The Keeping Room

Today I’m posting images of our Keeping Room along with Darlene of Fieldstone Hill Design, who provided me with the amazing design. She really made this process fun rather than frustrating, and helped me focus in on what I wanted the room to feel like and how to make it function  as we needed. I wrote about the process of working with on online interior decorator here. I can’t say enough great things about Darlene–she was so patient with all my pickiness and helped keep my love of lots of color from turning the room into an Easter egg : )

Here is the Design Board Darlene created:

Design Board by Fieldstone Hill Design

I loved it at first sight– thanks SO much Darlene! And here’s how it came together:

Gorgeous Keeping Room: salmon walls, aqua couch

This room. So much living in this colorful space.  It’s here that we curl up with our coffee and books, where we pull the littles onto our laps and read them Berenstain Bears. We sit the baby on the striped rug and surround him with his little rattles and toys; this is where he’s learning to crawl. The desk in the corner is my favorite spot to get some work done without being far from the kitchen or the little ones. I pull down my cello or my violin in here to help my little ones when they practice their tinier versions.

keeping room chair and desk

This space sees a lot of living. We often crowd more into it–a brown leather recliner I got for my husband fits nicely in the back corner, and a little round yellow Ikat storage ottoman generally sits in front of one of the Sofia Chairs. I keep my knitting tucked inside and pull it out on movie nights. We store puzzles and games with pieces inside the wooden storage table, which the kids haven’t figured out how to open quite yet : ) In reality, this room is usually quite a mess, albeit a beautiful one at that–books and toys all over the place, people sprawled across their projects and an occasional small one asleep on the couch. That’s what a proper Keeping Room is for you know–keeping the ones you love feeling cozy, loved, and near while you’re whipping up some food in the kitchen.

Keeping Room 3 birds lamp

When it comes to decorating, I have to remind myself that all these painted walls will someday crumble. The couch will become old and moth eaten, the metal will rust or the wood burn, or maybe thieves will break in and steal. The point is, I don’t want our home or its contents to be our treasure. Our hearts, the idol-factories that they are, might bend us to worship the idea of a perfect room, brimming full of texture and balance and pattern and color. There is a reason we yearn for this–the longing to see Eden restored somehow–to live surrounded by unspoiled beauty. One day, all will be restored, and there will be no more death or sickness or suffering. He will make all things new. As I put together a home for my family, this has been my goal–that those who pass through will find themselves longing for our real home.

Keeping room windows

keeping room tv cabinet

Sources:

Wall color- Smokey Salmon by Sherwin Williams

Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Chester Sofa - I ordered this sofa from a local store in Columbia, SC called Mack Home. They had piles and piles of fabric options and all I knew is that I wanted a pale aqua. The velvet of this fabric gave it a nice sheen. It’s also the perfect height for a sofa–low couches make my knees hurt! Given the potty training stage of my kids is still sort of ongoing for at least one kid at any given time, I keep a thick throw over the seat cushion most of the time.

Desk: Lillian August Leif Secretary  I bought it at a local store called Marty Rae’s. I wax poetic about my desk in this post.

Zuel Rug in Brown. I bought mine when it was on sale at One Kings Lane.

Cowhide stools–another One Kings Lane purchase.

Coffee Table–West Elm Rustic Storage Coffee Table another good find on sale.

Bookshelves- Verona Two-Shelf Bookshelf from World Market. I loved the side tables Darlene found but realized after we were living in the space that we needed more book space.

Curtains- I crocheted a border along some panels I picked up at Target. The yarn color was Persimmon, I think. If you know how to crochet, a border is fairly simple to pull off. I have photos I took of the process somewhere if anyone is interested in learning how.

Curtain Rods and Hardware: Restoration Hardware

Three Birds Lamps– from Wayfair.com. 

Desk Chair is from World Market. I don’t know if they still have this one around, and couldn’t find it on their site to link. But I love the tufts and color, and its so comfy.

Pair of brown club chairs: Sofia chairs from Ballard Design. I waited for a sale, of course.

Crushed Gold Velvet and burlap pillows from this Etsy shop.

Coral Greek Key Pillows from this Etsy shop.

Coral Ikat pillow from Etsy but now I can’t find the shop. If I do run across it I’ll update this.

Solid Yellow pillows from Target.

The TV cabinet–This is a redone ‘lift cabinet’ from Touchstone products. It has a remote control hydraulic lift that raises the TV out of a panel in the back for viewing. That way I can hide it away when not in use.  I redid this piece to make it our own. You can read about it here

Nest Painting with three eggs- was done by Jeanne Illenye –it was a commissioned piece. I love it because it’s so realistic and the three eggs for our three kids : )

Pair of egg prints–I found these in an antique shop in Charleston, SC. I had them matted at Hobby Lobby. The frames are from Pottery Barn.

Violin–My Grandfather, and his grandfather, were both fiddlers. He bought this violin many years ago and gave it to me when I was young so I could learn to play. It has brought me much enjoyment.

This post contains my referral links to One Kings Lane. Thanks!

 

 

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I’m not sure how it happened in this very busy season of my life, between teaching my daughter to read and nursing a baby and wrangling a toddler, but I’ve somehow become someone who bakes our own bread each week. I didn’t set out to do it, or to find the perfect recipe or anything. True, I’d tried a couple of whole wheat sandwich bread recipes before, all of which had turned out to be somewhat rocklike, and I found use for them only as turning into homemade croutons {Although quite possibly they could have become doorstops given their weight}. I’ve had some measure of success with the Healthy Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day recipes, and I’d totally recommend trying them. But their 100% whole wheat recipe left something to be desired, and really didn’t work out too well, for me at least, when I tried it in loaf pans. I figured I’d have to keep buying the stuff, if I wanted it 100% whole wheat.

But one day, amidst a little experimenting, I stumbled upon a game-changer.

100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. Finally an easy, healthy, homemade option. The Molasses and Olive Oil give it a rich taste

The original recipe I found here. {She has a fantastic whole wheat dinner roll recipe too, by the way}. I made it my own by subbing in molasses for some of the honey. Got to Southernify it, obviously. And I changed out her oil for Olive Oil, and adjusted some of the steps. Also, this dough isn’t super sticky, it only has one rise, and you really only have to knead it for a couple minutes, which I actually find quite enjoyable, relaxing and contemplative, especially since this dough isn’t all stuck to my hands and wedding ring. Pulling this together each week has actually not been very complicated or time consuming at all.

It think the key step involves letting the some of the flour sit in the water with the yeast and ‘sponge’ for a good 20 minutes.

