Oh it’s that time of year! We are quickly approaching Thanksgiving which is immediately followed by another of my favorite holidays, Black Friday! I have a very large family. Both sets of my grandparents are still living and most of us have contributed to expanding our family by marriage or childbirth. I also have a large group of close friends and colleagues. Thus I have a lot of presents to buy at Christmas time! That is why I take advantage of Black Friday shopping.
To some, shopping on Black Friday can be overwhelming and cause anxiety or chest pain at the thought of dealing with those crowds. I thought I would share how my family and I have come to love it! First, we have made it a family tradition. My group consists of 5 women. After an amazing home-cooked farm-fresh family Thanksgiving dinner, we clean up and clear the table. Then we pull out all of the local newspapers and peruse the shopping ads. Many of our family members think we are crazy but they still enable us by contributing their newspapers.
· Make a list of the people you want to buy gifts for
· Make a list of the best bargains that you really would like to take advantage of
· Rank bargains by best location and most money saved
· Make a list of the stores you want to shop at and the bargains you want to look for at that location
· Organize list of stores by geographical location
· Cut out all relevant coupons and put in the same order as the store list
· Get a good night of rest
· Get up as early as you are comfortable leaving (we wait until 7 am)
· Wear layers of clothing and comfortable shoes
· Park in a spot that may work for shopping at several stores; finding parking spaces is time consuming on this busy day
· Go shopping with expectations that the item may be sold out, especially if it is a door-buster and keep in mind you may find other unexpected great deals
· Break up into teams to shop and hold places in line
· Avoid taking a shopping cart, it’s usually too crowded
· With at least one other member of the group, take items to your vehicle to avoid carrying heavy bags and cover with a blanket so as not to tempt thieves
· Stay hydrated with plenty of fluids and frequent snacks
· Plan for an early or late lunch to avoid a long wait
· Pace yourself, it’s a long day
· Avoid getting frustrated or upset over people bumping into you and apologize if you accidently do the same
· Keep track of the amount of money you are spending. It can add up quickly, especially when you are using credit cards
· Have fun and enjoy the experience
If this doesn’t sound like a fun plan to you, enjoy shopping in your comfy clothes at home, crowd free on Cyber Monday! There are great deals to be found on both days.
This is comfort food at its best! And it freezes well, so you can have a quick, warm meal on a busy night! I serve it over rice or biscuits, and sometimes make warm cinnamon apples to serve with it. This would be a good way to use up some of your leftover Thanksgiving turkey!
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
3 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups skim milk
1 1/4 cups fat-free and/or low sodium chicken broth
2 cups cut-up cooked chicken(or turkey, or can of tuna)
1 jar (2 ounces) diced pimientos, drained
Melt butter in 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook bell pepper and mushrooms in butter, stirring occasionally, until bell pepper is crisp-tender.
Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until bubbly; remove from heat.
Stir in milk and broth. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Stir in chicken and pimientos; cook until hot. Serve over rice.
Sometimes, the thought of making dinner makes we want to scream! I get tired of having to think about it, and I tend to make the same things over and over again; it gets very boring. So then my husband and I end up gorging ourselves at an over-priced restaurant. Ugh!
To help avoid this, I make meals for the freezer whenever I’m feeling energetic. I just prep a bunch of food on a Sunday afternoon, and then I have plenty to choose from when I'm feeling uninspired.
Many meals (and side dishes) can be made in big batches, then wrapped properly and stored in the freezer until ready to use. I just grab something out of the freezer in the morning (or night before) and place it in the fridge to thaw. When I get home that night, I just cook and serve.
The following are my go-to freezer meals:
(the ones with the * should not be baked before freezing)
I always try to double-wrap to avoid freezer burn. I use plastic wrap and then foil, and then put into zipper freezer bags. Use a permanent marker to label the bag with the food item and date.
For the super-organized, you can make a master list of everything you’ve prepared, the serving sizes, and the dates so that you can scratch each meal off as you use it and know when you’re getting low and need to re-stock.
OK, so I briefly touched on finances and the importance of being aware of where your money is going. Hopefully, you are in tune with how much is coming in and how much is going out.
Obviously, we all would love for more money to come in. There are a few ways to do that, including: ask for a raise, get a second job, or sell items that you no longer need.
But most people focus on how much money is going out and find ways to reduce that instead. Some require more time than others, but they all can keep some money in your wallet!
If you look around your home, I’m sure you’ll find some ways to cut back on the spending. It may not be easy, especially in our society that emphasizes instant gratification and convenience. But if you truly want to pinch some pennies, I’ll bet that there are ways for you to do so.
Here's a great blog with a lot of useful money-saving tips, definitely worth the read: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/little-steps-100-great-tips-for-saving-money-for-those-just-getting-started/
You just returned from your physical and your medical provider told you your cholesterol is up and you need to work on that. You probably missed everything your medical provider had to say as you wondered what high cholesterol means and what you have to change.
Let’s start with the basics. There are two kinds of cholesterol, good cholesterol (HDL) and bad cholesterol (LDL). You may feel just fine, but it’s important to realize that untreated high cholesterol can lead to devastating and debilitating medical consequences. High cholesterol leads to heart disease and can cause heart attacks or congestive heart failure. High cholesterol also causes vascular disease that leads to pain in legs, carotid disease, and strokes.
