100 Days of No Processed Meals

http://www.stacymakescents.com/100-days-of-no-processed-meals-crock-pot-style

I’m all for simplification.  And it doesn’t get much easier than crock pot meals!  Hope you guys enjoy some of these recipes–let me know which ones you like best, and I’ll do the same!

Seven Harsh Truths That Will Improve Your Life

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/7-harsh-truths-that-will-improve-your-life.html

This is such a great article, I just had to share it.  I have found time and again that the better I am at applying these principles to my life, the happier and more fulfilled I am.  I’ll add my input in blue, as I have done in the past.

7 Harsh Truths That Will Improve Your Life

AUGUST 15 BY DANIEL WALLEN IN COMMUNICATIONMOTIVATION | 2.3K SHARES

Truth hurts, but someone has to say it. Your life is what you make of it and the only person who can help you is yourself. If you’re ready to take personal responsibility and improve your life, I invite you to apply these seven harsh truths today.

1. No One Is Going to Fix You

If you are waiting for a knight in shining armor to gallop into your life and heal your broken heart, you will be waiting forever. The only person who can help you is yourself. Be happy for the other people in your life, but do not become dependent on them for happiness unlike (I think he meant “unless”) you like to be on a never-ending emotional roller-coaster that is far beyond the realm of your control. Are you alone? No, far from it. But no one is going to fix you, so it is in your best interest to take personal responsibility for your own life. When you do that, you’ll discover you are more powerful than you ever thought possible.

The original article includes a short video by Oprah Winfrey on exactly this idea.  You CANNOT allow the entire foundation of your happiness to be based exclusively on one person, or their existence in your life, or their behavior.  Nor can your relinquish control over your behavior and choices to someone else (ie, “so-and-so makes me angry, so I do “x” bad behavior”)  I need to stress this one over and over again:  NO ONE IS GOING TO FIX YOU.  If you’re not happy where you are, it’s your job to do what you need to do to get where you want to be.  Can you lean on friends and family for support?  Certainly.  But it is not their job to be responsible for your happiness or your perceived level of fulfillment.  That responsibility is yours alone.

2. Life Will Never Be Perfect

If you are waiting for the “right” time to do something — pursue self-employment, begin a fitness plan, dive into the dating pool, or move to a new town — you’re going to be waiting forever. There is no such thing as a “right” time to do anything. This reaction is based on your fear-of-change, plain and simple. If you keep waiting for that mysterious “perfect time to act” (please tell me, when have you ever experienced such a thing?), this means you will never actually have to take action and confront your fear.  Do the scary thing. You will be so glad you did.

This is hard.  It’s hard to take risks, and so we excuse our inaction by saying it’s not the right time.  There will never be perfect timing, with every variable exactly as you want it.  Once you’ve decided it’s something you want to do, go after it wholeheartedly.  Jump in with both feet. As Ms Frizzle always says, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

3. You Might Fail (a Lot)

If you attempt to achieve an ambitious new goal, then it is possible that you will fall on your face while pursuing said goal. Welcome to reality. It’s time to change your thinking about failure. It is not a big, bad thing that you should be frightened of. Failure is a learning opportunity and nothing more. If successful people quit pursuing their goal after failing the first time they tried something new, then there would be approximately zero successful people ever. There is no such thing as a “hole-in-one” in life. Do you want to know how many times I’ve failed? Over a hundred. The only reason I’ve managed to accomplish anything is because I am a firm believer in continuous improvement. If you fail in something, distance from the event for a day or two, because agonizing over the problem will not make it go away (and will make it a lot worse). Read a good book, catch up with some friends you haven’t seen in a long time, or go on a nature hike. You will be able to look at the issue with a fresh perspective. After you have done that, ask yourself: “Why didn’t this work out and how can I do better next time?”  This process very well could repeat itself several times depending on the nature of your goal, but if you keep making a firm commitment to continuously improve yourself, you will develop so much that the only option left is success. Consistent hustle always wins.