Also, a note on gluten, which I do use in this recipe. {Yes, you can buy Wheat Gluten, right there in the baking aisle, maybe near the special flours}. There’s a lot of confusion out there about gluten these days. Everybody gives poor gluten a bad rap. I will say: there are a number of people who actually have celiac disease {about 10 percent of the population, give or take}, or have found that they have a gluten sensitivity, which while less severe than celiac disease, can be a good reason to avoid it. But, unless you fall into those camps, do you really need to avoid gluten? Are you doing something ‘bad’ for yourself if you eat it? Is it outrageous to buy a box of pure gluten to add to something you feed your family?

While I learned about celiac in med school, I did a little extra research to be sure there wasn’t anything I missed. {Meaning I consulted actual medical research, not ‘Dr. Google’ or some random blogs}, and I found no evidence that you need to avoid it unless you actually have celiac disease or a real sensitivity to it.

But what about all those people who say they feel better, or are more focused, or maybe have more energy now that they avoid gluten? Well, think about what sorts of stuff is usually in food products that contain gluten. Mostly, they are processed foods also full of sugar and salt and fat. So people who cut out gluten have generally had to cut out a ton of processed foods to really avoid gluten. So they’ve essentially cut out a lot of other bad stuff at the same time, and my bet is they are feeling great because they aren’t pumped full of the “processed trinity” of sugar, salt, and fat anymore. Avoiding factory made fake-food is going to make anyone feel better–we avoid it too! It’s just not the gluten in it that bothers me.

So that’s why I don’t hesitate to use wheat gluten in my family’s Whole Wheat bread. It is a protein that helps give the bread great loftiness and airiness, I’m making them a whole grain food, that’s super healthy, doesn’t contain any preservatives or weird chemicals. And I know for sure it wasn’t baked on a counter next to any sesame seeds {my son’s life-threatening allergy} that could have cross-contaminated it. And wow, have you seen how much it costs to buy a loaf of whole grain breads these days? I’m saving bundles, and this recipe hasn’t been hard to pull off on a regular basis. I make two loaves, and pop one in the freezer as soon as it’s cooled and wrapped.

100% Whole Wheat Honey Molasses Bread

  • 6 to 6-1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2-1/2 c. warm water (I run the tap till hot and then use it)
  • 1-1/2 TB instant yeast
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1-1/2 TB molasses
  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 2-1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1-1/2 TB. vital wheat gluten- OPTIONAL (I don’t use this anymore)
  1.  Add water, yeast and 2 cups of the flour in a large mixing bowl. I use the one for my stand mixer. Stir together briefly and let it sit for 20 minutes.
  2. Add olive oil, then honey, molasses, salt, and gluten. Stir briefly, then add 4 cups of flour. Mix at low speed with dough hook until dough starts to clean sides of bowl. Then let it knead 6 to 7 minutes longer. {If you are doing the kneading by hand, go for 10 minutes}. Add a few tablespoons of flour at a time if dough sticks to sides, being careful not to add too more than 1/2 cup. I usually don’t have to add any.
  3. At this point I usually turn it out onto a floured counter and knead for a minute more after its done in the mixture, but I’ve skipped this step when in a hurry and it’s been fine.
  4. Divide in half and place into two greased 9×5″ pans. Allow to rise in a warm place for about 50 minutes (1-2 inches above pans). Then preheat oven to 350 and allow to rise ten minutes longer while oven warms. {Total of 1 hour rise time}.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from pans to cool on a rack. Wait until it’s cooled to slice it, otherwise your knife will get all gummy. When completely cool, you can wrap tightly and freeze. I keep my sliced loaf in a ziploc bag in my bread drawer and it keeps for a couple days, if it lasts that long. Then I pull out my frozen loaf and we start on that one : )

Makes 2 loaves

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all the blinding brightness

snowprintsSnow came to South Carolina last night, and oh, how the children {and I!} rejoiced. It’s been a few years since anything white padded our lawns, and my kids couldn’t ever remember seeing it. When the first rumors of a Winter Storm circulated on Sunday night or Monday, none of us knew if we could believe it. Monday’s weather was beautiful, in the sixties, sunny and dry. Schools let out early Tuesday and everyone waited in anticipation of what was supposed to start around 3 in the afternoon. The excitement swelled and we watched and waited. Across the city everyone had prepped in case we lost power or couldn’t leave home, bought out all the milk at all the store in town. {This is SC y’all, we don’t have many snowplows…} We opened all the blinds so we could watch the beautiful sky fill with falling flakes. But it was dark before the long anticipated snow arrived, blanketing the area in soft and quiet beauty.

This morning the brightness filled our windows. My little ones took a break to defrost from their galavanting, and I stole away for a long walk down the briliant lanes and roads. Seeing as I had nothing better to keep the wet and cold off, I borrowed my husband’s snake boots. They were a bit large but did the job well enough.

photo

Every time I see snowfall I remember my college years up in western Pennsylvania. Yes, I’m a Southerner; grew up outside of Atlanta. But I spent four years at Grove City up in PA and the Lake Effect snow permeates my memory to the extent that now every time it falls I recall hours bent over molecular biology texts and organic chemistry books and writing philosophy papers, all while snow after snow fell outside the large library windows. There were jogs in the snow, and hot cider, and fun to be had, and I loved those years with people who became dear, dear friends, before I returned to my Southern soil and moved to the grand jewel of a city that is Charleston. It feels so long ago that I studied in those stacks and wondered what the future held, where I’d be in 15 years.

Amaryllis blooms at littleprogressnotes.com The amaryllis chose today to open, her red petals unfurling even as the landscape whitened. That scarlet red against the backdrop of snow, it’s no coincidence He chose today to call her out. Scarlet and white. Each flower bends to His will, and there are always a thousand things He’s doing under the surface of what we see. I saw some lampposts in the snow on my walk, too. Little signposts in the paths of my life that whisper of things unseen.

January is almost finished. Already, 2014 has been full of burst pipes (we Southerners don’t remember to drip our faucets), lawnmowers running over outdoor electrical plugs causing septic pumps to fail, and basement flooring that had to be ripped up to repair. But January has also brought small toes on a growing baby full of coos and chirps, three pairs of bright blue eyes seeing their first snow, a handsome beard on my husband’s kind face, long reading sessions by the fire while children nap and then snuggles with picture books when they wake, and the feeling of baby weight falling off as I embrace my new daily habits. And there has been good cooking. Each week I’ve baked fresh molasses Whole Wheat Bread for our sandwiches, and stirred up pot after pot of savory stew and soup.

