Monday, March 18, 2019

#Anti-Aging Advice

Getting older is a drag! But it doesn't have to be. The best anti-aging advice:

Don't act your age!

Attitude is everything. It takes you farther, lifts or dampens your mood, and affects those around you. If you act youthful, you will feel more youthful. Teaching, I feel younger all day! Until I glimpse myself in the mirror. Ugh. SKIN is where aging shows the most.

So for the physical helpful hints, I turn to medical professionals, online and in magazines... While I was in the airport waiting forever this January, I picked up one of my favorite magazines for healthy advice: PREVENTION. It was packed with great tips.

Here's what Dermatologists said in it about Anti-Aging (Jan 2019, by Michelle Crouch):

  • Sunscreen is #1, a given
  • Retinol, in creams, should be applied nightly. They said it "brightens skin tone, improves brown spots, and makes skin feel smoother."
  • A Gentle Touch - I try to remind myself to do this when I clean my face at night--skin around the eye is the most sensitive. If you rub too hard, "it can stretch out your eyelid skin, causing wrinkles..."
  • Simple Washcloths - handy tools for "light exfoliation"
  • Soap-Free Body Wash - soap can be drying. It removes natural oils, like "detergent gets rid of the oil in a frying pan"
  • Apply while Wet - after shower or cleansing, apply moisturizers "to seal in the water."
  • Neck & Chest - don't forget about that skin! Include it in your skin care regimen.
  • Take a Break - You should create good skin care habits, but also take a break for a few days, especially if your skin seems irritated.
  • Eye Gels & Patches - try them in the morning after a late or sleepless night before putting on makeup to soften lines and diminish puffiness.
  • Avoid: bright lights, loofahs, drinking out of a straw (huh!), a dirty pillowcase
  • Glove Treatment - I do this in the winter when my hands get extremely dry: after soaking my hands, I apply vaseline (they said a rich hand cream works too) and wear vinyl gloves overnight--for feet, use socks.

In the same issue, I read that Cocoa can help slow down the signs of aging. I went out to buy some to try... I'll let you know how it works out!

There were more tips, but I will save them for another post.

So 2 best Anti-Aging Tips: Think Young and Take Care of Your Skin!
Good luck to us!


Monday, March 11, 2019

Cell Phones #Emergencies #Tips

A few month's ago, I was invited to a senior center to sign books. After the signing, the visiting authors were invited to stay for lunch and to sit in on the seminars. One of the seminars offered was lecture from a representative from the FCC discussing cell phone safety. He had several great tips, so I started taking notes to share here!

With spring and summer storms coming, there will inevitably be power outages. For those who have kept landlines, that won't be a problem. But if you're like me and only have a cell phone...here's a few tips for surviving power outages with only a cell phone:
*Keep your phone charged.
*Buy a portable battery charger and keep it charged and ready. (They're small external batteries you can plug your phone into and charge up. They come in many different power amounts. I have both a small one that will do a single charge and a larger one that will charge several times. See what's available on Amazon. .)
*Set phone to battery saver in the phone's settings.
*Email and text people to save battery because phone calls drain the battery faster.
*Remember you can charge your phone in your car. One summer, our electric was out for over a week. We made a lot of trips to the theater for air-conditioned entertainment and charged our electronics as we drove!

Phone bills:
Question all charges. Anything the phone company cannot properly explain, contact the FCC. A common bill problem is "cramming" or charging people for services without authorization.

Lost Phones:
*Report lost and stolen phones to your carrier.
*Know your carrier and how to reach them. My son's phone was stolen and we contacted AT&T and they helped us locate the phone to a specific address. We called our local police and the phone was turned over without a problem. (Do this quickly! Once the SIM card is removed, it's no longer traceable.)
*Wipe your phone. Almost all phones can be remotely cleared so there is no breach of personal information.

