Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Have Your Cake and Eat it Too: Healthy Holidays

Many of us try to do the right thing by our bodies all year long by eating right, exercising and taking care of ourselves. But, then the holidays arrive and we crash and burn. Whether it be traveling to someone else's home, just letting ourselves be tempted by all of the sweets and special treats laid out at our workplace, or the fact we stay inside and graze since it is FREEZING out; we tend to let ourselves go during the holidays seasons. Then, we work like crazy the first few months of the year in order to get our beach body ready.

Why ride this roller coaster when you can have your cake and eat it too, so to speak? It is all about moderation!!

I have a thyroid condition and have been diagnosed with insulin resistance and PCOS- all of these conditions call for low carb, healthy fat, low sugar and as unprocessed as possible foods.

Our meal plan for Thanksgiving this year {For all items, I bought organic when available at my local store.}

Problem with the area I live in-- there are no organic grocery stores such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe's in my immediate area. I could travel, but this was a last minute change in plans meal that was put together. Another issue- the local grocery store where I shop seems to have an incredibly shrinking Organic produce section every time I go there : (

Plus: We are very soon getting a Farmer's Market in our immediate area! Can you hear my shout for JOY!!

1. Pork Loin marinated with Robert Rothschild Farm brand Hot Pepper Raspberry Chipotle      
   Sauce {Recipe}

  I bought the sauce instead of making it myself to save time. I purchased mine at Costco in the 40
oz jar. The ingredient list is as follows: Raspberries, Sugar, Water, Cornstarch, Lemon juice (from Concentrate), Chipotle Peppers, Natural Flavoring, Chili Peppers. It also has on its label that it is All Natural, Gluten Free and free of High Fructose Corn Syrup.

Downside to this sauce if you are more organic: It is not labeled as Organic or Non-GMO, it has lemon juice from concentrate and it has "Natural Flavoring" in its ingredient list which could mean anything.

2. Kale Salad {Recipe} (A Great Alternative to the syrup, marshmallow and calorie laden Sweet Potato Casserole) 
   Kale, Sweet Potatoes, Walnuts, Dijon Mustard, Maple Syrup, Salt (Sea), Pepper, Garlic, Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar (I changed Pecans to Walnuts and left out the onions- not a big fan of onions unless really cooked- I know, I know)

Kale is a nutritional Powerhouse. You can read more here {Kale}
Sweet Potatoes provide many vitamins as well as provide a healthier, lower glycemic index for those who are diabetic or insulin resistant and they are considered as anti-inflammatory. Read more here {Sweet Potatoes}

3. Dressing (I have to have it!! This is my cake. And, yes, I call it Dressing. To me Stuffing goes inside the turkey and not a pan)
  {Whole Grain Cornbread}

I love cornbread as much as the next person and it has nostalgic value. I used to eat cornbread with buttermilk as a snack at my grandma's house when I was little. I recently started making my cornbread, in the iron skillet of course, with half corn meal and half whole grain flour. It is just as yummy and not as crumbly. The above recipe is not gluten free, but you can substitute gluten free flour I am sure. I loosely followed this recipe (left out the cheese, sour cream and corn since I was using it for dressing), but I did add celery to my dressing as well as the typical seasonings and I used Pacific Natural Foods Low Sodium Organic Free Range Chicken Stock. One day, I will be making my own Chicken stock from organic chicken since it is pricey to purchase ready made stock.

4. Butternut Squash Soup {Soup} 

5. Green Bean Casserole (My husband's cake!) {Cream Of Mushroom Soup}

This year's recipe using Amy's Organic Cream of Mushroom Soup{Green Bean Casserole}. I didn't use all of the flour and milk since I added the soup, but I did add the onions and mushrooms.

I used canned soup only because I had limited time, but see below for an alternative recipe that uses NO canned items. {Healthier Green Bean Casserole}. I actually made this last year.

Here are some other Healthier recipes I ran across in my search for the Perfect Thanksgiving Meal:

As you can see, I didn't plan a dessert for our meal. We really aren't dessert people and I rarely bake (could be that I am just not really that good at it!). But, I have made the above Pumpkin Custard and it was yummy! I searched and searched for a better Pecan Pie recipe with no luck. Sorry folks - pecan pie just has a lot of calories. Here is a more whole foods approach to Pecan Pie though {Pecan Pie}.

I would love your comments on how you keep the calories down at your holiday meals. Feel free to post any additional recipes.

Disclaimer: This was the menu plan I had planned for Gary and I for our little Thanksgiving meal. Since we decided not to travel home over the break due to sickness all around, we were going to cook or go out to eat. But, I decided eating in was more homey than eating out. We have since been invited to eat with neighbors. I will be making the dressing and kale salad still.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Playroom: The Moose Arrives

So, I have posted about our dining room turned playroom before, but it is a work in progress to put it mildly.

