Wednesday, 31 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 31: Last

Even at the old age of 27 there are times when I still need to grow up a little bit, before I can do or say what I really want to and ignore all the peer pressure.

Halloween is one of those sorts of things for me. Because I gotta tell you something. I do not like dressing up. I just don't like it. I liked it as a kid, and fully plan on getting into it with my kids, but since I am currently not a kid, or have kids. I am choosing today to not do anything.

It is glorious.

Not participating in Halloween is one of the most liberated, true to myself things I have done in a long time. And tonight I might go to a friends house and help hand out candy. And I will love seeing all the costumes and the glee kids have on a holiday that is all about collecting tons of candy! It is a really fun holiday! And I will wear jeans and enjoy the fact that my friend made a pumpkin, so I didn't have to.

Today is the last day of October so I wanted to wrap-up what we have learned thriving this winter and what that means.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 30: Sail

Today is Day 30! The end is so close I can taste it! One thing I have learned this month is that I am definetly not going to be a blogger who eventually quits my day job to blog full-time and eventually get a book deal. Nope. This is going to continue to be a tiny little blog where I throw down random thoughts and totally focus on what I am currently interested in. Also I think I have used the full extent of my tech-y powers this month. Which is a little sad. I am much more impressed with these full-time bloggers now.

Today I am up to my ears in a great project that I will probably show you tomorrow. And so I wanted to leave you with one last essential thing that you must ensure to do to thrive this winter. And that is to laugh. This video always helps me.

What makes you laugh?

Monday, 29 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 29!: Launch

Hey guys! Today I want to share with you something that is totally essential to the organization of my house and self. I am totally a person who is very organized in my head, and would appear to be very organized on paper, yet there always seems to be a bit of a miss. Case in point; today while searching for our christmas stockings I found that on all of the meticulously labelled christmas boxes I hadn't included this one item. Of course.

So this is all to say, that while I might appear organized, I am just as lazy and forgetful (or maybe more!) than anyone else. Things just happen the way they happen.

But! There is one place in my life that a little organization can make a huge difference, and that is specifically on my way to work. Or on my way to do errands. Or any time I am leaving my house. So having what I call a "launchpad" really helps me get organized.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

{Thriving in Winter} Day 28: Draft

Do you remember being in college and staying up all night to write a paper that you really should have started 2 weeks ago? You had a goal, and the desperation to try something crazy. 

Well, actually you had to fulfill someone else's goal, which may have been why you avoided doing it for so long. 

You had desperation.... which I think is just a real world name for "purpose". You know, that thing that is supposed to drive you and fill you up. That thing that gives your whole life meaning and makes you want to get up in life. You had a goal that you really really wanted to accomplish.

Which leads me to a terrifying question. What is your purpose in life?

Whenever I hear this question it strikes fear in my heart. I have no idea what my purpose is!  Aren’t I supposed to be naturally good at my purpose? Won’t that mean I will be more successful if I just worked within my purpose? I would have a fulfilled and rich life? 

Well, today there is good news. 

It is OK not to know your purpose or have a written mission statement!

I have read books, articles, blogs, written purpose statements and analyzed myself until I couldn’t think anymore. And I have a few hazy ideas, but nothing that I would tie myself to. In the last year alone I have made major changes in my life, going from someone who was always trying to go as "real food" as possible, and thinking that I would bake my own bread, to someone who is way more conscious of what things cost, and now simply does things because they are cheaper. We also went from people who were really really involved in our old church, to people who can barely even attend on Sunday because of a work schedule. We have changed. We have realized that things we might have included in our purpose statement in the past, really aren't pointing us towards the MOST important things we care about right now. 

There is also a second piece of good news. Just because you don’t know your purpose doesn’t mean life is a hopeless endeavor. It just means that our focus is on the wrong thing. What if, instead of focussing on figuring ourselves out and then getting frustrated because we are really complex, which makes this task extremely difficult, we focused on just getting as far as we can. Instead of focusing on having the perfect life purpose statement or plan, we just work on what seems good now. It might change, it might just get tweaked, but its not done. 

So far here is what we actually agree on, and actually have been focussing on. It is actually only the first line of our previous purpose statement, but it also the only part I actually remember. So there; it probably is the only important part. 

To work to empower the vulnerable. 

Not very specific is it. Not complete. It could use some additional lines. But it's all I've tied myself to so far. It's a good working draft.

Yours might need to be changed, you might realize you once made one and can't remember any part of it. You might not have one at all. And that is ok. No need to rush things. Your whole life might be a working draft. And wouldn't that be kind of exciting and maybe a little less pressure?

Do you have a written life purpose? Could it be your working draft?

Saturday, 27 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 27: Cozy

Note: This is a guest post from Prince Charming because Robyn is sick today! Everyone make him feel welcome. 

