Sunday, January 15, 2017

Who Knew You Can Do? Lemons!

It's January in Arizona - citrus time!  I have this great lemon tree that produces far more lemons than I can use, so I've been working on maximizing my use of the lemons for the past couple of years. After all, you can only make so much lemonade regardless of how many lemons life gives you!  Even if you don't have a lemon tree, this is a good time to find inexpensive citrus at the grocery store. 

I'm going to try/demonstrate a few of these (some of these are obvious) and maybe a few new ones, so keep an eye out this week.  Here is my short list of things to do with lemons:

1.  Freeze them.  You can freeze whole or in slices or just the juice.  The only caveat is that they will be mushy when you thaw them, but the juice is just fine.

2.  Clean wood cutting boards - Use a half of a lemon as a scrub, rubbing the lemon juice on the cutting board along with some kosher or sea salt.  Cleans, kills bacteria and smells great.

3.  Clean your microwave - Cut up, put in a microwave safe dish (I use Pyrex) with water and heat in the microwave for 5 minutes.  The mess in your microwave with just wipe right off!

4.  Freshen your garbage disposal - Cut up lemons into bite size hunks (including rind) and throw in the garbage disposal. It will deodorize and smell great.  If you need to clean it a little more, include some baking soda, squeeze out the juice and let it sit in the disposal for a couple of minutes before you turn it on.

5.  Air freshener in the kitchen - Throw a few cut up lemons in a pot of boiling water with cinnamon and whole cloves and then let it simmer - smells great!

6.  Make a facial scrub - This one I am anxious to try, but while you're waiting for my blog post, here is a recipe from Hot Beauty Health.

9.  Make Limoncello - I'm intimidated by this one, so you might not see a blog post on this for about a month or so.  In the meantime, here is a quick recipe from Food Network

10.  Lemon Squares/Bars - Here is my favorite recipe so far.

Finally, I didn't leave room in my top 10 for lemonade, but I'll make sure to include my favorite recipe in another post.  Obviously, there are so many ways to use lemon in cooking so I didn't include any recipes, but remember - those frozen lemons can help you with those recipes all through the year.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

New Year's Resolutions - Keeping It Clean

In the list of New Year's resolutions, right behind losing weight and eating healthier, is keeping the house clean.  Unfortunately, this will be an example of doing what I say and not what I do.  Consistent house cleaning has always been a impossible challenging task for me.

Although I have struggled with maintaining a clean house, I have found a couple of great sources for getting into the habit.  Most systems describe three types of cleaning tasks - daily, weekly and less frequent.  There are variations on this theme, but getting the first two under control is the difference between being overwhelmed or getting it done.  If you are just getting started, find a program that gives you some suggestions about managing daily and weekly tasks.  Make sure whatever you do works for YOU.  You'll find plenty of routines that focus on accomplishing a specific daily task, but you may question why you are cleaning your kitchen sink when you can't walk through your bedroom.  You need to control the cleaning routine - it shouldn't control you..

Remember the rules of learning a new habit because house cleaning routines are perfect examples of habits that need consistency and persistence.  Keep that in mind as you look at these websites.  They have great routines, but it can be very overwhelming as you start.  Figure out your daily routine and try that for a week or so.  Then you can decide how detailed or complicated you want to be.


This was my original exposure to cleaning systems.  She is incredible.  Clean your kitchen sink everyday.  If you aren't ready for the detailed "fly journal," or life overhaul, it's OK, just follow the basics and refrain from the complicated stuff. 

Clean Mama

This is a similar to FlyLady, but maybe just a little more modern.  Do you want some basic ideas to develop your own cleaning routine?  She has them.  Do you want a detailed cleaning routine that tells you exactly what to do and when?  You got it.  Do you want to watch her videos or read her books?  She has that too.

If you are looking for instruction on particular cleaning tasks or how to create your own cleaning routine, the BHG website is awesome.  There are so many suggestions and articles on housekeeping, including cleaning.  It's a little like Pinterest, so be forewarned about the black time hole you will encounter. 

Good luck - and keep it clean out there!


Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Year's Resolution - Be More Charitable

Maybe 2017 is the year you give back.  There is so much personal satisfaction in helping others and making the world a better place.  (I know that sounds corny, but it is true.)  But how do you start?  It's all about time, talent and treasure.