We sold our dining room table - I loved that table, but we had nowhere to store it : (

We also tried to sell the chairs without any takers. So, they became additional Living Room seating thanks to Ana White. {Slipcovers}.



And, we added an Expedit shelf from IKEA for toy storage. As you can see, there are only 4 green bins. I purchased these at Menards when we were in Chicago to get our son. They were on super sale at more than half off and I couldn't resist, but they only had 4. It is fine because I use the last cubby for blocks. The curtains will go after we add blinds to the windows. 

EXPEDIT shelf on its side

And, this weekend, I discovered THE MOOSE!! Our son LOVES, LOVES all of his stuffed animals. Some of his favorites are Curious George, his Pooh bear from his Aunt Mandy, his Elmo from his mom and dad and his authentic KFC chicken that his dad picked up on a business trip to Kentucky. (We in no way are supporters of KFC, mind you, but it was a great gift for our son because he loves it and now knows how to Bak Bak like a chicken!)

These stuffed animals have been known to dominate the playroom. I was on the hunt for a bin to store them in. And, I am a big fan of collapsible, soft sided containers since they are easy for little man to take toys out of and they can cause no injury. The first of these I bought was from Target (woven felt) and it holds his books. The second was from JoAnn's and it is also grey felt. It holds diapers. And, the third...wait for The Moose. 

Moved to Playroom for soft books (from Target)

Moved to Playroom for Diapers (JoAnn's)

I ran into Home Goods this past weekend while hubby waited in the car. I ran around the store to find the section with the bins. The first one I came to was a large, rectangular one that was navy/white stripe with the word STUFF embroidered on the side. It also had white, rope handles. (I would've taken a photo, but my phone had no signal in the store). 

I wasn't satisfied so I held the bin and ran around the store some more. I came to a table display of bins, but they all had Christmas patterns of red Christmas ornaments and silver snowflakes on them. I wasn't going to give up though because they were also taller and had designs on the interior as well. I stood there and took out every bin that was stacked into the other almost willing there to be another option of pattern that would match the playroom. 

And, then, I saw it!!! The Moose!! I pulled the bin out from the inside of a larger bin. I loved the interior grey and tan pattern and I hoped what was on the side was what I was looking for. It was!! The Moose made its appearance. And, the decision was made. I knew this was the one. I quickly grabbed it before anyone else could see what I saw and ran to the very long checkout line. 

Gotta love Home Goods!! Lesson from this post -- never forget to think outside of the box or bin in this case. Thinking outside the box opens up a world of possibilities with design. 

Day 4: Paper Trail

It has been a few days since I blogged, but believe me - it has been busy around here! On the day we rearranged the living room, I also tackled some of our paper clutter.

Paper clutter comes in many forms, but in our home we have the following:
- Newspapers and coupons
- Mail
- Magazines {Focus of this blog}
- Items we keep for memories such as pictures, cards, newspaper clippings, etc.

My hubby does a good job of filing and taking care of the household paperwork in the form of bills so that leaves the rest for me to tackle.

Magazines were first on my list. We have a LOT of magazines. Some we actually subscribe to and some began to come in the mail all of a sudden. Below is a list of the magazines that arrive in our mailbox monthly:

1. Men's Health (at cost)
2. Women's Health (at cost- recently cancelled)
3. Parents (Discount rate for new parents)
4. Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles (FREE)
5. Architectural Digest (Super discounted rate for Interior Designers)
6. Elle Decor' (Super Discounted rate for Interior Designers)
7. Tennis (FREE)
8. Kiplinger's (at cost)

As well as the free catalogs and flyers from our area:
1. Neighborhood newsletter (bimonthly) (FREE)
2. Crate and Barrel (FREE)
3. Lowe's Creative Ideas (FREE)
5. Local town's newsletter (FREE)

So, when we began to start following our money saving plan {Becoming Debt Free}again after the adoption, some of these magazines were cancelled. Others have been cancelled since the last issue (Architectural Digest, Elle Decor). Parents is the next to be cancelled on the list. There are some good articles as well as recipes and I actually do read most of them, but the magazine cost and adds to our clutter. The newspaper is also going to be cancelled. I initially started receiving the newspaper on Sunday for a free trial (for coupons). But, since we are eating more natural, most coupons don't pertain to us.