I have lately found ways to worship in my heart as I flutter around the kitchen, tending to the nourishment for the ones I love. But I’d bet to say that my kitchen is a bit more busy than Brother Lawrence’s Parisian monastery. I think of his famous words, which I love…

The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.

…and I think he probably didn’t have three kids five and under either screaming or tearing up the monastery while he finished up his dishes, and I bet he didn’t end up raising his voice too much as I often do. So yeah, there is a lot of chaos in my life right now, and messy rooms, and even as I declutter one area another is torn asunder. Toys scatter across most floors and I try to patiently teach Littles how to order and care for their gifts but fail more than I succeed. But this is a season of rich living for us, as I’ve seen enough of the other sort, in hospitals, the losing sort of life that can happen at the end, when the pain won’t stop without eternity being crossed. So I say my thanks for it all and wrestle in my heart to raise eyes from the chores long enough to just savor the pure joy of living and newness that surrounds us. I’m fast approaching my 35th birthday, halfway across the decade to 40. I know what I am made for, and it is worship.

The snow falls and covers it all in pure whiteness. And I wonder. What kind of whiteness is whiter than snow?

IMG_1046

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New Year, New…

seagulls flocking at sunset

I try to approach each year’s end and new beginning with sober self-examination and pose the question to myself “What if this was the last year of your life?” I think about how I’ve lived, the course I’m taking each day, and what I’d change. I always want to be kinder and more gracious to those around me. I don’t want to waste my life.

This year, as I prayed over all this, and reviewed last years’ accomplishments and failures, I felt one thing becoming quite clear. All the desires that boiled down to wanting to care for and love my family well, all the career planning and redirecting, all my aspirations to become a supurb home chef to nourish my family well, improve my health, as well as declutter every nook and cranny of our house…they all boil back to that one deep-seated motive that underlies it all. That purpose I’m made for.

Worship.

I’m not one to choose a ‘word of the year’, but somehow, it came and found me amid the mess of imperfections and half-met desires of my life. Worship. Its what I’m made to do, and I do it wether my soul lifts itself up to Christ or to something lesser. It’s when we become tangled up in worshiping ourselves or some idea of what our life “should be” that we become overwhelmed and discouraged. We don’t realize we’ve made an idol of something until it comes crashing down. Only then do we find we’ve traded the fulfillment of God-glory for the illusion of self-glory.

Everywhere the current catch-phrase seems to be “New Year, New You,” refering to health and wellness, weight loss, organization, etc. etc. etc. The culture pulses with the hope that we can make ourselves over, become that perfect mom, wife, woman, athlete, chef, homeschool supervisor, doctor, reach the perfect weight, or whatever else… This taps into our deep seated longing that we can really change, that we can become whole again. Everyone longs for a redemption and the new striving of the New Year Season only magnifies it. But we can find ourselves clamoring for self-glory rather than God-glory without even realizing we got there.

The reality is, people can change, and it can be lasting. We can be redeemed from the messes we’ve made. We can love our families better, tend to our health in a wiser way. But it’s not going to happen by simply creating a daily checklist of things to complete, keeping a perfect early morning routine. Sure, we can make things look good for a while on the outside, with maybe a cleaner house and smaller waist. But we don’t get to redemption by our our striving.

Let me tell you what transforms us. It’s sitting at the feet of Christ, looking at his nailscarred hands, and knowing He was perfect for us. In worshiping Christ, we are transformed. When we meditate on what he’s done, the length He came to rescue us from ourselves, the compassion he shows us, the perfect and deep love that He offers us despite the fact he knows us better than we know ourselves, including all the gunk and messy and sin…that’s when we start to change.

We think about the Cross and suddenly we have more patience. We hunger for Christ, and suddenly the comfort food isn’t as comfortable anymore. We finish decluttering that dreaded closet only to find that while we did, the 5-year old rearranged every piece of furniture in her room, the dresser drawers removed and dumped out to become part of an elaborate, imaginative world. The dishes might be piled in the sink and the laundry basket spilling over. Work goals for the day might be foiled by a child who’s sick and needy. I might not get to stock up on the veggies and fruits as frequently as I like, when my kids are tired and need naps more than a trip to the grocer. But this year I want to relearn how to Worship in those moments. I want to figure out how to turn the times where it all feels like it’s falling apart into moments I can really, genuinely offer a ‘sacrifice of praise’. I know it has a lot to do with exercising gratitude. Gratitude turns the heart to worship.

Don’t get me wrong: I am still working on routines and loose schedules that can help things run smoothly and use our time well. I do have written goals for many areas of my life, and action steps I’m taking to move toward them. Because I am a steward of this life, of my health, of this family I feed, this house I tend. I’m a goal-oriented person and work better with lists and such, as more gets done and mouths get fed and laundry completed this way. I am shifting my focus in completing goals this year to a more processed-focused method rather than a results-focused method. The scaffolding that holds these plans up is the worship of Jesus. When we set our plans with that end in mind, we will love people better and care for the gifts He give us better, and in all of it feel His joy.

I often need to preach to myself that my “To-Do” list was nailed to a Cross about 2000 years ago. That worship doesn’t need to wait to happen until the list is all checked off and the extra weight is lost and all the laundry folded. Worship can happen in the middle of my mess. Worship can be part of the process. In fact, more than being part of the process, it’s what the process is all about. It’s what life is all about. I don’t have to get wrapped up in results, as the way to not waste my life is to Worship right smack in the middle of it all, in the middle of the process. I’m called to Worship a God who holds every atom together, sustains and forms every life, orchestrates every sunrise and full moon, who hung the starts and crafted my infant’s toes in my womb. I’m called to spend my life Worshiping Him and bringing others to Worship Him. This is the way to not waste my life. This is where a year begins…

 

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An Advent Reading List

It’s the first day of December, and the merchants and catalogues have been glutting my inboxes with the push to buy, spend, shop, shop, shop. A whole industry is devoted to turning this season into one giant, frantic rush to mail cards, wrap presents, stuff stockings and make the rounds of parties and lights.

I cringe and look for ways to push back the frenzy, to hold off the clamor and endless lists of things to mail and buy and do. I just want to curl up by a fire and sip something warm, to hold onto words that speak of the eternal in the midst a world of plastic and neon lights. I want to steep deep in what is true and real, the miracle of a God incarnate in the fragile flesh of an infant. This is the third Advent I have held close a swaddled newborn of my own. Have observed the tenuous, utterly needy state in which a baby arrives. To consider that the supremely powerful God would come to us in such a state. In a season that feels like a such a frenzy of rush, I want to push the pause button and simply wait. Wait, wait, and wait for the coming, to think of that one great Advent, that one great coming, that will be the culmination of all our Advents, of all our waitings…

an advent reading list- great books to consider as december starts

So I choose these books and these Words to anchor me during December. To build up anticipation, during the waiting…

Good News of Great Joy , a free Advent ebook and Scripture reading plan by John Piper, which includes a short devotional for each day along with a scripture passage. I actually found it because it’s a reading plan option on YouVersion, the Bible reading app I love and use frequently (especially because of the option to listen to daily scripture passage read aloud–As a mother of three young kids this feature comes in very handy!)

