Friday, March 29, 2013

What works- Fitness

My journey has evolved from couch potato to gentle yoga lover to gym rat in just 3 short months.  I never thought I'd be one of those, but a nudge from dear sis-in-law was enough to get us both there daily.  For anyone who has yet to make the immense effort to begin their journey, I understand! I think it's harder to start than to stay going... something about momentum.  This is why we go daily.  If we take a day off because we are sore (not injured) or tired or deserve a day off, we know we will begin the downward slide back onto the couch cushion.  Neither of us want that, can afford that, or deserve that.  As much as it scared us to take the leap, we found that 2 weeks passed by very quickly and we are well on our way to developing a new lifelong healthy habit. I have surprised myself daily to find my limits are mostly imagined and I am able do more than I ever gave myself credit for. I am not promoting joining a gym, because I know not everyone can do that, but if you can get a workout, walking, or healthy eating buddy, there is so much more energy added and staying power is multiplied.

Music!  Oh the joy of music!  Use a mp3 player, plug in to Pandora, or turn on the radio to set the pace faster than you would pace yourself and make the time go by so much faster. Without music, I found I was concentrating on the wall in front of me, to the random numbers on the equipment, and especially the clock.  It would tick tortuously slowly.  Today, sis and I plugged into Pandora with a splitter and laughed the hour away listening to 80's cardio; oh the memories!  Definitely helped us go faster, push harder, and we added a good 30 minutes to our usual routine easily.  It also works in the opposite direction for cool downs and stretching/yoga to slow down and breathe deeply as you ease into your day or slip into bed.

Workouts don't come without a price (and so many rewards), but the price is what you feel first.  Sore muscles and fatigue are normal and a part of the process.  Not a lovely part, but a part.  I tend to repeat Tom Sobal's saying over and over, especially after we started an Arms/Abs/Tush class twice a week: "Pain is weakness leaving the body."  Ps, you have to read his story- what a guy!  Anyway, I found an article of things to try when you get sore that may spark an "Aha" moment for you here...

Variety is the spice of life and getting fit must include all the spokes of the wheel in varying degrees.  You will find that some will come easier than others: Eating better, sleeping well/long enough, giving the mind time to daydream/wind down, working up to a sweat and breathing hard (not asthmatic, just enough to know you are working hard), and endurance/strength exercises.  Also, this is probably part of the 'mind' part, but get out into nature at least once a week.  Hearing the sounds outdoors, getting some sunshine, and breathing fresh air does wonders. If you don't feel like you've gotten out of the old habits just yet, try to do each one of these things just once a week, and probably not all in one day ;)  In a month, you will be wanting more and the hard spokes will be easier.

I am going to say it again, yes again:l logging/journaling makes a huge difference between success and failure.  When you cannot see, in concrete numbers, the expense of what you are eating, the balance or imbalance of nutrients, or how much activity you are getting, you WILL lie to yourself about how good you've been, OR you will excuse yourself into bad habits. Let me go another degree and say that, if you have buddies doing it with you, and everyone accountable to everyone, you will behave better when things get tough. 

Lastly, my favorite excuse prior was not having enough money to do things 'right.'  But all of it can be done as simple and free as the outdoors for a long walk, or using gallon jugs/canned food/body weight for lifting..  If you are online reading this, there are millions of classes and videos here for free for anything under the sun.  I even learned Qigong and Tai Chi here at one point. You can find and learn any activity you feel like you can do- just be sure to use all your major areas upper and lower. There are online logging sites mentioned in my previous posts, and music here as well to wind up or down with.  If you have trouble sleeping, two tricks sis and I talked about this week were to count down from 300 by 3's (worked for me the other day in 20 counts flat) and breathing deep in and out for a count of 2, then 3, then 4... up to 20.  The eating part, well, you decide what you will trade up for this week, water instead of soda?  Wheat instead of white? Fruit instead of cookies? You get the drift...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

