Looking at ourselves and the world through the lens of the 21st century.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Heard it on the Podcast - September 28, 2022


Did you miss a link we mentioned on the podcast? Here's a quick post we'll do every Wednesday to share any links or information from the podcast. We'll also keep a running post on the "Links from the Podcast" tab so you can refer back to any previous episode. Here's the links for this week:

S2E40: Camp Cooking without a Campfire

*Note: Do not use scented candles for your Buddy Burners unless you want your food to taste like the candles; we used blocks of paraffin wax you can buy at the grocery store. When we made our Vagabond Stoves we used a large coffee can that we cut with tin snips.  Also, we did not put holes in the top of the can...just the sides, that way you can use the surface of the can as a griddle for eggs, pancakes, and even bacon!

    Monday, September 26, 2022

    Camping Recipes for Burn Bans

    Hi there, readers! This is Cindy, and I am kicking off this week’s series of blogs and podcasts with a discussion of a family favorite…camping. More specifically, I’m talking about camping without a campfire. The drought this summer has meant that many counties in Texas are under burn bans, and that makes a campfire or bonfire quite dangerous as high winds and dry vegetation can quickly carry a single spark and turn it into an out-of-control wildfire. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go camping or that you can’t cook all those yummy camping foods. On this week’s podcast we talk about the multitude of ways you can prepare some of our camping favorites, so tune in (you can listen right here on the blog by clicking over to the “Listen” tab!), and feel free to share your favorite tips either here on the blog or over in our MMC Chat Facebook group.  We’d love to hear from you!

    For today’s blog, I will share with you a couple of easy-peasy recipes we used while camping with Girl Scouts. Enjoy!

    Download a PDF of Both Recipes!

    Thursday, September 22, 2022

    Projects in Progress - An Update

    This week on the podcast, Christen asked us about our current projects, and we got into a lengthy discussion about what we’ve been working on, unfinished projects, and projects that we finally gave up on. I thought this would be a great opportunity to share some updates on several of the projects and topics we’ve covered since we began this podcast and blog last November. 

    December Daily: I just posted an update on this project in August, but in case you missed it, yes, I am still obsessed, and yes, I did get up early on August 31 to order my kits. I got almost everything I wanted, but I was very disappointed that a set of stencils was already sold out by the time I added it to my box and checked out. Now it’s just a waiting game for November to arrive so I can start the classes that go along with all the fun supplies I bought, and I’ll probably also begin making a few foundation pages so I can just print photos and add some quick journaling once December finally comes. Until then, I can start sketching out a few ideas and I can get this craft room cleaned up so I have someplace to work! But that’s another project altogether….

    One Little Word:
      I’m still working on my OLW project. September’s prompt feels particularly difficult to me because it is a photo prompt, and I am having a hard time concentrating on how best to capture the prompt phrases with photography in a meaningful way. I don’t have time to get out the camera during the day when the lighting is right, and everything I’ve tried to capture so far has not done the job. I think part of the problem is that I just haven’t had the time to sit with my feelings and my camera, and so the photos I’ve taken have not been anything more than superficial and bland. In the meantime, I just keep taking pictures and hoping that when I come back to them at the end of the month, I will have captured the essence of the prompts and will be happy with them. I usually am, but it’s just so hard.

    PowerSheets and Happy Planners:  December Daily isn’t the only project with product launches in the fall.  In the past few weeks, I’ve also scoped out the new planner I will be using for 2023 – this gorgeous disc-bound beauty from Happy Planner. I love that it is minimalistic with neutral colors so I can personalize it to my own tastes. I also love the hard cover, which makes it much more sturdy and portable than the traditional Happy Planners. 

    The 2023 PowerSheets won’t launch until October 12, but coming up on October 1 is the quarterly refresh. I’ve been thinking a lot about what goals I will revise, drop, and adopt for this last quarter of 2022. I started the last quarter with most of the same goals I have been chasing since the start of the year and I was all geared up to blast through them with a surge of productivity and motivation, but before July was over, I received some news that had me changing my perspective. Suddenly, many of those goals were on hold or were not important at all, and other priorities took their place. Now, I’m taking a hard look at where I spend my time and what is really important to me, and I’m thinking a reboot might be in order.

    Christmas Cards:
      I have a confession…I did not send Christmas cards last year. Yes, we did an episode about cards, and I talked about how I send dozens of them every year, but when push came to shove, I just didn’t get mine done in time. Blame it on the time-consuming project of moving my mother out to a memory-care facility, moving our dear friend, Koy, in, tending to Koy’s medical and social needs, our bout with COVID in November, or even the remodeling project that that started in November and didn’t end until January, I just did not finish my cards. So here they still sit, waiting for me to finish them and send them out this year.  What I did do last year was to write a nice letter (with an apology for the lack of cards) and call it done. I also spent some time this summer reassessing the design of the cards to lessen the assembly time, and I picked up where I left off. This was a good thing, because I made a critical mistake when I cut one of the pieces, and I had to cut about 150 pieces over again. Needless to say, I am still working on the cards, bit by bit, and hope to have them finished in November.