While financial contributions are important, time may be the greatest gift you can give.  If you don't have disposable income or if you just want to give in a more personal way, there are plenty of shelters, food banks, Boys & Girls Clubs and other institutions that are grateful for volunteers.  Your donation of time can be a one-time event or a continuing relationship with an organization that will put your time to a worthy purpose.  Don't limit yourself to the obvious volunteer opportunities!  Don't forget nursing homes, animal shelters, libraries and neighborhood clean up events.  While it might not give you a tax deduction, the personal pride in knowing you have given from your most precious resource might just change your outlook on life.

You might be thinking you should skip this type of charity because you don't have any special talents, but you are most certainly wrong.  While you may not have artistic abilities (although you can volunteer those too), you might have untapped talents that are even more useful.  I have a friend who has a great speaking voice and an understanding of science and math terms.  She volunteers reading and recording text books for the blind.  Perhaps you have some untapped skills that might help others.  Are you an accountant, hair stylist, attorney or outdoor enthusiast?  You can help seniors with taxes, provide salon services at homeless shelters, offer free legal services or volunteer at local parks.  Maybe you could be a Scout leader, train service dogs or teach English as a second language.  If you have a hobby like knitting or sewing, you can use those talents to make things for the needy.  It may take a little more effort to find your talent, but everyone has a talent they can offer to others.

This term might be a little unfamiliar to you, but it's the most common form of charity - giving money.  If you want to contribute to a specific cause, it's easy to find an organization that will accept your donation, whether your passion is animal welfare, disease research, environmental protection or international child relief.  You can also donate to umbrella organizations, such as the United Way, that will spread your money around.  If you belong to a church, your denomination may have a charitable arm that provides humanitarian services worldwide.  There is no limit to the number of organizations that will accept your money.

If you are looking for less traditional opportunities, check out GoFundMe and similar sites that offer unique causes to support.  In doing the research for this post, I visited GoFundMe and was overwhelmed by the sheer number or worthy causes.  What was even more amazing to me was to see the amount of money people contributed to creative grass root causes.  Very cool.

Please remember a couple of points about monetary giving.  If more than 8% of your donation is going to a charity's administrative expenses, you might want to find a more efficient organization.  Also, beware of telephone solicitations, regardless of the worthiness of the cause.  The solicitors frequently take a percentage of your donation as payment.  Finally, don't give out your credit card or bank account information over the phone.  Ask them to send you something in the mail or through email so you can see the website and check to see if it's legit.

Regardless of how you do it, you can make a big difference in the world, one cause at a time.  There is no amount too small, no time too limited or no person who lacks talent to do something special.  Be that person who practices charity and change your life in 2017!


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

New Years Resolutions - Bring God Into Your Life

If you are a believer, you understand the desire to bring God into your daily life.  While you may be accustomed to attending a church on Sundays, spending time with God during the week is more challenging, especially if you don't attend additional services.  Praying can be difficult if you aren't in the habit of doing it, and if you are waiting to "feel" God, you might be waiting for a while.  You can discover God in your daily life, but only if you look for Him.

Believe me when I say I'm not preaching.  This is one of my goals for 2017.  Mother Teresa went through long periods of her life where her walk with Jesus was "dry."  She didn't sense His presence, but she persisted in her prayer life.  It's a matter of habit, so I want to follow my own suggestions to get into the habit of bringing God into my daily life.

I think the most obvious is prayer.  As a Catholic, I have lots of formal types of prayer available to me - the Rosary, novenas, chaplets and many formal prayers.  That does make it a little easier.  But I think the essential part is setting a time every day exclusively for prayer.  There are many places you can get suggestions for how to pray, but generally, you should start with quiet.  Clear your mind.  Then start with praise and honor to God.  It's a little like saying hello.  Next, thank God for your blessings.  It can be mundane or the big things - family, health, life itself.  Only after you have praised and thanked God should you ask for anything.  Don't just ask for yourself - ask for others.

My next strategy will be reading the Bible.  I'm going to try to use a program to do it in a year.  There are multiple websites with suggestions for how to do this and you can find apps to read the Bible to you.  If you want to go deeper, there are countless Bible studies you can do yourself or find a group.  Finally, read some spiritual books.  There are too many to count and they come in all shapes, sizes and beliefs.  Find some that inspire you.

Finally, the best way to bring God into your daily life is just to open the door to Him.  Talk to Him while you're doing your daily activities.  Did you get a green light or a break in traffic?  Thank Him.  Did you lose your keys?  Ask for help.  Pray before meals.  Pray when you wake up and before you go to sleep.  These don't have to be long or complex.  If you're talking to someone all day, you will tend to think about them throughout the day.  God's not just hanging out in the church building.

