be either raspberry or sea salt caramel.  It just depends if I'm in the mood for a fruity bar or a different flavor, but I can't say I dislike any of them.  However, I haven't been able to find the elusive mango or vanilla bean flavor.  Every flavor I've tried is extremely smooth and melts in your mouth after a couple of minutes to thaw.  Perhaps it is just me, but the blueberry flavor always seems to fall off the stick for me though...which is a tad weird, but it tastes just as good with a spoon.  My only negative about these bars is the price.  I've found coupons online, like the one HERE, but they are usually around $6 a box.  That's a lot for only four bars.  When I'm at college, maybe not.  When I'm at home: I have one every single day :)

Enlightened Ice Cream Bars

Flavors: fudge, coffee, orange cream, peanut butter and toasted almond

Nutritional Information*:

Fudge Peanut Butter
Calories 70 80
Protein (g) 8 9
Sugar (g) 3 3
Carbs (g) 14 15
Fat (g) 2 2.5

*Enlightened Ice Cream bars do contain erythritol, which is controversial in the healthy food market.  They also have a few ingredients on their list that I've never heard of, which can be a red flag.  If you are one who is very sensitive to what is in your food, this is something you will want to research further.

Enlightened Ice Cream bars are about the same price as the Yasso bars.  They've been on sale lately though because they are quite new.  I'd be interested to see how the prices compare over time.

My take:  What gives?  If you look at the stats, the Enlightened Ice Cream bars look like they are leaps and bounds above the Yasso bars.  Here's the thing though: the ingredient list for the Enlightened bars is a little iffy, and they are a bit smaller than the Yasso bars.  I do love them though.  I've only been able to find the peanut butter and fudge flavors, but they're both delish!  They definitely have a creamier texture than the Yasso bars, but then again: They don't have the fruity flavors that Yasso has.  They also don't have any iron, while Yasso bars have 2% of your daily iron needs.  


With the price and nutrition to be pretty comparable, I would say that the debate lies in what flavor you are looking for.  The Enlightened fudge bar beats the Yasso fudge bar hands down.  But the fruity flavors of the Yasso bars and the Yasso sea salt caramel are pretty amazing themselves, plus they are a bit larger than the Enlightened bars.  In the end, I'd say you can't go wrong with either.  Both brands give you a great dessert that is loaded with protein, calcium and taste.  Try both the next time you hit the store.  Let me know which you like better, or if you prefer a different brand!