    Mindful Messages Journal:  I think I mentioned this on the podcast, but I’m not sure. Last year for Christmas, Amber gave me a deck of “Mindful Messages” oracle cards. This lovely deck features suggestive reminders to stay positive, grounded, and grateful while encouraging independence, authenticity, and individuality. I started the year by adding them to my daily card draw along with my tarot and oracle cards, and I quickly decided I wanted to use them as a jumping-off point for a little creative journaling each day. An A5 dot-grid journal made a perfect canvas for a little stamping, and I’ve tasked myself with journaling a positive and meaningful affirmation every day, illustrated by a stamped or hand-drawn image. The artwork is doubly useful: it helps cement the affirmation in my memory and mindset, and it is forcing me to use the thousands of stamps I’ve collected over the years, some of which have never been opened. When I can’t find a relevant stamp, I either piece an image together using multiple stamps, or I sketch an appropriate icon or symbol. It’s been a fun and creative challenge for me, and I often flip back through previous pages, further embedding the positive messages in my psyche. It truly is a win-win!

    Cleaning and Organizing:  Yeah…no. The plan in January was to get my house back in order after all the renovations and the revolving door of housemates, but everything seems to have taken so much longer than I thought it would.  I finally got my curtains hung and my living and dining rooms pieced back together just in time for our recent Labor Day BBQ, but I still have a stack of artwork and photos that need to be hung in the spare bedroom, and my garage is still stacked waist-high with boxes. I ask for help, and I get crickets. On top of this, my craft room/office/studio is still overrun by boxes of my mother’s mementos that need to be sorted, cleaned, and…well, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all of it. This “organization” project (or projects) is going to have to stay on hold until I finish my most pressing project – my taxes. More on that later….

    Weight Loss:  Okay, so here’s one project that has been going pretty well. I’ve talked about my struggles with weight loss, diabetes, arthritis, and my busy schedule. I may have even mentioned my extreme dislike for exercise or anything that causes sweat, but did I tell you about my love-hate relationship with medication? On the one hand, there are some pretty fantastic medications that help me with my blood sugar, but on the other, they are very, very expensive. Many medications cause a plethora of side effects that are miserable enough to make The Hulk cry. One such drug had the horrible side effect of causing severe edema in my legs and feet, and the drug itself was so ineffective (but cheap!) that it didn’t even really work. I wound up gaining 35 pounds that immediately started to drop off again once I changed medications, albeit very slowly.  I’m still 12 pounds over where I was this time last year, but it is coming off. Still, it’s very frustrating to see your hard work go to naught, and to have the medicine that is supposed to make you better actually make you worse. All in all, I am very fortunate to have settled on a drug cocktail that is working well, with (mostly) tolerable side effects, and although I am going to have to get more diligent if I’m going to meet my year-end weight loss goal, I could still do it.

    Unfinished Craft Projects:  This topic ties into so many episode topics that we’ve already covered…self-care, balancing home and work, motivation…the list could go on and on. I have a craft room full of unfinished projects, many of which I still want to tackle if I could only do a better job of managing my time. I keep telling myself, “If I could just finish…” then I would have time for…but I’m not sure that’s even true. Things, tasks, responsibilities, people, and problems always seem to have a way of appearing at the most inopportune time – it never ends. And while everyone agrees that self-care is important, it does not pay the bills, wash the laundry, or write that business proposal, so most of the time, that self-care or downtime (or whatever you want to call it) has to wait. I did manage to sneak in some mindless diamond painting while I edited podcasts, finishing a piece I started at Christmas last year, and I have almost finished binding a table runner I started about 18 months ago. I’ve also been trying very hard to catch up on (or at least not get further behind with) my weekly Project Life photo album. I’m going to have to start working a little faster if I’m going to get caught up by the end of the year.

    Travel Business:  After a nearly two-year hiatus due to COVID, my cruise business is finally picking up again. Last month, I signed on with the GreenMan Studios in Southlake to organize a holistic cruise, and I’m working with a couple of scholastic groups for scholarship fundraiser cruises. Families are starting to want to travel more, too, so I’m staying pretty busy. I’m not complaining because this is the kind of work I love to do, and I’ve been missing it. Still, it’s hard to get back into the swing of things, and with so many other projects demanding my time, I’m worried about what might have to take a backseat. You can bet it won’t be something I want to pass off to someone else or just drop altogether. It will likely be one of those fun creative projects I’ve been looking forward to finishing up. Oh well….

