New York Times best-selling author, slow cooking expert, mom of three
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Totally Together

How to Keep Your Kids Healthy This School Year

August 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 


The most important thing you can do to prevent sickness is to wash your hands, and teach your children proper handwashing technique.

Back to School Time Brings Germs

It’s back to school season, which unfortunately (lots of times) means It’s Back To Being Sick season.

And that stinks.

I did some work with Lysol over the summer, and had the opportunity to sit down with a representative from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) a few weeks ago during the BlogHer conference.

And guess what?

Preventing sickness — the common cold, pink eye, hand-foot-mouth, the flu, and respiratory illness — is really easy to do.

You just need to WASH YOUR HANDS and regularly disinfect surfaces!

That’s it!

 

A TRILLION Germs live in One Gram of Poop. Gross. Free Printable for your bathroom, playroom, etc.

 

In case you weren’t sure of what number has that many zeros, it’s TRILLION.

There are A TRILLION GERMS IN ONE GRAM OF POOP.

Ew.

It’s a big deal. And I tell my kids that when they pick their nose, it’s “their nose’s poop.” Gross, yes, but it gets the point across. As far as I’m concerned you can’t ever really wash your hands too much.

Another thing that I learned from the CDC representative is that hand sanitizer is not a substitute for hand washing. It will do the job in a pinch, but the best thing is to always use running water and soap.

 

Free Printable Hand Washing Signs from the CDC

 

If you’d like some hand-washing signs to print out to hang in your home, your classroom, or at church, etc., this link has the PDFs.

They are in other languages, too!

 

War on Germs

As I said in my previous post for Lysol, I do try to keep our own home as germ-free as I can, and I do purposely wipe down the door knobs, light switches, remotes, and hand-held screens pretty often with Lysol Disinfecting Wipes.

I’m going to continue to do this, but I’m going to also really try to round up the kids as often as I can to wash their hands. I’m also going to make a very concerted effort to wash hands before we eat anything — this can be tricky on a busy Saturday afternoon when we are grabbing food on the run, or are hanging out at the mall.

But I’m convinced.

Hand washing is easy, and it’s cheap.

What about you? Do you have a plan of attack to keep the germs from invading your home this Back to School season?

 

Backyard Container Composting

March 5, 2014 by · 10 Comments 

Make a backyard composter out of 3 stacked wooden crates -- can be found at Michael's or garden supply store. No tools needed!

You’ve heard of container gardening, but how about container composting?

I’m on a writing deadline, which naturally means that I am procrastinating by spending way too much time looking up gardening stuff on Pinterest. (that makes sense, right?)

wait. Don’t answer that.

We have a bit of a blank slate with the backyard in this new house, and I’ve been pinning up a storm on my small garden ideas board, and came across a pin for a container composter made from 3 stacked plastic milk cartons– the thick plastic cubes that the dairy provides to ship the milk to the store.

I was instantly intrigued. I’ve wanted to compost (I can use that as a verb, right?) for a few years but only wanted to do it without involving my husband. I liked the idea of the compost bins made from pallets but knew that even if I could find a pallet (and pinterest makes it seem like there are pallets lying around all over town, but even if they were, wouldn’t they belong to somebody?) I’d need Adam to use the saw and make it for me, which defeats my purpose of wanting to do EVERYTHING all by MYSELF.

(I’m sort of like a preschooler that way….)

Anyway — back to the milk cartons. I liked how they were stacked three high, and I liked how no sawing or nails or anything mathematical was involved. But I couldn’t get past the whole stealing them from the back alley behind the grocery store thing—-  so I went to Office Depot to buy some crates.

The only types they had were made out of terribly flimsy plastic and the bottom was solid, which wouldn’t work for what I wanted. I wanted the bottom to be open so worms could get in and for airflow between the stacked bins. Bummer.

plastic milk crate

In a pinch, I figured those could work, but I’d need holes drilled into the bottom, and my worry was that the plastic would begin to wear out pretty quickly in the sun.