Failure is not a big, bad thing that you should be frightened of.  It is a learning opportunity and nothing more.  I’ve said this many times about relationships, because even the worst relationship can at the very least teach you what you DON’T want.  But it applies equally to every other potential failure as well.  One of my favorite quotes from Thomas Edison is “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”   (more quotes about being willing to fail)  The biggest thing is that you do not let failure, even repeated failure, stop you.  You may have HAD a failure, but you will not BE a failure until you give up completely.

4. The Past Is Already Written

Have you ever made a mistake so monumental that you wish you could go back in time and do it all over again? Join the club. It’s called being human. I know you might feel immense regret, but beating yourself up over something that is already done serves no purpose. Shift your attention to the present, where you can take control of your life and move forward into a better future.

This is not to say we should be flippant about the monumentally stupid thing we did, or refuse to apologize if it involved hurting someone else, but seriously.  Ask for forgiveness, and give it to yourself if necessary, and move on.  Try to think about how you would treat a beloved friend who made the same mistake.  I hope you would be able to say, “Yeah, that was dumb.  Just make sure you don’t do it again.”  If you’re not capable of saying that to your dear friend, you have a whole other issue that needs to be dealt with.  But often it’s harder to say it to ourselves.  Self-flagellation can’t erase the mistake.  We need to learn to admit that we had an attack of temporary stupidity and then get on with life.

5. Tomorrow Is Not Guaranteed 

Steve Jobs said it best, so I’m going to defer to him for this harsh truth:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

The next time you catch yourself playing the “I will do it tomorrow” game, remember that tomorrow is not guaranteed. Traffic accidents, heart attacks, and acts of violence do happen. Live in the present and take action today, because that is where progress happens.

This seems a little morbid, perhaps, but it really is true.  Live like there’s no tomorrow.  Love fiercely, and fight for your dreams.  Don’t wait for tomorrow.

6. Just Because You’re “Busy” Doesn’t Mean You’re Accomplishing Something

If you like to brag about how great you are at multitasking, stop it, because you are only kidding yourself. Changing tasks without rhyme or reason is wasting your productivity, stressing you out, and possibly causing you to make mistakes. It will probably take you longer to complete two tasks that you are switching back-and-forth between than it would to complete each one separately. If you want to save time, instead of multitasking, try grouping similar tasks together. Have a bunch of e-mails you need to send? Do them all at once. Have an article or essay you need to write? Get it done before moving onto anything else. Different tasks require different mind-sets, so focus on one thing at a time. Being “busy” does not guarantee that you are doing something useful (it probably just means you are doing a lot of things badly).

I have a problem with this.  If I do not stay focused on a task, it may never get finished.  I’ll start something, and then get distracted by something else that needs to be done, and forget to finish the first thing.  I find I am infinitely more productive when I keep myself on task, especially if I have a to-do list that allows me to tackle things in order of importance.  I just have to remember to be pleased with what I have accomplished instead of fretting over the things that are left on my list.  I like these suggestions for making a to-do list effective.

7. You Have More Time Than You Think You Do

You should eliminate the phrase, “I don’t have the time,” from your vocabulary, because it is profoundly untrue. There are 168 hours every week. Let that sink in for a moment. That is a monumental amount of time. Where could it possibly go? The average person spends 4.09 hours on leisure activities per day according to a survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most of that time, 2.8 hours per day, is devoted to the television. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think watching TV does much to help me grow as a person. You could spend that time creating art that adds value to the world, reading books that will help you improve your life, or exercising for a better body and health. The next time you say you “don’t have the time,” change your wording to say “it isn’t a priority.” No time to exercise? Your fitness isn’t a priority. No time to prepare healthy meals at home? Your health isn’t a priority. No time to do something nice for the love of your life? Your relationship isn’t a priority. It’s harsh, but it’s true. How you spend your time is a choice, so spend it wisely. You also might want to check out this article that will help you get more done in a day.

In some ways, this is just delving deeper into the previous point.  There is an age-old adage that says, “Work smarter, not harder.”  That is so true.  By making sure that your time is spent getting things done that you really want to accomplish, you’ll find that there are far more hours available to you than you thought.  Now, I’m not dead-set against television.  Everyone has to have some down time, and veg out a bit.  I usually prefer to do this with a book, but to each his own.  However, if keeping up with the new episodes of the seventeen different series you “have” to watch is keeping you from getting done what you need and want to get done, it’s a problem.