    Bookkeeping and Taxes:  I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate this right now. Do you get that I hate it? Normally, this would not be a big deal, but when my mother moved in with us in January 2020, I was just getting ready to sit down and dig into my 2019 taxes. I kept trying to work on them, but she was such a distraction, and then COVID happened. Not only was I incapable of working on the 2019 taxes, but the 2020 weekly bookkeeping fell woefully behind, and I didn’t get 2019 finished until my extension expired in the fall. Then I started in on the 2020 bookkeeping but still had the same problems…there were too many people in my house, too much noise, too many distractions, and I just got further and further behind. I finished the 2020 bookkeeping just in time to file my taxes in October (thank GOD for extensions!), and then I started on 2021. That’s where I am now. I don’t have all the same people in the house, but the distractions are still there…cleaning up and restoring order after the renovations, medical appointments, more medical appointments, friends, family, and now it looks like I might need to move Mom again in the next few months. I’m currently adding the July receipts into my accounting software, and I think I have about two weeks to get it all wrapped up so the accountant can get it sent off to the IRS in time. It takes a full 12-hour day of work with no distractions to do one month’s worth of bookkeeping. I have no idea how I will get it done.

    So that’s the basics of all the projects I’m working on right now. There are probably a ton of little things I forgot, but I think you can see the bigger picture…I’ve got my hands in a lot of different pies. Some are golden and delicious, and some are pure mud, but I guess that’s the essence of life anyway, isn’t it? We have a lot of stuff we must do in order to afford the stuff we want to do, or maybe just so we can appreciate the stuff we really enjoy. In the end, it’s all just stuff and it is what we make of it.

    Are you as busy as I am? Do you have a lot of projects in progress? Are there projects you hate but you still have to do them? Tell us about it in the comments, or start a conversation on the MMC Chat Facebook group.


    Wednesday, September 21, 2022

    Heard it on the Podcast - September 21, 2022


    Did you miss a link we mentioned on the podcast? Here's a quick post we'll do every Wednesday to share any links or information from the podcast. We'll also keep a running post on the "Links from the Podcast" tab so you can refer back to any previous episode. Here's the links for this week:

    S2E39: Current Projects

    Here's a few of the projects we talked about on the podcast:

    Cindy's projects are linked on her blog coming out tomorrow. If you have questions about any of our projects, feel free to comment below!

    Monday, September 19, 2022

    What Are You Doing Right Now?

    Hey guys! As you know, we are busy gals; not only do we blog and host a podcast, but we also have several hobbies as well! Shocking, I know. I am sure you have heard us mention several of them on previous podcast episodes as well as in our blogs. We scrapbook, camp, hike, bike, fish, cook, sew, explore local businesses, and create so many things with our hands. This week on the podcast we will be talking about the various projects that we are currently working on. I don’t want to give too much away; you will just have to check out the podcast when it comes out on Wednesday! 

    One project that was not mentioned on the podcast, merely because it became “a thing” just today, is this awesome secretary desk that I picked up off the side of the curb. I was on my way to have brunch with some friends and saw someone in my neighborhood was having a garage sale. I spotted the desk and I was in love at first sight, but I didn’t want to be late for our reservation, so I told myself that if it was still for sale when I got back home, I would buy it. Well, the sale was over, and they had left it curbside. Out here, that means “free for the taking”, and if you want it, grab it before someone else does. It was a sign that it was meant to be mine, so I sent my husband over to retrieve it for me. It needs some cleaning up, and I want to redo the knobs. I am really excited about its potential. I know just where to put it.

    Once I get the project started, I will have to share my results. I plan to put it in my office and store all of my metaphysical books, crystals, moon water, and altar objects on it! Be sure to check back soon for an update.

    Saturday, September 17, 2022

    Happiness from the Inside

    Some people have accused me of always being happy like I’m some kind of Pollyanna (and if you don’t get that reference, you definitely are not in my age demographic!), who’s perpetually happy and always looking at the bright side of things. That’s not exactly true, to which my family will attest, but I am exceptionally good at hiding my inner darkness from the general public, and I am learning to find the light and the good when I feel like all is gloom and doom. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the case. Let me tell you a bit about my history and how I became the person I am today.

    I couldn’t tell you when I first heard the phrase, “Happiness comes from within,” but I always thought it was a big crock of…B.S. Even when I was a small child, I knew that happiness doesn’t just happen, and I really couldn’t find a whole lot to be “happy” about. I grew up poor. dirt poor. Some of my extended family would probably be surprised when I say there was a time in my childhood when my mother gave us popcorn and tomatoes for a meal because that was all we had. I was young, so I don’t know if it was just one day, or a week, or what, but I remember it distinctly. I remember our utilities being cut off – several times. And on at least one occasion, I’m pretty sure we were suddenly evicted from a rent house. It was nighttime, and we had just started a move from one house to another, but at the new house, we learned that the landlord wouldn’t let us move in, so we had to find somewhere else to move very quickly. I once counted, and we had moved 12 times before I made it to the age of 13.