Miscellaneous phone tips:

*Back up your pictures: Periodically download picture to your computer.
OR share them to Facebook . You can post albums and pictures either by sharing with friends, or set to private so that only you can see them. Here's a good how-to share privately.
OR use Amazon Prime. If you're a prime member, you can download an app to your phone and computer and pictures will be downloaded to your Amazon account automatically.  

*Don't answer calls from unknown numbers to avoid scammers. Cell phone numbers don't have caller ID like the old line phones did. Set up voicemail and allow all unrecognized numbers to go to voicemail. If they're legitimate calls, they will leave a message and you can call back.

*Password protect your phone. Not only does it stop a thief from getting your private information, if you're ever arrested, it stops you from sharing information with the police too prematurely. ;)




Monday, March 4, 2019

Give a kid a box

Does anyone remember when a box was the greatest thing to play with? I would make all kinds of things out of boxes--from Barbie condos and cars to homes for critters found in the wild! Do kids even do that stuff anymore? Not for long once the growth sprouts in their hands.

I see kids younger and younger playing on devices--I cringe or shake my head every time. I hate seeing the world deteriorate into mindless, addicted zombies. Where has all the real life interaction gone? I really love my school for outlawing phones during the school day and sticking to it! The kids seem much more engaged than at most other schools.

I continue to promote creativity and imagination without technology (as you read this on a screen, ugh). And I still love boxes and use them for all sorts of things. So, here are some non-screen activity ideas for kids with just a box!

  • Large boxes
    • Pretend Vehicles and TVs are good old standards for large boxes.
    • Puppet shows are great fun and imagination stirrers.
    • Forts are always a big hit--and if you don't have enough boxes, use sheets and chairs!
    • We made a Fun House Tunnel once and it was hilarious!
    • Open them up and cut them up for armor or props or sliding down a grassy hill!
    • Paint on them or use them under art projects
    • Large boxes are also great for keeping bigger toys organized

  • Smaller boxes
    • Tissue and shoe boxes are a perfect size for vehicles or furniture for stuffed friends and action figures
    • boxes are great for making up games, like tossing stuff into them or stacking them...
    • Even toy-makers know the value of a box, selling brick-painted boxes for kids to build with. How nice of them--but I say, collect your tissue boxes and you're all set!
      not what I had in mind
      but this is cool!
    • Plant herbs or flowers and watch them grow
    • Make a photo box for grandma
    • I used to make robots with my little guys out of the cardboard and duct tape
    • These boxes are also great for storing the small stuff--from art supplies to happy meal toys
These are just a few suggestions. And though you know you can find tons of ideas and instructional videos online, sometimes sitting down with the kids and brainstorming creativity yourselves is part of the fun. We have to keep trying to balance tech with hands-on. Make those brains work instead of vegging out looking at a screen all day!

I'd love to hear your suggestions, too. Old or new, boxes are fantastic imagination kick-starters!


Monday, February 25, 2019

Easy Bachelor Friendly Meals #Recipes

My son, Caleb ( Boy #1)  is a smart, handsome, eligible bachelor (no, I am not trying to fix him up, however, if there are any nice girls out there around age 24...) Anyhow, Caleb was spending far too much eating out and while he may not worry about his budget, I do worry about his heart plugging up from all the Chinese take out.

I sent him the Really Real Housewives recipe for pico de gallo, which he found was as easy and delicious as the post claims. He only had one complaint: that he wasn't a housewife and thought we should make a blog for young, cool bachelors who prefer to cook with speed dial more than kitchen utensils.

So, here are some easy fixings for lazy days or lazy young bachelors.

Brunch: 
Eggs are now diet friendly. I've always been an egg fan. Fried, scrambled, hard boiled...any way you cook them, they're a cheap, tasty source of vitamins and protein.

To make the plate more interesting...add zesty potatoes.

These ones were made with Tator Tots (or their generic version, the Tator Puff) To make a healthier version, dice whole potatoes, cleaned with skins on.