But how do you decide what’s important?  Ask yourself what you really want.  Most of us are not at exactly where we want to be in our lives right at this moment.  Perhaps we want to learn a new skill, train for a new job, start our own business, or whatever it might be.  Think about the steps that are necessary to reach that goal.  Spend at least a little time each day planning or working toward that goal.  Chances are, that’s going to help you decide what to focus on.  Think of your time as a valuable resource, and you are choosing how to spend it, just as you choose how to spend your money.  Do you really want the majority of your time to be spent on things that will not help you towards your dreams?

And then the problem becomes whether or not we have talked ourselves out of pursuing our dreams, because they are unattainable, impractical, or just plain difficult.  But I’ll tackle that one next time.

What do you think?  Which of these points resonates the most with you?

Home Repairs That Are Worth It

Check out this list of ways to quickly brighten up your home, especially if you’re considering trying to sell your house soon.  But these are also great tips for getting your place company ready, for all those big holiday parties you’re going to host!  Most are fairly inexpensive, quick things you can do to make your house look nicer.  Not everything requires back-breaking or bank-breaking work!

It helps to minimize stress by deciding which things are worth spending the time and money on, so that you’re not so overwhelmed.  Because there are probably a lot of things you’d LIKE to do to improve your house.  I know there are in mine.  And while this short article is focuses mostly on repairs, I would stress again how much of an improvement eliminating clutter can make.  You don’t have to get rid of things you love!  Just get rid of the things you don’t love and use.  And anything that only gets used rarely doesn’t deserve a prominent place in your house; it should be packed out of the way until you need it.

The only thing I might add is this:  For some inexplicable reason, realtors have a tendency to tell people to repaint all of their rooms in light, neutral colors.  (Perhaps this is a regional thing?)  I would disagree.  While you may want to entirely repaint a room that is a really wild color (or particularly battered) before trying to sell, for the most part you can get away with patching and touching up in the color that’s already there.  For one thing, bright white and sometimes even off-white can be overwhelmingly harsh, particularly if it is in every room.  For another thing, it’s probably a senseless expense since chances are the buyer will want to repaint in their own color scheme within a year or so anyway.  True, your sense of decor may not be the same as theirs, but if a paint color is enough to block the sale of your home, you’re not likely to please that potential buyer anyway.

Good luck sprucing up!

http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/year-end-home-repairs-that-pay-off?ectid=elp.facebook.post.12-5-2013

Decluttering Your Bookshelf

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/unclutter-books/

I’ve talked about decluttering before, but I have a confession to make:  I find getting rid of books borderline painful.  I loathe the idea of getting rid of a book and then wishing I could read it again.  I’ve gotten marginally better at this since I’ve gotten my Kindle, since many older works of literature are available for free.  Part of the problem is that my hubby is even worse than I am.  So we have books sitting on bookshelves that have literally not been touched in a decade, except for us to look at them and decide that we’re not ready to get rid of them.

So obviously I’m asking you to do as I say, not as I do.  😀  There are some great ideas on this list, but the thing that has helped me the most is to think of giving them to a home where they will be loved instead of collecting dust.  I like donating books to the public library or church library especially, because then they can be loved by LOTS of people.

And it is really nice to know that the books you DO decide to keep are the ones that you REALLY love, and will re-read.  As fond as I am of my Kindle, somehow I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely give up the experience of reading a real book.

BTW, if you itemize on your taxes, don’t forget to get a receipt for donations to the public library, your church, or any other non-profit.

Minimalist Packing

Rob and I will be travelling to Vegas with some friends in November, and we are planning on taking as few items as possible.  Neither of us has ever liked checking bags and then waiting to retrieve them–that’s valuable vacation time wasted!  And of course, some airlines are charging for even one checked bag.  Besides, if your stuff stays with you, you never have to worry about lost baggage.

