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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Tips for Exercising with Young Children During the Pandemic

Tips for Exercising with Young Children During the Pandemic

The pandemic changed our daily routines. One of the most difficult for us is that our youngest son's preschool has been closed. He misses his friends and the routine. It's not easy to work, care for children, and find much free time. We've struggled like everyone else. In today's post, I'll share one thing that has worked well for us -- integrating our preschooler into exercise routines so that we all have fun and grow together.  I'll also tell you about our favorite brand of running shoes and clothing -- ASICS! This is a brand that we have loved for over 20 years!

Let me start by sharing something fun that I recently learned -- ASICS offers shoes for preschoolers. Our little Mini Me feels like a runner like us when he wears his ASICS Contend 6 PS shoes! These shoes are fantastic because they are designed to provide comfort and support for growing children. As a parent, one thing that I've never skimped on is shoes for my children because I think that good support impacts their growth and well being. These ASICS running shoes are fantastic because they have several features that provide comfort and support. They use AMPLIFOAM™ technology in the sole is also there to cushion every stride.  The midfoot of the shoes is tailored to preschoolers so that they are able to keep moving with comfort. The outsole uses durable materials and reinforcement around the toe for long lasting comfort and protection. These shoes are unisex and come in a variety of colors. My preschooler seems very comfortable in his little ASICS Contend 6 PS shoes!

Of course, if you follow regularly, you know that my husband and I wear ASICS shoes for running. We put a lot of miles on our shoes and count on ASICS for comfort and durability. My husband current uses ASICS GEL-NIMBUS 23 shoes and I wear ASICS GEL-NIMBUS 22 shoes

These shoes have the same iconic GEL technology for extra comfort, cushion, and shock absorption that we've become accustomed to with the GEL-NIMBUS line of running shoes. The FLYTEFOAM technology in the midsole makes a big difference for extra spring in our steps. Of course, the good quality design and materials make a big difference in the life of the shoes too. 

We also love ASICS apparel as you will notice in photos throughout this post.  My husband has a favorite pair of running pants that he frequently wears -- ASICS Men's Tokyo Sportwear Tapered Pants. They are made from an interlock fabric that is soft and provides premium comfort. The pants have woven overlays to protect against the elements which is great at this time of year.

A couple of my favorite ASICS apparel items include the ASICS Race Pant and ASICS Accelerate Jacket.  The pants have a tailored fit that's functional for various weather conditions. I also appreciate the drawcord waste tie for adjustability. These pants have been perfect for the recent cold and rainy weather. The jacket is also perfect for the cool weather. I tend to go on runs at night, so  the reflective bars on the sleeve cuffs and back that support 360-degree visibility for low-light conditions is great.

Now that I've shared some of our favorite family friendly athletic items, let me share our tips for exercising with young children during the pandemic!

Tips for Exercising with Young Children During the Pandemic

1. Morning walks with counting.

Our preschooler wakes up between 5 and 5:30am.  He wakes me up and we go on a walk through our neighborhood with a flashlight to count different items. At Halloween, we counted pumpkins on porches. Around Christmas, we counted wreaths and he did a ten second silly dance every time we found ten wreaths. (We averaged 30+ per walk. Our neighbors love their wreaths!)  Right now, we count dogs and he does a silly dance every time that we find ten dogs. It's a good routine to practice counting and encourages a habit to keep moving. My son has a lot of enthusiasm for our morning walks!

2. Reverse curls aka airplane rides.

My little one loves airplane rides. Lay on your back with your knees bent and put your child on your legs while carefully holding onto them while their arms stick out like airplane wings. You then gently lift your legs up and down for their airplane ride.  My husband and I take turns doing repetitions of airplane rides with our son.  (Disclosure - Some preschoolers may be too heavy, wiggly, or wild to make this exercise work for you. We couldn't do this exercise with our older son, but it works with our preschooler! We do 10 reps at a time with our little guy and encourage him to practice counting.)