Many of the magazines now can be viewed online via computer, IPad, etc. so having the massive stack of magazines on our coffee table was not working. I have subscribed to Architectural Digest since High School just for reference. I also kept getting them throughout college as reference for classes and now as reference for design trends. I love the magazine, but it is high end design. It isn't really a relevant magazine for the work that I do and the style that I follow in my designs. The same goes for Elle Decor'. I will; however, keep these magazines in our office for reference on different design elements and article research. I plan to replace them both with one magazine which focuses on more trends and practical applications. I need to do some research.

The magazines that will not be cancelled are Men's Health (great workout tips and recipes for hubby), Tennis (it's free and hubby loves tennis), and Kiplinger's - wonderful articles on investing and saving money.

We will also not stop getting the neighborhood newsletter (I write articles each issue and keep them), the local newsletter (great ideas on festivals and events in our area), Lowe's Creative Ideas (love their ideas and will tackle some of them in our home), and IKEA and Crate and Barrel (just love to look at them).

So, after the cancelled magazines quit arriving, we will still have the ones that do keep coming. My plan each month is to tackle the magazines. If there are recipes in Men's Health, I will clip them and put them in our recipe binder. The neighborhood newsletter will be filed. Others will be recycled at the end of the month if not needed.

The design magazines I currently have are stored in magazine files from IKEA (as you can see, I need more). Future cereal box recycle perhaps. These magazines are stored by season so that they are easy to reference. For example, all of the November/December magazines are together.

I will follow up this post later with a post on how we tackle our filing system and how we tackle all of those items we just have to keep for the memories.

Design Magazines 

Other Magazines Stored in a Large Wooden Bowl (Heirloom from my grandmother) 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Day 3: The Day I Thought Would Never Come - Living Room Redo

It finally happened!! I thought it never would! What am I talking about? The Hubby bringing up the subject of rearranging the furniture. Usually, it takes some scheming on my part and usually the furniture gets moved while hubby is at work and little man is sleeping. This time was a shocker for sure.

When we moved into our home, we loved it. It was after we had been there a while that I started trying to rearrange the furniture in the living room. It was frustrating to say the least. The architect really planned a room in which the furniture could only be laid out a couple of ways. The fireplace is on the end wall with the staircase going up to the left. The right wall is a complete wall of windows. The left wall - the only blank wall for furniture is also the only wall with a cable hookup. The entrance into the living room is open with a half wall between it and the kitchen.

So, you can feel my pain by now I am sure. The biggest issue with the room is that I have always wanted to have the TV on the wall beside the fireplace. I always wanted the fireplace to be the main focal point. But, when we were given the option of where to place the cable hookup, we were given only two choices - on the one large wall or above the fireplace. Now, I know it is pretty customary these days to hang the TV over the fireplace. But, I have never liked that placement.

Here is our living room before: The couch was on the window wall and the rest of the furniture was placed around the room. The TV as you can see is on the one long wall. Excuse my dog - photo hog. Our TV is quite large and I complain about its size all of the time, but it was an out of the box special and it is great for watching movies I must admit. The extra dining chairs are chairs I am in the process of covering - my projects are usually spread out everywhere. The telescope needs a new home.


Well, back to the topic at hand. Having a very mobile one year old has caused us to rethink the placement of everything. Having the TV so open allowed him access to all of the buttons and cords. It also caused us the worry of having him pull it over on top of him.

We recently purchased a Roku box that allows us to watch TV without the use of a cable box. This also allowed us to move the TV to another place in the room (It also saved us a lot of money!) In order to move the TV while still on a cable box, we would've had to drill a hole through the outside of the house and run a cable - not a chance - put a hole in our house?

So, the project began. One day while Gary was at work, I did what I could. I then messaged him and told him I wanted him to come home for lunch - with ulterior motives. He did and we moved the TV into its new position.

Here is our room with the new space plan:

In this new plan, the Pottery Barn Entry Way Table (now replaced with the dresser I refinished and re-purposed) is now on the large wall and is being used to hold puzzles and games. You can see that Declan has already found the puzzles. Smile. There is also room on either side for additional seating. These two chairs are from a previous dining set. One is completely slipcovered and the other is a work in progress {Upcoming Blog Post Coming Soon}. You can see I have a few photos yet to hang.

Another option for placement of this table was behind the sofa, but it is too tall. Sofa tables should not have a height taller than the back of the sofa.

"New" Seating With Room for Games and Puzzles
Dining Chair with Slipcover

More Open Floor Space
New TV Placement

I love the TV in its new placement. This is not a permanent solution. I would really love to see built ins on this side of the fireplace, but that is a major thing and will have to wait :) The baby swing is temporary until we can move it into storage.