I have been rolling clothes when packing for quite a while, as I find it’s super easy and quite effective at minimizing wrinkles and condensing things into the smallest space possible.  I haven’t ever tried the bundle method, but maybe that’s just because I already know rolling works well for me.   Also, I’m not much of a fashionista, so I don’t really care if I re-wear an outfit over the course of a longer vacation.  In the case of a short trip, the primary issue with minimizing the number of articles is the weather.  If it’s guaranteed to be hot or cold, you can prepare for that, but if it’s in that in-between time of year, you kind of have to prepare for both, which often ends up doubling your item count.  C’est la vie.

Then the other big question is what you will be doing while you’re there.  If you’re going to spend 90% of your time on the beach in your bathing suit, you obviously don’t need that many other clothes.  If you’ll have multiple black-tie events, you’ll have to plan accordingly.  But if it’s mostly hanging out, chilling, etc, I usually take 5-6 casual outfits, and plan on washing clothes once or twice if it’s a longer stay.  Let’s face it, there are not many places you’ll go that you don’t have access to laundry facilities, and to me it’s worth doing a small load of laundry in order to have less stuff to lug around.

Of course, we’re not traveling with children, which is a whole different beast.  Just remember, yes they need toys, but not ALL of them.  Yes, they need a few extra changes of clothes, but not their entire closet.  And I pretty quickly learned that I prefer to pack enough diapers for the trip and then buy a box when I get to my destination, rather than pack all that I need.  Obviously this is different if you’re using washable diapers.  Just keep in mind that a vacation is SHORT TERM.  There are lots of things that your kids may like, but it’s not going to permanently scar them if they have to do without for a week or two.  Those with pacifier addicts are the exception.  It might permanently scar YOU if they have to do without.  🙂

I’m also one of those people who prefers to unpack everything as soon as I reach my destination, even if I’m only staying for a few days.  Not only does that let the wrinkles work out of your clothes, but it helps you see what you’ve got and when you’re running out.  Besides, it makes me more relaxed to feel “settled in”.

What are your favorite methods for minimalist packing?  Are there certain things you refuse to do without while traveling?  What have you found that you used to pack, but no longer bother with?

Can I Freeze It?

Can I Freeze It?  How to Extend the Life of Fruits, Vegetables, and Other Perishables

This is another great LifeHacker article, about what can and can’t be successfully frozen, and how best to do it.  This is great for when you come across a great sale of something your family likes, but you don’t want to buy more than you can use before it goes bad.

Caring for Baby: Diapers, Sleeping, and Feeding

Since I’ve been watching little Rose five days a week since she was about 2 months old (she is now 14 mo), I’ve been thinking a lot about how I would do things differently and what I’d do the same as when my kids were small (they are now 20 and 16).  This is not an attempt to make anyone feel guilty for not being super-mom, it’s just that I’ve reconsidered some of the decisions I made then.

I think in nearly all cases there are plenty of “right” ways to raise your children, and not very many “wrong” ways.  You have to decide what’s best for YOUR family.  Sometimes it’s hard to not let other moms get to you when they tell you you’re doing it wrong.  My intention here is not to start a fight, because a lot of these topics can generate pretty volatile “discussions”.  I’m just considering what I might do differently if I were raising a kid now, instead of 20 years ago.

Diapers

I used exclusively disposable diapers for my kids.  At that point in time, nearly everyone used disposables.  This was a phenomenal expense, but it was a burden mostly borne by Rob’s grandparents.  They would constantly stop by after a shopping trip with a huge box of diapers.  I felt at the time that I simply didn’t have time for cloth diapers, and they weren’t all that good then anyway.

Now I’ve seen some of the new-fangled cloth diapers out there, and I think that if I were an at-home-mom with a new baby, I would probably give them a try.  It’s a lot more work and the initial cost is high, but in the long run it saves a lot of money.  And let’s not even talk about the literally TONS of diapers I’d be saving from the landfill.  I think it would be a lot harder to keep up with them if I were working full-time outside the house, though.  And I can imagine I would carry disposables in the diaper bag as back-up for emergencies while I’m out and about.

Napping/Sleeping

Although I didn’t really get into the co-sleeping thing at the time, there were many times that my babies fell asleep in my arms during a nighttime feeding in the recliner.  I didn’t sleep with them on the couch (which carries a high risk of accidental death), and there were probably only a few times that they fell asleep in my bed (usually during those nighttime feedings).

