Thursday, November 16, 2017

Eat Your Vegetables!

Several years ago, Jessica Seinfeld, wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, wrote a book called Deceptively Delicious. I bought it, hoping to find creative ways to add more vegetables to my family's diet. I would like to say I needed the recipes for my kids, but I, myself, struggle to get the recommended daily servings of the healthy stuff. 

When I was a kid, I was taught that we need five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. That was a stretch for me, but I could do it, if I ate a lot of fruit throughout the day, and snuck in a veggie at supper. I don't mind the fruit, but I see veggies as more of an inconvenience; not a dietary staple.

Photo Credit: IMDb

The only way my mom could get me to eat my spinach was to remind me the only way I could get as strong as Popeye was to eat my spinach. Spinach was so yucky to me when I was little, but I loved Popeye. Somehow I managed to choke it down, but I wasn't very happy about it. I'm not one of those people who naturally loves vegetables. I eat them, just about all of them, but I don't love them. 

It seems I am not alone. One of our friends shared this on Facebook not too long ago:

"My Google search of "how to hide veggies in meals" keeps assuming I'm trying to hide them from kids. Um, excuse me, Google, I need to try to hide them from myself. I scowled at some celery today." (Thank you, Julie, for making me laugh, and also for making me feel a little more normal.)

Most of you know I have embarked on a healthier eating plan, the 21 Day Fix. Of course, fruits and vegetables are on the menu. 

Guess how many of each. Go ahead, guess. I wasn't thrilled that I'm expected to eat more vegetables than fruits. Trying to eat FIVE servings of vegetables is so challenging for me. I don't mind the three fruits, but FIVE veggies?

My portions for the day on the 21 Day Fix plan, with a caloric goal of 1800-2100.
5 vegetables, 3 fruits, 5 proteins, 4 carbohydrates, 1 healthy fat, 1 seeds and nuts, 5 oil or nut butter, 13 cups of water.

So this week, I've been trying, extra hard to eat all of the veggies. Initially, at the end of each day, it wasn't uncommon for my little chart to show I still had two or three vegetables to go. Before bed? "No, thanks. I'm good." I knew I'd have to try to outsmart myself earlier in the day to be successful at this.

Here are a few things that are working for me: making myself an egg scramble featuring vegetables for breakfast, sneaking veggies in my protein shakes, and substituting vegetables for carbs in casseroles.

Lucky for me, I like eggs. Most mornings, either at first or second breakfast, I will sauté some spinach, or whatever leftover vegetables we have in the fridge, and then scramble a couple of eggs into the mixture. (Did you notice I mentioned first and second breakfast? One of the BEST things about the 21 Day Fix is I am rewarded for eating like a hobbit!)

Actually, I eat about six times a day, but if I save my yummy shake for later in the evening, sometimes I actually do
have dinner AND supper, but it feels like dessert!

Now, I love a good protein shake. I've had some amazing concoctions lately: pumpkin spice, caramel apple, Samoas (think caramel-chocolate-coconut Girl Scout cookies), and Reese's treat (peanut butter and chocolate). I look forward to having something sweet, cold, and creamy every day. When I considered taking any of those yummy recipes and mucking them up with spinach, I just wrinkled my nose in disgust. 

There was a time that adding spinach to my protein shake didn't bother me. My older son does it every single day; he puts blueberries and spinach in his blender with his protein powder. I used to do it, too, but for some reason, the texture bugs me right now. 

"If you eat your spinach, you can have dessert." Yes, I play games with myself. 

So I made a deal with myself. I told myself that if I put spinach in half of the shake, I could have the other "untainted" half for dessert. Yes, I bargain with myself like you would a two-year-old. And you know what? It works for me. I chug down my spinach-rich shake, and then I savor my spinach-less version like a rich dessert. 

When I make the pumpkin spice shake, I can actually sneak in two veggies. The pumpkin makes the shake smooth and creamy, and I don't mind it at all. I just have to add more liquid so it's not too thick.

The other tactic I'm using is experimenting with recipes that substitute vegetables for carbs. My friends Sharmel and Sharen are always trying new recipes like this, and I have enjoyed pizza, enchiladas, and spaghetti this way! 

Admittedly, the pizza "crust" is made of blended cauliflower, and the enchiladas are made with thinly sliced zucchini, and the spaghetti is made with zoodles (zucchini noodles), but I don't mind at all. I'd rather save my carb portions to enjoy a slice of whole wheat bread or some oatmeal.