Before you start any medication, your medical provider is going to recommend “lifestyle modification”. You really should take this seriously. Lifestyle modification includes weight loss in overweight people, aerobic exercise, and eating a healthy diet. These lifelong changes can contribute to a significant impact on your health.
Let’s start with a healthy diet. Research has shown that marked dietary change can lower LDL cholesterol by 30%! A Mediterranean diet is the perfect model for a healthy diet to both lose weight and lower your cholesterol. A Mediterranean diet consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. It also includes olive oil as an important source of healthy fat. Those following a Mediterranean diet eat low to moderate amounts of fish, poultry, and dairy products. They also eat very little red meat. Increasing omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can also reduce your LDL. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fatty fish, especially salmon, flax seed, canola, soybeans, and nuts. If those natural foods are not palatable to you, you can always try an omega-3 supplement. Research has also shown soy, red yeast rice, garlic, walnuts, tea, fiber (psyllium) and calcium can improve cholesterol.
Nancy has already shared a recent blog on aerobic exercise in her “Cardiovascular Fitness” article on 10/30/14. When you add aerobic exercise to a healthy Mediterranean diet, LDL cholesterol levels are significantly reduced in both women and men.
After 6-12 months of lifestyle modification, your health care provider will recheck your cholesterol levels and determine if the changes you made did the trick or suggest further treatment options. It is always healthier to reduce your cholesterol naturally rather than taking medications that can have significant side effects. Sometimes high cholesterol is hereditary and leading the perfect lifestyle can still not reduce it. In those cases, you may need a medication to get your cholesterol under control.
For now, get motivated to eat better, exercise, and maintain a healthy weight!
I have been on the hunt for a moist, tasty veggie burger that doesn't fall apart. This one comes close!!
16 ounces can of black beans (rinse thoroughly)
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
3 Tablespoons chili sauce
3/4 C quick oats
1/4 C ground flax seed (not necessary, but I always like to add fiber)
4 ounces mushrooms, chopped fine (I used fresh)
1/2 of red bell pepper, chopped fine
Smash the beans down a bit; it's OK for some to still be whole. Mix in the seasonings, chili sauce, and mushrooms and peppers. Add the oats and flax, stir well. The mixture will be very sticky and wet, but if it seems really wet, add some more oats. Put in fridge for at least 30 minutes. Coat hands with non-stick spray, form 4 patties, cook on grill (I used a George Foreman for about 8 minutes).
The best part of veggie burgers is dressing them up on the bun: I add sliced onion, pickles, some spinach leaves, and a healthy dollop of guacamole on a multigrain bun.
Next time I'm going to add some shredded carrots, and use some dark red kidney beans as well.
You may have heard of “Meatless Mondays”…..an entire day of meals that don’t contain meat. Not only can it save you money, but it will cut down on the amount of fat in your diet as well. I’m a big fan, but I would like to propose “Salad Sundays” as well.
Sundays are a great day to make salads because you will probably have more time to go to your local farmer’s market to stock up on fresh produce, and you’ll have more time to prep veggies for the salad (and meals later in the week….think stir-fries, pizza, etc.)
You can build your Salad Sundays around a theme, and include meat to make it a meal. Some possibilities are:
Mexican: Fajita chicken, tomatoes, cheese, salsa (serve with warm tortillas)
Italian: Pepperoni, mozzarella, tomatoes, Italian dressing (serve with garlic bread)
Hawaiian: Pineapple, ham or pork, carrots, goat cheese
Greek: Chicken, feta cheese, olives, tomatoes (serve with warm pita bread)
To a lot of people, “salad” means some iceberg lettuce, a few chopped veggies, cheese, croutons, and dressing. But there are endless possibilities, so shake things up and have some fun with your planning. Use your imagination and create fabulous concoctions that your family will gobble up!
Here are some lists to get you started:
Greens (iceberg, romaine, spinach, watercress, cabbage slaw, etc.)
Starch (whole grain pasta, potatoes, rice, etc.)
Protein (flaked tuna, chicken breast, salmon, etc.)
Fruit (big chunks of melon, shredded apples, etc.)
Veggie toppings: carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, peas, peppers, onions, mushrooms, sprouts, chickpeas, radish, olives, broccoli, celery, beans
Fruit toppings: melons, apples, dried fruit, pears, mandarin oranges, berries
Protein toppings: ham, salami, pepperoni, chicken, egg, tuna, bacon, cheese, salmon
Crunchy toppings: croutons, walnuts, seeds, tortilla strips, Chinese noodles, corn chips
The dressing: try not to go overboard. Vinegar and olive oil is healthiest. I like to top my salad with guacamole.
Tips: Try shredding or dicing your veggies, or use a julienne peeler to make long spirals. Different shapes add some fun to the meal! A variety of color adds interest to the meal, as well as important vitamins.
