Feed Me

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

Other years, I’ve always included new foods in my list of favourites, but I don’t know if I tried a lot of new things this year. My food favourites this time around have more to do with how I get the food on the table, instead of what the food actually is!

Have a Plan

As I shared in January, I took an online course called “Grocery Budget Bootcamp“, which I loved, and it was super useful for getting me to be more intentional about what we were buying, as well as planning our meals. Taking the course made me realize how much stress can flair up in our home when I don’t have a plan for what we’re eating. I was consistent with planning suppers, but breakfast and lunch were more up in the air, and every single morning, around 11am, Anika (who LOVES to know what the plan is) would ask, “What’s for lunch?” And every day at 11:01am, I would get really grumpy. That may seem ridiculous, but she asked the same (legitimate) question every single day, always in the middle of our homeschooling morning, when I didn’t want to be thinking about food, and it stressed me out. Then she’d get stressed out, because there was no plan, and then everybody was grumpy. By the time we were finished with school for the morning and I had the head space to think about lunch, it was late, and everybody was even more grumpy because they were also hungry at that point. It was a disaster every time, until I finally figured out that all our problems were solved by simply coming up with a weekly menu which included breakfast and lunch. Our mornings went smoother, everyone was happier and less stressed, and we are eating better meals with more variety.

Prep Ahead

The other wonderful thing that happened this last year was that I started making smoothie packs to stick in the freezer. I usually have two green smoothies a day, so every morning and every afternoon, I was cutting and peeling vegetables. It was time consuming, and our cutting boards, knives, and peelers were always dirty. I’d seen the idea of smoothie packs on Pinterest, but I didn’t think it would work for my smoothies, because of the type of vegetables I was using – I’d never heard of freezing cucumbers! Well, it turns out you can! And freezing spinach is SUPER easy – we just buy the huge bags at Costco and put them straight in the freezer. Freezing avocados also works really well, so I was set.

A few major benefits have come out of this – my smoothie can be prepared so much faster now that my freezer is full of smoothie packs, the kitchen doesn’t get as messy, and we can buy all those vegetables at the lowest price. The Grocery Budget Bootcamp taught me the importance of grocery sale patterns – fresh produce doesn’t go on sale super often, but every few months, there will be a sale on cucumbers, peppers, or avocados. When one of those things is on sale, we buy enough to last for one or two months’ worth of smoothies. It’s ended up saving us a ton of money to do it this way, and all it took was a little bit of research to find out which vegetables work well to freeze.

I’ve never explored freezer meals, but this makes me think it’s something I need to look into…

Alright, I want to hear all your tips – what are your best tricks for getting fed in the easiest, fastest way possible? Do you like to have a plan? Prep ahead of time? Give me all the food advice!!

Save

Save

Save

Get Moving

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

This was the year I stopped sitting so much. For anyone who’s been reading my blog for awhile, you are probably aware  that I’ve dealt with a lot of pain in my back and hips over the years, and although I’ve made significant progress recently, it just wasn’t enough. I was still experiencing more pain than I wanted to, and just when I felt as though I was gaining ground, little things would set it off again – sitting too long in the car when we’d drive to the lake for the weekend, or a really bad chair at a restaurant.

When I would express my frustration to my muscle therapist, he would say things like “Bring your own chair!” or “Don’t sit down!” He always had an answer for everything, but it didn’t always feel very practical or doable – how was I going to bring my own chair everywhere?! We finally came up with a solution that’s worked well – I never sit longer than 20 minutes, and when I do sit, I use an Obus Forme cushion. (I have a seat cushion and a back rest – affiliate links) These things are amazing – the first time I sat on one, it felt like my whole body breathed this huge sigh of relief. I was finally comfortable! I can take it with me wherever I need to go. People give me strange looks and wonder what I’m carrying around, but I’m learning to get over that. No back pain is worth suffering on a bad chair, so people can stare all they want. I use it for driving, and around the house as well. My kids are always choosing to sit on it when I’m not, so I’m not the only one who finds it comfy! It’s a great solution for anyone who regularly needs to sit somewhere uncomfortable, or anyone who is wanted to sit with better posture.

Whenever I do sit down, I’ve gotten in the habit of looking at a clock to time myself, and I change position every 20 minutes. I found it interesting to learn that the standing desk craze is not actually the answer to problems with sitting – my muscle therapist explained to me that no position is great indefinitely. We need to change between standing and sitting, and it’s even better if we can stretch and move around. Standing desks are only a good idea if you have a high stool so you can regularly change your position.