The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping Full Love Story of Christmas, by Ann Voscamp. A collection of advent readings meant to be read as a family each day, accompanied by a set of ornaments that corresponds to each day’s scripture and reflection. Ann’s writing is poetic and God-glorifying in every way, and I’m looking forward to digging into this, her second book.

God Is In The Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Much of this book was written during the two year period that Bonhoeffer was jailed by the Nazis. I read through this last winter and will likely reread it every December.  Here are a couple favorites:

“Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent. One waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other–things that are really of no consequence–the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.” – Bonheoffer, in a letter to a friend, Christmas 1943

“Through all the Advents of our life that we celebrate runs the longing for the last Advent, when the word will be: “See, I am making all things new” (Rev.21:5) The Advent season is a season of waiting, but our whole life is an Advent season, that is, a season of waiting for the last Advent, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth.” -pg 2

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Of course we’ve all heard the story or seen it played out on a stage or screen. But I’ve never read the actual tale as told by Dickens. This year I will.

Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas. An anthology of reading related to advent by writers including Aquinas,  Lewis, L’Engle, Luther and many more. Wide variety with a few gems  in there.

Song of the Stars, by Sally Lloyd-Jones. One to read to the kids, equally enjoyed by the adults in the house, by the writer who put together The Jesus Storybook Bible, a favorite in our house. Her way of telling these stories is so well-composed for children, putting complicated concepts into simple words that go deep.

 

 

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Pumpkin Power Muffins

The Thanksgiving holiday may have passed for this year, but in my neck of the woods, pumpkins are still quite in season, spilling out of my pantry. I roasted my own pumpkins for the thanksgiving pies, though I have one little pumpkin I spared, as my 5-year-old begged me not to “kill it too.”

But it won’t stay out of the oven long, as I’ve finally perfected my pumpkin muffins: No oil, no refined sugar, all natural, 100% whole grain. Nutty and rich-tasting, sweet enough yet completely nourishing. The recipe I was looking for online but couldn’t find anywhere, so I developed it myself. Sweetened by dates blended with milk to create a delishious slurry stirred into the batter. It’s perfect for any pumpkin puree left over from holiday baking, I used them to fuel my thanksgiving preping last week, and I’m counting on them to get me started on busy December mornings. At 7g of protein each, one fuels me all morning. So get baking and stock them in your freezer to pull out as needed and heat in the mornings to get you through the cold months ahead…

no oil, no refined sugar, 100% whole grain, all natural, delicious and packed with antioxidents and phytochemicals...what I'll do with the rest of pumkin

Pumpkin Power Muffins

25 minutes

Number of servings: 12

Per Serving 258 calories

Fat 6 g

Carbs 49 g

Protein 7 g

12
  • 20 mejool dates (pitted)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 c. pecans (or your choice of nuts. this is the south, y'all. we use pecans, pronounced "Pee-cans" around here)
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cardamon
  • 1 3/4 tsp pupmkin pie spice blend
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin

Soak dates in milk 10 minutes, and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and the spices until blended. Add eggs.

Blend the milk and soaked dates together well in a blender or food processor, then add to other ingredients. Mix well and pour into a 12 cup muffin pan.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until done.

Before you think to yourself: ”Wow, dates. I’ve never cooked with those, don’t even know if my grocer carries them….” Just check near the raisens in the dried fruit and nuts section of your store. You’ll find them there. And don’t be afraid of them; they’re a luscious sweet dried fruit that lends the deep sweetness like that of caramel or brown sugar to your recipes. But they are packed with nutrients and fiber that make them a wonderfully natural and healthy option for sweetening.

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DIY {free!} Christmas photo cards

Easy, free, way to make your own photocards for Christmas or anytime usine the free website oicmonkey. I saved $100 this year doing this!

Y’all, I’m not tech-savvy. In fact, you’ll see below that I can’t even figure out how to take a screenshot on my computer, so my ‘screenshots’ of this process involved snapping pics of my computer screen with my iphone. I know, so dorky. You can even see the reflections of our gorgeous fall foilage in the screen…

But even with my techie ignorance, I ‘ve figured out the free Picmonkey’s website, and created my own Christmas photo cards, which I can now print for the price of photos (MUCH cheaper than the companies that let you put your photo into their cute designs, like a dollar less per card!). It’s easy! I don’t have any affiliation or vested interest in picmonkey’s website. I just love using it, and was pretty thrilled to figure these things out.

Here is how you do it:

  1. Choose the photo or photos you want to include on the card.
  2. Go to picmonkey.com and click on “Edit a Photo” near the top of the screen if you only want to feature one photo, or “Create a Collage” if you want to have several photos on your card.
  3. Upload your photo (s).
  4. Now you get to customize your own design. There are SO many options:
  5. To add text,  click the “Tt” button on the far left of the screen and choose your font, then drag the text box to where you want it and size it as needed. If you have a dark area you could add white or light colored text directly over that area of the photo. Or vice-versa if you have a light area.
  6. Another option is to add an overlay in any color you desire, and then type the text on top of that. To add an overlay, click the butterfly icon on the far left of the screen. You can have an overlay in a huge variety of shapes. Scroll down the options in the column just to the left of your image to see all the options here. I added a long banner to my photo along the bottom (which you can find, obviously under “Banners”), and then typed my text over it.

    easy way to DIY free photocards

  7. To customize color, or size, or shape of the banner or overlay, or of any words you add, click once on the item you want to change and this box will pop up. See below where I can adjust my overlay of the “Merry Christmas” icon I choose (It’s found by clicking the snowflake on the far left column, then choosing “Santaland” from the column of options, then scroll down to click  ”Overlays” then “Season’s Messages”
  8. Also, see that little “Fade” sliding option on the Overlay control window in the photo above? You can slide that little dot back and forth to control how translucent any of your overlays look. You can make them faint so the image behind them is still visible, or keep them opaque like I did in my image.
  9. You can add frames. I used the Candy Cane frame, also found under the “Santaland” catagory. Make it as thick or thin as you like.

