Tuesday Tips: Living a Healthier Life

Good morning!

The purpose of the post today is to remind myself of why I started on this journey toward a healthier lifestyle. Sometimes I need reminders. Seeing it in “print” often helps me a lot; sometimes things get lost in my ol’ brain. 🙂 I read a lot…a LOT. And over the course of the last year or two, I have read much about healthy living, organics, pesticides, real food, processed foods…you name it, if it’s health-related, I have probably read something about it.

Some of the books that I read that had the most impact on my thoughts about healthy living/eating include Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Karen Kingsolver which I have read several times; In Defense of Food as well as Food Rules by Michael Pollan; and Food Matters by Mark Bittman. I read Organic Gardening magazine (and had my first little organic garden this summer). I read Mother Earth News and Mother Earth Living magazines. I follow blogs online: 100 Days of Real Food; Stacy Makes Cents. Basically, I read anything and everything about changing the way we eat and how what we put into our bodies has lasting effects…and not just with weight.

I encourage you to read, read, read about what you can do – and you CAN do it – to make changes in your life to be more healthy. But here are a few things that I have read over and over to get you started. Remember: You are in charge of your health and it’s up to you to do what you can to make yourself as healthy as possible. I know a lot of people have health issues already so don’t make any drastic changes without talking to your doctor. But if he or she tells you it’s just dandy to eat mac and cheese from a box, it might be time to seek another doctor. Just saying.

1. Never call a healthy eating plan a diet.

Never. Never ever. “Diet” is a four-letter word, and it’s a doozy. If you go on a diet, the implication is that when you reach whatever goal you set for yourself, you will go back to your “regular” eating and somehow maintain your weight loss. From everything I’ve read – and seen – it’s NOT going to go down that way. Diets don’t work. Living off boxed low-fat frozen dinners and sugar-free this and fat-free that will leave you feeling deprived. And hungry. Deprivation and a constant feeling of hunger will eventually lead to a food binge that leaves you feeling bad about yourself – and probably just feeling bad. And the cycle just repeats itself over and over. So don’t go on a diet. Instead, make changes – gradual is fine – to healthier eating habits.

2. Cook your own meals.

Please, please, please…don’t tell me you that can’t cook. I beg you! If you are reading this blog, you CAN cook. Get a cookbook, look through it, pick a recipe, and make it. It might be best not to start with a recipe with an ingredient list a page long.  You might get there one day; you might not. But there are recipes that are simple and easy to prepare. And then not only do you have a home-cooked meal, you have the joy of knowing that YOU made it. Homemade mac and cheese is pretty darn easy. To say that it’s better than the stuff in the box with powdered “cheese” would be an understatement. That being said, you can NOT eat the entire dish by yourself. It would defeat the purpose. But in my experience, a spoonful of the good stuff is better than a whole box of the fake stuff. I’m not suggesting that you start out making five-course dinners every night. But with some planning, you can cook meals at home. I believe this with all my heart!

3. Avoid fast food places and chain restaurants.

If the Sysco truck makes a daily delivery to a restaurant, it’s probably not your best option when eating out. For the most part, in our house we save eating out for special occasions such as birthdays (you get to pick the restaurant) and our anniversary. When we vacation, we eat out as little as possible. And no, cooking while on vacation isn’t a hardship. I always pack my slow cooker and dinner is ready when we are. We will eat out once – maybe twice – while on vacation. I hate knowing that I spent $100 on a meal I could have prepared myself for $20. Hate. It. And I have found now that eating out in general leaves me feeling bloated and dissatisfied. I just feel yucky! And, I get a little made when I pay good money for a mediocre (at best) meal. I won’t go into fast food places. Just know that in my way of thinking, if it’s that fast, I question whether or not it’s really food.

4. Read labels carefully.

Know your stuff so that you can make an informed decision. If a label says “less sugar” or “sugar free,” look at the label. Anything that contains “-crose” or “-cose” is some type of sugar. Sucrose. Glucose. Fructose. There’s quite a list. Avoid aspartame. If something says “whole wheat” on the label and the first ingredient is “enriched wheat flour,” it’s not really whole wheat. The general rules are:

*Don’t eat it if it has more than five ingredients unless you can pronounce them all (like berries, oats, rice). If you can pronounce “acetylated monoglycerides” and even know what they are, more power to you. You still don’t need to eat them.

* Fresh is best. Fruits and vegetables and fresh meats don’t have labels. Doesn’t mean they haven’t been treated with pesticides, but they haven’t been filled with other stuff. That being said, I buy organic whenever possible. If it’s not available, I usually skip it. Yes, I know organic is more expensive and if it’s cost-prohibitive, I’ll pass for the week. You can google a list of the “Dirty Dozen” organic fruits and veggies that you should always buy organic because of the pesticide residue that remain on and in them even after washing.  Buy local when you can but ask about the farmer’s practices regarding pesticides.

5. You have to get moving.

You can eat things that are good for you at every meal, but if the rest of the time you are in a sitting or reclined (napping) position, you’re still doing yourself a disservice. You have to move your body. I’m not saying you have to run, or do Zumba, or join a gym. Walking is free and it’s the easiest thing to do. (If you are physically unable to get out an exercise, ask your doctor what you can do to get moving inside.) I will tell you that it’s easier  if you have an exercise partner – someone to exercise with and to keep you accountable when you can’t exercise together. Getting a text asking if you’ve exercised today will get you up and moving so that you can honestly respond, “Yes.”