I should say that I am writing this blog because my poor wife is fast asleep beside me. I want to make sure she completes her goal of one blog a day for this month. Today's thriving this winter post is about creating the worlds greatest reading corner.

I should start by outlining some of the finer features of a reading corner to answer the question, what makes a great reading corner? Great question imaginary reader in my head. Here are some things to make your reading corner the coziest of all.

First you need books. Yes, I know that is rather obvious sounding but if you keep your books in a different place than your reading corner then how would you ever read there? The library of fine literary material that you surround yourself with will undoubtedly inspire you to delve into a good book.

The next thing you need is good light. This is to give you the best ability to read. If you can't see the words on the page reading won't be any fun. It is important to not be too bright or it will feel cold. Nothing says cozy like stage lighting. But contrarily you can't get into a book if your eyes want to evacuate your head.

Clearly the next item for a great reading corner would be a comfy chair. Again, seems rather obvious. But a good reading chair should be able to be sat in a variety of ways. Sitting one way only can lead to getting stiff just when the book is getting good.

Now that your comfy, now you must keep warm. Blankets are synonymous with coziness. A great blanket allows you to keep warm on cold winter days.

To complement the chair you need to keep well hydrated. The perfect reading corner must have a great spot to put your tea. Far enough not to be in the way and not too far that you forget it until the tea gets cold. No one is happy about cold tea.

There now you are all set. Put these things together and you will have yourself a fantastic reading corner. Happy reading!

Friday, 26 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 26: Maker

I am a reluctant labeller. I enjoy organizing pretty well, but usually by the time it comes to labelling I just move on. Sometimes I actually don't label because the area is organized well enough, and labels would just make it harder.

Other times I come back to the project and realize that this area would really be more functional with labels. These are usually cases where I have containers, and either the containers aren't see-through, or they are identical. Or perhaps the contents of the containers look identical.

The other reason to make labels is to help out other members of the house who weren't involved in the reorganization process. They will likely appreciate a sign telling them where things are, or where they should be.

I do not own a label maker, and I have no plans to get one. I simply use my computer and stick-on labels, or a sharpie and some tape. Both work fine for me and give me lots of options. I have also used these labels from BHG. I used to be intimidated because I didn't own a labelmaker, but once I realized how well (and how temporary) the write-on-a-piece-of-paper, cut it out and stick it on with scotch tape method, I haven't looked back. It works for me really well.

Do you own a label maker? Or do you label your stuff free-hand?

Thursday, 25 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 25: Write

Every year, once Christmas is over, I write an account of what happened, what we did, how things worked and fun traditions we should keep going.

And then every year before Christmas I open it up and read my past entries. It really helps get me in the Christmas spirit.

Do you keep an account of what happens at Christmas at your place?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 24: Quiet

As I have said before a home should be your personal retreat, your place to get away from it all and just be. Which sounds awesome, but sometimes you have to put a little bit of work in this "being".  So my question for you today is:

How do you take off the stress and trouble of the world and step into your quieted self? Do you ever do this? 

You might have read my post from Sunday where I talked about getting rid of my routine, and my wondering if it is routines that drag me down and give me a whole lots of "shoulds" rather than the energy I need to complete the tasks that really matter to me. And while I am still sure that I need to not worry about routine as much, there are some ways of being that can really help me out. And some of these ways do end up involving a routine. 

One of those routines is how we get ourselves to bed. Most of us can remember the routine that we had with our parents when we were little, brush your teeth, put on pj's, read a book, sing a song, pray, go to sleep. Other routines might have more, other's might have lesss. But somewhere in become an adult many of us completely lost having a bedtime routine. I think it comes from late nights in college, where we were so regularly exhausted and going to bed at 2am, that we would just crash into bed and immediately fall asleep. There was no consideration given to how we might have to coax ourselves to bed. 

Well fast-forward (for me at least), to now, where I actually have enough time to sleep, but now often can't. And coaxing myself to sleep needs to happen more than I would like. So here are some ways that I help coax myself. 

The difference between this routine, and a soul-sucking routine is that this one is not intended for every single day. It is not something I should do, because it is only something I do when I have been having difficulty sleeping. And sometimes I don't know I will have trouble until after the fact. So it is a "great when I do it!" kind of routine. No worries, an option when needed. This is a routine that I can do any day, and can start at any time. There is no set bedtime, so I can start right after dinner if I am really tired. I can start it at 11 if I have had to be out all night. It is a routine that works into my day, rather than me having to work my day to fit it. Here is what I do to tell myself I am ready for bed. 

