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Showing posts from 2018

3 Ways to Start the New Year With Optimism

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Happy New Year's Eve Day! I want to take a short break from writing about all of the healthy, minimalist, unprocessed foods that the Standard American Diet (SAD) has neglected for far too long to tell you that I appreciate you, dear readers.  I hope that we can all make 2019 a year of positive change, full of gratitude, joy, and purpose. Here are three ideas that might inspire you: 1.  Pick a word. Choose one word to define what you want to experience this year.  Maybe your word will be freedom (from debt, from regret, from fear).  Maybe it will be joy , mindfulness , or gratitude .  If you desire to get fit or lose weight, you might choose health , movement , or even vegetables .  Once you choose your word, let it influence other choices you make.  Let it be your mantra and your guide. 2.  Make a plan to get out of debt. A load of debt is absolutely no fun, and can stress you and your family every single day.  When my husband and I were in debt (with an und

It's Not a Diet, It's a Lifestyle

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Skip the diet.  Just eat healthy. If you're like me, you've tried lots of diets.  Some work better than others.  But even when I've had the most success, I've found the weight loss impossible to maintain.  When "diet" means "give up entire food groups forever," I eventually, inevitably fail.  And I gain back every bit of weight. Ugh. Not only is so-called "yoyo dieting" bad for your heart, it's definitely hard on your self confidence and motivation.  Why diet at all?  I see other people eating foods I deny myself...what's wrong with me? Turns out the process of dieting actually slows our metabolism .  Cutting out entire food groups can lead to malnutrition.  The concept of a healthy, balanced relationship with food seems lacking in most diets.  Yet I think that's exactly what thin people have. So I'm not going to diet.  I'm going to gradually replace processed food (including food marketed as "low

15 Things To Do Before You Try To Lose Weight

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Did you step on a scale this morning and panic? I did.  The month of December undid most of what I accomplished in October and November. However, I've been doing some research, and I think I have some smarter strategies for attempting to normalize my weight.  I'll be sharing those over the next several posts, just in time for the new year. I combed a lot of resources, but I'd like to mention how especially useful the Eat This, Not That website has been. Before you try to lose weight: Make a list of reasons why you want to lose weight.  Seeing the benefits of your resolution on paper will help keep you motivated.  Write your reasons on several sticky notes, and post them on the refrigerator, the bathroom mirror, your closet door. Keep track of everything you eat for one week, before you make any changes.  Include all of it:  the few bites of your husband's dessert, the mac and cheese your kid left on his plate, every little bit.  You might not reali

A Favorite Carol

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Happy Christmas Eve! I'd like to share a favorite Christmas carol which I've loved since I was about four years old.  I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of my parents' hi-fi, listening to Julie Andrews' glorious voice. The Wexford Carol Good people all, this Christmas time, Consider well and bear in mind What our good God for us has done In sending His beloved Son. With Mary holy we should pray To God with love this Christmas day; In Bethlehem upon that morn, There was a blessed Messiah born. With thankful heart and joyful mind, The shepherds went the Babe to find, And as God's angel had foretold, They did our Savior Christ behold. With Mary holy we should pray To God with love this Christmas day; In Bethlehem upon that morn, There was a blessed Messiah born. You can listen here , if you like. Enjoy this special day and night, leading into the Christmas celebration tomorrow.

This Holiday, Dispense Spiritual WD-40

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It's the time of year for family togetherness. And while that can be wonderful, as we share memories, inside jokes, and that comfortable sense of belonging with our loved ones, it can also be stressful.  Not all memories are good, and no relationship is without its bumps. We love to sing about "peace on earth, goodwill to all."  But how can we actually live at peace, when there's so much potential for stress? Areas of disagreement cause stress. Sometimes it's the "no go" areas, the things that are left unsaid, the subjects we don't touch on, that can make an otherwise happy gathering unsatisfactory. To avoid disagreements, I don't talk about politics or some religious topics with my family, since I know we have different opinions.  That strategy may keep things civil, but I realize I've sacrificed any chance for my siblings to really know me, and I've given in to the assumption that we can't possibly understand each o