A single serving of enchiladas filled up a small loaf pan. This is one of my favorite recipes now!

These things are working for me, but I am searching for more ways to eat "deceptively delicious" meals. Knowing I would rather not stare down a full plate of salad, do you you have any good ideas of how I can eat more veggies each day? I am open to suggestions, and appreciate your input! 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Happy First Birthday, Sami-Girl!

Happy Birthday, Dear Sami, 
Happy Birthday to You!

Samantha Wise Gamgee may have been chosen by Chuck, but I love her, too. Chuck can't say enough good about his little black pup. 

Shortly after we adopted our puppies, Chuck started calling Sam the WGP. It used to drive me crazy that he called her that because he said it stood for the World's Greatest Puppy. I realize his calling her a pet name is no reflection on Bristol, but I admit I felt I had to give lots of extra loves to Bristol in case Bristol thought he was being slighted. Chuck took to whispering "You're the WGP" to Sam after awhile, but I still heard it. 

Photo Credit: Chuck Bennorth

Today is Sami's special day. She is chewing on a new bone at the moment, sprawled on the couch with Bristol. One fun little bit of trivia is that the dogs share birthdays with the matriarchs in my family. Sami and my Grandma were born on November 14, and Bristol and my Mom were born on December 2. It makes it very easy to remember their birthdays!

Sami is so long, and last month when we weighed her, she was about 64 pounds. She loves to stretch out on the floor, and when she does, she looks even longer. 

When we first met Sami, she seemed like she was such a natural at retrieving. When Chuck threw a ball, she brought it back to him, and then when I threw it, she brought it back to me. Chuck has wanted a little Labrador retriever for such a long time; he was finally going to have a dog that could fetch.

Once she was ours, and we brought her home, she never retrieved again. 

There is not a dog more affectionate than Sam. She loves to be petted much more than she loves to eat. As long as you stroke her fur, she will lean against you, and let you keep doing it. She does have an unsettling habit of growling while we love on her. Sometimes it seems similar to the purr of a contented cat, and sometimes it seems like a warning to Bristol to stay away, but she does a low growl while we hug her. 

Photo Credit: Chuck Bennorth
During the day, she is my constant companion, and she follows me wherever I go. And I mean, Wherever. I. Go.

Sometimes Chuck and I talk about what life would be like if we had only chosen one dog; which one would we have decided on, how much easier one dog would be, how differently the dog would behave not having a sibling...but it's hard for me to even consider. I love Bristol and Sami both so much now.

Photo Credit: Chuck Bennorth

Sam is bossy with Bristol, and likes to think she is the alpha dog. Poor Bristol doesn't have any fight in him, and lets her take his toys away from him, and is careful not to get on her bad side. Sami  loves to play with Bristol and will cuddle with him, but he knows he has to get her approval if he wants to chew on a bone, or she will take it away. 

Sami has been tough to walk on a leash. She has boundless energy, and a crazy fascination for every single thing in her environment. My arm gets such a workout when we go for walks because she pulls so hard. We switched to a front clip harness, but it didn't make much difference; she still pulls. The Gentle Leader head collar keeps her under control, but she seems so miserable with it, we've decided to keep working with her using her harness. 

Sami really is so sweet. She is calmer than Bristol when company comes to visit. It is like she knows if she sits down by someone, they will be obligated to pet her. Between her loving personality and her shiny, soft fur, she gets lots of love and attention from anyone she meets. 

We are lucky Sami joined our family. We love our little Sami so much. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Desperate Times

My goal was to lose 30 pounds this year.  I joke that only 40 more to go before Christmas, and I will have made my goal. We all know that ain't happening any time soon.

How appreciative I am of closely cropped photos that focus on my smile, and ignore my tight clothes.
Photo credit: Chad Britt

Who was I kidding to think I could lose the weight I'd been gaining this year?  I did some crazy things in my attempt. One of the craziest was the Bulletproof Diet I tried last summer, but that only lasted about two weeks. 

Not a picture I'm necessarily proud of, but as you can see from the smile, I was still
happy. Taking pictures at the Ren faire is one of my favorite things to do. I was just
hoping this "BEFORE" picture would be able to show how far I was going to have
come after I lost my extra weight.  (Photo credit: Brian Berg)

The diet I followed is a secret I kept from you. I was so excited that maybe I had found the Holy Grail of weight loss, but I only told four people what I was doing. I was going to surprise you all with my amazing results, and you were going to be so happy for me, and proud of my accomplishments. If only.