It’s party season! In the next three months we attend more parties than any other time of year. During these parties, we tend to over indulge in both food and drinks. Many of these parties are hosted by or attended by employers and you want to avoid embarrassing stories the next work day. You probably also want to avoid the dreaded hang-over that seems to last much longer as we age. I’ve complied some tips to help you navigate a fun holiday season.
· Always have a plan for a designated driver for any party you plan to attend and drink alcohol. Uber car is becoming very popular and is a great option if it is available in your area.
· Drink a full glass of water between each alcoholic drink. This will keep you hydrated and full.
· Choose a drink that you tolerate, but not love. This technique causes you to sip the drink slower.
· Be sure to have some snacks while you are drinking.
· Avoid pacing your alcohol intake with anyone else. It’s not a competition.
· Keep track of how many drinks you have consumed, most of us know our acceptable limit.
· Keep your drink with you at all times. You don’t want someone refilling it without your knowledge or worse, adding drugs to it.
· When you get home, drink another full glass of water.
· Get a full night of sleep.
· If you happen to wake up with a hangover, Sprite has been researched and shown to be the best hangover cure.
Be safe this holiday season!
I love fall! It’s my favorite season! I love fall foods and fall weather. Most of all, I adore the changing of the fall leaves. The colors are breath taking! It seems to go by way too fast though, so I try to bring it indoors and savor it as long as I can. On October 19th, Nancy blogged about walking meditations. Today I’m going to tell you how to combine that with the craft project she hinted about.
How to Make:
· Take a walking meditation and gather lots of colorful fall leaves.
· Take a heavy book and line the pages with wax paper.
Place the leaves down between 2 sheets of wax paper. Make sure the leaves are not touching.
· Close the book so that all the leaves are sandwiched between a layer of wax paper.
· Place a couple of heavy objects on top of your closed book to aid in pressing the leaves.
· Allow time for the leaves to press and flatten (a few days).
· Place your drop cloth or protective covering on the floor or a table where you will be working.
· Paint your wooden letters and allow them to dry. It may require more than 1 coat.
· Cut your cardboard so that it fits snugly inside your shadow box.
· Glue your leaves to the cardboard with the spray adhesive. Allow to dry.
· Spray the cardboard and leaves with clear spray paint. Allow to dry.
· Glue wooden letter to your cardboard. Allow to dry.
· Spray entire project with clear spray paint. Allow to dry.
· Carefully place project into your shadowbox
· If there are gaps along the edges, you can put a border around the outer edges using painted foam
· Hang your project in a place where you can see it often and enjoy!
I mentioned quiche as a quick and easy lunch idea. I always have some in the freezer and then grab one on my way out the door in the morning. Coupled with a piece of fruit, it's a great, filling lunch that requires very little effort. I adapted a recipe that I found here: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Easy-Quiche. I use a glass baking dish and cut into individual servings when cool, or I use large muffin tins (as pictured). Each serving gets wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil, then into a zipper bag for the freezer.
This is a very adaptable recipe. You can make it meatless. You can add twice the amount of veggies and it still sets nicely. You can choose a different type of cheese. The possibilities are endless.
2 Cups Milk
3/4 Cup Biscuit Baking Mix (I use the heartsmart kind)
1/4 Softened Butter
2 - 4 Cups Fresh Veggies (broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus, onion, pepper, whatever sounds good)
1 Cup Cubed Canadian Bacon (slightly healthier than ham and just as much flavor)
8 Ounces Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Liza wrote an article last week about getting stuck in food ruts and I could definitely relate!! I tend to pack the same thing over and over again, and then when I get bored I skip the packed lunch and over-indulge at an expensive, fattening restaurant.
That nasty habit has to stop, for the sake of my waistline and my wallet!
So I put together a list of ideas for lunches---nothing fancy or gourmet, but easy things that will help me stay out of over-priced restaurants.
Extras to throw in: fruit, low-fat yogurt, cheese stick, pretzels, or a small piece of really good dark chocolate.
The key is to pack items that you know you like and will look forward to eating, so you can resist the urge to go out. Aim for a lean protein, at least one serving of veggies and one serving of fruit, a low-fat dairy product, and some whole grains.
It's All Soul's Day. That means we try to remember those who have passed away. It got me to thinking about the whole grief process. It is such a different experience for everyone. There is no right way to grieve but it can certainly hurt you if the negative emotions linger too long.
If you ever took Psych 101, you know the basic stages of grief. These stages don't necessarily go in order and you can jump around between them a lot:
It is important that those who are grieving take care of themselves. This means you are getting enough sleep, are eating healthy, exercising, and avoiding alcohol. Caring for yourself also means finding healthy ways to vent the strong emotions that you are feeling. Crying is an example but you can also write in a journal, create works of art, punch a pillow, do crafts, etc.
Those going through the grief process should delay making big decisions. They should also rely on the support of others such as family members, friends, co-workers, church members, pastors. counselors, or support groups. I remember when my mom passed away. I could not do even the most basic things like balance my checkbook. I had a friend that stepped in and helped me out until my mind was clearer. Don't be afraid to seek help if you need it.
Death and grief are a part of life and something that we all will deal with at some point. When it's your turn to cope be sure you are taking care of yourself as best you can.
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