3. Dance parties.

Turn on your child's favorite music and dance to get your heart rate up. Our preschooler's eyes light up when we ask if he wants to have a dance party! Depending on the weight of your child, dance independently or pick them up for 30 second intervals for an extra challenge.  Our son loves using props such as a magic wand that he pretends is a microphone or little toys that light up. 

4. Scavenger hunt runs.

Put your preschooler in a jogging stroller, give them a visual scavenger hunt sheet, go on a run, and have them cross out the images on their scavenger hunt sheet as you run.  Our preschooler isn't able to read yet, so we put pictures on his scavenger hunt sheet. Examples include a brown dog, blue bird, brown bird, lake, birdbath, stop sign, white front door, and other items that we will see along our route.

5. Speed clean with dusters and wipes.

My son loves speed cleaning so much that his teachers have commented in the past that he has always been the first to help when it is time to clean up. He would help to wipe the tables clean after crafts, lunch, or anything else. He lights up when he sees a container of disinfecting wipes.  It's the funniest thing.  I'm pretty sure that this stems from our speed cleaning sessions. We play music and use dusters to clean baseboards and disinfecting wipes to clean tables, scuffs on the floor, and anything else.  Speed cleaning with fun music is not only great exercise to keep your child moving, but it may also help to cultivate a good attitude toward cleaning for your child.  

6. Stuff animal toss game. (Tossing the trash)

If you follow regularly, I've mentioned this game before. It's a family favorite for us and provides a serious workout. You put a piece of tape on the ground and place stuffed animals and/or pillows on the line. When it is time to start, each team stays on their side of the line and tries to get all of the stuffed animals and/or pillows onto the other team's side. For extra fun, my kids love to yell, "Tossing the trash!"  I think that this game will surprise you because it is a good workout. Plus,  your child's giggles are priceless during this game!

7. Visit a park.

We spend a lot of time at home during the pandemic. When our preschooler goes stir crazy, a change of scenery often helps. We live near a couple of parks that are usually quite empty. When we have encountered other families at the parks near us, they have been kind and considerate.  We just wave from a distance to greet them and then walk a lap or two around the park. Then they have happily turned the playground over to us. We've done the same for others. I don't know if this is a national trend, but it seems to be common where we live.

8. Create a laser maze with crepe paper.

Your little one may have an advantage with this exercise.  We string crepe paper between railings to create a pretend laser maze. The goal is to get through the maze without touching the crepe paper.  You may adjust the difficulty of the maze to involve jumping, army crawling, balancing in positions to plan a next move, and more! Of course, your little one's size may give them an advantage.  Our preschooler will play this game for hours on end!

9. Run like Mom and Dad!

Our preschooler loves to mimic us.  We take advantage of this phase by encouraging him to go on runs with us.   He isn't able to run for 20 minute straight, so we run and walk in short intervals to help keep him moving. We run for a few minutes, walk for a few minutes, and repeat. We give lots of encouragement and follow his lead so that it's fun for him.

10. Stretch and count together.

Teach your little one to count while you stretch together. We take turns counting. Our son used to be able to count to 3, so he would start. I would finish by adding 4 and 5.  He was then able to count to 5, so then I would add 6 through 10. Now he is able to count to 8, so I add 9 and 10.  This is a fun way to teach your children healthy stretches and practice counting before they begin kindergarten!

I hope that you enjoyed this peek into our pandemic exercise routines.  I know that it's not easy to work from home while taking care of children.  I hope that some of the activities work out for your family!

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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

(Win it!) Visit Skinnytees for Trendy Clothing this Valentine's Day!


Valentine's Day 2021 may be different due to the pandemic this year.  I think that most people will enjoy a cozy celebration at home. Whether you are going out or staying home, dressing up in a new outfit is always uplifting! skinnytees has trendy clothing that you'll love for Valentine's Day! In today's post, I'll share a few items that we love and you'll have the opportunity to enter for a chance to win your own animal print top!