What works- Automotive

We've had our share of issues with used cars over the last few years.  This led us to purchase an extended warranty on the car before this one, as our transmission died on the one before that!  It was quite an added expense, but it was our first used car and we didn't want to take any more chances.  Sooner than later, we had electrical issues and lock issues that the warranty covered.  We also had some issues that the warranty did not cover; $1000 of uncovered expenses that were not only downright inconvenient, but threatened to leave us on the roadside.  This brought us to our next purchase. Though we were hesitant to spend that kind of money again and not use it, the thought of something really big going bust was enough to convince us to do it.  Some of my family thought we were ripped off, but I'll tell you what happened next.  Within a year, our transmission went unexpectedly, again.  It went into the shop, and the warranty covered a 'reconditioned' transmission and a rental until it was repaired.  This took 2 weeks longer than expected, but we loved having an almost new van (and less miles added our old van) while we waited.  After, we were very grateful to have the van back and repaired for free, but that wasn't the end of the story.  I never got home from picking up the van before the engine light went on again. I brought it back and they couldn't figure out what was wrong.  They made some adjustments, and again the light came back on a few days later.  This time, they found shavings in the pan, which anyone will tell you is NOT good.  They made us see the dealership this time.  The dealership got us another rental and kept our van for many weeks after this.  Come to find out, they went through 3 more 'reconditioned' transmissions with the same result.  Finally, they bit the bullet and gave us a brand new transmission!  The extended warranty was paid for almost 5 times over when it was all said and done, and we have a practically new van under the hood that may actually last us beyond the last payment this time.

Rainex works wonders on your windows, but do not get it on anything else!  It leaked in my car and ended up eating through the box and the plastic bag it was kept in. 

Drygas is cheap and works fabulous for hard New England winters and keeping the engine humming.  Follow the directions for use.

Hang a plastic shopping bag on one of the arm rests between the front seats by one handle.  An easy access garbage comes in handy.

Make friends with a mechanic.  Find someone either related to you, related to someone you know, or a mechanic who values the business of someone you know.  The relationship ties will make it easier to find an honest technician who will advise you when you can put off repairs, find a cheaper option, or tell you the cold, hard facts.

AAA coverage is worth the money, even if you use it once.  One tow or unlock service will pay for itself.   Like the warranty, the peace of mind is also worth the money. Knowing if you get stranded somewhere- and it's never when you expect it- that someone can bail you out, without having to go through everyone on your contact list. With this membership comes lots of other perks as well, like free battery tests, discounts everywhere, and student coverage for free their first year.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What Works- 5 Minute Bread

I am promoting a process that Mother Earth News wrote on here.... I made a half-batch about a week ago because the last time I tried this, and forgot it on my counter with a full batch in a too-small pot. This is what happened.....

 Because I don't trust my memory to put it away after first rise, I wanted to be safe, so I chickened out and made a smaller batch.  I will make a bigger batch tonight because its all gone and I never want to be without almost-instant homemade bread again. 

Anyway, if you love sourdough like we do, you have to try this.  It is super easy, only uses four ingredients and no kneading.  It is ready to use right away or you can continue to use the refrigerated dough over the next 2 weeks.  It makes rolls and loaves that your family will rave about.  One of my daughters even traded some of her potatoes for another roll- and if you know her, you do NOT get between her and potatoes!  So give it a try and see how great it is.  You will never be timid to make your own bread again, or sigh at the process of kneading, rising, and rising again, etc.  Note: The first loaf, if baked right away, will be less sourdough flavored; it comes with age in the refrigerator.  Dough is much easier to handle if chilled overnight, as well. You can incorporate any herbs/cheese you like into the dough with each batch as you like before baking. Scroll through the pages to see more ideas... baking/storage info is on page 4 of the article above.

Friday, March 15, 2013

What Works- Self Publishing

I tried my hand at writing a book, or make that three.  I was tinkering with the idea for the last few years and have some future books still milling around my head, but with some milestone events coming up, I had to push out a few in short order.  Granted, 2 are personal picture books with a little history thrown in here and there, but the last is my first, albeit short, outright written creation.  I am super pleased with the results, though I would definitely take advantage of my proofreading friend next time.  There are a few sites around the web that will catch your eye, but one in particular won my heart, Blurb.