6. Set small goals rather than one big goal.

While it’s fine to have an ultimate goal in mind (lost 25 pounds or run a 5K), making smaller goals for yourself gives you reasons to celebrate along the way. Want to lose 25 pounds, set 5-pound goals for yourself. Five pounds is a lot more “doable” than 25 pounds seems. Walking half a mile a month from now is easier- and a lot more likely – than running a 5K a month from now. And reward yourself when you meet your goals. Not with food! A manicure or pedicure. A movie. A massage (my personal favorite). Something you really enjoy but don’t often do for yourself – especially if you’re a mom.

7. Get your family on board.

Try to encourage your family to join you on your journey to a healthier lifestyle. If they aren’t up for it, you can sneak it in on them – especially if you’re the cook in the house. Here is a prime example that I experienced a couple of weeks ago. When I buy ground beef, I always buy the lowest fat content: either 97/3 or 90/10. When it’s available in my store, I buy the grass-fed good stuff. It’s over $6.00 a pound which is one reason why I serve ground beef only once a week. My husband was unaware that I was doing this. He went to the grocery store with me and saw the pack of ground beef in the cart. “What? We’re not paying over $6.00 for hamburger meat! No way!” So he took it and went to the meat department and bought regular ground beef. I don’t even remember the fat content. So I made tacos with it – which I did not even try. He takes a bite and immediately asks me, “Is there something wrong with this meat? Has it gone bad?” My response: “Nope. It’s what you picked out.” When he asked why it tasted weird, I let him know that he was used to eating the “good stuff” and hadn’t even known it, but that he could tell the difference now. I explained that the price is the reason we only have ground beef once a week. (I didn’t tell him that I am reducing his red meat intake, so don’t you tell him.) He has finally gotten on board with “Meatless Mondays” even though he gives me a hard time still. And he’s started walking. Not as often or regularly as he should, but he’s getting there. 🙂

8. Be willing to try new things.

New exercise programs or classes. New recipes. New foods. Some you’ll like; some you won’t. But you definitely won’t know if you don’t try. I’ve discovered that I like roasted veggies way more than those cooked down to nothing (which is probably a southern thing). Except beets. I really don’t like beets. And I still don’t like lettuce, but I do like fresh spinach so I throw that on a sandwich or in an omelet all the time. Homemade cream of chicken soup is the bomb! If you make it, you’ll never use the blob from the can again. And it’s easy! Really easy. I would never have expected to hear myself say, “I’m going to go get my run in now.” And yet I said that very thing yesterday. And I felt good once I’d done it, too. Walking and/or running is a great stress reliever. 

9. Know your reason(s) for wanting a healthier lifestyle.

To have more energy. To live a longer life. To avoid some of the health problems that seem to run in my family. To feel better about myself. To eliminate processed foods. To be a better and wiser consumer. The reasons are endless, but you know why you are doing it. That’s the reason(s) you need to remember. And ultimately, the reason is for you (and your children). Your spouse may or may not ever get on board – at least not to his knowledge. 🙂 

10. Have a friend who has the same goal in mind.

Everyone needs a friend to keep them “in line” – to remind you why you are on a journey to better health. Why you are making the decisions you are making. Someone you can call when you’re standing in the ice cream aisle at the grocery store about to stock up on the “buy one, get one” sale. Someone who can talk you into  meeting her for one scoop of good ice cream at the ice cream place instead. Someone to exercise with. Someone to encourage you. Someone to pick you up and dust you off when you feel like you have fallen off the wagon, so to speak. 

Making the change to a healthy lifestyle isn’t easy. Some parts of it are easier than others, but it’s not easy to change your mindset. It’s not easy to say “no” to things you’ve always said “yes” to. It’s not always easier to eat at home. It’s not always convenient. But – and this is a big BUT – it’s worth it. You’ll feel better – physically and emotionally. You’ll sleep better. Your body will thank you. (Sometimes your body says “thank you” through muscle aches, but that’s okay. It’s still thankful you moved it.)

I would say that the very first things you need to do are #9 and #10. Figure out why you want to change your lifestyle. Find someone who shares that desire. And get started. Little by little; step by step; change by change. You’ll get there. We all can. Just remember that it’s a journey. We didn’t get unhealthy overnight; we can’t get healthy overnight. Don’t get discouraged. Keep your goal in mind and keep moving toward it.

Have a blessed and beautiful day!

Lynne

Five Quick Clutter Clearers

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Today was a big day for me. Big-ish, at least. I started a part-time job at my church working in children’s ministry. It’s exciting and a little scary. I haven’t worked in a lot of years. Of course, homeschooling IS a job – a more than 40-hours-per-week kind of job. So this will be easy-peasy. Right? 🙂

Tuesday is “tips” day, but as I sit here looking around my house, I thought that instead of tips, I’d share five quick clutter clearing things that you can do to declutter your house. They don’t take a whole lot of time. In fact, I’d devote no more than 30 minutes in a day to any of them. If you don’t get the task completed in that time, you can just stop and pick it up the next day. You might not need to do all five. So just pick one or two and devote 15-30 minutes a day until you’re done. If you have one not on the list that you need to do, please share it with us. We can all use ideas of little tasks that can be completed in short spurts of time. I’m not going to go into great detail. These are pretty self-explanatory. I hope.

So, here goes.

1. Clear out your magazine stash.

Save them only if you’re really going to read them again. Otherwise, copy recipes, pull out room ideas, etc. and file them away. Recycle the magazines or donate them to a doctor’s office or hospital. (I am sitting here looking at quite a stash of magazines myself. I’ll be working on this one first.)

2. Clean your ceiling fans.

You only realize how dusty your ceiling fans get when your turn them off. Then, well…it can be quite shocking.  Take the time to remove the light globes/fixtures and clean them as well. They may need a good washing. Dust or vacuum the fan blades and the whole kit and kaboodle. (My light globes need washing. Just being honest here.)

