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Red Dress and Pearls

This past Friday night Pinellas Community Church hosted a Red Dress and Pearls Dinner Event for Women.  Heart disease is the #1 killer of women, and most women do not recognize, or understand the symptoms of heart disease. The Red Dress & Pearls presented by the women’s ministry is designed to promote health education with a focus on heart health for women.  

I feel so fortunate to have been asked to attend as a guest speaker.  Then I got the ladies moving with some dance moves and stress relieving stretches and breathing exercises.  It was such a wonderful time, and so affirming to see so many woman empower themselves in taking a proactive stance for their own health.

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To Schedule, Or Not To Schedule

I have always been resistant to schedules.  I didn’t like every detail of my life planned, and preferred some time for spontaneity.  I didn’t eat lunch at 12 o’clock because my planner said so.  I’d rather wait until I was hungry.  It felt natural to let things in my life occur at will, but at times I felt hurried to get my tasks accomplished.

Then I welcomed a new baby in the home.  I realized that I also don’t care for absolutely NO schedule.   I did not enjoy the realization that it was 5pm and I was still in my pajamas.  When I did manage a few minutes to myself, I was frantic feeling like everything had to be accomplished at once, which was a self-defeating task, and very stressful.  It occurred to me that I was not enjoying this very special time as fully as I could.

So what then?   To schedule, or not to schedule… that’s my question?  I started to reflect on my own needs and wants.  I could create a fabulously organized schedule that I rigidly adhered to, but if I didn’t enjoy it how long would I really follow it?  I could go the no schedule route, and always feel like I’m racing to get things done, and not enjoying the moments.  No thank you.

It occurred to me that I enjoy letting things flow, but in an organized manner.  Much like the rhythm of a song provides a consistent sound for you to dance to.  When you go out dancing (you can relate even if it’s been awhile), as one song fades to a close and another begins your movement changes as if each song commands something different from you.  Why not incorporate that into my daily routine?  I began to evaluate the rhythm of my day.  Luckily at this point, the baby was starting to find his rhythm.  Then I created choreography (my tasks) to go along with this rhythm.  My office work was inserted into the baby napping part of the song.  The running around part was inserted into the baby not napping part.  At this point the baby napping and not napping was a large part of my rhythm.  Then lo and behold, there was actually more time to enjoy the moments of the day.

If you find that you are also one of the schedule resistant people, I offer 3 tips for choreographing your daily rhythm:

1.      1.  You guide the rhythm.  In some songs the drum guides the other instruments while in others the guitar or piano guides.  You always get to guide the song while still allowing yourself to respond rhythmically to the other instruments.

2.     2.  Don’t crowd your dance with too much choreography.  In other words don’t try to put more into your day then it allows.  Let the rhythm of your day guide how you dance in it.  This will prevent feeling stressed or unaccomplished if you can’t get through everything you’ve over-planned.

3.    3.   Be willing to change your choreography.  One day your song may sound bah bah boop, and other days it may play boop bah bah.  Adjust the choreography as you need to, don’t get fixated on getting task A done in the morning when you can do it with more ease in the evening on that particular day.

Have fun enjoying your moments and your dance.

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The Freezer is My New Best Friend

With a newborn in the house, time has become a valued commodity.  The days of figuring out what I want to prepare for a meal on a whim are gone.  I have only a few minutes before the next nursing session, and have to get something ingested quickly before evolving into a hunger hulk.  Even now as I peck type this with one hand, nursing with the other, I remember the days of blissful ignorance when I wasn’t as aware of quite how bad processed food is for you.  Not to mention the maternal guilt of succumbing to such foods, only to serve it up a few hours later for my newborn via breastmilk.  No, that won’t work for me anymore.  So, now what?

At first, I went with casseroles, but still found I didn’t have sufficient time to put them together.  Then it occurred to me one day that there is a contraption in my home just above my refrigerator.  I began cooking in bulk whenever I had a chance.  I could make entire bags of beans, large quantities of grains (rice, quinoa, millet, barley, etc.), and anything else that didn’t require a lot of oversight, just time to do it’s thing.  Once it’s finished cooking, I pack whatever I want for the fridge, and the rest goes in the freezer for another day.    In addition, my husband bagged fresh herbs to put in the freezer, so there’s always something to add flavor and increased health benefits to meals.   Now anytime I get into a pinch for a meal all I have to do is chop some vegetables, and throw them in a cast iron skillet with my pre-cooked stuff.  I can have something pretty tasty in front of my family and myself in 10-15 min.  Not too shabby.