Not only do they NOT require you to purchase 300 of your own books with the first printing, they do not start at $1000.00 either.  You can print one or many, it's up to you.  And softcover, 20 minimum pages, starts around $20.00.  You pick the paper, colors, sizes, etc.  I just received my first ones in back in the mail from sending it off to them on 3/4/13, so they have quick turn around time, too.  Shipping was not bad and I could have ordered an electronic version for another $5.00 each. Not only that, but if you want, you can sell your book online through their site for free.  You pick your selling price, they do the shipping.  What a deal!  Best of all, they give you quite a few free software gadgets to help you get your book started.  I used the one that is an add-on for Word.  I constructed it there and uploaded right from there as well.  It was rich in features and super user-friendly.  I definitely would not have known where to start, otherwise. Needless to say, I love Blurb and will use them again when the next book itches to be let out of my cramped head.  Yes, my sister, I know... I am working on THAT one too :)

The final reason I am blogging about Blurb?  They sent me an email today with a $20 credit on my next book, and the first book for my special friends in the US. Sorry international followers... I hope they extend to you as well in the future!  I was thrilled to receive this present in my mailbox and know it would have spurred me to write sooner if I got this last month.

What's holding you back from putting your thoughts, public or personal, on paper or ebook?  Make a personal family cookbook, calendar, photo collage, how-to book, or memoir for future generations :)  Here's the link...

I also have to note my very good experience using for the clip art photography in the last book.  It was easy to purchase credits and not as expensive as elsewhere online.  The quality of the photos I used came out as beautiful in print as they looked in layout on my computer.  The site was not as user friendly in design, but you can figure out what you need if you look around.  Don't spend hours of time trying to figure out the licenses like I did, though.  Bottom line, if its just for you, use the standard print license, for sales under 10,000 items, use the extended print license. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bathroom Cleaning 2

I just emerged from my bathrooms after doing a shower scrubbing with my favorite cleanser, baking soda and water.  Besides costing pennies, I forgot how wonderful it is to stay in the bathroom to get the job done instead of leaving every few minute to breathe.  Even better, I found a new reason to love cleaning this way.

Before, when I would do the showers, it would be with a variant of a bleach type formula because that was what was needed to power through our 6-person accumulation of residue.  So, not only would it cost more healthwise, it would cost double because of the cleaner cost plus the clothes I would invariably ruin.  Call me lazy, but I don't have a day set aside to clean, or even a few hours; it comes when I cannot stand it any longer and I am able to put something else off a few minutes.  Because of this time constraint, there is no way I am changing into 'play' clothes and back again. BUT, I pay for that because I end up with droplets of bleach stains in the weirdest places, no matter how careful I am. 

Today, I am happy to say, that though I found droplets of cleaner on my shirt and pants again, I just brushed them off!  No residual or permanent stain!  Woohoo!  Score one for the lazy girl! Baking soda and water rocks!

I also found a use for the /back/body shower brush that has seen better days.  I am a shortie and this came in handy to reach the top tiles and generally made the scrubbing part even easier.  The whole job seemed to go by faster this way.   Because I had about 1/2 cup of the cleaner and some minutes left over, I went to my kitchen sinks and did a quick scrub with the rest. 

I will go over everything with homemade disinfectant from the first post and everything will sparkle.  Ps, toilet bowl cleaning update....pour 1/2 cup of any of the following into the toilet bowl before bed and let it sit overnight.... borax, baking soda, vinegar, or lemon juice.  This site has some info for using just vinegar on the toilet with much more detail.... 

