Happier, healthier Me!

Joyous Health Affirmation #6!:

So, I haven’t posted in a while and I’m okay with that. I’m on a health kick (are you surprised?) and have been for quite some time. I don’t actually consider it a health kick, I consider it a lifestyle change that I have been working on for quite some time. It’s my own little baby steps to a happier, healthier, and hopefully longer living, me. I’m working from the inside out for improved mental health and clarity, and for a better understanding of how my body works and digests. From these changes I will gain better skin, hair & nails, and better overall health and well-being. I will also rely less upon unnatural things as I slowly simplify my life.

It’s not just about nutrition and exercise but also about technology and social media and relying less upon them, too. It has been so refreshing not to have to keep up with everyone on social media. I’m sorry that I missed that your son had a Dr. Suess themed birthday party…but maybe we can talk about how fun it was via conversation! That is not to say that I don’t enjoy a good post once in a while, but let’s be real!

I have really enjoyed making these adjustments and improvements to my life and I feel that by doing these little things it has inspired others to partake. I recently sent my mom “The Stash Plan” book written by Laura Prepon and her dietitian Elizabeth Troy. I think that this was her turning point for making improvements in her life, too. I love seeing my mom make super healthy choices (like bone broth…YUM). I feel like that means I get to keep her around for even longer. She has never been overweight or super unhealthy, but there is something about watching those you love make good decisions for themselves. Just knowing that my mom throws chia seeds in everything she eats makes me happy. What.is.wrong.with.me? Hahaha! By taking simple baby steps to improving your health it makes you feel just a bit happier every day. 🙂

It’s definitely helpful to educate yourself in what is actually good for you, like fat. FAT. FAT. FAT. It’s good for you y’all! Contrary to popular belief, skinny anything is horrible for you. Read about it in one of these books: The Stash Plan, Eat Fat Get Thin, Make Your Own Rules Diet, or Joyous Health.

Joyous Health is what I’m reading right now and loving it. The author is Joy McCarthy and she also has a slew of youtube videos that I find very educational. I also love listening to podcasts while I’m walking the dog, in the car, cooking, or cleaning. Hearing people chat about health is so inspiring. It makes you want to go make the best decisions for yourself. My go-to podcasts are: The Ultimate Health Podcast, Good Life Project, and a plethora of different Ted Talks.

My favorite episodes from the Ultimate Health Podcast are:

This Podcast is a fairly recent discovery for me, so I haven’t listened to that many episodes. These are the episodes that I’ve favored and found inspirational. Hopefully they inspire you, too! I can’t tell you how easy it is to download the podcast app to your phone and just download an episode to listen to when doing stuff around the house. I do recommend downloading the episodes for sure. This way if you leave the house you’re not streaming on your device and chomping up your precious 3 or 4g.

Random tip: You know what I also did? I organized my iphone so that the first page that I see is only things that I use DAILY–and only things I want to be using daily. I put Facebook a few pages back so that it was not easy to get to. Social media becomes such an easy thing to click on when you’re on your phone. It’s oddly habitual and that’s scary. If you can delete social media from your device altogether, more power to you. I hope that helps you gain focus and appreciation for other things. My goal is to eventually feel okay about deleting all social media from my phone. The issue I don’t want to have, then, is to make up for lost social media time on my computer when I get home. I think this slow transition might help ease me into less social media all together, without feeling like I’m “missing out.”

Random Health Question: I’m still working on figuring out why with each sip of my coffee I hiccup once. Yupp, one singular little hiccup. I don’t drink coffee on an empty stomach and I drink coffee from the shop I work at. We lightly roast our coffee which has a very low acidity level. According to the roasters, our coffee’s acidity level is only 1 notch above what mineral water is. My hiccup doesn’t worry me but I definitely find it puzzling and slightly fascinating. It shows you just how crazy your body is. Treat it right!

Think of healthy eating this way: If your food can go bad, it’s good for you. If it can’t go bad, it’s bad for you.

Pay the farmer now or pay the doctor later.

I choose food that nourishes my mind, body and soul.:

 

 

National Mental Health Awareness Month

mental health awareness month

Apparently May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. It wasn’t such an easy topic to stumble upon, so we should work on spreading more awareness. LIME green is the color chosen to represent Mental Health. The aim is to have the same success as PINK for Breast cancer awareness and RED DRESS for Heart disease.

Mental Health Awareness Month aims to educate communities about psychological disorders, while reducing the stigma that surrounds them. This month of awareness came about by presidential proclamation (thanks Wikipedia).