    Some of the houses we lived in were dumps, like the one-bedroom, shotgun shack on the edge of town where the front room served as both the living room and bedroom for my parents. My sister and I shared a double bed in the pass-through bedroom, and I’m pretty sure my brother slept on a cot or the couch in the front room. One house was an old farmhouse out in the country with big holes in the sheetrock between the rooms upstairs. There were rats everywhere, and the front entry was so full of junk that we couldn’t even use the front door. After that we moved into a tiny two-bedroom mobile home that was so small that my parent’s king-sized bed fit wall-to-wall, trapping their bedroom door in the open position, and blocking the use of the built-in drawers under the tiny closets. My brother, sister, and I slept on a mattress on the floor of what had once been the second bedroom, but the wall had been removed to make more space. It was crowded with dressers, extra beds, and furniture we’d brought with us from larger homes. Those all got sold off when we moved to the next trailer house, even the double bed that had been passed down to me by my grandmother.

    That next trailer was ours. My parents bought it from a cousin. It was only two bedrooms, and the rooms were small, but we owned it. When they first bought the 3-high, army-surplus bunk beds, they cut them down to remove the bunk in the middle, and then used some kind of pipe to spread them out and give the lower bunk more headroom.  The idea was that all three kids would “hot bunk”, meaning we would rotate who slept in which bed every night, with one person sleeping on a mat that slid under the lower bunk. That didn’t last long. The bed had no ladder, and my little brother, who was only 8 at the time, couldn’t get to the top bunk by himself, so he started sleeping on the living room couch again. My sister was less than enthusiastic about the claustrophobic conditions of the upper bunk, so she took the lower bed, and I, with my limber agility and lack of fear, wound up on the top bunk until I graduated high school and moved out.

    I could write epic tomes about my life in these various places, but the real point is that I didn’t think real happiness was even possible for me. I blamed my unhappiness on my upbringing and poo-pooed the ideas and ideology of people raised in more fortunate conditions than I. What did they know about being happy in the face of poverty? They didn’t have to worry about where their next meal was coming from. They didn’t have to wear hand-me-down clothes from their “little sister” or fight for privacy in a home with no doors. How could anyone be happy in those conditions? Likewise, I never understood people who had it all and threw it away, whined and complained, or became depressed when they obviously had it way better than me. What I didn’t realize back then, is that I would not have been happy even if my parents were rich and I was spoiled beyond belief because happiness stems from gratitude, and gratitude starts on the inside. It starts with attitude. 

    Changing your attitude to one of gratitude is often a very subtle shift that can have profound ramifications. Many years ago, a sweet friend of mine shared a crafty idea of decorating (and using) a gratitude jar. The concept is simple and flows along the lines of “count your blessings.” Whenever something good, something happy, or something positive happens in your life, document it; no matter how big or small, write it on a little slip of paper and put it in your jar. At the end of a week, a month, or a year (you decide), go back and read those happy thoughts to remind yourself of how much you have to be grateful for. I was going through a little bout of depression at the time, so I thought it would be a good idea.

    I’ve detailed the process of creating my little gratitude jar on my Crafty Neighbor blog. I kept small pieces of paper handy so that any time something good or positive happened, I could jot it down and put it in the jar. I documented everything... “I found the bracelet I thought I had lost,” “Christen got a raise and promotion at work,” and I “won $5 in the Albertson’s Monopoly game.” At the end of the year, I took all those little slips of paper covered with happy thoughts and created the scrapbook page you can see here.

    Seeing all those blessings in one place was a powerful reminder that life is not always negative, that even in spite of the storms, there is often a rainbow, and that life works in cycles of ups and downs. When we stop focusing on the negative things, the positive things are able to shine through. It’s important that we stop throwing a wet blanket over our pretty little candle of hope and happiness and let that light shine, because when you do, you will find that there’s a lot to be grateful for, even in the darkest moments, and as long as there is even one thing to be grateful for, we can learn to find peace and happiness in that. Happiness really does come from the inside…we just have to stop blocking the light. 

    I hope you can find a way to focus on the little blessings and feel the light and joy within yourself. If you’ve ever kept a journal or blessings jar, I’d love for you to share your experience with us either here, in the comments, or over on the MMC Chat Facebook group. Helping others find that light is just one more thing to be happy about!

    Thursday, September 15, 2022

    Crescent City on a Dime

    Hi there, it’s Christen! This week on the podcast Amber brought up a great topic, dining out on a special diet. I enjoyed this topic because not only do Travis and I both have special dietary guidelines we try to follow, but we also have budgetary restrictions when it comes to dining out. He is diabetic, and I am a bariatric patient. We are also hoping to buy a house in the near future. Planning ahead and committing to the plan will ensure you don’t get too crazy and go off our budgets, not only with the calorie intake, but financially.