Tator Tot version: Sprinkle tots with cayenne pepper and garlic salt and bake as directed.
Potato version: Dice a potato and put it in a bowl. Add a tsp. of canola oil (or olive oil), a tsp each of garlic salt and cayenne pepper. Mix and bake in oven until crispy.

Lunch or Dinner:

Easy Fajitas. 

 Using the pico de gallo  idea. I added a packet of dry taco seasoning to strips of beef like a rub. I allowed the mix to absorb into the meat, then added the peppers and onion.

I prepped the mix on aluminum foil, so I could make the foil into a cooking pouch by crimping the edges. (I always place the aluminum pouch on a cookie sheet, because it often leaks juice.)

The result? A fajita mix you could eat over rice or wrap in a tortilla. We wrapped these in low-carb tortillas and made enough to have plenty left over for lunches and snacks.


Snack Time:

And lastly, a quick, healthy snack. When my boys were little, they loved "ants on a log". They still enjoy this sweet, crunchy snack. 
Add peanut butter and raisins to a stalk of celery. It's that easy!
Clean and store the celery in a bowl lined with a 
napkin or paper towel to keep them fresher longer. 



Monday, February 18, 2019

Shrewd #Shopper & #BargainHunter

I love Big Lots and TJ Maxx. They have such great bargains. The trouble is, you have to hunt for the treasure among aisles and piles of merchandise that's not for you. I wish I had more time to shop, but I don't have time for exploration and discovery in the jungles of clothes trees.

When I shop, I usually have a list. I also plan to hit more than one store in the same area to consolidate my trip and save time. Like today, I have to get my oil changed. I also have to go to the mall and get my ring inspected (every six months). While I'm out, I added a few errands in the same area. I've got great coupons for Old Navy and a list of domestics for Target. I like to save time and money!

I also recommend shopping "off-season." You can find the best deals on shoes and clothes when the stores are changing over their merchandise for the upcoming season. Right now (early Feb), winter is out and spring is in! I just got a great pair of boots for $30! (I love shoe shopping! DSW is my fave & Famous Footwear is top two because it's close) I also have a list on my phone of certain items I know I need soon, which helps me focus in the shoe wonderlands! And I never neglect the small Sale sections, where I find most of my bargain treasures!

lunch & girl talk with Sherry Ellis

But once in a while, I make plans to have lunch with a friend and we stroll through stores with no lists or goals. Those kind of shopping trips are necessary. Chatting and sightseeing and possibly finding treasure we didn't know we needed. It's a great adventure and the company is priceless!

What are your favorite stores? How do you shop? Spontaneous or Serious? And where do you find bargains??

Monday, February 11, 2019

Easy Chocolate Treat #snacks #diets


Years ago, I was trying to diet (it's a perpetual goal of mine). My cousin's wedding was coming and I was in the wedding party, so I was committed to losing some weight. So committed, I even swore off chocolate. I totally emptied my house of the stuff. My only supply was a box full of these chalky-tasting chocolate diet drinks that were supposed to abolish cravings.

I did pretty well for a few days. Then one Saturday afternoon, I wanted a Snicker bar. Like seriously. I wanted one bad enough I was tempted to swap weekend pajama wear for real clothes and drive to the store.

But I resisted. I ate a banana. Still wanted the Snicker bar. Drank a choco-chalky diet drink. Still wanted that Snicker bar. Ate another banana. Then a yogurt cup.

Still, I wanted that damned Snicker bar. I was about to mix up yet another choco-chalky drink and my skinny niece, who was spending the day with me, said, "Would you just get a Snicker bar? It's what, 280 calories? So far, you've consumed about 400 calories trying NOT to eat what you're really wanting. Go get the Snicker bar before you gain 10 pounds resisting it."

It was an educational moment. She was right. For me, there is nothing to be gained by trying to stay on a stringent diet. That only leads to binge eating and depression.