With this furniture layout, the TV is a better distance from the sofa. It was too close to us before. There is also a lot of space for the dogs and Declan to play (As you can see in the photo, Gabby would rather sleep than play most days). The chest belongs to my mom and I am trying to decide if I want to move it somewhere else or try to get it back to her. I like the chest as a family piece, but it is too high as it is used as a coffee table and takes up too much space. I eventually want to have round ottomans that serve as additional seating and storage.

One other necessary item in our living area is the dog crate. Both dogs are crate trained, but Gabby now calls this home. She has been known to chew here share of table legs. The green and grey pieces are additional floor pads from our playroom. I put them down for Declan when he plays in the living room.
Dog Crate

There is also the issue of the end table. We purchased it when a local furniture store was going out of business. It is wooden with a glass top and has additional storage. Its square shape also gives it a little bit of a modern edge. We will be keeping it for now since for every seat there needs to be a place for a cup to land, but it is too large in scale for the space so I am on the lookout for something smaller in scale.

So there you have the new layout. I must say I am very happy with this plan. And, hubby is actually loving the new TV placement as well.

End Table

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Has it really been a year already? Happy Birthday, Declan!!

Although we celebrated early for family and friends, today is our dear little boy's first birthday! He officially turned one at 5:30 this morning. This day has brought back a flood of memories. It doesn't seem that very long ago that we were throwing essentials into our suitcases and struggling through the airport with an empty carrier on our way to meet our son. People kept asking, "Where is the baby?" And, we beamed as we said, "We are going to meet him."

We knew from the moment that God led us to adoption that our child was waiting for just the right time to make himself known. We made the decision in March, 2012 and by July, 2012, we were contacted by a birth mother. God is great, isn't He? The timeline, when we look back on everything, began the day we followed God's will for our lives. Our birth mother found out she was pregnant in the same month we made our decision to complete the paperwork for adoption!!!

It was a whirlwind trip. We got the call the night before. He was born early that morning and we were on a plane to meet him. We met our son for the first time that afternoon. A few days later, we were able to dress him in his tiny PJs and carry him from the hospital. Gary carried the carrier and I walked arm in arm, both of us crying, with his mom. We loaded him into the car and began our journey as we followed his birth mom out of the parking lot.

Gary drove because the tears refused to stop flowing! I sat in the back seat and reached for his tiny little hand. When his fingers closed around mine, my heart melted and I knew he was mine. One day he would say mama and my heart would melt again.

There have been hard days, sleepless nights, sickness and stress. But, the joy I feel every day when I go into his room to get him and see that beautiful smile - everything else in the world seems to disappear. We could not be more blessed to have him call us mom and dad (BaBa).

Happy Birthday to one special little boy!

On Our Way 
What Am I Doing Here?

About To Leave With My New Mommy
Signing the Paperwork
Mommy Had the Flu
First Bath (Didn't Like it One Bit!)

So Tiny (In Our hotel room)
So Sweet

3 Months
6 Months
9 Months

Becoming Mobile - Watch Out Mommy!
Hello Mickey Mouse

I will be adding a few pictures from his party soon along with his 12 month photos. We were unsuccessful with the cake smash photos. Apparently, our son is afraid of cake!! LOL.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to Enjoy the Holidays Without Losing Your Cool (Latest Fieldstone Article)

     For many people, no matter what holidays are celebrated, the beginning of November signals the beginning of the end – Umm - I mean the end of another year. September is a whirlwind and October is gone before we know it. Then, it happens. November arrives. 

To many of us, the last months of the year are a blur. It doesn’t help matters that many retailers already have upbeat Christmas music playing before dust has had time to settle on our Thanksgiving décor. The sale signs, the Christmas décor, the wonderful new coffee flavors at Starbucks and the non-stop commercials advertising the newest gizmos and gadgets are enough to put us into holiday panic and the countdown begins.

The stressful thoughts send our brains into overdrive. “The airports and roads are going to be a mess!  I hope we don’t get stuck somewhere.  What if the house isn’t ready on time? What will my mother-in-law think? How many cookies can one person actually bake? I have to have the perfect presents for EVERYONE! Oh, how I hate holiday traffic. How many parties do we have to attend? We have got to get our Christmas cards in the mail today! I am so tired and I still haven’t wrapped all of the presents. Now, where is the note for Santa? Oh my goodness, I can’t wait until the holidays are over. Can I just hibernate until spring?”

The holidays do not need to be this stressful. With a little planning and taking time to rejuvenate, we can have a successful holiday season and focus on what matters most -  making lifelong memories with family and friends. We also want to take part in making memories, not missing them because we were running around as busy as a bee.

Remember to take time for yourself: This is the most important tip. If we are tired and run down, we are susceptible to illness. Read a book, listen to music or take a long bath. Make sure you get plenty of sleep. Make time for exercise. And, no matter how difficult it may be – eat healthy. All of these things will provide you the energy you need for all of the tasks ahead.

