Manage Stress with a Staycation

My family and I visited Sweet Berry Farms at Marble Falls, Texas this month and had a wonderful time. It's a great place to unwind and destress for the whole family, without putting an unreasonable burden on the family budget. I can't speak for all when I say this, but I get tired of the rat race, and being out with nature makes me feel more connected to something bigger than myself. I always leave feeling refreshed and recharged. I can get so busy with work and the mundane household grunt stuff, that when it comes to the weekend, not only do I feel worn, it's tempting to just want to stay home and binge watch TV until my eyes go bloodshot. Plus, with a teenage daughter whose parents are no longer as cool to talk to, I have no idea why- pft- when we take road trips, there's something about everyone having to be in one confined space that really incentivizes us to talk and open up about whatever is going on in our lives. Even she'll come out of her parent-free zone to open up and chat.

It's good for my husband, too, who has a high stress job in law enforcement, and he doesn't always get to see the best that humanity has to offer. It's one of things that make cops so cynical and cranky about life, sometimes. I hope that watching children playing outside with wild abandonment as they run in an open field, while families sit at picnic tables, enjoying a nice conversation with other people around them, helps him re-focus on the more positive aspects of social interaction with human beings. For me, I really just enjoy the peace I get from getting away and discovering new places. The older I get, the more I crave leaving a world behind me that is perpetually outraged over everything, especially on social media or news cycles. That's just not good for our own mental health. 

In my part of Texas, people love to talk, especially in small towns, so I welcome conversations with strangers who want to tell you about their families and their life's story. Don't tell anyone I said this, but I can be somewhat of an introvert. However, I'm not shy about kicking out the functioning extrovert when I'm curious about people I think would make interesting characters in my stories, lol, so I can get pretty chatty with strangers I find intriguing. Visiting small towns grants me that opportunity. 

It took me a long time to realize this, but with all the issues I've had with my health in the last few years, and because I've had to reduce high intensity workouts, I have found that the more outdoor activities I do, especially if it includes hiking or walking, the better I feel; and if I feel pain free and less tired, the more positive my mindset. It's part of the four key elements I'm focused on this journey towards better health. Now, about this farm...

Sweet Berry Farm

Sweet Berry Farm is in Marble, Texas, a surrounding small town northeast of Austin, Texas. Marble, Texas is surrounded by limestone rock, rolling hills, beautiful falls, a stone quarry, and the LBJ State park, which is next on our bucket list of places to visit. The farm has several acres of open strawberry and blackberry fields where you can pick your own berries. One of the staff members was kind enough to warn us that picking blackberries was akin to warfare, ha, because of their thorns, so we stayed away from that batch. Should you decide to brave that field, make sure you take garden gloves, long sleeves, and pants.

Another nice aspect of this farm was that they also have a gift shop, two large bouncing air-filled tarps; a Texas maze, which we did not have time for; a concession stand where they sell their own homemade, strawberry ice cream, popsicles, and strawberry lemonade. I highly recommend the lemonade, by the way, so delicious!

I know some of you are probably wondering, is this an organic farm? Although I prefer that, it is not. The person I spoke to said that they do use a method where they spray as needed in order to minimize their use of pesticides. They claim that their method is safe enough that you can even eat the berries right off the vine, but they do recommend washing them first. When we went, the last time they treated their field was three weeks before, but I made sure I thoroughly washed mine before I ate them. I didn't want to take a chance.

My husband and daughter collected 5 lbs. and we really had a great time sitting on their picnic benches, enjoying their homemade strawberry lemonade and ice cream. It really was like we were transported to another world. With the explosion of population growth in the near future, I can't help but wonder how much longer we'll get to enjoy this beautiful, natural landscape set in an old wild west backdrop that is continuously shrinking and changing with the encroachment of civilization. These are the memories that are buried deep within my heart that I think I will look back on and recall the most. As my daughter gets older, and my husband and I age, this is time I know I'm not going to get back, and although some may disagree, my priority is to chase and capture those memories more than the almighty dollar. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of the free market, success, making money, and climbing as high as you can. This country still affords us those opportunities, but I've done my time out in the rat race. Having children and a loving, supportive husband changed that for me, and I yearn for those moments that will bring us together as a family. And speaking of bringing us together, the strawberries we collected, yielded us some delicious, part protein, strawberry muffins that I made with Einkorn flour and protein powder. You can follow the recipe below if you'd like to make some for your family. Please note, this is a special, eat in moderation, type of recipe. If you're trying to drop weight or looking for paleo, fat-free muffins, this is not it, but I'm sure you can substitute the ingredients with your own flour and sugar substitute. If you try the recipe, let me know if you enjoyed it.

Strawberry Muffins

1/4 unsalted butter
1/4 organic virgin coconut oil (I use Kirkland Coconut Oil)
1 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups Einkorn flour
1/2 cup of Orgain protein powder (feel free to experiment with your own, but this powder has a good rating on the best and worst protein shakes list, and it's one I buy for my family)
1/2 cup  half and half milk (can substitute with almond milk. If you'd like to know more about why I'm not as restrictive with certain foods, click here for a more detailed explanation)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (I use Himalayan salt)
2 cups of chopped strawberries (I pulse mine through a food processor)
1 cup of walnuts
*(optional) small handful of brown sugar to spread on top of muffins, but avoid if watching your sugar. 

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2. Cream the butter, coconut oil and sugar until fluffy. Then, beat in the eggs, one at a time and add the extract. 
3. Sift the dry ingredients together (flour, baking powder, salt) and add them to the wet ingredients. 
4. Gently fold in the milk, chopped strawberries and walnuts. 
5. Spoon muffin batter into muffin cups until full and sprinkle with granulated sugar on top
6. Bake 30 minutes until done

Yields about 12-16 cupcakes


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