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Learning to Cook With Spices

Wanting to expand my culinary horizons, I have been tempted to try one of those meal kits that deliver daily to your home everything needed to enjoy dinner as a family. After researching, I found something lacking…

Has it occurred to you that most of the meal kits out there DON’T come with a cook?

I know, I was SO disappointed!

The meal planned, the groceries delivered, and dinner on the table when we get home….. ah, the life! Maybe someday…

The Reality

My husband and I are empty nesters with a busy life, which means we’re not home for dinner as much as we would like to be. With a shellfish allergy and gluten intolerances, we worry about balancing the expense with our restrictions (both real and imagined). What if we don’t like – or can’t eat – a lot of what they send? We can’t just throw out a bunch of food!

For us, meals that include fresh ingredients are sometimes decided that day. While meal kits are clearly a good idea for many families, they just don’t seem like a good match for us.

The Background

If you haven’t already read the post on my culinary background (or lack thereof) feel free to catch up here. In short, I’m hoping to learn more. But with so little free time, and so overwhelming an amount of variety in spices and recipes, where do I begin?

Please note that I use affiliate links at no further cost to you. I may, however, get a commission on things you purchase from these links. Please see my disclaimers for more information.

And then I found Piquant Post. After reading through the information and finding out their spices are gluten free, I was intrigued. Not gonna lie, I signed up immediately and paid for a six month subscription for about the same price as Devon and I going out for one mid-priced dinner.

This is a monthly subscription service that can be had at a fraction of the price of meal kits!

What’s in it for us?

Each month, we get recipes and their associated spices. The great thing about this is that there is nothing included that will spoil quickly. This is important because our week is already crazy, and we don’t need that kind of pressure!

AS I mentioned before, learning to use a variety of spices in my cooking has been a goal for some time. Finding time to learn it all is a little overwhelming. With Piquant Post, we have a month to try four different spices with their associated recipe cards. These are chosen for us, without our having to pour through tons of recipes to decide what to try next. A full month to try four recipes. I can do that. No pressure here!

What We Appreciate

Each month’s contents are different. We just received our first envelope; here’s what we received:

A picture of the mailing envelope, four spices, and four recipe cards.

We have never heard of ANY of these spice blends!

It’s a foodie adventure in an envelope! I would venture to say that even cooks with more, “Spice awareness” would be happy with a subscription to this service, considering the quality and variety of these spices and blends.

What We (and the Neighbor) Think

So this evening we tried the Ethiopian Chicken over Lentil Stew and Tanzanian Spiced Greens. We had no idea what Ethiopian food was. We have also never had collard greens. Wow, are we a boring conversation for true foodies! Apparently, we have lived under a rock for a great deal of our lives. Devon and I shopped for the groceries that we needed and set out to create our inaugural dishes. We tried two because the Tanzanian Spiced Greens seemed like a good side dish, and why not? Nothing says we have to only have one a week.

Turns out we loved it! The recipes were easy to understand and follow, and it went all according to plan. I even felt like I knew what I was doing and everything!

I forgot to add the parsley to make it pretty, but hey…it was still amazing!

A neighbor stopped in as we started to cook, and we invited him to stay for dinner. Thankfully the recipes had us making double what we would have been able to eat. If you are a family of one or two, this is a bonus – LEFTOVERS!

The layers of flavors, the aroma, and the empty plates give me the confidence to try all sorts of new cookery.

We have leftover spices, too! The recipe cards give other ideas of how to use these blends, which encourages us to become a little more daring in our cooking experiments.

We have two other recipes to try, and then a new adventure awaits for next month. I say, “Keep ’em coming….”

Now I just need to know if, “Cooking wine” means, “Wine you cook with” or “Wine you drink while cooking”?

So much to learn…..

Thanks so much for reading! Come along with me as we journey through the little things that make adulting just a little easier. How? Subscribe below:

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Road Trip Ready

About once a month or so, my husband gives a talk out of town on the weekend. Even if he has to work for part of it, these trips give us time together to catch up, to explore new places, and to meet new friends.

If not planned appropriately, however, they can be more expense and hassle than they need to be. Over time, we have learned a few ways to make life easier on the road.

Read on to save yourself both money and stress.

Please note that I use affiliate links at no further cost to you. I may, however, get a commission on things you purchase from these links. Please see my disclaimers for more information.

Before You Go

Make sure your car is in good working order. Have it checked out by your mechanic, or at the least, check the oil in the engine and the air in the tires.

Also, make sure you have any medical emergency information on you in case of an accident. In a far away place amongst strangers is not the time to hope someone knows what you need or your health care wishes.

An Emergency Kit

God forbid you should need it, but if you don’t already have one, make sure you can deal with at least the most common issues that can plague a road trip. To make sure the basics are covered, try this: Lifeline 4330AAA Black AAA Premium Road, 42 Piece Emergency Car Jumper Cables, Flashlight and First Aid Kit

Plan for weather related issues (especially if traveling during extreme cold or heat). This includes having extra clothing handy in case you need to do some walking. It also includes having water and food available, and even a small bucket in case of car sickness or extended traffic jams (think bathroom facilities in a pinch).

