Thursday, January 30, 2014

Did that really just happen to me?

One of the prompts today over at Mama Kat's is:

Share one of your “did that really just happen to me” life moments.

Ahhhh... how to pick just one. 

My life is full of those things that you never expect to happen to anyone, 
although my sister and I fully know it can happen to me.

 Case in point:

When I was attending graduate school, I lived at home to save money and commuted to school.  Many times on my way, I'd stop at a particular gas station near my house. 
I'd fill up the tank, get a coke, and head to school.  
The attendant there was a middle-aged man not from this country. He was nice, 
and we would chat about the weather each time I stopped in.

That summer however, I began working 3, yes 3 jobs and only had a morning class.  I ended up taking a different route to school, so I was not visiting my buddy at the gas station.  Weeks passed, summer ended, I was back to my old route.

I stopped in to fill up the tank and grab a coke.

My gas station friend was still there.

He said "hello! I've missed you!"

Then leaned over the counter and kissed me.

That's my life.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Friday, January 24, 2014

You know you're a mom...

...when this is what your work bag looks like this!

Items include:
Eucalyptus tea for my sinus infection
Peaceful Parenting book to read at lunch
Colin's Spider-man lunch bag because I couldn't find mine
Keira's special unicorn that she put in my bag
Way at the bottom are my datebook and notebook with the story I'm writing

In the comments below, 
share the things in your bag that remind you that you are a mom!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

"Soup-er" Tuesday

Beginning this month, I decided that I would make soup every Sunday for the rest of the winter.  So far it's been a so-so broccoli cheddar soup, a yummy creamy potato soup, and a delicious Italian stew!

This past Sunday was the Italian stew, which I thought was great! It makes quite a bit, so there are leftovers for me to take to work, as well as to serve another night for dinner. 

11 ounces Organic Roasted Tomato Bisque

1 can Beef Broth 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes with Italian herbs 3 large carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups) 2 pounds beef for stew, cut into 1-inch pieces 2 cans (about 15 ounces each) white kidney beans (cannellini), rinsed and drained

Make It:

  • Stir the soup, broth, wine, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, tomatoes, carrots and beef in a 3 1/2-quart slow cooker.
  • Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 9 hours or until the beef is fork-tender.
  • Stir in the beans. Increase the heat to HIGH. Cook for 10 minutes or until the mixture is hot.
Chef Notes:
The original recipe called for 1 can of condensed beef broth and 1/2 cup red wine or water. Keith (my handy-dandy grocery shopper) bought non-condensed broth... and stewed tomatoes, rather than diced... so we opted to leave out the water.  I'm not a bean person, so in the future I may opt to only use one can of beans. Keith will probably disagree.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Organize Your Health!

Today for Organize Me Monday, I'm starting a two-part piece on health.  Next week, I will focus on exercise, but today it's more total body/mental health.

Many of these topics come from my somewhat recent interest in Chinese medicine, as well as focusing on a more holistic approach to taking care of myself. For example, winter is the season of stillness.  It's ruled by the water element.  Imagine stepping outside in January after a heavy snowfall.  Listen... what do you hear? If it's early morning, you may not even hear the birds chirping.  Rather, take in that silence. Focus on your footsteps. The crunch of snow underfoot. Take a deep breath, even though the air is so cold it shocks your lungs.  When it's really cold out, your body wants to be warm. So feed it with hot tea, warm soup, and tepid water. I've started that practice of drinking (mostly) warm drinks for the past two months, and it's developed into a nice habit.  No longer do I crave a coke in the middle of the workday afternoon, but rather I want some green tea. (Tazo's Zen is my favorite!)  I still indulge from time to time with a coke... there's something special about McDonald's coke that makes it taste great, no matter what time of year!

With winter comes a lack of sunlight, especially here in the Midwest.  I began taking Vitamin D, which I have noticed has helped a great deal compared to how I was feeling at this time last year! Winter came early to Chicagoland, and it's been snowy and cold for months now! (Or at least that's what it feels like.) But, I am not feeling as tired (or as crabby!) as I was last January. I'm also making sure I get plenty of Vitamin C. My husband is big on eating a ton of fruits and vegetables every day, and (knock on wood) he never gets sick! So I've upped my fruit and veggie intake, even though it's hard for me, since I tend to not each much during the workday.  I've begun packing carrots and hummus for an afternoon snack, as well as adding tomato juice or Naked green juice in the morning with my morning snack.  I'm also eating Greek yogurt (almost) every day to add some protein.  

At home, I making sure my plants stay watered and healthy - especially my peace lily and my bamboo plant.  Did you know that houseplants can help detox the air in your home? Another thing I've added, both for the health benefits and because it looks so pretty, is a Himalayan salt lamp:

One of the great benefits is that it helps with sinus issues.  I seem to have allergies year-round, and they have been so much better since I put on of these in our bedroom. (It was actually a Christmas present from my husband!)

But the most important piece of advice I can give you for total body and mental health is SLEEP!!!!  Oh sleep, glorious sleep.  I miss you. My 5 1/2 year old twins are going through a phase where they wake up 1-3 times a night for various reasons.  Keira just likes to tell me she loves me and give me a hug (which, while sweet, is also exhausting at 3 a.m.)  Colin wakes up and has a hard time settling back down, so he will oftentimes call for me between 2 and 4.  The alarm goes off at 4:34 a.m. if I'm going to the gym before work, so I am still struggling with getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night.  But it is my goal.  And I have gotten better with it. 

What are some things you do for your own total body/mental health? Share in the comments below?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Book Review...and a Giveaway!!!

