A visit to Parker Creek Ranch, D’Hanis, Texas

A visit to Parker Creek Ranch, D’Hanis, Texas

Do you know where your food comes from?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I’m an omnivorous city-girl and, until recently, had never really given much thought to how my steak or chicken came to be on my plate.

But these past few years, maybe because of environmental (soil, air, animal, etc.) and food source issues and their impact on healthy living and the environment, I’ve been thinking alot about where my food comes from.

Turkey on my mind

In early November when I started thinking about Thanksgiving and preparing turkey dinner I decided to look into getting a free-range turkey. I had no idea if I could get one in my area.

So I did a search for “free range turkey san antonio” and Parker Creek Ranch came up. They’re in D’Hanis, TX, just a short drive from San Antonio, and they deliver to the San Antonio area. Great!

I could’ve ordered a bird right then, but I hesitated. My skepticism got the better of me.

How could I be sure their turkeys really were “free range” and were processed humanely?

The only way is to go see for myself and, lucky me, they were offering a tour right before Thanksgiving. I signed us (Mark and me) up.

We found the ranch owners and operators, Travis and Mandy, to be smart, kind, caring, and passionate about their work. They’re both graduates of Texas A&M and are educators at heart.

On their website, they describe themselves and their goals:

As stewards of the land, our goal is to produce nutritious products for our community while designing and managing systems that will benefit the environment and future generations. 

Travis and Mandy show us their cows.

There’s a ton more about them and their work on the website, but this statement sums it up well and we saw their goals in action while touring the ranch.

We saw where the chickens, chicks, cows live and where they process their own chickens. We learned about soil, water, and the resilience of the land. And! We went on a hayride.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get a turkey. They were all sold out. But now I know and next year I’ll order early.

Parker Creek Ranch Chickens

Tours

Travis and Mandy offer ranch tours a few times a year and you can stay posted on all their info by signing up for their newsletter for “news, information, products, and more.” (Click here to get to it.)

You can check out their website for a list of some restaurants where you can find Parker Creek products. They aso set up at the Farmer’s Market at The Pearl, but check out their website or sign up for updates in case this information has changed.

And if you can make it out to the ranch, the tour is fun and educational. I highly recommend it.

I feel grateful for Travis and Mandy’s hard work and committment to their goals, as well as their willingness to share what they’re learning about sustainability and conservation, not just with the general public, but with other local farmers.

As Martha Stewart used to say, “It’s a good thing.”

Photo by Ruby Montalvo publshed on rubymontalov.com

It’s the in-between stuff that can kick your butt

Starting a project is hard. Finishing is hard. But it’s the in-between stuff that can kick your butt. That’s what I’m going through right now as I’m writing the sequel to my first novel, A Song for Jessica.

But the struggle to get to “The End” isn’t unique to writing.

Think of a remodeling project.

I love those home improvement commercials that start by showing the outdated, dull room, then the guy/woman/couple decide it’s time for a change.

Next scene, they’re at the store picking out their new products for the remodel. The guy/woman/couple smile, the sales clerk smiles (they actually find someone to help them!).

Next scene, the remodel happens. They tape a door frame and stir the paint. Simple and clean.

And then the very next scene, the work’s all done! The guy/woman/couple straighten a picture they’ve just hung on the wall as a finishing touch.

Now they stand back and admire their work. It’s beautiful and perfect.

If only it were that easy.

What they don’t show is the back and forth “disussion” about design, colors, materials, and cost. “Discussion” about the best way to do it, the unexpected kinks in the plan, then what to have for dinner because there’s dust and/or paint everywhere, and that goes on for days or weeks and maybe the project is never totally finished.

The struggle is real.

Getting to “The End” of a project can be exhausting and frustrating, but it’s do-able.

It helps to:

  • Be patient. Expect your project to take time and effort. You have to want it bad enough to believe the time and effort will be worth it in the end. (Remember the remodeling scenario.)
  • Pace yourself. If it’s a long road to the finish, slow and steady is more likely to get you there, especially if it feels like the work is an unpleasant grind. I was working on revisions to a first draft I finished months before and every time I worked on it I wanted to give it up, just abandon the project. But one page at a time, that’s the only way to do it. Slow progress is still progress, right?
  • Be open to getting help if you can. It’s hard to trust another person with a project that’s your baby, but the right person can make a big difference in the end result. Another set of eyes, an extra hand can be the boost you need.
  • Set up an accountability partner who can give you a gentle push to the end. It’s like having someone cheering you on to the finish line.
  • Set a schedule–break down what needs to be done and pace it out to an end date. For me, it’s a way to help visualize the end of the project. But be flexible. Remember, stuff happens and some days you’ll be more productive than others.

