10 Things To Do When You Are Having A Bad Day

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Health and Wellness

Last Friday did not go my way. At all. It started at 1 AM when my husband woke me up because he was super stressed about the next few weeks. I’m not mad about this – we have an understanding that we can rely on each other that way. However, after he was settled down and dozed off, I stayed wide awake until around 4:30 am when I finally passed out. Sometime in the night, my glasses fell to the floor and, in the morning, my poor husband stepped on them. The frame broke in two. Y’all. These were my favorite pair of glasses! My fellow four eyes know what a big deal this is! Luckily, I had a spare but, in the ensuing chaos, I was very late to my coffee date with friends I go to every Friday morning.
Things only got worse from there. I discovered my favorite hat that I planned on wearing out had been smushed, my next door neighbors saw me when I threw said hat (in what I can only describe as a toddler level temper tantrum), I left my computer at home and didn’t discover it until I got to my writing space, I got cherry juice on my favorite (white) shirt, and I somehow gained weight overnight after being very selective and careful about my food choices. Guys. I passed up a hotdog on the fourth of July!! I know that’s not how loosing weight works, but passing up a hotdog on the fourth of July is the just about the most unamerican thing I can think of… I know this sounds like whining (and it is), but these little things that probably wouldn’t have amounted to anything with proper rest just seemed so defeating last week. It was, as Alexander would put it, “A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” – has anyone else read that book?
Things are so much better now. All-in-all, everything I set out to accomplish last week has been accomplished despite my toddler-tantrums and melt downs (who exactly is the two-year-old around here?!). My sweet husband, after having to go into work on his day off, still managed to secretly surprise me with repaired glasses and re-shaped favorite hat, went out to get Papa Murphy’s for dinner, and made me a hot cup of tea for me while I hid with my embarrassment and shame in my room. He really is my hero!
But, still. Bad days – you can’t avoid them. And some are going to be pretty high on the petty scale – like the one today – and some are going to be actually horrible; like getting news that a loved one has passed away or that you or someone you love has a serious illness. So, here are 10 things for your mental health toolbox for when you have your own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

1. Make a Hot Cup of Tea in Your Favorite Mug

As a sufferer of anxiety, I try to avoid caffeine and alcohol like the plague if I feel at all stressed. Of course I crave coffee like nobody’s business when I’ve had a rough morning but it really is best avoided. Caffeine is a stimulant and while it may aid depression – it is terrible for anxiety as it will cause your heart to pound faster and kick your (already overactive) fight or flight reaction into high gear. Alcohol, on the other hand, is a depressant and if you are sad or stressed already, alcohol is only going to make things worse. The alternative? A nice soothing cuppa herbal tea.

My favorites are a blend of chamomile, which has been shown to relive anxiety and depression and lavender which also relaxes and personally just smells and tastes good. Plus, there is nothing more calming than the “ritual” of making tea – so make sure and use your favorite mug – because, while I have no scientific research to back that particular point up, a nice, well-made mug along with a favorite tea is just one of life’s little joys that should be cherished.

If you don’t have a favorite mug, I highly suggest that you get thee to a craft fair post haste and seek out the perfect custom-made coffee mugs from your local potter. The above pictured is mine from Thompson Mud and Metal, and no- you can’t have it, however if you cant make it to a craft fair, I’ve linked some cute ones in my “Bad Day Shopping List” below.

2. Take A Bubble Bath

Nothing quite melts the stress away like a nice hot bubble bath especially with a dash of Epsom salt. Besides being proven to relax muscles and relieve anxiety, bubble baths are just a little splash of affordable luxury that can make a bad day better. My grandmother always used dawn or ivory dish soap in our bubble baths (Hey. It works…). But, if you are looking for a touch more luxury, try Honest Company’s Apricot Bubble Bath (its hypo-allergenic AND it smells amazing) or Skin Milk (made from milk proteins to hydrate your skin and it also smells amazing). I also like to add Dr. Teal’s Lavender Epsom salt.

3. Watch A Comfort Movie

There is something soothing about sitting down to watch a favorite movie for the eleven-hundredth time. A few movies, for whatever reason, can always lift my spirits even when I’m having the worst day ever. My personal guaranteed-to-cheer-me-up-favorites are Emperor’s New Groove, 13 Going on 30, Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Galaxy Quest. Check below in my Bad Day Shopping List for links to buy your own copies.

4. Sing Mopey Songs or Have a Dance Party

Go ahead and belt your cringiest emo songs – it may actually improve your mood. Listening to music releases a chemical called dopamine which is a mood booster. But, if sad songs aren’t working, try a dance party. Not only will you get your dopamine fix from the music, but dancing gets your blood pumping which can also help you to shake your blues.

5. Get Out of the House For a Bit

Sometimes a change of scenery can be nice. Getting out of the house for a bit can give you temporary relief from feelings of being stuck or trapped. If nothing is going right, and you feel confined to your house because you have to do dishes, or sweep or do laundry, go ahead and step out of the house for an hour or two – everything will still be there when you get back and the relief may make you feel more up to the task. However, the scenery you are changing to does matter. If you’re leaving your chaotic house for rush hour traffic, you aren’t going to do yourself any favors. Instead, opt for a nice gentile walk in a park or an easy trail as natural environments are shown to reduce cortisol, a hormone linked to high stress and anxiety.

6. Cry or Scream

At times, our emotions are just too big to contain. So- go ahead and cry, shout at a wall, scream or laugh out loud. Sometimes the occasion just calls for it. Besides, there is research to suggest that crying is super beneficial to your body as it activates the parasympathetic nervous system to restore the body to a state of balance. This idea has been around for a while and several cultures engage tears as a community health program – like the crying parties of Japan.

There is also research to suggest that screaming also has a cathartic effect, in fact, there is even such a thing as ‘Primal Scream Therapy’. Personally, I would want to make sure I was in a safe and private place – far away from your kiddos who might be a little freaked out by mommy getting her crazy on. No one wants to have the police show up during your therapy session for a well-check.

7. Act Happy

This one may put your acting skills to the test but acting happy when you are sad can make you happy. Confused? According to Dr Isha Gupta, a neurologist from IGEA Brain and Spine, smiling can create a chemical reaction that causes the brain to release hormones such as dopamine and serotonin. Even forcing a fake smile when you’re really aggravated can help.
Laughing is another great way to relieve stress. Try it right now- smile (or force a smile) and laugh. How do you feel? Is there less tension in your muscles? Laughing produces a whole host of medical and mental benefits such as improved immunity, greater oxygen flow and – yes- stress relief. Even forced laughter can make you feel better when you are down. So go ahead. Stockpile those funny memes and watch all those hilarious cat videos- its good for your health.

Laughing is another great way to relieve stress. Try it right now- smile (or force a smile) and laugh. How do you feel? Is there less tension in your muscles? Laughing produces a whole host of medical and mental benefits such as improved immunity, greater oxygen flow and – yes- stress relief. Even forced laughter can make you feel better when you are down. So go ahead. Stockpile those funny memes and watch all those hilarious cat videos- its good for your health.

8. Read a Book

Escaping your reality and jumping into the reality of a good book is sometimes enough to break you out of your bad mood. I’ve found that I really cant stay depressed while reading a good book (although a good book can probably move me to sadness – its not the same thing!!)

Currently, I’m working my way through The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, which is the story of two Jewish cousins in New York before during and after WWII – Kavalier is an artistic and hopeful immigrant who escaped Nazi Czechoslovakia with the help of a talented magician and Clay (Klayman) is a scrappy but inexperienced salesman with dreams to make it big somehow. Both find common ground within the growing industry of comic books (an industry that was largely pioneered by Jewish-American New Yorkers) and strike up a partnership that takes them on a beautiful and sometimes tragic journey throughout the Golden Age of comics. Honestly, I will forget where I am while reading it and it truly puts my own life into perspective.

Not a fan of Chabon? No problem. Check out www.yournextread.com to find book suggestions based of authors you love. Alternatively, you could always read through Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst which is always excellent no matter how old you are.

9. Find a Place to Hide From the World

Sometimes, you just need to find a quiet spot to retreat to for a bit. For mamas, this is easier said than done but I find that sometimes turning on Daniel Tiger while I sneak away to my room to just breath and hear myself think can do me the most good out of anything. If you have family or friends nearby and you need away time, call them up and see if they can watch your kid for an hour or two while you find a nice rock to crawl under – just remember to do the same for them when they need it.

10. Face Your Challenge Head On

Honestly, when you get down to it, your problems are probably not going to magically disappear on their own. Eventually you are going to have to get to the root of your bad day, weather it is a poor sleep schedule, an overloaded calendar, or a health problem. The sooner you actually stand up to your problems and work towards a solution the sooner the good days will come again.

Honestly, last Friday was a one off for me but it wasn’t too long ago that I had way more bad days than good. I was sick, tired, depressed and stressed. I put off going to the doctor for two years because what exactly was I going to say? I was sleepy? I was sad? As it turns out that’s pretty much all I needed to say. My doctor ran a full blood analysis and found out that had high cholesterol as well as some metabolic abnormalities. She gave me things to do – including seeing a counselor or therapist. As it turned out, I was suffering from PCOS which – aside from affecting fertility and cycles – also affects your mood and causes an excess of Cortisol – the stress hormone which when balanced makes you feel away and energized, when unbalanced makes you anxious and stressed.

Since making small but vital lifestyle changes, I’ve lost 40 pounds, gained so much energy, have stayed healthy and more importantly I’ve reclaimed my joy. So, whatever is bothering you, find the root, take a deep breath, and tackle it head on. If its something that is too big for you to face alone, ask for help.

I recently had a very dear friend of mine tell me she didn’t want to ask her (very loving and supportive) husband for help in her weight loss journey because he was so busy. I know it would have made her husband so sad if he were to hear that – that she felt like he was too busy for her and her wellbeing. It wasn’t the first time I had heard a similar sentiment and I would be lying id I said I never had the same feelings myself.