1. Take it off.
I mean your makeup, hair and accessories. And you should probably brush your teeth too. These are the only things I have to "do" to get ready for bed, because I can totally sleep knowing the house is a mess, and if I look at my planner then I will certainly find something to do. If I don't look, and I don't remember, it obviously wasn't that important. That is why I check in the morning. You need to do what works for you. 
2. Cozy up!
When I first started nursing it seemed incredible that they would let me wear the scrubs. I even took a picture of myself the first day I wore the sterilized hospital issue ones. Because to me, it was like I was literally putting on the role of "nurse". When I was wearing that people expected me to do know what to do, and trusted me to do it. Even now, sometimes if I am having a bad day I have to remind myself that I have put on my scrubs and now I am not as much Robyn as I am "nurse." Clothes have a TON to do with how you feel about yourself and your day. Put on your pj's, and your fuzzy slippers and your snuggly housecoat. Wrap yourself in a blanket. Get cozy and warm and snuggly. 

3. Seriously de-stressing.
Sometimes before the pj's I will take a bath. Not a shower, a bath. Preferably with low lights and a book. I like to drink water in my bath, but you could have wine. Sometimes I throw a few handfuls of epsom salts into the bath, because I have read it draws out toxins. I don't know if this is true, but it sounds nice. Then after my pj's or bath I will go out into my house and turn out the overhead lights, in favour of lamps and candles. Then I make myself a cup of something warm. I like Sleepytime tea by celestial seasoning and will add a bit of honey or lemon. I don't like to have anything caffeinated or sugary at this time. I usually watch one show while I drink my tea. Then I go into my room and if I am still awake I will read my book. Right now I am reading the Simarillion, which is an awesome book to put you to sleep! 

I really think that the earlier I put on my pj's, the earlier I signal to myself and my family that I am getting ready for bed. We automatically want to start snuggling under blankets and droop our eye lids. Nothing really productive can take place while wearing pj's, and we aren't going to fight it, so we just relax and unwind. I mean, think about Christmas; all the best parts of christmas happen while we're in our pj's. Snuggly movies or dinners around the fire on christmas eve, and christmas morning full of presents! At these times we actually get special pj's and specifically plan to wear them at certain times. It is as if pj's tell us, and the rest of the world to go away for a day! We are busy relaxing, and have no plans to go anywhere else. 

So today I challenge you to come up with a bedtime routine that actually works in your life, not something that will just add to your guilt that keeps you up at night. Think about your evenings as time to set the stage for a good night's sleep. 

How do you help yourself fall asleep?

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 23: Warm

When it is so warm out and the sun is still shining at 5:15 am, it just doesn't feel like morning to me! But when the morning is dark and crisp and the shower feels so wonderful, and you have to hop and move quickly into your days clothes, well that is morning. And a warm breakfast just makes the time so much more delicious.

For a few years I have made it my personal mission not to serve boxed cereal for breakfast. The reason for this is two-fold. First of all, boxed cereal is actually one of the most expensive foods to serve, especially when you think about its relative nutrition. It is also, generally, pretty low in protein, to the point where if I eat boxed cereal before going to work I might as well not have eaten anything because I will get ridiculously starving way before break time.

So today I want to share with you 3 make-ahead breakfast recipes and 2 ideas, so that you can enjoy a hot breakfast.

The first thing to talk about is the components of your breakfast. For breakfast I always like to include some form of protein (which is 99% hard-boiled eggs for us), fruit (generally a banana) and milk. Then for sustenance I include a grain product. For our hectic days this will be simply toast with peanut butter & jam. Bonus points if the bread is homemade. Ours usually isn't. I have a kitchen gadget called a "Boily" (that's it in the picture), but sometimes if I want to make more than one at a time I use the stove-top method. Much less effort than any other kind of egg or breakfast meat. By having a general plan of all the components of breakfast it is much easier to plan, and once you start incorporating protein into breakfast you will wonder why you ever did without. It makes that much of a difference.

The other idea is to make ahead muffins or other baked goods batter (but try to make healthy ones!) and freeze them in sandwich bags. This way you don't have to eat stale muffins, and you can just make a new batch every few days, or a couple times through the month. Freezing the batter in a ziploc just lets you snip off the corner and squeeze your muffins into your pan. No mess. Pop them in the oven for 15-20 minutes and you have fresh muffins. Easy enough to do in the morning.

I love oatmeal on a cold morning, but my husband doesn't like it without some flavouring. Since the boxes of instant oatmeal always have flavours we don't like there are alway some stragglers, plus they are also kind of expensive (yeah, its basically all about the money for me). So instead I will make up big batches of this oatmeal and store it in a big tupperware container. Add my oatmeal and water to the bowl and into the microwave it goes. You can adjust the flavourings and sweetness to taste and the batch will last us at least a month.

