Autumn is here!

Every September, I am ready for fall. I long for cool weather, tall boots and light sweaters, and all of the autumnal foods: pumpkins and squashes and cinnamon and allspice. I am not one to freak out over the return of pumpkin spice lattes but I am ready to start eating pumpkin again!

American English calls this season fall or autumn, interchangeably, while in British English it’s just called autumn. “Fall” comes from the longer phrase “the fall of the leaf,” which replaced the term “harvest” around the 17th century. Etymologists aren’t quite sure of the origin of the word autumn but can trace its usage back as early as the 14th century. https://www.dictionary.com/e/fall/

Here is a list of some ways to enjoy the fall season:

– Savor the foods and spices of the season by incorporating them into meal planning. Acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash can all be the star at dinner, whether served filled with stuffing, as a soup, or with a Bolognese sauce, respectively. Pumpkin can pull double duty, either in a savory dish, such as ravioli, or sweeter ones, like bread or chia pudding. Spices are great to include, such as a pinch of cinnamon in chili, which adds a delicious surprise.

– Bring the smells of the season into your home by making your own potpourri, either simmering on the stovetop or in a dried version.

http://www.dailydiylife.com/make-home-smell-like-fall-homemade-potpourri-recipes.

https://helloglow.co/3-easy-diy-fall-scents/

– If you have little ones, nature walks are great this time of year. They can search for leaves, pine cones, helicopters, and acorns, depending where you live. Crayon rubbings with leaves or making a collage with their finds is a fun way to spend an afternoon.

– Traditionally, our ancestors would start preparing for the long winter by canning and drying food. You can do this by taking a weekend or two to cut and pack veggies and meat to store in the freezer for future crockpot meals. Definitely time well spent.

– As the year approaches its close, spend time in reflection. The new year is great for turning the page and getting a fresh start and the best way to come up with New Year’s resolutions is to know what you’d like to work on. Look back on the past year and contemplate what’s happened. Maybe a relationship needs mending or an apology needs to be made. Ponder what needs to be done and end the year on a positive note.

– Start to slow life down. Get that book that you’ve been meaning to read for the last few months. Find some quiet time on the weekend before the daily activities start, curl up with a hot drink and a warm blanket, and read a chapter or two.

– I love listening to podcasts and The Living Experiment is one of my favorites. They have published an episode for the start of each season. Take a listen to the episode about fall/autumn: http://livingexperiment.com/autumn/

It’s hard to believe that 2018 is already three-quarters of the way finished. It seems like we were just ringing in the new year not long ago. It can be disconcerting how fast it goes by as we get older. Don’t let it go by too fast and make sure to enjoy the little pleasures in life.

Unboxing!!

 

I placed an order online with Thrive Market, a membership community that uses the power of direct buying to deliver the world’s best healthy food and natural products to our members at wholesale prices, and to sponsor free memberships for low-income American families.

Watch as I unbox my order!

Use the code below to get 25% off your first order:

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https://thrivemarket.com

Why I became a minimalist

I follow a primal way of living as much as possible – eating as closely to the way our Paleo ancestors did, focusing on my sleep, exercise, and stress management to improve my well-being. I adamantly believe that living in a minimalistic way is another aspect of this lifestyle, one which some people in the paleo-sphere might overlook.

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines minimalism as “a style … that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity.” This viewpoint turn off most people. Two of the more iconic leaders of the minimalism movement (The Minimalists) define it this way:

Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.

https://www.theminimalists.com/minimalism/

This is what I have experienced in my own life. I wanted to use my blog post this month to write about my journey in this realm.

I come from a family of pack rats. My paternal grandfather is an immigrant from Italy. His family had to hide in the mountains when the Nazis came through his small village. He would sneak back into his own home at night to grab food and other necessities and return to the cave where he, his mother, and his two siblings would hide out. When my grandfather moved to the United States, he would save everything – empty plastic containers, boxes, anything that might serve another purpose in the future. Even now, at 89 years of age, my grandfather still saves tons of empty plastic containers, and other things, “just in case”.

These traits, and some from other family members, were passed onto me.