Speaking of vinegar, I just read that there is a difference between supermarket vinegar and the kind you can purchase at the feed store.  Whaddya know... the supermarket one is watered down and not as strong. Something to think about and check out next time you visit the local feed lot :)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Going Poo-less 2

If just baking soda and water was just not attractive enough for you to make the switch, try this instead.  I vacillate between both of these, depending if I run out of one or the other mid-shower ;) This came from Homestead Community Post's website, though I do not remember which member donated this idea.  I am going from memory and from my own tweak, so it may vary from the original post somewhat.

When my garden was up and running, I harvested as much herb as possible and filled a mid sized pasta pan with rosemary, mint and lavender cuttings.  I covered this with water and boiled for 15 minutes.  I then put a cover on it and let it cool to room temperature.  While this was cooling, I poured household borax into a rinsed milk jug until there was about 1" at the bottom.  When the tea was cooled, I strained this and poured the 'tea' into the jug and filled the rest with water.  This jug was sloshed around until the borax was well incorporated; it will not totally dissolve).  This sat overnight and was ready for use the next day. Essential oils are optional. Pour it into smaller squirt bottles and use as a shampoo rinse.  Scrub your scalp well with this formula and rinse well.  Your hair will feel super clean and the herbs will bring health to your scalp and hair.  Note: If you have light hair, use chamomile instead of rosemary to brighten your hair.  The gallon lasts a LONG time!  Pennies per wash :)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What Works- Weight Loss Update

Are you wondering, 2 months later, if the ideas I posted still work?

I've lost 15 lbs so far. Let me restate that...I shed 15 lbs so far.  I KNOW where those pounds are- they are in what I am not eating anymore.  I'm heading to my goal weight by May, just in time for to see what summer clothes do not fit me anymore ;) 

What did this when I've steadily gained weight over the last 11 years with a couple of very unhealthy downturns here and there? The main credit and motivation I apply to God.  I was finally desperate enough to beg for His help to conquer this animal, not for vanity sake this time, but for health sake.  I want to be around a long time and I've not been able to keep up with my kids thus far.  With one graduating high school and 2 more almost there, it was a sad recognition and I will not get those years back.  My second reason that I took to God was the fact that it was extremely unhealthy for me to walk around every day loathing my own body.  I spent far too much time hating myself and knew that was a destructive attitude.  With everything I am, I want to be a God pleaser, and it went against the command to be thankful for 'all things.'  I could not be thankful for my body on my own, so I asked for a better attitude, even if I never changed on the outside.

When I approached weight loss in the past to see results in the mirror, I failed every time because my own confidence was based on my own efforts and a visual approach.  Without that motivation coming from the mirror every day, the other things that I needed to do did not last.  But, when my health is the main focus now, with God's help, the mirror and the scale are no longer my enemy and results are happening faster than I could have imagined. At this point, because I was 30 lbs overweight, the scale is my biggest motivator when I see a difference every day.  And when it doesn't show, I know why already when I had a larger feast day than usual in my log previously. When I then look in the mirror, I know that it will come eventually there too.  And it does... suddenly, some days... like today- where did my stomach go???

The tool that has been the underlying support for all this loss so fast, and really painlessly, is the Lose It App.  It was an easy habit to establish, to get on the app first thing and weigh in.  I then spend 5 minutes planning my meals and any exercise.  It is super easy and I know exactly where every calorie is coming from, so I make much better choices than if I didn't log.  I still eat whatever I am in the mood for, but because I am honest with my log, and I know anyone could see it, my cravings do not turn into binges anymore.  Early January before Lose It?? Yup, I ate whole bags of salt and vinegar chips in front of the computer.  If I have them, which is rare because my cravings have virtually disappeared, 15 or so now seems enough and definitely makes me feel the edge of yuck from all the junk in them.  Become my friend there and you can see everything I do (because I chose to show it- you don't have to). Exercise was a bit of a pressured thing until I started counting my very physical work as some.  Now I can do it on my days off and actually enjoy it.