Celebrate the Solstice

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This Friday, December 21 is the winter solstice this year.  This is the day the northern hemisphere is pointed at its farthest distance from the sun.  This occurrence is also known as "midwinter," even though in modern meteorology the December solstice marks the beginning of winter. The winter solstice has been celebrated for thousands of years. Many symbols we associate with Christmas, and use in celebrating the birth of Jesus, have actually been used by people all over the world in connection with the winter solstice.  Early Christian leaders chose December 25 as the celebration of Jesus' birth (which many Biblical scholars believe actually occurred in the spring) because it coincided with the Roman festival "Birthday of the Invincible Sun."  By Christianizing the festival and its associated symbols, the early church offered a way for new converts to understand the miracle of Jesus, the Son of God, coming as a human baby to be the Savior of the wor

Christmas Ghosts

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How do you celebrate the holidays when you're haunted by sadness and regret? The former residents of Paradise, California (about 50 miles from where I live) must dream about the Camp Fire inferno that destroyed their town.  They're mourning the loss of homes and businesses, safety and security.  Some have lost livestock, pets, and family members.  They might be wondering, "How can we celebrate Christmas now?  What is there to celebrate?" Like the victims of this devastating fire, many of us are haunted by ghosts as Christmas draws near.  Not apparitions, but memories and feelings of hurt, heartbreak, disappointment, and hopelessness.  We've lost family, friends, marriages, dreams.  I can't help but think of my dad, whose birthday is the day after Christmas.  He died as a result of the cruel degenerative neuromuscular disease ALS more than twelve years ago.  I recently got news about another loved one that makes me anxious and sad, and I cannot res

100 Ingredients for a Simple, Cozy Christmas

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What makes Christmas cozy? I sat down with a pen and paper to answer this question.  Here are my answers. Activities 1.     driving into the mountains to cut a fresh Christmas tree 2.     making simple ornaments together 3.     coming into the warm house after a long tromp in the woods (or the park) 4.     singing Christmas carols around the piano 5.     helping a neighbor or a stranger 6.     watching the classic black and white Miracle on 34th Street together 7.     stargazing on a clear winter night, well bundled against the cold 8.     enjoying a therapeutic massage on a heated table 9.     being a Secret Santa 10.   baking and decorating cookies together 11.   reading Christmas books, such as The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, aloud to each other 12.   walking through a neighborhood bright with holiday lights 13.   collecting canned goods for the local food bank 14.   singing "Silent Night" under the stars on Christmas Eve while h

Give Without Buying

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You don't have to shop in order to give. Giving is an act of generosity and thoughtfulness, and those qualities aren't sold in stores.  Here are thirteen non-consumer gift ideas, large and small. Make a phone call.   Spend some time catching up with a friend or family member you aren't able to see often. Do something fun together.   Go on a day trip to the beach or go on a hike.  Pack a picnic lunch and meet at a sunny spot in the park.  Get together to bake cookies or to watch a favorite movie. Donate to their favorite charity.   You can give money, but sometimes the best gift is your time.  Help with a local river cleanup, volunteer at the animal shelter, ring a bell for the Salvation Army , or maybe plant a tree with the Arbor Day Foundation .  Take a picture and send it to your loved one.  Embellish a plain notebook with scrapbook paper and stickers.   Label it (Your Friend)'s Gratitude Journal.  On the first page, write a list of reasons you are gra

The Pre-Christmas Clear Out

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December is a great time to declutter. Not only can you make room for the tree and for gifts, but you can help the whole family feel less overwhelmed by holiday bustle and stress.  A Pre-Christmas Clear Out benefits everyone in so many ways: You're free to enjoy the fun of the season. You're prepared for guests. You're aware of how much you already have, causing gratitude and contentment. You're aware of what your family needs, so you can suggest suitable gift ideas to those who ask. You begin the new year feeling more in control of your home, already started on the road to less clutter and more freedom. You're extra busy, so this clear out is not an intense purge.  It's a quick, refreshing chance to set the stage for all that the holiday will bring.  None of these projects should bog you down or take more than an hour or so; in fact, several can be done in about fifteen minutes. Feeling ready?  Let's begin. Start with your child