3. Dust the pictures and decorative things on the wall.

When I dust the living room or bedrooms, I always do tables, bookshelves, dressers, etc. I do not always take the time to dust the picture frames, sconces, etc. that are hanging on the walls. Thus, they get a bit dusty. (True confession: I need to do this, too. I have been neglectful over the summer, I see.)

4. Vacuum behind – and under – the furniture.

Take time in each room to pull out the furniture that rests against the walls, and vacuum behind them. Dust bunnies rule the areas behind bookshelves and dressers. Vacuum under the beds, under the sofa, etc. This is one of my least favorite things to do. But if you leave dust bunnies alone, the multiply rapidly. Very rapidly. This should be done at least once a month, preferably twice.

5. Clear off your kitchen counter tops.

This one has the potential to take the most time in many homes. Counter tops can quickly become hidden under clutter. I’m not really sure why, but it seems to be true. If you have the storage space, store larger kitchen appliances that you don’t use every day (toasters, etc.) somewhere besides the counter top. The exception to the rule should, of course, be the coffee maker. Just saying. 🙂 If you don’t have the storage, just make things as neat as possible. The fewer things on the counter top, the less stressful it is to be in the kitchen.

I hope these small tasks will give you a good start on reducing the clutter around your home. Less clutter = less stress. Now, let me get to those magazines. 🙂

Happy decluttering!

Lynne

Tuesday Tips: Getting Ready for Mornings

Happy Tuesday!

Well, my laundry is done and – GASP! – hanging on the line because we have SUNSHINE today!!! Woo-hoo! My bathrooms are cleaned. So I’m sitting down to my afternoon cup of coffee (that my sweet hubby just fixed and brought to me) to write today’s blog post. I asked Teresa for a Tuesday Tips topic and she suggested “preparing for the morning.” As in preparing for it the night before. Saves time. Saves frustration. Saves energy.

Since I don’t work, I don’t always usually plan a whole lot for the following morning. Except on Sundays when my wardrobe is determined by whether I’m volunteering in guest services (capris or jeans and a blue t-shirt) or in Kidz Creek (capris or jeans and a yellow t-shirt). And I’m usually pretty good about laying those out on Saturday night. I didn’t do that this past Saturday, however. I know not why. My husband was working nights over the weekend and came in and went to sleep about 30 minutes before I got up. Now, we have room-darkening blinds AND curtains in our room, meaning it’s really dark in there on a sunny day, but especially on a cloudy day like Sunday. So there I was scrounging around in my closet trying to find the right clothes without resorting to using a light source. I think I pulled down every pair of jeans before I found the ones I wanted. And possibly all of my t-shirts. I finally got it together, but I was a few minutes late to church.

I don’t know why I don’t plan that kind of stuff every day. I often find myself staring into my closet and: 1. Wishing my daughter would organize by color, etc. as she says it ought to be; and 2. Wondering if I could just stay in my pajamas because, hey, they’re comfortable and I have nowhere to go. Alas, after answering the door for the UPS man around lunch time one day, I decided I might be better off dressing when I get up. I was a tad embarrassed. 🙂

So, here are some things that will help you – and anyone in your household, especially the kiddos – to have smooth mornings so that you can savor that cup of coffee instead of “running around like a chicken with your head cut off,” as my mom might say.

1. Plan what you’ll wear.

Even if you’re just staying home, you can plan an outfit. I’m not talking accessories and all (thought you certainly can do that), but plan to change out of your jammies. As the beginning of the school year approaches – rather quickly, it seems – this will become even more important. Dropping your kids off in car line while wearing said jammies can be done. I would never be quite brave enough for that. I just know that the day I did, I would either be in a fender bender, get stopped for speeding, etc. Or worse, my kid would leave his lunch bag or backpack in the car and I’d have to walk it into the school. Something would definitely happen and someone would see me in my pajamas. (Side note: I really don’t understand people going to the store in their pajamas and bedroom slippers with curlers in their hair. I see them. I just don’t believe it.) Have your kids and even your spouse get their clothes ready as well. Then everyone starts the day knowing one thing is already taken care of. It’s a good habit to get into early on.

2. Plan your breakfast.

Whether it’s cold cereal, fruit, or a breakfast worthy of Cracker Barrel, plan what you’ll have. If ingredients can be set out ahead of time, sit them on the counter at night. For example, when I’m planning to have grits or oatmeal, I sit the canister on the stove top as my reminder for the morning. When I’m planning my weekly menu, I try to make a general plan for breakfasts as well. I don’t always get it done – especially in the summer when no one is on a regular schedule – but it’s a goal. I also prep my coffee pot the night before and sit my mug beside it. Then all I have to do is pour the water through and wait those three, long, agonizing minutes until the coffee is brewed. 🙂

3. Plan for and prep your lunch(es).

If you’re going to work or going to be out, plan for lunch and snacks. If your kids take lunch to school, prepare as much as possible the night before and have the lunchboxes or bags on the counter and ready to be completed. If you’re taking leftovers to work, make your plate as soon as you’re done with dinner. I often make my husband’s lunch plate before we eat dinner to ensure that he actually has something to take and it doesn’t all get eaten. Sandwiches can be made the night before and stored in the fridge. Anything you can do after dinner that you don’t have to do in the morning saves time. Bedtime can be a few minutes late; school or work, not so much.

4. Put things by the door.

Book bags, sports equipment, briefcases, purses, KEYS.  Have you ever been late because your child couldn’t find her book bag? Or you couldn’t find your keys? Pick a spot – preferably near the door you’ll be exiting in the morning – and put all the stuff you’ll need there. Then it’s just a matter of grabbing the lunch bags and picking up your other stuff as you head out the door. This is another really simple task that saves tons of time in the mornings. Really!