As a teen, I couldn’t get rid of anything. I had postcards from friends on vacation and pictures from summer camp underneath the glass on my desk. All kinds of tchotchkes from my own travels decorated my bookshelves, in between my beloved books. I started becoming interested in pop culture and would buy all of the teen magazines with the latest movie/television stars’ posters. I would carefully rip each one out and stick them to my bi-fold closet doors. The doors were literally wallpapered with these posters, to the extent that if I wanted to get into my closet, I would have to carefully take down the posters covering the hinges to open them. My closet was stuffed to the gills with clothes, as were my two large dressers.

When I was a young adult in college, the mentality of clothes hoarding took over my psyche. I would live for buying a new outfit to go out in and, after wearing it 2-3 times, it was no longer deemed “new”. The thrill was gone. It would hang in my closet or get shoved in my dresser, almost to be never worn again.

When I was a special education teacher in my early 30s, I would save all kinds of empty containers, even enlisting my friends to save their containers on my behalf. As a teacher of students with unique learning abilities, I had to make a lot of materials for my students and handcraft the curriculum. Pinterest served as a source of a plethora of homemade ideas.

Guess how many of those ideas I followed through on? Maybe two.

By the time I was in my late twenties, I was tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt, thanks to a move across the country and joining a social group made up of singletons. We were very active – always going out to eat, the movies, something. Soon I would have trouble sleeping at night because I was worried about whether or not I would ever get my credit debt paid off because I was just barely able to make the minimum payments on a maxed out account. I would feel physically sick when I would think about my debt.

I was so overwhelmed and tired of doing laundry. I probably could have gone three months without doing any laundry at the peak of my clothes hoarding. I realized I wasn’t wearing most of the items. Once I counted how many pink items of clothing I had. Fifty-five items. Just pink. No other color. I didn’t fit into a lot of the clothing any more. Or it didn’t hang right. Or it was from the previous millenium. I began to get rid of things. It was freeing. After I had gotten rid of the bulk of my clothing, I realized that doing laundry was much more manageable. Since paring back, I have learned about Pareto’s principle – that a person only uses about 20% of what he/she owns 80% of the time – whether it’s clothes, books or something else. Completely true.

Then I met the man I would marry. He a very few belongings. A few pieces of furniture, some books, and his computer work station. I couldn’t believe that someone could live simply like that. When we got married and combined households, I had to condense my belongings, especially my clothes even more. We ripped out the large closet that was in the master bedroom and installed a wardrobe from Ikea, each having about two feet of closet space. We also bought new dressers. I had a total of four drawers. It forced me to pare down even more. I still had a considerable amount of clothing in the spare room closet, mainly offseason items. I finally started to part with those items as well. I could not even tell your how many scores of jammed-packed trash bags full of clothing I donated to Goodwill. So. Many. Dozens of carloads full. It’s so much easier to do laundry now. And guess what – Pareto’s principle is still true. I still only wear about 20% of what I have 80% of the time. Which means now it’s like the same 5-6 shirts.

I was a special education teacher for 9 years. That job was very stressful. There was little that I could control. Nothing, actually, outside of my own behavior. And that’s hard. I could not control the home lives of my students, if they ate breakfast before school or if they even ate dinner the night before. I couldn’t control if they went to to bed or got up on time. So every day was a challenge, depending on the mood of each tiny being as they arrived in my classroom each morning, ready or not to face the academic demands I would place on them that day. I would arrive home completely drained. I didn’t realize it for a long time, but especially after I got married, I felt like my house was always a mess. I didn’t feel that way when I was single and lived alone. It didn’t bother me then. But that changed when I got married. I felt more pressure to kept the house as clean as possible for my husband. Especially since I knew he didn’t like a lot of junk around. But there were so many nights where I was just too drained to deal with any of it. And there were a lot of nights where I was so anxious about the state of the house that I would work myself up over it.

I slowly started getting rid of things. I realized if I had less junk, there was less to get upset about. And then several moths on this journey, as I was looking for a philosophy to describe this, my sister told me about this documentary she had just watched on Netflix called “Minimalism”. I watched it and immediately I knew; this was what I had been searching for. I had a name for my ideals. I had people I could turn to for guidance down this new path.