I went across the parking lot to Orchard Supply Hardware and looked at their plastic crates. They had some pretty durable ones, plus they had some really cool cubes made of plastic-coated wire that would have worked. The cubes were $14 each, which are a bit pricy, but they would have worked.

And then I saw the bulb display by the door leading to the outdoor garden. In these beautiful wooden crates there were daffodil, garlic, and tulip bulbs for purchase. I didn’t want the bulbs, though, I wanted the display crates. I found three empty ones under the table and brought them to the front of the store. The lady at the counter wasn’t sure what to tell me, and didn’t know if she could sell them as “miscellaneous merchandise.” I was asked to wait about 20 minutes until Sam came back from lunch.

So I did.

The kids and I used the potty and daydreamed about patio furniture. We also picked out a few new paint chips (I limit the kids to 3 chips each — I think it’s wrong to take every color for an art project, but I see that kind of stuff online all the time…  but that’s just me. I got hit pretty hard with the ethics stick.)

When Sam tracked us down, he said that I wasn’t the only person to inquire about the crates and that I could just have them. He said his manager told him yesterday that they had no use for the crates in the store.

wooden crates from Orchard

SCORE!

The funny thing is, that I totally would have paid for them. I had already decided while I was waiting that if they wouldn’t let me buy them I’d go get wooden crates from Michael’s.

I got the crates home and the kids and I got to work rather quickly getting the crates ready to go outside. I wanted the bottom slats to be uncovered, but used garden fabric that we had leftover from our old house to line the 4 sides. This keeps dirt from falling out of the cracks, protects the wood a bit, and keeps the compost ingredients insulated and warm to get them to “cook” faster.

IMG_0776_1

IMG_0779_1

I cleared a space in the backyard against the fence and stacked the three bins. Since the dirt wasn’t perfectly level, I ended up propping up the front of the bottom bin up with two bricks. Not only did this make my stack pretty darn level, it also provides a bit more air flow to the bottom bin. Compost breaks down faster when it gets more air.

I’ve been reading an awful lot about composting and this stack method seems to work well when you don’t have a bunch of square footage available in your yard. To use, simply place your yard trimmings and kitchen scraps in the top bin, and once it’s full, move it to the bottom. Continue rotating the bins until all three have been filled, and hopefully by the time you are ready to use the first one again, the yardwaste and scraps have broken down enough to get incorporated into your garden. Your compost is fully “cooked” when it’s super dark and looks like a moist crumbled chocolate cake.

make a compost pile out of three wooden crates

make a backyard compost stack out of three wooden crates

I ended up putting a small piece of plywood that I had lying around in the shed for a top, and put a heavy terracotta pot on top. This is to discourage the cats or raccoons from digging through the compost and to keep rain out of the bins. You can help break down your kitchen scraps and yard clippings by adding worms to the pile. If the worms don’t find you on their own, you can purchase worms from a fishing supply or garden store, or simply go on a puddle walk with the kids after a rain!

I’m excited about this project — it was something that I really wanted to do for quite a while, but kept getting bogged down with the details. This method is simple, and if I run out of room, I can easily make another one on the other side of the yard.

I go through so many produce scraps when I’m cooking and since we no longer have guinea pigs (they lived a good long life, and were terribly well-loved!) I am happy to be able to put the scraps to good use.

DIY 3-part container composter in the backyard. No tools needed; crates can be found at Michael's or a garden supply store

 

 

 

How to Combine Gratitude with Goal Setting

January 1, 2014 by · 4 Comments 

How to you maintain an attitude of gratitude but still continue to strive towards achieving new goals?

 

It’s a brand new year! Congratulations, you made it!

 

I have a rather radical suggestion for you this new year. I know I’ve shared my love for lists and charts and goal setting in the past, but I wanted to share a new idea.

Gratitude Goal Setting.