We both love McDonald's breakfasts, and get them as a treat when we play music on Sunday morning. My husband's favourite is the 2 breakfast burrito meal. So when I found this recipe for freezer breakfast burritos, I knew he would love them. They are such a hit! I like to make 1 or 2 batches at a time (1-2 dozen eggs) and roll them while I watch a favourite TV show. It takes me about 1 hour in an afternoon and then will last me about a month, especially if I also have the oatmeal. They are so tasty, and awesome to take to work for a coffee break.

And since you now know about our love for McDonald's breakfast maybe you will get excited about freezer egg mcmuffins. For this one you have to buy (or you could make!) english muffins, so they are a little more expensive than the last 2 option, so we don't make them as much. Also if you are going to cook your eggs in the muffin tin make sure you really really greased the muffin cups. This helps get the eggs out and prevents them leaving behind bits that are virtually impossible to get rid of. Instead of the oven method in the post, I like to wrap these muffins in wax paper or parchment paper, which I leave them in when reheating, so that the cheese stays on the bun for the most part and the muffin gets a good texture.

I love using my freezer to make those chilly mornings seem just a bit warmer, and keep my tummy going, even when I am tired from an early morning.

What do you like to have for breakfast?

Monday, 22 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 22: Capsule

Hahaha! I was just looking at what was supposed to be yesterday's post and realized something. It is all about how to plan and add more things to your daily routine. I think my adherence to the idea that routine will solve my life's problems goes deeper than I thought. 

Today I want to talk about the second most important section of clothing to be concerned about this coming winter. And that is what I call the "weather resistance capsule". 

This ideas comes from the blog You Look Fab, which while focussing on a more mature (and affluent!) demographic than me, has some brilliant ideas about building a capsule wardrobe and how to start planning that wardrobe. 

According to YLF one person needs 3 coats, which are a lightweight trench, a smart coat and a casual parka. This is the minimum, but since I have moved from BC to Alberta which can get temperatures from -30ºC to +30ºC throughout the year, I have had to be a little more aware of the weather. Not to mention all my waterproof stuff from the wet West Coast isn't particularly helpful anymore. I have also taken into account the types of activities I do outdoors, and my own personal preferences. I can deal with being a bit cold, much more than exposed shoulders in wind. I dislike wind much more than the cold. So for me, everything doesn't have to be incredibly warm, but it does have to be covering and I like layers even in summer. So here is the list that I operate with. 

  1. trench coat
  2. wool coat
  3. casual down parka
  4. bright down puffer vest
  5. spring/summer jacket (rain, wind)
  6. cotton summer jacket
  7. brightly coloured toque
  8. matching gloves
  9. matching scarf
  10. umbrella

Just this past weekend I finally completed this list, by getting myself a winter coat. Last year was pretty mild here so I was able to get by on just a thick sweatshirt and the puffer vest. Coats are one of those things that you really need to think of as an investments, as you are generally not going to only wear them for one season. Take your time picking them out! For instance, I have had my black wool coat for at least 6 years. At the time, when I bought it, it seemed like a huge amount of money, but now that I have had it for so long the price per year is about $30. And in years when I haven't had a casual winter coat, it has seen a lot of wear. 

When buying anything in your winter capsule please think about colour. While you might buy all these items separately, you will be wearing them together, so try to pick colours that actually go. And I like to keep my toque, scarf and mittens the same colour, preferably bright or grey. This way I can either choose a bright coat to go with them, or if I am wearing my black coat I don't look like I am going to a funeral. Matching the accessories just makes things much more put together.

However, even more important than the colour is the shape! Something I have learned that has totally changed the way I approach coat shopping is simply this: Larger girls do not look good in double-breasted coats. Choose something with a princess seam (it just means straight down the front) and waist definition.

Lastly, it can really help your older coats to get dry-cleaned. Just take them every few years, and it will really help spruce them up.

Once you have your stuff together you are ready for any kind of weather and can still enjoy going outside in the winter! Try a winter picnic, or just a winter walk, or (what we are going to do this year) outdoor ice skating.

What do you have in your "weather resistance" capsule?

Sunday, 21 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 21: Discouraged

This is not the scheduled post for today, but I have had a revelation. And here is it.... I am a bit discouraged in my regular life. I feel like I am constantly trying to get better and better, because the next best thing has to be better than what is current. And I never seem to reach it, it is just slightly out of my hand.

Today (in church!) I learned about 3 things that I need to do to make this right. And maybe it will help you?! While I am writing, remember that mostly I am writing this to myself. I certainly didn't come up with these ideas, and really need to get better at using them in my life.

1. Rest

Seriously, I know I talked about this in another sunday post, but this is so crucial. When was your last day off? Not day where you laid around, I mean when you really relaxed. Did something good for yourself. Just were.