Sadly, a good percentage of those who struggle, don’t see it. You can’t fix what you don’t see. But what we can fix is the stigma associated with Mental Illness. The less humiliation, the more likely people are to be open about their feelings and open up about their own mental illnesses.

For many, getting help starts with a conversation. People who believe they may be suffering from a mental health condition should talk about it with someone they trust and consult a health care provider. As a Nation, it is up to all of us to know the signs of mental health issues and lend a hand to those who are struggling. Shame and stigma too often leave people feeling like there is no place to turn. We need to make sure they know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness — it is a sign of strength. (Source)

A Few Facts For the Taking: 

Scientists estimate that one of every four people is affected by mental illness either directly or indirectly.

Even if you or a family member has not experienced mental illness directly, it is very likely that you have known someone who has. Consider the following statistics to get an idea of just how widespread the effects of mental illness are in society:

  • According to recent estimates, approximately 20 percent of Americans, or about one in five people over the age of 18, suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.
  • Four of the 10 leading causes of disability—major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder—are mental illnesses.
  • About 3 percent of the population have more than one mental illness at a time.
  • About 5 percent of adults are affected so seriously by mental illness that it interferes with their ability to function in society. These severe and persistent mental illnesses include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, other severe forms of depression, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • Approximately 20 percent of doctor’s appointments are related to anxiety disorders such as panic attacks.
  • Eight million people have depression each year.
  • Two million Americans have schizophrenia disorders, and 300,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.

Why have we not launched a public health initiative for mental health? We did for infectious diseases, cancer, alzheimers, polio, leprocy, drugs (remember D.A.R.E?) and the list goes on, my friends.

Below is a great TedTalk given by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman regarding the stigma and lack of awareness of mental illness. It’s definitely worth a watch:

 

Check out this interesting timeline that breaks down the progression and set-backs in mental health. Even though we’ve come a long way, we still have a long way to go to get our society to see this issue’s importance as it ought to be seen.

Myth: People with mental health needs, even those who are managing their mental illness, cannot tolerate the stress of holding down a job.

Fact: People with mental health problems are just as productive as other employees. Employers who hire people with mental health problems report good attendance and punctuality as well as motivation, good work, and job tenure on par with or greater than other employees.

When employees with mental health problems receive effective treatment, it can result in:

  • Lower total medical costs
  • Increased productivity
  • Lower absenteeism
  • Decreased disability costs

(Source)

I think the biggest thing to remember is that those suffering from mental health difficulties are people too. They’re just like any mentally healthy person, but with more to overcome to get to the same end. They are not below you, you are not better than them. We are all equals with our own life struggles. Respect yourself, your family or friends, or even strangers with a mental illness. It was not their intention in life to be given a chemical imbalance in the brain. They didn’t choose to undertake it, just like anyone with a disease does not choose to be sick. Stop the stigma and raise awareness, starting now.

keep-calm-fight-stigma-web-240x300

<3 amber

Laura Prepon’s New Book

the stash plan book

Confession: I saw Lauren Prepon on Kelly and Michael yesterday morning (my favorite morning show-am I over 65? I remember my grandma watching Regis and Kathy Lee like 20 years ago). Anyhow, she discussed her book and had me at “I soak my  quinoa in a yogurt and water mixture”.  It sounds weird and tedious, but apparently it’s super easy and it helps us to digest it even better.

I’m obsessed with the idea that we are what we eat. We’re supposed to be nourishing our bodies by what we put in them. I am also obsessed with cooking & food (and pizza-but that doesn’t count) so this is the perfect marriage. I’ve decided to buy this book because it encompasses the idea of healing our bodies from the inside-out.

I’m excited to read about the break-down of the human body in a reader-friendly way and see what foods I can eat to get my bod functioning at its prime. Scott and I love meal-prep cooking and would love to learn new, healthier options for our cooking days. Doing something like this can make you feel happier, more energetic, and can have a good effect on your hair, nails & skin, too. Wee! The book will be here in two days and I will add an update after reading it. I tend to fall asleep when reading, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to put this one down.


Update:

I have to say, I really enjoyed the book. It inspired me to eat better and do further research on how to eat well for the liver and gallbladder. I never knew how important those two organs truly were for the body. I’m still working on the daily stretches to see if they are beneficial for me, but a little stretching is always a good thing anyway.

I have to admit, as much as I loved the book, I think some of the recipes were lacking. For one, I think they miss a few key “tips” on how to get the most out of your recipes. For two, I feel like they forgot to edit some of the recipes altogether.