Mixed feelings kept me from talking to others about my plan. I wasn't exactly proud of myself, but I was hopeful that this time, things would be different. You see, I tried the Bulletproof coffee diet. I'm not going to go into a lot of details, but suffice it to say I started my day with a couple of cups of coffee with butter blended in it, and ate two meals between noon and six.

Why would I fall for such an extreme plan? Well, you see, just a couple weeks earlier, I had told my daughter how exhausted I was, not being able to sleep. Then she shared a podcast with me from an author who promised amazing results with his approach; improved mental alertness, no cravings, quality sleep, and yes, amazing weight loss. I went to the library that day, and checked out the book. I reminded myself, "Desperate times call for desperate measures."

For two and a half weeks, I drank my coffee, ate my two meals, and drank a cup of buttery tea before bed. During that two and a half weeks, I actually started sleeping through the night. My thinking still seemed fuzzy, and my thoughts still felt disjointed, and I did NOT lose nearly a pound a day. The only plus was I was so grateful my insomnia seemed to be going away.

This summer, I hated that my beautiful Renaissance costume made by Susan Blanchard had
gotten too small, but I wore it anyway. Desperate to change the way my clothes fit, I tried a crazy eating plan
that backfired on me. (Photo credit: Trisha Wagner)

An unsettling thing happened two weekends in a row; I experienced very uncomfortable symptoms that I had to assume were dehydration while we were at the Bristol Renaissance faire. I felt dizzy. I couldn't think clearly enough to answer simple questions. Both times, when Chuck suggested we get me some help, I started to cry. 

When we walked up the hill toward food and water, my steps were uncertain, and I wasn't sure I would be able to make it on my own power. My friend Vicki from security chided me for not eating, and I promised I would drink more, and stop my drastic measures to lose weight. Chuck, too, made me promise I would not live on coffee and grain-fed butter, and that I would eat real food again.

I'm not even going to try to explain the Bulletproof program because I will sound crazy. When Dave Asprey explains it, he sounds all science-y and smart. One of my friends had enjoyed the eating plan, and had gotten the results she wants, but when I thought about what it was doing to me, I realized it was not good for me.

So it wasn't for a lack of trying that I wasn't losing weight this year. Before the Bulletproof fiasco, I tried counting macros. I obsessed about keeping my carbs, fats, and proteins in the specified ranges. And before the macros, I tried My Fitness Pal app, keeping track of my walking and eating. 

While I watched "My Fitness Pals'" weight numbers go down on the app, I watched my own hover, and then, HORRORS, the numbers started going up. Why would they go up, you might wonder. 

Well, when I'm calorie counting, I don't have any problem trading healthy food calories for junk food calories. I was hungry all the time because it's hard for junk food to nourish my body, and satisfy my true hunger. So I would go through periods of "healthy eating," and then go overboard with a binge. This whole thing is such a mind game for me; it always has been. To say I felt defeated is an understatement. 

For the last several months, I've been keeping track of my neighbor on Facebook with great interest. Katie has been losing weight and getting stronger. I secretly suspect her lost pounds have been walking down the sidewalk to my house, and finding a new home with me. She posts pictures of her workouts, her meal planning, and her before and after pics. She is having great success with portion control and working out 5-6 times a week.

When I lamented about my weight gain to my family, my little brother commiserated with me.

"Exercise is a tricky's the age of contradiction. You need to exercise more as you get older...but you have less energy and more aches. My opinion? If you aren't hungry, you're doing it wrong."

You know; I am not sure I've ever really experienced hunger for any length of time. I eat so often out of boredom; my body doesn't have a chance to get hungry. EVER. Those people who say, "I got so busy, I forgot to eat." WHAT? Who does that? Good lands, food is the one thing on my mind all day long. 

Beach Body on Demand workouts and the Portion Fix containers are helping me move toward
a healthier lifestyle. There is nothing extreme about this approach. I'm eating more calories
 than ever (1800-2100), and they are nutrient-dense calories. I love that I don't have to think
about calories now; I just fill up my containers, and hope I can finish them all before bedtime.

So this week, my neighbor Katie became my online coach. I now subscribe to Beach Body on Demand workout videos so that I have no excuses to avoid exercise when the bad weather hits. Using the 21 Day Fix plan, I have a collection of containers to help me measure out my food, and they help me with portion control. No food is off limits. I am eating carbs, fats, proteins, nut butters, and cheese. My online group of friends includes three of my neighbors, and we support one another in our efforts. 

