Tag Archives: books

National Library Week

National Library Week

It was National Library Week, and libraries transform minds with free access to books and online resources for your community.

Celebrate National Library Week

 

Tuesday was National Library Workers Day. Story hours and events for your kids are a great time to get involved and thank your librarian.

Thank Your Librarian

 

Wednesday was National Bookmobile Day. Your local library might be using one, or find stops near you on the Digital Bookmobile’s national tour.

Find a Bookmobile

 

Thursday was Take Action for Libraries Day. Learn more about protecting libraries and their funding.

Take Action for Libraries

 

Not sure where the local libraries are in your community? Enter your ZIP code to find libraries near you.

Finding Libraries Near You

 

Reading can have many positive effects on you. Here are 10 reasons you should stop by your library and grab a book.

Reasons to Read

 

Reading to your kids is not only a memorable experience, it’s also good for both of you.

Kids & the Benefits of Reading

Time for Self Care

My Healthy Journey: Putting Self-Care First

It’s a new year, which means it’s time to re-evaluate and set new healthy goals. For me, that always means trying to refocus on self-care.

As those of you following along know, I always have a hard time prioritizing the little things. So far, I have 3 big self-care goals that help with that for 2017.

Get Organized for Self-Care

Planning in Writing

I always have a planner for scheduling our company’s social media because I like to have it in writing. But this year, I took it a step further and bought myself a Passion Planner.

If you haven’t heard of Passion Planner, it combines a lot of things, like keeping a bullet journal, setting goals, imagining your future, and reminders to take care of yourself. Here’s a peek at what that looks like:

Weekly View of Passion Planner

It’s built to help you track time, workload, and to-do tasks for your personal life and goals, and it even makes you find the good in your week.

Finding Time

In an effort to fight off my workaholic tendencies, I’ve been thinking a lot about time and time management. There’s one TED talk in particular that has had me thinking for weeks:

https://pc.tedcdn.com/talk/podcast/2016W/None/LauraVanderkam_2016W-480p.mp4
Video via TED

This idea that there is enough time for the things that matter to you, even if you live an extremely busy life, feels so wonderful. Not only do I have no doubt that she’s right, it’s also an idea to live your life by.

For me, I’m adding a third-column to-do list to my Passion Planner, which is the self-care to-do list Laura recommends in that video. Too frequently things like my chipped toenail polish are such a low priority that I never make time for them (and I can only imagine this just gets worse as you have kids).

By putting them on my list, I give myself permission to make those little things a priority, to make time for them, even when they seem selfish or stupid. I can make time for reading a book, checking my personal email, playing with my dogs, anything. This is how I plan to make self-care a priority.

Soon, I will use the pages at the end of each month to evaluate how the first month of this is going, how my goals went, what was good and bad this month, and more.

Evaluating for Self-Care

Meal Planning and Tracking

I’ve been trying to make healthy meal plans and grocery shop in advance each week, which again, requires I make time for it.

This great video series of bento box lunches from Mind Over Munch, one per day in January,  has really been helping me to get inspired with each day’s meals. (She also has a digital cookbook of these if you need more than 30 days of inspiration!)

How I Meal Plan

To meal plan, I’ve been using a lot of tools to make it happen, which makes it a lot more fun for someone like me who loves checking things off.

First, I have a lovely Wonder Woman list that I write down meals for the week on, organized by breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I try to choose at least one recipe for a nice big breakfast on the weekends, at least one recipe for a few lunches (something I can make multiple times or a big batch of something, like soup), and then 5 or 6 dinner ideas that I’ll make over a week and a half or so (taking leftover days off from cooking). And finally, at least 1 dessert because I have a huge sweet tooth. I label where each recipe is coming from and use it as a weekly menu, marking off things I make as I go along.

Meal Planning Tools

From there, I make a grocery list on the lovely Wunderlist, which is my favorite because it syncs across devices, but there are lots of other grocery shopping apps you can try.

