Thursday, 25 April 2013

For this week...

I really think this is a cool photo - even if its a bit depressed looking. I promise I'm not depressed.

Hey Guys!

Guess what happened this week? I didn't complete any goals.

For real.


And also my end date for all of my goals is only 34 days away! I really gotta start cracking.

But this week with sickness, pains in the neck, and as usual lots of work for both of us there is just no time to blog.

If you want to know what is happening in my real life check out my Instagram feed, where I am doing a photo a day - hopefully for a year, but we will see. Maybe forever? Maybe 6 months. It's basically the highlight or best picture of my day.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Goal 85. No TV or Movies for a whole weekend

Hi Friends! This week I've had some difficulty getting my posts up at their usually scheduled time. This is why I am glad this is just a hobby and not my job. Hopefully next week I can be a little more organized.

This past weekend we didn't watch any TV or movies. And I don't think my husband noticed. We enjoyed a great weekend, and want to share with you some ideas for how to have your own tube - free weekend.

photo by autowich on Flickr

One thing we have to explain is this - we did not have a screen free weekend. Our computers do so much for us, that are both helpful and fun, so avoiding those for a whole weekend would certainly take a lot more effort. But we didn't just swap out watching the television for watching marathons of shows we download on itunes. We avoided those too.

  1. Plan or go to a party - This weekend we got to go to a birthday party for our dear friends baby, who is now 1! A party is a great way to spend time with friends and near-by family, plus it helps you focus on connecting to real people, thus avoiding TV. If you haven't been invited to a party this weekend, why not throw your own! A full-out dinner party, board games and nibbles, or just dessert and catching up. Another great way to spend time with people is to invite them for Sunday lunch. 
  2. Go outside - A surefire way to avoid TV for a whole weekend is to go camping! It is great to be in the outdoors and not even be tempted by our sedentary past-times, which I think is why so many people enjoy camping. But, if weather would not permit camping, or you have other commitments, try going on a walk. Even just a half an hour around your neighbourhood after dinner distracts you from flopping down on the couch to digest and then getting sucked in for the rest of the night.
  3. Make it hard - One of the ways that we avoid watching too much TV is that we don't have a television and watch all TV shows online. I use a website called Sidereel to keep track of my favourite shows. Since organizing my shows this way I find that I naturally avoid just looking around for things to watch and am much more purposeful in what I actually do watch. Avoiding all the advertisements and just the ease of flipping through channels really makes watching TV more of an actual choice, not just a habit. 
  4. Get ahead on work - This doesn't sound like what you want to hear? Well, maybe its not, but using your weekend to get ready for the week sure takes a lot of pressure off those weeknights. Whether your version of getting ahead means actually going to the office (or school for my teacher-husband) or just simply prepping food for lunches and ironing your clothes, being ready for the week takes up most of our Sunday night, and makes Monday morning go a lot smoother. 
  5. Get committed - Another way to connect with friends, or possibly make new friends is to be involved. Attending your kid's sports games, taking your own classes (exercise or otherwise), joining book or interest groups and being involved in your church will help you spend your time on worthwhile activities connecting with the people around you. 
  6. Work on a project - Want to plant a garden? Re-paint your bathroom? Be the kind of mom who does cool crafts with her kids? A gourmet brunch-maker? The weekend is a good time to do this and more. 
  7. READ - Yeah, I sound like your mom. Well, she was right. 
  8. Listen to podcasts, audiobooks, music - Maybe you just want some background noise? Well, TV is actually much better at being the focus, not the background. It is really hard to actually be productive with a TV show on. Hey, they're actually designed to be looked at. A podcast isn't. It's designed to just be listened to. So it makes good background noise. Go figure. Same goes for audiobooks and music. 
  9. Plan some margin time into your weekend - Give the activities in your weekend good margin, so that you can actually be restful. Give yourself time to be a bit late getting home, a moment to stop in at a cute shop or pick up some extra ingredients for a yummy dinner. Give yourself a chance to explore, even the common places in your life, like the grocery store or that park by your house you just never have time to stop at. Instead of whizzing through your morning routine exactly like you would do it on a weekday morning, go a bit slower, taking your time, getting lost in what you are doing or in following a tangent. Simply build in time to do whatever interests you in the moment, instead of rigidly following a schedule. Or be like my dad and whiz through whatever you want to accomplish, and then spend all afternoon just following your whims and interests. Just not ones on TV. 
  10. Sleep - Sleep in, go to bed early. Much simpler when the TV isn't distracting you. 

Do you ever avoid watching TV? How do you spend your time?

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

In the Kitchen: Yes, you can make your own salad dressing!

There was a point in my life that I decided I was going to go 100% real food. I had dreams about grinding my own grain, baking everything from scratch and never having a box of kraft dinner in my house again (how sad!)

Then I realized that if I wanted to do that, it would be a full-time job. And I already had a job I liked and it actually paid in real Canadian tender. Which was a big deal in my book. So I never got to go fully real food, and a few years away from those dreams I am still totally happy with my decision. 