“Have We Got Anything to Eat?”

Healthy Snacks for Road Trip Happiness!

Let’s face it, half the fun of a road trip is the food, but then it’s also a large chunk of the expense. Keep that credit card for souvenirs (like a keychain from each of the 50 states, or a t-shirt with your life’s motto).

Here’s a list of some snacks and useful items for snacking that can make any road trip more convenient and a little lighter on the wallet.

  • Trail mix – make sure to put them in individual bags, so no fighting and less spilling
  • Chocolate – don’t even leave home without it!
  • Napkins – why do we need them? Let me count the ways…
  • Wet wipes – because sticky happens
  • Fork, knife and spoon; at least one each. Comes in handy when a drive through forgets to give you one. No one wants to turn around, we’re already late.
  • Extra straw (either disposable or reusable). Every year, broken straws contribute to the partaking of great angst and spilled sodas. Don’t let it happen to you!
  • Bottled water in a small cooler. Have you seen gas station prices on this stuff? Do the environment a favor and use your refillable ones if you can.
  • Chips
  • Cheese and crackers

So there you go! From now on, you can beat the system without going mad for munchies! Most of these items can be put into either the cooler or a small basket that makes them easily accessible from the passenger seat.

“You’re Snoring Again!”

ZZZZZZ….

The most comfortable car we have ever owned was a Buick Park Avenue. It was made for the road trip! The living room recliner-like heated seats made for the most luxurious ride ever. But alas, our vehicles are now more economical and feel more like vehicles than like living rooms on wheels.

What can be done to make your trip a little easier on the bones?

“Are We There Yet?”

It’s not just kids that sometimes get a little bored on the road. Here are some ideas to keep the conversations going and the adventure growing:

Conversation Starter Packs

Road trips are for connecting with others, but sometimes it takes a bit for the conversation to really start flowing. Here’s a great way to get things started. There are a variety of versions to choose from, but this should get your kids to open up: OUR MOMENTS Kids: 100 Thought Provoking Conversation Starters for Great Parent-Child Relationship Building – Fun Car Travel, Road Trip & Home Card Questions Game for Healthy Loving Family Development

Travel trays or Lap Desks

Not gonna lie, I found this while looking for something else, but think it’s one of the best travel things for families since sliced cheese! Buy one or two (or more!), but what a way to keep the kids from getting crumbs everywhere. With these, the stickiness is at least contained: Set of Two Kids Travel Tray for Road Trip Activities/Kids Travel Games Toddler Tray with Travel Busy Bag for Car Seat Airplane Stroller Activities (Two Trays Without Activities)

Download a Good Book

Can’t watch the big city traffic without getting stressed out? Now’s the time to try a new book. Keep peace in the car while fearing for your life by getting yours electronically here: Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans

Tunes!

What’s not to love? Music can make the mood, from calming road rage to keeping us on our toes while driving through endless flatlands. Make sure you have good sing-along tunes downloaded to your phone, burned to a CD (yes, people still do that), or remember the words, because slow data speeds and data gaps happen to us all.

“Hey, Did You Bring the Thing?”

Toiletry Bag

I can’t tell you how much stress has been taken out of our weekend trips just by having an always packed toiletry bag ready to go. No more forgetting contact cases (or the juice), charging cords, or toothbrushes. If you’re anything like me, we were constantly running to the store for these items, and then ended up with a bunch of them at home later. Ugh! Save yourself the agony and expense with one of these for each person.

After trying a variety of them, I found this one to be the most fabulous one of the bunch: Hanging Toiletry Bag, Large Travel Cosmetic Makeup Travel Organizer for Men&Women with Sturdy Hook-Trip Essentials. Mine is pink, but you do you. Plenty of options to choose from. It’s firm enough to stand on the counter, but flexible enough to shove one… more… thing…. in there! Just love this bag.

A Good Selfie Stick

A good selfie stick. This is one of the best tools I have in my purse. I am not a big “Selfie” person, but after about 20 years of having pictures of my husband or my husband and son on vacation, I decided it was about time there was proof we were married and that I was there too. I found a stick that slides easily into my purse, and now is always ready to go.

Many selfie sticks today use Bluetooth technology to click the shutter, but do you really need one more thing to charge while traveling? I don’t. And, for me, it could be a month or more between uses, so trying to keep batteries charged or replaced would make my selfie stick useless at the time you need that perfect pic.

This one not only just plugs in to your headphone jack (make sure your phone has one!), but there is a small mirror on the stick so you can use the higher quality rear-facing camera to get your precious family photos! Especially important if you want to enlarge those pictures later.