And I use that whiteboard beside my Wonder Woman list to keep track of all the meal prep I need to do, like boiling eggs, making homemade salad dressing or sauces ahead of time, or prepping veggies and snacks for the week.

Then, I keep a calendar whiteboard on my freezer with dinners scheduled out. It helps me plan which days I’m eating leftovers, which ones I need something easy, or when I’m going out.

Monthly Meal Calendar

I also keep a more thorough list in my planner of what I eat for each major meal.

Meal Tracking by Month

I’ve also just been trying to find little things that make my life easier in the kitchen, like my new knife block, which swivels to hold a cookbook or tablet while I’m cooking:

Kitchen Recipe Holder

Tech and Digital Organization

Finally, on the organization front, I’m trying to clean up from a digital standpoint. This means a lot of things. I got a wireless speaker for Christmas. Syncing it to my cell phone lets me play music wherever I am in the house without needing a stereo or getting my computer close to water, like while I’m cooking or showering.

I’ve also been trying to clean up my digital presence, like organizing my iTunes, consolidating multiple Netflix and Hulu profiles I’ve had on different accounts, organizing all my bills online, backing up files like my writing on Google Docs, keeping track of my different passwords and profiles, and more.

I’ve also been taking the time to use digital solutions to solve some of life’s inconveniences, from the Tile on my keys to organizing all of my loyalty cards and memberships with Key Ring and  tossing all of those business cards without guilt by backing them up in CamCard.

It’s amazing how satisfying throwing away all that clutter can be.

(Looking for more ways to clean out your wallet?  This Real Simple article can help! It even has handy suggestions for using the leftovers off all your gift cards!)

Reading Challenge as Self-Care

There are all kinds of reading challenges all over the internet, practically one for every interest you could have. Popsugar’s yearly challenge is always a good general challenge, but looking at it, I just kept thinking about all the books I already know I want to read.

So instead, I’m making my own reading challenge. I used a Christmas Amazon gift card to buy a big stack of books that have been on my list for a while and combined them with a handful I’m in the middle of or have been hoarding,

Reading List Start
(Why yes, that is a dog toy “hidden” on top of my books…)

On my self-care list, I’m forcing myself to dedicate at least 15 minutes a day to reading a book. Not the news, not my phone, a physical book.

And once I’ve forced myself to sit still and focus for those 15 minutes, I inevitably find time for at least 15 more.

Healthy Eating Self-Care

In keeping with all that self-care and meal planning, I have to follow through with making those healthy meals too.

For Christmas, I also got 3 cookbooks, which are keeping me going. Both of Skinnytaste’s cookbooks and The Dude Diet cookbook.

My New Cookbooks

Skinnytaste

Skinnytaste’s cookbooks have a variety of recipes to make up for my comfort food favorites, from chicken enchiladas, chicken parm, and baked potato soup to staples like homemade marinara, which I’m trying to avoid buying at the store.


Chicken enchiladas with homemade enchilada sauce and lime cilantro rice.


Teriyaki pork chops, with homemade teriyaki sauce, and spicy pineapple salsa.


Oven-fried chicken, which tastes a lot like Shake ‘n Bake, with cheesy cauliflower mash.


Baked potato soup, which is filled with hidden cauliflower.

The Dude Diet

And, you may not know it from looking at me,  but nachos, bar nachos especially, and chili cheese fries are my top 2 favorite foods. (Closely followed by all things sweet, mostly candy, but that’s beside the point.) So The Dude Diet is perfect for me.

It has all kinds of healthier takes on hearty classics, even going so far as to have Taco Bell copycat tacos. (Be still my beating heart!)

So far, from simple Pad Thai, where the weirdest ingredient I needed was Sriracha, to truly bar-worthy BBQ chicken nachos, this cookbook has yet to disappoint.

Chicken Pad Thai
I substituted chicken for shrimp in The Dude Diet shrimp Pad Thai recipe.