Sometimes rest is about not doing the things you are "supposed" to. If you are on a tight budget, then blowing that budget will ultimately not make you feel better. But if you have the room, try not making dinner tonight. Or hire a maid to come in this week. My big dream of life is make enough money to justify a maid.

Sometimes rest is actually about your health. Sometimes addressing the health issues that are causing pain or concern is a great way to find rest. Remember doctors can do more than just write prescriptions; they can actually help you make a full plan to deal with your concerns.

Or maybe you just need to take a nap. In your pajamas. In the middle of the afternoon. (If you have kids, get Dad (or aunt, or friend or whoever!) to take them swimming :) ).

2. Restructure
Firstly this means you. You know now you always are running around taking care of everything? Think of everything that "no one else" could possibly manage. Why is this? Are making it too complicated? Are you just expecting too much of yourself?

I have recently taken on 2 major roles in my life, as well as changing jobs. Plus of course I am now blogging daily, and have to keep up with a fastidious house, gourmet meals with thematic tablescapes, and continuously redecorating my house. Because you know, we want people to feel comfortable when they come here. (while this is over the top, I do feel a bit bad when I can't do all this... see? it's crazy!)

So seriously, as Prince Charming always reminds me (gosh, he is so honest!) it is all just in my head. It is me who is creating these expectations for myself, and I who am sad I am not doing it. Honestly, it is just me. And I need to get over myself.

And I can ask for help, but since I actually get quite a bit of help I mostly just need to see that asking for help isn't causing resentment and disappointment. I need a bit of extra grace, while I give up some of my expectations of myself, and assurance that I am not letting down others expectations of me as well. I don't think this is a crazy request.

Oh yeah. And that routine I have been trying to follow? (The one I talked about in my home binder video). Yeah, I'm just gonna go ahead and get rid of that. It is not possible for me to complete in a day, and keeps my mind on things that aren't in my current plans. So.... there you go recycling bin. Thanks for being there when I need you.

3. Regroup to face fears
Are you procrastinating because you are actually afraid of something? One of the things David Allen talks about in "Getting Things Done" is how most people never actually move on their projects or tasks because instead of planning to "pick a topic and write an outline for my nursing course paper," we just plan to "work on my nursing course." And since we don't actually know what the next step is we don't actually know how to proceed, and things we don't know or understand can cause fear. So we don't actually get stuff done. Or maybe you honestly don't know, or don't think you can do it. So instead of writing" do something about my neck that has hurt for 2 months." Write "go to the doctor" or "look up massage therapists online and call for an appointment." Only write actual tasks.

If you are facing bigger fears in your life, maybe you need to rally the troops and get your support network on board. When was the last time you and your partner dreamed about your life, and talked about all the things you are both doing. Are you both supporting each other? Do you each have enough time for rest? Do you need a restructure or regroup? Do you both know what you are working towards or fighting for? Are you still happy with those decisions? Talking through these kind of issues on a regular basis can really help remind yourself and your supports about why you are making the choices you are. And maybe you will realize you need to change your choices.

So now I am off to eat a lunch not made by me, and I am considering taking a nap. Tomorrow I will be back. Not working on my routine. Just slowing and steadily looking around and taking care of what needs to be done. One day at a time.

Are you discouraged today?

Saturday, 20 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 20: Today

As I have said many times, thriving in winter is all about things we can do now, so that we are ready and set-up for winter.

Well sometimes this preparation comes in the form of just getting what needs to happen now done, so that you aren't still working on it in the next season. 

Today I gotta do my homework, so that I won't still be working on it next year. 

Why don't you try to think of something that you just simply HAVE to do and get it done today? It will make the next season just a bit easier. 

Friday, 19 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 19: Give

Good morning world! I am thinking about christmas today, more importantly I am thinking about gifts this morning! Yay!
Gifts can be one of the most tedious, or one of the most fun parts of Christmas. But instead of focusing on getting something for everyone possible, why not focus on getting really good gifts for a few people.  Try to reduce the number of people on your list, to just your family, and even then carefully consider who you need to really need to give gifts too. Only give gifts to people you enjoy giving gifts to! If you don't enjoy it, then maybe try to agree with that person not to give gifts anymore. This is totally non-offensive, especially if you make it a deal they you not exchange gifts anymore. Most people are happy to reduce their list.

If you couldn't possibly not give gifts to a certain group, try making one gift and give it to all of them. Bake them some cookies and put it in a cute jar, or make them a tin of gourmet popcorn. Buy everyone in the office a small (like $5-10) Starbucks card, or get them each their favourite coffee one day. For the ladies maybe make them a simple, but fabulous smelling sugar scrub, or make them bottles of vanilla. By doing just one thing for everyone, you make it easier on yourself, but I don't think anyone of these people need to receive a special personalized gift from you. You can leave the specialized gifts for your family.
For a large family why not do an exchange where you are responsible for buying a present for just that person, instead of buying a present for everyone? My family has just started doing this, because we realized that most of us don't want $30 presents, but none of us can afford to buy more expensive presents for everyone. So now we are only buying one present each, but we can spend more money on that one person and get them something they truly want.