I’m sure you’ve heard of keeping a Gratitude Journal ~~~~ Oprah talked about them a lot on her show and she (I believe) talks about them in her magazine (I don’t subscribe to magazines, but read them on planes. and while getting my hair cut! And that’s only because I don’t like spending money and I don’t like clutter and big magazines feel wrong to throw out so then I hoard them on a shelf and then I worry I might turn into one of those hoarder people on TLC.)

(but you should totally subscribe to Simply Gluten Free Magazine because I’m a contributing writer and Carol, the founder, is absolutely wonderful).

Anyway.

So how to you combine an Attitude of Gratitude with Goal Setting? How can you be simultaneously happy, thankful, and thrilled with your current life situation but still sort of want something different/better/more prosperous?

Don’t the two cancel each other out?

No. I promise.

It feels wrong at first to want more when you have a non-leaking roof over your head, your children are healthy, your marriage is (above) average, and you aren’t scrounging to put food on the table. I struggle with this, and do make a conscious effort to give more than receive.

And if you are reading this article, then you ARE VERY BLESSED. You have internet, and you probably have accumulated an awful lot of “wants” to go along with your “needs.”

Take the time to be thankful. Take inventory of all that is right in your world. If writing it down helps, do so. Life is so very very very good, and we are the only species that is able to pontificate our lives, and to self-reflect.

We are also the only species that can decide what is working and what needs tweaking. As Dr. Phil says (I met a camera guy who worked on his show, and heard some interesting stories.  Ahem.),    “how’s that working for you?”

If you have a New Year’s Resolution to work out more and eat healthier, try writing down this year’s goals in the positive — and in a thankful way.

For instance, instead of:

I need to lose my muffin top and start running.    Try:  Thank you for my strong, healthy body that allows me to plank for 90 seconds and run a 10-minute mile.

I need to drink 8 glasses of water a day and cut out alcohol.  Try:  Thank you for fresh, clean water that tastes even better than margaritas.

I need to not yell at the kids.   Try:  Thank you for the patience I have with my children.

I need to put away the phone/tablet and hang out with my spouse.  Try:  Thank you for my awesome spouse who I like spending quality time with.

(I ended that sentence with a preposition. Thank you for not being  OCD.  :-) )

If you are looking for a BIG change, try being thankful for it before it even occurs. Before there is even a glimmer of hope that it can occur.

Here’s a few examples:

Thank you for this home that we all love that we can easily afford.

Thank you for this new job where I am respected and properly compensated.

Thank you for the opportunity to take this dream vacation that has been fully paid for upfront.

It is hokey. It feels childish, and it doesn’t seem like a simple change such as this could possibly work, yet there are TONS of anecdotal and scientific studies that show that your sub-conscious doesn’t know if something has actually occurred or not when you focus on it. This is why dreams feel/seem so real. Yes, you can rationalize them to death and assure yourself that a monster isn’t under your bed, but your harddrive doesn’t know the difference.   (need research? google “do positive affirmations work?”)

So try it.

There’s really nothing to lose.

Give yourself 10 days of writing 10 positive affirmation/goal setting phrases down in a notebook. Don’t refer back to the previous day — your ideas, needs, and goals change sometimes on a whim. What was important three days ago might not be important today. But if you track your thoughts and wishes for 10 days you’ll find a pattern.

This pattern is what is the most important to you. And you only. Your goals are not your neighbor’s, not your mom’s, and not the current Pinterest trend. Your goals are your own and are private.

We are all a work in progress, and it’s okay to acknowledge where you could use some tweaking.

lots of love and a very VERY happy 2014.

related:

How to Have Balance when Looking for Balance

How to Create a (non-cheesy) Vision Board of Your Very Own

Making and Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

This is Real Life, Not a Magazine

How to Bust Through a Weight Loss Plateau

March 5, 2013 by · 9 Comments 

Six 10-Minute-or-Less Exercise Moves/Videos for busy Moms

 

I have been trying to lose the same 8 to 10 pounds for 2 years. I’ve had plateaus before, but nothing like this — and I was truly getting frustrated. I tried blaming it on my thyroid (it’s fine), my potassium (it’s fine), lack of Vitamin D (it’s okay, too), and getting old (that’s true, I’m older than I used to be!).

