Do you ever get in a food slump and find yourself cooking and eating the same thing week after week? We are! Couple that with multiple friends encouraging us to buy supplements because "surely no one gets enough recommended fruits and vegetables" and my slump has peaked. Time to improve!
|Err... no, thanks.|
Rather than spend $120/month for dry capsules, this summer my family and I are going to try 26 diverse healthy recipes in 13 weeks costing only two hours per week and adding nearly nothing to our regular food bill, plus we will reap the benefits of the real whole foods. Join us!
|I don't know what this is, but it sure looks yummy... let's begin!|
- Start with a healthy recipe website. I love the American Council on Exercise Kid-Friendly recipe database which is also conveniently alphabetically sorted for your two letters a week (A/B, C/D, E/F, etc). I also love Food Network and Taste of Home healthy sections.
- Plan: Pick a day of the week when you will dedicate two hours total to plan, shop, and prep your meals. Although store ads come out on Wednesday, our least committed day of the week is Tuesday. Tuesday it is!
- Prep: Write down the designated alphabet letters on each week to stay on track. Internet search or have your kids build a list of foods they already enjoy for each letter (Apple, Asparagus, Apricot, Avocado, Bananas, Blueberries, Broccoli, Cantaloupe, Cabbage, Corn, Carrots, etc).
- Commit: When the date comes up, hop on the ACE Kid-Friendly Recipe website and choose your two recipes for the week, such as Apple Cider Chicken and Black Bean Croquettes with Fresh Salsa. Simplify: the prep time should be under one hour and most of the ingredients should be items your family already enjoys.
- Print your recipe: Keep it available on your fridge from the entire week
- Search your pantries to check you have all necessary ingredients and quantities
- Add missing items to your grocery list for your ONE weekly trip to the store
- Note the prep and cook time on the recipe so you can make and eat it during your day
- If you like the recipe: YAY! Make notes on any ingredients changes you'd make next time and store it.
- If you dislike the recipe: Toss the copy in the recycle bin and gear up for the next alphabet letters.
Special Tip: Find only two recipes in advance. Your tastes, needs, and recipe variety will change throughout this challenge and soon your diet will have vastly improved.
- Use your grocery ads to talk about cost vs. nutrient density of various foods with your kids; remember weight when evaluating cost (especially on boxes, bags, and cans vs. whole food per pound).
- Practice reading food labels and comparing ingredients of foods in the store.
- Shop at a new local grower's market and try up to three seasonal items per visit.
- Read comments beneath recipes to learn quick new prep, cooking, and storage techniques.
- Save time by organizing your kitchen by function: such as breakfast prep (bowls, spoons, cups, breakfast items), cooking (saute pans, cutting boards, knives, spatulas, herbs), baking (muffin and cookie sheets, mixing bowls, measuring spoons, parchment paper, cooking spray), and storage (containers, clips, labels, pens, food pantry cans, boxes, bags, and canisters).
Check out these wonderful charitable fitness events, dance classes, and performances this April and May at www.meganmerchant.com. All events below are located in Albuquerque unless stated otherwise. If you have a local event we missed, email me and we will add it to our post. Let's get fit and dance, New Mexico!
April 26 - May 5
Carlisle Gym, UNM Main Campus
Warm-Up with NMSW at 7:00 AM
May 10 and 11
Coppelia, Creation of the World and Other Dances
May 10 and 11, 7:30 PM
Santa Fe, NM
Skip to the end for some fun St. Patrick's web links.
6. Use halved green grapes or kiwi slices for your green row.
Rainbow Mexican Dip: Same layout as above but with Veggies
St. Patrick's Day Fun Websites
DLTK Growing Together
Coloring Book Fun
The Kidz Page
Share your favorite St. Patrick's Tips:
Procrastination is not in itself evil, and bless the American Dream, it can even be slightly fun in the moments when all your work is complete and the choice is yours to be lazy for an hour or two. But the events that evolve from putting things off that can be severely detrimental: low activity leads to lower energy levels, not speaking with family for years adds to depression, missing deadlines leads to higher occupational stress...
This cycle can easily be broken NOW. Here's how:
1. Take 5 minutes now to contact a family member or friend that you often find yourself wondering about. These are individuals that would give you thoughts of regret if they passed away and you never said goodbye, you had a silly fight with at some point, or you wish to call but you also never pick up the phone to reach out to. Ask yourself if not being in touch for the remainder of your lives is worth exchanging for a 5 minute phone call today: a priceless use of your time.
2. Believe in yourself and your ability to be on time. It's really that simple. Procrastination can also occur from poor task prioritizing: easily fix this by writing a simple to-do list.
3. Complete the valuable task another has been waiting for. Write a list of immediate tasks that would make a significant impact on another: look at and talk to a child for ten minutes, spend an hour tonight on a family dinner rather than getting take out, complete a project a coworker needs you to finish. Accomplishing tasks for others demonstrates you are the person others can rely on and wish to be around.