Also carefully consider your parents. Most parents truly have all the "stuff" they need. Be careful to choose the presents you get them. Remember by this point some of their things are needing to be replaced, so getting them real items (like a new kettle or bathroom towels) is better than just getting them a cd or book. Unless, of course, you know its a cd or book they really want. Try to avoid just giving them more clutter. One year, we truly couldn't think of anything my parents wanted so we actually gave them a card that said "a goat has been bought in your name, and given to a family in need". It was kind of fun giving them a goat for Christmas. Compassion Canada and World Vision both have programs like this, just as examples.

If your parents are in a nursing home, I know for a fact that the greatest gift you can give them is to arrange to take them somewhere else with the family for an afternoon. Having worked in an long-term care centre, it is so sad how many families don't even visit during the holiday season because they are "too busy". Don't worry about buying them anything, they just want to spend time with you. This may also be true for families who are not in a nursing home, but simply live far away. If you are paying for an expensive trip home, maybe that can be in lieu of presents.

One of the things that we are also going to adopt this year is simpler stockings. We have done really crazy stockings (like $200 each in our first year of marriage) and more moderate stockings. But this year I finally know what I actually want to put in the stockings, and we aren't concerned with making sure they are full. Just a few items, that is all we need. We're actually going to follow the " Something they want, something they need, something to wear and something to read". We are also adding "something to eat". 5 items should make things simpler. We hope.

I also have decreed that I will not do my own stocking, so Charming does it for me. My mom always did her own stocking, which totally loses the surprise, and if you are overspending on your kids and husband, often means you stocking is a little sad. Let Dad take the kids to the store and help pick out your stocking. It can become a new Christmas tradition!

So I like to start looking for gifts really early, so throughout the year I keep 2 lists: A wishlist for myself and Charming and ideas for the rest of my family. These can be broad categories, such as pajamas or tools, or they can be very specific. Then, if I see a great deal on something I want, I get it then. This is how we got a really great deal on a kitchen knife set for my mom in September last year. I keep these lists on my computer, hidden away in boring sounding files and misnamed, so no one will look at them. This way they can be constantly edited and added to.
Since we have family who live far away from us we have had to make a new rule, which is simply: we do not send gifts by mail. Mail for gifts is far, far, far too expensive and I have absolutely no trust in Canada Post. So instead, we either save our gifts and have them delivered if some family is visiting and can bring presents back, or we simply send them gifts that can be shipped by the company. This is easy to do, just simply change the shipping address when ordering the present, but keep the billing address the same. Some company's near christmas do have an option for gift packaging, where they do not put any identifying information on the outside of the package.

Today I am checking my wrapping supplies, and getting a spot ready for gifts I will be buying. This is the task from Week 2 of my christmas countdown. This helps me stay organized and know where I have kept items as I get them. There is no point of shopping early if you won't remember where the presents are or that you even got them.

Tomorrow I get to do my first day of present shopping! I am sure I will have lots of fun, and hopefully I will find great stuff.

How do you prepare for gift-giving?

Thursday, 18 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 18: Spending

Last night while I was shopping for inspiration about today's blog post I found some in an unexpected place. I was expecting to see a pin, or a blog that would get me going. But actually it came from a conversation with my mom. We were talking about what I would write today and I was telling her how like I have run out of good things to say. And her response was brilliant.

"Sometimes people need a break, it's ok to put things down."

Which, instead of having her intended effect of having me not write a post, helped me find a great post idea! Thanks mom!

Recently I have been complaining to Prince Charming about my health and how I feel like I have no time to improve it. I have told him over and over again that I have so much happening in my life that there is no more extra room, so any additions mean subtractions somewhere. And there is no place to find subtractions. So I am stuck.

He, of course, tells me that I am crazy and not stuck and I am just being a "whine-face". Which is true. I am just feeling sorry for myself. And he is also right, that when I want to I can find time for anything.
Time is not a secret, it is not sneaky. It is actually just math. And most of us, when we say "I don't have time for that!" Really mean to say, "I am not interested in that." Because we all find time for what we truly want to do.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 17: Safe

What does your house say about you? Is it even talking to you? Today I gotta tell you something. Regardless of whether your house is talking to you, it is talking to everyone else who comes into it.

Which is neither good, or bad, it just is. 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 16: Batch

Just joining in? Read the whole series {here}. 