But these last few weeks I’ve gotten through this tough spot, and actually feel better and more motivated about working out and eating properly than I have in a good 6 years.

I am certainly not an expert, and am only going to share what has begun to work (FINALLY!) for me. I got motivated after reading through Sandy’s Fitness Friday posts last month, and decided that once and for all March was going to be the month to finally lose the 8 pound blanket so I can be more comfortable and confident this summer.

There are many different reasons to lose weight, and I know that my 8 to 10 pounds is nothing for those who need to lose more. I find weight loss and working out to be somewhat personal, but really had an AHA! moment when I read what Sandy wrote about needing to be held accountable for my diet and exercise. I have pretty good habits already, but found that I was mindlessly eating throughout the day when I wasn’t even hungry. I’d finish the end of a kid sandwich, or pop a few too many tatertots in my mouth while I was preparing lunch.

Since I write cookbooks, I’d justify my large portions and crazy taste-testing — it’s for work! I’ve got to keep making sure it’s perfect! ;-)

But I do believe the largest culprit these last two years has been alcohol. I began having a glass of wine or beer every night. I’d again justify that “I worked hard! I deserve this!” and mindlessly fill my glass or say yes to another drink. And that’s not good for me. It might be okay for you, but for me it means that I am no longer in total control of my snacking and am more likely to down a bag of tortilla chips or talk Adam into a late-night icecream run. And each beer is about 250 calories, each glass of wine is about 125 calories, and each shot of whatever is about 100 calories (and when it’s  mixed with margarita mix? a LOT more!)

gah.

The stuff that was okay for me at age 22 isn’t okay at 36. I remember fondly eating and eating and eating. And then washing it down. And washing it down again. But if I’m going to have MORE “good ol’ days” in the years to come, I needed to stop and take charge of my health.

And I need to be a proper role model to these three girls I’m raising.

 

Anyway. I’m getting sidetracked. I do that a lot.

So! My non-stop reading of personal development books has led me to read a lot of diet and fitness books. I usually take bits and pieces of what makes sense to me and leave the rest. These are the favorites that I keep returning to:

8 Minutes a Day by Jorge Cruise

Body For Life by Bill Phillips

The Dukan Diet by Pierre Dukan

 

I do the best when I eat whole foods that are low in sugar and high in protein. I feel the best when my carbs come from vegetables and fruit. I bet you probably do, too.

 

I wish there was more of a revolutionary secret. There really isn’t. I am intrigued by Dr. Dukan’s protein-only days — they seem to really do a good job of getting you back on track when you have a free-for-all day. I think the Body for Life workout is a very good one, and I feel the strongest and most healthy when I workout that way. I like the food and flax recommendation from 8 Minutes a Day and like the basic exercises and photo descriptions.

I have been tracking (loosely) my eating and working out since January– it’s taken 3 months of me writing it out to realize that if I just stopped eating crap the plateau would finally break. It’s annoying to me that even though I KNOW what to do, I just don’t sometimes.

I’ve been eating a lot of 1 minute muffins, have been drinking tons of water, choosing to fill my plate with lean protein and leafy greens, and have limited my eating between 7 am and 7 pm. That’s about it.

The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is that the successful people do the things the unsuccessful do not. — Brian Tracy

I’ve found a few quick workout videos on You Tube. I’ve been trying to pick 2 or 3 a day to do, and really like the following:

3 Minute Mini Walk

5 Minute Ab and Obliques

10 Minute Muffin Top and Quick Cardio

10 Minute Tank Top Arms and Shoulders

10 Minute Bikini Abs (planks, no crunches)

10 Minute Tank Top Arms (different than other video; I like to switch them up)

 

What about you? Have you found that you have needed to increase your protein, or your workouts after a certain age, or after having children? Have you needed to change your mindset about food and exercise?

Why is it that we *know* what the answer is, but continuously talk ourselves out of it?

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