My Luau personal pan pizza: barbecue chicken, spinach, pineapple, and cheese pizza. I forgot to add my peppers! Next time!

When I think about eating, I'm so happy that I can have foods I like; yogurt, peanut butter, chocolate protein shakes, bread, blueberries, apples, bananas, wraps, whole grain waffles, roasted cauliflower, butternut squash soup, and cottage cheese. I've eaten yummy chicken enchiladas and homemade pizzas made with wraps. When we went to a party a couple weeks ago, I ate two cookies, and just got right back to healthier eating the next day. No guilt; no remorse about a perceived setback. I just kept going.

Each night this week, I have gone to bed full, and somehow still have uneaten food from my plan. I'm eating lots more vegetables, whole grain carbs, and more fats. There is not room in my tummy for binge eating. I am full. 

(I know. I am confused, too.)

This is my third week on the program, and when Chuck and I went to the theater this weekend, I wore my red sweater dress, and felt great. Sunday, I discovered a pair of jeans that I just knew would never get past my hips, but I not only was able to zip them up, they actually felt great and looked okay!

Have I lost a ton of weight? Nope, but I've lost six pounds, and two inches from my waist. For those of you who are annoyed with the whole diet/weight loss fixation, I understand. This is something I am doing for me. You do you; I'll do me. We're all just doing the best we can with what we know.

Arthritis has been my constant companion for a few years now. When I am eating healthy, and keep my weight at a level that is healthy for me (not skinny, but not "off-the-charts" heavy for my frame), my joints thank me by not screaming in pain. My knees already have more range of motion, thanks to yoga and working out regularly.

Please just wish me well. I'll keep working on the emotional issues that have driven me to binge eating by recognizing what I'm feeling, and being willing to be vulnerable enough to talk about it. I'll keep practicing good self-care habits, like exercising, eating healthy food, and reading uplifting articles and books. I'll try to focus on loving myself where I am, and loving myself enough to keep pushing forward to a healthier lifestyle. Finally, the desperate feelings are disappearing, and they are being replaced by a sense of hope and calm.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

When the Sads Strike

This morning I told Chuck I was going to go write. "I'm going to write some crap, but I'm going to write. I've been avoiding writing too long."

Consider yourself warned. This may be meandering, pointless writing that may be cathartic for me, but leaves you muttering, "What did I just read?" Read, or don't. I just have to write today, no matter what. Do I have to publish it? No, but I will. I feel like I owe whomever is reading this crazy blog an explanation for my two week hiatus. 

It seems that when life gets a little crazy, my brain gets overloaded and inundated with waaay too much information, and my spirit feels overwhelmed by all of the emotions that accompany the cray-cray. There is so much to write about; so much to say, I don't even know where to start, so I don't write anything. 

Today, we ramble. We just get it out on the page. Anything and everything. Well, almost everything. Some things are still too raw to expose to the light of day, and others are not my story to tell. It's funny how the life experiences of others can impact us so deeply. 

At the moment, I am sitting here in a pink, black and white flannel jacket, some crazy striped leggings that would put Joseph's Technicolor Dreamcoat to shame, and a pair of floral socks. My friend calls it my lumberglam look. Chuck was shocked when he first noticed my outfit, and he tried to stifle a giggle. I proudly told him I dressed myself today. 

In the back of my mind, there has been a "hidden agenda" that may have been more of a wish. I secretly hoped to lose 30 pounds. The good news is, I only have forty more pounds to go. Do you think I'll make it by the end of the year? 49 days; that's less than a pound a day. I guess the bad news is, it's not going to happen. YET. But I'm not going to let that stop me from starting. 

For the last two weeks, I've been getting up early to work out. I joined an online workout community called "Headstart on the Holidays." Every single day I have woken up feeling like I've been hit by a truck, and you know what? I'm pretty darn proud of that pain. Working out is the first thing I do, even before coffee, and it's paying off. I haven't had any kitchen binges since I began. And I have been dealing with some serious schtuff here. But I'm dealing. It has been so stinkin' hard, but it's a good sign that my mental health is getting to a healthier place.

For the last little while, I've known I was struggling emotionally. I've felt sad. Lethargic. Blah. Yucky. Yes, I haz the sads. While I've done my fair share of nothing, sitting around in my jammies, waiting for some good feelings to show up, I've also been proactive during this time.