I've since learned the smarter way to approach healthy eating is to allow for cravings. And here's a great quick and easy crunchy, chocolatey treat:

Put a few chocolate chips (I prefer dark chocolate; it's health food) on a pretzel, microwave for a minute, top with another pretzel. Delicious.


Monday, February 4, 2019

You Gotta Have #Friends

You definitely gotta have friends!
Liz & Me are great friends who can relate to writing and boys!!
I've been a little down recently with my boys going away -- off on their own again. And I've also been feeling sympathy break-up pains... love stinks! yeah, yeah. So when a friend I haven't talked to in years texted me the other day and requested to buy 2 of my books, it really perked me up. God knew I needed to hear some encouraging words. Instantly, my cloud of self-pity and sadness was lifted.

my awesome friend I haven't see in 9 years!

This is the Barbie I customized for her -- a "mini me" Barbie!

and this is how she posed it when she moved -- haha!
I love and miss my friend!!
There's nothing like a text or call from a friend. Whether far or near, out of the blue or tried and true--kind words from a friend are an instant pick-me-up!

So spread a bit of good news, send a far away friend a funny picture, or invite a closer friend out to lunch or coffee. We could all use a little friendly conversation, any time!


Monday, January 28, 2019

End of the Month Wrap Up



At the beginning of the month, I was amazed that it was 2019. Now, I'm amazed that we're already at the end of the month! I've been slowly trying to get back into the good habits I abandoned during the holiday season for bad habits like junk food. Candy. Cookies. Spending time with the kids and skipping the gym.

I've returned to the gym, or when there is snow, I have the treadmill and yoga on demand. I found a 30 day yoga challenge on Amazon Prime. Sure, it might take me 300 days to finish the 30 day challenge, but I'm still doing it.

Weaning myself off the cookies and candies is also a work in progress.

Then there's also this:


In 2019, I'll be turning 50, so health and aging are suddenly a obsession concern. Osteoporosis and arthritis are common problems for my family. I was visiting Life Away From The Office Chair blog and blogger Lisa suggested taking collagen supplements to not only reverse the effects of aging, but to reduce joint pain and promote bone growth.

Sounded like a great plan to me, so I ordered a jar. While waiting for it to arrive, I checked into the research. It seems to be legit. Which is good. It comes from natural sources. Also good. And those natural sources are ground-up animal bone, hair, teeth, etc.

Not good. I told my husband. He said, "You eat gelatin. What do you think it's made of?"

I suppose...

It finally arrived. I tried to tell my brain not to imagine it was made of ground up bone, fur, teeth and whatnot, but I never made it over the hump. Somehow, the idea of mixing it up and drinking it was  too much.

My husband wasn't so squeamish. He mixed up a glass and gave it a try. He assured me it wasn't too bad-- just don't smell it before drinking, because it had the same smell as when the dentist grinds your teeth to fill a cavity. 

Needless to say, that whole jar is now his. I ordered some collagen in pill form. 
Wish me luck. 


It's the end of the month. Time to reflect on the best of January's entertainment. 

Movies
Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse. Double thumbs up. I'm not usually a big fan of cartoons, but this was a well-written script. The characters were likable. The story was fresh. And the action was balanced with poignant moments and humor. 
Hector and the Search for Happiness. I love Simon Pegg movies. This one didn't let me down. It was funny and thoughtful. I bought a used DVD from a video store. A great way to stock up on movies for a few dollars. 

Television
Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It's back. It has a new home over at NBC, but it's funny as ever. 

Quantum Leap. I bought my husband the full series on DVD for Christmas. We started watching it and I still love it as much as I did in the 90's. 

Books
The Baroness: The Search for Nica, the Rebellious Rothschild. An enjoyable, informative read. From the beginnings of the Rothschild dynasty to the early days of jazz, this book takes an honest look at the humanness of those who live in worlds that seem so much larger than life.

That's it for January. See you in February!





Monday, January 21, 2019

Weighting -- an update, Keep at it!