Please pray for me and I will pray for you.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year's Resolutions - Is It Time for Bed?

Are you getting enough sleep?  Probably not.

Adults generally need 7-9 hours of sleep every night, teenagers need 8-10 and younger children need more than that.  If you're like me, you're not getting close to that much sleep.  As it turns out, sleep is not a luxury, but a necessity to good health and daily functioning.  Sleep deprivation can lead to chronic health problems, including heart disease and diabetes.  The most surprising fact to me is that there is a direct correlation between sleep deprivation and obesity.  So, if your resolution is to improve your health, lose weight and get fit, improving your sleep is a must.

So now that you are resolved to get more sleep, how do you make it happen?  Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Set a bedtime and wake up time and stick to it.  Sleeping in on weekends is OK, but don't overdo it.  "Catching up on sleep" is no substitute for good sleep patterns.
2.  Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool.  White noise machines work very well to block out undesirable noise, such as snoring.
3.  Quality sleep is as important as adequate time.  Try to avoid food and drink (alcohol and cigarettes) for 2 hours before going to bed.  Also, avoid unnatural light (TV, cell phone and computer screens) for 2 hours before bed (whew - that will be tough!)
4.  Make sure you're sleeping on a decent mattress.  Maybe this is the year you invest in a good mattress, especially if you haven't replaced it in the last 10 years.  A bad mattress can exacerbate chronic pain and cause back and neck pain.
5.  If you are taking a vacation, take the opportunity to get your sleep in synch.  Follow that fixed bedtime and sleep without an alarm.  This isn't required, but it might help you get a jump start on your resolution.

Making 2017 the year you improve your health.  Get some sleep!


Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year's Resolutions - Break and Build Habits

This topic had to be the first because you will need the tips here to accomplish most, if not all, resolutions you may make.  Whether you're trying to break a bad habit or acquire a new one, the rules are basically the same.  Effort, especially while you are making a lasting change, is the primary requirement, as well as a commitment to building or breaking a habit.

Use these tips to self improvement through making and breaking habits:

1.  If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.  That might sound a little negative coming as the first suggestion, but you won't be perfect all the time and you need to be ready for that.  Write down your goal - be specific about the habit you are trying to make or break.  When the goal is not specific, there is a tendency to water it down, or add more to the original goal.  You can't win a game if you change the rules in the middle. Finally, have a plan for what happens during a setback. 

2.  Focus on one habit at a time.  Don't try to diet and quit smoking at the same time.  There is actually scientific evidence to show that the human brain only has enough will power to attack one habit at a time. 

3.  Give yourself at least 30 days.  Set a firm date to begin and commit to the entire 30 days.  Set that 30th day as a milestone and not just a vague aspiration.  It takes about 3 weeks for most people to adopt or break a habit.  If you have other behaviors, people or situations that are associated with your bad habit or stand in the way of your new habit, make an effort to avoid them during the time you are trying to make or break a habit.  It might not be realistic to change your commute route permanently, but if it helps break the Starbucks or McDonalds habit, do it for 30 days and give yourself a chance.

4.  Be accountable.  If you keep a record of your progress, it can keep you focused.  Better yet, find an accountability partner who will keep you honest on your progress.  That person will encourage you whether you are progressing or not.  It also makes you more likely to persevere through the 30 days.

5.  Reward yourself.  Sometimes the new habit is a reward in itself, but when your efforts pay off, give yourself something special that you would not otherwise have.  It's a great motivation to start/break another habit!

Regardless of the resolution you make, if it includes a new practice or activity you don't already do, plan on following these steps to a positive change.  Good luck!


Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Resolutions

Let me start by saying I'm not great at New Year's resolutions.  My 2017 resolution is pretty simple -  to make time for things I enjoy.  However, I know many people make significant resolutions or otherwise want to make a commitment to better themselves in a new year.

I've put together some posts this week to offer ways to choose a resolution or succeed in many common resolutions.  I've scoured the internet for the best tips and information (and added a few of my own).  This week, Straddling the Gap is your New Year's Resolution Central!

First, let's start off with a short list of worthwhile resolutions (just in case you need one).  I will be writing more detail about some of these this week:

1.  Improve your sleep.
2.  Improve your fitness level
3.  Change your diet
4.  Break a bad habit
5.  Start a cleaning routine
6.  Simplify your life
7.  Make (and stick to) a budget
8.   Be more charitable
9.  Organize your life
10. Incorporate God into your daily life

Whatever your resolution(s), make 2017 different and special.