The long car rides to the lake in the summer are still tough for me, but if I stretch before we leave, halfway there, and once we arrive, I can keep it under control. So if you’re ever driving to the Whiteshell, and you see someone doing yoga in the ditch, it will be me. Ben takes the kids exploring in the bush, and I work out my stiff muscles on my yoga mat.

exploring/yoga break on the side of the road

Here’s the thing – I’m not the only one who needs to be taking extreme measures. Have you heard the expression “Sitting is the new smoking”? My muscle therapist says everyone needs to get up and move every 20 minutes. Now that my body has gotten used to this habit, it feels horrible to me when I sit for long periods of time. I can’t believe how quickly my muscles tighten up. We weren’t made to sit around for hours at a time, and yet that’s what our culture does. Our world has been built for sitting – restaurants, movie theatres, church, work, school, everything. People just sit, all day long.

Trying to work against this has proven to be really hard for me this last year! It has to always be on my mind, and I need to get creative about it. In the beginning, I used an app on my phone as a reminder. I’ll always choose a seat in the back row so I can switch back and forth between sitting and standing. Ben and I even went to see a movie recently, using the same strategy! Constantly changing position in a movie theatre was a bit of an inconvenience, though – I prefer Netflix at home so I can freely move about as needed! Restaurants are also tough, because there’s not really room for standing, but when there’s a bar stool option (The Keg’s outdoor patio, for example!), the table is the perfect height for sitting or standing! The waitress thought I was weird, and asked if I was alright, but once again, my personal comfort has to come before being “socially acceptable”. And really, what’s it going to take for this to be the socially acceptable way? I like to imagine what life would be like if everyone was making the same effort to stand and move. Maybe someday, public places will- be more standing-friendly, who knows?! Ben is curious if we’ll have standing cars in the future.:)

In the meantime, Ben’s creative problem-solving skills have been very useful in helping me figure out how to take uncomfortable sitting scenarios, and come up with ways to get me moving.

And of course, going for daily walks, yoga before bed in the evenings, and stretching throughout the day are all important habits which greatly increase my comfort, and get me moving.

What are your favourite ways to get active? Does it come naturally to you, or do you need to work at it?

Podcast Favourites

 

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

This was the year of the podcast for me. I’ve been enjoying them for awhile, but this year I started listening to them a lot more – while I’m making supper, cleaning bathrooms, or driving to appointments in the city. There are a few I listen to just for fun and interest sake during the day, and a bunch of church podcasts that I listen to after I do my devotions in the morning, while I’m exercising. It’s such a fantastic way to get my thoughts going in the direction I want them to for the rest of the day.

I use the app Podcast Addict, and at the beginning of the week, I look through all the new episodes from my favourite sources, and download any that sound interesting, so my listening material is ready to go anytime I’m driving somewhere by myself.

Here’s my list of favourites…

For Spiritual Growth:

Bridgetown Church – I have two churches! The one we go to each week, and then Bridgetown! I love, love, love the teaching on this podcast. The sermons are so good! This podcast has helped shape my thoughts on spending time with God and spiritual growth in significant ways this past year. I just finished the series on Prayer, which was fantastic, and before that, I really enjoyed the series “Dealing With Your Past”, “Silence and Solitude”, and “Practicing the Way”.

 

Life Church – I haven’t been listening to this one as much since discovering Bridgetown, but I still really like Craig Groesel’s teaching. “Words to Live By” was fantastic, as well as the “Making Change” series, starting with “Part 1 – Less is More“.

 

 

The Meeting House – Ben and I have been listening to Bruxy Cavey’s teaching for many years now, and I still love it as much as ever. It’s not as easy for me to listen to as Bridgetown or Life Church – I guess there are many different teaching styles, and this is just a bit of a heavier one, but still really good. I recently enjoyed the series called “Simple Minded”, starting with “Part 1 – the Brain That Wouldn’t Die“.

For Fun or Personal Growth:

Chris Loves Julia – This is my favourite podcast, by the couple who writes my favourite decorating blog! I love Julia’s decorating style, so I’ve been reading their blog for a couple of years, but I just started listening to their podcast this last winter, and it’s very funny and entertaining, plus I just love decorating stuff. It’s a fun one! I tried really hard to find a favourite episode, but couldn’t – they’re all interesting to me! I laugh every time. You could try the most recent one: Our Home’s Dirty Little Secrets and Living in the Path of Totality

 

Young House Love – This one’s also an entertaining decorating podcast, with interesting interviews, and I really like hearing about their favourite household finds and stuff they’re enjoying. I’ve listened to every episode, but of course some of my favourites involved decluttering, like Why We Got Rid of Half the Toys in Our House or When Someone You Love Gives You Something You Don’t

 

 

The Minimalists – My friend Natalie got me hooked on this one, when we were doing our decluttering challenge back in February, and it’s very motivating to listen to when I’m cleaning out closets and cupboards, because it just makes me want to get rid of stuff! I’m in the middle of listening to “Overwhelm“, and next up will be the “Shopping” episode!