And since you have the time,

5. Prep for dinner.

If you’re doing your menu plans, you’ll know what’s on tap  for the evening meal. If you need meat to defrost, sit it in the fridge before you head out the door. If something is going in the crock pot, sit the crock pot on the counter the night before (again as a reminder) and put meat in the fridge to defrost and gather the other ingredients you’ll need so that all you have to do in the morning is throw it together, usually taking fewer than ten minutes. Walking in the house after a busy day to the smell of dinner cooking is a wonderful feeling. Wonderful, I tell you. You can even set the table in the morning if you like.

What are some of your time-saving tips for making mornings run more smoothly? Please share them with us! Pretty please?

Have a blessed day!

Lynne

Tuesday Tips: Maintaining REAL Friendships

I know this is late, but I got to spend most of the day babysitting a little “snuggle bug,” and then it was on to fixing dinner. 🙂

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendships lately. Don’t really know why, but it’s been on my mind. So many people come into and out of our lives through the years. Some are acquaintances. Some are friendly friends. And some are true, lasting, “call them if you need them in the middle of the night” friends. You don’t need a lot of those. Just a select few. But with so many of us being busy, busy, busy all the time, how do we go about maintaining those friendships? Here are just a few – four, to be exact – “tips” for doing just that.

1. Keep in touch when you can’t see one another.

With today’s technology, social media, etc., there’s really no excuse for NOT keeping in touch. Send an e-mail, send a text, make an actual phone call. Chat on Facebook. Just let your friends know that you’re still around and you’re still there for them even if you can’t see them face to face on a regular basis.

2. Be there for important life events when possible.

Weddings, births, birthdays, funerals, etc. If something major is going on and you can be there to hold a hand or better yet celebrate, be there. Take the time if you can so at all. I have a couple of friends who have been with me – and I with them – through every big good and every big bad thing that has happened in our lives since we were children. I can’t imagine life without them. I don’t see them as often as I could or should, but I know where they are and they know how to find me.

3. Remember birthdays.

Send a card. Send some flowers. Make a lunch date. Just remember her birthday. (Or his, if you’re a guy. But don’t send him flowers. Maybe not even a card.) Give them a shout out on Facebook or Twitter to show the love. Remembering someone on her birthday makes her feel special, and it’s so easy to do.

4. Pray for them.

Whenever a friend comes to mind, say a prayer for them. Just thank God for your friendship and ask Him to bless their day in a special way. And let them know they came to mind and you said a prayer for them. In times of crisis, pray for them constantly.

God sends us a few special, close friends in this life. Neglecting them due to busyness is a sad thing to do. Now, go text, call, or email someone right now and let them know you’re thinking about them and that you love them and appreciate their friendship.

Blessings,
Lynne

P.S. If you have other tips for keeping friendships vital, please share them with the rest of us. Thanks!

Tuesday Tips: Vacation Sanity Savers

It’s summertime. I’m sure lots of you have vacations planned. Some of you may have more than one. We don’t have one on the books yet as we generally like to travel when school starts back in the fall. Other than our anniversary trip which is usually my husband’s responsibility to plan.

Our first big family vacation was to Florida. The kids were 5 and 3 at the time. We were to be gone a week and I don’t know whether my husband thought we’d never see Florida again or what, but he planned a BIG vacation. As in, something every day. During that week – and I am not kidding – we went to Kennedy Space Center, Sea World, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios (then MGM), and Universal Studios. Seriously. On that Wednesday, we went to Sea World. We were there less than two hours, possibly less than one. The children were ill and exhausted. I was ill and exhausted. We went back to our condo and slept almost the entire day. That trip was a learning experience to say the least. (And I may have threatened divorce if my husband EVER tried to cram that much activity into one week again. EVER.)

When you’re traveling – especially with children – here are a few things that I found helped make vacations less stressful. Experience is harsh teacher. 🙂

1. Plan time for rest.

If at all possible, plan for days of rest during your vacation. I know a lot of people travel to places like Orlando with the theme parks or other places where there are so many things to do. So many choices. And you want to do them all. DO NOT TRY AND DO THEM ALL IN ONE WEEK. It’s beyond tiring. After that first Florida trip, I planned out our itinerary for future trips. I always allow for a day of rest between attractions; if it’s a shorter trip – less than a week – then at least a morning or an afternoon where there’s time to nap, sit around the pool, etc. Just some relaxation time built in. Otherwise, tired people get ornery. Ornery people like to argue. Not pleasant.

2. Have an itinerary.

Really. Plan your vacation out. Maybe not down to the minute, but have a plan of some sort to go by. When we went back to Disney last year, I didn’t do this. The kids were older. I figured that they could do what they wanted and come and go as the pleased. We stayed on the Disney property so it was just a matter of walking to the front of the resort and getting on the right bus. My daughter later told me that she wished I had had the plan. She didn’t like there not being structure. Go figure. Obviously, you have to have Plan B’s in case of inclement weather (when we went to Disney last year it was COLD!). I generally have a day for rest in the middle of the week, and a half day or at least an early night the day before we leave.

3. If possible, choose a condo over a hotel room.

For me, having a condo space so that I can go to MY room – not just sit on my bed – makes a huge difference in how much love I feel towards the others I’m vacationing with. 🙂 A condo might (or might not) cost a little more, but my sanity is worth it. With little ones, you’ll be able to let them nap away from everyone else. You can nap away from everyone else. I like private balconies where I can sit in the mornings and drink my coffee and read my Bible. I love my family. I really do. I do NOT want to spend a week with them in a hotel room. Been there; done that. No thank you. Hotel rooms shrink a little bit every day of vacation. Were you aware of this phenomenon? I also like condos because lots of them come with washers and dryers. If at all possible, I do laundry before we leave so I don’t have to do it when I get home.