Sometimes its hard to take our own needs seriously when everyone else seems to need more or be handling everything so well on their own (they probably aren’t). But, if there is one thing I could impress on my friend and others like her, it is this: You are worthy enough for joy. You are worthy enough to strive for better and your family is worthy of having a healthy and happy you. Don’t forget to take care of yourself while you are taking care of everyone else!

What do you do when you have a bad day? Comment below! If this article helped you, make sure to like and share with your friends! Have a blessed day!

My Bad Day Shopping List:

Goal Setting For Moms

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Foundation is Important

A few months after quitting my job to become a stay at home mom, I noticed that I felt a loss of a part of my identity.  I was no longer “Rachel: Team Leader, Problem Solver, Colleague, Employee, Boss Lady”- I was now viewed as “Rachel: Sam’s wife, Sawyer’s Mom”.  As many parents who decide to become stay at home parents will tell you – loss of identity becomes a huge issue that most of us will face after deciding to trade a career for being a stay at home parent.  In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with PART of my identity being “Sam’s wife, Sawyer’s mom”, but when my WHOLE identity rested fully upon the identities of other people, I knew something had to change.

Knowing who you are on a foundational level as well as knowing where you want to go is integral.  It gives your life meaning and purpose – a roadmap.  Yogi Berra once said “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else”.  While I’m not here to tell you who you are or what you should be– no one can take that journey for you but you- I can tell you it’s very important for you to take time to unpack the question of who you are and where you are going.

A Note on Discipline vs. Will

The next thing you need is discipline – or the strength of character to get you where you are going.  Disciplin

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e is defined as control gained by enforcing obedience or order.  Now, I’m not suggesting that you have to find out everything about yourself before working on discipline – far from it, but your identity and will help determine the direction you will go.  Notice I didn’t say that the next thing you needed was will power.  Dallas Willard, an American philosopher, celebrated for his writings on Christian spiritual formation, often stated that the will has no power of its own.  A will is only a desire or wish.  So, when it comes to trying to achieve anything through will power, you are really trying to do something by wishing it into existence…  you can’t do it.  A will is important but not powerful.  At all.

Your will can only be actualized through having the discipline to make it happen.  Discipline requires making habits and reinforcing them again and again and again until it becomes second nature and a part of your character.  If you have the will to raise chickens (so you can have fresh eggs), but not the discipline to feed, water and clean the chicken coop; the only thing you will have is dead chickens.   Not only does discipline help you to not have dead chickens, it also helps you to build fortitude.  Fortitude gives you the strength to get back up when life knocks you down – and it will knock you down.   Hard and repeatedly.  Most of us lack discipline in so many areas but the good news is setting goals can help with that.

Why Set Goals?

Goals are ideas coupled with forethought, planning and conviction.  In other words, goals are (hopefully) well thought out and rational plans to achieve a desire of your will. Many people I know use the word “goal” interchangeably with “wish” (#relationshipgoals) but that’s missing the mark.  A goal isn’t a wish or something you strongly desire; it’s the first step to turning thought into reality and while it isn’t discipline, it’s the key to creating discipline.  To put things more metaphorically, if your will is a direction in which you are going then discipline is your vehicle and goals are your road map.  If you really want to want to wake up earlier, learn to play an instrument, raise chickens, or travel the world then you need a #goal,  my friend.

Why Do Moms need Goals?

sai-de-silva-YLMs82LF6FY-unsplash.jpgGoals are not just a tool for board room executives and college students.  Mamas NEED to have goals in their lives.  In the past 3 weeks I have had six mothers tell me “I just don’t plan or set goals anymore.  What’s the point?  They’re going to fall through anyway.”   Yes.  I know.  Its frustrating.  Your kid didn’t take a nap (so there went your exercise hour), and now she is crying hysterically because she wants cheese for dinner  and so you are numbly making mac and cheese instead of the healthy dinner you were planning because ANYTHING is better than the constant whining.  Been there.

But what I didn’t realize then was that all of that was an opportunity to introduce self-control into our lives and make us better people for it.  William James, the father of modern psychology, maintained that developing the will through self-discipline (like goal setting) not only made your character stronger but gave you the fortitude to stand when those around you would crumble – and mamas, we cannot afford to crumble.  There is a saying that goes “There is no manual to life, but there is a mom.”  Cute.  Catchy.  However, there is a grain of truth to this.  Your hopelessness teaches your children that life is hopeless.    My aim is not to mom shame, only to point out that more than ever our children need us to be strong and to model to them how to be strong themselves.

Start Small

When setting goals as a new mother (or a mother new to setting goals), recognize that you will need to start small initially.  Set small achievable goals to help build confidence in yourself such as getting out of the house once a week for a month to meet with a friend for coffee or taking a walk with your child three times per week for a month.  These initial goals don’t necessarily have to have a greater end – they are just to get you used to setting and achieving goals.  Try to make sure these goals have relatively short end dates so that you can celebrate your accomplishments.

Be S.M.A.R.T

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplashtoa-heftiba-ZlSOX58jfZs-unsplash.jpgAfter you are comfortable achieving goals, make sure the next goals you plan are S.M.A.R.T.  (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely).

Specific – Define the goal as much as possible making sure to answer the questions who what and where.  Example: “I want to get my Master’s degree in education at the University of Colorado by 2022.”

Measurable – How many/much? Will you know when you have achieved your goal?  For example, “I want to lose weight by 2020” is not very measurable.  A better goal would be “I want to lose 25 pounds by 2020”.

Attainable – Can you realistically achieve this goal.  This is a hard one.  Know your strengths but also know where your limitations are.  If your goal is to become an astronaut by the end of the year but have not had any advanced science or math courses, your goal is not very attainable.  This is an extreme example but just remember not to make your goals too easy but not out of reach either – you’re only hurting yourself if you do so.

Relevant – Is this goal actually important to you and your larger goals and does it fit in with your life right now?  If your goal is to speak Mandarin fluently but you don’t have any plans to go to China, have no Chinese friends with whom to speak with and you only want to learn it because you heard it was the most difficult language to learn – do you actually want to invest the time and energy it takes to learn a language fluently?

Timely – Make sure you set time frames on your goals but not just any time frames – time frames that make you sweat a little.  The goal is to have to manage your time wisely in order to achieve the goal.  In most cases, losing 5 pounds does not take a year to do, that may be better suited as a 1 month or 2 month goal.

Once you have a few broad long term goals set, its nice to break them down into manageable parts.  Just like you wouldn’t expect to eat a 20oz steak in one bite, its silly (and maybe even dangerous) to not break down your long term goal into smaller parts.   Personally, I go as far as to set monthly, weekly and even daily goals for myself – viewing each new day as a new opportunity.  Others prefer to stop at weekly or monthly as it provides some additional flexibility for when things don’t go according to plan- and they will, especially if you don’t have some sort of organizational system in mind.  This brings me to my next point….

Stay Organized
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Having a planner or notebook dedicated to your goal setting and dreaming is a very useful tool.  If used daily, they can keep you on task and help you to do more than what you could ever do on your own.  They also help me remember things I have planned for the week.  Mom brain is real, y’all.  Keeping tiny humans alive takes up so much space in our brains that we need to write it down.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.  Just write it down.

A lot of moms like to use Google Calendar and Cozi which are great (free!) tools and allow easy sharing between family members and friends.  Others enjoy making bullet journals or keeping a diary.  Some love planners.  I love all these methods for different reasons, but, for goal setting, I love a good planner (I am a stationary junkie).

My current favorite is the Panda planner which is broken down in monthly, weekly and daily bites.  It also has the goal section broken down further into Personal, Work, Family/Friends and Relationship goals as well as spots to reflect on your monthly, weekly and daily wins and how you can do better.  Yes, you can easily duplicate this in a variety of other journals/planners BUT because I only have so many hours in a day, I like that its already done for me.  The planners also come with access to free classes that help you to effectively use the planner and set goals for yourself.  To get yours, click the link below:

Panda Planner Pro – Best Daily Planner for Happiness & Productivity – 8.5 x 11″ Softcover – Undated Day – Guaranteed to Get You Organized – Gratitude & Goals Journal (Purple)

Communicating your Goals

 

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Communication is key for your goals.  Your partner, family and friends can be a wealth of support for you as long as you communicate how when and where you need support.  Your children – especially older children, will love to be a part of your goals.  Make sure to break down the parts of your goal to your children, communicate the “why” with them and include them when possible.  For example: “I would like to have a garden this year so that we can begin to be healthier and have tastier   food.  To do this, I am going to have to spend a few hours outside every day to water and weed our garden.  Would you like to help me turn the dirt and plant the seeds this afternoon?”

Your friends and family may have been in your shoes before and can offer helpful advice and support where you need it.  My next-door neighbor, who is also a close friend, found out about my health goals and happens to be an instructor at a gym.  She volunteered to help me kick my butt on Monday and Tuesday mornings and helps me keep my daughter entertained while I exercise.  It’s much more fun and I feel so much more supported and able to do it than if I was doing it alone.

Quick Tips

  • Schedule your day and review often
  • Use exercise as a tool to jumpstart your motivation – a ten-minute walk can do wonders for your mindset and attitude.
  • Plan Ahead on your daily chores and tasks to save time – meal plan, set aside time for prep work to save yourself time – there’s nothing more discouraging than making a plan for a goal and then getting bogged down by the laundry monster.
  • Do what you can do. I constantly have to remind myself that my first job is to be a mom and that sometimes I’m not going to be able to do It all.  Give yourself and your family grace.
  • Plans fall through. Have a plan B for “Mad Chaos” days and be flexible.  Your hour morning yoga workout may have to be cut to a 10-minute afternoon mommy daughter dance workout because your kid woke up early and cranky.
  • Recognize and celebrate your wins with your kids, even if they are small.
  • Take advantage of nap or quiet time. Quiet time for my family is from 1-4.  That means no TV, no internet videos, and if my daughter isn’t taking a nap, she is engaged in quiet, individual play.
  • Have fun! Make your goals a game.  Compete with yourself or others.  During the summer my husband and I would compete with friends for most steps taken.