One of the missing key tips in my opinion is within the chicken broth recipe. There is no mention of when to take the chicken (meat) off the bone to use for other recipes. Instead, I left the chicken in for the entire cook time (12 hours) because that’s what it said to do. It tasted super dry and was hardly usable for any of the other chicken recipes. I just think that’s super wasteful! However, I noticed that in a recipe following the chicken broth it mentions to take the chicken off the bone after 3-4 hours of cooking. I ended up making note of that on the original chicken broth recipe so that I know to do it for next time. But it definitely would have been helpful to have that tip on the proper page!

As for editing the recipes, I think the meatball recipe could have used another look. It told me to pre-cook my turkey meat before forming into balls. To me, that just doesn’t make sense. Especially because the recipe does not call for any sort of binding agent, like egg. I also think the tomato sauce recipe is lacking in flavor. I was rather surprised they didn’t mention to add some of your broth to it. Next time I plan on adding some for a kick of flavor.

To end my bit on recipes, I have to say the meatloaf was AMAZE-BALLS!! It was probably the best meatloaf I’ve ever had. I don’t know if it was because I used grass-fed beef, or if it was the broth. But man, it was SOOO GOOD! I highly recommend finding your way to her recipe. Maybe some day I’ll share it, but for now I think it’s only fair that people buy, borrow, or go to the library for her book! Is that weird?

All-in-all I think the book is insightful and can help others learn how to lead a healthier lifestyle. I read it within just a few days which, for me, is very telling! It taught me a lot, especially how important collagen is for your body. It can help heal you from the inside out. The collagen comes from the bones when you make your broth and it’s known to: improve your skin and hair, repair your joints, boost your metabolism, strengthen your teeth and nails, reduce cellulite, and more. We start to lose collagen as we age, so I say the more the merrier! BRING IT ON! If only it could reverse gray hair now…. That would be nice! 😉

 

Is it Spring Yet?

minimize

To some, spring means MUD–and to others it means CLEAN! I love “spring cleaning” even when it’s not spring. Okay, part of that’s a lie….I don’t like to clean per se…but I love to organize and find new ways to make my home more efficient and less of an upkeep. I actually dislike the repetitive nature of cleaning and picking up, so the less I have to do of it the better (what a weird cycle, right?).

I’m constantly trying to make my home easier to enjoy!

Below are a few blogs & ideas I’ve found along the way that helped kick start my “declutterization” and jump start my appreciation for the things I already have:


 

I love this quote!

Click on any of the pictures in this slideshow for their source and for more detailed info. 🙂

The Question:
Would I choose to go out and buy this thing again right now today if I didn’t have it?
Yes? Keep it!
No? Bye bye!
No, but it's the best I have for now? Keep until you find an upgrade!

Declutter by category or by room. Either way Tico and Tina give a great guide to starting your  journey!
"Once you make the conscious decision to own less stuff, you automatically stop seeking out new stuff to bring into your home."
-Christina
This is a great info-graphic to keep handy when you're going through your clothes. It helps make your decisions just a bit easier!
"Minimalist Living: The freedom to have what you want"
-Tico and Tina
This one's the toughest for me. I'm still a serious work in progress because I attach emotion to things. But the more you get rid of "stuff" the easier it gets, and the better you feel. Seriously! I promise! Try putting the stuff you are planning to get rid of in a box and hide it in storage. Did you miss it? Probably not! That's a good sign that getting rid of it truly doesn't impact your life.

Do you have a habit, like me, of keeping old birthday cards or holiday cards from people you love or don't hear from often? This is a website that allows you to donate those cards.They recycle the cards and create new ones. The money made from the new cards goes toward helping children who were victims of abuse, neglect and abandonment. As long as there is no writing on the greeting card side, you can cut it off and ship it.
I love knowing that something that gave me such joy to receive can go toward helping children!

Send Cards to:

St. Jude's Ranch for Children
Recycled Card Program

100 St. Jude’s Street

St. Jude’s Ranch for Children

Recycled Card Program

100 St. Jude’s Street


 

7 Reasons We Buy Things We Don’t Need:

1) It’s such a good deal.

2) I’ll need this eventually.

3) I can always return it.

4) I don’t have anything quite like this.

5) This will help me be more like (insert name here).

6) One for her/him, one for me.

7) I DESERVE this, and it will make me feel better about (insert problem here).

Try this:

  • Think of something worth saving up for.
  • Before heading to the mall or grocery store, tell someone what you plan to purchase there.
  • Ignore advertisements
  • Force yourself to write down 5-10 real, legitimate reasons why you need that item

Read more about that

Y’all…

“Less

         is the new more.”