If you don’t already have one, or don’t love yours, I suggest: BKMGL Wired Selfie Stick – Cable Control Selfie Sticks,Extendable Handheld Selfie Sticks,for iPhone X / 8 Plus / 8 / Samsung A6 2018 / S9 / Huawei P20 / P10 and All Smartphones.

Be Ready to Enjoy Yourself

Find your inner calm…

So often we start a road trip as a ball of anxiety, expecting things to go wrong. But you know what? They could go right! Physically and mentally prepare for the little emergencies that can happen along the way, but don’t expect them. Plenty of road trips happen every day in which people have meaningful conversations, enjoy time with their loved ones, and make memories that last a lifetime!

Prepare your heart for adventure, and you will find it!

Thanks so much for reading! Come along with me as we journey through the little things that make adulting just a little easier. How? Subscribe below:

Do you have any favorite road trip tips? Comment below.

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Fun Games for Family Dinner Night (and why you need them)

Please note that I use affiliate links at no further cost to you. I may, however, get a commission on things you purchase from these links. Please see my disclaimers for more information.

Isn’t it wonderful to have the whole family together? I’m not talking just the ones that live with you (though this is a great thing, too), I’m talking the whole crazy lot of ’em!

You Need to Provide More Than Just Dinner

You’ve been there. Clean the house, cook the food, invite the Fabulous People. You know the ones…. they taught you how to tie your shoelaces, got rid of monsters under the bed and taught you how to live your life (ok, they tried). Add in the sibs and their kids… Fabulous People 2.0.

So the Fabs arrive; greetings are exchanged, clothes and/or new hair styles are complimented. You stand in the kitchen hoping no one will see you scrape char off the biscuits that burned while you were taking coats to the other room. The Fabs are catching up on the latest family doings. This one is asking opinions on where to find a good hammer, that one is deciding which private boarding school is best for their dog….

Out of nowhere, the topic changes to something of a serious nature. One of the Fabs starts a commentary on the advantages of asking a kid to get up and change the channel verses asking a smart speaker. Either way it’s a voice command after reciting the right name (tricky if you come from a big family). However, no smart speaker known today can do this task while offering a simultaneous eye roll. Clearly this breaks out into a debate on whether the lack of an eye roll is a feature or a bug. Final decision? The kids are better for the task (because who doesn’t love a good eye roll?), but the speaker is cheaper in the long run. Everyone agrees it is a matter of budget and personal interest.

By now, dinner is done, the burned hockey pucks that were supposed to be biscuits have been covertly fed to a now sleepy dog, and the dishes are headed for the kitchen.

Then there’s that awkward silence where people look at each other hoping they won’t be roped into something either boring or humiliating.

Here’s where we all need a little help. Below, a little help.


Fun Games for Family Dinner Night

In addition to the classics, I have pulled a few newer games that maybe your family hasn’t tried yet.

Click on the pictures to find out more:

Double Ditto is a 2016 Game of the Year, which allows us to find out which of the Fabs thinks like us. Or do we think like them? Either way, it’s a great way to find out who matches whom!

Can’t draw a stick figure right? Great, you’re on THEIR team! Going from writing to drawing and back, it’s a communication celebration of epic proportions.

This is a game meant for all generations of Fabs and Fabs-in-laws to get to know each other. The creators of this game made every effort to keep out questions that would dig up anything painful or embarrassing, so expect to enjoy yourself in this game meant for 10 years and above.

Thanks so much for reading! Come along with me as we journey through the little things that make adulting just a little easier. How? Subscribe below:


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How to Get a Kid to Clean Their Room

A long time ago, our ancestors devised a great architectural achievement. They created a separate bedroom for their children. Almost immediately, parents began to wonder, “How do we get our kids to clean their rooms?”

I will tell you the answer. My parents figured it out, and passed this super secret glob of wisdom down to my sister and I. Since my sister is not telling you, I will.

Why? Because the world needs this information. But first, the background.

Why I didn’t want to clean my room

When I was about eight years old, my parents did the coolest thing. They told my sister and I that we could decorate our own room! The components had to be somewhat budget friendly, of course, but the idea having that much control over our environment was exciting! We had one wall of wallpaper to pick out, paint for the other walls, a bedspread and curtains.

So, with stars in my eyes, I picked out the pieces. To this day, I remember the pink rose bedspread and matching curtains from the JCPenny catalog that called out my name. I also remember the soft pink roses on the wallpaper that had a slight pearl finish that looked SO Victorian.

I could not WAIT to see it all pulled together! What could go wrong?!?

The paint went on the walls, and I remember thinking that this was not going to turn out like my dreams already. It was a salmon color, now that it was on the walls. My heart sank.

From there it got worse. The bedspread and curtains were a bright pink. Beautiful on their own, but against salmon pink walls, not so much.

The wallpaper then went up. From there on, I knew I was going to love the pieces of my room, but altogether, no matter how clean or how cute the knick-knacks, I was going to hate it.

For about five years, I did just that.

And it was never clean. Why bother? I was going to hate it anyway.