I found out that the Minimalists had a podcast and started listening to all of the episodes. Most of my conversations with my husband started off, “I was listening to the Minimalists today and they said…” I am sure he got so sick of hearing those those words every day for at least a month.

I started parting with many more household and personal items. I was on a mission to clear out as much junk as possible. I found that getting rid of material things that I don’t really care about helped ease my anxiety. It was less visual clutter, less that I had to clean up and deal with, more over which I could gain control. I loved it.

As I listened more to the podcast, I learned that minimalism is not about a certain number of items that you own. It is not about deprivation. It is about you using the items that you do possess with intentionality and not letting your things possess you. I started making more conscientious decisions at the store – Will I get value out of this? Do I already own something that serves a similar purpose? What do I need to give up in order to obtain this item?

I have followed Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program and have gotten myself out of debt, actually paying off my old credit card a couple of years ago. I do not use a credit card any longer and I do not miss it.

Minimalism does not just pertain to controlling physical clutter, but can also be extrapolated to other areas of life.

It’s all about simplifying life and getting back to basics. Cutting out all the crap that is not important or even damaging to our psyches and our bodies. I have learned so much from the Minimalists over the course of following them. Not just about managing my possessions but about living a more meaningful life in all aspects.

I found a part time job this year where I can help people liberate themselves from their abundance of possessions, become more organized, and regain order in their homes. I always leave each session with a client feeling like I have truly made a difference. (Blantant plug for Major Organizers!! https://www.majororganizers.com/location/san-antonio-tx/  If you are feeling overwhelmed by the state of your house, we can do a free estimate and discuss how we can help you gain order in your own household – that does not necessarily mean getting rid of ALL of your possesions, but our team can help you with letting go of items that no longer add value while organizing the items that do.)

For a lot of my possessions, I realized that I was holding on to an ideal of who I wanted to be. I don’t even know who that person was supposed to be. Mainly what the media or society made me feel like I had to attain. Once I cut out the constant barrage of media influence (dropping cable and subscribing to satellite radio mainly), I can decide what is important to me independently and make my own decisions.

In the past two years of my life, I feel like I am truly becoming the person I am supposed to be. Trying to get better everyday and trying to help others along the way. I know I am by no means perfect. NowI can focus on living a more meaningful, simpler, and hopefully happier, life now that I have eliminated so much of the non-essential in my life.

 

What to do when your family won’t eat healthy

Food is big part of our lives and our society. Many different ways of eating have started gaining traction in the last several years: vegetarianism, vegan, Atkins, paleo, primal, keto, Mediterranean….The list goes on.

You may have decided to change your way of eating but others in your household (spouse, significant other, children, roommates) are not on board with that. When we live with others who do not share our philosophy on food, it can become divisive.

So how can we deal with the struggles of different ways of eating (WOE) in a way in which all parties can be happy?

Explain/Express Yourself

Family With Baby Meeting Financial Advisor At Home

  • If you are contemplating changing your WOE, it is important to have a discussion with your significant other/children/other household residents. Sit down and explain WHY you are contemplating this change. Is it because of a moral issue, like the ethical treatment of animals? Is it a health concern, such as the doctor recommending not eating as many refined carbohydrates at your last appointment?
  • Let the others in the house know that you are making the change for you and while you are not going to demand that they change all of their own food habits, it’s important for them to respect your decision. Explain that this is something that you need to do to reclaim your health.
  • Be open about stumbling blocks. If a household member is bringing home fast food and that is a temptation for you, ask if they could eat their food elsewhere, as opposed to bringing it home. Let them know that while you are not necessarily requiring them to change their habits, you do need their support to change yours.

No Judgment

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  • If others in your house are not eating the same as you, it is important to not shame or judge them for their choices. That will make them less likely to ever change. The best thing to do is to make your changes and be an example.
  • Talking about your food beliefs in a positive light is more beneficial than knocking someone else’s.
  • Frame statements in a positive light and from your perspective. “I’ve notice my skin has really cleared up since I’ve given up dairy!” as opposed to “Your acne is probably caused by the greasy foods you’re always eating.” You-statements put people in a defense mode, while I-statements generally make people more open or curious.