For one thing, I've been reading things that have the potential to lift my spirits; for me, that's the Bible, devotionals, and Brené Brown. I've listened to podcasts about dealing with negative emotions. I've soaked in the tub. I've worked out. I've used portion control, and kept my eating choices to healthy, whole foods. I've listened to the music I love. I've spent time with my husband and one of my friends, taken pictures, gone to the movies, attended concerts and plays. 

After I come home from a stressful day of helping my sweet mother-in-law cope with memory loss, and trying to teach her basic skills like turning on lights and answering phones, I am so wiped out all I want to do is sleep. And I do. But I can admit that depression is kicking my butt, and I tell Chuck and my kids about the sadness that overwhelms me. 

Instead of turning to food, I'm facing the issues that would tend to mentally push me over the edge, and in the past would make me eat until I numbed the feelings I didn't want to feel. I don't just come home and numb my feelings in ice cream. I am dwelling in the discomfort, instead of avoiding it. So there's that.

The blazing red maple tree in our front yard went from glorious to "seasonal affective disorder is going to hit me bad" in one day. I love that tree so much, all fall long. This year I think fall lasted a week and a half. So many of the trees in our neighborhood seemed to go from green to bare, and totally skipped over the stage where they are supposed to show off their fall colors. 

On a particularly sad day, I dragged out my yoga mat, hoping I could shift my mood through movement. I no sooner got into the downward dog position than I had two puppies licking my face and neck. We collapsed in a dog pile on the floor, and I laughed and laughed. They say laughter is the best medicine. My heart felt more whole that day than it had in a long time.

Sami will celebrate her birthday in a few days; Bristol, in a couple weeks. Those puppies drive me crazy; they keep me sane. They lick my tears when I cry, and they make me laugh. The rainy weather and their muddy paws are forces with which I contend way more often than I like, but I wouldn't give up my puppies for anything; not even a clean, fur-free house.

Okay, I'm winding down here. I'm hoping this primed the pump so I can get back to blogging again. I've missed writing, and I've missed you all. If you're still here, thanks! It really means a lot. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Cameras and Coffee at Cantigny

Cameras and Coffee at Cantigny. The word nerd in me loves that alliteration. The photographer in me loves that I have a friend here to share my love for coffee and cameras during Chuck's work week.

Susan and I ventured out on this cloudy November day, cameras in hand, to see what we could see at Cantigny in nearby Wheaton. The leaves are still in the process of changing; there weren't a lot of vibrant fall leaves on the trees yet. My biggest fear is the leaves will go from green to dead, and drop off the trees before they've had a chance to bejewel the branches.

After about an hour of shooting, we headed inside to visit Bertie's Coffee shop. I had a two dollar coffee that was good enough to not need sweetener, and Susan enjoyed her latté and a lemon bar. 

We laughed and pondered and talked and teased. It is such a blessing to have a friend like Susan. We can share our concerns for aging parents, and delight in each other's stories of our grandchildren. We tell stories from our past; we dare to mention our hopes and fears for the future. 

I took over 100 pictures today, and I challenged myself to select ONLY a dozen to share. That is hard for me. I get emotionally attached to some photos. I love the light in one; the color in another; the contrast of the black and white in another. Sometimes I love the subject matter so much, it challenges me to delete a less than stellar photograph. So these photos are my favorite images, distilled from a much larger collection.

Again, I am trying to remember LESS IS MORE. Presenting my best quality versus a large quantity of mediocrity should be my goal. I'm learning that from my husband. It has been a process these last three years. 

This reminds me of the sorting hat from Hogwarts School for Wizards.

Friday, October 27, 2017

One Thing Leads to Another

One thing led to another last night, and I stumbled upon a pretty yummy idea for my leftover dough:
Parmesan Garlic Pinwheels!

We had the perfect fall day for my weekly Coffee and Cameras outing with Susan this week. The weather was on the cool side, which forced me to admit it was time to wear socks and shoes, and a sweater. As much as I detest wearing shoes, I must confess my love for sweater weather.

Susan and I spent the whole morning together, starting our day at the Luau Coffee Shop in Wasco, Illinois, solving all of the world's problems over lattés, like we do, and then we hopped in her SUV to see what adventures awaited our cameras down route 64. 

Our first stop was the Wasco Nursery and Garden Center where we enjoyed shooting the pumpkins and flowers. The staff there are so friendly, welcoming us to enjoy their beautiful displays. They have a huge selection of pumpkins, flowers, trees, and shrubs. We can't wait to go back when they are decorated for Christmas.