Animal prints and sequins are popular for Valentine's Day this year.  We love combining attention grabbing tanks with cardigans for Valentine's Day 2021. skinnytees has an impressive selection that covers these trends.  This is a brand that I love because the designers are perfectionists that pay meticulous attention to detail.  Let me start by sharing a snippet about skinnytees:

"skinnytees, the diet you wear started as a collection of tanks and tops for fun, flirty and fabulous women. Launched in 2009 by fashion industry veteran Linda Schlesinger Wagner, skinnytees was created to quell women’s most essential need and hardest fought fight… the search for the “perfect top!” The line began with just a handful of colors and one simple but perfect one size fits most camisole. Soft, seamless and fitted, skinnytees shape, flatter, and frame the body whether worn alone or layered. It stays put and keeps you covered when bending over or reaching up! With more than 120 colors and prints and over 60 styles sold worldwide including tanks, tees, bralettes, bandeaus, dresses, active-wear, leggings, and cardigans - skinnytees fits any occasion.
skinnytees is a brand for all women, all ages, all sizes, from day to night, work out to work, pregnancy to post baby and everything in between.
And that’s…..THE SKINNY!"

You'll also love that skinnytees helps many causes to help other women. (Check out a list of their philanthropy contributions here!) They've helped a variety of causes that are close to my heart such as helping women who have had breast cancer, encouraging children in need to dream big, hosting a Mother's Day event for families in need, and more. Since Valentine's Day is all about love, it's nice to know that when you order from skinnytees that you are supporting a brand that shares love with others!

My favorite shirts for Valentine's Day 2021 include an Animal Print Tank or the Silk Sequin Top combined with a Short Open Front Cardigan. Before I show you the tops though, let me show you how the skinnytees company is all about perfection from beginning to end. Most companies send clothing in a plastic bag. It's functional and works, but not exactly a special touch.  My skinnytees package had multiple layers where you'll notice attention to detail. The items were wrapped in tissue paper with a bow and included a "Thank You" card.  

I removed the pretty tissue paper and bow to find a reusable tote.

I removed the reusable tote to find the items that I ordered and a bonus water bottle.  I love when companies pay meticulous attention to detail for a nice customer experience.  Who wouldn't love this fabulous unboxing experience?!

The items in my order were similarly fabulous. It was very clear that the designers paid careful attention to every detail and focused on quality at each step of the design. The Animal Print Tank offers a twist on their incredibly comfortable and flattering tank thanks to the different animal print pattern options. There are several options as shown below, including everything from leopard print to snake skin patterns as shown below. 

    My favorite thing about this top is that it is super comfortable and that the animal print is easy to combine with different looks such as jeans, black pants, or a skirt. I also love that it is nice to layer with a cardigan. That brings me to the next item - the Short Open Front Cardigan! This lightweight cardigan is a wardrobe essential that offers versatility. It's nice to where layered and is a nice cardigan to wear casually or dressed up. It's perfect for Valentine's Day and versatile for the rest of the year.

    Finally, the Silk Sequin Top is another item that is gorgeous for Valentine's Day. It's beautiful to pair with a skirt, but also versatile to wear with jeans or other casual looks throughout the year. 

    We hope that skinnytees gives you inspiration for Valentine's Day! Even if you are staying home due to the pandemic, it's uplifting to order new clothing to feel special.  I hope that you have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

    Win it!

    Two lucky winners will each receive their choice of a skinnytees Animal Print Tank in either regular or plus size! Enter using the Rafflecopter below. The winner will have 72 hours to respond to our email with their address. Otherwise, we will select a different winner. Good luck!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway
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    Tuesday, January 19, 2021

    Check Out the List of 2021 Girl Scout Cookie Varieties!


    The 2021 Girl Scout Cookies are here! This is one of my favorite times of the year because it's wonderful to see people supporting the entrepreneurial spirit of young girls, especially here in Texas! In today's post, I'll share the 2021 Girl Scout Cookie lineup, a sweet idea for Valentine's Day, and a link so that you are able to search for a Girl Scout Cookie Booth near you! 