Neither sleet, nor snow, nor rain, nor hail, nor weekends will stop me from my healthy eating! But stress? Yes, stress will do it. And getting sick is also a major disruptor to the caring about what I eat... then there's travel coming up... So many things can distract us from a well-intended goal!

So here's my update: I've actually been doing very good! I lost 8 pounds in two weeks, basically eating less and healthier, exercise still takes a backseat to my busy life, but at least I'm aware of it and have good intentions and timers set to try to fit it in.

As far as the rest of the world, here are the top Resolutions of 2017 (not much has changed!)

  1. Lose Weight / Healthier Eating 
  2. Life / Self Improvements  
  3. Better Financial Decisions 
  4. Quit Smoking / Less Drinking
Unfortunately, one-third are broken by the end of January, then 80% overall. (from Statistics Brain and Franklin Covey via Answers.com)

These are not good odds. It is soooo easy to slip back into old habits. When you go back to work, you look sadly at your measly lunch, then snack for the afternoon pick-me-up and "What's for dinner?" chorus when you get home. These distractions can gang up on someone trying to lose weight and eat healthier--especially when no one around you is concerned about it!

You have to make it about YOU. Want to be happier with yourself? Is your "resolution" going to help you? Then you have to keep at it to reach your goal! When something is important to you, you will get it done. (wisdom from my dad!) The key is to make a conscious effort to think about everything differently. Experts agree: 

"Unless you first change your mind, don't expect your health goals to materialize." from US News

Though I'm sick and about to take a trip (so easy to eat poorly when we travel!) I'm keeping my goal in mind. Splurging a little is okay, but for too many days in a row--that's falling off the wagon. Gotta manage myself, and here's how I intend to do that:
  • Reminders, notes, timers, and the journal sitting out on the counter--these are all helpful tools to keep my mind focused.
  • Need a snack? Think about it! How many calories do I have left? I remind myself: fruit and veg are "free" calories.
  • Have a drink instead of a snack. Flavored water is very helpful for my tastes and holds the hunger at bay for a bit.
  • Keep busy! This is not hard for me. I always have stuff to do. And it keeps me from raiding the snacks!
  • Don't stock sweets and snacks you like. I try to buy things my family likes that I don't. If I don't like it, I won't eat it!

How are you doing with your "resolutions?" Whatever your goals--I hope you're having a successful 2019 so far!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Wedding Planning on a Dime #cheapweddingideas

Weddings can cost a fortune. But there are ways to pinch pennies. Below are pictures of my niece's wedding...a wedding in which we stretched every nickel and dime spent to unbelievably low numbers.

The biggest savings was having a great family that is well-connected. My cousins run Wedding Planners and Catering Services (Sharon Helmick and Teresa Jackson, are my cousins. If you happen to live in the Ohio Valley region and need quality work at an affordable price, give them a buzz!) and have all the table linens, dishes, and kitchen wares we needed. Not everyone is so lucky to be related to pros, but there are ways to save money by thinking outside the box.


We used reusable dishes at the reception. It took a bit of time to wash them afterward, but we saved several hundred dollars not buying the high-end disposables. The napkins are also cloth and are reusable. Many halls have dishes available for use...as long as you're willing to do the extra clean up.



Check with churches and civic organizations. They often have the large, industrial-sized serving items. Offer them a donation or ask about rental fees. The punch bowls in the picture were gathered from family. Amazing what people have already gathering dust in their cupboards.

Another smart idea my cousins taught me...use black table cloths on the food tables. Spills and stains are inevitable, so white table cloths make zero sense.



The pretty glowing trees lining the hall were cheap to make. We cut down saplings. Used Sakrete to secure them in Dollar Tree buckets. Painted them white. Lined them with white Christmas lights and they were perfect.



Re-usables. The roses in the table arrangements were repurposed from another wedding. The pine cones in the mix were gathered from yards and baked before adding them to the centerpieces. By looking for things that can be repurposed, thrift shop flower arrangements can get a second life.