 

 

Getting Things Done I already linked to this one when I shared about bullet journaling and being efficient about getting things done. The two episodes which got me hooked were Part 1 and Part 2 of David Allen’s Keynote in Milan.

 

 

 

Personality Hacker – This one covers a ton of information about personality type tools like Myers Briggs or the Enneagram. It’s been a huge source of personal growth in my life – I’ll be writing more about that another day, but for now I’ll just say that if you’ve ever wanted to know anything about Myers Briggs, this is a very educational podcost. My recent favourite is: “How to Get Out of a Bad Mood

 

The Road Back to You – This podcast focuses on the Enneagram tool, which I love. I don’t understand it as well as Myers Briggs yet, but I’ve found this podcast (and their book by the same name) incredibly beautiful and healing. It’s made me cry numerous times, because I feel so understood! Deep pain from the past is drawn to the surface and healed when I’m listening to this one! I love it. As far as which episodes to listen to, I would recommend finding out what enneagram type you are, and then listening to any episode that have to do with your type.

 

So much good stuff to listen to! I just love podcasts. I told Ben it’s my new secret dream to do a podcast with him, but he just looked at me blankly and wanted to know what we would talk about. I said I didn’t know, and he said that wouldn’t make a very good podcast, so I guess that’s the death of my dream!!

Do you listen to any podcasts? Share your favourites – I’m always interested in trying something new! Or tell me what kind of podcast Ben and I can do so my dream can live again!?!

Save

Save

Get Comfy

This post is part of a series, sharing my favourite products and discoveries from this last year. (You can find the first post here.) If you have any favourite ideas to contribute, please feel free to comment. Anyone who comments during this series over the next two weeks will have their name entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card. Let us know what you’re loving!

I don’t know if it’s part of aging, or just learning to pay more attention, but I find that I’m increasingly drawn to comfort over style. If I can have both, that’s fantastic, but if only one is an option, it’s getting more and more tempting to go for comfort!!

In my twenties, I would always choose cute shoes over comfort. I would buy the shirts that made me feel stylish, even though I didn’t really like how it felt to wear them. But now, I just don’t care enough anymore. I still want to look nice, but I have to be comfortable – it’s a non-negotiable! I no longer own any heels, there’s only comfortable fabrics in my closet, and I’m much more careful how I shop. It’s worth the extra effort to feel good.

Here are my three favourite comfy purchases of the year:

Toms

I’ve finally found great shoes that work with insoles! I’ve had a really hard time finding good shoes over the years, so these make me happy every single time I put them on. I find the original style of Toms too flat and don’t have enough support for my foot, but I’m loving these:

Wireless Bras

Not sure if any men actually read my blog (besides my dad!), so I apologize to anyone feeling awkward out there, but it needs to be said – underwire bras are a terrible idea. If I think about sticking wire anywhere else in my clothing, it seems like a really dumb thing to do, and yet women do it all the time. Who started this?!

I used to have a really hard time finding anything wireless and comfortable – I remember going into a store, asking where the wireless bras were, and being told they didn’t have any. Fortunately, there are a ton of great options now. Not only are wireless bras A LOT more comfortable, they also allow more lymph flow, and there is some research which suggests that greater lymph flow to remove toxins lowers the risk of breast cancer.

I found two different styles of wireless bras from La Senza which I really love (here and here) – they are outrageously comfortable, stay in place perfectly, and are great for wearing while exercising, which I do throughout the day, so I need an everyday bra that works for whatever activity I’m doing. (There’s even a 20% sale happening online right now!)

Yoga Pants

Okay, I didn’t discover yoga pants just this year, but this was the year I finally ordered multiples of my favourite pair. I was always waiting for the good ones to be clean on laundry day, and wearing uncomfortable stuff in the meantime, until it finally hit me – buy enough pairs of yoga pants so that there’s always a clean pair of my favourites. Nothing fancy, just cheap Old Navy active wear, but these fit me perfectly and I wear them all the time.