4. Plan your meals.

Research where you’re going to be. Decide how you’ll handle breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Another reason that I like condos is that they have kitchens. And while I don’t want to spend hours cooking while on vacation, I also don’t want to spend all my money eating out. I always take my crock pot on vacation. We eat breakfast in the condo and lunch, too, unless we’re too far away. If we eat lunch out, we try to eat dinner in. We try to only eat out dinner once (maybe twice) because it’s so expensive. (Note: We are not all that big on eating out anyway, so we may just be weird.) But theme park tickets are pricey. Condos are pricey. You can save a lot of money by doing a little planning and eating in. We also carry a picnic lunch and snacks for our trips to and from our vacation location.

5. Have a budget and stick to it.

This is the hardest one, of course. Decide how much you’ll spend on your vacation. If possible, save up beforehand so you won’t be tempted to use that credit card. Factor in gas, food, tickets, lodging, and some for those unexpected things that inevitably pop up. Then keep track of what you spend. It’s easier if you’re using cash or your check/debit card. I stick an envelope in my purse and toss all the receipts in there. I write on the outside of the envelope what we spent and where and keep a running total. Then I know when we need to slow down and be more careful. We don’t have a credit card so when we run out, we run out. It’s a lot less stressful to go home without a looming credit card bill.

Do you have a helpful vacation tip that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you. I don’t travel with little ones anymore, so I”m sure there are quite a few things that I’ve left out. I just touched on the “big” things.

Leave a comment and share your tips.

Lynne

 

Tuesday Tips: Kitchen Odds & Ends

So…as I was finishing the whole “clean your kitchen from top to bottom thing,” I started thinking about little tips or suggestions for the kitchen. (By the way, my kitchen cleaning took longer than 30 minutes on a Thursday. Shopping at Costco in bulk creates new problems to be dealt with. And lots of rearranging. Geez.) Here are a few that I came up with or use (meaning someone else came up with them and I thought, “Yeah, that’ll work.”). Please share any tips that you have. I always love new time-saving or space-saving ideas. That’s all part of simplifying, right?

Anyway, here are my ten. I hope you will share yours with us as well! Pretty please?

Blessings, Lynne

NOTE: Some of these you may have seen in other posts. Sometimes I need to see them in “writing” again to get back to doing them, so they’re for me. 🙂

1. Clean the fridge out every week.

“Yes, Lynne, every week. On Monday. The day before trash pick up.” Otherwise, when you go to the store, you will be doing some creative cramming to get everything in your fridge. (If I get brave enough, I’ll post a picture of what mine looked like before yesterday’s cleaning out.) When you creatively cram things into your fridge, you will inevitably need whatever got put the furthest back on the shelf. Without fail. And then you have to take it all back out, get the thing you needed, and re-cram the stuff back in. It’s very frustrating and occasionally leads to kicking and yelling at the refrigerator. The poor innocent refrigerator.

2. Make a note of the date you open something.

When you open a carton of chicken broth or jar of spaghetti sauce and you don’t use it all, mark on the lid or top – with a permanent marker – the date that you opened it. When you do the following week’s refrigerator cleaning and find that the carton or jar is still in there and unused, freeze what’s left. Measure it and pour it into a freezer bag (or bags), label the bag with contents and date, and lay it flat in the freezer. And then remember that it’s in the freezer the next time you are cooking and need it, rather than opening another carton or jar. Failing to note the date you open a carton or jar can result in you opening the carton and being knocked down by the smell of some rotten broth, or discovering that your spaghetti sauce has enough mold on it to make your own antibiotics. (Do not make your own antibiotics.)  Neither is very pleasant.

3. Schedule one dinner (or Sunday lunch even) to be a leftover “buffet.”

I love leftover buffet night because: 1. I do not have to cook that night. 2. I can eat mashed potatoes AND pizza if I want, and no one looks at me like I’m weird. 3. It gets half of the cleaning out the refrigerator taken care of.  (I usually eat leftovers for lunch anyway, and yesterday I ate a slice of spinach Alfredo pizza with a side of braised carrots. Because I could.) I wish that Thursday night could always be leftover buffet night, but I choose the night based on whether or not my husband needs leftovers to take for lunch the next day. I won’t make him eat leftovers for lunch and dinner. At least, not usually. Sometimes he just has to deal. On those days, I strongly suspect he pops into a fast food place and has a little something more. Just a suspicion.

4. Putting a little bit of rice in your salt shaker keeps the salt from clumping.

Here in good old South Carolina, we have ridiculous humidity. I mean, really, we do. Occasionally, I fill the salt shaker and forget to add the rice. For example, last week we had several humid, rainy days. I had filled the salt shaker and forgotten the rice. I’d go to add salt to something and, of course, it wouldn’t come out. It was just frustrating. This is not a huge deal, just a minor aggravation. But still.

5. If you cook any kind of chicken on the bone, take the time to make your own chicken broth/stock. If you cook a whole chicken or chicken breasts with the bone in, or even if you buy a rotisserie chicken, throw the “carcass” into the slow cooker, add an onion (cut into 4-5 large chunks), a couple of carrots, a bay leaf, and a pinch of poultry seasoning. Let that stuff cook on low overnight in your crock pot. Turn off the crock pot in the morning and let the carcass cool. Remove as much of the bones as you can, then pour the broth/stock through a fine strainer into a bowl. You might need to strain it again into another bowl. When it’s completely cooled, measure it out in 1-cup, 2-cup or 1/2- cup amounts, label freezer bags accordingly, and pour it into the bags. Freeze them so that they are flat and then stack them when they are frozen so they take up less room. The next time a recipe calls for broth, you’ll have it on hand. And it’s better – and more flavorful – than the canned stuff.