 

 

<3 Amber

What? It’s February?

feb

 

Did you say “rabbit, rabbit” yesterday? No, for reals. On the first day of every month, you’re supposed to utter “rabbit, rabbit” first thing if you want good luck for the rest of the month.

I remember my english teacher in high school telling me that she did such a thing and I thought she was just plain crazy. Now I think it’s a funny tradition to keep in your household-because why not try to be the first to yell a ridiculous phrase and be a winner for a whole month? YES!

Also, do you remember when (back in the day) people used to carry around a rabbit’s foot for good luck? Ew, it’s nothing short of sad & disgusting to me now…but looking back I used to bring them with me everywhere. What was I thinking? If I’d known that all I had to do was yell “rabbit, rabbit” then I wouldn’t have bothered!

Well, “Rabbit, rabbit” and a happy FebRUary. Wait, happy FEBuary. Febru…Febuar. What. Happy February folks:

 

 

And here’s a completely irrelevant but sweet pin I found on Pinterest this morning. It’s a fun little “manual” for life from a 95 year old and I thought I’d share it with you! 🙂

<3:

I love everything about this list. These are all great things to keep in mind.

Have a great day!

<3 Amber

Essential Oil & Other Natural Ideas for the Minimalist in you

lavendar

This is my ridiculous list of weird habits and things I do around the house for health, beauty & cleanliness.

I’ve become somewhat obsessed with the minimalist natural cleaners and essential oils over the past few years. I love the idea of keeping a bleach free home. For my birthday last year my family gave me an Amazon giftcard which I promptly used to purchase a shiny new oil diffuser/humidifier.  Thank-you!!!Mammoth Air Purifier Serenity® Aromatherapy Essential Oil Ultrasonic Diffuser & Humidifier 135mL with LED, Cool Mist, Whisper Quiet, Green Scented Essential Oil Fragrance Scent Spa Diffusers with Replacement Warranty - light Wood / Bamboo

At first I purchased the “Mammoth”. It was beautiful, but I clearly hadn’t read the description telling me it only held 135 ml of water! That only lasts about an hour if you keep it going. Even if you keep it on intermittent it didn’t last very long!

So I decided to return it which meant I had to wait for another one to get here. Grr! But that’s the biggest first world problem ever. Meanwhile, I ordered a 500ml, super simple humidifier. It lights up all fancy and can change colors and stuff, but I don’t really use that part of it.

I love, love, love having a humidifier that can handle essential oils. There’s a ratio of 2-3 drops per 100ml of water so that the machine doesn’t clog. It’s a great product.

Along with the humidifier I purchased a set of essential oils. I shopped and shopped around until I found something that was still good quality at a good price.

In conjunction with the humidifier I also use my  candle warmer. It looks gross because I put coconut oil in it as a carrier oil. I think it has a pleasant smell and it burns nicely. There aren’t as many benefits from the oils from just using a heating element like this one, which is why I bought the humidifer/diffuser.

Here’s a fun cheat sheet that breaks down what the oils are good for and how to use them properly:

Pin this Essential Oil Uses Chart so you'll always have it handy! It includes scent, uses, healing benefits and mood associated with each essential oils ★facebook.com/purasentials★:

I don’t have all of these oils. In fact I only have; Lavender, lemongrass, eucalyptus, tea tree, peppermint, rosemary, orange & frankincense but that is enough for me to get used to for now.

Beauty treatments - yogurt for skin and hair

Quirky  things I do before I shower & wash my hair:

1. I put yogurt on my scalp and bring it through to my ends. I usually use Greek yogurt (unflavored–or else
it’s sticky) because that’s what I usually have on hand.

2. I put yogurt on my face. I have to prepare myself for the cold, but it’s worth it because I know the benefits.

3. I use an essential oil mixture for my scalp when I’m not using yogurt. In a jar I combined jojoba and castor oil as carriers and added rosemary and frankincense essentials.  This particular recipe recommends adding  cedarwood and progessence oil, too.

Honestly, I am lucky to have pretty thick hair (but it’s oh-so-porous). So on days that I don’t wash my hair I’ll occasionally throw some of the oil mixture on my scalp in places you can’t see. Why? It’s good for me and it smells good! If I don’t go the oil route I use my most recent obsession; Wella’s “Dry Me” dry shampoo. That’s definitely not on my natural list…but it smells awesome.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Frankincense Essential Oil and how to apply it in the best way. Features the Essentially 4-U Purple Roll On Bottle:

Back to cleaning–I also love making refresher sprays with vinegar and my oil of choice. I use this spray for Nessa’s dog bed, my bed, and other areas with fabric surfaces (curtains, carpets, couches, etc). It’s the bomb.com and you no longer need to buy all that Febreeze stuff.