Just keep playing around with the program until you get a design you like. If you need inspiration, look through some of the photocards those big companies come up with for design ideas, and then customize it to make it your own. There are endless possibilities. You can even add the effect of snowfall to your photos! Or, if you want a tile look to your card, with one or more photos plus a seperate tile with your message in it, create the whole thing by going through the “Create a Collage” option in the beginning.

Once you are happy with your photocard, click “Save” and remember where you saved it on your computer. Then you can have it printed like a regular photo anywhere you like. Just remember to size it according to the envelopes you want to use so it will fit. Now your biggest expense will be postage!! I probably saved at least $100 this year making these myself. And I spent about the same amount of time making my own card as I did in previous years just looking through all the predesigned options and putting them together on those websites! The biggest thing I like about this way is the ability I have to customize my card to say exactly what I want, and look just how I choose.

Now I’m off to make my baby announcements the same way : )

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There were some bumps in the road toward the end y’all. Exercise came to a standstill because of my sciatica and fatigue. Somehow I slipped back into some old, bad eating habits those last couple weeks of pregnancy. I chalked the number on the scale at my two-week postpartum visit to water retention from the c-section. I figured it would be gone by the time I returned for the official 6-week visit. I didn’t necessarily overindulge those next few weeks, but I ate when I was hungry while I recovered and tried to sleep when I could.

Then halloween happened. I thought I strategized well, only buying candy to hand out that wasn’t my favorite type so I wouldn’t be tempted. Plus, there are so many questions in my head swirling about the unethical production of chocolate in some parts of the world, and the involvement of child labor, so I didn’t buy any chocolate. Long story short, no cute dressed up kids showed up at our door besides our own, and they walked the neighborhood like royalty and brought back piles of candy in their bags as they were the only kids out. We even had a well-meaning neighbor show up to give us all their leftover candy. I should have refused but I didn’t want to be rude. Our neighborhood is mostly families with older kids and retirees, and it was our first year trick-or-treating here so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

All these factors collided to create a lot of leftover candy in the house. Combined with the candy the kids brought home and the neighbors bag of chocolate temptation, and I was in a sea of hostile eating options. Hindsight now tells me that the best course of action would have been to let the kids enjoy some that night, maybe pick out a piece or two each for the next day, and then totally immediately thrown the rest into the garbage after they went to bed. But there was this part of me that irrationally felt it would be wasteful. Money had been spent on the candy and to trash it when there are starving kids in Africa who’ve never tastes such sweet confections? It felt wrong, in the moment. I know now looking back that I was making decision under the “influence” after a taste of my biggest weakness, which involved any kind of chocolate combined with peanut butter or anything remotely nutty. I could smell and taste and see the stuff, and the pull was strong. I hadn’t made enough of a plan for how to handle halloween candy going into the so-called “holiday” (I could write a whole other post on that ridiculousness), and by not planning, I made my big flaw and allowed the stash to stay in the cupboards a day. Two days. Then a week. All the while we eat nibbled away at it, our hunger for it only growing with each taste…

It was bad. Really bad.

I was so thrown off course, that even after the candy was gone, I even baked a pumpkin pie (not a healthy one) and ate most of it myself over a couple days, as apparently I’m the only one in the family that likes pumpkin pie.

{Note to myself next to read before Halloween next year: THROW IT ALL OUT. Maybe take out a few pieces that night for the kids, and a couple saved for the next day for each. Tell them ahead of time that this is how it will be. Have a lot of sweet, delicious fruit in the house instead. And chunk it in a garbage can. The outside one, with the flies and smells, so you won’t be tempted to pull anything back out! Forget this business about wasting it. If people were handing out cigarettes at their doors you wouldn’t hesitate to immediately cram them all in the garbage. The candy and the chocolates should illicit a similar response–they are so destructive to our health and can create an addiction!!}

All that happened the week prior to my 6-week follow up appointment. So when I arrived, the number on the scale was the exact same one as the number had been at 2-weeks. No loss. Perhaps I would have if the Halloween debackle hadn’t occurred. I don’t really know. What I do know is that while I expected to be 20 pounds down at this point from my pre-delivery weight, instead I only lost 15 pounds! So instead of being 15 pounds above my prepregancy weight, I’m a good twenty pounds up.

That leads me to…

losing weight after the c-section: a postpartum plan to shed the fat

I’ll admit, it’s discouraging to have to relose even a little of the weight I’d already lost prepregnancy. But I look at the tiny sleeping baby next to my desk here as I type and really, it’s OK. (But I still shoulda eaten less, no way around that.)

This past week I came down with Strep Throat, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Yes, it was miserable. But the silver lining: I didn’t want to eat much all week. It hurt to swallow. So I drank plenty of water and hot teas and ended up making some nice soups, as that’s all that felt good on my throat. I didn’t drink anything carbonated, which would hurt.

I’m feeling much better now, and the week of soups and teas seems to have reset my palate. I don’t crave sweets, or sodas. I just want good, wholesome things. I’m logging everything into MyFitnessPal, and wearing my FitBit bracelet around, which really does make me move more.

We are about to head into the Holiday Season, the 2-month long eating fest in which many gain 5-10 pounds. There were years I did, at least. I am making my game plan now, so I don’t find myself mad like I was after the Halloween fiasco I described above. Here are my health goals for this season. Three things that I’m “taking away”, three thing I’m putting in their place.

  1. Write every bite down in MyFitnessPal. Every day for the rest of this calendar year. No exceptions. No sneaks. If I indulge at a party, I’m not allowed to skip a day of logging. My calorie goal rests around 1800 calories a day at the lowest. More if I exercise, as I’m nursing and shouldn’t lose fat too fast.
  2. No candy in the house. I’m going to make some sort of plan for the kids’ stockings. Maybe we’ll forgo candy in them altogether, and just stick to toys or crayons or such. I’m not sure, all I know is I’m going to make a better plan in dealing with the candy influx than I did at Halloween. ‘Cause even if we don’t give them candy, society in the form of well-meaning school people and family will. And I’m not saying I won’t let them have any. I just don’t want to see us having a repeat of the week-long sugar fest we just suffered.
  3. No sodas in the house. This means diet sodas, as that was all we drank anyway. We’ve really kicked this around a lot, and made a couple half-hearted attempts. But my husband and I can clearly see that when we drink a diet soda, we relflexively reach for some kind of salty snack and we inetivably eat too much! Diet sodas seems to trigger overeating for us.
  4. Simple daily exercise. This will consist of 3 times a week push-ups, squats, lunges, and bicep curls, a plank a day, as well as my version of walking or speed-walking every day (more on why I’m not running for a while in a later post). I’m using two apps on my iphone for the push-ups and squats that will help me slowly build up to 100 pushups and 200 squats.
  5. Enjoy cooking with whole foods, especially plenty of veggies. Eat 7-9 servings of fruit and veggies daily.
  6. Enter the Season with Thanksgiving and Joy, focus on Worship as I prepare for Advent, and enjoy the company of family and friends rather than the false companionship of food. I’ll be reading a couple great Advent books which I’ll post about later, along with sticking to my regular Scripture reading plan.