BBQ Chicken Nachos
Drool-worthy spicy, baked BBQ chicken nachos.

Using these cookbooks, I’ve been slowly tasting my way through their wonderfulness, and it’s making a difference! Not only can I see it, but I can feel it. And the best part is I’m not sacrificing anything. These recipes are delicious and doable.

Build your own group of recipes that you trust and love, or start exploring healthy cookbooks yourself. Enjoying what you’re eating is the only way you’ll be able to make a healthy lifestyle feel achievable.

Do It Yourself

Not sure how to get started setting your own goals? Our wellness tool, Rally, can help you set food, exercise, organization, and even reading goals.

Follow us on Pinterest for more healthy recipes, or find us on Instagram to see my progress and what I’m cooking up.

And join me in setting your own healthy goals for 2017. Let’s make this our healthiest year yet!

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Relax for National Family Caregivers Month

National Family Caregivers Month

November is also National Family Caregivers Month, and this year’s theme is all about RESPITE and taking care of yourself as a caregiver.

R is for rest and relaxation. Relaxing sometimes is the best way to stay fresh as a caregiver.

E is for energize. You need to re-energize and lower your stress so you’re a good caregiver.

Energize

 

S is for sleep. Caregivers often have sleep problems. Try these tips or talk to your doctor.

Sleep

 

P is for programs that can help you as a caregiver. Find programs near you.

Programs

 

I is for imagination. Let your mind loose with activities like movies and books that let you take a mental break.

Imagination

 

T is for take 5, or 10. Little breaks that help you beat stress will also help you be a better caregiver when you are there.

Take 5

 

E is for exhale. Simple breathing exercises can help you calm down and refocus in no time.

Exhale

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Make a Difference for Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness

Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month

July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness and Prevention Month. We had more info each day on these issues and how you can help!

Each year, about 4,400 infants in the U.S. are born with a cleft lip or palate. Donate now.

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Clefts are a hole or notch in the lip, palate, or ridge, and they can happen together. They vary in seriousness and treatments. Learn more from the CDC.

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The National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS) helps learn about prevention for cleft lips and palates. They have found that diabetes, smoking, thyroid disease, and certain medications during pregnancy can increase chances.

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Books like Wonder can help teach your kids about facial differences, which helps with awareness and acceptance of cleft lips and palates.

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Some who adopt get kids dealing with cleft lips or palates, but this Q&A can help you learn more about the issues.

A young baby with a cleft palate looking over the shoulder of her mother

 

Learn how you can make a difference and do cleft lip and palate community outreach with Pathfinder.

Join a family-to-family connection from cleftAdvocate to get help with questions anytime.

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Me Time Crafting

My Healthy Journey: Me Time

I feel like I have spent the last month drastically overhauling my physical life. And I have. But now, I’m ready to focus on making me time and self-care.

While I’m giving you advice on how to succeed at Rally challenges, I’m kind of doing them all at the same time. For the first time since high school, I’m exercising every day. And for the first time ever, I have radically overhauled my diet. Like I’ve said the past few weeks, I’ve been cooking at home every day and am eating more whole grains, fruits, and veggies, and I’ve cut out caffeine, processed foods and sugars.

So although there are still plenty of food mission posts to come, so you can use my new experiences to help you succeed, in my head, these are a little bit like old news. Been there, conquered that.

But as you can probably guess, now that I’ve settled into a rhythm, this isn’t actually what I spend all day thinking about. As a matter of fact, not focusing on this stuff is exactly how I got so unhealthy.

Now that healthy eating is more of a habit for me, though, I’d like to talk about something that feels more like real life to me. You know, the stuff that occupies my mind all day.

If you’ve been following along with me (from my writing to going all out for Halloween), you probably know that I like being creative. This job definitely requires a degree of creativity. I spend most days writing, picking out photos, and cruising Pinterest, which means that when I go home and crash into bed to watch Netflix with my dog, I don’t really feel guilty.