If you haven’t heard of Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 soap (18 uses–1 soap) I am here to rant and rave about it. Let me start by telling you that a giant container of tea tree 18-in-1 sits in my shower and I use it for shaving cream & body wash. Scott uses it for shampoo. And of course there’s the famous debate over the 18-in-1 soap and vinegar combination. Should you or should you not combine the two? Generally castille soap curdles when mixed with vinegar, so it’s not advised. However, I’ve added a little bit to my soap and never had an issue. That being said, it’s probably easiest to avoid the situation all together and have two separate spray bottles. One for Dr. Bronner’s and one for vinegar. Vinegar is ridiculously useful to have on its own anyway.

Dr. Bronner's soap

This website gives a comprehensive list of products that shouldn’t be combined along with great alternatives.

Natural Ingredients to Avoid Combining: Why You Need to Avoid Castile Soap, Vinegar, Baking Soda, and Hydrogen Peroxide!

Have I mentioned hydrogen peroxide? Here I go again. I love the way it fizzes when it’s working hard. If you have a minute, spray some into your sink and listen for the bubbles (or maybe you’re ridiculously clean and leave no germs behind when you brush your teeth).  Oh the things I find entertaining….

H202 I love you!

It’s such a versatile product. So versatile in fact that one moment you can swish it in your mouth and the next you can clean your toilet, counters, bathtub, floors and so on.

I could go on all day with the things I do around the house. I could also spend weeks experimenting with new oil recipes. This stuff seriously fascinates me! I have to say most importantly that you can’t believe everything that you read. If one website is telling you to ingest essential oils and one is telling you not to, I’d go with the latter. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Do your research!

Ps: Don’t get my started on baking soda… I bought this bag at costco a while back. I use it for everything!

Did I mention that it’s 13.5 lbs and large enough to clean an in-ground pool full of water? Yikes.

Now go and try something new!

<3 Amber

 

Another Year. Another Resolution.

Better Latte Than Never

I’ve taken some time off from blogging for the holidays but now I am back at it.

January 1st is just another day, but to many of us it is the start of something new. The new year reminds us of the passage of time and allows us to reflect upon the past. At the beginning of 2015 I made some life changes. The year had its fair shares of ups-and-downs and I’ve realized that you have to let go of things that are out of your control. One of my best realizations of 2015 is that yoga is an incredible tool for my mind and my body. It has a calming effect like nothing else I’ve ever tried.

It all started when I saw a video posted online called, “Yoga with Adrienne“. Adrienne is amazing. I always tell people that she changed my life…and I honestly think that’s the truth. I did her 30 day yoga challenge and was able to hold myself accountable and stick with it for the full 30 days. Even if I got home from work at the 11th hour and wanted to sleep….I did yoga. It was great! I am now starting her “Yoga Camp” and am excited to see it through. I love her style and certainly urge you to check out her Youtube channel if you want to try yoga. I used to think Yogi’s were cultish, weirdos (no offense!) and I never bought into the whole thing…but now I’m hooked.

Last year I set a goal to hold myself accountable and show up. That is precisely why I decided to start a blog- it gave me deadlines and created expectations. I have enjoyed the process of learning how to be more open about life and its adventures, as well as improving the “writing skills” I once had back in my college days (it leaves your brain quickly, I must say). With the number of moves Scott, Nessa, and I have made in the last 6 years, it has made it increasingly difficult to adjust to new places. Writing here has given me a consistent place to work out my thoughts. It gave me something to look forward to-and a challenge to defeat. It is definitely a work in progress and is something I want to continue!

I am not usually one for New Years resolutions; I don’t try new fad diets or do anything that formal. But I do believe that the same resolutions I worked on last year — accountability and showing up — need to be carried through and expanded upon in this year. Accordingly, I have resolved that this is the year to worry less about shit that just doesn’t matter and is out of my control. Worry less about everything and everyone else. My mind is always worrying and always anxious. So, “letting go” is the new black for me this year. I’m gonna let go, set goals, be proud and kick ass. How ’bout them apples? Haya 2016.

Christmas Tradition Roundup

Better Latte Than Never

Last night we had a fantastic meal at our friend’s home to kick off the holiday season. He is an incredible chef, so of course he served only the best. There was a slew of appetizers accompanied by a fantastic main course of surf and turf. One appetizer that stood out to me in particular was a blue cheese honey dip, mostly because I despise blue-cheese, but LOVED this dip! But, I digress.