Give back: Use your time to help others instead of spending countless hours in traffic or at the mall. Volunteer to feed the homeless. Sing carols to children in the hospital or elderly in a nursing home. Donate money to a worthy cause. Pack gifts to send to troops or children overseas. Help instill giving in your children by allowing them to donate some of their good toys to those in need. Helping others will give you joy.

Shop smart: Begin in January by updating Christmas gift lists and setting money aside. By having money budgeted, you will not overspend. You will also be able to purchase items throughout the year making impulse buys less likely. Shop around for promotions and coupons and shop online.

Use your talents:  Make gifts for others instead of buying them. Some great gifts that fall into this category are photo albums from companies such as Shutterfly, homemade sugar scrubs, sewn items, hand-built furniture, art, and themed gifts. An online search for inexpensive DIY gifts will bring up a lot of ideas. Giving a coupon for your services throughout the year is also a great idea. One husband actually gave his wife a coupon good for one year’s worth of dish washing by him! What wife wouldn’t want that? 

Plan ahead:  Prepare and freeze some meals ahead of time for those days when everyone is tired of turkey or ham – lasagna is good for this. Cookie dough can also be made ahead of time and frozen (it will stay good for 4-6 weeks if double wrapped). Shortbreads, chocolate chip, peanut butter, and sugar cookies freeze best. Set up a gift wrapping station and wrap and label presents as you bring them home or they arrive via UPS, FedEx or Santa. Update your address list in January right after the holidays to save time next year. Decorate and clean as you go throughout the month. Your home doesn’t need to be immaculate – just warm and inviting. Clean the fireplace and purchase firewood. Add clean sheets to the beds along with soft throws. For a special touch, purchase matching PJs for your family and cozy slippers for your guests. If you are traveling, pack travel kits to keep your children entertained on the road or in the air.

Learn to say No: We know ourselves best. If we are normally prone to stress, the holidays will be no different. You cannot possibly attend all of the parties or participate in all of the cookie swaps. Choose to attend the events you know you will enjoy the most – the ones where special memories will be made.

Create your own traditions: Trying to keep up with all of the traditions this time of year will drive you crazy. Try to set a few traditions that you and your family really enjoy and will want to recreate each year. For our family, some of these traditions include visiting the pumpkin patch and apple orchard, decorating the tree together, reading the Christmas story on Christmas Eve, and attending our Christmas Eve service at church. This year, we hope to add a couple of new traditions with our one year old son. Also take time to remember those family members who have passed away. Remembering these family members will help alleviate the sadness that enters too many homes during the holidays. Add holiday magic by decorating with items that have special meaning such as a bowl of ornaments made by your children.

Whatever your plans for the holidays, the memories made during this time of year are ones to be treasured. Try to find ways to relax and enjoy this time of year. It will be here and gone before we know it. 

My First Spa Night with Natural Cleansing Recipes

Oh, can I say how relaxed I feel?  After a long day with a little man who didn't want to nap, I fed him and put him to bed.  Then, fixed dinner and watched a little TV with hubby.  After the show we were watching went off, Gary said, "I will clean up the kitchen while you go use your Spa Bucket." My hubby reads all of my posts and I am very happy about that.  Love you boatloads, honey!!!  Kiss. You can read more about my "Spa Bucket" as my hubby calls it here {Gotta Relax}.

Well, I started by turning on our small room heater to heat the bathroom.  Baby, it is cold outside! I then ran a bath as hot as I could stand it - I know it isn't great for your skin, but the water gets cold too fast and I haven't had a hot bath in ages since I had Shingles.  I then propped my blowup pillow behind my head and slipped down into the water.  I had full intentions of reading the new Nicholas Sparks book, but I got caught up with Facebook. That has got to be the next thing put on my list of things I need to spend less time doing.

Anyway, I did relax.  I stayed in the tub until the water did get cold and I had to get out.  I then pampered my feet with a Pumice stone - the best time to rid your feet of ugly, dry skin is right after a long bath - and trimmed my toe nails.  Maybe a little TMI, but I haven't had a pedicure in ages either - something I am very willing to give up to save more money.  Who sees your toes in winter anyway. Then, I covered my feet with a Perfectly Posh Shea Butter stick and put on some cozy socks.

I then cleansed my face with my Perfectly Posh Mud Mask.

I must say that I did let everything go. And, I am all the better for it.

And now that I am super relaxed, I must get to bed.  I just had to share how relaxed I am by taking much needed time to myself.  I can now be a better wife and mommy tomorrow because of it.