Motivation

Then one day, my parents decided it was time we made over our rooms again. Being a tween and a teen, we had outgrown the feel of the first makeover. Frankly, I had outgrown mine by the time I realized there was more than one color of pink in the decorating world; not only did they not always match, but they could be dreadful together.

I chose white. Plain white, and everything white. White always matches white – I was safe there. Still, I was nervous. Here I am a teen, and if I can’t pick out stuff for my room, what hope was there for me as an adult?!?

I LOVED IT! The room became a haven for those teen years, and because it looked so nice, I wanted to keep it clean. By then, my mother’s “Housekeeper’s pride” had already been instilled in me.

Parents Set the Example

My reasonably neat parents (they were neat, but didn’t let cleaning and organizing rule their lives), set a good example of having an organized home. They were of the generation that started crossing traditional gender role lines, but cleaning the house remained Mom’s job, and the garage was Dad’s.

Fortunately they had two daughters, so Mom had help.

Saturday mornings were cleaning days. My sister and I were to clean our rooms, then help Mom with the living areas.

When we were done, she would check everything we did over, and then commend us for it. We beamed. Our reward was frozen pizza, salad with a homemade dressing (which to this day I call, “salad frosting”), and soda. Dad was a meat and potatoes kind of guy, so our weekend meal was a big deal to us. It felt contraband, but since he was out fishing, we were golden. On shopping days, we even ate fast food out. There was no stopping us!

Commendation Makes a Difference

Each and every time we switched up things in our room, we did a big reveal for our sister and our mom, and the other two would just RAVE about how beautiful it was and talk about how we liked each little thing we noticed about the new look.

This instilled pride in me for a home well cared-for. To this day, my sister and I both keep a reasonably neat home.

Need a little more help?

Please note that I use affiliate links at no further cost to you. I may, however, get a commission on things you purchase from these links. Please see my disclaimers for more information.

Want to make sure the kid has what they need to get the job done?

Check out my list of Top 10 Must Have Cleaning Tools here.

A few unique items to help make their room their haven:

For those who love the night sky, a cozy blanket that has glow in the dark constellations:

For the music lovers, a way to keep things off the floor:

The perfect desk for a small room or a minimalist study area. Enough space to work, but not enough for papers to pile up:

For the bookworm, a chair that feels like a cocoon, but which allows the light in to read by:

Thanks so much for reading! Come along with me as we journey through the little things that make adulting just a little easier. How? Subscribe below:

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10 Must have cleaning tools

As a professional housekeeper, I bring my own equipment. Why? Because I know what works, and what doesn’t; what’s easy to work with and what is not. Here’s a rundown of my 10 must have cleaning tools.

Please note that I use affiliate links at no further cost to you. I may, however, get a commission on things you purchase from these links. Please see my disclaimers for more information.

Cleaning tool #1

A Cleaning Caddy

Who doesn’t love a good organizing system? After all, you can’t use the tools if you can’t find them! Never have to run back and forth for each little thing when you make your “toolbox” portable.

Some prefer a smaller caddy in each bathroom, and one for the kitchen instead of carrying items from one room to another. Others prefer to keep it simple and have just the one. Good news, homeowner/renter, the choice is yours!

I use one that allows me the space to store my natural cleaning products, a toilet brush (that is stored inside a cup to isolate it from the other tools, of course), a spray bottle, another cup that holds my smaller tools, and bags of stainless steel pads.

What I use both at home and for my cleaning business:

Rubbermaid Deluxe Carry Caddy for Cleaning Products, Spray Bottles, Sports/Water Bottles, and Postmates/Uber Eats Drivers, Black (FG315488BLA)

Cleaning tool #2

Quality microfiber cloths

If you are not already a convert, this is the best cleaning tool since soap! They are great for dusting and cleaning, and wash up well.

Make sure you don’t use fabric softener when cleaning them, as it gums up the fibers and keeps them from doing their best work.

ACA Knuckle Buster Microfiber Towel – Red – 12 pack

Cleaning tool #3

A mop that works with you

So take that microfiber goodness (above), and make it into a mop. Viola, tried and true floor cleaning goodness!

I have had three different versions of a spinning microfiber mop in my career as a housekeeper. They all use interchangeable mop heads that could be thrown in the washer and dryer (sigh…I LOVE this feature), and the cleaning quality was the same.

What does my favorite have that the others did not?

The one I use now has a bucket that features stronger walls than the first one I tried, which keeps the water in the bucket while moving it. It also allows for a more controlled emptying experience than my second purchase. Additionally, the stainless steel basket lifts out so you can clean the bucket when you are finished.

Yes, it doesn’t roll. However, it is not such a huge pail of water that you cannot reasonably carry it from one room to another. The lack of wheels on the bottom also makes it easier to store, which is a bigger deal to me than being able to kick it across a floor (think water sploshing as it rolls…. trust me on this one).