But I have spent my life going through creative phases. I like to learn new things, and I like to make things, which has made my life a long line of creative experiments. Over the years, I’ve mastered soap making, candle making, jewelry making, origami, juggling, the yo-yo, theater makeup, knitting, and crocheting, to name a few. And not only do these random projects (sometimes) leave me with nice, new stuff, creativity has many benefits.

I find that creative activities relax me. They let me disengage from the stress of my work and social life and just do something I enjoy. They also make me feel accomplished. When you write a blog post, take a picture, even make a nice meal, you don’t always feel like you’ve actually added anything to the world. But even these simple creative activities can make you feel like you’ve achieved something. That plain piece of paper is a heck of a lot cooler as a swan.

And I’m not the only one. As this CNN article talks about, we stress creativity in our kids because it matters. Even as funding for the arts falls in high schools, most parents with preschoolers still know finger painting and coloring matter.

Creativity helps you believe in yourself, learn to deal with failure, continue to learn throughout your life, and even know yourself better. And the more you exercise that learning portion of your brain through fun stuff, the easier learning things for say, work, can get.

And that’s why Rally also has a mission to help you remember to do something creative. This is one of my favorite missions on Rally because that creative stuff can get really lost in the shuffle of daily life as you get older, but it really is important to make time for it once in a while.

So here are some of the projects I’ve done or am planning to do that feed my creative side. Maybe they will inspire your own creative juices.

1. Write something

As I’ve said before, you never really know what all you can get out of writing until you start. Maybe you won’t end up with a finished product you can use, but you can definitely get something creative and fulfilling out of talking to yourself through writing.

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2. Decorate something

I recently painted a shelf gold for my new(ish) apartment, which I will show you when I talk about organizing . But if you’re anything like me (or my HGTV-addicted mother), few things are as satisfying as making something beautiful or helpful that you use in your house every day. If you’re looking for some cool and affordable DIY projects (and tips) for your home, explore this list.

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3. Make some art

I have the advantage of knowing how to use some software that lets me create some pretty fun artwork for my walls, which is great because drawing isn’t always my strong point.

But you can always find a quote that you love, make it look pretty, and hang it. And sometimes, with a nice frame, your doodles can look amazing on your walls, too. Or just spend a day scrapbooking and reliving some good memories.

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4. Grow something

I’ve never really thought about myself as a plant person, but it turns out, I kind of am.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m obsessed with terrariums, and I own an orchid. I also recently bought a lavender topiary on a trip to Nashville. It smells amazing but requires regular trimming.

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But the biggest way I think I just have to expand my plant collection is by growing indoor herbs. There are loads of different kits online and plenty of advice. Fresh herbs are expensive, but they make every meal so much better! I end up throwing a lot of the ones I buy away because they go bad before I can use them all.

Home Herb Pots

Growing your own herbs means you can have a never-ending supply of the ones you use most, and they won’t go bad. I think I will go with mint, cilantro, basil, and rosemary, but you go with what you will use!

And of course, if you’re interested (and don’t live in a tiny apartment), growing a full garden can be amazing. It would be great exercise to work outdoors, and the fresh fruit, veggies, and flowers you get out of it can only add good things to your home.

5. Sew (or knit or crochet or …) something

There are tons of books out there to help you learn these sorts of things, and better yet, lots of free (or cheap) patterns all over the Internet. And nothing else I’ve ever made is as satisfying as the things I can wear. When people ask where they can buy something you made — there’s nothing better!

If you love fashion and want to learn to sew, I have the book for you: Famous Frocks by Sara Alm and Hannah McDevitt.

Famous Frocks Cover

My mom got this for me for Christmas one year, and it has patterns so you can make your own versions of some of the most famous dresses from this century. (They also have a Little Black Dress version!) It is a little pricey at about $20, but you get 20 dress patterns with it. That’s a whole new wardrobe!