6. Try new recipes.

Be brave. Be bold. Try new stuff. Make a point to try new recipes at least once or twice a month. Or even once a week. Not necessarily “exotic” stuff, just things you’ve not made at home before but enjoyed at a restaurant. I remember the first time I made chicken Marsala at home. I said to my husband, “We will never have to pay “$50 for two people to eat chicken Marsala at a restaurant again!” If you eat at someone else’s table and they serve something you really enjoyed, ask for the recipe. Most people are happy to share. And if not, you can find recipes for almost anything online. I love trying new recipes! Sometimes they don’t turn out as good as they sounded, but sometimes they’re even better and go in the “keepers” file. I like when that happens. 🙂

7. Spice it up.

It was a long time before I ventured past the salt, pepper, and cinnamon on the spice aisle. But, boy, when I did, it was a happy day! Now when recipes call for thyme or dry mustard or paprika, I’ve got it covered. I have a drawer full of spices and a basket full of spice blends. And if you’re on a low-salt diet, there are lots of options available to give your food some flavor without the sodium. But, by the way, there’s regular table salt. And sea salt. And my personal favorite – kosher salt. And freshly ground pepper…mmmm. And, yes, your spice drawer or cabinet should be alphabetized. I mean, really. How else will you be able to find the one you need?

8. Don’t leave dishes in the sink overnight.

Sigh. This is my least favorite thing to do: wash dishes in the sink that didn’t fit in the dishwasher after dinner. Or that mysteriously got dirtied after dinner was over and I thought the kitchen was closed for the night. Or that just can’t go in there. I mean, I really do NOT like to wash dishes. At night. When I’m tired. Or I just want to go to bed and read. BUT (and yes, that’s a big BUT), I really, really hate to get up in the morning to a sink full of dishes. I also don’t want to issue an open invitation for little critters and creepy-crawlies to pay a visit to my kitchen for a midnight buffet. So, even if I’m tired and don’t want to, I (almost) always do the dishes in the sink before I go to bed. I appreciate my hard work in the morning.

9. Recycle and compost if you can.

Recycling is one of the easiest things you can do to help our little planet. Most cities offer a recycling service. Most counties have a landfill where you can take your recyclables if you don’t have pick up service. Really. It’s not hard. Just get a container if one isn’t provided and drop the stuff in there. I rinse everything out (again, no invites to critters) and drop it in the recycling bin. We don’t have to sort ours, but I would if I needed to. My recycle bin sits just off my back deck, so I can just step out there and drop things in. If you can compost, keep a large, inexpensive bowl on the counter top and drop your veggie peels, egg shells, coffee filters, tea bag, etc. in throughout the day. Once a day, trek out to the compost bin/pile, and empty the bowl. When you come back in, rinse or wash the bowl and sit it back on the counter. Leaving the compost bowl full and sitting on the counter is yet another invitation to bugs to meet up with their buddies in your kitchen for a snack. (Are you aware that I don’t like bugs? Especially roaches. Eww. So I don’t want to do anything that would give them the idea that they are welcome in the house.)

10. Every once and a while, cook through your stockpile (if you have one).

If you have a grocery stockpile, every once in a while, it’s good to cook through it and empty the cabinets. Say every couple of months. I am in need of doing that right now. My pantry overfloweth. My cabinets are filled to the brim. I realize that this is a blessing…food a’plenty. However, I’m ready to see some empty shelf space. Since I’ve already made my menu plan for this week, I’ll plan for next week to be a “cooking through” week. And, in the meantime, I’ll try not to add much to it. I’ll ignore those “buy one, get one free” ads. I will! I must! So I’ll pull out two or three cookbooks one afternoon this week, sit at the table gazing into the pantry and plan according to what I see. I’ll be looking for some new recipes to try. Certainly something with pasta as I seem to have an abundance of that.

Getting in Fruits and Veggies – Suggestions from FB

Here are some suggestions from the Facebook page. Just wanted to share!

  • Smoothies and fruit & yogurt parfaits
  • When fruit starts to brown or get soft, freeze it. Goes great in smoothies and you don’t have to buy frozen fruit at the grocery store.
  • And, I have to say, I love a good fruit cobbler. Might not be the least fattening way to get fruit in, but they’re so yummy!

I also shared this link as to WHY you need more fruits and veggies in your diet.

http://www.bi-lo.com/images/uploads/pdfs/1139-12-Thrive-FebMar.pdf

So, yes, your mom was right. You need to eat those veggies on your dinner plate!

Blessings,

Lynne

Tuesday Tips: Getting in More Fruits & Veggies

I love fruits and veggies! Most of them anyway. And ’tis the season for the good stuff to start rolling in! Yippee!! Still, getting my daily “quota” doesn’t always happen. So here are some ways that I have found to get more of them in my daily diet. Please note, I do NOT like raw veggies. Period. So no salads for me. Thus, I have to be a little more creative. And sometimes that takes more time than throwing together a salad.

**If you have any additional tips for getting those important fruits and veggies in, please post! We all need them so we all need to hear about it! Thanks!**

1. Buy fresh fruits and veggies.

You can not eat what you do not have. Fresh fruits and veggies – especially if they’re in season – are so much better than the canned or frozen variety. Just saying. Go to your local farmers’ market. Support your local farmers and economy. The further your fruits and veggies have to travel to get to you, the less fresh they actually are. True statement.