    As I mentioned last week on the blog, the three of us went to New Orleans, Louisiana, also known as NOLA. If you are not familiar, NOLA is well known for its unique culture. The cuisine, music, history, and religious practices are a mixture of French, Spanish, Caribbean, and African-American, commonly known as either Cajun or Creole. When I travel, my main goal is to explore the local culture by enjoying the eateries, visiting history and art museums, and enjoy the present moment, by either relaxing, having a high adventure, or just doing something I love with people that I love. So since we were planning a trip to NOLA, I wanted to ensure we got to try it all. I hope you know me well enough to know where this conversation is going… planning!

    You cannot go to Louisiana without trying the simple, yet sinfully delicious deep fried pastries called beignets! They also are known for their use of crawfish, andouille sausage, boudin, andouille sausage, grits, the Holy Trinity, duck, frogs, alligator and shrimp. One of the things that I love is trying new foods. Thankfully, Travis is also somewhat adventurous when it comes to trying food. I am still working on him with seafood, but we are getting there. I make it a goal to try all of the quintessential dishes, especially when traveling to a place so well known for their food. I decided that I needed to have a bucket list of must haves while on our trip.

    • Po Boys
    • Étouffée
    • Savory Grits
    • Pontchartrain Sauce
    • Crawfish Pie
    • Gumbo
    • Jambalaya
    • Red Beans and Rice
    • Fried Frog Legs
    • Fried Alligator Tail
    • Beignets
    • Chicory Coffee

    We had already set a budget when we set money aside for our trip. I recommend paying cash so that when the waiter brings your check, you can pay, tip, and leave without having to wait for them to bring your card back. Seeing the money in my hands helps me keep an eye on how much we have left. Knowing how much we could spend on our trip helped us narrow down what types of establishments we could afford. We also opted for water instead of expensive beverages at restaurants. This helped us stay hydrated and probably saved us anywhere from $36-$48 plus the incremental tax and tip that would have accompanied. The one drink I did manage to purchase was planned, and I was so glad I spent my money on it!

    Research and Recommendations
    When you are traveling, it can be hard to make quick, smart decisions on where to eat. It almost feels like decision fatigue, so, to prevent that from taking up time on our trip, we planned where to eat ahead of time. I did a lot of research to find the best places for certain things; I wanted to make sure that we got a wide variety, not just quick and cheap, but also try some fine dining and local favorites. My first step was to listen to what my friends and family had to say. Amber and Cindy had both been to NOLA recently, so they both had great recommendations. We were not able to try all the same places, but I picked out the must-haves and worked them into my itinerary. I ensured that each restaurant I chose was near whatever tourist destinations we were heading for that day, since we were on foot most of our trip. This ensured that we made it on time and spent less time wandering around lost. For the other meals, I used Google maps to locate high rated eateries within my budget. I could easily determine if the restaurant was in my price range and offered the type of food that I wanted based on other Google users' photos and reviews. Most of the restaurants have a photo of their menu, just click on the images and scroll through to see if the food is appetizing and affordable.

    Don’t Over Eat
    Be open to sharing your food! Travis and I knew we wouldn't be able to try all of the foods that we wanted on such a short trip. We opted to order two menu items that we both wanted to try so we could split them. The first day, all three of us ordered individual meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Although we shared the food we ordered, we still over-ate. That totaled 9 meals for one day. By the time we got to dinner, our eyes were hungry but we filled up fast. We learned the next day to order less food. Since I am a bariatric patient, I can only eat so much as it is, so this was easy for me to munch off of both of their meals, or have a smaller portion if something was offered a la carte. This helped cut back on food waste, too, since we can’t take it home with us. 

    Fried Brie Burger at Trenasse

    Louisiana Crawfish pie at Trenasse

    You can always go back
    One thing I had to remind myself when I was in NOLA was that I can always go back. I don’t have to eat everything in sight, and buy every souvenir I see. We decided to purchase a Cajun cookbook as one of our souvenirs so that we can take the cuisine home with us and enjoy it for years to come. 

    You don’t have to eat out. 
    Call ahead and see if the hotel room has a fridge or a microwave, or pick a hotel that has extended stay amenities. Food can be kept in a cooler with hotel ice and taken to a park for a picnic. Imagine mocktails (non alcoholic) and a charcuterie on a blanket in a park like Congo Square/Louis Armstrong Park, where you can enjoy the statues and manicured lawns in a historic place. It never hurts to get a little grounded and relax during your vacation, too!

    What are your methods for planning meals on your trips? Do you just go and eat what you see when you see it? I want to know how you stay on your monetary and health budgets while traveling! Pop on over to MMC chat and let me know, or post in the comments below.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2022

    Heard it on the Podcast -- September 14, 2022


    Did you miss a link we mentioned on the podcast? Here's a quick post we'll do every Wednesday to share any links or information from the podcast. We'll also keep a running post on the "Links from the Podcast" tab so you can refer back to any previous episode. Here's the links for this week:

    S2E38: Dining Out on a Diet

    Sorry, we don't have any links today from the podcast, but we do have a short poll for you over on our Facebook group, MMC Chat. Let us know what you think!