Make modifications

mealpreparationphoto1

  • Instead of making a brand new crazy menu all at once, make smaller changes. Too much change all at once can be intimidating.
  • A great way to start is to make family favorites but in a healthier way. You can make burgers for everyone in the family but just leave the buns off of your own.
  • Mashed potatoes can be a great comfort food; you can make them with a blend of potatoes and cauliflower, or even sweet potatoes and cauliflower.
  • A pan of roasted veggies with homemade ranch dressing (without all of the industrial oils and sugar!) make a great addition. And most foods taste better with ranch!
  • If you are the primary meal planner/cook in the household, you will have control over what everyone else eats. Compromises can be struck. If others in the household are not interested in changing, maybe they can assist with cooking the foods that they want to keep in their diet that you will be eliminating. Maybe for the primary cook it’s not too much extra work to make an extra side or some ingredient that can be easily incorporated into the meal.

Find a community

social-network-30

  • These days we can create a virtual community of people from around the world thanks to social media. Odds are that you can find a Facebook community or Instagram account for any WOE you desire. It’s great forum in which to share recipes, articles, and tips with others who share your food values.
  • Talk to people you know in real life: people in your neighborhood, church, workplace, gym, etc. Who knows – maybe someone in your office is in a similar predicament and is also looking for support. You can start your own support/accountability group.

Make it fun

Happy young girl with her mother making dough

  • Get the kids involved! Watch YouTube cooking videos and then try out the recipe. Teaching them good nutrition habits and how to cook, especially when they are young, is so important.
  • Try introducing one new food a week. Make a game out of it with your kids – have them make suggestions of what new food they would like to try and each week try out one from the list.
  • When you do introduce new foods, present it like a fun experiment, not something that MUST be eaten. Demands of children are often met with obstinance, while the option to try one or two bites being encouraged is often more inviting.

Have a game plan

Group Of Friends Enjoying Evening Meal In Restaurant

  • If you’re joining friends at a restaurant, look at the menu online beforehand. You can check out your options ahead of time and decide what you will order there. Or maybe you decide that you will eat a meal at home prior to meeting up with friends and just opt for an appetizer. While food is important in our culture, so is simply spending time with good friends and family. Focus on the social experience you are having and not on what you might perceive you are missing out on.
  • It’s okay to eat before going to other social gatherings if you are not sure exactly what will be available for you to eat or simply because you want to be full in order to resist temptation.
  • You can still join the work gang for happy hour and just order sparkling water with lime.
  • Potlucks are a great way to eat with a group of friends but still have some control over what you eat. You have the control to bring a dish to share that you can eat and introduce something new to your friends.

Be prepared for people to question your choices

Young girl with question mark on a gray background

  • Be strong. People within your circles, be it family, friends, or work colleagues, will question what and why you are doing what you are doing.
  • Have a short answer ready. You don’t have to get into a philosophical debate at that moment. A simple “I don’t really feel like drinking/having dessert/etc.” should hopefully suffice. People sometimes are critical of issues regarding health because it makes them self-conscious in some way of their own behaviors/habits/issues and can read a positive change in another’s behavior as a personal attack on their own, whether this is done consciously or not.
  • Be open. There will come a time when people are genuinely curious and interested in your “why” and how to do what you’re doing. This is the time to share with them the details.

Keep on your journey to great health! Focus on what you are gaining (confidence, more energy, clearer brain functioning) and appropriately losing (weight, joint pain, lethargy). As others see your improvements, they will hopefully be encouraged on their own journey.

 

Presence not Presents

It is that glorious time of the year where we pack lots of social events, family time, cooking, baking, eating, shopping, wrapping, running around… into 6 weeks.

This year, maybe you can do something different. Slow down. Don’t focus so much on presents as presence.

Start some new family traditions.