2. Try new recipes.

Be brave! Be bold! The internet is at your fingertips with bazillions of recipes to be found and tried. I make an effort to try at least one new recipe every couple of weeks. Sometimes we like them; sometimes we don’t. But you never know until you try. Last year we discovered that we really like roasted vegetables. A lot. Almost any of them. You should try it. 🙂

3. Grow some of your own.

It doesn’t get much fresher than that. We have enjoyed strawberries, rutabagas (roasted…the bomb!), broccoli and cauliflower so far this year. Just walked out into the back yard and picked them myself. If the size of the plants and number of blooms are good indicators, we will be eating squash until we turn yellow. We like squash, but I may have overplanted. Ahem. If you don’t have a lot of room, there are lots of things that can be grown in pots on the deck. I don’t have a huge back yard, so we are doing raised beds. They are working very well! (Again, you can read all about gardening in small spaces or large on the internet.)

4. Make them visible.

If you open the refrigerator and don’t see the fruits and veggies, you’ll be less likely to eat them. And then they might rot and make your fridge all stinky. Put them where you can see them. Precut/slice carrots for munching on. Put oranges in a bowl where they can be seen. Push the “less good for you” stuff to the back and move the fresh stuff to the front. It works. Really.

5. Try a new fruit or veggie.

If there’s something you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t done so, just do it. (See #2 above.) I have discovered some things that I didn’t know I liked. And, to be honest, some things that didn’t taste quite as good as I had imagined. Still, I tried. You never know until you try.

If fresh fruits and veggies aren’t available, frozen is probably the next best choice because there are fewer additives. Then canned. Watch the sodium in canned ones, though. Read a label and you might get scared into gardening. 🙂

Tuesday Tips: How to “De-stress” Your Day

Good morning all!

Sorry that the blog has been sort of hit-or-miss here lately. The last couple of weeks have been stressful for me. I realize that things could be so much worse and am grateful that they aren’t. My stress comes from busyness. I don’ t like to be busy. If you ask me how I am, I don’t want my response to always be “Busy.” I try to make it a point to limit my obligations and appointments so that I’m not busy all the time. My family will (I’m sure) attest to the fact that busyness leads to grouchiness for me.

Now my recent busyness has not been due to anything bad. Quite the opposite, in fact. Home school graduation was last week. The home school yearbook is due next Friday. I have two nephews graduating in the next couple of weeks, and a new nephew due to make his appearance next Thursday. So it’s all good stuff. Really. And I only have this “feeling” for a couple of weeks and it will pass quickly. But there are those who feel this way all the time. All. The. Time. Busy, busy, busy. Rush, rush, run. Run here. Run there. Drop off. Pick up. Juggle schedules, appointments, work…this list just goes on and on.

So how do you manage to limit the negative effects of stress when you’re busy all the time? No, really, how do you do that? When I worked full-time and then when I home schooled my children (that’s beyond full-time!), I used the following things to try and keep me and my family on an even keel. Didn’t always work; nothing does. But it did help us maintain some semblance of balance at home.

I’m not going to expand a lot on these today. I think they’re pretty clear. You may not like any of them. You may like one or two. I hope you’ll choose at least one thing to try and see if it will help relieve some of the stress you feel (if you are feeling any). If you have other suggestions of things that work for you, please share them.

Anyway, here goes. “Lynne’s List of De-stressers”

1. Start your day with 15 minutes of quiet time.

Devotional. Cup of coffee or tea. Deep breathing. All that matters is that it’s just you. And that it’s quiet. Get up 15 minutes earlier if you need to. Pay-off is immediate.

2. Exercise.

Yes, exercise. With all those endorphins and what-not. Sometimes all you need is a walk around the block to clear your head. Sometimes you need an hour to blow off steam. Either way, try to find some time for it every day. I think that 30 minutes is the “recommended” minimal amount.

3. Plan your meals.

Planning your meals keeps you from that 5:00 p.m., “Oh, my gosh. It’s 5:00 and I have no idea what we’re having for dinner!” freak-out. Plan a day ahead. Plan a week ahead. But try to have a plan. If it’s 5:00 and you don’t know what’s for dinner, you are going to be stressed. (And you are more likely to make poor food choices. Just saying.)

4. Limit your kids’ activities.

No, limiting their activities will not make you a bad parent. In fact, it might do just the opposite. One activity per kid per “season” was my limit. And my kids weren’t all that into “organized” activities and sports anyway, so I had this one easy. But I’ve watched a lot of friends running, running, running to get their kids shuttled between activities. They always look stressed. I would be. (I don’t have much experience with this one, so I’m just going by observation and listening.)

5. Limit your activities.

Whether you work full-time, are a stay-at-home mom, home school, etc., limit your obligations outside the home. Don’t have activities scheduled for every day or night of the week that take you away from home. I always tried for one, with occasional weeks where there were two. Now that the kids are out of school, I have two things per week a little more often. But I’d just rather be home than out at night, so that’s what I do.

6. Find 15 additional minutes for yourself some time during the day.

I enjoy a cup of coffee and reading in the middle of the afternoon. It’s my time and it has been that way for a long, long time. That may not be an option for you. But do try and find 15 minutes in the middle or at the end of your day (both if you can), to unwind. Do something that is relaxing for you. Turn off the TV and read for 15 minutes before bedtime. Do a few yoga stretches or some deep breathing. Take a bubble bath. Just do something for you.

I know six is a strange number for a list. I was going to stop with five, but I felt like #6 was important. So there you have it. It’s not much, but it’s a start. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all that life is throwing at you – or all that you have allowed in – start small and work your way OUT of the busyness. I’d start with #1 and #6, then add the others as needed or as possible.

Have a blessed – and less stressful – day today!

Lynne

Tuesday Tips: Finding Time For What’s Important

Okay. How many of us have ever said, “I’ll do _____________ when I finally have the time”? Maybe it’s exercise. Or volunteering at your child’s school or at church. Maybe it’s reading. Gardening. The things that could fill in that blank are pretty much endless. So how is it that some people seem to accomplish so much while some of us seem to be experts at getting nothing done? It’s not time. We all have 24 hours every day. Some of us work; some don’t. Some have kids; some don’t. Some are organized; some aren’t. However, I honestly think that it’s all about priorities.