During that time I made some real strides to eliminate questionable food (as in foods with ingredients only my chemist husband can understand) from our diet. But it had to be easy. Things that would be way too time-consuming to make from scratch just won't work in our lifestyle. 

One of the foods that I have been able to make completely from scratch for a while now is salad dressing. Making my own salad dressing helps me control what type of oil is used, as well as how much sodium and other non-pronouncables are put into them. And darn is homemade salad dressing ever tasty. Oh yeah and easy! I just throw all the ingredients in a jar and shake them. Here are my favourite vinaigrettes:

For Really Fast Days
- drizzle balsamic vinegar and olive oil over salad greens. Toss. 
Could not get easier!     

All-purpose Italian Dressing (lasts several weeks on the counter)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/4 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dijon-style mustard

Poppyseed Dressing (great on spinach salad)
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp. salt
1-2 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. poppy seeds

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette (great on grilled chicken salad)
2 tbsp. honey mustard
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
(if you don't have honey mustard use 1/2 tbsp. each of honey & mustard)

Next week I will share my favourite creamy dressings. I hope this will inspire some of you to try your own salad dressings! 

Do you make your own favourite dressing? Share below in the comments!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Goal 32. Purging my University "stuff"

Our house is small. And there is a lot crammed into it: 5 years of marriage, christmas decor, a treadmill, 3 guitars, hockey gear, oh, and two or three degrees worth of papers and books. We try not to be, but sometimes we are "selective-hoarders."

I have gotten rid of many things in my house, even things that at one point I thought I needed. But up until now I have held on to all of my old nursing notes and textbooks.

In "The Happiness Project," (which I am currently reading), Gretchen Rubin talks about aspirational clutter and nostalgic clutter. But there are lots more.  My "Someday, I might need this" clutter actually comes from a sense of fear that somehow I am going to desperately need great notes on, or an extra quote regarding... wound healing? A History of Women and Health Care in British Columbia?

Yeah.... that seems unlikely.

With the internet I can find resources regarding both of these subjects much quicker than I could by looking through my notes. Not to mention that they are only 4 years old and already becoming out-of-date.

But, if I throw them away, then I am truly closing that chapter of my life off. And, for me, it's been a chapter of my life that doesn't feel quite finished. Since leaving nursing school at the end of Year 3 and not being able to return, I have always felt that chapter remained open, unfinished. I was always working towards completing my degree or working on a plan to get me closer. I wasn't really an LPN, I was an RN in LPN clothing.

Well, today, I am stating: I am an LPN. I work as an LPN, I am registered as an LPN, and I quite enjoy being an LPN. 

If I become an RN, that would be great. It would be wonderful to accomplish that task. But, it is simply something to make my work better, not to make it legitimate. Keeping old school notes doesn't let me room to add any new notes. They are just hanging on, so that I don't have to close that chapter. I don't have to move on and let the past go.

Sometimes clutter can be a representation of what is going on in our lives, not just what happens in our house. Today I am getting rid of some of that "mind - clutter." Maybe you see yours, lurking behind your own cabinet door. 

Do you keep clutter that is holding you back? What about "mind - clutter"?

Monday, 8 April 2013

Meal Planning: Make your friends do some of the work...

Sometimes the sheer monotony of 3 meals a day, every single day, gets the better of me. I have often moaned, "Why do you have to eat again?! Can't we just eat once a week and be done?!" And of course, we have to eat in dishes and use cutlery, or at least drink out of glasses.

Yeah, that's right. I love to cook, I love to meal plan, but sometimes I just don't wanna!

So if this is you, and you want to avoid pizza or the drive-thru why not try this brilliant idea, that I totally did not come up with...

A freezer meal exchange. 

My friend recently organized a freezer meal exchange on Facebook by simply asking us each to make 6 dishes (as in the same dish) and then bring them to her house in disposable dishes (yay! less dishes!). Switch around and you go home with 5 new meals and the one you made as well. Oh, and the kids got a play date, and you got to have coffee together. Super win.

I think the best part of this idea is that you don't have to make 6 different dishes in one marathon session  yourself. You only have to make one, just make a lot, which is actually easier than making several dishes. I rolled 120 meatballs in about 2 hours. And I was able to save money by buying 5 lbs. of lean ground beef on sale. I actually made all the meals for about 30 dollars. And since I made 6 meals for 4 people each... I am serving 24 people. Wow. (Now i feel bad about my usual food budget for a party.....)

If you want to host something like this, Facebook makes it easy. Simply message a bunch of friends and ask who would be interested, then you can make it an Event. We found it was easier to do it a few weeks after we first talked about it, since then people could clear our their freezers and look for sales and such. You want a good group of people but not too many. I would say 4-6 would be fun. If you want more than that, maybe try having each person make only 5 dishes and then each person gets to choose just 5 out of a larger mix. It is also nice to clarify if you are doing full meals (are sides and vegetables expected?) or not.