While I have posted before on the power of touch, and I’m a huge proponent of physical contact with the people we care about, I’m not sure I’m sold on the co-sleeping thing.  A large part of my concern with it is that the baby gets so used to having you right there beside them when they go to sleep that they get to the point where they HAVE to have you right there beside them in order to GET to sleep.  Even if you are committed to co-sleeping, there are times when you will want to try to accomplish something while the baby is napping, and if you’re out somewhere you obviously can’t just lay down with the baby.  I’m really not sure how I would deal with this issue if I had another child.  Perhaps someone who has tried co-sleeping could offer some input.

As for the timing, I pretty much let my kids dictate their own schedule, within reason.  I tried to encourage them to be awake during the day and asleep at night.  But I wasn’t a tyrant about making them take their nap at exactly the same times every day.  That I would probably do the same.  While it’s good to have a general schedule, and definitely better to have them sleep more at night and less during the day, I can’t see myself being inflexible about bedtimes.  Sometimes life happens, and not being able to go with the flow just causes unnecessary stress for both mother and baby.

Feeding

Not being able to eat wheat means you can’t just throw together a PB&J sandwich.  I wasn’t aware of my wheat sensitivity when my kids were little.  Knowing what I know now, and considering that there are MANY people on both sides of our family who are gluten sensitive to some extent, I think I would wait as long as possible to introduce wheat into her diet.  Part of the problem is that most “beginner” foods contain grains.  We have been told over and over how nutritious whole grains are, but if you can’t digest them properly, you simply can’t get the nutrients out of them, no matter how many nutrients they may be purported to contain.

I did breast feed for the first several months with both of mine, and I still think that is best whenever possible.  It is the balanced nutrition that babies are designed to thrive on.  But I’m not one of those who feels compelled to shame others for NOT breast feeding, or not breastfeeding long enough.  Breast feeding for “too long” is another issue entirely, and has nothing to do with nutrition; I’m not going to open that can of worms here.

It’s when we start to introduce other foods into baby’s diet that things really start diverging.  When it comes right down to it, grains are hard to digest, even if you’re not overtly intolerant.  Out of the grains, rice is the easiest, and least likely to produce an allergic reaction, but whether you are feeding your little one breast milk or formula, the reality is that either one has everything they NEED, nutritionally speaking, so adding in other things just supplements and gets them gradually used to the other foods that they will soon be eating more regularly.

As soon as they were ready, we started giving our kids smashed up bites of tender fruits and veggies from our own plates, along with the standard jar foods.  I didn’t have one of those magical food processors, or I probably would have made a lot more of my kids’ first foods.  But we didn’t really eat as many whole foods, fruits and veggies as we should have in those days.  I would definitely try to get more veggies in their diets as toddlers than I did.

There’s a nice “back-to-basics” list 0f first foods here.  It’s markedly different than what most doctors are recommending, but then they’re also recommending that adults get 60% of their calories from carbs, and most of those whole grains, and that’s not best either.

All in all, I think I would do most things just as I did, if I had it to do all over again.  Not that I think I am the perfect mom, or anything, but it seems that they managed to survive all of my shortcomings.  I guess that’s the best bit of encouragement I can offer to new moms–don’t overly stress yourself out over every little detail.  So many things are a matter of personal preference, and even more have to take into account the individual child’s personality.  Don’t beat yourself up about being “imperfect”.  There is no such thing as a perfect parent, any more than there is such a thing as a perfect human being.  And don’t let other moms guilt you into thinking you’re a failure because you’re not doing something the way they would.  Unless it’s a matter of threatening a child’s physical or emotional well-being, rest assured that there is more than one “right” way to raise your kids.  And the “best” way for another family may not be the “best” way for yours.  You will also find that parenting involves a whole lot of trial and error.  Even things that worked well for one child in your family may not work as well with the next one.  I think the most important thing of all is to love them like crazy, and let them know that you do, often!

I have several friends with little ones, so if you have any input, I’ll be sure to pass it on–I encourage you to comment! Civilly, please!