4. Make a list of things you are waiting for, and then ask for them. Someone once said "Only ask of others what you expect of yourself." If you accomplish #2 and 3, you are allowed to ask the same from others. Inquire about their lengthy situation because perhaps you can offer help to get the job done.
In the sad event you must be patient and wait for others...
Rather than dwell, go back to #1- 3 because there will always be things in your life to achieve. Add them to your list, enjoy the process of the task, and happily check them off when completed: this always feels more amazing than hanging around.
Psst: Be sure to read the secret tip and add your comments at the end...
Psychological Wellness: Make a list of all the unique things that make you happy. A conversation with uplifting friends, positive books and magazines, spiritual practices, or writing in a journal. When your stress feels overwhelming, pull out this list and engage in these activities until you feel in a better place in your heart and mind. My brother-in-law gave us the book The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Perfect Marriage as a wedding gift. After 13 years of marriage and two children, it has recently become my new best friend offering a little help on everything!
Spiritual Wellness: The time of year, weather, and mood of your home can have a large impact on your birth and mothering experience. Create music play lists you and your baby can enjoy: I loved classical for resting and the Beatles to lift my spirits. Reaffirm your strength as a new mom and the wonderful benefit your time is to your new baby and your partner just by being present and content in this new lifestyle.
Physical Wellness: In the final month of pregnancy, utilize a pedometer and write down your weekly step totals. After delivery, use these baseline numbers as starting points and add 10% additional steps per week until you bring your activity back up to healthy levels, around 7500-10K steps per week. Your sleep will be altered to 2-4 hours chunks so allow your physical activity to be 5-10 minutes segments. Focus on rebuilding your posture and a strengthening your core (hips, butt, thighs, and back) and carrying your baby on alternate sides of your body to avoid muscle imbalance. Pack your freezer with healthy soups, casseroles, cooked/diced meats and sliced/shredded cheeses, frozen fruits and veggies, and have healthy snacks on hand in the pantry. Practice disease prevention such as hand-washing and vaccinations as recommended by your team of physicians.
Interpersonal/Social Wellness: You never know when an emergency will arise so having a clear contact list at your fingers tips puts you at great ease. Include names and numbers of doctors, family, neighbors, and close friends, emergency room times and locations including nurse hot line and poison control contacts, and insurance numbers, blood type, and allergy information of immediate family members. Then simply add your baby's notes when they arrive, such as eating/sleeping/bathing/diapering routines and favorite songs and soothing techniques. Now send gratitude notes to everyone on your list regularly. Your loved ones can get lost in the process and you can never say "I love you, thank you!" often enough.
Environmental Wellness: Splurge on clothing that makes you feel amazing as your body rapidly changes. Have a cleaning party before and after your baby arrives to feel organized and prepared on both ends. Purchase needed newborn items such as a car seat and sleep space, diapers and first aid, but use your extra time in the first three months to deal with plugs in outlets, gates and bumpers, and safety tools for when your baby is up and walking later in the first year. Allow yourself to be flexible about trying breastfeeding and natural diapers but know formula and disposables were created for a reason. Check out my freebie home schedule to stay on top of your to-dos in the coming months.
Financial Wellness: Review your insurance policy for the different expenses associated with different birth procedures. Know what each of your monthly expenses and assets add up to and avoid the cravings to buy unneeded baby items. If you include fun spending be sure those purchases enhance you and your family, such as cleaning services, healthy meals, active events, and life-improving experiences. If an item does not fit that criteria be glad you saved your money for a larger purpose.
Occupational Wellness: Make a plan for work but allow yourself flexibility and back-up plans if you decide you need additional time healing or being a mom. Have names of people that can fill your roles during your leave and forgive yourself if you are not "super mom" and able to do it all. This time is short: enjoy it in the manner that fits your supportive family and surroundings.
Intellectual Wellness: Career work or not, our adult brain loves new and thought-provoking information. Take an outing to a museum or library, or take a free online class while your baby sleeps most of the first three months. Finding time for your own intellectual stimulation will keep you mentally refreshed and sane.
It is a RED FLAG if you find yourself asking for something more than twice, such as:
- If your nurse tells you for the third time to "bear down and push" and you continue to push incorrectly, perhaps it is because your baby's head is backwards and you are about to break your tailbone.
- If your anesthesiologist needs a third attempt to correctly insert your epidural drip, perhaps you need to demand a new anesthesiologist or you may have a spinal leak and need a blood patch to stand vertical again.
- If you request for your spouse to help you for a third time on a diaper, feeding, or screaming event, consider first changing your tone to something a bit more endearing or take care of it yourself... just this once.
To all moms reading this now, share your tips.
XO - Megan
It's time for extra LOVE again! Valentine's: a day to say "I love you" to as many people as possible and spread gratitude and thanks for those that enhance your life. Here's an update on two of my favorite ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day.