Clean out the toy box or the closets and have your children help you take the items to a charity for donation. Teach them that just because they are done loving their stuffed bear doesn’t mean that another child won’t love it just as much. The way I explained it to my kiddos when they both still believed in Santa was that by us donating their old toys, moms and dads who want to buy gifts for their kids but maybe cannot afford brand new things, can buy these things to make their little ones happy.

Take nature walks or discover geocaching, which is basically a modern day treasure hunt.

Watch science experiment videos online and then perform them together (with proper safety precautions, of course).

Watch the home videos your parents took when you were a child. Our children love seeing us at our awkward stages in living color.

Make hot chocolate or tea and sit and have a conversation with them, especially if they are at an age where they still like to talk to you and even more so if they are in those difficult teen years where they don’t talk to any adult.

When the littles ask you to play an imaginary game, do it, even if it’s five minutes. You will only have so many more chances. Turn things like making dinner into a game. I call it cooking school. We put on our aprons and the girls do what they can according to their ability, usually really easy meals.

As a stepmom, I get less time with my two girls than a full-time parent, so I really need to make my time count. Some mornings it’s hard to pry the electronics out of the kids’ hands (and let’s be honest, sometimes my own) but once I am successful, the girls always have fun when we spend time doing something together. And I really value the time with them.

In terms of presents: Sure, you may have bought your children forty gifts each last year and might feel the need to surpass that this year. But if you don’t, your kids will live. A few years ago I saw this on Pinterest and I love it.

 

christmas-gift

https://moneysavingsisters.com/4-gift-christmas-challenge-want-need-wear-read/

 

Our culture is driven by mindless consumerism and meaningless materialism. It took me getting out of a lot of credit card debt to have my eyes opened, but this topic is for another blog post. As one of my heroes Dave Ramsey says, “more is caught than is taught”. Your children learn by watching what you do, not what you say. You remember that anti-drug PSA from the ‘80s…

 

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Anyway, just some thoughts on that. We just had the girls at our house for the past week and it’s always a little sad the day or so after they go back home. I am just feeling a little sentimental.

 

New Beginnings

Hey everyone! Welcome to my brand new blog! This is my first blog post EVER so go easy on me. I will be posting weekly articles, mainly on health and fitness, but also just my thoughts. Please feel free to comment or to share but keep it relevant, PG, and KIND!!

A lot of you may have heard/read my story already but for those who are just meeting me, here it is. The long version.

I was always the kid who hated gym class growing up; I was a bookworm. I can remember watching the batters during the baseball unit in elementary school and figuring out that the odds were that most kids were right-handed and would hit the ball out by third base and that the couple of lefties would hit the ball near first base. I would always position myself past first base. Nerd.

As a teenager, I can remember my mom saying (in the mid ’90s) that white sugar and white flour were horrible, blah blah blah. I would roll my eyes and say “Yeah, sure, whatever.” That was my most used phrase as a teen. (Heaven help me as my [step]daughters are approaching their teen years.) We never ate fast food or pop. In college, despite finding both of those food groups, I didn’t gain the dreaded “freshman 15” and I learn to cook occasionally in my senior year house.

Fast forward to 2008 when I moved from Cleveland, OH to San Antonio, TX. I was truly on my own for the first time ever at 28. As most single people do, I would get fast food more than just occasionally and sometimes dinner was a bag microwave popcorn (when you’ve been teaching/moming all day after 10 little ones with special needs, it’s really hard to take care of yourself). I was part of a women’s Bible study group and one of the studies we did was on the Proverbs 31 woman, how a Godly woman should be. I will never forget this moment – one of the chapter was on nutrition and I remember saying “I think this chapter is silly. God doesn’t care that much about what we eat!” I thought it was just ridiculous.

A few months later, we did the Beth Moore study on Daniel and she suggested to do the “Daniel fast” to get more out of the study. Well, it was right as Lent was starting, and even though I am not Catholic, I like the practice of restricting things in the pursuit of a higher purpose. The Daniel fast, if you are not familiar, is based on what Daniel and his friends told the Babylonian king they wanted to eat during Israel’s time of captivity. So basically fruits, vegetables, legumes, and herb/spices and only water to drink. So no meat, dairy, sugar, alcohol or fats. I did this for forty-six days of Lent.