Less Stuff, More Satisfaction

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There are dozens of free and low-cost ways to celebrate the holidays.  Plenty of time-saving strategies.  A lot of discussion about giving experiences rather than stuff.  But spending less, saving time, and giving fewer tangible gifts won't necessarily lead to a happy minimalist holiday. Minimalism is about keeping only what you need and love, making space for things and activities you care about by discarding things and activities you don't.  Simply cutting costs and clutter may leave you feeling stingy and unsatisfied. Buy and do less in order to experience more fulfillment. Happiness comes from meeting needs and desires.  So to achieve satisfaction, you must discover what you need and want.  Take some time to ponder these questions. Why are you celebrating this holiday? It's easy to go through the motions, to work at a to-do list simply because it exists.  But any holiday is just a date on a calendar until you give it significance. So why

A Silent Night

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The modern celebration of Christmas is anything but silent, isn't it?  We seem to do more, go more, buy more, eat more, drive more...and it all adds up to noise!  I know it seems Grinch-like to complain about noise at Christmas, but I think we all crave a bit of calm this time of year.  Just consider our response to the song "Silent Night." "Silent Night" is one of the most beloved carols in the world. It was declared "an intangible cultural heritage" by UNESCO in 2011.  It's been recorded hundreds of times by singers in every genre, and Bing Crosby's rendition is the third best-selling single of all time.  For many who go to church on Christmas Eve, singing "Silent Night" with family and strangers while holding a lighted candle is one of the highlights of the season. Silent night, holy night, All is calm, all is bright 'Round yon virgin mother and child, Holy infant, so tender and mild, Sleep in hea

A Handmade Christmas

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There's still time to hand make gifts for Christmas! Several of the following projects can be finished in a couple of hours while you're watching a holiday movie.  Some can be done by your kids or with their help.  All are useful or will be used up, so they won't contribute to anyone's clutter. For the family Using large needles and chunky yarn, knit or crochet a cozy throw.  If you're not sure of an appropriate color, choose ivory. Gather quart-size glass jars and grocery store ingredients for homemade bean soup mix or cookie mix . Roll up some beeswax candles . Tie a fleece blanket . Create a wall calendar using Shutterfly .  For Her Knit or crochet a soft and cozy scarf or shawl with variegated Red Heart Unforgettable yarn. Mix up some sugar body scrub . Sew some therapeutic hot/cold rice packs . Embellish a sweatshirt (there are hundreds more ideas online). Make a laminated bookmark with your own art, a poem, dried flowers, or eve

7 Ways to Be a Minimalist Parent During the Holidays

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By late November, toys have been relentlessly advertised for months.  Long lines of children wait to meet the mall Santa, encouraged to ask for whatever they want.  Letters to Santa, some asking for dozens of toys, are mailed.  At school, the dominant conversation is about who wants what and whether their Christmas wish will come true.  Grandparents, aunts and uncles, even kindly strangers on the street greet kids with the question, "What do you want for Christmas?" In this atmosphere, the minimalist parent can feel like a Grinch and his kids can feel cheated if the holiday haul seems inadequate. You've read the latest studies confirming that children are happier with fewer toys.  They're less distracted, more creative, and more engaged in their play.  They imagine and make do more effectively.  With fewer toys, they're more likely to take care of what they have, and the whole family benefits from less clutter and frustration. So your values are c

A Gift List For People Who Actually Need Gifts

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'Tis the season for "Best Gift Ideas" lists in every magazine.  These tend to be trendy, expensive, and full of soon-to-be clutter.  They also seem to be for people who have everything they need and most of what they want. Here in northern California, devastating fires have destroyed thousands of homes and businesses.  While insurance will eventually help most people recover, many are currently homeless, jobless, and needing to move elsewhere to start over.  I haven't seen any "Best Gift Ideas" that would have value for them. You may have friends or family who are seeking work, others who are in "starter" or other low-wage jobs, some who are paying off student loans or consumer debt, who are living on a fixed income, or who are living frugally in order to save toward a goal (a car, a house, their kids' college, etc.).  You don't want to insult someone or come across like a financial know-it-all, but you don't want to ignore th