My favorite part, though, is the ergonomics. Unlike the handles on the other two I have tried, this one has the ability to extend far enough that even taller people (I am 5’7″, and I don’t even use it fully extended) can enjoy the luxury of mopping without stooping over. If you have larger areas to mop or if you clean houses for others, I would strongly recommend this mop for the ergonomics alone. For any sized floor, this is a great mop. It has the feel of industrial usage without taking up excessive storage space when not in use.

My favorite (by a landslide):

oshang EasyWring Spin Mop and Bucket – Hand-Free Wringing Floor Cleaning Mop – 2 Washable & Reusable Microfiber Mop Heads Included – Wet or Dry Usage on Hardwood, Laminate, Tile, Stone

Cleaning tool #4

A good vacuum that makes using the tools easy

As a professional housekeeper, I started by using my clients’ vacuum cleaners. It did not take long, however, to see which vacuum was superior. Some spent a thousand or more on theirs, but I practically needed a manual just to use the hose attachment. Additionally, it was a back breaker. Try vacuuming a large staircase (or multiple staircases in a day) with a 23 pound vacuum! You’ll quickly be looking for a quality replacement that is more lightweight.

My favorite, by far, was a Shark brand vacuum owned by a client. Never having used it before, I found the attachments intuitive to use and so handy that if I saw a crevice that needed a little extra love, I could take care of it right then and there.

So I bought one of my own to take with me everywhere I clean.

I was in love… Well, as much as you can love a vacuum. I have had it for well over a year, cleaning multiple client’s homes as well as my own, and it has gone the distance. Animal fur is easily picked up and it does a good job on bare floors, too. In fact, I use it instead of a dustpan, so all the little bits get themselves gone. Dust bunnies, too, are gobbled up quickly.

All around my favorite power tool…ever!

Shark NV60 Navigator Professional Upright Vacuum, Red

I call it Daddy Shark, as I also have a slightly smaller version I call Momma Shark and a hand held I use from time to time for stairways…. you guessed it, Baby Shark. And every time I use it, that song gets in my head.

Seriously, still worth it!

Cleaning tool #5

Squeegee

A wonderful tool to help keep mold and mildew from forming in the shower, as it cleans off water in a swipe! Just use it after each shower, and your weekly cleaning will require much less scrubbing. Between showers, too, your surround will be water spot free!

OXO Good Grips All-Purpose Squeegee

Cleaning tool #6

Dust mop

I prefer a dust mop over a broom for most jobs, as it captures more dust bunnies than it displaces. Mine has multiple covers so I can throw them in the washer between uses.

Get yours here:

O-Cedar Dual-Action Microfiber Sweeper Dust Mop, Red, Blue

Cleaning tool #7

Toilet brush

A toilet brush is a toilet brush, right? Not so much.

The under rim brush on this one really powers through the buildup under the rim of the toilet, especially if it is sometimes longer than you’d like between cleanings.

I particularly like this this combo for my own bathrooms. Not only do both parts do the job, but any guests we have are easily able to get themselves out of an embarrassing situation without having to alert the rest of the dinner party of their predicament.

All this in one convenient and discreet package!

Great Value Bowl Brush Plunger & Caddy (1)

Cleaning tool #8

Spray bottle

The best spray bottles are able to be used at any angle. If you are using essential oils in your cleaning (don’t they smell AH-mazing!?!), go for the glass bottles.

This is a great pack – one for the kitchen, one for the bathroom.

2Packs Empty Amber Spray Bottle, 10oz/300ml 360┬░All-angle Spraying Refillable Water Mist Sprayer, Plastic Spray Bottle for Cleaning Solution, Hair Spray, House Plant, Ironing

Cleaning tool #9

Scrub brushes

Sometimes you just need an old toothbrush (like around the base of a toilet), and sometimes you need something with a little more umph. The stiffer bristles can really get in there and take care of business.

A little more umph found here:

OXO Good Grips Deep Clean Brush Set, Orange

A lot more umph found here:

OXO Good Grips All Purpose Scrub Brush

Cleaning tool #10

A reward for a job well done!

What’s better than the smell and feel of a clean house? A long soak in the clean tub to ease the muscles!

Congratulate yourself on having your cleaning act all together with this variety pack of sweet smelling bath soaks:

Village Naturals Therapy Mineral Bath Soak Variety Set 3 Pack – Restless Nights, Aches & Pain, Stress & Tension (20oz Jars)


Thanks so much for reading! Come along with me as we journey through the little things that make adulting just a little easier. How? Subscribe below:

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7 Ideas for Me Time

When the oil change light goes on in the car, we know we have to accept the demands our car is making or pay for it later. The same goes for ourselves. Regular self maintenance is not a luxury – it is a necessity. We don’t have to break the bank to make this happen or schedule full days at a time. Here are seven ideas to squeak a little self care into your schedule.

Please note that I use affiliate links at no further cost to you. I may, however, get a commission on things you purchase from these links. Please see my disclaimers for more information.