1. Make a Play List for YOU: It is so nice to have your favorite songs on hand for a rainy day or yucky chores. Any time you hear a great song, keep a running list in your bag, your car, or beside your radio. When you have 7-10 songs, download them and burn a cd. Here’s my list this month:
2. Chocolate Shaped Gifts: Use the super easy recipe below to make and deliver your own box of treats and KNOW what it is made of. Kids love to help make this very fast and simple recipe. Make heart shapes for happy days and other shapes for special occasions: bunnies or eggs for Easter, flags or balls for summer, diplomas or caps for graduates, baby bottles for new moms, leaves and pumpkins for fall… This year we went solid chocolate and added some sweet sprinkles, YUM!
For 8-10 Treats
Roast fresh nuts to enhance flavor in a single layer on a cookie sheet at 375 F for 5-10 minutes. Remove and cool on the sheet. Meanwhile, put a small pot on the stove at med-low. Add chocolate pieces and 1 tsp Crisco; stir occasionally until melted, then remove from heat. If desired, stir in nuts and dried fruit.
Place filled chocolate shapes into the fridge 1-2 hours to set, then pop out of molds and bag for gifts. Keep in the fridge until ready to eat or share, set out in advance for easy cutting and biting into.
6 Ways to Valentine Daily (or Fix a Bad One)
This morning as I struggled with my thoughts about this potential change, which has taken longer than the time required to make a child and for which we have completed every required task and are awaiting the employer's decision, these lyrics from Phillip Phillips song "Home" fill my mind:
Settle down, it'll all be clear.
For other families in transition, here are some POSITIVE statistics.
The NCSL, National Conference of State Legislatures, posted in Dec 2012:
- "Unemployment continued to drop across the states, as 45 states and the District of Columbia saw their jobless rates decline in November 2012. Unemployment rates remained unchanged in five states and Puerto Rico. There were no increases in unemployment in any states in November. That is the first month without an increase in a single state since the recession began in 2007.
- Job growth continues to fuel the recovery. North Carolina added the most jobs, with more than 30,600 new positions, followed by Florida, with 24,500 new jobs and Texas, which saw more than 22,100 new jobs created. Nevada continued to lead the states with the highest unemployment rate, at 10.8 percent, but that is a marked improvement for the state, which saw unemployment hovering near 15.0 percent at the height of the recession. North Dakota again registered the lowest unemployment among the states, at 3.1 percent."
On the final business day of October 2012, the JOLTS, Job Opening and Labor Turnover survey, showed 3.7 million US job openings, with the affect of Hurricane Sandy on this study undetermined.
In this new year, which job will you make your home?
|1980: Baby Me, Mom, Big Sister, Dad|
Enjoy; may you create and record memories with your loved ones today and every day.
Letter from My Heart
We recently completed a week on communication skills and relationship development in my UNM-Valencia "Fundamentals of Human Sexuality" course where I posed the discussion topic:
A majority of the class responded yes in terms of being patient listeners and felt they gave strong and effective feedback. But they also all agreed that they did receive criticism well. Why might this be so?
Here is my personal experience with some unwanted, but life-changing, criticism:
When I was completing my undergrad in Dance over a decade ago, we were required to take Choreography, as well as each of the eight terms, write two papers on two performances giving our own feedback of other's works.
During my second year I was creating my 1st lyrical solo piece for the spring student dance concert and could not wait to share it with the choreography class. The music I chose was Ray Charles' "Georgia on my Mind" and the lighting rose and set like a sun on the horizon. I wore a long, sleeveless lavendar lycra dress that subtly reflected the light. The theme was the beauty of rising in the morning, enjoying and experiencing the day, and peacefully nodding off to sleep to repeat it all again.
During the class rehearsal, the flooring was an old basketball court (Carlisle Gym's South Arena prior to the theatre renovation) and I had myself with my lavendar dress and single song. The closing applause was supportive and my relief auditory. When the circle of feedback began and you couldn't wipe the smile off my face. I felt I had nailed it all.
Darn it all, he was spot on. My huge oversight was embedded in my song choice. I could use the instrumental version, but everyone can agree Ray Charles IS the song. I could except the lyrics and make up a story about traveling to Georgia, I could have been a girl named Georgia, but that just wasn't in my nature. His criticism was unnerving because for this moment in time, I deemed it unalterable.
And that is how my unaltered piece went. I loved the performances and then explained individually to hundreds of people afterward that "No, I am not from nor do I have a story to share about Georgia. Sorry."
Fast forward ten years later: I NEVER choose a song without listening to every single word and confirming that it agrees with the intention, definition, and explanation of the population I'm presenting it to and with the content I'm adding to it. I am so grateful for the feedback.
I deeply value choosing the right song for events like "March for Babies" with March of Dimes, an audience over a thousand that is all connected to someone's story of birth, premature death, and complications of it all, but most importantly the joy of working to make things better for the next generation of families. Certainly not on my radar as a young undergraduate.
The crux of criticism: There is usually nothing to be done for the event in which you receive a critique. The benefit comes in how you make changes to your future.