If you’re struggling to get the “The End” of a project, you’re not alone. It’s not easy.

But don’t let that stop you from getting started, whatever it is you want to do.

For more tips on Why it’s so hard to finish what you start and what you can do about it, click here.

photo by ruby montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

It’s important to be good to others, but don’t forget to be good to yourself too

Be good to yourself. It’s a simple concept. It means treat yourself with love, consideration, and kindness. Be understanding and forgiving towards yourself.

The concept is simple, but not always easy.

What does it mean?

“Good people” are kind, supportive, considerate, and generous. They help us feel positive about ourselves and about life.

They’re like a warm blanket on a cold night or a bowl of chicken soup to ease a scratchy throat. 

But sometimes it feels more natural to be good to a stranger than to ourselves.

We tend to beat ourselves up, focus on our weaknesses, and criticize ourselves when we’re less than perfect. 

How can we lift ourselves up instead of putting ourselves down?

Be kind. Especially through difficult times, small acts of kindness go a long way. Take a few minutes out of a busy day to meditate, listen to uplifting music, or go for a walk.

Smile. Let your smile be your signature look. It can change your disposition and open your heart to self-love.

Be grateful. There’s an old saying that goes, “I cried that I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” It doesn’t change your situation, but it may help you see it in a more positive light.

Forgive. Forgiveness is a powerful gift. It can take time to “get over” mistakes and imperfections, but it starts with a choice to forgive yourself.

Every day is a chance to be better than you were yesterday, to do better than you did yesterday. Make it a point to treat yourself with love, kindness, and compassion. Be good to yourself the same way you strive to be good to those you love.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com

Wayside altars in Italy

One of the things that stood out on my recent trip to Italy is the Catholic influence in culture. Catholicism is by far the dominant religion in Italy, of course. Many of the famous artistic masterpieces are religious in nature, such as The Statue of David and the Sistine Chapel.

And, of course, people flock to Italy from all over the world to see these amazing masterpieces.

But wayside altars were an unexpected treasure.

Catholic influence

Of course, these types of shrines can be found in many places, not just in Italy, but they seem fairly common here. Maybe it’s simply another indication of the huge Catholic influence in the country.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com
This one reminded my husband and me of the tree where Boo Radley left “gifts” for Scout and Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird.

They’re often near shops or restaurants. This one’s beside a parking lot.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com
Near a ceramic shop in Nove, Italy

The altars may commemorate an incident that took place there. Maybe the location holds some personal significance to the person who erected it.

Or maybe they’re meant to honor Jesus, The Virgin Mary, and/or a Catholic saint.

No matter the reason, I found them interesting and beautiful. And Italian.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on rubymontalvo.com
Italian wayside altar

 

Interested in reading more about Italy, readRiposo (a time for afternoon rest) is a serious Italian tradition

Strive for progress, not perfection

journal posted on strong-woman.comIs it really okay to be less than perfect when you’re working toward a goal? Like when you’re ready to take better care of yourself and improve your confidence and overall happiness. You may commit to eating more nutritious food, exercising more consistently, practicing daily gratitude, journaling, or any number of other healthy activities.

They’re simple, but not easy.

So many distractions, it’s hard to stay committed. Why bother trying?

This is when it’s most important to strive for progress, not perfection. When you feel like giving up, remind yourself that:

You must act. You can’t make progress without taking action. Even if you’re not sure you can reach your goal, do what you can and start small if you have to.  It’s harder to get started when you expect yourself to be perfect.

No one’s perfect. What you don’t want to do is say, “Well, I already blew it today because I was ‘bad’ this morning, so what the heck? I might as well eat this pint of ice cream.” Moderation is the key. Every moment’s a chance to re-commit to make healthy choices. 

Take care of yourself posted on strong-woman.com

Keep moving forward. No one’s perfect. Small changes made consistently add up to results. Even the most disciplined people skip a workout sometimes. Don’t beat yourself up. Get back on track and keep at it.

Be okay with good enough. Aspiring for perfection has a way of keeping us from taking action, of getting started. If your goal is to work out 4 times this week and you only get in 2 workouts because “life got in the way”, it’s okay. 2 workouts is better than 0 workouts. Tomorrow’s another day to get back at it!

Be patient. Progress will come as long as you’re taking steps in the direction of what you desire. Focus on progress and it’ll be easier to keep moving forward.

Laughing baby.