The chair covers made ugly metal folding chairs look classy. We tucked the covers under the legs of the chairs for a finished-looking touch. We had to do it all in one night because we failed to book the hall for an extra day to do the decorating. By accident, we saved money by doing it all in a twenty-four hour period. 3:00 AM start time sound good, my fellow money savers?



Drapes of lights twinkling behind a sheer curtain. A gorgeous, affordable idea.



The bridal table. The rose and pine theme was chosen to save money, but they turned out to be perfectly symbolic. Red roses for love. Pine for longevity.




Christmasy touches make for cheap pizzazz. The Dollar Tree is well stocked during the holidays and a cheap place to pick up baubles to add some sparkle.



Putting the final touches on the light sheers. PVC pipes with holes drilled in it were the light/curtain hangers. A magical touch!



The cookie trays were supported by red bowls they flipped upside down and glued to the bottom of the trays. The garland was lengths of pine with roses wired to it and pine cones laid on top.



The pine garland was also used on the tables. The pine cones were free. The hurricane vases were reusables. All of these matched, but had we not found enough of the same kind...non-matching vases would have been beautiful too and with planning could be gathered from thrift shops and friends.



The Christmas tree was my mothers, or the bride's grandmother. We decorated it with pine garland, Dollar Tree snowflakes and red bulbs. The pine garland was simply twine with pine cones hot glued to it. The tree topper was a simple bow.

In the basket on the table, there was a basket of jingle bells for people to ring as the couple came into the reception hall. Sharon painted a board to say, "Ring the bells with joy and laughter and wish them happily ever after." That worked out perfectly because it was freezing cold on their wedding day and no one wanted to stand outside and blow bubbles!


They had all the roasters from their catering business, but it wouldn't be impossible to borrow roasters and dishes from people. Just be sure to label it to return it later.

Which reminds me of a huge money savings...we cooked the food ourselves two days before the wedding. Stored it in the fridge and put it in the roasters to heat the day of the wedding.

Another way to save money on the food if you don't want to cook it yourself is to contact local charity groups. For my mother's funeral, I contacted Wetzel County Hope and Memories, a local group that raises money to help cancer patients with the transportation costs of cancer treatment. They cooked and served the food after the funeral for a donation to their charity.



The finished product. It's pretty during the day, but absolutely perfect at night. The candles on the table and the sparkly trees around the hall were the perfect amount of romantic light.



No two centerpieces were exactly the same. By sticking to the same colors and theme, you can save money by picking up items as you find them discounted instead of having to find a certain number of exact matches in bulk.





Monday, January 7, 2019

#WeightLoss, take 2019

loved having all the boys home!

I'm at it again. And this is definitely NOT a New Year's Resolution. I don't want to make a cliche resolution to eat better, exercise more, and lose weight. I really want to make a life change. And if I keep trying, it's bound to stick one of these times, right?

I know I can do it. Over the summer, I stayed with my plan for a couple of months and lost 10 lbs. Then life exploded and my healthy eating diary got packed up with the rest of the house, soon followed by the holidays and family. Forget trying to get back to eating healthy with all that activity and stress. And that's why most people decide to wait and make changes when the holidays are over. The New Year is a good time to reset life.

So, here's the Plan that Works! for me:
  • Write down all Calories
  • Start with a Max of 1500 cal/day, then cut back more
  • Fruit and Veggies are "Free" - I don't count those calories to encourage myself to eat more of them
  • Drink more Water - I start with 16-20 oz/day and add more
  • Creative Exercising - burn calories any way I can!
    • Stand more at work
    • Take stairs instead of elevators
    • Park farther away at the store - especially if I need to shop at several stores: I park in the middle of the lot and walk around
    • Master the stairs at home - I do 10 flights up and down when I can.
    • Keep the house cleaner, or vacuum more... much as I hate to clean!
I'll post updates soon. And I wish you all luck with your resolutions or aspirations to improve!

Let's make 2019 a prosperous, positive year!

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