Maybe I should also mention that my cast iron skillet is quite a BFF as well.  Here’s tonight’s pre-cooked throw together in the cast iron skillet (of course).

Chopped onion sautéed in grapeseed oil, add chopped eggplant, tomatoes, and cucumber, and let it sauté for a few minutes.  Then add white beans, barley, mint, and Bulgarian feta cheese.  Let it cook together for a little while, and serve by itself or with pita.

My family is happy about good food to eat, and more time with each other, especially to adore the new little man in the house.

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I’m Taking My Holiday Season Back!

Every time I get to the holiday season I just want to take time to really enjoy all of the festivities, and spend some extra time with my family.  Basically have one of those old fashioned holidays you can see in movies.  However, the reality is usually rushing from one event to another, surviving in the crowded stores of grumpy shoppers just trying to find presents to please everyone on our list, which seems to get longer every year, cooking for an army, wrapping loads of presents at the last minute.  It’s no wonder people seem to get stressed this time of year.

So, should we just accept that’s how it shall be every November and December, and keep muddling through year after year?  I think it’s time we take a stand for our own holiday season.  Here’s some simple ways to take your holiday back.

1. Practice Gratitude

We become aware of gratitude in November when Thanksgiving is approaching.  However, gratitude is something that we should practice all year long.  This simple practice can really uplift your life and improve your mental and physical health. You can learn more about it in my article Five reasons gratitude is good for your health.

Many people keep a gratitude journal, and write three to five things they are grateful for at the end of every day.  This is such a great way to practice, and I hope to get there one day.  However, since childhood I have struggled with being able to regularly keep a journal.  I may be able to keep it going for a few weeks or a month, but something always seems to break the routine, and the next thing I know I haven’t done it at all.  Rather than chastise myself for not being enlightened enough, I decided to find a method that works for me.  So I implemented the practice for my entire family, which holds me accountable.  At least once a day before a meal we each state what we are grateful for that day.  Some days this is more challenging than others, yet it puts things in perspective on those challenging days.

My 8 year old daughter was asked to journal about how she feels about doing a gratitude practice, and this is what she wrote:

“I feel as if God is right here when I say what I am grateful for.  I feel great saying what I am grateful for.  I feel even more alive when I say it.”

2. Shorten your gift list

Financial strain is a big part of holiday stress, and somehow, we have taken on a sense of obligation to buy gifts for everyone we see in passing.  We put expectations on ourselves to buy gifts for our children’s teacher, soccer coach, dance instructor, piano teacher, our co-workers, acquaintances, neighbors, the cable guy, the lady who walks her dog down your street every morning.  Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get the idea.

It is wonderful to have these people in your thoughts and want to express this to them, but it can definitely be done with a card, and perhaps a trinket that costs $1 or less.  Remember if you are spending $5 on every one of these people, it easily adds up to $100.  That’s $100 on top of what you will spend on your children and family.

3. Keep your gifts reasonable

In the same category as number two, it is nice to want to buy your family the best electronics, and top of the line clothing, but is it necessary?  Could your affections for your family and friends be expressed in a more intimate way?  I’m not saying that you have to take a knitting class, and make a sweater with one sleeve longer than the other, but perhaps looking at how the people in your life make you feel, and how you can express that to them with a gift from the heart.

4. Honor your time when accepting invitations

Everyone you know is planning parties or get-togethers all in the same month.  I’ve known people to dash to two or three different parties in the same day.  This hardly seems like a good time to me.  YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO TO EVERY PARTY OR EVENT YOU’RE INVITED TO.  Look at your schedule, and reasonably decide how many events you can make in one week.  If you aren’t sure how to choose which party, choose to spend time with the people you are closer to, rather than the friend of your co-workers vet.

5. Stop putting pressure on yourself

No one is perfect, no day is perfect.  Stop aiming for perfection, and aim for enjoyment.  Enjoy yourself while wrapping presents, don’t fuss over every last detail of the paper and ribbons.  It will all end up on the floor anyway.  Make the holiday meal with love not determination.   You will feel better, and it will taste better.  So many of us tend to be our own worst critics, so let’s treat ourselves with kindness and love, and just have fun this season.