    We feature the Girl Scout Cookie lineup every year because we know that this program provides financial support and entrepreneurial experiences for local girls. You may not know this, but 
    Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas serves more than 10,000 girls in our region each year. The region covers 23,000 square miles, beginning north of Waco and extending to the Oklahoma and Louisiana state lines. 100% of the net revenue from cookies remains with Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas to help our local girls. When you buy cookies, you help to support their activities which may include a variety of things such as STEM activities, leadership activities, or other skill-based activities with their local troops. In some cases the funds even support sending the girls to camps!  

    Girls view themselves as leaders and entrepreneurs. They may think about their business strategy and put many hours into their cookie sales which may provide confidence and foster their interests in business pursuits. They see outcomes!  Hard work translates to success which is a real motivator for many girls.  Many small acts of kindness to support the girls add up quickly! I read that over half (53 percent) of female entrepreneurs and business owners are Girl Scout alums – like local business owners Andrea Meyer of Bisous Bisous P√Ętisserie and Nina Vaca of Pinnacle Group – supporting Girl Scouts as they make sales and learn essential business skills is imperative to ensuring our country has a strong workforce and economy.   

    The 2021 Girl Scout cookies lineup for the Dallas and Fort Worth metro includes:
    • Trefoils
    • Tagalongs
    • Do-si-dos
    • Samoas
    • Thin Mints
    • S'mores
    • Lemon Ups
    If you live in the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas (GSNETX) region, the photo below shows the fantastic variety of cookies available in our region. The cookies are $5/box for general and $6/box for specialty cookies.

    The timing of Girl Scout season is perfect for Valentine's Day. For instance, my family loves the Thin Mints and Tagalongs, so I use a stencil and dust powdered sugar hearts onto the cookies. Let me share this easy DIY project!

    DIY Girl Scout Cookies Dusted with Powdered Sugar Hearts
    • 1 box of Thin Mints
    • 1 box of Tagalongs
    • 2 Tablespoons of powdered sugar
    • 1 piece of parchment paper
    1. Fold a piece of parchment paper in half and cut out the shape of a heart.  
    2. Place the stencil tightly over a cookie.
    3. Sift powdered sugar onto a cookie. 
    4. Carefully remove the stencil to reveal the heart. 
    5. Optionally dust extra powdered sugar onto the cookies after you finish the hearts!

    Not only are the cookies delicious, but you'll also make a difference in the lives of young girls who are building their leadership abilities. It's a win-win opportunity to share love with hopeful Girl Scouts and your family! 

    If you would like to support Girl Scouts in Texas,  find a local cookie booth near you by 

    • Find a cookie booth. Locate a Girl Scout Cookie sale in your community by entering your zip code in the “Find Cookies!” tool.
    • Download the app. Looking for cookies on the go? Download the Girl Scout Cookie Finder app for your iOS and Android devices. 
    • Order cookies online. Do you know a Girl Scout? Ask her if you can buy your cookies from her online site using the Digital Cookie® platform!

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    Sunday, January 10, 2021

    Create Happy Memories at Gaylord Texan's WinterFest 2021! #gaylordtexan #winterfest

    The new year is finally here!  If you are ready to create new memories in 2021, you'll love WinterFest at Gaylord Texan!  Their brand new WinterFest activities are perfect for everything from a special date night to a family getaway.  Plus, you'll find that they have fantastic prices on hotel rooms at this time of year. In today's post, I'll share an overview of the memorable activities and then tell you about our experience.

    WinterFest offers a wide array of family-friendly experiences from Cool Critters Animal Encounters and a Jack Frost Scavenger Hunt to a Winter Art Studio and Illusionist Shows featuring award-winning magician, Jason Bishop. Events and activities will take place Fridays through Sundays. Event tickets can be purchased at GaylordTexanTickets.com.