Below are some all natural Spa recipes.  I got these at a Ladies Night Out weekend at the church I attended while in college.  I have recently washed my face with a honey/brown sugar scrub.  The brown sugar gets rid of the dry skin and the honey acts as an astringent.

Disclaimer: I have not tested these recipes before. Be cautious if you have allergies.

Cleansing Oatmeal and Honey Paste

Ground Oatmeal is a gentle exfoliator that removes dead surface cells
 and residue.  It can be used as a mild cleanser instead of soap and
helps restore the skin's moisture.  The combination of yogurt, which will soften 
the skin, and honey, a natural humectant, make for
an effective, everyday moisturizing cleanser. 

1/2 cup/115 ml. dry oatmeal (I eat Rolled Oats)
2 Tablespoons Honey (We buy ours locally from a farmer)
1/4 cup/60ml. plain yogurt or buttermilk 

Finely grind oatmeal in a blender or food processor.
In a small bowl, combine ground oatmeal, honey and yogurt.
Mix thoroughly until it has a paste like consistency. 
Smooth over face and neck and leave on for 15 minutes. 
Rinse off with warm water and pat dry. Can be applied 
every day, preferably in the morning. 

Molasses Hair Wrap 

This treatment is incredibly easy to do and will add shine and 
moisture to your hair.  One word of caution: Stay away from Bees!

1/2 cup / 115 ml. molasses (or honey or maple syrup)
 (We buy organic Molasses from Costso which we use for making Kefir) 

Apply molasses directly to damp hair and 
massage into scalp.  Cover hair with shower cap or 
plastic wrap and leave in for 20 minutes. 
Rinse with warm water.  Shampoo as usual.

Mayonnaise and Avocado Hair Pack 
{For Dry Hair}

The combination of eggs and oil (from the mayo) and avocado
creates a wonderful conditioner for dry hair.  If you don't have 
time to make your own mayonnaise, then try to buy an all-natural product 
at a healthy food store. 

1 ripe avocado (to make sure it is ripe, take a peek under the 
dry little button on the stem end - if it is green, then the avocado will be perfect)
1 cup/230 ml. mayonnaise

In a small bowl, mash avocado and blend into mayonnaise.
Gently massage into scalp and hair.
Cover head with plastic wrap or shower cap and
leave for 20 minutes. 
Shampoo as usual. 

Thyme and Eucalyptus Back Relief Soak 

Thyme has been said to have been used for its medicinal properties as 
early as 3,500 BC.  Throughout history, thyme has been used to 
relieve asthma, coughs, colds; to kill yellow fever organisms; to 
reduce swelling provoked by gout; and to treat nervous disorders.  
The following recipe is recommended for 
anyone suffering from backache or joint pain.  
The eucalyptus oil enhances the effects of the thyme. 

15 drops thyme essential oil 
4 drops eucalyptus essential oil 

Mix oils in hot bath water and soak in it for 15 minutes. 

As I said, I have not tried these myself.  I have had the recipes since college and just haven't tried them all.  But, if you do try one, please stop back by to comment how it went.  I hope to try the hair ones this weekend.  This dry, cold weather will not be kind to my hair. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day 2: Fostering Creativity in My Little Man

When Declan arrived, so did all of the things he would need. Our house seemed to explode overnight with diapers, wipes, blankets, toys. Don't get me wrong - we very much APPRECIATE ALL of the things people have given us for Declan. But, having so much extra in your home can create a little bit of stress for mommy and a WHOLE lot more laundry and dishes on top of that.

In the beginning, we converted our dining room into a playroom. This was a necessity since we also share our home with 2 four legged family members. They have never bit anyone (although our oldest is a fear nipper at the vet). But, we can't be too careful.

So, the converted playroom complete with gates on all open sides provides a great place for Declan to play sans dogs. And, the dogs can't get his toys and run off with them although one poor little bath time whale did escape this week and is no longer with us via our loving Yuko. Declan has also been known to crawl into Gabby's kennel in our living room and chew on some of her toys. Ick!

The playroom is a large room complete with rubber interlocking floor mats and an IKEA Expedit shelf turned onto its side (I am so fearful of toppling furniture so no tall furniture can be found here). The shelf is complete with green bins for toys.

The playroom began with very few toys. After all, our little man put everything in his mouth so we had to be careful what we let him play with. In the beginning, there were only the soft toys and rattles. As he has grown and developed, so have the toys.

It became too much for both of us. I began to notice that Declan had a very short attention span. There was too much to attract his attention so he would go from toy to toy to toy and really never play with any one of them very long. This kind of play was not fostering learning.