My keen observation skills (insert laugh here) lead me to believe that we usually find time for the things we really want to do. But we also spend a lot of time wasting time. Now, I am all for rest and relaxation. You know that by now. I don’t think you should spend 24 hours every day working, working, working. Without rest and relaxation, you’ll reach the point of explosion or implosion depending on your personality. Either way, it won’t end well. Not pretty. Nope.

I hear so many people say that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. Well – and I know I’m going out on a limb here – I think there are. If God thought we needed more hours, He’d have given them to us. We have enough hours in every day to accomplish what He intends for us to accomplish. If we don’t, then there are things on our schedules and calendars that don’t belong there. I know this may sound harsh, but it’s the truth.

So, here are my little suggestions for making time for the things that you need to do to have the fulfilled life as God intended for you. Every once in a while, you have to stop and reassess how you are spending the hours in your day. We start every new year all gung-ho and determined. By spring, we tend to have burned ourselves out by over-doing and over-achieving, or we just don’t see the point because we haven’t yet reached the goal(s) we had set for ourselves. So let’s reassess this week. Let’s figure out where we are spending our time wisely and where we aren’t. And make a goal or two to change that.

1. Make time with God a priority.

Put Him first. Spend time with Him every day, reading the Bible and in prayer. And you can start with just a few verses and a few minutes. I find that I have to start my day alone with Him and the Bible. (And a cup of coffee. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be awake enough to read.) A few quiet minutes before I get started on whatever else has to be done during the day. When I worked and then when we homeschooled, I got up 30 minutes earlier than I “had” to in order to have this time. I still get up at 6:45 and have my first cup of coffee with God. I read my devotional and pray over my day and any prayer requests that I am aware of. It’s just a good way to start the day. It really is. When I miss it for some reason, I just feel “off” for the rest of the day.

2. Make time with your spouse a priority.

Yes, your spouse comes before the kids. It’s hard when they’re little. It’s really, really hard sometimes. But if your husband (or wife) doesn’t come before the kids, what are you going to have when the kids are grown and gone? You don’t want a roommate. That’s not what you signed up for. Date nights (or days) are a MUST. Swap babysitting duties with another couple. Take advantage of your parents. 🙂 If you can’t get away for an evening, have a movie night once the little ones are asleep. Take 15 minutes every night to talk about your day. Just do something to keep communication lines open. Because one day, those little suckers will be old enough to stay home alone and you and your honey can come and go as you please. Those are wonderful times, my friends. Wonderful times.

3. Make time for the children, too.

In addition to spending time alone with your spouse, you need to spend time with your kids. Even when they’re teenagers. Yes, even then. Have family nights. Game nights. Movie nights. Date nights. Cook meals together. Spend time all together, and then take time (once a month, if possible) with each kid individually. Give them their own “alone” time with mom and dad. Celebrate their birthdays in special (not necessarily expensive) ways. Having open and loving relationships with your kids from the beginning makes the teenage years easier. I did NOT say easy. I said easier. You’ll remember that there is a sweet kid buried under those raging hormones and emotions. You pray that the kid re-emerges at some point. You’ll do lots and lots of praying when they are teenagers. Tip # 1 will become a priority pretty darn quick if it isn’t already. Just remember: These are the folks who get to pick your nursing home.

4. Make a list of your top 5-10 priorities and don’t say “yes” to anything that doesn’t fit in with them.

If you remember (and if you don’t, you can look back), Teresa wrote a great post about making a list of the top five (maybe a couple more) things that matter most to you. Based on the above – and  in my opinion –  the first three should be God, spouse, and kids. Extended family (parents, siblings), friends, church, work…these are all important as well. One of the hardest things to put on your priority list is usually you. Especially as moms, we tend to put ourselves on the back burner. The very back one. Possibly one that doesn’t even exist. Then we get grumpy, burned out, tired. That leads to anger, bitterness, and resentment. So yes, you  need to be on the list. Don’t put anything on your priority list that doesn’t belong there. Think long and hard – and pray! – about what goes on your list. In different seasons of life, your list will change. Once you start staying “no” to things that don’t fit within your priorities, you’ll have time you didn’t know existed. (It did. You just had it so filled up that you missed out on it.)

5. Don’t waste your time.

There are a LOT of time stealers out there. You could be caught up in the middle of them and not be aware of it. I’m not even sure we should call them time-stealers since we generally give them our time most willingly. The internet. Television. Smart phones. I think the devil himself may own stock in Facebook and Google if that’s possible. I know that I can go online to look up ONE SINGLE THING and find myself bleary-eyed and dazed after a couple of hours staring at the computer screen. And no, I probably didn’t find the one single thing I was looking for. Rabbit trails are very easy to hop down on the internet. Mindless TV watching can do it, too. I do have television shows that I like, but not nearly as many as I used to. And with the wonderful magic of the DVR, I can actually watch them when I want to and really do have time for them. This is better for my family as it means I don’t grit my teeth and ask, “WHAT do YOU want?” when my show is on. Not that that ever happened. Ahem. Each of us has our own time-stealers. Things we literally waste our time on, throwing away precious hours that could be spent doing something we really want to do.

Remember, I am all for rest, naps, hobbies, coffee with friends, etc. If you get your priorities in order, you’ll probably find that you have time for the things that matter most. Really. It’s true.

So just think about these things. That’s all I’m asking. I want you to be happy and healthy. I want you to have happy, healthy relationships with your spouse and children. But only you can get and maintain control of the hours in your day. And once you do that, the other stuff will fall into place when and where they should be. God works that way. He really does.

Blessings,

Lynne