It was hard. But I realized that it made me more intentional about what I was eating. I couldn’t just pick up a meal at Chick-Fil-A or a frozen dinner or a bag of popcorn. When Lent was over, I decided to become a vegetarian. At the time, I hated a lot of green vegetables so this was a surprise to my family. But as I tried new foods, I found that I actually liked some of them, such as asparagus, quinoa, and couscous. I was a vegetarian for about two years.

Then I met the man who is now my husband. He was not a vegetarian. As our relationship progressed, I realized that it would be very difficult do maintain two different eating styles so I stared eating meat again. After we got married, I swore we would not be the couple who gained weight after marriage. We had just finished training for a half marathon together and were active people (or so I thought).

I joined an outdoor boot camp called Camp Gladiator and would go to camp 2-3 days a week after work but would skip if plans came up with friends. School was back in session. After about 8 months of working out, CG ran what was called “Total Transformation”; a body scan to tell you your weight, BMI, and percentage of body fat. I signed up and was SHOCKED at my results. I was the heaviest I had been in my entire life. I knew I had had to buy increasingly larger pants over the school year, going up two, almost three, sizes, but I did not realize how bad the situation was. According to my BMI, I was borderline obese. And in serious denial. As part of Total Transformation, I started recording what I was eating in the MyFitnessPal app. Through this, I realized I was eating a TON of empty calories.

BodyBeforePic

Me in July 2015

I knew I had to change my ways fast. I cut out extra, mindless eating. I eliminated fast food and pop. I started getting serious about working out and started going every morning before work. And the weight started coming off!! I kept going and improving my eating habits. I cut out wheat products and cut back on dairy. Kept losing weight.

Then, in January of 2017, my husband, Tim, got serious himself about wanting to lose weight and I suggested we do the Whole30 diet. All I knew about it was that my sister and brother-in-law had done it the previous year and it was a little difficult. As I researched what it actually entails, I was really intrigued by it. I saw the 30 day restriction as a challenge that I wanted to accept. As I had done the Daniel fast a few years prior, I knew I could do this no problem.

We started on February 16, 2017. We had our “last meal” at this amazing Italian restaurant for Valentine’s Day and then our leftovers the next night. I will save our Whole30 experience for another blog post, but by day 30, both my husband and I were convinced that THIS was how we wanted to eat for the rest of our lives. Through my in-depth research through such acclaimed health outlets such as Pinterest, I found the paleo diet. It’s basically how our Paleolithic ancestors ate – some meat, lots of veggies and some fruit, with the modern conveniences of healthy cooking fats and coffee were allowed. Thank you, Jesus, for coffee.

In May 2017, I attended a Paleo conference in Austin. It was there that I was introduced to the Primal Blueprint way and its champion, Mark Sisson. Primal is more of a way of life. Its eating principles are similar to paleo, with a few tweaks, and also focuses on how you live the rest of your life. Tim and I stick to Primal eating about 90% of the time, but occasionally we allow ourselves to eat other things, like in our favorite vacation destination, Vegas, or if we go out to eat with friends. But those instances are becoming more and more infrequent. We find that when we don’t eat Primal, we feel bloated and just generally sick. But again, more on that in future blog posts.

BodyAfterPic    IMG_5839

July 2017 & July 2018

Now as a mom, I have taught my kids about Whole30 and Primal. Our favorite movie quote is from “Hotel Transylvania 2”: “And what’s the scariest monster of all, kids? Diabetes!” The little one calls sugar “the white devil.” And I have realized that my mom DID know what she was talking about two decades ago (goodness, I’m getting old!) when she was extolling the evils of sugar and flour. I realize now that God, our loving Heavenly Father, DOES care what we nourish our bodies with, just as a loving earthy father should.

So that’s it. That’s my journey from eating a SAD diet (Standard American Diet) to intuitively finding Primal. It’s been a really good journey for me so far and I know it will continue to be. I hope you join me as I continue on and that maybe you will find the information that you need for your own journey.