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A MENTAL “REST AND REFRESH”: A Hike Followed by a Sunset Picnic

“A walk in nature walks the soul back home.”

- Mary Davis


“Sunsets are proof that no matter what happens, every day can end beautifully.”

- Kristin Butler


Not sure about you, but last week we really needed an attitude reset, a mental “rest and refresh”, if you will. We were getting cranky and bummed out, stuck in our heads and stuck in the house, worrying about everything: Covid, the election, all the people who’ve lost their jobs, the violence in our cities, the fires in California, hurricanes in the South, whether there will be TP and flour in the stores next month—oh my!


But thankfully, there’s a remedy: nature. Doctors and scientists agree that spending time outdoors can make us feel better. Being outside reduces stress hormones and blood pressure, while improving our mood and focus. And it’s easy to social distance outside.

Clearly, to get out of our “funk”, we needed to get outdoors. We’re lucky to have lots of nice nature areas near our home, so we planned a late afternoon hike and sunset picnic at a popular local spot. The trail was an out-and-back route along a ridge, with killer ocean and canyon views. The afternoon was cool and a bit overcast, so we weren’t sure about the sunset, but whatever, it was just great to be outside for a few hours!

I packed an easy picnic dinner and SLF decanted a bottle of wine into a Hydro Flask. (We did have a small mishap in that the lid was not tight on the wine, so we lost some to the picnic basket, but no worries, there was still plenty left!) And, ok, keeping in mind that the afternoon was meant to reduce stress and increase happiness, I cheated and bought two ready-made slices of quiche from a local French bakery (which were delicious, much better than I could have made!).

Menu

Crackers, Cheese (Matos Patrão St. Jorge), and Honey

Store-bought “Mediterranean” Quiche

Steamed green beans with butter and toasted almonds

Green salad with tomatoes, olives and vinaigrette

Wine

Homemade Oatmeal Cookies (see recipe below)

Hot Tea


The hike was just what we needed—about 3 ½ miles, not overly strenuous. Walking along, chatting and occasionally quiet, we enjoyed the cool breeze, the smell of vegetation and the openness. Bunnies and roadrunners zipped across the trail, disappearing into the brush. And two sustained uphills at the end of our hike justified some delicious oatmeal raisin cookies for dessert! By the time we finished I was feeling much more relaxed, with a better mental outlook. (Cookies will do that for me!)


We enjoyed our picnic on top of the ridge overlooking the ocean. Unfortunately, our timing was off. After dinner it got a bit windy and cold, and it didn’t look to be much of a sunset. So we packed up our stuff and left. Not long after we got home, we noticed the gorgeous sunset reflecting off the clouds. It would have been spectacular up on the ridge. Oh well, even the best laid plans…. We’ll just have to schedule another sunset hike!


Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

(Recipe by Bev I Am from Food.com)

(https://www.food.com/recipe/oatmeal-raisin-cookies-35813)

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp kosher salt

1 cup unsalted butter, softened OR 1 cup Crisco shortening + 2 TBSP water)

1 cup white sugar

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla

3 cups rolled oats (not instant)

1 ½ cup raisins

Start by pre-heating your oven to 350F. Prepare your cookie sheets: use non-stick spray or line with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl, then set aside. Next, use a mixer to beat the butter, white sugar, dark brown sugar, eggs and vanilla together. Add the bowl of dry ingredients into the creamed mixture; and mix just until incorporated. Stir in the oats and raisins.

Scoop 2 TBSP of dough for each cookie, spacing each 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. (A cookie scoop makes this easier.). Place pans on the center rack and bake for 11-13 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!!


Notes

-The cookies should look slightly underbaked when you take them out of the oven—they'll be perfect after cooling on the cookie sheet for a few minutes.

-I like to substitute shortening for the butter. I think it lets the oatmeal and raisin flavors shine. To do this use one stick of Crisco shortening (1 cup) and add 2 tablespoons of water, per the label.

 
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