We also ordered multiples of Ben’s favourite pair of socks, and my friend does it with her favourite brand of notebook. Figure out what you love, and then get a lot of it! That might sound strange coming from someone who loves decluttering, but I believe in keeping only what you love and use. If you love and use something all the time, get multiples! For me, it’s yoga pants.:)

And while we’re on the topic of yoga pants, have you seen this video? Everybody loves it at our house, especially when Everett sings along and does the little “Oooh” part!:)

What are your favourite comfy clothing items? Any multiplies around your house because you just love them so much?

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Birthday Favourites, a Giveaway, and Getting Things Done

Hey, Friends! Today is the start of my annual little “Birthday Favourites” series, meaning that over the next two weeks, I’m going to be sharing all the fun new things I’ve discovered during the last year.

It’s a tradition my mom started when I was a kid – every year on our birthdays, she’d record everything we loved most at that moment, and we always thought it was fun to look back at how things changed or stayed the same or whatever! It became so much a part of turning a year older that even now, as I’m nearing 40 (gulp!), I still see my birthday as a time of reflection and a little bit of goal setting, too – I love the idea of improving with age, and doing it on purpose! What do I love, and how can I learn, grow, and challenge myself to discover new things which increase my enjoyment in life?

I’ll be sharing what I’ve discovered in the past year (and there are some really good things I can’t wait to tell you about!), but there’s also the opportunity for you to get involved! Every time you choose to share a comment about a product/experience/habit you’re loving right now, your name will be entered in a draw for an Amazon gift card, so you can have the chance to try even more new good things.:) I’ve loved doing this in the past, because hearing new ideas from all of you has been really interesting, and I try as many of your suggestions as possible. As a result, I’ve discovered some of my favorite songs, books, and all kinds of good things. Share the love! Or at least enjoy reading through the comments to find out what others are enjoying.:)

So let’s jump in and get started!

This was the year I discovered the benefits of Bullet Journaling. I’d heard of it many times in the past, and tried it out, but a few months ago, it finally stuck, for the simple reason that I got a specific “special” notebook (different from the kind I usually make my “to do” lists in), just for bullet journaling.

Bullet Journaling is an incredibly flexible way to keep track of your life that can work for pretty much anybody, because you decide what to include. It’s fast and customizable, because you’re using a blank notebook. You start with an index, give every page you use a page number, and add whatever you need. I started with a monthly to-do list – just a quick list of tasks I needed to get done that month. Then I started adding my daily items to check off. But anytime I think of a list I need to make, like blog post ideas, a shopping list, gift ideas, or books I want to read, whatever, I can just add them in anywhere, making sure to add the page number to the index.

Everything goes into one notebook.

I used to have a million little pieces of paper lying around with all the lists I made, but now they’re all in one place.

I’ve kept things pretty basic in my Bullet Journal, but there are tons of beautiful ideas on Pinterest for how to make this as artistic and intricate as you want. The artistic part does appeal to me, but at this point in my life, I don’t really have time for doodling! Someday. In the meantime, this little journal is keeping me on track in ways I’ve never experienced before. I’m a pretty organized person, but it just felt like things would slip through the cracks, and I needed to find a way to keep everything together.

This is the video which first got me interested:

 

There are two other tools I use along with bullet journaling. Evernote became a favourite of mine this past year, because it’s also fantastic for making lists with, and when I don’t have my bullet journal with me, I usually have my phone, and can add stuff to Evernote so I won’t forget anything. I love being able to search Evernote for things I’ve entered, so I can make endless amounts of lists on it but still always be able to find what I’m looking for later. I use it for writing down funny things the kids say, taking notes of messages or podcasts I listen to, information I’m collecting on stuff I’m researching (like price comparisons for products I want to buy or information on new products to try), books I want to read, grocery lists, quotes I love, whatever.

 

The second tool I use which works very well with bullet journaling is the “Getting Things Done” method. I’ve listened to a few of David Allen’s podcast episodes which explain the method, and it’s very easy to implement. There’s also a book about the method, which you can check out here (affiliate link).

David Allen explains that we can only remember about four things at a time, and it’s difficult for our brains to hang on to those things for long, so when we write everything down, we get more done, and feel less stressed because we’re not trying to remember everything. He talks about doing a regular “brain dump”, which simply involves writing down every single thought that crosses your mind, no matter how random it might be. Afterwards, you can go over your list and decide what action needs to be taken. Sometimes it’s an item I need to add to a shopping list. It could be something important I need to add to my to-do list. Or it could be an item I need to pray or journal about. Everything on the list needs to have a place to go where I’ll remember to take care of it.