It is important to talk about allergies, but if your friends all have long lists of intolerances, intense dislikes and allergies, then maybe this isn't the route for you.

You're gonna have to go in expecting a bit of an adventure. You might find your favourite dish ever, something might not be so great. It is food... you didn't make it... you get to eat it.... be happy!

So far we have had only one of our dishes and it was really good. And I still have 5 more to try. Yippee!

Does your freezer help you get dinner on your table? Do you friends help stock your freezer? How?

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Goal 99. Do a fast

I did a fast. From 9pm one night to 2:30 the next day. I was hungry.

I did a fast because it was on my list. But, I have left this one on my list for so long because I don't know how to do a fast. One day in my life I will learn actually how to do things like fast, and read the bible, and pray really well. Maybe.

But the point of a fast isn't meeting a goal. Or completing it. The point of a fast isn't just to feel hungry and say, "Wow, I felt hungry and didn't eat. I must be so great." Because just ignoring your body's innate needs is kind of stupid. The point of a fast is to be reminded.

I have needed reminding in my life. I have needed something to actually put on the brakes and say, "hey you, stop. Pay attention to your soul, your life, your emotions." And to not add anything more, but to simply spend some time reflecting on everything I have collected over the years and days.

Because that's how long its been since I did a fast. Years. And only one time.

I am really bad at stopping and reflecting in life. I am kind of a busy person, or a completely-lay-down-and-think-about-nothing person. Both don't leave room for real reflection. Which is part of the reason I write this blog. I actually have to reflect on stuff for long enough to write it down.

This morning (while I was still fasting) I woke up and kind of laid around thinking about how nice it would be to have breakfast. And then I decided to get busy and distracted, by working on my shopping list. And then I realized that just being hungry isn't the point.

So I decided to listen to a sermon by John Piper, while I did some dishes. Still busy, but at least getting there. Of course, procrastinating-by-collecting-information, because that is my deal.

And then I randomly decided to sit on the floor in a corner of my living room and pray. And then, randomly, decided to set a timer for 20 minutes. I remembered what I had heard about meditation, and how not to be mad if I get distracted and start thinking about that shopping list again, but instead to just recognize that thought and send it away. I thought it was going to be a looong 20 minutes.

And it wasn't. It seemed to just jump by. And I didn't get distracted.

Here is what I learned: Jealousy is simply looking at someone else's life and wishing it was yours. And the reason their life isn't your life, is because that is not the life you have been promised or designed for. Fear that your promise or design is somehow less than, or inferior to another person's (an actual person or just "them") is what makes you jealous. And if you (I) believe that, then your God is probably a bit small. Because his promises are huge and wonderful. Because that's how he rolls. (Oh yeah, and faith is  learning to believe that.)

Is your God, maybe, a bit small?

Monday, 1 April 2013

Meal Planning: Great finds from Pinterest March'13

Each month I plan my menu, and choose a lot of new recipes. I really like trying new things, new foods, and new ways of preparing things. Sometimes I find duds, but quite a few are pretty good. So here are my top 5 new recipes for this month.

  1. Crepes & Berries from Little Yellow Barn - At the beginning of the month I needed to use up some whipped cream. And then I realized I had never made crepes before. Weird! So I made some, using this recipe. And even though I totally ignored the "refrigerate for 1 hour"part, it still worked out. 
  2. Potato Corn Chowder wi. Kale & Bacon from Good Life Eats - Maybe you've heard of kale and all its health benefits. But maybe you've also discovered that kale chips just taste like burnt lettuce and that a kale smoothie is like shoving grass in a good smoothie. Or maybe I just haven't figured out how to do these things well. Well, this soup, ends the problem with kale. It is absolutely delicious, rich and creamy and the kale actually gives really good texture. Again, because I cannot make a recipe correctly, I changed it to just roasting frozen corn kernels (@ 400ºF) drizzled with olive oil and salt & pepper, instead of ears of corn, and I had to leave out the "corn broth". I just added 2 cups of chicken broth. I am excited for summer corn, and trying out "corn broth" though.
  3. Spicy Shrimp Nachos from Midwest Living - Nachos? Mango Salsa? Jerk Shrimp? Sold. Every part of this recipe is pure gold. I even repeated the salsa again without the shrimp for small group at our house. Just so darn good. Try it. Healthy nachos you and your husband will like. 
  4. Lemon Tea Cookies from My Madison Bistro - March is lemon month. But somehow I managed to pick some very disappointing lemon treats, except this one! Dainty flavoured icebox cookie, they still really good even thought I didn't make the frosting. These will certainly be made again. 
  5. Chinese Cabbage Salad from Jamie Cooks it up! - Next time you are going to a potluck and are again forced to make a salad, please make this! It has a great mix of flavours, without being too strong, and since it is mostly cabbage and ramen, it makes a ton without breaking the bank. If you want to make it and eat it over a few days, store the dressing separately and mix as needed. It is a great accompaniment to your own homemade asian food, and can be a nice change from stir-fry. 
Have you discovered any great new recipes this month?