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The Healthiest Scrumptous Breakfast Cookies

These helped me lose 50 pounds! Easy, whole food, no-sugar-added recipe.

Kitchen snapshopt of www.littleprogressnotes.com

This post is part of an October series about fitness, weight loss, and gluttony. To read all the posts in the series, see the index here.

I love portable whole-grain breakfasts for those days that we are in a hurry. I ran across the idea of these breakfast cookies over and over again in various online places, and finally came up with my own concoction that my kids seem to like and I feel good about feeding them! I made a big batch of them, and then froze a pile. In the morning before we headed out of the door, I nuked them in the microwave for maybe 15 seconds and they defrosted perfectly. Here’s the recipe:

Healthy Scrumptious Breakfast Cookies:

Ingredients:

3/4 cup uncooked old-fashioned oats, to grind into flour (I use a high speed blender, and measure before blending)

3/4 cup uncooked old-fashioned oats (not ground)

1/2 cup raisens or pitted dates

1/3 cup chopped nuts (I use pecans, becuase this is South Carolina and that’s what we grow here!)

2 and 1/2 ripe bananas

3/4 cup applesauce

1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Measure the 3/4 cup of oats into the blender and process it until fine. Add the applesauce, ripe bananas, and half of the raisens/dates, and blend until creamy. Add vanilla and blend it in as well.

Use a spatula to scrape the mixture out of the blender into a bowl. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes so the oats can absorb a little moisture.

Drop the dough onto a lined cookie sheet by spoonfuls, shaping each into a cookie round. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.

 

This recipe can certainly be customized in almost unlimited ways, with a little experimentation. We can have pumkin variety for fall, maybe adding in some cinnamon for that. Or add some little chocolate chips for a little treat.

This post has been linked to Thrifty Thrusday at Living Well Spending Less !

 

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Menu Planning for Better Health

This post is part of an October series about fitness, weight loss, and gluttony. To read all the posts in the series, see the index here.

I have found, over and over, that if I don’t make a plan, I eat junk. This accounts for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and anything in between, as well as holidays. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on cooking, or meal planning, or not messing up and accidently having no plan for dinner. But I’ll tell you what’s worked for me lately. It involves a combination of organizing my recipes, freezer cooking, meals from pantry staples, and working with seasonal produce as well.

There are some meals that you just have to have a ‘go-to’ plan most days. For me, that’s breakfast. I typically eat the same breakfast most mornings, a simple whole grain cereal with milk or almond milk, varying the fruit I add to it based on what’s in season. (Apples right now, for instance : ). I have the kids eat the same thing. They’ve never tasted those sugary-neon-colored concoctions known as kid’s cereals, and I’m hoping to keep it that way as long as possible.

I try to eat a salad for lunch, with perhaps some cheese or garbanzo beans for protein, or both. I love black olives, as well as any fresh produce from our garden. Soon our lettuce will start coming in!! Seriously– there is nothing like a salad of fresh picked lettuces to make you eat your veggies. Lately, I like the “Simply Dressed” line of salad dressings, which you can find refridgerated in the produce section. During the colder months, which around here are limited to December, January, and Febuary, I’ll typically have a pot of some kind of veggie soup in the fridge at all times, which I dip into for lunch or even a light dinner sometimes.

The biggest part of meal planning, as we all know, involves dinner! I have several strategies for this:

1. A centralized location for organizing recipes. I used to keep a binder full of cards and printouts, etc. Since I get so many recipes online these days (I perfer sites where you can read and see reviews, rather than getting recipes from pinterest), I have transitioned away from hard copies. Now, I use Ziplist. It has it’s issues but overall, its the best plan I’ve found. Do you want to know why? Within Ziplist, I have the option of clicking however many recipes I plan on preparing and either adding them to a meal calendar or adding them to the shopping cart or both! When the recipe is added to the shopping cart, it automatically organized every ingredient by aisle or store section (produce, canned, etc.) After I’ve chosen my recipes, I can scroll through that grocery list that was created and check off anything I already have. I usually just open up the ziplist app on my phone in the grocery store and check things off as I find them. But you have the option of keeping different lists for different stores or people, or emailing the list to someone elsy who might happen to pop into the grocer on the way home. I should do a whole post later on how I use Ziplist and all the other advantages it has.

Before I arrived at using ziplist, I tried the ipad App Paprika. I didn’t like it because when it made the grocery list from your selected recipes, it didn’t organize them by aisle. I think maybe it’s supposed to, but I could never get it to work.

2. Freezer Cooking. I stocked up on about 50 complete dinners in my freezer before my baby was born. I can’t tell you how glad I am to have them ready to go. I defrost the night before, and make sure before I go to the store each week that I have sides for everything on hand (rice, any broth needed for crockpot, salad, veggies, etc.). By bulk cooking/prepping all these meals at once, I cut down on clean up time, shopping time, prep time, etc.! I’m planning on keeping certain meals always on hand in the freezer by having a freezer cooking day every couple of weeks and restocking the favorite meals. Right now in there are lots of: whole-wheat-low-fat-high-veggie chicken pot pies, veggie lasagnas, pile of pre-prepped crockpot meals like Thai coconut chicken and Veggies, Green Curry Chicken and Veggies, Chicken Cacciatori. I also have plenty of frozen basil pesto I made when we needed to harvest the pesto from the garden. I also keep plenty of frozen fish filets for quick meals which I pick up when they are on sale, and frozen shrimp for use in jambalya (which I also have pre-prepped for the crockpot ready to add shrimp to at the end) and LowCountry Boils.

3. Go-to Pantry meals built around what you have on hand. These are last minute fill-ins. My list of these include: whole grain pastas with sugar-free spaghetti sauce from a jar, ramped up with whatever veggies we have on hand after they are sauted in a little EVOO and garlic. Black-eyed peas paired with whole grain rice (I add some other stuff to the peas for flavor too). Black beans cooked with some Mexican seasonings and rice paired with whatever mexican topping we have (shredded lettuce, olives, peppers, jalepenos, lite sour cream and maybe a little cheese and some chips, etc.). Butter beans, which I cook simply with salt, pepper, and Italian blend spices.