    Monday, September 12, 2022

    Dining Out on a Diet

    This week on the podcast, we are talking about dining out on a diet. As a person that lives alone (for now), I hate cooking for myself. I can’t just cook for one person, so I end up making a massive recipe for something and I eat it for five days straight or until I get tired of it. I eat out or order Uber Eats a lot. I got into the habit when I moved out to the Dallas area and began working downtown within reach of many different restaurants.
    When I first had bariatric surgery and slipped into a low-carb diet back in 2019, I found there were limited options for eating out. Of course, I can give many reasons why you shouldn’t eat out when you are on a special diet, but life circumstances have taught me over the years that you sometimes cannot avoid eating out, especially when you travel a lot or commute for work.  In a previous blog, I wrote about my method for choosing travel snacks on a special diet that I prepared on my vacation last summer, and I will touch on that later on in this blog.

    Here are my tips for dining out:

    Know your diet.
    • This is important when you are trying a new diet. I keep it pretty simple and go for only meat, veggies, and a bit of cheese when it comes to my diet. In my coffee, I like unsweetened almond milk and maybe a little packet of sugar-free sweetener, but often I leave it out.

    Have a go-to list of places you can eat.
    • I mentioned in my previous blog that I made a list of restaurants that I could go to on vacation when Jason and I went on our road trip. I also have a go-to list of restaurants I can eat at around my work, and a list of restaurants I can order takeout when I am at home. These lists save me time when I need something quick.  A few years ago, I commuted an hour to work and another hour and a half to two hours home again every day. I would often get home late and be too tired to cook. I had to keep a go-to list of restaurants that I could order from or eat on the way if I didn’t have ready meals at home. Usually, I stopped by the grocery store by my house (pre-covid it was open 24 hours) and bought a ready meal or a pre-packaged salad that I could eat for supper.

    Have a go-to list of snacks that you can eat at work or on your commute.
    • A lot of times I wait too long to eat. If I do that, I begin to get/feel sick. I had to start carrying snacks in my backpack or purse along with a protein bar that I could eat when I was feeling hungry. My favorite go-to snack is trail mix or raw almonds. I will also carry a package of raw vegetables with me for a quick pick-me-up. I keep a list of gas stations that carry the type of protein drinks I drink and easy snacks I can buy if I am desperate. Before our trip, I bought snacks in advance in case I got caught in a pinch.

    Don’t be afraid to go off your diet if you have to.
    • This one is BIG. Oftentimes we beat ourselves up if we go off our diet. I have been in plenty of special circumstances where I have waited too long to eat and HAD to eat something that wasn’t necessarily on my diet (or healthy for me). If you are dieting to lose weight, a one-day slip will not ruin you for life. If you have the self-control to have a “cheat day,” more power to you. If you are afraid of slipping up. Don’t forget your travel snacks!

    Tomorrow is a new day.
    • When you are on a diet, a great mantra to have is “tomorrow is a new day” because it really is! If you mess up one day, you are not messed up forever. You can always start over. This, of course, can apply to anything you have going on in your life. Tomorrow is definitely a new day.

    In conclusion, there is no perfect method for eating out if you are on a special diet. I can only tell you what I have learned in the past three and a half years. Do I stick to my diet all the time? No. However, I do tell myself that it isn’t the end of the world and I can always start over. That mantra has helped me keep my weight loss steady. 

    I want to hear from our readers! What are your eating-out tips and tricks? Do you have any favorite restaurants that you eat at if you are on a special diet? Comment below!

    Saturday, September 10, 2022

    Plan Ahead to Avoid the Sacrifice

    Hey everyone! On the podcast this week, we talked about making those little sacrifices every now and then. Those little sacrifices could be skipping on personal hygiene or other self care activities. Basically, if you are running tight on time, you might omit important parts of your selfcare routine. We all do it; it might not be sacrificing the shower or brushing your teeth, some might sacrifice even more if they are really pressed for time! These are just the choices we make on an everyday basis. I find that when I return from a trip or have a huge schedule upheaval, I get really off my routine and miss important things, like meal planning and other personal business.