What are your best tips for setting and achieving goals?  What are some of your roadblocks?  How did you overcome them?  If you liked this article, make sure to hit the star button and share away!

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50 Free Family Summer Activities

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Mom Life
  1. Go for a Hike – If you don’t have it already, AllTrails is an amazing app that will show you local trails along with ratings from people who have hiked the trail, maps, difficulty ratings, trail lengths and a lot more.
  2. Play in the sprinklers – Is it really even summer if you haven’t played in the sprinklers, yet?
  3. Have a water war – Use things you have on hand. Water guns, plastic cups, buckets, sponges, old rags… But while there may not be rules in love and war – you may want to set a Geneva code just so we can all be friends afterwards.
  4. Play kickball – Aahh the childhood classic. Play it with the full set of rules or modify it for younger kids.
  5. Go to the park ­– Spice it up and find a park you either haven’t been to yet or one you haven’t been to in a while.
  6. Go to the library – The library can be a wealth of summer activities for both kids and adults from summer reading programs, to craft days and movie nights. Check with your local library(ies) to see what’s going on this summer.
  7. Ride your bike – Or if your child doesn’t know how to ride a bike, this could be the summer they learn!
  8. Make a fairy door/garden – Totally stole this from my sister-in-law who probably stole it from Pintrest. You can get tons of ideas and how-to instructions online.
  9. Go on an epic quest to find a lizard/butterfly /whatever – To aid you on your quest, research the time of day your chosen beast is out and about along with their habitat, eating habits etc. Take a photo of your quarry as a trophy.
  10. Make DIY popsicles – This is another one where Pintrest and a simple Google search comes in handy. There are 100s of recipes online or you can do what I do and pour whatever juice you have on hand into icemolds, plop in a few fruit pieces, stick it in the freezer and call it a day.
  11. Attend a parade – With all the festivals, fairs, and summer holidays going on there is bound to be a fun parade to watch. Colorado is full of fun parades such as the Florence Wet/Dry parade on July 4th, the Colorado State Fair Fiesta Day Parade in August.
  12. Attend a local (free) festival – This kinda goes along with the parade activity above but the world is full of fun summer festivals that have something for everything. Just make sure and research for cover charges to attend.
  13. Check out nearby free museums – Or look for a list of free days.
  14. See if your library has a park/zoo pass program­ – A lot of times, your local library will have a pass program for a local park or zoo that you can check out for a weekend. Otherwise if you happen to be the proud parent of a fourth grader, there is a park pass program where you can get into national parks for free.
  15. Read a book – Summer is a great time to find a book that your kids actually want to read. This is especially good for late elementary and middle school students.  Listen.  I loved To Kill a Mockingbird as much as the next lit major.  Truly.  But there is something soul sucking about having to read these books round robin style in front of the class.
  16. Write a story – If your kids are too young to write their own stories, help them write the story and have them illustrate it.
  17. Make art. – Gather your craft supplies and go nuts. Or, take your paints outside for a mommy and me Plein Air session.
  18. Redecorate/Reorganize a room – Enlist your kids to help redecorate their room. Have them help move things around and maybe hang up your new art piece from #17.
  19. Go through unused clothes and toys to donate – Summer is the perfect time to do this as its well after Christmas and Easter and before back-to-school shopping
  20. Make no-bake cookies – Keep the house cool (and little hands burn free) by making no bake cookies. Yum.
  21. Visit the splash pad – Even I have fun at the splash pad. Slather your kids in sunscreen, take a few towls, a swim suit and a few snacks and make an afternoon of it.
  22. Walk around a Riverwalk – Go for an easy breezy walk around your local waterway. Don’t have a nearby Riverwalk?  Stroll down a pretty shady street in your town
  23. Camp in the backyard – Camping in the back yard is a great way to spend time together. Pitch a tent in the backyard or just grab a sleep pad and some sleeping bags and sleep under the stars.  The best part is if you start to feel too uncomfortable, you can just go back inside.
  24. Cook dinner over a firepit – This is a great activity to go with #23. Grab a hot dog, steak or go check out a fun recipe online and grab some roasting sticks and have fun!  Make sure that if you have little kids to watch them like a hawk as burns can easily happen.
  25. Play basketball – I always forget that this is even an option, but I found myself playing with some neighbor kids one afternoon and we had a blast for an hour or two!
  26. Plant an indoor herb garden­ – Mint is a great option for those living in the front range of Colorado. It grows like a weed so you will probably have friends who are itching to get rid of some and once you get yours good and propagated (in an indoors container so it wont take over your yard) then you can go about using it in the literal 1000s of recipes that call for it. A great option is a summer watermelon tomato salad or muddle some in a glass of ice water with lemon for a cool refresher on a hot day.
  27. Take your dog or a neighbor’s dog for a walk ­ – I love taking my dog out for hikes on a cool summer morning for multiple reasons. One is that we all (me, my dog, my daughter) have fun, but the best reason is my dog is so tired by the end of it he doesn’t get into trouble the rest of the day!  If you don’t have a dog, bless yourself and a neighbor by offering to take Fido out for the morning.
  28. Write and preform a play ­– Let your kids write a play and put it on for you. You can help them get started by putting slips of paper in three bags.  Label one “characters”, label one “setting” and label the other “conflict”.  It’s a great way to get the kids to use their creativity over the summer and to stay away from the t.v.
  29. Make costumes for characters in a story or hand puppets – What goes better with a play than puppets or costumes? Use what you have available.  If you decided not to do a play, let the kid re-enact their favorite book while you narrate.
  30. Make a sidewalk chalk maze. – Create a maze on your driveway with sidewalk chalk and let your kids solve it.  Then let them create one for you to solve.  After you’re done, make a few drawings and then rinse it off with a hose!
  31. Pull the mattress off the bed and have a living room sleepover. – My husband and I like to do this with our daughter. We grab some snacks, every pillow in the house to pile on the mattress and then camp out and watch a movie.   (Hint:  This is a great “date” as well once your kids go to bed!)
  32. Build a fort – Get out some chairs and some sheets on a very hot or rainy day and create a fort. Make sure to stock it with pillows, snacks and some books.
  33. Make a bike trail – Include some age appropriate hills and jumps for extra fun. If you have a large property this can be especially fun!  Make it your own and maybe have a race on your newly created track.
  34. Play a card game/board game – These can get heated, but the more you make a habit out of it, the easier it gets. Play a classic like shoots and ladders, monopoly or candyland or check out some of the recommendations here.  Don’t own a board game already?  Make one of your own.
  35. Make some lemonade – Need a quick activity before snack time? Have your kids help with making fresh squeezed lemonade.  Have your kids press the lemons, add the sugar and mix under your supervision.  If you feel extra creative you can have a lemonade lab with other fun mix ins like fruit, seltzer, mint, spices or cucumbers.
  36. Outdoor family game night – Pull out the yard jenga or yardzeee for a family game night. If you don’t own these things and have a few 4x4s or 2x4s handy with some simple woodworking tools, you can make your own in an afternoon.  You can also opt for a backyard Olympics style game with some classics like a three legged race or egg balance games.  Enlist your neighbors for more fun.
  37. Roast fruit kebabs or marshmallows over a fire – Nothing says summer like roasting marshmallows over the fire. If you hate the idea of giving your kids sugar, try roasting fruit kebabs instead.  Many fruits like pineapple and strawberries taste different (and delicious) when cooked so try it out!
  38. Make a box playhouse or castle – Bring a large box outside along with some paint and some scissors and let your kids create their very own clubhouse. Looking for a longer activity?  Let them create a castle.  If you need inspiration do a quick google search… you may need a bigger box…
  39. Go on a photo walk – Let your son or daughter use your old digital camera or your (heavily protected) phone and go for a walk in the park. Better yet, if you have a poloroid or old fashioned disposable camera, use that.  There is something magic about developing film.  Display the best of the photos around the house.
  40. Download lego plans and make things – Lego company releases a new mini plan every month for free and they also give free access to their classic plans. There is also a wealth of creators online who will create plans for others to follow.  One of my favorites is from a blog called littlebinsforlittlehands.com who incorporates learning into her child’s lego play time.
  41. Go geochaching – All you need is a phone GPPS and access to the internet on your phone. Go to www.geocaching.com/play for more details.  Its like a giant treasure hunt and what kid doesn’t like to go on a treasure hunt?
  42. Learn to play a new game (shark tag, steal the bacon, etc) – One of my favorite resources is www.ultimatecampresource.com. They have TONS of games to play that require anywhere from 2 to 10+ players- so let your kids invite their friends over and have fun!
  43. Check out a local farmers market– Not only do you allow kids to connect to their food and the people growing their food, there is typically fun local music, and fun activities for kids. Plus yummy local fruit and veggies.  Win/win.
  44. Go fishing – Speaking of connecting kids to food, take your kids on a fishing trip at a local (clean) lake to catch some fish for dinner. Not only is fishing a great skill to have in your back pocket, it teaches kids about patience and sitting quietly and concentrating – skills they wont necessarily get by watching TV or playing games on a phone.
  45. Visit a local farm – Many local farms will offer a free or very low-cost tour.
  46. Fly a kite – Kites can be made with paper, plastic, or fabric; string and a few sticks in practically no time at all. Have a competition to see who can make the highest flying kite, the quickest or the prettiest.
  47. Do a puzzle – My child can spend the whole afternoon playing puzzles on a rainy day. Some libraries even rent them out or they can be purchased at the dollar store for a dollar.  Not a bad return on an afternoon of peace and quiet!
  48. Make an instrument and play it – Drums, simple stringed instruments or pan pipes can be easily made. Or you can have your kid learn how to play an existing instrument you own like a piano or guitar.  You may want to start with a very simple song that your kids will want to learn rather than scales or even all the notes initially.  Those things are important but if you aren’t able to put them into practice relatively soon into learning an instrument, many children will lose interest.
  49. Freeze toys in water and excavate them – Take old toys and freeze them in a block of ice. Let your kids have some tools like a small plastic pick, a tub of water or a simple cloth to excavate them.
  50. Paint rocks – Painting rocks and hiding them around town can be a fun activity for you and your little ones. Check out local facebook rock painting groups or create your own!  These groups will have hints on where to find rocks that they have hidden as well as pictures of found rocks.  If your kids have a special rock that they don’t want to give away, clear coat it and display it in your garden.