4. The Blackboard and the iphone/ipad calendar: I don’t like to plan meals more than a couple weeks out, since I like to see what I feel like and investigate what our garden produces well and what is in season. I wish I was better at paying attention to store sales. But for now the way I plan is two-fold. I have a long list on the kitchen blackboard which includes every meal in our freezer (in case I forget) as well as our favorite recipes to jog my memory in case I somehow can’t come up with ideas (for some reason I really am bad at remembering what we’ve enjoyed in the past that’s healthy. The blackboard is kind of the “master list” which I refer to when making our weekly plan. The weekly plan I make is simply done–I simply add the meals for each night onto the calendar on my phone/ipad. This keeps me on track.

Menu Planning that will help you drop the pounds!

 

5. A master shopping list. To keep up with the basic staples I like to keep on hand to create our favorite recipes, I made a word document that contains all our most-used foods. Then I printed out like 50 copies of it, and walk around my kitchen circling things we need as I take a quick inventory. I also keep household items we need regularly on it so I don’t forget toilet paper. I take this with me and refer to it along with our ziplist grocery list of the dinner recipe foods.

 

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My Past Race Results

This post is part of an October series about fitness, weight loss, and gluttony. To read all the posts in the series, see the index here.

I’ve been thinking about how much I love road races and the fun surrounding them. They really give me focus and a goal in trying to improve my PR. I’m not a fast runner at all, as you can see from my previous race times. I finally looked up my old race times from the years I was in med school. I didn’t consider myself much of a runner, but so many friends were running the Cooper River Bridge Run, I think that’s what got me started running when I was in Charleston.

I had a gorgeous route I used to jog through downtown Charleston during my second and third years of med school. I lived downtown, and I’d take a road down to the old Battery and run all the way from the Coast Guard base along the waterfront, down past all those old mansions, and then into waterfront park. I’d loop through it and back down to Broad Street, and then head back across the peninsula along that quaint street past the gorgeous shops to my apartment, which was in a tall building overlooking the Ashley River. It was a great route, especially as the sun dipped down. The Cooper River would start to turn lavendar by the time I got over to Waterfront Park, and I’d just have so much to see and admire as I went.

I’ve definititely missed running the last couple months–but just a little over a week from now, I’ll be cleared to start back again. I do my best thinking and destressing while running.

 

2002 Cooper River Bridge Run, Charleston, SC 10K race time: 1:13:21

2002 Kiawah Island Half Marathon, Kiawah, SC Half Marathon race time: 2:51:44

2003 Cooper River Bridge Run, Charleston, SC 10K race time: 1:21:00

2005 Cooper River Bridge Run, Charleston, SC -walked this one in the rain- 10K race time 2:19:51

2011 Cooper River Bridge Run, Charleston, SC 10K race time 1:35:52

2012 Cooper River Bridge Run, Charleston, SC 10K race time 1:29:00 That year the race started over an hour late! We were so tired, hungry, and the sun was beating down by the time we finally started!

2012 Isle of Palms Connector Run, Isle of Palms, SC 10K race time 1:14:55

 

 

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Neurons, Bloggers, and the Body of Christ

So, I went to a blogging conference. Since this isn’t really a blog about blogging, I’m not going to go into piles of detail. But this is a blog where I occasionally talk about Jesus. And faith. And some social commentary on the church, at times. What, you might ask, does blogging have to do with those topics, though? Let me begin.

As I sat in the back of the big sessions with my baby* at the mama/baby table conveniently provided, I had some suprising observations.

You must understand going into this that most people who know me in real life have no idea I write a blog. I suppose I’ve considered it something of an indulgence. A hobby of sorts. But maybe one that might appear to others to be glory-seeking. Or time-sucking. Or just silly. Or maybe all three.

We know that the Church is the body of Christ; It’s spoken of in 1 Corinthians Chapter 12 (starting in verse 12):

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ….14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body…

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

 

Since there is a bit of anatomy of the Church Body in the way it’s discussed in scriptures, and since I’ve taken Gross Anatomy, even tutured it, back in my med school days, I had some thoughts on where the growing community of Christian woman bloggers, such as the women at Allume with me, currently fit in the church body.

It seems to me they have the most in common with the Nervous System.

(Image from http://visual.merriam-webster.com/human-being/anatomy/nervous-system/peripheral-nervous-system.php)

The human nervous system transmits thousands of impulses a minute across an intricate web through the body and the brain, and back out again. There are branches and long axons that create a complex and intricate network of rapid and mysterious communication, helping to keep the entire body in check. If there is pain in a foot that steps on a nail, the rest of the body finds out with lightning speed. When there’s a need to to move the body out of danger, the nervous system will cooridnate the thousands of small impulses needed to accomplish this apparently simple feat.

Let me ask you this: How many hundreds of thousands of Christian homes in America have a women who opens a computer, or tablet, or even phone to pop onto even one of these many blogs written by Christian women each day? I’m willing to bet this fluid and ‘unofficial’ network of writers online reach into the millions of households across the country.

There are among these bloggers many who tell stories of pain in the Church. Of orphans in need of homes, of impoverished family who need simple compassion, of injustice, and of those held in bondage. The messages are sent out, and wells are dug, children find homes, families are sponsered, brothel doors are kicked down, and countless prayers are uplifted from the hearts of believers who have read the stories of need across the globe. Christ, the Head, hears these prayers.

They are truth-proclaimers, story-tellers. None would claim they are perfect or have it all figured out, but they overcome their fear of their critics to storm the web. When has the Christian church had the ability to know the needs of it’s members so quickly and thoroughly and easily? And by those who aren’t considered the experts, but rather simply the sheep?

Certainly the Internet carries much, much evil and darkness within its void. But there is a rising tide of voices, some large, some small, some with many listeners, others with only a handful. Together, they whisper and speak and even shout the stories of Redemption. Of Grace. Of Resurrection. The little keys on a thousand keyboards typed by farmer’s wives and busy moms and former lawyers and doctors and seasoned homeschooling mamas and tired, worn out new moms, and single Christian ladies can and have created a thundering cascade of comminication across this Body we call the Church.

The nerves have nothing if not connected to the head. And there are diseases that strike the nervous system as sure as any other.

The body can suffer paralysis if a severing occurs. Or if a partial damage occurs in certain parts of the spinal cord, numbness can be an issue as well. There are diseases that find their worst effect by travelling slowly, creeping up the axons from the point of infection back up to the brain. Rabies for instance, can start at the hand where an animal bite transmitted, and creep along the nerves for months to reach the brain and cause death. Then there is leprosy– because a body part doesn’t sense pain, it can be lost.