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Schedule time for yourself

Even a lunch break taken during the work day can become a few moments of calm if used correctly. Pick a time during the day – even just 15 minutes – when you can focus on not just pausing physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

Need a little help figuring out when to squeeze this in between the drop off and the pick up of the kids, the laundry and the meal preps? Check out this great appointment book:

Academic Daily Planner 2019-2020, Appointment Planner Weekly & Monthly, 12 Monthes, Flexible Cover with Twin -Wire Binding

2

Learn to say, “No, thank you”

When someone asks for help, we often feel obligated to help them, even if helping them is not in their best interest (think ENABLING).

If a friend or family member is begging for help doing something simply because they just don’t feel like doing it themselves, then this is a good time to practice that most dreaded of words….

“No”.

Sounds cold? Try something a little more wordy, such as, “I’m sorry, that’s not going to work for me”, “I’m not available that day”, or even, “No, thank you”.

Or, if the situation warrants, try offering a, “If you help me with this, then I will have time to help you with that,” teamwork approach. It could actually end up a win-win situation for you both.

Your neighbor’s cousin’s boyfriend’s baseball coach needs their no wax floor waxed, and you are the ONLY ONE who can help? Maybe… or maybe not. Make sure your help is both needed and properly appreciated.

Need help remembering how to say, “No”? Slip into something a little more emotionally comfortable here:

No thank you t-shirt | A shirt that says No thank you.

3

Little Luxuries

The idea that you need a lot of money in order to have some luxury in life is ridiculous. After all, time can be a luxury. Try going to a park with a western view of water – a river, a lake or an ocean, and watch the sunset. If you have had a harried life recently, that one free evening can be more luxurious than fine chocolate.

There are many little luxuries we can find in everyday life, if only we slow down enough to enjoy them. A cup of our favorite tea is nice when we are having a hectic day at work, but enjoying it in our pajamas at home while reading a book is an entirely different experience. Think of things you love, and enjoy them in a setting that offers you the ability to appreciate them fully.

Need some ideas that don’t break the bank? Try these:

Tea Forte Single Steeps World Of Teas Loose Leaf Tea Sampler, Tea Variety Pack, 15 Single Serve Pouches, Green Tea, Herbal Tea, Black Tea

Conair Foot Spa/Pedicure Spa with Soothing Vibration Massage, Lavender/White

Chanasya Super Soft Shaggy Longfur Throw Blanket | Snuggly Fuzzy Faux Fur Lightweight Warm Elegant Cozy Plush Sherpa Fleece Microfiber Blanket | for Couch Bed Chair Photo Props – 50″x 65″ – White

4

Learn something new

Have you ever wondered how far out the latest space probe is from Earth? Want to know how fireflies do what they do – and by the way, what IS it that fireflies do, other than light up a meadow on a warm summer’s night?

Tired of being the only one on your block that can’t tell a rose from a tulip, or a white wine from a red? Take a class, learn on line, or read a book, but branch out and give yourself a more well-rounded education. Not only will it satisfy your curiosity, but you’ll have better things to talk about with friends and neighbors instead of talking about other friends and other neighbors!

Already, you’re becoming a better conversationalist just talking about what you want to learn!

A few ideas to get you started:

Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America (Peterson Field Guides (Hardcover))

Earth and Space: Photographs from the Archives of NASA

Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest, and Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms (Gardening Book for Beginners, Floral Design and Flower Arranging Book)

5

Get Creative

Who says you have to be a kid to finger paint? There are many fun places who will teach you to paint a picture, but if you take an online course (think YouTube), you can use your own supplies in your living room, and pause the teacher while you paint and repaint your mountains until they look like mountains.

Try using a shower curtain liner or a vinyl tablecloth under your workstation to catch spills.

Don’t know where to start? These kits will let you explore without investing serious cash:

US Art Supply 33 Piece Custom Artist Acrylic Painting Set with Table Easel, Paint, Canvas and Accessories

143 Piece Deluxe Art Set, Art Supplies in Portable Wooden Case-Painting & Drawing Kit with Crayons, Oil Pastels, Colored Pencils, Watercolor Cakes, Sharpener, Sandpaper- Deluxe Art Set (143 Piece)

6

Get out into the great outdoors

Not to take away from an office job that pays the bills, but a change of scenery in favor of the greenness of life is a great way to shed some stress. Whether canoeing, hiking, roller-skiing through a city park or geocaching, you are likely to find yourself more refreshed at the end of the day. You don’t need a whole day of these wonderous activities to enjoy them; a good half hour of any one of them can make a weekday evening feel like a mini vacation.

(Make sure, of course, to follow all applicable laws and be safe!)