The Summer of “Impossible” Things

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Starting in middle school, about a month before school ended, I would make a list of “impossible” things that I wanted to achieve that summer. Usually, I tried to make the list at least 10 items long and my goal was always to complete the list and write about them in my journals as I went. Middle school was a hard time for me (and everyone else on the planet). I was struggling in finding healthy relationships with friends; I had a hard time controlling my weight; terrible acne that nothing would fix; I was bullied about my clothes weight glasses and “huge pores”; I was overly sensitive; and while I was eager to fit in (initially) I was a bit on the socially awkward side. In other words, I was an easy target in school.
So, summer became a time that I could really dig deep and be anything and do anything. I don’t think I ever had the words to explain to my parents the “why”, though I’m sure they asked, but my dad especially seemed to instinctively know that I needed this. His only restrictions were: you fund it, you plan it, and parents must sign off on it. Fair enough.
One especially hard year, I wrote the word “fly” and then quickly added “not in a plane”. It was the most impossible thing I could think of – if I could do this then I could do anything. It didn’t even matter that I was terrified of heights – just for the summer, just for this one thing – I wouldn’t be. So, while on vacation in Florida with my grandparents, I saw the perfect opportunity – parasailing. I spent the next two days secretly researching parasailing – what were the best companies in my area, how much was it, what did I need to provide. The only problem was being under 18 by about 3 or 4 years I needed parent or guardian signature, but it wouldn’t have been impossible if it was easy. My grandma immediately said “no” but later changed it (after I started being annoying, I’m sure) to “Well, ask your father and whatever he says is the final word” to which I quickly agreed and shook hands to seal the deal.
On the phone, I asked my dad if I could go parasailing and he let out a long sigh. “You’re grandmother will be very nervous about this. Why parasailing?” I explained that I needed to do it to complete my list. “Can we do that part another year – I could go with you?” I told him that I knew I was being a pain but it had to be this year. “Why is this so important?” It just… was. It was something I needed to do.
Another long sigh, he asked for me to put my grandmother on the line. They probably spent 30 minutes on the phone arguing until she put my grandfather on the line to “talk some sense into your son” at which point another 15 minutes was spent arguing until my grandpa hung up the phone and said “Well. If you’re bound and determined to kill yourself this way, then we’ll leave at 9 am to do it, I guess.” I gave my grandpa a big hug and a kiss and told him-jokingly- it was exactly how I wanted to go out. He rolled his eyes and told me to take my brother to the pool while he talked things over with grandma.
The next day we left early to go to parasailing. It was exhilarating and freeing. My brother also decided to go with me and he went up with me despite his own fear of heights so I wouldn’t have to do the impossible alone. It was at that moment that I realized that even if I could rely on no one else, I could rely on my family. Granted, there were probably better ways I could have done things – I regret worrying my grandparents and making my dad go to bat for me, but the next year and all the following years were very different for me in school. Its hard to convince someone that no one loves them and that they are a loser when they’ve done the impossible specifically because several people loved them enough. That isn’t the only story or lesson I learned from my impossible summer lists – but it was the first super meaningful one of many, many more exciting adventures.
That being said, I highly recommend that you start today – right this second in coming up with your 10 impossible things to do this summer. This could be the year you learn that you can do anything. This could be the year you learn you have more people who love you than you thought. If you have kids, I encourage you to convince them to do the same. Explain the rules but also show them that you would do everything in your power to make sure they get there. It may not work out like you or they expect, in fact, it probably won’t, but it could change their life as much as it did mine.

What are your impossible things?

59 Ways to Celebrate Your Life

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Uncategorized

In honor of my April blog “Celebrate Life!”, I compiled a list of things you can do to actively celebrate the life you are living right now. If you haven’t read it, check it out or simply read through the list below.  There should be something for everyone!

Celebrate Your Health

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  • Donate canned or shelf stable food that doesn’t fit into your lifestyle any more to an organization that could use it. Research local food pantries in your area on their guidelines.  You can also give away the food to a neighbor in need.
  • Invest in yourself where you are in your journey, not just in where you wish to be. Instead of buying a pair of jeans or a swimsuit you hope to one day be able to wear, buy a lovely, comfortable functional, workout outfit (with POCKETS!!) in which you feel confident and powerful. While you’re at it, pick up a great pair of quality but comfy sneakers that are up for just about anything.  I really like New Balance 555s.  I can do anything except long distance running in mine and they are so comfortable that I have worn them to the point of no longer being attractive.
  • Start a community group focused on an activity you enjoy such as walking, biking, hiking, yoga, P90X, jazzercise… What better way to celebrate an activity you enjoy than to share it with friends.?
  • Start a journal, scrapbook, Instagram account or blog to document your journey.  Many people have found that the support of an online community is really encouraging to their journey to fitness and health.  It also makes them feel accountable to continue so that those who have cheered them on can see the results of your hard work.  However, a scrapbook and journal can let you see the same progresses you have made over time along with tracking what works and what doesn’t in privacy.   Through my PCOS journey, I’ve kept a food journal and found out my body doesn’t like gluten or soy.  So, now, I avoid those foods.
  • Buy that bike you’ve been drooling over and go for a ride. Tis the season to get the ol’ bike out and go enjoy a nice bike ride around town.
  • Enjoy your guilty pleasures but in tiny servings. My husband and I have gotten more joy from a giant (table) spoon of ice cream served special tiny bowls than we ever have from a giant serving of ice cream.
  • Plan a meatless Monday. Find recipes you really enjoy and are excited about creating.  Indian and Nepalese food really lends itself to vegetarian/vegan cooking and is rich, hearty and filling.  I also like every recipe I’ve ever tried from The Minimalist Baker.  In fact, I’ve mentioned them before here when I was talking about recepies I enjoy
  • Lift up your sisters. Know someone who is on a journey with health/fitness/weight-loss?  Is she struggling? Show up and go on a walk with her.  Offer to make her a (healthy) dinner or lunch.  Is she excited about dropping a few pounds?  Don’t sneer at her or act jealous or say “It must be so nice to [be young/have time/have money/etc] and for the weight to just fall off!”  Celebrate her!  I guarantee, no matter where she is in life, the weight did not just fall off.  It took time and energy and effort. Take her shopping for a new outfit or out for coffee.

Celebrate Your Faith

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Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

  • Color in the margins of your Bible. Mark it up.  Put poems in it.  Press flowers in the pages.  Document your family tree.  Its your Bible.
  • Make or buy a special prayer box. Use it. Refer back to it often.
  • Get up at dawn (or your child’s nap time – do you), grab your coffee or tea and have a breakfast (or lunch) date with Jesus.
  • Spend time praying about and discovering your unique ministry. Take the first step, whatever that looks like.
  • Start a gratitude journal. Look for things to be thankful for and write them down.  Make a special point to personally thank the people and loved ones who make it on that list.
  • Make your own praise playlist. Find worship songs you really truly love (Has anyone heard Eden from Vineyard music yet??) and why not throw in some uplifting or inspirational songs you just love in the mix as well.  Some of the secular songs out there have brought me closer to Jesus than what I was listening to in church at the time (Israel Kamalawiwo’ole, Mumford and Sons, Bon Iver, and The Fray are all in my worship mix.  #sorrynotsorry.)

Celebrate Your Mind

 

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Photo by Annelies Geneyn on Unsplash

  • Learn a new language – or at least how to say “Hello”, “Goodbye” and “Thank you”. It makes me so excited when I recognize another language and can communicate with another human that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to, even a tiny little bit.
  • Be a Total Geek about something – I love books and history. You can tell because I talk too loudly about it and for too long.  I spend too much time finding out little facts “no one” cares about (but me).   It is 100% okay to be that way.  Allow yourself to be a little too excited about something.  Celebrate your weirdness.
  • Learn a new skill – make it fun, something you’ve always wanted to do. You can enroll yourself in a college course, or invest in Lynda.com or another learning website, or you could simply get on youtube.
  • Be Creative – I’m talking about creating or finding a project that you can put your own personal stamp on – something that is unapologetically you. Don’t feel like you are a creative person?  Create your perfect planner or calendar, create a dinner menu and prepare it, weld, code a website or make a new computer program, create a party plan and host it.  You are probably more creative than you think.
  • Write a Poem – New to poetry? Write a highly structured poem like a limerick or haiku.   If you feel like a challenge, write a sonnet.
  • Write a journal filled with your thoughts.
  • Create a hobby group- Knitting, sewing, books, writing, music, jewelry making, photography, decorating, women in IT, home repair/do it yourself, dog training, chickens… the possibilities are endless. Advertise to friends with similar interests as you or in your local paper or community social media page.

Celebrate Yourself

 

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Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

  • Blow bubbles
  • Throw on a facemask or have a full-blown (DIY?) spa day.
  • Spend an afternoon doing something you personally love and that makes you happy.
  • Love your feet – Scrub them, soak them, file them, moisturize them, cut your toenails and put a wild color on those tootsies. Or have someone else do it for you.
  • Go visit somewhere you have always wanted – if no one wants to go along, go by yourself.
  • Learn how to do something that makes you feel like the Wonder Woman/Black Widow/Jamie Bond that you are. Examples include: preforming car or home maintenance, deadlifting, welding, defending yourself, horse riding, tango, or rock climbing. (If you already know how to do these things, congrats!  You are well on your way to being a superhero/international spy.)
  • Take a risk with your “look”– granted, you may have to check with your workplace dress code before dying your hair neon green and sporting a spiked collar to your Monday board meeting. However, experimenting with a fun pair of colored or patterned jeans that you secretly love, a mani in a wild shade you’ve been too afraid to try or a pixie cut you’ve been drooling over, or even that tattoo that’s been on your pintrest board for the last 5 years is an excellent way to shake yourself out of a rut and celebrate your uniqueness (and hair grows back/can be redyed).

