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Monday, January 27, 2014

Ten Minute Topics

Up until 6 months ago, I would have said that I love being busy. Now I am too busy, and this has me stressed. We are in such a multi-tasking world, where very few people are patient, and everyone seems to have forgotten their manners. I have to stop and think to myself "What am I doing?" and "Why?"

Finding balance, and teaching our families how to do the same, feels overwhelming at times. This year I really want to help my kids learn the things the world has forgotten--like "It's not about you." or "Holding the door open for 10 seconds will not make you late for AnYthINg!"

So each week we have a 10 minute topic. Everything from important family values, to time management to service. It's ten minutes of parent-child conversation that will not only bond us (hopefully), but also make us all into better, kinder, more patient people. Heaven knows the world can use it!

Here's some ideas to spark a few conversations at your house. These are just basic topics that will hopefully help you into creating your own conversations with your kids, siblings, parents, friends, or spouse.

1. Time Management- big jobs vs little jobs; make a list and prioritize; focusing on the now- learning what's important enough to put down the electronics.
2. Manners- sending Thank You cards or texts or pictures; Common Courtesy-hold a door, wait in line, let someone merge in front of you on the freeway.
3. Responsibility- You control YOUR actions; if you get it out, you put it away;
4. Service- pick a family service project for a neighbor, friend or organization; cook a meal for a tired mom and deliver it; take cookies to someone you haven't seen in awhile; send a card (snail mail) to an old roommate, relative or neighbor. Do Something to Make and Impact.
5. Integrity- the importance of being honest; Doing your best vs Being the best
6. Finance- for the love of the National Debt teach your kids how to live within their means. We all need this lesson from time to time.
7. Self-Sufficiency- change a tire; change the oil; make a meal; clean a bathroom; sew on a button; weed a garden; fix a doorknob. You know all those things you may not love doing around the house/yard, but won't get done without you. Teach this to others so the knowledge doesn't die.
8. Safety/Emergency Preparedness- something will happen someday to each of us. Whether it's locking our keys in the car, being in a blackout, or a natural disaster, we all need to know some basics to survive. First Aid, food storage, water storage, communication systems, and stranger danger are all good things to talk about with those you love.

Spread out over the year we are going to learn new skills, habits and ideas that are practical and necessary. When did we all start living in an alternate "reality" where we are so focused on ourselves? Maybe it's me getting old and noticing how crazy the real world is. In any case, here's a few ideas to bringing sanity back to you, to me and the whole human race.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pad Thai Perfection

I have loved cooking ever since....umm...yeah. I have got to be honest. I haven't always loved to cook. In fact most days I am so over everything by the time dinner rolls around, I couldn't care less what's on the table, and mostly just wish someone else would make it.

This year I've had new inspiration to cook more at home, and eat out less. I am so committed to saving money so we can take our kids on an awesome, amazing adventure this summer, and cooking at home is one way to stretch our budget to make that happen. And you know what? It works. It's work, but it also works towards our financial favor. Funny how you have money when you don't spend it on kids meals, treats and pizza. And, of course it's better for your health. No big surprise there.

Onto the point of the post...I have a great Weight Watchers cookbook my sister gave me, and this year, I am going to really use it. The following is my version inspired by the WW recipe.

Pad Thai Perfection
1 box whole wheat spaghetti (or rice noodles, or regular spaghetti), cooked according to directions

2-4 green onions, sliced
1 1/2 c. bean sprouts*
1/2 c. peanuts (l like roasted)
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 tsp. peanut oil
1 1/2 c. pre-cooked, frozen shrimp (or cooked, diced chicken, or no meat)
 2 cloves chopped garlic

3 Tbsp. Fish Sauce
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar (or rice vinegar)
1 T. sugar (or Splenda)
3 T. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. chile paste (I used Srirachaa, you could use red pepper flake)

2 tsp. basil

*You can use whatever veggies you like- broccoli, carrots, baby corn, peas or pea pods, etc.

Cook your noodles according to package. Whisk sauce together. Heat peanut oil in large frying pan or wok, and add garlic and green onion, for about 3 minutes. Add noddles and sauce, along with bean sprouts, and any other veggies you choose. Heat through about 2-3 minutes. Add cooked shrimp and cilantro. Steam all this together for another 2-3 minutes, until shrimp are warm. When I steam them I turn the burner to low, put the lid on the pan and let it steam 3 minutes. Add peanuts before serving.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

It's a Fresh Start

New Year, New Goals, New Me, New You.

Have you ever stopped to think of all the little things you do each day without thinking? I usually don't but lately I've been feeling like my plate is overfull, getting fuller and then realizing that I am the only one who can stop my own insanity. For example, writing a note to your kid's teacher, while reserving a book online and scanning the pantry for a meal idea, all in the same breath--that's insanity!

I am not going to lie--this week there have been tears and words and doubts, and now it's time for action. I have a very philanthropic mindset--probably due to years of working for non-profits and seeing some pretty sad, shocking and scary things. So I like to give back to my community any way I can. However, after looking at my life (while driving children to school, then to the library, then the orthodontist, Del Taco and back again) I have decided that sometimes doing too much good is bad.

I had a goal to learn to say "No" last year, and for the most part I did pretty well. Then I started working outside the home, and as a way to compensate for my absence from my family and friends, I didn't give up any of my volunteer efforts, and even took on one or two more small things. We all know I am bad at math, but after 5 kids, 4 with homework, a part-time job, 6 volunteer committees, 2 church callings and oh yeah, my husband and a marriage to maintain, I am spent.

Writing has always been a way for me to "de-junk" my mind, process events and emotions, and that is why I blog. So today I am putting it down in writing that I am recommitting myself to finding balance, saying No and keeping a focus on my real priorities--which ironically I have learned aren't as I thought a year ago.

It's a new year, and time for a new start. I think it's important to take inventory of our lives, mental state, health and well-being, and realize that although change is constant, trying to prioritize and balance opportunities is a good way to LIVE a fulfilling life. Like someone really smart once said, "To everything there is a season," (Simon & Garfunkel or the Bible are both smart sources) or, "You can eat an elephant, just not all at once," (no idea who said this but every mom & dad I know needs to be reminded of this) we owe it to ourselves to take inventory and prioritize what is important for right now.

Happy New Year!