A book that cemented my motivation is "Younger Next Year," by Chris Crowley.  He put into words the 'why' I need to get healthy, and NOW.   I can see the common philosophy of 'deterioration is normal' in so many people around me that it was scary.  If you read anything this year, read this!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

More things that work in the laundry and kitchen

I wanted to submit some ideas, but didn't have enough today for one particular category, so here is a smattering of some great things that have worked best...


Cheap/dull/used razors.  Any of the above will do... Before you throw them out, 'scuse me... recycle them...use them as sweater shavers next time you have a 'pill' problem.  Works awesome!  Note: Rusty ones work as well, but use caution on light colors. 

We can never find a lint brush when we need it, but always have duct tape or postal tape laying around.  We wrap our four fingers with it, sticky side out.  No more lint or hair!

Static- do not waste money on static spray.  If you lightly rub your legs with damp hands before you put on your skirt or pants, the static will be diminished or disappear.  Hairspray also works.


There was a traveling salesman in one of my stores today that made me have a v-8 moment.  He was highlighting one of my favorite tools.  You've heard them called TV knife, Ginsu, or Forever Knife.  I personally have the TV knife.  Bought my first one 20 years ago at an identical demonstration.  Thought I might have been a sucker, but I have used that knife almost exclusively for EVERYTHING.  Yes, even PVC pipe, plastic bottles, and wood when I was in a desperate moment.  They really do last as long as they say.  I replaced mine for free about 10 years ago and I was chewing my nails in anticipation of its return because it was sorely missed.  Low and behold, it came back, brand new and I still have that same one.  I could return it again, but it still works great, and I am not sure I could do without it again, even for a little while.  Bottom line, the cost is worth it!

Another purchase I have not regretted is glass storage containers.  We switched from plastic last year for health reasons.  It has since saved me many rolls of plastic wrap and aluminum foil and the leaching of chemicals they are known for.  Best yet, you can store food, duh, freeze food, BONUS, and cook food in them, DOUBLE BONUS.  I really like multipurpose :) When you purchase them, make sure they are oven, freezer, and dishwasher safe.  Otherwise, you will not get the most use, and savings, from them.

Monday, March 4, 2013

1 Week Challenge- Eat what you've got!

I did one of these from one of my favorite sites, where we were instructed to try to live off what we already had in our fridge, freezer, and pantry.  We were not 'allowed' to use the grocery store except for milk, bread, eggs, and butter... and those were only in an emergency.  Like a 'cannot-use-anything-else-instead' kind of situation. 

In most households, there is a surprising amount of food that is not used to feed us, it is used only as a marker of when items are getting low.  For example:  I could have 4 cans of green beans on my shelf, but when I get down to 2 (not zero), I get more.  Why do we do that?  Are we undergoing a famine?  Are we preparing for the next y2k? Will we poof into an alternate universe if we finally use that last can of green beans? It is absurd when you think about it.  I hear it all the time in the grocery stores as I scan; I am like an invisible stalker, listening to your conversations as you shop.  "We only have 12 cans of gravy left, and it's on sale, so grab 6 more, will you honey?" "Yes, Ralph, I know we have enough soup, but it's buy one get 2 free... it would be a waste of money NOT to buy them now." And so on it goes to one extent or another for most of us who find ourselves in the grocery store one or more times per week; not those who purposely plan for months, and yes, sometimes years ahead.

When I took on this challenge, I found that I had to use my noodle about 5% more to figure out what could go with what, but I was rewarded to find I had enough food to last at least 2 weeks, not one.  I found buried treasure at the back of my cabinets, I was given a unique opportunity to clean the bottoms of the shelves, got out of the rut of the same old dinner menu, and I learned a thing or two about my shopping habits. It was actually fun!

My challenge to you is to not just read this post, but to vow to act on it starting whenever you read this.  Pick out what you will make for dinner and post it here, nothing elaborate, just a basic list of items.  Then come back tomorrow and do it again.  See how long you can make it last.  You just might save up enough money to go out to eat at a special restaurant when it's through, or finally trade all those ancient spices for new ones, or buy a label maker for your newly organized shelves.  Make it fun!