I was lucky enough to win an ARC of When the Rogue Returns from Sabrina Jeffries herself! I couldn't wait to read it.  After reading the first book in The Duke's Men series, What the Duke Desires, I was excited to see that this next book was about Victor Cale.

In When the Rogue Returns, Victor Cale is headed to Scotland to investigate a woman, Sofie Franke.  He has his suspicions that this woman is actually Isabella, his wife who disappeared on him ten years before.  He has spent the last decade searching to bring her to justice after she stole the royal jewels and left him to behind to deal with the authorities.  Isabella Cale, now known as Sofie Franke, has built a new life for herself and her ten-year old daughter after her husband ran off with the royal jewels.

Are you intrigued yet?

Victor and Isa's first meeting was great! Both blame the other for the missing jewels, and both are greatly suspicious of the other's motives.  Despite their renewed feelings of passion and love for each other, they just cannot get over their extreme fear that the other is lying.  Victor, however, grows jealous of another man in Isa's life, and Isa fights her own feelings for Victor.  Once they both realize they were framed for a crime neither committed, they must work together to find the real thieves and make sure justice is served.

I love how Sabrina Jeffries is able to mix romance and mystery together to create an amazing chemistry between Victor and Isa.  As they struggle to come to terms with the truth, you sense how they are still haunted by their vulnerabilities.  I think that's what I liked most about the book - they both seemed so innocent and honest, yet also so tortured by the incidents of the past. It wasn't just two random people fighting feelings of lust for each other, rather it was two people joined by marriage yet torn apart by another person's lies.

When the Rogue Returns will be released on January 21.  I highly recommend it.  I was lucky enough to also receive an autographed copy of What the Duke Desires, signed by Sabrina Jeffries!  In anticipation of the upcoming release, I am giving that copy away here to one lucky winner.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 13, 2014

OMM - Cleaning

Welcome to week two of Organize Me Monday!

This week, I'm focusing on cleaning....

  • Create a daily, weekly, and monthly list of what needs to be done.  In addition, add yearly things, such as specific things you do every spring, fall, etc. 
  • Clean one room or do one specific daily item every day.  This will save you from spending your entire weekend cleaning.
  • Use a multi-purpose cleaner, one that you can carry from room to room.  I am going to start making my own cleaner -
    • All Purpose Wipes (these wipes work like Lysol wipes, but are homemade and healthier for your home)
      • Buy some cotton fabric or reusable dish cloths
      • Tightly fold or roll your reusable cloths and place in an air-tight container (a clean glass spaghetti jar works well).
      • In a separate container, mix your favorite natural cleaning solution. Try these simple recipes: 
        •  1 Cup water, 1 Cup vinegar and 15 drops of Tea Tree Oil or Lemon Oil
        • 2 Cups water, 1 Cup vinegar, ¼ Cup lemon juice and 5 drops Orange essential oil.
      • Pour your mixture over your cloths until soaked.
      • Use cloths as needed. Cover tightly between use.
      • Wash and reuse cloths by placing used cloths in the top rack of a dishwasher (normal cycle).
  • Spend 15-20 minutes every night cleaning up the house.  I try to start this while the kids are still up, so that they can help me and work on their picking up skills.  It doesn't always work out well, and on school nights, I'd rather get them into bed (since they get up so early in the morning). 
  • Do one load of laundry every day or every other day.  I am HORRIBLE at this!  I hate laundry, so I save it for the weekend, then I have a ton of folding to do.  This week, I am going to start doing a load every other day to see if it helps the weekend problem.
  • Make your bed every day.  This is something I am pretty good at, but I do skip it on the mornings I am short on time. 
 What are some cleaning tips you could recommend?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Introducing "Organize Me Monday"

With the start of a new year, I'm starting a new feature on my blog:


This year, I'm committing to stressing less and running more. There is a lot more that goes into it, I'll blog in more detail at a later date. But today, with this being the first full week of 2014, I want to commit seeing if I can get just a little more organized to help with that "stress less" piece. 

Week One: Organize Me

With all the things that we do as mothers, our minds are filled to the brim with every little detail.  It's time to work through what is clutter and clear out our minds to make ourselves feel better. 

What I already do:
  • Keep a journal.  It doesn't have to be written in every day, but it's a good place to record thoughts, feelings, and general ideas about life.  Those things you don't want to forget.  Or those things that you need to just get out to feel better.  To add to this piece, I also have a separate book where I list (daily... which is the HARD part) what I'm grateful for. Each night before I go to bed, I take out my gratitude journal and write: "Today I am grateful for..."  and list one thing I am grateful/thankful for.
  • Use my planner.  Pictured above is the planner I bought myself for my birthday.  It's pretty. I like pretty things. I also love the space that allows me to separate the pieces of my life: husband, kids, work, personal, exercise.  There is a to-do list in the back, where I've created my master to do list.
What I am working on this week:
  • Getting at least seven hours of sleep.  EVERY night.  That every night thing is important, but it doesn't always seem to work out for me. This is a tough one. I'm focusing on these nine steps to improve my sleep. I just wish there was a way to work around the children who find it necessary to wake up 1-3 times a night! 
  • Schedule ME time. I'm committing myself to go to the gym more. It will be tough, because I think the only time that really works is 5 a.m.!!!  Also, I will work on scheduling on weekend day a month to do something completely for me: massage, Reiki, head to the bookstore for a few hours, you get the idea.
  • Make a daily to-do list each night before bed.  That way, I know what needs to be done the next day, and thinking of things won't keep me awake at night.  (Which will hopefully help with that seven hours of sleep thing...)
What will you do this week to organize yourself?