Etsy is also the place to go to find cheap, wonderful patterns. For instance, I plan on making a  complete set of these cross-stitch cities from Satsuma Street for adorable nursery art the second my sister-in-law gets pregnant.

3 Pretty Little City Patterns

And there’s no place better for knitting patterns. If you like The Hunger Games movies, this pattern of Katniss’s amazing scarf from Catching Fire was just $5 and took me just 2 days to make:

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Creativity time is my me time. It’s when I get away from the hectic demands of my life and just make something. So the important thing is to take the time to try something new and make something you love!

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Reading and Writing for Your Mind

My Healthy Journey: Reading and Writing for Your Health

Reading for Your Health

I’ve said it before on here, but I’ve always loved reading and writing, and I’m not always very good at making time for it. I read a lot of news but not that many actual books anymore. Funny, because I don’t have any furniture in my apartment, besides the books on books.

Book CollectionAll the books on the floor are going to go on a shelf that’s not here yet… (Tootsie, my dog, was really confused as to why I was taking pictures of this mess.)

It’s been one of my goals to make it more of a priority again. In the past month, I’ve read both Mindy Kaling’s book, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” and Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” (which has really wonderful and funny advice for young women), and I just started Stephen King’s “On Writing,” which makes me want to stop everything and write.

But there are lots of reasons to read and write every day. Rally, our wellness tool, has challenges for just that, so you can make your brain a priority. In one, it challenges you to read for 20 minutes, and in another, to write in a journal every day.

So what’s this doing for your health?

Reading has been shown to slow memory loss, increase concentration, and reduce stress. Not to mention, one study found that reading helped improve your social skills, your ability to understand others and their emotions, and your ability to feel for others. Reading can literally help you treat other people better!

Not to mention that taking 20 minutes a day to read with your kids can make an amazing difference in their education and development.

Read Aloud 15 Minutes InfographicReadAloud.org

Not sure where to start? This 2015 Reading Challenge from Popsugar gives you goals without locking you into a set of books you wouldn’t choose for yourself.

Popsugar's 2015 Reading ChallengeSo far I’ve got a funny book, a memoir, a mystery or thriller, and a book from an author I love that I haven’t read yet checked off for the year. What can you check off?

Writing for Your Health

And there are LOTS of reasons to keep a journal. Don’t believe me?  Here are 101 reasons.

I’ve never been much of a journal writer (my writing brain drifts toward fiction), but as I’ve said here more than once, I love lists.

And that’s the beauty of keeping a journal! There’s always a way to make it work for you. Here are some alternatives to the traditional “Dear Diary” format.

  • Don’t want to write about your feelings? You can keep a journal without it being personal. Keeping a work journal can help you stay organized and productive.
  • A bullet journal helps you organize and categorize your tasks, events, notes, and ideas quickly with lists.
  • Do you want to mix things up in your writing? If you want to paint a picture one day and write fiction or poetry another, there are creative journal tips to help you.
  • If you’re more of an artist than a writer, guess what?! Doodling boosts memory and creativity. And believe it or not, it’s a thing some companies are actually paying to teach their employees. Here’s why, how, and what you should be doodling.

I’ve been keeping a form of a bullet journal in my fitness binder on that handy grid paper I told you about. It’s really just a record of the most important things that happened to me that day that I can easily find later. I use other elements of this in my work to-do list and in organizing things like the social media topics I’ve done in the past. Below is a taste of what mine looks like, or this blog has really good examples of this in action.

Bullet Journal(Don’t mind the ghost talk in the middle there if you can read it. That’s just me noting  a plot idea for a fictional horror story.)

This lets me keep lists instead of trying to write a paragraph about things that don’t need any emotion or explanation. And my favorite part is it helps me organize things like character and story ideas, something I am known for jotting on anything around me until I have a strange collection of crumpled notes on things like napkins, CD sleeves, or even mail.

Head over to Rally, take your health assessment, and start meeting your goals for strengthening your mind!

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