Aside from the food being the highlight of the evening, one moment of the night in particular stood out to me, and I wanted to share it with you all. As we were finishing our entrees, the host asked each person at the table about their holiday traditions. It was such a thoughtful conversation starter that allowed each of us to highlight some of the happy times with our family and friends, and also to remember the traditions inspired by people that we’ve lost over the years. For example, our host shared that his family started a tradition of making pizzas on Christmas Eve decades ago. His sister, who was 25 years older than him, married into an Italian family, that introduced his family to pizza before it was popular in the U.S. They loved it so much that they made it on Christmas Eve the first year that they learned the recipe. To this day, they still use the same pizza pan that his mother used to cook pizzas with that very first Christmas Eve. 

It was so nice to hear everyone open up and talk about their traditions. Something lights up in the room when you know that people are being genuine and heartfelt. It sparked memories within me of all of the great years I had with my family growing up. It made me grateful that we were fortunate enough to have such great Christmases. We were able to cook big meals, travel to different places, accommodate family & friends, and give & receive gifts. These are all things that not everyone is able to experience for one reason or another, and also things that so many people take for granted. Not just for Christmas, but all year around.

This is my very long introduction to what I was going to call my Christmas Tradition Roundup.


 

Make an Advent Calendar:

On thanksgiving, have the kids (adults, too!) write down 25 things they are grateful for.  Turn these thanksgivings into a paper-chain advent calendar like this one from makeandtakes.com:Christmas Advent Countdown

Go Pick out a Tree:

Cut it down, buy it from a stand, put together your fake tree. Whatever it is, enjoy it!

Christmas, Trees, Xmas, Farm, Seasons, Holidays

Decorate the house and Christmas tree together:

This was always a great time to throw on a movie (preferably a holiday movie), or some Christmas music and sip hot cocoa.

 

Christmas Ornament, Christmas Tree, Christmas

(Don’t forget to decorate…your dog). Just kidding, this is the extent to her dress-up. I promise!

Volunteer:

I definitely want my (someday) children to be exposed to volunteering. Whether it’s at a shelter, the food bank, or elsewhere. I want them to know what it’s like to help people. Not only because it is a kind thing to do, but also because it can teach them to be grateful for what they have.

Community, Pancake, Feed, Breakfast, United Way

Make the Family Christmas card:

Get dressed up, or dressed down (say, PJs) for a good family photo. Lots of people are so happy to receive an updated picture of you and yours during the holiday season.

Photographer, Snowstorm, Snow, Winter, Camera, Hobby

Have a Cookie Baking Day:

Find your favorite or use a family recipe. Decorating them can be lots of fun.

Christmas Cookies, Cookies, Christmas, Christmas Baking

Make a Ginger Bread House:

My friend and I made one last year. It was quite comical because we did it backwards. Apparently that is possible. Who knew? This photo is brought to you by two fully grown adults who just can’t read directions. Can we please blame the 2 year old?

gingerbread house

 

Explore the Town’s Christmas Lights:

My grandmother always took my sister and I on rides around town to “ooh” and “ahh” at the Christmas lights. I think it was so that my parents could wrap gifts, or go shopping, but either way it’s a very fond memory.

Bokeh, Abstract, Background, Blur, Blurred, Bright

Have a Wrapping Party:

For me, this consists of any cheesy Christmas movies, hot cocoa (per usual), wrapping paper and the floor. I like wrapping on the floor. It’s always been what works best. I find wrapping therapeutic!

Paper, Gift, Christmas, Present, Ribbon, Wrapping, Red

Make Neighbor Treats:

This year I’m going to make a slew of Muddy Buddies to give out to my neighbors & friends. I think it’s a fun and neighborly thing to do! (Check out my last post for a simple recipe.)

Muddy Buddies, Chocolate Chex

 

Watch a Christmas Movie as a Family:

I love the classic Christmas movies like; A Christmas Story, Home Alone, The Grinch, The Santa Claus, Miracle on 34th Street, Christmas Vacation, and more. But I also LOVE Elf. It is up there with my favorite movies. Maybe because it’s so quote-able. “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”

Donate a toy (or two, or three) to a charity:

Out with the old, in with the new. There’s no sense in cluttering your home with tons of toys. Why not allow someone else to have fun with the toys going unused?

Love, Train, Wood, Toys, Romance, Affection

Go to Candle-light Service on Christmas Eve:

This is something my sister, mom and I did when I was growing up. It was a ton of fun because the service is always cut super short so you can sing a bunch of Christmas songs! This was a tradition for a long time.

Candles, Candlelight, Dark, Romance, Flame, Wax, Light

Watch family videos from Christmas’ past:

Get ready to see your reaction, whether underwhelming, over done, or just perfect, on TAPE! I don’t like being videoed….especially when it comes to opening gifts! But it happens on Christmas and birthdays, it’s practically unavoidable.