Celebrate Friends

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Photo by Sidharth Bhatia on Unsplash

  • Reconnect with a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Invite her out for coffee or, if she lives far away, then schedule a facetime call with her to catch up.
  • Buy a pack of birthday candles and put them in your purse. Pull them out whenever a friend has done something that needs an instant celebration like the start of a fitness journey, paying off a debt, or any goal or acheivement – small or large- that they have completed.  (This idea was in a book I once read and it really stuck with me, but I no longer own the book!  If you know the title of this book or the author, please let me know so I can properly reference it.)
  • Invent a holiday with your friend(s) or find an obscure one (National Grilled Cheese day, Scrabble Day, National Wine Day, No Diet Day). Set up reminders for yourself and celebrate it every year.  Make a big deal out of it.
  • Buy a gift for a friend, don’t wait until a holiday to give it to her. Make sure to include a little note sharing how thankful you are for her.
  • Go on errands together. – Nothing says you love someone like sitting for eons with him or her at the DMV.

Celebrate Nature

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

  • Go for a hike
  • Find out local park’s community clean up days and participate. If your park doesn’t have one, ask how you can help in organizing one.
  • Find a lovely place to have a picnic, sit and read, sketch or just bask in the beauty around you.
  • Donate your time or money to a nearby park’s nature or wildlife preservation efforts.
  • Plant a butterfly or bee garden
  • Go on a photography walk and try to capture the beauty around you.
  • Plant a (native) tree.
  • Take a blanket and pillow and watch the stars.

Celebrate Your Neighborhood

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

  • Organize a block party or BYOM (Bring your own meat) cookout. Invite all your neighbors.
  • Offer to pull weeds or mow for an elderly or disabled neighbor.
  • Bring your neighbor a favorite dessert or beer. Don’t know their favorite?  Make it a goal to find out OR bring yours.  It’s a good way to start up a conversation.
  • Organize a neighborhood cleaning or repair day. This can be as simple as grabbing a few trash bags and some gloves and picking up trash or as involved as cleaning up yards and lots, repairing fences, trimming shrubs and trees, raking leaves and painting playgrounds.  Just make sure to research what your community requires and ask permission from your neighbors before you take it upon yourself to clean or repair their things.
  • Do a no RSVP required monthly gathering like a board game night or potluck or bonfire.

Celebrate Your Home

 

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Photo by Tom Swinnen on Pexels.com

  • Plant lots of plants, both inside your home and out. If you are a serial plant killer (like myself), invest in pretty a pretty rock garden/xeriscaping or high quality faux plants.
  • Commit to doing spring cleaning this year. Check out Marie Kondo’s Konmari Method.  Yes.  I’m obsessed.
  • Find a home repair project that is within your budget and that speaks to you. Plan a weekend to do it. Painting your trim in a room can cost as little as $15 and can make a HUGE difference.  Is it a big project?  Host a “barn raising” within your friend group to volunteer to help in exchange for food, drink and company.  Make sure to have things to do for all skill levels and plan activities to keep kids entertained and out of the way of the power tools.
  • Create a home dream board for all the projects you would like to get to and ideas on how to decorate each room.
  • Host a “Plant the Garden Party” – Provide food and drink for your friends and ask that they bring their favorite vegetables or herbs or flowers from a plant nursery for you to plant your garden.

 

Celebrate Your Family

 

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Photo by Anastasiya Gepp on Pexels.com

  • Host a family celebration at your house, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas or a graduation or birthday party.
  • Send someone in your family a “Thinking of you” card, post card or goodie bag via snail mail.
  • Plan a just-because-family-adventure like going on a hike or a weekend trip.
  • Plan your family’s perfect vacation together with your family and set a date to do it.
  • Take your kids out on solo dates and just focus on him or her as an individual for an afternoon or evening
  • Celebrate your family member’s achievements like graduations, sporting events and remember them on special days like birthdays, wedding anniversaries and holidays. Show up to events that matter to them.  If the family member lives far away and you can’t make it, call to see how things went.  Keep a stack of cards ready for birthdays, holidays and achievements.
  • Create family traditions. Keep them.
  • Call family members and make a point to be involved.

 

What do you think?  Do you have a way you like to celebrate your life?  How many things on the list have you done before?  Do you have any plans to do any of the aforementioned ideas? Was this helpful to you?  Let me know!  I love to hear from readers, so make sure to like and comment!

 

My Personal Road To Wellness

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Health and Wellness / Rachel Went For A Walk

 

 

Recently, I was diagnosed with Poly-cystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS. PCOS is a syndrome affecting as many as one out of five women in the United States and contributes to a myriad of issues including but not limited to infertility, obesity, insulin resistance, mental health issues (such as anxiety mood swings and depression), unbalanced hormones, heart issues, kidney issues, liver issues, diabetes, and (of course) poly-cystic ovaries. It can be genetic, lifestyle induced, or hormone therapy/birth-control induced. Although, for most, PCOS is not “curable” a good majority of the symptoms can be managed through lifestyle changes and in some cases medication.

Getting a diagnosis of PCOS can be difficult as Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome is a bit of a misnomer. The main symptoms of PCOS are insulin resistance and hormonal imbalance but, to make matters even trickier, some people suffering from PCOS don’t even have poly-cystic ovaries! In my case, it took 20 years for a diagnosis; but to be fair, the symptoms are so erratic seeming and the symptoms and root causes are so contested, it’s little wonder to took so long to get an answer. For instance, PCOS was once thought to be the cause of an excess of androgens – which is partially true, but doctors now believe the real root cause stems from food and environmental sensitivities and is the body’s response to the inflammation caused by these sensitivities.

As soon as I read the information my new OB-GYN handed me about PCOS, it was like a lightbulb came on and my whole life was illuminated. Suddenly everything just made sense and “clicked”. Panic attacks and depression that I had been suffering with since middle school, inconsistent menstruations through high-school and beyond, issues with weight management and infertility in my 20s, pregnancy complications, hypertension and liver issues in my 30s – it was like my life was a textbook case of PCOS. If the cycle continued it very well could spell diabetes and heart/liver/kidney a decade from now. I was relieved to hear that there was a reason for all these issues and more importantly that there was a way to fix it – but still a question lingered in my mind: HOW?
How had it taken so long to get a diagnosis? How could I not see that there was something seriously wrong? How could the medical professionals I had seen in the past not see it- and if they had, how could they not bring it up? How could this be such a common issue, but I not hear about the myriad of complications? How was I going to deal with this? How was I going to afford this? How would this affect me later in life? How was I going to get healthy to be a good mom to our daughter and stick around for her? The list of “hows” goes on but, needless to say, I was and still am a little overwhelmed.

So, I did what I usually do when something confuses or bothers me: I read about it and I prayed about it. During the past month I’ve done almost nothing but read about PCOS and the related treatments. I’ve read books and blogs by doctors, dieticians, health coaches, and those who are learning to work with PCOS like myself. I’ve looked at diets, medications and exercise plans. I’ve prayed for direction and healing. Still, I’ve only scratched the surface on the information there is to know, and I’ve only taken the first steps baby steps of what promises to be a lifelong adventure. I’m by NO means an expert, but, with the help and advice from others who have lived with the condition and my doctor, at least now I have a plan that I’m happy with and can live with.

Since my diagnosis in late March/early April, I have lost a total of 20 lbs. (30 lbs. since November!), dropped three pants sizes, a shirt size and have found an exuberance for life I didn’t know was possible.  I’m eating food that gives me energy and tastes great instead of being ruled by my cravings.  I’m exercising at least three times a week and working towards a goal of five times a week.  My mental well being is a lot better and I’m a lot less scared and angry and a lot more joyful and excited about life.  But the best thing of all is that I have hope:  hope for a long life of joy with my daughter and a hope that my daughter and her children wont have to wait until their 30s for answers.  If you are interested to know my plan, it’s this:

Step 1: Work on changing my perspective relationship and attitude on weight loss, food, exercise and health in general.  Include mindfulness, gratitude, prayer, and mantras into my daily routine along with diet and exercise.  This is my step one that trumps all my food and exercise regimen.  Like all things, health can become a “god” we serve if we let it; but one day health will fail, no matter how healthy we are.  When our plans fail and we put our money on the wrong horse, we can lose hope and everything – good and bad – we were doing will apart in our dismay and hopelessness.  (Trust me.  I was there two and a half years ago.)  Through this step I’ve come to realize three things: Mental and physical health is a blessing and a gift not to be taken lightly or abused; my actions towards and personal outlook of this gift can either create a heaven or hell here on earth; and I can choose to be the master of my attitude and actions affecting my health or I can choose to let it be the master of me.

Step 2: Embrace the “food is medicine” philosophy to learn what foods cause inflammation in me personally (one of the causes of insulin resistance) and modify my diet accordingly using a food journal that logs what I ate, at what time, my mood, energy level, and physical symptoms (stomach cramps, headaches, weight gain, etc.).  For instance, I’ve found out my body doesn’t like wheat/gluten, soy or milk very much and it causes me to bloat and generally feel uncomfortable.

Step 3: Experiment with movement and what types of movement make me feel good and joyful and which ones feel like punishment. For example, I have found that I enjoy hikes, walks, dancing, yardwork and swimming and feel great after I get my heart rate up doing these activities. However, I hate being on a treadmill and playing most sports and while I might feel okay afterwards, I dread doing them again.