So, Day 2 brought on the Toy Room Cleanse. Gary's mom brought several Red, White and Blue bags for me to use to store items in. (If you are not familiar with what we call a red, white and blue, see here {Hong Kong and the Red, White and Blue} OR see an image of the new red, white and blue {Hip Red, White and Blue}. The ones his mom brought me are not red, white and blue, but are covered in cute patterns. {see photo below}

I used one to store the toys that are too young for Declan and one to store toys too old for Declan as well as a few toys that I could rotate in and out. I put these in the corner of the playroom. This helped get a lot of extra toys out of the space.

I then rearranged the playroom to where his push toys and walking toys are in one corner. His small toy bins with balls and music toys are in the cubbies, his books are in a plush, woven felt bin {Purchased at Target}. in the corner by the bookcase, and his larger cars are in yet another corner.

This arrangement has really helped with how he plays. Having the toys in groupings in different areas helped with his play today. He would actually stay in one spot for a while and play with the toys there. If he wanted to play with something different, he would have to crawl to another spot in the room. This space has also allowed space for him to practice walking with his push toys.

IKEA Expedit bookcase on its side
Plush bin from Target for books
Toy Vehicles

Two of Declan's favorite toys right now are the two pictured here: Melissa and Doug Sound Puzzle (who knew?) and his push helicoptor from his YeYe. He also loves his train that he can walk and push (gift from a friend).

This is not a new concept. Children are curious, especially at one. He is no different. The more that is out to catch his eye, the more he wants to see. If I want him to really begin to learn from his toys (ie His new skill this week was putting circular wooden donuts onto a wooden dowel - this helps with hand, eye coordination and using his fine motor skills), then I need to do things to help foster the learning. By limiting the toys your child has and rotating them in and out of the play area, your child will also be more excited about his/her toys because they will seem new to him/her.

Here are some links to child development at the age of 1-2:

This is a wonderful article that restates what I have noticed with Declan's play recently after "cleansing" his playroom. I am thinking I will follow this blog that I was lucky enough to find since I am moving more toward the Minimalist attitude in our home by de-cluttering.

Day 1 Master Bath ~ GOT TO RELAX

Ok, so Day 1 was pretty much a success. I decided not to really do any deep cleaning while purging. I did wipe out the drawers and cabinets, but I will leave the really deep cleaning for when everything is in its place. I tossed a lot of beauty products that were old and saved a few that weren't for my sister that I know I won't use.

I began by evaluating what I wanted to store in the bathroom cabinets. We have a vanity with HIS/HER sinks, but the counter still has items for Declan such as formula and bottle warmer (that will change very soon- He turns 1 on Thursday - tear). We also use an electric toothbrush and Waterpik that take up a lot of space on the countertop.

So, that being said everything else needs a home in a drawer or cabinet. I decided to only keep items in the bathroom we would need in the bathroom. In my cabinet, I keep extra Q-tips, cotton balls, my makeup and hair products including hair dryer and flat iron and other toiletries.

In my hubby's side of the cabinet, we store First Aid items including Band-Aids, Peroxide and Alcohol; a small heater for winter, and a container of basic medicines like Itch Cream, Ear drops, Eye drops, etc. The rest of the major medicines like Tylenol and cough drops are stored on a high shelf in the Linen Closet in our hallway.

We are going to put locks on all of our bathroom cabinets this week, but who wants to dig through a cabinet on their hands and knees in the middle of the night while suffering a stomach ache or headache?

I emptied everything out, purged and replaced it all in a neat and orderly way.
Somewhat Organized BEFORE
Too Many Products
Space Saver: The Overhang (Clever Container)

Out of Day 1, the most important thing I did was create a Spa Night Container for myself. The first step in becoming less stressed it to take time for yourself. So, I took all of my items I use to relax and pamper myself and put them in one container. I can pull it out, move the toys off of the tub and have one night to myself each week - MY GOAL.

What it includes:

  • Pure Fiji Coconut Sugar Scrub for Boby
  • Perfectly Posh D-Tox Body Mud "Stripper" (facial mask)
  • Perfectly Posh Night & Day Natural Facial Moisturizer with Olive Oil 
  • The Healer - Perfectly Posh Shea Butter in a stick form 
  • Homemade soap that was a gift
  • Various foot pumice stones, scrubbers and wooden massaging tools I can use on tired feet (A Gift from my hubby on the night before our wedding)
  • True Blue Spa Cooling Eye Compresses from Bath and Body Works
  • Recipe cards for Homemade Beauty treatments (I will share some of these in a later post)
  • I also have a bag of Epson salt for long soaks in the tub. I plan to de-stress even more by adding exercising back into my weekly routine along with Yoga- gotta love the new Roku box where I have a few new Yoga videos waiting for me for naptime.
A Note About Perfectly Posh (I was recently invited to an online party for these products- contact me if you want to know how to order):
Find peace of mind knowing: 
  -  We're paraben-free and paraffin-free
  -  We're free of sulfates including SLS  
  -  We use the highest-quality essential oils and fine phthalate-free fragrances
  -  We're very natural and consequently gentle:  read our labels please!
  -  We use natural enzymes and gently moisturizing vitamin E to preserve the life and look of our fun pampering products
  -  We're cruelty-free and do not test on animals! 
My Spa Bucket

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Humbling Experience

It has been a while since I have written a post and I need to get back to it!!