This method fits perfectly with bullet journaling – I do my brain dump at the back of my journal, then when I’m finished, I go back over every item and add them to the correct list, all in the same notebook. It’s been so practical and effective, I really feel like it’s given me more peace of mind. I’ve reached the point where it feels really uncomfortable to have something in my mind that I’m not writing down – like carrying something heavy that just needs to be set down! I love the feeling of not trying to lug too many thoughts around in my head or feeling concerned that I’ll forget something important!

So those are three of my favourites this year. I’d love to hear how you keep track of things and get stuff done! What makes you feel productive, motivated, and stress-free?:)

 

 

 

Save

Save

Find Joy in the Ordinary

A friend asked me this week if God told me to start a blog. I didn’t know how to answer that – it was one of those things that felt right at the time, but when I look back on it, I see His hand in it. We were living at Red Rock Bible Camp, I had time on my hands, and I’ve always loved writing and photography, so it was a combination of my favorite things.

What I didn’t know was that it would become my accountability – I wanted my blog to be a place that was positive and beautiful, and there would be no complaining online, so if something negative was happening in my life, it made me search for the good. It made me look for the moments that taught me stuff, it was my place to record the smallest things bringing me joy. It taught me to write until I found the positive, and take pictures until I discovered the beautiful.

find joysource

As our kids have gotten older, it’s also become a place for them enjoy the ordinary, everyday stuff – Anika will spend hours reading old posts, and all three kids enjoy looking at the pictures.

Our “Year in Review” videos have always been a favorite for our family. We’ve done one every year since 2011, and on the roughest, grumpiest days of teething, the girls have shown Everett every one, because they make everybody happy around here.

This year, Anika made the video instead of me.:) Once again, I’m overwhelmed by how much can change in a year, and by how beautiful our simple, ordinary little life really is to me. If you ever need reminding of that, put pictures of all your little moments to music, and suddenly life is transformed!

Here’s our latest collection of happiness:

family pictures: Morgan Braun
song: “Better Place”, by Rachel Platten

And for the next time Everett’s teething, here are all the links our other videos: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

3 Goals for the New Year

I have a love/hate relationship with New Year’s Resolutions.

The idea of resolutions is completely fantastic, and something my goal-loving self can easily get carried away with, but I really don’t need another reason to beat myself up over unrealistic expectations. I gave myself a break for many years, and left New Year’s Resolutions behind, but for this year, I’ve come across a few things I can comfortably get behind. Nothing too demanding, and I really don’t even like to call them something as official as “resolutions” – they’re more like little practices I want to add to my life to hopefully bring about growth and greater intention.

1) Five Year Prayer Journal

I don’t journal regularly – more just as the need arises and I have an urge to get things off my chest. I jot notes down when I’m doing my devotions, if there’s something specific I want to remember. But I heard about this idea while listening to a sermon, and I loved it – using a five year journal to keep track of what I’m praying for.

journal

I like it because it’s simple and quick, and a really easy, organized way to look back on how God has been working in my life, sometimes so gradually I don’t even notice. This seems like something which will encourage me to wait on God in a more long-term kind of way, and as I’ve started to fill in the first lines for 2017, I feel a lot of joy and anticipation for how God will answer prayers and surprise me over the next five years. There’s no way to know what will fill those lines, and I’m so thankful He’s brought me to a place where I can eagerly anticipate it, and not be filled with worry or fear about the future. He’s proven His goodness again and again, even during the darkest times, and I know He will do it again.

It’s not too late to start this little habit for the new year, if it grabs your interest! You can order this journal from Amazon by heading over here. (affiliate link)

2) Declutter 2017 Things in 2017

This goal is a little more intimidating, but I’m okay with it because I’ve done it before (in 2015), and am pretty sure I can do it again. Last time, I just made tally marks on a paper, but this time I’ve printed out the chart that keeps popping up on Facebook, and already, I have to say – colouring in those boxes on an official chart is WAY more fun, and very motivating. I let myself get a little head start in December, and I’ve already hit 100 things, so we’re off to a good start!

You can find the chart here.

3) Budget Consistently

We’ve budgeted off and on over the years, but every time we have a baby and go into survival mode, budgeting falls by the wayside. This fall, Ben and I decided to get back on track, and since there should be no more babies, we’re hoping to stay consistent! I’m excited to start this year off fresh. The first few months were for getting a feel for where we’re at and how we’re spending, but now we’ve built up a record of how we spend, and we can work at setting goals.

Three little goals for the new year! Do you have any goals you’re hoping to accomplish? Do share!

Save

Save