Step 4: Hormonal imbalances play a big role on stress, but it’s a catch 22. My hormones are imbalanced so I’m prone to stress and my stress, in turn, causes more hormone imbalance. So, finding and engaging in creative, physical and mental outlets that destress me isn’t frivolous, and it isn’t just something I should probably do, its essential to me being well. Not only this, but my environment plays a large part in my well-being – so doing what I can to create a healthy environment for myself including cleaning and tiding my home is imperative (Hello, Marie Kondo).

Step 5: Prepare in what I can and let go of the rest. A big part of my afternoons has become doing things for myself the next day that make it easier for me to choose the lifestyle that promotes health. This means making sure my exercise clothes are clean and available for the next day, that my kitchen is stocked with healthy snacks and not with junk and that my meals are planned. However, it’s also realizing that “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”- so, if a plan falls through, it’s not the end of the world and there is always another minute, hour, day, etc. to make a better choice.

Step 6: Engage with a community that will support me. This means communicating with my husband and friends who support my goals and will hold me accountable. Not only that, but I realize that I will have bad days and on those bad days I will need my community to lift me back up. No man or woman is an island, so I don’t have to live like I’m on one.

Step 7: Raise awareness of PCOS throughout my journey using any platform I have. If I can share my symptoms and journey and prevent one woman from suffering 20 years of confusion and pain, then I can count myself successful. If I can save another lady a stumble or two on her own journey with PCOS then it would bless me forever. This last step won’t be easy, but it’s something of which I feel strongly.

My vision for Chicky Mama was and will always be about healthy, sustainable womanhood and motherhood in an era where so much seems to be working against us. Although I do plan to use Chicky Mama as a platform to raise awareness for PCOS, many of topics of healthfully living with this syndrome are simply topics for living healthfully in general which fits in beautifully to my vision, don’t you think?

With that being said, if you feel like you may have PCOS, make sure and set up an appointment with your OB-GYN. Also, be willing to listen but be informed before your visit – after all, it is your body and your health. Having a plan and just knowing how to become healthy again is a huge advantage in your road to well-being. If you feel like your doctor is being dismissive, seek a second opinion. I feel like my diagnosis is well worth the money, time and testing for my peace of mind and direction. and while I wish it happened sooner, I’m still glad and so grateful it happened at all!

So what do you think? Do you feel like you may have undiagnosed PCOS? Do you feel like your health is well in hand or do you feel lost and confused? (By the way, you aren’t alone if you do!) Was this post helpful to you? Make sure and like and comment if it was! As always, I en

Celebrate Life!

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Mom Life / Uncategorized

In January, I prayerfully sat down and wrote out my blog post schedule along with monthly topics and outlined writing plans for the year trying to really listen to what I was called to write.  I was excited about 2019 and ready to really lean into my Chicky-Mama blog.  Little did I know that the next three months (especially March) was going to hit me like a ton of bricks. 

What started out to be a pleasant year, has began to be a year of self-discovery and rebuilding.  Relationships I thought were solid enough crumbled beneath my feet, health issues began to reveal themselves, and a few harsh realities came barging (uninvited) through my door.  Not to say that everything this year has been bad – far from it!  My little family has been specifically and abundantly blessed beyond measure but with all the huge life changes – good and bad- being hurled my way, it left me extremely anxious and even moderately depressed – not least of all because my goal of writing and publishing every week had unquestionably been (thus far) a failure. 

So, after a long writing hiatus, my doctors diagnosing me with anxiety/depression, cholesterol issues, and PCOS; my sewage breaking down (Twice. Yuck.); some unexpected work issues; a disappointment in much anticipated travel plans; and just plain old feeling sorry for myself – I begrudgingly opened my planner to see that the subject for the month is “Celebration” and my writing topic for the first day is “Celebrate Life!” exuberantly written in big scrawling letters.  I almost laughed out loud.  But you know what?  I instantly felt much better – almost giddy.   I didn’t know what would be facing me for the last few months, but God did, and that little instruction written by my own hand did wonders to heal the sadness and hurt I had been feeling for the past month.  Although I didn’t choose to have those things happen, and I had little control over my circumstances, I still had a choice of what to do. There was plenty still to celebrate. 

All that to say, “bad things are going to happen”.  There are going to be days where every step feels like you have anchors tied to your feet and every breath feels like a knife in your chest.  There are going to be nights lying awake in a blind panic; terrified of what the next day will bring.  Even still, knowing this, there is a God who knows you and loves you just as you are and right where you are – failures and all.  There is a God who reminds you to celebrate life just so you can find it at the right time before you feel like giving up. 

When bad things happen, we all have a choice.  We can sit in despair, cursing our circumstances and being a thorn in the side of humanity to retaliate for all the wrong in our lives – or we can choose joy and to work our bad circumstances to good. 

 

Later this week I will be talking about ways for you to celebrate life, so make sure to subscribe by email, to Instagram or follow us on Facebook!

 

Until Next time and as always, make sure to comment below if you liked this article and would like to see more of this type of content or if you have questions or an idea!  I love reader comments (they make my day!) and make it a point to respond quickly!

Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

Chicky Mama’s ULTIMATE Fall Bucket List For You And Your Young Kids

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Uncategorized

As a stay at home mom, I’ve found that the days go easier if they are kept relatively full. Toddlers, or at least my toddler, start acting like POWs when spending more than 6 hours at home.  My toddler is happiest when we are outside, playing with friends or in a new environment.  This gets increasingly difficult as the temperature starts to drop.  In Colorado, the weather in the fall can be kind of unpredictable, so its nice to have a blend of indoor and outdoor things to do.

Download the PDF here.
Ultimate Fall List

In creating this list, I tried to put these activities in some sort of logical order.  So without further ado, here is Chicky Mama’s Ultimate Fall Bucket List for you and your little one to enjoy.

Autumn Outings

 

  • Pick out Pumpkins in a pumpkin patch – this is a classic fall activity and SO MUCH FUN for the littles.  Plus this is an awesome photo op to get photos to send to grandparents, who eat this stuff up like Halloween candy .  Find your local pumpkin patch here.img_20181017_112019
  • Get Lost in a Corn Maze – Find your local corn maze here!
  • Go on a fall themed nature hike- just make it short and fun so the littles don’t get too tired.
  • Go on a scavenger hunt – use pictures (if your preschooler cant read) and help your child find the items.
  • Attend a fall festival – keep a watchful eye out for these in your local newspaper or message board
  • Go to a fall farmers market – have fun looking at local produce.
  • Visit a farm – Harvest season is a wonderful time of year to plan a visit with a local farm.  Kids love interacting with animals and seeing things grow.
  • Pick apples at an apple orchard. – Find your local apples orchard here.
  • Go on a hay ride – Hay rides are quintessential fall fun.  However, unless you live on a farm, this isn’t the easiest one to accomplish.  But, there are usually advertisements under the events section for hay rides this time of year and if you cant find it there, Facebook events and google are also excellent resources.
  • Take your little out on a coffee date – Get a fall themed coffee for you, and a fall flavored milk steamer for your little one (or hot cocoa, or apple cider).  Make sure and get a fun fall dessert while you’re there!
  • Go out to the country (or the mountains)  to see the leaves – make sure to pack a picnic to eat in the midst of all the beautiful fall colors.  Don’t forget to take your camera and snap a few family photos while you are there.
  •  Go for a camping trip – You can go to a camp ground to camp, just make sure you are prepared to have a little one with you while camping.  Or, if you aren’t ready to take your toddler with you on that big of an adventure quite yet, you can always camp in your back yard.
  • Stomp in puddles – Fall brings rain and rain brings puddles and puddles bring toddlers.  You cant beat it, you might as well join it.
  • Pick out a new matching fall outfit together!  Don’t forget a cute beanie and matching scarves!
  • Grab a polaroid camera and snap some pictures- fall is nostalgic.  Polaroid cameras are nostalgic.  Get yours here and take pictures of you and your toddler completing fall bucket list items.
  • Try Coldstone’s fall ice cream flavors – colder weather may be here, but ice cream is appropriate all year long :p
  • Collect acorns and pinecones – my daughter loves acorns and pinecones.  These are also great craft materials for later on in the year.
  • Play in a corn pit – this is exactly what it sounds like.  It is a pit of corn in which you can play.  Some pumpkin patches may have them but if you cant find one, build your own!
  • See the geese one last time before they fly south – you can usually catch them at your nature park but if not, you can always look out for their famous V shape in the air.
  • Collect food for a food bank – Kids love to feel like they are a part of something bigger – especially kids in the 4-5 range.  Make sure you explain what you are doing and why you are doing it.  Even my little girl (almost 2) loves to be the one to put items in the donation box.
  • Attend an outdoor (kid friendly) concert – You can usually find a few of these listed img_20180908_145325_289in the newspaper or community bulletin board before the weather gets too cold.
  • Take a family get away in a cabin – Sometimes you just need a weekend away.  Plan a trip away during fall break if you have older kids in school or go on a weekend.
  • Attend a error glow – Late August and September is a great chance to see a balloon glow.  Search online to find one near you.
  • Identify neighborhood trees – fall is an excellent time to identify trees in your neighborhood.  Some trees become much easier to identify in the fall after the leaves change.  I highly recommend the Audubon Field Guide to North American Trees.  Get them from the links below:

 Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Eastern Region

National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees–W: Western Region (National Audubon Society Field Guides)

  •  Take a scenic drive – Take a local road through the country and just look at the land around you.  Pack some snacks and stop to explore.
  • Go to a family friendly drive in movie – Find your local drive in movie theatre here
  • Run in a race together – My daughter loves to go fast in her stroller.  She is an awesome training buddy!  (“Mommy!  Go faster!”) Sign up for a fun run with your little and then make sure to get out to train.
  • Go to a children’s museum – This is another great activity for preschoolers.  While older kids go back to school to learn, why not plan an outing for the preschooler in your life to your local children’s museum.
  • Go to the park – Winter is just around the corner.  Soak up the magic fall temperatures while they last!
  • Start going to story time – Fall is a wonderful time to check out your local library and start attending story time.   A lot of them will also let your little ones do crafts and play time which is time you don’t have to spend thinking of an activity to do!  Whew!
  • Make a fall discovery table – Lay out sticks, leaves, acorns, (clean) feathers, fall grasses pinecones and fall nuts on a table with a magnifying glass, tape measurers and tweezers for your kids to explore.  Discover with your child and discuss if an object rough or smooth, soft or hard. Older preschoolers may like to draw a picture of each item.  Let your child fully explore the items – tear them apart etc.
  • Check out your local chapter of MOPS – MOPS is a great place to go for mothers with small children.  They usually start up in the fall (right around the start of school).  Its a nice break for you and great fun for your little ones.
  • Do Random Acts of Kindness (RAKs) around your neighborhood – get some ideas herehere
  • Donate old toys – its almost Christmas time, why not make room for new toys by donating the ones your child doesn’t play with anymore?
  • Write “Thank You Cards” to hand out at your local VA hospital or nursing home- My grandfather spent the last 9 months of his life at a VA nursing home.  Although he was given the absolute best care, it was still a very lonely place to be.  When I brought my daughter there to visit him, the whole place came alive.  My daughter became an instant celebrity and everyone wanted to know when my grandfather’s baby was going to come visit again.  This absolutely touched my heart and my daughter’s as well.