    Socially distanced WinterFest activities are on Fridays through Sundays (Jan 8 to Feb 28) and include:

    • Jack Frost’s Frigid Finds Scavenger Hunt - Searching for “frosty” clues throughout our resort atrium to solve the scavenger hunt and receive a prize.
    • A Winter Art Studio – Bringing your inner artist to life while creating a wintry-themed masterpiece.
    • Cool Critters Animal Encounters - Interacting with and learning about a variety of incredible winter creatures.  
    • Winter Escape Rooms - Challenging you to race against the clock while you unlock clues and solve puzzles before the time runs out.
    • Additional wintry-themed activities
      • Family-favorite movie showings on the big screen 
      • Interactive trivia
      • Bingo 
      • Strolling entertainment throughout the resort. 

    Live and socially distanced entertainment includes:

    • Illusionist Shows - Wowing visitors with show-stopping magic and grand illusions performed by famed entertainer, Jason Bishop. (Fridays – Sundays, January 8 – February 28)
    • Four Day Weekend – Interactive comedy improv shows performed by this nationally recognized and critically acclaimed comedy troupe. (January 15 – 16 & February 19 – 20)
    • Britain’s Finest Band – Featuring all the songs we know and love with a complete Beatles tribute. (January 29 – 30)
    • The Pack – Tribute to Frank, Dean and Sammy – Go back in time with the music, style, glitz and glamour of the legendary Rat Pack. (February 12 & 13)
    • The Garth Guy – Enjoy classic country favorites from the ultimate Garth Brooks Tribute show. (February 26 – 27)

    In celebration of WinterFest, the resort is offering several room packages that allow visitors the opportunity to combine experiences with their resort stay at a discounted rate, starting at $209. Room packages are available at GaylordTexan.com.

    In our personal experience, the Gaylord Texan's WinterFest was a much needed escape from our daily pandemic lives. We stayed on a Saturday night to enjoy several activities, including family friendly programming and the Illusionist show with famed entertainer, Jason Bishop.  

    Let me start by addressing a question that may be on your mind -- Does the resort take COVID-19 safety measures? The answer is Yes!

    We've visited a few times during the pandemic and have always been impressed with their dedication to cleanliness and social distancing measures. As the safety of its guests and STARS (employees) is of paramount importance, WinterFest events have been developed in accordance with Marriott’s “Commitment to Clean” program and with enhanced protocols and social distancing measures. Programming also operates in consideration with the latest local, state and federal legislation. Let me share a few examples.

    Our hotel room was thoroughly cleaned. They even thought to leave hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes in our room.

    They placed a generous number of hand sanitizer stations throughout the hotel.

    The resort was very clean and other guests were respectful of social distancing and wearing masks during our visit. (I know that this was a long answer to the question - Does the resort take COVID-19 safety measures?  However, I thought that I should share because I know that it is an important question and that not all places are as thorough as Gaylord Texan.)

    Now that I shared our experience of how they made us feel safe, let me share more details about the activities that we enjoyed. We checked into our room after 4pm and then followed this agenda:

    • Cool Critters Animal Encounters
    • Bingo
    • Trivia
    • Illusionist Show with Jason Bishop
    • Family Movies

    WinterFest will keep you busy! As I mentioned above, there are a dozen activities that you may want to check out when you visit. They each offer the opportunity to bond and create happy memories.  We started with the Cool Critters Animal Encounters. These encounters are complementary for guests and may vary based on the day and time that you visit. You'll have the opportunity to learn about animals and even pet them!  My boys have a large age gap and both loved the educational opportunity to learn and pet animals that they have never encountered until our visit.

    My boys want to go back to meet more animals!

    As we were walking to our next activity, a beautiful snow princess on stilts stopped to take a photo with our little one. It was a whimsical experience for him! This was part of the Strolling Entertainment for WinterFest.

    Bingo and Trivia provided happy memories too. They are held in the pretty Riverwalk Cantina area. This is fun for all ages. My preschooler was especially excited because he recognized numbers and could cross them out.