Remember why you started. When you’re striving for progress, the end goal can get buried under disappointing setbacks. Keep your goal in mind and do it for yourself and your own health and happiness. Re-commit and repeat as needed.

Lighten up. Have fun along the way. Don’t be so serious. (Ahem.) When nothing short of perfection is acceptable, it’s hard to have fun.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. Do what you can every day, even if it’s something very small, to improve your health and happiness.

Photo courtesy of National Archives Project on flickr.com published on strong-woman.com

Mindset Monday – Have a Mindset of Self-Control

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. 

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Back in the day, we used to call it a “put down”. Something said or done to make you feel bad, to make you feel inferior.

Some one may “put you down” in order to feel superior to you in some way. Maybe it’s an attempt to manipulate what you say or do.

Words have power

We can be mean to each other. It’s normal to feel bad when some one says something

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Eleanor Roosevelt

hurtful, especially if it’s some one you love and trust.

But when a person tries to put you down and keep you down for the purpose of making you feel like you:

Aren’t good, smart, or deserving enough,

Know that you control that.

You can’t change people, but it takes two to play that game. And you don’t have to play.

You can’t control what people say or do, but you can control your reaction to it.

What can you do to help yourself?
  • Let your actions speak louder than your words
  • Listen
  • Be respectful

Then, you can walk away with confidence, peace, forgiveness, and grace.

We can’t control others. The best we can ever hope for is to control ourselves. For most of us, it’s a constant work in progress.

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How to find an exercise group that’s right for you

One of the best ways to stay committed to working out is to find a group, gym, or club that’s a good fit for you.

How do you do that? Here are a few things to consider.
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

Ask around

Know some one who does a little bit of lots of activities? Running, cycling, weight lifting, and martial arts, for example? Or some one who focuses on an activity you may want to try? See if they have any suggestions about how you can get started.

Be a guest.

Most group workouts encourage participants to bring a friend for free. It can be a great way to meet some of the people and to try the workout for free. Most group instructors/ trainers will give you extra attention to make sure you stay safe through the workout and that’s a good thing.

Photo by Ruby Montalvo published on strong-woman.com

Ask your doctor for a recommendation.

If you’re under doctor’s care, can he or she recommend an exercise program? Yoga, to relieve stress, or water aerobics for low impact activity?

Explore community education offerings.

It’s a chance to try a new activity at very little cost and for a limited time. If you find you love it and want to continue, that’s usually an option.

Try meet ups in your area.

The Meet Up website connects people with the same interests. Read the group description to see what they’re all about. There’s a wide range of groups in most areas, everything from tennis to fitness camp workouts.

photo published on strong-woman.com

Visit local gyms and try group classes.

Most gyms offer a trial membership so you can try a class for free.

Find a group you’re compatible with in these areas:

Activity

  • Find something you enjoy.
  • Be open to trying different activities. You may find that you like something you didn’t think you would.
  • Be teachable. You may think of the details as “common sense” but that’s not always the case. Listen, watch, and learn.

People

  • Group culture – Every group has its own culture or “vibe”. Find a group that’s a good fit. For example, if you’re a beginner, you may be overwhelmed in a group with very competitive members. She may need a more laid-back group.
  • Values – Look for a group dynamic that’s in line with your personal values. For example, a “party all the time” culture may not be the best fit for a non-drinker.

These are just a few things to consider when looking for the right exercise group for you.

Find what works for you and helps motivate you to stay committed to your goals.

Have fun with it!

 

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

What is Balance Training and Should I Be Doing It?

Today, we continue the series on the benefits of exercise (you can click here to read that post in case you missed it) and specific types of exercises. (Read about Cardio Workouts here and Strength Training here.)

The importance of exercisePhoto courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

According to Harvard Health Publications, guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend a well-rounded plan of “aerobic activity, strength training, and balance exercises.”

What’s balance training?

It focuses on improving and/or maintaining stability (not falling over). Stable movement improve overall mobility.

Some types of training that emphasize balance are:

Yoga

Pilates

Various core and agility exercises

Some martial arts practices, such as Tai-chi

BenefitsPicture downloaded from Pixabay for strong-woman.com

  • Strengthens core muscles
  • Improves stability and mobility
  • Requires little to no equipment
  • Multiple variations of simple movements
  • Helpful to people at all fitness levels

In-house fitness expert, Mark Montalvo, says this:

“As we age, balance usually decreases resulting in falling or injury…this is why balance training is so important. It develops proprioception, which simply means how we move our bodies through space and time.