Get your gear here:

64 oz Stainless Steel Water Bottle, MOICO Double-Wall Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle, Keeps Cold 24 Hours & Hot 12 Hours, BPA Free Leak Proof Wide Mouth with Travel Bag – Black

Intex Explorer K2 Kayak, 2-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump

Garmin eTrex 10 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator

7

Walk it off

Sometimes just wearing off the adrenaline is all we need. A good pair of headphones with music we love can add to the relaxation. Make sure that you stop to enjoy the beautiful things you see along the way. Even if you are not swimsuit ready, it’s never too early to get fit for the next season coming around.

A good pair of headphones found here.

Levin Bluetooth 4.1 Headphones Neckband Wireless Sports Headset Over-Ear earbuds with Sweatproof, Hi-Fi Stereo,Built-In Microphone and 12 Hours Playtime(Black)

I have lost them twice, as I use them for work and home and well…. let’s just say I don’t spend big money on sunglasses, either… ahem…. but enough about me.

They sound good, they’re wireless, they don’t have to be shoved in your ears, and unless you have the music really cranked, you can still hear outside noises (for example that car you almost walked out in front of!).

Want to keep your routine during bad weather? Try walking along with this video. It’s not all that strenuous, but it gets a person moving:

Leslie Sansone: Walking Off the Pounds


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Do you have other ways to find and use “Me Time”? Please comment below.

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The power of saying “Good Morning”!

Ah, the power of positive thinking! Many a guru suggests that we should look in the mirror every morning and tell ourselves positive things, such as that we are lovable, or that we are beautiful. Why? Because the world doesn’t tell us what we need to hear. If it does, it doesn’t say it often enough to believe it.

In the culture in which I was raised, not saying or returning a “Good morning” is considered rude. Accordingly, I have walked into every new job and said, “Good morning!” to each and every person in my team, and in my vicinity, starting on the first day. People are not always used to this. Some even resist.

At first, there’s the look of distrust, perhaps wondering what it is I want from them. Then a few days later, when they see this is going to be the new routine, they drop the look and start with the grunt and nod maneuver.

I, however, am undeterred…

“Good morning!”, I say as I walk into work my second week. Some are perfectly happy to respond, and their reply is genuinely encouraging to me. Others, though, are late adopters of change. Of course, it’s because they didn’t hear me, or think I must be talking to others. What else could it be?

Looking them in the eyes and smiling, I repeat my well wishes for the start of their day.

“Mrng…..”, one may begrudgingly retort.

“How are you today?” I ask cheerfully, refusing to be intimidated by their sideways look.

They respond with a shrug, a sigh, or even a moan. What follows is a listing of reasons their morning or their life has been less than pleasant.

“I”m sorry to hear that. Wow, you have a lot on your plate! I’m amazed at how well you handle it (insert example I have seen here).”

The reaction is normally a look of mild surprise. People in general are not used to being complimented when unloading their burdens. They often feel like no one wants to hear it. But when someone does listen, and can honestly and sincerely show them that they have a positive personality trait – one of resilience and endurance and the strength to carry on despite trials, their morning becomes just a little better.

We tend to think of others as having similar lives to us because they may look like us, live where we live, or work where we work, etc. But that’s not true. Take a look around your school, your work, or your community. In any large group of people, there are those secretly battling suicidal thoughts, abuse, addiction problems (or someone else’s addiction problems for that matter), financial woes, or health problems. The list goes on and on. Maybe we cannot find a cure for their cancer, pay off their debt or fix their marriage, but we can, at the very least, be someone who regularly reminds them that they, too, are deserving of a, “Good morning!”.

When we do this – when we regularly offer a genuine positive thought to others, we see the power we have to influence others for good. And that, in my opinion, is not just telling the mirror that my actions matter or that I matter; it is proving it.


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Living History

Please note that I use affiliate links at no further cost to you. I may, however, get a commission on things you purchase from these links. Please see my disclaimers for more information.

As many of us middle-agers eventually figure out, the stories of our families rarely get passed on before the generation that holds them passes away. By the time I had figured out who I was and realized how much of that came from those before me, it was too late to ask my grandparents about their lives. However, my parents were (and still are, thankfully), around. I proceeded to interrogate appropriately. After all, we’re family and I wanted to know stuff.

All I have to say, is how in the world could I be 40ish (at that time), and know so little about my own parents, much less about my grandparents?!?

Of course there are the favorite stories handed down and told repeatedly ad nauseam. Yes, yes, Uncle Ronaldo bit a woodchuck as a kid, we know, we KNOW!!!

Disclaimer:

Both the name and story have been changed to protect the guilty. Please don’t write me about the rights of a woodchuck; Uncle Ronaldo was defending his grilled cheese, and – well, we live in Wisconsin, so we take our grilled cheeses very seriously.

(The woodchuck not only survived, but the two became good friends and Chuck now bowls with Uncle Ronaldo on a Wednesday night league.)

The Past Comes Alive

In any event, my dad had given me a wonderful gift. It was a copy of a scrapbook made by a dearly-loved aunt that held newspaper clippings, stories and pictures of people whose lives had touched mine, but many of whom I had not met.