Kids, Boys, Children, Playing, Making Faces, Happy

Start a Grateful Jar to open next Christmas:

Whenever you experience good things, write them on small pieces of paper and put them in the jar all year long. Open next year and share your memories from throughout the year! I found this idea from bernettastyle.com!

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Secretly sneek gifts to a neighbor:

Kind of like a ding-dong-ditch…except it’s a good thing. It’s so fun!

Cake Pops, Candies, Chocolate, Food, Sweet, Dessert

 

Buy or DIY new PJs for Christmas morning:

Don’t forget a photo shoot! Or this video…they are awesome:

Read a Christmas book before bed:

The night before Christmas is a good, classic book to read before Santa comes! It can help everyone to wind down.

Sleep in the Same Room (siblings) on the Night before Christmas:

I know for the longest time my sister and I did that. Things changed as we got a bit older, but we still woke up early each year thereafter to open our stocking before our parents were awake!

This is actually me and my sister…and yes we are matching!

Set out cookies & milk for Santa:

Good cookies, that is! Also, Santa doesn’t have to be this big, mysterious man who magically goes from house to house in one nights time. Why can’t he be thought of as a man that is thoughtful and giving who gifts children with great things which arrive in a normal way, say, postal services or something? Or maybe even have “local” Santa’s who deliver from house-to-house. One for each county would be believable. But the north pole, the elves, the sleigh…why does Santa have to be so full of this magic? It is not an unheard of thing to be kind and giving! I think it’s a great thing to teach kids that there are people who are selfless, like Santa. But I think the magic is overdone a bit. However, I’m not the Grinch…and I love Christmas! And, so does the Grinch in the end. Spoiler alert!

Chocolate, Chip, Cookie, Dessert, Milk, Bake, Rustic

 

 

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Duh!

better latte than never

During my junior year of college one of my professors showed the video “Annie’s Story of Stuff.” It’s about consumption rates and how wasteful we are as a society. It’s actually quite alarming. This video helped change my perspective on the consequences of unnecessary purchases and inadequate recycling practices. I think it has changed my overall way of life, honestly. When I first watched this it put the DIY-me into overdrive. Now I love doing projects and finding new uses for old things. It’s thrify, costs less [usually], is less consuming, and is just better. 

If you have several minutes or are just sittin’ on the toilet you should definitely watch the video. I apologize if this leaves you feeling regretful of past purchases (I’m actually not that sorry….).

What I really apologize for is getting the “sittin’ on the toilet” song stuck in your head. ENJOY!

The average person now consumes twice as much as they did 50 years ago….” DANG!

I am constantly trying to find ways to re-use things that I already own. This is especially so since we have moved to Fayetteville, AR because the recycling here is so sub-par. For example:

  1. They don’t tax soda cans or bottles of any kind. So, you can’t return them back for what feels like a stupendous refund. In Michigan it was $.10 per can. According to NPR people actually smuggle cans into Michigan. For that, I can’t blame them!
  2. My recycling bin is still full of all the plastic I threw in there weeks ago. They are very particular about the “numbers” on the plastic. I come from a one-stream system, what can I say?

 recycling1 recycling

…but don’t worry I still have mad love for you Fay[etteville]. Woooo Pig sooei! …Did I get that right?

[Update:] I went to the recycling center hoping to recycle the leftover stuff that they don’t grab during roadside pickup. Unfortunately, only one cup was recyclable out of everything I brought. This needs to change! Look at how much plastic I had to throw away yesterday:

Better Latte than NeverBetter Latte than NeverBetter Latte than Never

I feel so ashamed! If you have any fun ideas for repurposing your trash or buying less plastics at the grocery store leave a comment below. I’d love to hear some of your ideas.

 

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<3Amber

RAOK Birthday!

RAOK Birthday

Last year for Scott’s 28th birthday I decided to do a Random-Acts-of-Kindness (raok) day. Instead of feeling the pressure of buying him a gift that he neither wants nor needs, I decided to let him give.  I was beyond inspired by “the birthday project“. I watched the video from the website and knew that it was something I had to do. Watch it for yourself–you’ll see!