Relaxed Santa

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Homeschool Halloween

This year, my family had the opportunity to do something we’ve wanted to do for a long time – educate at home.  No matter how excited or prepared you are, it is still a nerve wracking decision.  I worried “am I doing the best thing for my child, will she stay on par with her school attending peers, or worse fall behind, will she miss out on opportunities or experiences?”

I still don’t know the answer to all of these questions, but I do know that I find myself frequently amazed as we travel this homeschool journey.  My daughter has taken such initiative in her education, and her creativity has no limits.

Our focus of study for October was not surprisingly centered on Halloween.  We delved in by learning about similar celebrations from around the world, and incorporated some of their traditions into our own celebration, such as the carving of punkies.  This was a tradition of children in some England villages, they would carve beetroots, put a candle in them, and carry them while singing a song and asking for money.  My daughter had so much fun carving beetroots, and wanted to go asking for money.  Unfortunately, Mom wouldn’t let her solicit the neighbors for cash.

Not only did we learn many global traditions, we practiced our own customs with a Halloween party.  My daughter planned and implemented a Halloween party for her friends and their families.  She made a guest list and a healthy menu, designed and created activities and crafts, decorated, and even made her costume. 

The menu included items such as:

Witch’s Brew (pumpkin soup),

Troll’s Wart Salad (bean salad),

Goblin Toes (akin to pigs in a blanket),

Vampire Punch (a cranberry cider concoction),

Punished Jack O’ Lantern (pumpkin pie),

and Rotten Apples (apple, cinnamon cupcakes).

Her clever activities included:

 Monster Fortunes.  As guests came through the door, they were greeted by a crystal ball, and were given their Monster Fortune, all of which were created and handwritten by my daughter. 

Kiss the Pumpkin game similar to Pin the Tail on the Donkey, but she created lips to stick to a hanging Jack O’ Lantern. 

She made Halloween color by number sheets,

and for a craft, make your own monster mask.

I must say, the party was a big hit.  All of her friends, and their families had so much fun, and really appreciated all of her effort.  I was astounded with her originality, and planning.  Not bad for 3rd grade school work, and don’t worry we still covered Halloween math and reading.

 

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Autumn brings cooking: Sweet Home Fries

I must admit that over the summer my kitchen seems to repel me out every time I even think of going to create a nice family meal.  The Florida summer heat does not leave me craving time over the stove, much less, frequent hot meals.  However, fall has subtly crept in, as it does here, and I am living in the kitchen.  New vegetables are in season, which has me working like a mad scientist in the kitchen/ lab creating new inventions.

My newest concoction is Sweet Home Fries

For this you will need:

1/2 a chopped onion

2 medium sweet potatoes peeled and chopped

1 medium red potato peeled and chopped

1 pear peeled and chopped

1 apple peeled and chopped

salt and pepper to taste

How to put it together:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Begin by caramelizing the onions in olive oil.  Once browned place the onions in a 9×9 casserole dish.  Next brown the sweet potatoes in the skillet for a few minutes before adding the red potatoes.  Once all the potatoes are nice and browned add them to the onions in the casserole dish.  Finally saute the chopped pear and apple for a few minutes, and add to the casserole dish.  Stir them up together, add salt and pepper or your seasoning of choice, and put in the oven for about 15 minutes or until they’re your desired tenderness.

The benefit of sauteing the ingredients separately before baking them is to even their cooking time once they enter the oven.  This prevents having hard sweet potatoes with mushy pears.

This recipe was an enormous hit with my family.  We enjoyed it as a side to a vegetable omelet.  I apologize for not being able to post a picture, but it was gobbled up before I even had a chance to pull out the camera.

Enjoy!

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Hello world!

I am finally inserting myself into the world as a Health Coach.  Previously, I worked with people with various abilities to achieve independence.  However, health and wellness have been a passion for me for a very long time.  Now, I have combined those skills and passions to assist people to achieve their goals pleasurably.

Changing my path at this juncture in my life has required a lot of self-reflection and fear confrontation, which I continue to work on everyday, but it only makes me stronger.  I am so excited to be able to help others with similar challenges, and to share my experiences along the way.