    Travis, Reyna and I recently went on a family trip to New Orleans, Louisiana. We were only gone for four days, but it was right in the middle of a busy week at work and right before the Labor Day holiday. I knew that we would be cutting it close when it came down to packing and heading out for our trip, and even getting back home and unpacking might be a struggle. I made sure to take an extra day off before we left town, and another one when we got back so that we could get packed and unpacked without feeling rushed. I also wanted to make sure that all the clothes that I wanted were clean and easy to find so that I wouldn't have to make any compromises with my wardrobe. Since I get a little off track due to vacations, I thought I would share what we did this time around to prevent our personal matters from slipping through the cracks – a little premeditated self-care if you will. These are just some things you can do to prepare before you go on a trip. By planning ahead, you can prevent yourself from making last minute sacrifices. 
    Reyna living it up in NOLA

    Prevent a clothing catastrophe:
    • Wash, fold and put away all your laundry at least 1-2 days before you start packing.
    • Pack the day before (or sooner)
    • Use a packing list
    • I start tossing things I want to take into an empty laundry basket when I come across it in the week before my trip

    Kitchen clean out:
    • Plan your meals for the week before your trip and the week after
    • Clean out your fridge; freeze, use or throw away anything that will expire while you are gone
    • Order your road trip snacks with grocery pick up instead of buying from expensive convenient stores as you travel - Check out Cindy's blog here
    • Get grocery pick up when you arrive back in town
    • Do a quick run through your cleaning checklist for your kitchen

    Don’t let the bills slip:
    • Check your bills that will be due while traveling and anything coming up afterwards.
    • Pay them before you go or make sure auto pay will go through

    Come home to a clean house:
    • Tidy up and declutter before you go
    • Empty all your trash cans and waste bins
    • Set out clean towels for your kitchen and bathrooms
    • Make your bed
    • Make sure all the dishes are washed and put away
    • Do a quick run through your cleaning checklist for the rest of your home
    Travis enjoying brunch on our way back home.

    If you can manage to take care of these everyday tasks before you set out on your vacation, you will come home to a clean house, and you’ll  have less things to worry about when you get back. Once you get back home, you can unpack and relax a little before getting back into your daily routine. Doing the extra work before you play by planning meals and pre-paying the bills will ensure that you don’t forget anything or feel overwhelmed when you return.

    Thursday, September 8, 2022

    Sometimes We Have to Choose

    All day every day we make decisions. Like, what are we going to wear or what are we going to eat for dinner? Life can be overwhelming. When life is overwhelming, even the smallest decisions can be tough decisions. Sometimes I scroll on Uber Eats for a couple of hours before I decide what I want to eat for dinner, and by the time I officially decide, I’m no longer hungry when it finally arrives. On the podcast, we talked about the decisions you have to make in life like sometimes you have to choose between brushing your teeth or taking a shower, and I’ve never felt that statement so hard until this year.

    The evolution of my school year starts promisingly. I’m usually at school an hour and a half early and I leave an hour and a half later, mainly because there are so many things that I need to take care of at the beginning of the year such as unpacking my room and making lesson plans. I need that extra time. As the school year progresses, I begin to wake up later and arrive at work later. When November comes, I have to begin making those tough decisions. For example, do I park in the parking lot that I have to pay for, or do I leave the house earlier and park in the parking lot that my school pays for? Is that $12.99 worth arriving at work 10 minutes earlier? I suppose it depends on how late I am running. 

    Last year, I had it down to an exact science. If I left the house at a certain time on certain days, I could walk into work and clock in right on time. However, if I pushed the envelope, traffic was not so kind when it came to my careful calculation. This year, so far, I have left the house early enough that I don’t have to pay for parking and I can socialize a bit before I jump right into teaching class.

    Another morning-time decision I wrestle with is the decision to wear makeup or not. A lot of time those ten extra minutes of hitting snooze are the difference between looking professional and looking like a zombie. Oftentimes, I would take my makeup to work and do it in the bathroom between classes just to feel normal for the day. A lot of times, I never got around to doing my makeup. When I lived farther away from work, I had gotten into the habit of doing my makeup in the car or on the train in the mornings. Is the extra sleep worth it? I thought so. However, I tend to feel better about myself when I wake up in time to take care of things around my house and at school instead of rushing out of the house.

    Finally, as the school year progresses, one of the biggest decisions that I have to make is whether to eat breakfast before school or not. Breakfast is the best meal of the day. In fact, I could eat breakfast food at any time of the day. In my years of teaching, I’ve never been able to wake up early enough to eat a full breakfast before I make it to work. I usually eat my breakfast in small bites throughout the day until it becomes my lunch and not my breakfast. One of my goals through PowerSheets® this year is to not hit snooze as much. Let’s face it, sometimes we have to hit snooze. I hit snooze a lot. So far, I haven’t met that goal.

    Ultimately, my decisions boil down to sleeping in and getting up when I should be getting up in the morning. If I weigh the options, getting up when my alarm first goes off seems like a healthier and more productive choice, and it is something I’m working on being consistent about. 

    I want to hear from our readers. What are the major decisions that you have to face in the morning? Have you set goals to alleviate those decisions? As the year progresses, do you find it harder and harder to make it to work on time? Let’s continue the conversation below!

    Wednesday, September 7, 2022

    Heard it on the Podcast - September 7, 2022

    Did you miss a link we mentioned on the podcast? Here's a quick post we'll do every Wednesday to share any links or information from the podcast. We'll also keep a running post on the "Links from the Podcast" tab so you can refer back to any previous episode. Here's the links for this week:

    S2E37: Brush Your Teeth or Take a Shower?