 What I Bought:

  • 2 movie ticket vouchers
  • 2 giftcards for coffee
    • (Scott decided to stick around & buy coffees 1-by-1: I gave him the choice)
  • Bouquet of flowers
  • Bundle of Balloons

How to Prepare:

  • Buy the things you wish to give
  • Setup donation appointment (blood donations usually prefer appts.)
  • Research a cause (Making Strides, Relay for Life, Walk for Alzheimers, AIDs, etc. Anything you can do together)-
  • Write your list on paper (something you can bring along with you–ours rolled up)
  • Map the addresses of places you will go that day (calculate travel time if need-be)

Fun Ideas:

  • Buy someone a coffee
  • Pay a portion, or all of someone’s grocery bill
  • Donate to your favorite charity
  • Bake cookies for your neighbor or friend
  • Ding-dong-ditch something nice on someones doorstep
  • Pay someones toll
  • Buy someone’s gas
  • Send a care package to a soldier
  • Send a care pkg to a new parent
  • Leave extra time at the parking meter
  • Drop quarters or dollars on the sidewalk for someone to find
  • Leave $1’s in the toy bin at the dollar store (or elsewhere)
  • Leave something nice for a receptionist who you see often
  • Leave quarters at the laundromat
  • Buy your friend that one thing they repeatedly talk about
  • Leave Popcorn packet with a note on Redbox

Free (or almost) Ideas:

  • Volunteer at Food Bank, Pantry, Ronald McDonald House, etc.
  • Put away shopping carts at the market
  • Help someone carry their groceries or load their car
  • Donate Blood
  • Compliment a stranger
  • Hold the door
  • Send a letter/postcard to a friend or relative
  • Donate unwanted or unworn clothes (have you worn it in the last yr?)
  • Write a well deserved review for a company
  • Smile at strangers

…And the list goes on, and on, and on.


Here was my take on RAOK day…

I sent Scott this email pre-outting.

Then, I gave him his “giving list.”

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Our First Stop:

Making Strides (Breast Cancer Awareness Walk).

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phone download 11-19-14 301

Our Second Stop:

Biggby Coffee…Unfortunately Biggby was suuuuuper slow that day (that’s because no one knew we’d be buying them free coffees!) So we waited, and waited to buy people coffees. We even bought one guys breakfast!

This gave us time to continue planning the day and check off what we’d accomplished.

What a good feeling! Check!

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Our Third Stop:

Ann Arbor Farmers Market.

I let him park the car while I ran to get balloons at the local florist. We then, ironically enough, went to the farmers market to buy the flowers we needed. We knew the farmer’s market would be full of people!

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Warning: Some people find it strange that a sweet, handsome 20 something yr. old guy would be giving their child a balloon. I get it…maybe it seems sketchy. But it was such a harmless act of kindness, and one that truly shouldn’t have had people feeling uneasy. Maybe next time he should have a sign on him that says, “It’s my birthday and I’m doing random acts of kindness.” This way people will be accepting of his gesture. This part was a challenge, and a challenge ACCEPTED! Honestly, I was kind of nervous for him! It was a difficult one, but fun at that. He did it and that’s what matters. He made those kid smile!

After handing out the balloons and flowers, we stopped to get a few things at the store just outside the farmer’s market. We had a really great experience with the cashier. We were so blown away by her kindness and genuine care at the checkout counter that, after we had already left the shop, we decided to walk back and give her the pair of movie tickets that we had purchased. She was incredibly appreciative of our gesture. She couldn’t stop smiling and neither could we!

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Along the way:

This is when we found the fun postcards to send to people, picked up our share of trash, held doors, etc. Common courtesies go a long way, at least for me. I always appreciate when someone holds the door for me.

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Our Fourth Stop: 


Red Cross Blood Donation Center.

I knew this was something Scott would be pleased with. His grandpa used to donate so much blood that I can’t keep track. It was something he was very proud of, and rightfully so.

We had been to Quito, Ecuador within the year. Unfortunately, this meant that he was not a liable candidate for a blood donation at that time. So… we left. But we tried! — and there’s always this year! 

 

unc frank

Center Fold. Yahoo!

We also posted our Uncle Frank’s “Colander” for people who wished to donate. The Colander is a calendar with photos and bios of those who have survived colon cancer and want to share their story. Frank is a survivor and spitfire. This is the link for you to read his bio and see what it’s about. It’s pretty fantastic.

I’m sure I’m missing a few things in here. We were trying to enjoy the moment by taking less photos. Hopefully this guide inspires you to do something similar. But per usual, I encourage you to make it your own!

 

 

“When you see a person without a smile give them yours help them find it.”


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PS- After drafting this post I took Nessa out for a stroll around the block. I stumbled upon a small wad of one dollar bills and thought how perfectly timed that was. Don’t worry, if it were $20’s or $100’s I would be trying to search for their rightful “owner”. But now I get to re-gift those ones for the next RAOK bday! Right on 🙂


       about me7<3Amber