The past few weeks have been both stressful and wonderful all at the same time. I had Shingles - it has taken over three weeks for me to begin feeling whole again. Phew! But, having Shingles was an unnecessary evil for me. Why did I get shingles in the first place? STRESS. You can read more about that in my previous post from October 25.

What has this taught me? To take it easy, let others help me, be okay with saying NO to people and events and focus on what is really important. The really important things are GOD, FAMILY and my HEALTH. If I don't take care of myself, I can't take care of my family. My number one job right now is taking care of our beautiful son. He is the reason I am here in this stage of life right now. So what it my house doesn't sparkle like on a commercial.

What else happened the past few weeks? We celebrated Declan's first birthday with friends and family. We were privileged to have Gary's parents from Hong Kong here to meet Declan for the very first time and see where we live. We also had my mom and Gary's American parents (more on that later) from Mississippi. Our guests all stayed in our home and we had a great time visiting.

Gary's parents stayed on for another week and we had a great time. His parents cooked most of the meals since it has been 4 years since we have been to Hong Kong and had real Chinese food. His mom and dad are both wonderful cooks and it was all so good - okay so not everything - bitter melon wasn't that great, but I already knew that from before :) We had a lot of time to just eat together and visit together. We didn't even do any of the touristy things like the Aquarium or Zoo. We just spent quality time together. Declan loved his YeYe (Grandpa) and MaMa (grandma). He even said YeYe when he woke from his nap one day. They had such a wonderful time with him.

We are so blessed beyond measure. Having Gary's parents visit brought a new perspective on things for me. I have had this dream lately of packing everything up and starting over. Not in a new state or anything, but a new start where our family makes less of a footprint on this planet. We live in an area where homes are being build overnight and most of them are HUGE!! We get caught up in the comparison as easily as the next person.

I often find myself complaining about the house we live in now (a hazard of knowing how to design and draw floor plans). Why do we need such a huge Master when we have clothes falling out into the hall from the tiny laundry room? Why don't we have a garage that can actually house two cars and a few tools? Why do the closets go from largest to large to tiny as you move from one bedroom to another? Well, as a designer, having a home that is better laid out as far as floor plan goes would be great. On the other hand, we could just have less things to fill the home we have.

Gary's parents raised two boys in a flat that was barely 600 Sq. Ft. We live in a mansion compared to where they live. Are they unhappy? NO. Do they wish they had space for more things? NO Do they look at us and say we wish we had this much space? NO. What do they say? Wow! So much room. And, in a very non-judgmental way Gary's mom commented that we have so much stuff. So much stuff in fact that it seems cluttered. She also said that if we ever do move to another home, we will have triple the things to pack as we did when we moved previously.

Do we really need so many things? Well, yes and no. Some things are necessary. Declan's toys for example (although we could do with less). Also, Gary and I have books for our careers that serve as reference. We also have a lot more tools to make certain jobs easier such as a blender in the kitchen.

Don't get me wrong - I do not feel guilty about the things we have. We have worked very hard to have a home and have the things we have. Living in America is very different from living in a crowded city of so many people. We do have space to spread out here so to speak. But, I have made a new goal for our family. From now until I am finished, we are going to declutter and simplify our lives. I am going to start in one room and work my way through this house until we are down to what is necessary and no more. We will purge, donate, sell, etc. until we have a home where we don't have to pile the closets full right before company comes. Getting our home ready for company shouldn't be like fighting a battle.

I will not get rid of things that are needed. I will not get rid of things that have sentimental value. I will clear the clutter. I have even been toying around with the idea of a Girls' Night Clothes Swap. Stay tuned for that.

Even as I write this, I feel a little bit freer. By setting and meeting this goal, we will be happier for it. I will have a lot less to clean and our home will be more comfortable.

So, let me quit typing while little man naps and get to it. I plan to tackle our Master Bath first. It is small and I will feel quite accomplished when I finish. Baby steps!!

Stay tuned for a Pictures Only posts later today of some photos from the birthday party and family visiting.