    Special thanks to the following:

    Creative Audio Tech

    Music and sound design, recording gear, consulting

    Red Door Studios

    Gear rental

    Rimshot Graphix

    Logo design


    Monday, September 5, 2022

    What Did Tyra Banks Choose?

    Last fall, not long after Amber, Christen, and I decided we wanted to start a blog and podcast, I turned on the TV and caught the tail end of a local morning show interviewing Tyra Banks. The show was mostly background noise while I got squared away to do some work at my desk, but something the supermodel said caught my attention, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. The hostess asked the busy mom what her biggest challenge was, and Banks answered that some days it came down to a decision between whether to brush her teeth or take a shower. Now I don’t recall if that’s exactly what she said, and, honestly, I couldn’t even tell you what show she was on or even what station it was. The only thing that stuck with me was the concept of being so busy, so overcommitted, overburdened, and inundated with obligations that you don’t even have time for proper grooming. I’ve been there, and I bet just about every working mom in America (maybe the world) has been there (or something akin to it), too.

    Rather than get off into a diatribe about why women seem to feel like we have to prove our worth by taking on everything and then beat ourselves up over it when we think we’ve failed (that is a whole episode of its own, girlfriend!), I want to talk about how we can stop this self-immolating behavior and bring a more realistic balance into our lives.

    • Set boundaries and KEEP them! Others will stop expecting you to take on the world when YOU stop expecting it of yourself. No one is perfect, and forgetting to pay a bill or serving dinner an hour late does not make you a failure. Know what your limits are, and don’t let others push you beyond them. 

    • Learn to say “NO!” and mean it. No means no. So when the PTA asks you if you can host the teacher luncheon at the last minute, do not let them pressure you into doing it. You are not their last and only hope. All those other people turned them down for a reason – they set boundaries and kept them. Say “no”, my friend, and don’t feel guilty about it at all. Your kids’ education will not suffer because you don’t have time to order catering.

    • Use an Eisenhower matrix. Remember that Eisenhower matrix we keep talking about? List out your tasks and responsibilities (all of them!) based on whether they are urgent/not urgent and important/not important. Schedule anything important that you can postpone and then DELEGATE anything you can delegate – get it OFF your plate. That includes everything that falls into the “not important” category, leaving only the urgent and important tasks for you to tackle. Use the matrix DAILY if needed.

    • Get realistic about what you CAN actually do. My therapist once asked me to make a timeline to prove to myself that my expectations were unreasonable. By writing out all the things that needed to happen and assigning time to accomplish them, I could see that I had taken on too much. I bet you will, too. Make a timeline and DOUBLE the time it takes to do each task. Yes, double. Tasks almost always take more time than we think they will. The bonus is that if you finish the task ahead of schedule, you’ve got some nice free time.

    • Did I mention boundaries? I say it again because this is one area where we often tend to forget the rules. Remind yourself and remind your family, set expectations for their contributions, and hold them to the boundaries you have set.

    • Create “ME” time for self-care. You should never have to choose between things that are necessary to your health -  they are your FIRST priority, before any of those other obligations. You cannot take care of others if you are falling apart yourself.

    • Ask for help! Just because a task is YOUR responsibility does NOT mean you have to take it on alone. Running behind making dinner? Get your spouse or kids to lend a hand. Work has you stressed out? Maybe a coworker can pitch in to help you get caught up or can give you some tips on how to stay on top of things. Ask your child to alphabetize your filing or open the mail. Get your partner to help you make the bed or dry the dishes. Many hands make light work, and sometimes the act of doing those tasks together creates opportunities for communication and bonding. That’s a big win, my friend.

    • Live a life of gratitude and forgiveness. Sometimes things fall through the cracks. Be gentle with yourself. None of us are perfect. Be grateful for what you have accomplished (make a list if you need to!) and forgive yourself for the rest. Tomorrow is a new day and another opportunity to start over again. 

    I don’t know if Tyra Banks decided to brush her teeth or take a shower, but I don’t think that’s a decision anyone should ever have to make. This pressure that we put on ourselves to do ALL the things is not realistic, and it only hurts us in the end. We don’t have to be a perfect mom to be a GREAT mom, and there’s plenty of room to give ourselves grace and a realistic sense of what we can do. So the next time you feel pressure to get it all done at the expense of your own self-care, ask yourself, “Who is expecting me to do all this, and why?” Chances are, the answer is you.

    Can you relate to Tyra Banks? Have you mastered the art of juggling your obligations without sacrificing self-care? We’d love to hear about it. Share your story in the comments below or over on our MMC Chat Facebook group. 

    5 Ways to Manifest Your Best Life

    Hi there, and welcome back! Since we have been heavily focusing on goals and planning, I thought we should discuss manifesting. I love this ...