Fall Snacks and Treats

  • Roast pumpkin seeds. – this is a yummy and healthy snack for you and your little one!  Just make sure they are old enough to eat them
  • Try Caramel apples – this makes a fun fall snack.  Slightly tart and crisp apples like honey crisp or gala work beautifully for caramel apples. For small toddlers, cut up the apples and let them dip the slices in their own warm caramel. Make sure to have plenty of wet wipes, available as this snack can get messy.  For even more fun, invite a few friends over and make some toppings to go on your apple.  Crushed chocolate, peanuts, Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal and sprinkles are fun additions to any caramel apple but be creative!
  • Make apple crisp – Let your kids help by allowing to mix the apples and sprinkle on the “crisp”
  • Make apple chips – have your kids help sprinkle sugar and cinnamon
  • Make fall themed trail mix –   Littles love to help in the kitchen and this recipe is a perfect way to let them.  Toddlers will love pouring the ingredients in a bowl and mixing them together.
  • Make smores around a bonfire – This one is so much fun, especially for older toddlers (or the toddlers at heart).
  • Share a glass of apple cider with your toddler- warm or cold, either one is tasty.
  • Make and eat a pumpkin pie- you don’t get much more fall than that 😉
  • Let your child make an easy recipe for thanksgiving.  Don’t know what to make?  Check out this recipe and this recipe
  • Make leaf shaped cookies – this can be done with sugar cookies and a cookie cutter (extra points for maple flavored cookies).  Make sure to make royal icing in fall colors so that you and your child can decorate!  Older preschoolers especially will love this activity.
  • Eat a persimmon – a persimmon is a large berry that gets ripe after the first hard frost.  Too early and its hard and bitter, too late and its rotten.  But if you manage to get it perfect, its so sweet and tasty!!
  • Make hot cocoa – a chilly fall day is the perfect time to indulge in cocoa.  Throw in some marshmallows for an extra special treatimg_20171222_184323_618
  • Make applesauce together – Kids will love helping mash the apples, and taste testing, of course!  Get the directions here
  • Make rice crispy treat pumpkins – Find a great tutorial here.
  • Make vegetable soup together –  or any type of soup!  Check out my family’s fall favorites here.
  • Make pumpkin pancakes for breakfast – These are delicious and can also be frozen for breakfast another day!  Check out the recipe here.
  • Make a harvest corn cake – These are ADORABLE.  Your little one will love to help decorate these.  This is sure to become a new fall tradition in your home!  Get the recipe here.

Harvest Season Celebrations

  • Stay in pajamas all day and play games – sometimes you have to stay in.  Make it fun by having an all day pajama party
  • Have a toddler friendly football party – make your favorite game day snacks and make some toddler friendly games for the little ones to enjoy while the adults watch the game.
  • Have an apple tasting.- cut up several varieties of apple and let your child taste test them with you.  Find your child and your favorite apple variety!
  • Watch a fall or Halloween themed movie – we love Pooh’s Heffalump Halloween Movie, Coco, Its the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Fox and the Hound, Charlie Brown Thanksgiving  and Garfield’s Thanksgiving.
  • Make a Halloween costume with your toddler – toddlers love cutting, gluing, tying and spraying glitter.  It may not look perfect, but the memories you will make will be invaluable.
  • Throw a toddler friendly Halloween party – Have a costume contest and several activities for you little ones to do.
  • Pick out a Halloween costume – Maybe crafting a whole costume isn’t your thing.  That’s okay!  Picking out a costume with your toddler can be equally as fun!
  • Go reverse trick or treating- this is a fun activity to do with some mom and toddler friends.  Dress up in your Halloween costumes and hand out candy to seniors in a nursing home or assisted living community.  Not only will your child love dressing up in his or her costume, but the seniors will love getting to see your little ghouls and goblins handing out candy.
  • Attend or participate in a trunk or treat – this has become our favorite way to trick or treat.  Not only do you not have to worry about going door to door on busy streets, but you also get to see some pretty fun trunk decorations.sawyer-costume1
  •  Go trick or treating- the perfect place to take your newly made costumes out for a spin!  Take a stroller with you and dress in layers  to keep your little monster or angel comfortable and happy.  Also make sure to keep some healthy snacks on hand to battle the inevitable hangries and so they wont over eat their newly collected treats.
  • Go to a Veteran’s day parade
  • Make a thankfulness tree- make leaf shaped ornaments out of construction paper and write down what you and your child are thankful for.
  • Watch a Thanksgiving day parade – This is one of my husbands favorite traditions with his family.
  • Host a toddler Thanksgiving or harvest party – Make it a lunch event and invite all your child’s friends.  Make ahead some fun toddler friendly treats and gather a few turkey themed games.
  • Think up a Thanksgiving breakfast tradition together – My dad would usually always cook his famous giant omelets for breakfast to order.  It was a ton of fun because first of all, dad rarely cooked breakfast but also because we got to pick what went in our omelet.  My husband’s mom always made chocolate gravy (recipe here) and homemade biscuts for their Thanksgiving breakfast.  Make it special to you!
  • Take your Christmas card photo – I know,  I know, no Christmas before Thanksgiving.  But if you wait until then you will be rushing to get your Christmas cards out on time (trust me on this one).

Fall Stay-at-Home Activities

  • Paint or draw on a pumpkin.  – this is an awesome alternative to carving as little hands should not be let around sharp objects.  White pumpkins make an excellent canvas for markers or tempura paints.img_20181022_172455
  • Make a scarecrow tgether – stuff him with leaves newspaper or hay!  Make sure and use old clothes to put on your scarecrow.
  • Plant flowers for next year – Daffodils, tulips and crocus all are planted in the fall for spring.  Your little one will love digging in the dirt.
  • Make an apple stamp – Cut an apple in half and dip it in red and green paint and press on to paper.  Voila!  apple stamp!  You can use your stamp to make cute projects like this and this.
  • Rake leaves (and jump in them) – this goes along with the whole thing about toddlers loving to help.  Toddlers and preschoolers love to collect leaves and put them in piles.
  • Make a leaf angel – Like a snow angel, but with fallen leaves.
  • Make a handprint leaf – dip your toddlers hand in a fall colored paint then draw the veins and stem on with a dark sharpie.
  • Decorate stationary with leaf “stamps” – send the grandparents or far away relatives a letter with a recent picture of your little one.  Get “stamp” instructions here
  • Collect leaves – look for brightly colored leaves.  You can stick them on paper with tape and press the leaves in a nice heavy book.  Make sure and date it as it makes a fun keepsake for later.
  • Make a leaf etching- get directions here.
  • Make leaf art – Find printable and directions here.
  • Make leaf suncatchers – Use tissue paper to make sun catchers and hang them in your sunny windows
  • Make a leaf sensory bin- This one is so much fun!  My daughter is obsessed with acorns right now and she loved dipping her hands into the corn.  Get the instructions here.
  • Make some fun bird treats- all you need is a few pinecones, foil or wax paper, some bird seed, string, and peanut butter.  First, spread about a cup of peanut butter out (not too thickly) on a wax paper or foil flat surface.  On a separate wax paper surface, spread out a cup or two of birdseed.  Roll the peanut butter covered pinecone over the  birdseed and make sure to shake off the excess.  Finally, tie a piece of string around the pinecone so that it can be hung in a tree.
  • Make yarn apples – get the directions here.
  • Make a batch of cookies for your neighbors – Not only is it fun to make cookies with your little one, but its also nice to teach them the art of giving.
  • Make a hand turkey- Always fun and it doubles for a nice keepsake for you
  • Read a fall themed book – We like Leafman and Mouse’s First Fall.
  • Make a fall scrap book of all your fall adventures – Decorate with foam stickers, fall colored finger prints, glitter glue, and pressed leaves!
  • Crawl on a hay bale – Take this to the next level by creating a hay bale play area.img_20181017_110834
  • Make a fort – Fall days can be cold and rainy so beat the fall blues by building a fort and snuggling in for a book and cocoa!
  • Make mitten puppets – These are really adorable to make and will help encourage your toddler to wear his or her mittens.  Get ideas here.
  • Make an acorn painting – Get the tutorial here
  • Make fall scented playdough – This is so much fun – it engages your child’s senses of sight, smell and touch.  Get the recipe here.
  • Make a leaf garland – Collect fall leaves and make them into a garland to decorate  or indoors!  Check out the tutorial here.
  • Paint a mug for your hot cocoa – This is a super simple and economical craft.  Grab some sharpies and have a blast! See the tutorial here.
  • Make a fort out of sticks and leaves – My brother and I used to have a blast making these types of forts at our family’s farm. Check out a tutorial here.
  • Make a leaf maze- leaf mazes are fun, low cost and a great way to get your child to play outside.
  • Go pumpkin bowling – Set up some bowling pins or cans and roll a pumpkin at them!
  • Make a wreath together – Pinterest is filled with ideas of toddler made fall wreaths.  But this one is my favorite.
  • Make a fall slime – Again.  Pinterest has TONS of ideas for fall slime, but I am partial to this one.
  • Decorate outside for fall – Gather all your pumpkins, hay bales and corn stalks and get to decorating!
  • Make a clubhouse out of a cardboard box. – Let your child color the outside and provide a comfy seat and books for your child to read in his or her fort.