I later learned that my dad remembered the first time he saw a light bulb turn on. Not only was it cool to him that you could click it on, but you could also click it off! It had never even occurred to me that turning OFF a light would be so fascinating, but as I listened to him explain it from the point of view of the child he was at the time, I was as excited to turn off a light as I had ever been in my life. My mom, on the other hand, had sweet marble playing skills. You would be amazed at the stories surrounding a young girl defending her title and winnings! These were stories or aspects of stories that had never, in all my time with these people, hit my ears. I was fascinated.

Keeping This Treasure

How did this amazing window to my family’s past open? I bought a video camera, put them in front of it in a chair with a sheet behind them, and asked them to tell their story. At first, they wanted to just answer questions, but I said no, I want them to tell me everything they remember. I kept my mouth shut for somewhere between an hour and an hour an a half for each of them, on rare occasion asking a question to get them to flesh out the story they were telling and never – NEVER interrupting them. Because this is not how a normal conversation goes, they weren’t rushed to finish what they were saying before the next person’s turn to talk. They felt comfortable sharing the little things as well as the big. They told the longer version – the one that includes the feelings involved and the background.

I scanned all the photos I could get my grubby little mitts on, and inserted them in the videos. I even took a trip to my dad’s hometown and took pics to add, since the homes he grew up in were still standing (unfortunately not so with mom’s). It became stories to pass down to the generations.

It was one of the greatest gifts I could ever give my son, and one of the greatest things my parents have ever done for me.

Finding and Keeping Your Treasure

So I ask – no, I beg – PLEASE…. if you hold what’s left of your family’s history, find a way to pass it down. If they don’t appreciate it now, they likely will later.

Need some ideas? Here are a couple of product links to help get things started.

To tell your story by video, try this reasonably priced but good quality video camera:

https://amzn.to/303p0OZ

If you need a more budget friendly option, the below is a beautiful acid-free journal, which would make a great gift. For those who write better than they speak, or who are a bit nervous opening up in front of a camera, I suggest a blank journal, as those who have the “Just fill in here” spots cannot possibly know how much room you may need for any one story.

https://amzn.to/2ZW9unX

For those whose family history is so intertwined with the love of food that all the good and happy stories come from the kitchen or the dining table, I give you an option of a family recipe scrapbook. A little blurb about the person who created the heirloom recipe and the recipe itself would be a wonderful way to make sure their story lives on.

https://amzn.to/2OCwG3D

Do you have other ways to document your family’s history? Please feel free to leave a comment.


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A Culinary Tale

I have friends that can blow my mind with their ability to just KNOW what goes with what, how to use every spice in their spice cabinet (which is 10 times the size of mine and has spices I have never imagined). I often wonder how they acquired such a vast database of culinary collectiveness. Was it handed down for generations? Did they take an online course? Or were they just plain willing to eat nasty stuff until they got it right?

In any event, I have to say my mother is what I would consider a wonderful cook. We often had people over for dinner while I was growing up, and she was always complimented on the meal. The lack of leftovers backed that up. But she cooked simple meals; the kind many fancy schmancy chefs in top restaurants go home and eat for comfort food, just like the rest of us. (Please do not take any offense to my use of the word “Schmancy” if you are such a chef. I have the utmost respect for your skills – but let’s face it – if you’re just a fancy chef, you’re not that good – a REALLY good chef is both fancy AND schmancy! But I digress….)

While I have neither the time nor inclination to become an epicurean of the schmancy caliber – I mean, some of us just need to be appreciative eaters – I would like to expand my horizons. Living in an apartment, I was able to find a small sunny spot in which to start an herb garden. Never mind the lavender – I just have that for the smell (at least for now). I have a rosemary plant, a mint plant, and a basil plant. The later two were purchased yesterday from a big box department store, and I have them in these shallow bowls to hold out until I can find them a more permanent vessel in which to grow strong and healthy.

With a little water, a little sunlight, and a lot of love, our little herb garden may just contribute to a few fancy (but not schmancy) dinner parties.

For updated information on my culinary skills, see the post, “Learning to Cook With Spices“.


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Allow me to introduce myself…

Growing up in the middle class in the Midwest, most of those I knew in their forties seemed to have it all together. They were married with kids, a house and a car they actually liked. People like me looked to them for advice, and they had enough life experience to give it. Their awkward teenage years were a distant memory. They knew what they wanted from life, and how to get it.

As time went on, however, I learned that no one has it all together. As it turns out, a mere four decades is not long enough for some of us to decide what we want to be when we grow up, much less to become all knowing. Additionally, any vehicle that stays running long enough to pay off is a car worth liking. If it can haul home that amazing vintage find from the garage sale, even better.

When reality defies perception, what’s a person to do?

I invite you to come along with me as we discover little ways to challenge the everyday stresses of life, to enjoy and savor the gifts life gives us, and to get it together after all….


Thanks so much for reading! Come along with me as we journey through the little things that make adulting just a little easier. How?

Subscribe below:

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