Ok, so last week was a bit crazy with 5 days of work, which included a weekend. And I never get ANYTHING done on working weekends, so I am a little impressed that I actually got a post up each day. Even though they were a little late. And now! We are over the hump! It is day 16!

Are you feeling ready for winter? I am slowly getting there, and one of the things that really reduces my stress and worry is.... freezer cooking. 

Freezer cooking is something I have played around with for a long time, and I finally feel like last month I did something that made sense and wasn't such an ordeal that it wrecked up the whole rest of my week. 

Here are my commandments of freezer cooking: 

1) Thou shalt not make any new recipes. 
2) Thou shalt not make any more than 5 recipes, but everything must be at least tripled. 
3) Thou shalt do it thyself at one's own house, at one's own pace. 

Seriously. I have tried the day-long freezer cooking at someone else's house, or even at my own house. I have made upwards of 15 different recipes. I have made many new recipes that simply didn't work or taste right. None of these things are helpful in my life. 

Monday, 15 October 2012

{Thriving in Winter} Day 15: Drawers

Today I need to talk about a very important issue. Probably the most foundational item in your entire life. It is so foundational that I guarantee it is the closest thing to you at all times, every day. It is.....

your underwear. 

(new pj's tonight!)

When I consider my underwear selection I also include socks, hose, thermal wear, bra's and pajamas. These items are generally not very expensive, but they can make a HUGE difference in your wardrobe.  Here is my list of foundation pieces to make sure you have in your wardrobe. Of course this is my personal list and it works for my climate, so take your lifestyle and climate into consideration when considering your own wardrobe. Also not included are all my old, slightly worn t-shirts I no longer want to wear in public as "fashion". The clothes I clean in, do homework in and lay around the house in. Just make sure you only have about 5 of these. There can be too much of a good thing in this case. 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 14: Keep

Sunday's are celebrated all over the world as a sabbath or "day of rest".  Even many people who do not practice religion engage in a weekly restful day. But soul rest is about more than just putting up your feet.

However, I would also state that nourishing your soul is often about more than just going to church. If we are honest, sometimes getting out to a religious service is not very restful. I doubt that I am the only one who has sat planning out my grocery list and schedule, or planning a heated "discussion" while I am supposed to be listening to the sermon. That isn't to say that some sermons aren't great and totally bring new understanding and deep peace. But true soul nourishment is more about what you are bringing to it, not just an activity that has to be scheduled in.

Ok, so we know what soul nourishment isn't, but what is it?

Soul nourishment is about refreshing your perspective and shoring yourself up to face the world. It is about self-confidence, and acceptance of yourself. It might be about increasing your understanding of yourself. It is about knowing who you are and having a true sense of your place in the world. So basically, it is about hope. (Which is what Prince Charming yelled at me this afternoon while I was certainly not filled with these emotions.) It is about living a life full of hope, always hoping that things will work out, better than planned, and go smoothly. It is about hope for the future, hope for who you can be, what you can accomplish. It is the part of you that whispers "keep going."

So then the question is.... what fills you with hope?

For me it is music, it is beautiful landscapes, it is actually executing plans, it is making my self take that small step now to feeling better later. For me, today these small steps were: taking a nap (during which I didn't actually sleep, but I closed my eyes and wore pyjamas), then washing my face and brushing my teeth. Then enjoying a dinner that I planned but Prince Charming actually made. And it made me feel hope again. Because the future can be better. And I can keep going.

What helps you keep going?

Saturday, 13 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 13: Play

Board games are to winter parties, as cocktails and grills are to summer parties.  Gather 'round. 


Friday, 12 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 12: Soothe

Disclaimer: In this post I talk about a lot of branded over-the-counter medicines. I am neither promoting a certain brand or prescribing medications to you. I am simply describing what works for us.

I can still remember the desperate, pathetic feeling as I walked through the rain (without my coat, because I hadn't realized it was raining) at 9:05 on a weekday night, trying to find something to help a sick stomach for Charming. We didn't have a car at the time and both the corner stores let me down. He ended up just spending the night in the bathroom. There was nothing I could do.

Now of course, I guess I could have called 911 if it was an emergency. And I would have done in a heartbeat. But he wasn't having an emergency. He had just had a questionable lunch. And to make my guilt cut even deeper, I am a nurse. I should know, I should have all the stuff. I had a stethoscope and fancy scissors. I had every kind of band-aid. But as for medicine? Nothing.

For cold I have a whole onslaught of medicines, remedies and foods that I use to get over a cold quick and help stave them off. Just to note: none of these things will actually cure a cold or flu, in fact most of them are simple symptom-hider's, so once you notice symptoms you are considered contagious for 72 hours, regardless of how you feel.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 11: Imagine

Oh gosh guys. I have run out of pre-outlined posts. Now we are in the real world, actually having to blog every day, and let me tell you, I do not think that I will be posting by 10am everyday.