He says effective balance training should be performed in multiple directions of movement, in an unstable environment. It can be as simple as walking on a straight line or standing on one leg.Weight loss photo courtesy of pixabay published on strong-woman.com

Complicate that by standing on one leg while throwing or catching a ball.

Drawbacks/Risks

  • Must practice good form to reduce risk of injury
  • Progress is hard to measure

So, everyone can benefit from balance training, no matter the level of fitness. Being able to stay upright and stable will go a long way to keeping you healthy and well.

Remember to check with your health care professional before starting an exercise program. This is especially important if you’re under doctor’s care for a health condition.

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Why has the FDA Banned Antibacterial Soap?

If a little is good, then more is better, right?

In a case where more is not always better, the Food and Drug Administration recommend conventional soap and water over antibacterial soaps.

In September 2016, the FDA ruled that some anti bacterial agents in soaps, hand gels, bar soaps, body washes, and other products will not longer be able to be marketed, so is banning “certain active ingredients”, such as triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps).Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

Manufacturers will have one year to comply with the ban.

But wait! Isn’t killing bacteria a good thing?

Why would the FDA ban antibacterial soap?

According to the FDA Consumer Updates,

The FDA has been looking at for years. The issue?  Ingredients found in anti-bacterial products could be a factor in creating “bacterial resistance and hormonal effects”.

They gave manufacturers time to provide data on the safety and effectiveness of ingredients, which the manufacturers failed to do.

“Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” said Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”

What kind of harm?

Smithsonian.com’s article, Five Reasons Why You Should Probably Stop Using Antibacterial Soap lists potentially harmful effects as:

  1. Antibacterial soaps are no more effective than conventional soap and water
  2. Contributing to antibiotic resistant bacteria, such as MRSA
  3. Potential to disrupt the body’s hormone regulation
  4. Could contribute to other health problems, such as allergies
  5. Bad for the environment

The current ruling applies only to soaps and not to hand-sanitizers at this time.Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

According to FDA:

This final rule applies to consumer antiseptic wash products containing one or more of 19 specific active ingredients, including the most commonly used ingredients – triclosan and triclocarban. …  This rule does not affect consumer hand “sanitizers” or wipes, or antibacterial products used in health care settings.

States may begin taking action to limit anti-bacterial products as well.

In 2014, cbsnews.com published an article, Minnesota becoming first state to ban common germ-killer triclosan in soap, reporting the first state ban. Minnesota became the first state to ban triclosan, which is also used in some toothpastes, cosmetics, and body washes. The ban took effect January 1, 2017.

What’s the best thing to keep you and your family safe?

According to and FDA press announcement:

Washing with plain soap and running water remains one of the most important steps consumers can take to avoid getting sick and to prevent spreading germs to others. If soap and water are not available and a consumer uses hand sanitizer instead, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that it be an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

As always, read labels to make the best choice for keeping you healthy, well, and strong.

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Mindset Monday – Time Flies – Make the Most of It

The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.    Michael Altshuler

There are 24 hours in each day. That’s 1440 minutes. They go by fast.Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

And the older you get, the faster time seems to go.

That’s not really news. It’s more like one of those realities you live with every day without giving it much thought, like gravity.

You can’t slow down time. The best you can do is manage it, navigate like a pilot.

What does it take?

Life is short. When’s the right time to do what you want most out of life?

I got a late start. I flew on auto-pilot for a long time, not even understanding this concept of piloting my own life. Instead, I floated along like a cloud moved by the wind.

But then I realized I was taking a lot for granted.

I was on auto-pilot waiting for the right time to do what I really wanted to do with my life. I acted as if I had a guarantee that there’d still be time when I was ready. Whenever that might be.

Take the controls

My auto-pilot mentality kept me in “someday” mode. I waited for “someday” to do what I’ve always wanted to do, what I feel like I’m supposed to be doing with my life.

Being the pilot isn’t easy. It’s not all clear skies and sunny days. Of course not. You can count on storm clouds, unplanned landings, rough take offs, turbulence.Photo courtesy of pixabay.com published on strong-woman.com

The beauty is, you got this.

Be assured: you’re a good enough pilot. You’re qualified. It won’t always be easy, but you can figure it out.

Stay focused on the goal because time isn’t the enemy. The sun rises and sets and that’s a day.

Stay focused on your goal, keep your eyes on the controls, stay steadfast in your commitment to be the pilot.

Do what you can each day, even if it seems like so little that you’ll never reach your destination.

So many distractions

Binge watching shows, video games, streaming movies, social media, viral videos, and celebrity drama to name a few.

Decide where you want to go and what you want to do.

Then stay focused and protective of your time because it goes by fast.