We headed toward Virgil, Illinois next, and took pictures of an old yellow barn and the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church. Our last stop was the Theis Farm Market where I bought some pumpkins for carving and roasting, and I also scored a Pumpkin Masters carving kit with stencils. 

Later that afternoon, I knew I had to start the cinnamon rolls Chuck had requested for his IT department's brunch the next day. Although I have pared down my original recipe from 17 cups of flour to about 7 cups, I always have loads of dough left over. Once I made Chuck's requested baker's dozen of cinnamon rolls, I decided I'd make some dinner rolls. 

There was still dough left, and I wondered what I should do with it. We had sweet rolls, and plain rolls. A-ha! I would try making a savory version. We love parmesan and garlic at our house, and rather than just cutting bread sticks and seasoning them, I decided to make pinwheels.

I rolled out a rectangle of dough, and using a pastry brush, I covered the surface with butter. Next I sprinkled garlic powder and parmesan cheese on the dough before rolling it up. Using a piece of thread (dental floss works well, too), I sliced the tube of dough into individual pinwheels, and baked them in the oven on a silicone mat for 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees.

One thing led to another, and by the time Chuck got home, the house smelled amazing between the sweet cinnamon rolls and the savory parmesan garlic pinwheels. There is just something about homemade bread that makes any house seem extra-homey. 

If you like making rolls, I would suggest you give this versatile recipe a try. Even during the holidays, when I WANT a lot of dinner rolls, I try to set some dough aside to make cinnamon rolls for a special breakfast treat. Next time, I think I'll make a few less rolls, so we can enjoy the Parmesan Garlic Pinwheels, too.


Mix the following ingredients together and let sit for 10-15 minutes while the yeast begins to rise.

2 1/2 c. warm water
2 T. yeast
2 T. sugar
1/2 c. stevia (you can just use sugar, too)

Mix the following in separate bowl and add to the first bowl after the yeast has risen:

1/4 c. potato flakes 
3 beaten eggs
1/2 c. oil
1 T. salt.

Combine the contents of the first two bowls, and stir.  Then combine with 6-7 cups of flour in a large mixing bowl.  I like to use 3 1/2 cups of whole wheat with 3 1/2 cups of all-purpose or bread flour.   

Knead for 5 minutes. (A Kitchenaid or Bosch will do the work for you, but you can certainly do it by hand, if you have the strength, energy and inclination.) Add a small amount of flour to make the texture not too sticky. (HINT: having the dough a little on the sticky side usually lends itself to having the lightest, fluffiest rolls EVER.)

Let rise in oiled, covered bowl 1 hour.  Cut/shape the dough into rolls, dipping the rolls into butter before placing on pan, or brushing the rolls with butter before putting them in the oven. (***See note below.)  Let rise 15 minutes while oven preheats to 400 degrees.

Bake 10-12 minutes, depending on your oven, until the rolls are golden brown. Brush tops with melted butter.

The folks in my family tend to have the same reaction to these rolls every time: their eyes roll back in their heads, and they moan gently as they eat these. So yes, the effort is worth it. I dare you to try them. They are THE BOMB!  : )

***Decide before baking which rolls you want to bake. 

For BASIC DINNER ROLLS, follow the recipe as outlined above. 

For CINNAMON ROLLS, roll out the dough with a rolling pin into a rectangle (for manageability, divide the dough in half and make two rectangles). Spread butter on the rectangle with a pastry brush, and then sprinkle a mixture of cinnamon sugar on top. Roll up, and then slice into pinwheels using thread or floss.  

For PUMPKIN SWEET ROLLS, the pumpkin filling was easy: stir together one cup of pumpkin, 1/2 teaspoon each of pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon, and 1/4 c. brown sugar, and 1/4 c. stevia. Spread on top of rolled out rectangle of dough before rolling up, and slicing into pinwheels with thread or floss. 

For PARMESAN GARLIC PINWHEELS, roll out the dough with a rolling pin into a rectangle. Spread butter on the rectangle with a pastry brush, and then sprinkle garlic powder, parmesan cheese, and your favorite herbs. I used oregano.)

If you're like me, I like to make a little of all three.

Here are some of my favorite shots from the day, featuring pumpkins and flowers from Wasco Nursery and Theis Farm Market, and stained glass from the Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Illinois.