Today I am thinking about Christmas. Mostly because I just am. I woke up this morning with a really full day, knowing that I couldn't get side-tracked on pinterest and actually happy with what I was going to get done, but guess what? Totally spent about an hour on pinterest looking at christmas stuff.

On Tuesday we talked about how I am focussing myself for christmas this year and only spending time/money on 3 areas: food, easy to maintain decor and being with people. And I want to focus on being comfy, relaxed and joyful. Basically I want to feel like this photo.

Right now I am thinking about all the things that have to get done WAY before December rolls around. Last year I planned to be organized and get my stuff together before people arrived and before the holiday week rolled around, but I was a bit lazy about it and didn't really get it done.

Well cue the tears of frustration. This was my first christmas that I wasn't at my parents house, and actually had to act like and adult. But I didn't really. I basically spent the whole week tearing out my hair and lamenting how "unorganized" I felt. But it wasn't so much that I wasn't organized, it was that I wasn't able to relax. I was working during that week and when I came home, I would immediately have to make some kind of food, still worry about doing laundry, keeping things tidy, plus buying christmas presents and taking time for christmas visiting. We had great house guests, so they weren't the problem, but I was just a little over-exhausted. And my dreams were not matching my reality.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 10: Clear

As I have been writing this series I keep feeling, well, a bit fall-ish. I know that I am trying to write about thoughts, habits and ideas that will last through the winter, but I am also doing them now, and right now it is fall.

Well today that is changing. Snow has come, and snow only comes in one season. So I guess winter is here!

Which leads me to my post for today about...... getting things clear.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 9: Joy

On Sunday my family celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving, which was wonderfully tasty, fun and comfortable. Nothing seemed pretended, nothing seemed “put-on”. Yes, we had a big meal and Cogsworth did A LOT of cooking and work, but it didn’t seem like a show that we would all have to recover from afterwards. (Well, except maybe losing the 5 lb.s we gained). 

This family celebration led me to thinking about the next family celebration that we will be having. You know the one.... Christmas. I like to really start early for christmas preparations, so I usually use Thanksgiving as my cue. 

One of the things that really struck me this year was how the whole point of Thanksgiving is celebrated. It is always around this time that I am struck by the true bounty of what myself and my family enjoys, I am thankful for the things in my life that are good, and I can reflect on the true goodness of things that initially seem awful. There is a true undertone of gratefullness, and our family is good at remembering to remember this. 

I also love the ease of this holiday. Thanksgiving isn’t a whole month long and even if I did decorate it would more likely be with leaves from outside, pumpkins and gourds and simple candles. In fact this year for our pre-thanksgiving, I made a super simple centrepiece with a vase half full of mixed nuts and a tea light. It was all stuff we already had, simple, and perfectly reflected the mood of thanksgiving. Simply enjoying what we have. 

Monday, 8 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 8: Accept

Today I am sharing something that I have been thinking about for a long time. 

The way things work for you, is probably different than other people. I don’t mean its completely different that everyone else, but not the same as some people. Or maybe it’s not. Or maybe it is. 

It really doesn’t matter. 

Comparing ourselves to others is one of the most damaging things we can do. The green-eyed monster gets more and more deceptive as we age. When we compare our work performance with our co-workers, our relationship sucess with our siblings, or our monetary status with our friends, we are being the toddler who wants everyone elses toys. Sometimes we simply compare ourselves to the idea of somethingWe are seeing that green, green grass and hoping it would make us feel better. 

Sunday, 7 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 7: Go

Today is going to be a really simple post. 

(Photo: February 2010, Mt. Doug, Victoria, BC)

Go do something about that.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 6: See

Yesterday we had our engagement photo session.... after only 5 years of marriage. Ha! It was lots of fun, and the sunset behind us was beautiful so I am sure they will turn out great. Today I am talking about fun, so naturally I want to talk about how we deal with photo's in our life.

Sometimes it is really nice to have a professional take some pictures, but all the photo's on display in your house do not have to be professionally done. Photo's are there to remind us of our experiences, so looking at photo's that mean something to you can be more important than the photo being a true art piece. Mix the two together for a authentic view of your life!

Our latest "yearbook"

Friday, 5 October 2012

{Thriving this Winter} Day 5: Listen

So I already wrote this post. Twice. It was a long and wonderful primer on going to sleep. Then it was a short and wonderful primer on going to sleep.

But it kind of stank. And it was all about you guys listening to me, not about you listening to yourself.

You see, I spend a lot of time looking up other people's ideas on how to improve myself, my life, my health, my family. There are a million ways other people do things. And some of them are brilliant, some of them are silly, and while some of them are great they might just not work for you.