Sin can have the same effect among these Christians communicating on the internet. Channels of communication can close because of ill-written words or self-seeking gain. Could a finger, or small joint, or even a whole hand in the Body find it’s whole function impaired from such a breech? Perhaps so.

So can blogging be self-glory-seeking? Of course. But I’ve now seen it can also be GOD-Glory-seeking and God-Glory-telling and God-Glory-proclaiming about the splendor of Christ and the beauty of his Body. So that’s why I had to just say a little something about Allume.

*Given that I have a 4-and-a-half-week-old baby, I wasn’t sure I’d even be able to attend. I live less than two hours driving distance from Greenvile, however. So I figured when I bought the ticket, that I’d just sell it if the little man was a colicky one. Thankfully, he’s actually my most mellow baby yet. So he happily slept or quietly nursed through all the conference sessions. Given my germophobia, I’d calculated that he would actually be exposed to fewer germs in a conference where the women, most of whom have been mothers, know better than to say, sneeze on his face, as opposed to being home with 2- and 5- year old siblings who do exactly that, among other things.

 

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He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise. -Henry David Thoreau

 

I’ve been reading a book called Eating Mindfully, by Susan Alberts. I’m still making my way through it, so I’ll probably have more to say about it later. So far there’s not a lot I haven’t heard before, but I can always use a reminder to stop and slow down, and smell the roses, so to speak, while I enjoy food.

It seems no matter what we are doing at any particular moment in life–playing with our children, eating a meal, or driving around on errands, it is always a fight to live right there in that moment. To keep our minds present in thanksgiving of the current situation, rather that recalling the past or chewing on future plans. This is definitely an issue for me. I can’t even count the occasions just during the past weekend where I mindlessly grabbed a bite of birthday cake–not even enjoying it, or rushed out the door and shoved a whole grain granola bar into my bag to eat quickly just to fend off hunger. The excuses are always there {I’ve got a newborn/a 5-year-old-birthday party to throw/I’m sick and haven’t slept more than 3 hours at once in weeks}. But I don’t even remember tasting some things. To slow, to stop, to taste, and most importantly to give thanks for the simple things–why must it be such a challenge?

When we sit down to dinner at our old wooden table, my children sing the blessing over our food. Sometimes they fight over who gets to do it. Sometimes we manage to get them to agree to do sing it in unison. I need to take that moment, sing that song in my heart, the song of “…we thank You, we thank You; for our many blessings, for our many blessings, A—a—men, A–a–men.”

{ps- that’s my amazon affiliate link above. If you happen to shop through it, thanks for the support.}

 

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Its the little things

How many times have you heard someone recommend taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking far out in the parking lot, and other such small doses of activity to add to your day, all in the interest of burning a handful more calories. Anyone else ever give those sage words an inward eye-roll? I have. I used to think that exercise didn’t ‘count’ unless I’d at least worked up a sweat or logged a good 22 plus minutes straight. Little extra bits of walking, a few flights of stairs here and there? Humbug, I’d thought. Wouldn’t make a real difference.

Then I started wearing a pedometer around the hospital, especially on call nights. The bragging rights about how far I’d gone in a 30 hour shift were real. So I walked more, maybe took more stairs. I realized right away that knowing those little things added up meant something if I could actually see numbers (in the form of fractions of miles) add up on my little pedometer screen. After my first baby, when I really started making the {slow} changes to improve my health, I got a fancier version of a pedometer, which I’d seen contestants on the Biggest Loser sporting around their upper arms. I’d wear it and then each night look at how many calories it said I’d burned that day. I could look at a graph and see a spike during the morning boot camp class I’d been taking. But, there were also other spikes throughout the day–and that’s when I realized those were the little moments I’d done something strenuous for a minute or two. And then I stopped rolling my eyes when I heard the old “take the stair” line.

So, those small things really did add up. I tried experiments wearing my little calorie monitor. Days I worked sitting versus standing, stuff like that. It all confirmed the little-spurts-add-up-to-equal-a-lot theory.

In recent news theres been a lot of talk about sitting “being the new smoking”–as in the dangers of a sedentary day to your heath are huge, even if you go for a 2 mile run every day before going to your sedentary job. Now some people are using standing desks for all or part of their work days, even more companies producing treadmills that can be fit under a standing desk and allow you to walk at a very slow pace while typing away at your computer or talking on the phone. I totally want one of these cool treadmill desks. But since most of my day involves raising three little ones, I’m on my feet and moving a lot as it is. I recently read this article about how each minute of intense exercise has a direct effect on your health. Quite encouraging for a busy mom who can’t get in a 30 minute run a lot of days but can do a handful of squats here, and a dozen push-ups there.

I’m still not cleared to do a whole lot more than walking and light housework while I recover from my c-section, but I did order a Fitbit flex and tried it out a little. So far I’m liking it. It’s better than the old school calorie monitor I tried a few years ago, since I can check my daily burn on my iphone app in real time. And I love how I was able to sinc it to MyFitnessPal app. I’m pretty sure it will get me moving more, even in those little bursts that feel like they don’t “count”, even though they do. There are all sorts of pedometers and calorie monitors out on the market. Have you tried any?

 

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Musings and links

I made it outside this past weekend for my first solo walk since my c-section not quite 3 weeks ago. I walked a little way, not even a mile, along my normal running route. There are a couple small farms I pass, where chickens usually roam, as well as some livestock, all with beautiful views of a lake peeking around the corners. Our leaves haven’t really started to turn quite as much as they have in other parts of the country. But the fall colors have just started to reveal themselves a little, and it was crisp out as I walked. I really do miss running, but have to wait 3 more weeks at least. I asked my OB if I really had to wait 6 whole weeks before running. I wondered if I could start sooner if I felt up to it. (Maybe I started running at 5 weeks after my last baby…maybe). She said the magic words that did all that was needed to keep me from sneaking an early run in. “Stress incontinence.” Apparently the pelvic floor is just not ready for the high impact of running until 6 weeks. Too early could have some big ramifications when I’m older. That was all she needed to say. As much as I miss it, I’ll stick to walking for a few more weeks.

Anyway, I thought I’d put a couple links in today’s post. I want to post about some success stories before I post about the stats of weight loss later this week. Reading success stories gives me great encouragement in believing that change is possible.

Michele, one of the commenters here, just celebrated 100 pounds lost! (Congrats, Michele!) Read  this post about her journey and celebration. I just discovered her blog, but love her posts and the way she has grown in faith while losing the extra pounds. Also love the name of her blog!

Diane writes a blog called “Fit to the Finish” after losing 150+ pounds, and keeping it off for 15 years! Oh, and she did this while raising her 7 kids!

 

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