Whew!  I hope this list helps you and your child celebrate the season!  What is your favorite idea?  Did I leave anything out?  Make sure and comment and tell me what you thin

Seven Soups For Fall

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Mom Life

Fall is my favorite season.  Have I mentioned that enough, yet?  Here in Colorado the temperature has really taken a dip (I don’t think it went above 40 degrees yesterday!) and that gets me in the mood for one thing: soup.  I think I’ve made about 6 giant pots since fall first started and I have plans to make at least four more with all the harvest my family has been blessed with!

That means I spend a lot of time trolling the internet for amazing soup recipes- an embarrassing amount of time, actually.  My favorite soups are hearty, healthy, filling, easy, and inexpensive -I’m pretty picky about which recipes I follow… which probably accounts for why I spend so much time on the interwebs looking at soup.  Luckily for you, that means I have amassed a slew of recipes that my family has tried and LOVE.  These are even toddler tested and approved- so without further ado here are seven soups for you to try out this fall.

Simple Pumpkin Soup by The Minimalist Baker

SIMPLE-Pumpkin-Soup-with-Sesame-Kale-Topping-vegan-glutenfree.jpg

This is one of my FAVORITE recipes and a definite crowd pleaser.  Best of all, it details several ways for you to pull this recipe off; such as making your own pumpkin puree, and vegan ingredient options.  I’ve tried it both vegan and non vegan and both are delicious.  Make sure to not skimp on the kale crispies as this gives this sweet creamy soup the salty crunch that just elevates it beyond delicious.  Dana’s blog is amazing in general and one of my personal favorites with tons of yummy recipes that are tailored to be easy on your time and pantry so make sure to subscribe to her blog!

Roasted Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Soup by A Beautiful Plate

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This is another squash type recipe that is both hearty and filling!  I made this one just yesterday and it was just perfect.  Again, this recipe can be made vegan or not depending on your tastes but I made this one as is and was in heaven. I used a black + decker food processor for this recipe which makes the soup velvety and creamy – you can get yours here:

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My toddler demanded seconds and thirds of this soup which I happily gave her because – hello- when does a toddler ever ask for seconds or thirds of vegetables??  This soup is at once sweet and warm with masala curry mixed in.  Its the perfect companion to a snowy fall day on the front-range.   A Beautiful Plate is another blog I like to follow with its beautiful pictures and easy to follow recipes. Laura is a trained chef and recipe developer and has hundreds of recipes on her site, check her out but be warned- you may never leave.

Vegetable Beef Soup by Gimme Some Oven

Vegetable-Beef-Soup-5

Vegetable Beef Soup is my comfort food.  Every year, my grandmother would make a huge pot of this soup and I always remember it being so yummy.  I would ask for it every time I came over.  She never kept the exact same recipe, though.  One year she would throw in okra, another year she would throw in squash; each year’s flavor was determined by the harvest of my grandfather’s garden but the basic soup recipe always stayed the same.  The recipe by Gimme Some Oven is very close to my grandmother’s basic recipe and is absolutely to die for as is.  It is also so very healthy for you with all the vegetables loaded in while still being a hearty, filling soup.  Who knows?  Maybe this soup will become a fall tradition in your family, too!

Simple Taco Soup by A Taste of Home

taco soup

This soup is easy, fast, delicious, budget friendly and …did I say easy?  Seriously, you do not have to be a master chef or have hours of free time to make a yummy tasty meal at home and this recipe is proof.  This was my go to recipe when I worked a full time job and needed food on the table stat.  Its literally pouring spice packets and cans into a pot and then letting it simmer and meld together, but it is so, so good and so very practical.  I know you mamas are busy!  For nights where you just need some extra comfort, I recommend sprinkling on some shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt for a healthier option) and a few tortilla chips. Welcome to your new week night favorite!

Ultimate Chicken Noodle Soup by Country Living

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No fall soup recipe list would be complete without chicken noodle soup, and this recipe is probably the best one I’ve found.  Don’t let the long ingredients list trouble you – most of the ingredients are probably already staples in your pantry.  Make this ahead and freeze it so that you have it ready made for the cold season this year. You will thank yourself later!  This soup holds up really well in the freezer, just make sure to undercook the noodles a little bit so they aren’t mushy when you re-heat it.  This recipe does call for a Dutch oven (which adds amazing flavor to your soup)- so if you don’t have one, you can get one here:

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3-Ingredient Tomato Soup by Inspired Taste

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This is another really tasty, easy, budget-friendly recipe (how much more budget-friendly can you get than tomatoes, butter and onions??).  Sure, you can get tomato soup out of a can, but “why?” when it is so much healthier, tastier, and cheaper when you make it yourself?  You really are only investing slightly more time and energy and the payoffs are huge.  Make sure you have an immersion blender, a food processor or a blender on hand.  I personally liked Hamilton Beach’s stick blender for this soup because it made things “soupy” while still giving the soup texture.  You can get it on the link below:

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This is another easy-to-tweak recipe, if you feel so inclined. Basil is also a great addition if you have some handy, and you can add 1/4 a cup of cream for a creamier soup.  Pair this with a grilled cheese for the perfect fall meal.

Pumpkin Chili by A Taste of Home

pumpkin chili

Can you tell A Taste of Home is one of my favorite recipe sites?  This is another quick and easy home run.  And of course – it has pumpkin which instantly makes things taste like fall.   (Yes. I like pumpkin spice lattes.  No.  I have no shame about this.)  The extra sweetness from the pumpkin gives a really yummy twist to the classic chili and was an instant favorite at our house.  As the author mentions, this recipe does freeze well, but you would never know because its gone so quickly.

You may also want to check for your favorite kitchen supplies here where you can get your favorite products at a discounted price:

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What do you think about these recipes? Do you have any fall soup favorites?  I love to hear from readers, so make sure and click the link above to comment.   If you like this blog, make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook or twitter and subscribe to our mailing list where you can get more great tips for your family.  I promise I wont flood your email!

That’s it for now, chickadees!  Have a great weekend!

Florence Brewing Company Octoberfest and Other Adventures in Florence

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Travel

Ah, Fall!  This is my absolute favorite time of year.  The weather has finally started to cool down and the leaves are making their last dazzling show before winter settles in.  This autumn has been crazy busy for our little family.  Between my first foray into Colorado gardening, a new exercise program (more on that later), tending to chickens and chasing around my soon-to-be two-year-old (WOW!  Time has flown!), my husband and I have barely had time to breathe!

My family believes strongly in the concept of being a tourist in your own home town – eat at a local restaurant you’ve never been to before, visit a historical landmark (or 12), hike a local trail, or shop at a local boutique.  Not only are you having fun in the town where you live and being a part of your community, you are investing into the local economy.  Seeing as we only moved to this town a little under two years ago, it has been pretty easy to find places we haven’t been to before on our little weekend excursion.

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This weekend, we went to Florence, Colorado.  Florence is a small but fun and funky town in its own right.  It’s the lauded “Antiques Capital” of Colorado, and therefore one of my favorite places to poke around.  The downtown is absolutely filled to the brim with little treasures.  My favorite shop in downtown Florence is the 103 Vintage Market.  The ladies who own the shop have a wonderful eye for design and you can just see the items they sell in your home.  My second favorite store is the Salvage Antiques Vintage, ETC.  Their specialty is salvaged windows, doors, hinges and the like but its organized immaculately.

The restaurants are pretty good there as well.  Right now, I’m low key obsessed with Ito’s Japanese Steak House – its a tad bit on the pricier side for the area, but the sushi there is delicious and beautiful and worth it! They also have delicious things on the menu if you aren’t all that in to raw fish, like authentic ramen, bento boxes, hibachi grill items and Thai food (the pad thai is one of my favorites)!  They focus on being family friendly and they succeed big time.  If you haven’t been there, you should definitely go.

 

Once we finish grabbing lunch, we usually head down to the Pour House for a cup of freshly-roasted-in-house coffee and a handmade dessert or artesian chocolate in the shape of a dinosaur (because dinosaurs).  Also, a pro-tip if you have littles with you and want to make a nice mommy/daddy date – order a milk steamer.  They will put whatever flavoring you want in it for the littles so they can have a “coffee” too.  Our two year old daughter feels so special getting to sit in the booth with her own “latte” while “reading” the tourism magazines they keep on hand.

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Florence also hosted its third annual Octoberfest that weekend, thanks to the up-and-coming Florence Brewing Company.  Although it was a pretty chilly afternoon, that didn’t stop the die hard fans of the brewery from coming down and enjoying the live music and festivities.  In a state full of big name microbreweries, FBC stands out with its amazing Alpine Loop Hefe and their Fresh Hops – which is brewed with pounds and pounds of locally grown hops, but the beer menu is always changing with the season and occasion (they have been known to brew a special batch or two in honor of a new business in town etc).  The bar is also dog friendly (for well behaved pups), so its a perfect watering hole for you and you pooch after a brisk walk out to admire the fall leaves!

Florence, Colorado always surprises and delights.  I could go on for pages and pages about the fun things to do around town but as I’m focusing on this past weekend for now, I will leave it there.  If you live in the area, or are passing through the Central Front Range region of the state, make sure and swing by Florence for an afternoon of antiquing and beer tasting, you wont be sorry you did.