    Something that I love about Bingo is that anyone may win regardless of age. My little guy was thrilled to win a fun winter prize!

    Our next stop was to the Illusionist show with Jason Bishop. It was wonderful to enjoy a show during the pandemic while feeling safe thanks to the nice environment. The Gaylord Texan requires guests to wear masks and encourages social distancing.  For instance, you'll notice below that chairs were set up for each party with respect social distancing.

    The show was fantastic! The comedy, illusions, and enthusiasm provided a much needed escape from our daily pandemic lives. I didn't realize this ahead of time, but the show included more than illusions. It was also packed with comedy and audience participation. (The audience participation was designed to accommodate social distancing!) I don't want to spoil too many surprises, but I will share a few photos to give you a general idea.  The photo below shows a box with three padlocks. Jason Bishop is inside!

    Jason Bishop has the sweetest little dog!  The dog's name is Gizmo. I won't spoil the surprises, but he is a nice part of the show!

    My favorite parts were when his assistant would disappear and reappear. 

    Again, I don't want to spoil too many surprises, but I hope that I shared enough to inspire you to check out the show. The show will be here for two months. It's perfect for a date night or special family time. My boys have a large age gap and we all loved the show! 

    In addition to the Illusionist show with Jason Bishop, WinterFest offers other exciting shows, including Four Day Weekend, Britain's Finest Band, The Pack, and The Garth Guy. You'll want to buy tickets in advance since they are available while supplies last. 

    Finally, I think that it is worth noting that WinterFest provided much more entertainment than we could experience in a short stay. The programming is generously packed with a wide of array of activities. We planned to visit the 9pm Family Movies, but my boys were exhausted from their exciting day. This is something fun that we hope to experience next year!

    We hope that you have the opportunity to visit Gaylord Texan's WinterFest to create happy memories with your family too! Event tickets may be purchased at GaylordTexanTickets.com. You'll also find that they have fantastic deals on rooms right now!

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    Thursday, January 7, 2021

    A 30 Day Decluttering Challenge with Calendar and How Decluttering Changed My Life

    I recently took on a 30 Day Decluttering Challenge that surprisingly helped me with anxiety and helped me to feel much happier.  I didn't realize how much this decluttering challenge would boost my spirits until I was a bit over halfway through the challenge and saw major difference.  Let me start with a quick overview of the challenge:

    • What: 30 Day Decluttering Challenge
    • Time Allocation: A minimum of 15 minutes per day for the duration of the challenge
    • How: Remove items from your home that you no longer need and consider using these methods to get rid of them:
      • Gift items to friends and family (We gave a lot of items to friends with children who are younger than our children. We emailed photos of available items on a weekly basis for people to claim what they wanted!)
      • Sell items
      • Donate items
      • Recycle or track items
    • Measure your progress so that you are able to reflect on your accomplishments:
      • Cubic footage of items removed
      • Amount of money for selling items
      • Amount of time spent on tasks
      • Keep a journal of what you completed each day
    Personally, the consistency was important to me. Whether it was the minimum 15 minutes/day or a super productive 8 hours/day, consistent contributions made me feel like I was moving forward. I had days where I spent the entire day decluttering a room and removed as much as 7 cubic feet worth of items. I had other days where I only did the bare minimum of 15 minutes and didn't even declutter 1 cubic foot, i.e., I went through papers and shredded things or took items that I sold on eBay to the post office.  I kept a journal because it helped my motivation to reflect on my progress.  The daily journal contained:
    • Day (1...30)
    • Description of progress
    • Measurement of the amount of items removed in cubic feet
    • Amount of money received for items that were sold
    • Cumulative cubic feet to-date
    • Cumulative money to-date
    I kept a written journal, but let me share a few graphs that show my progress.  You'll notice that there isn't really a trend to the amount of decluttering or sales each day.  While I set a goal to spend a minimum of 15 minutes/day on decluttering, I informally set a goal in my head to try to reach one cubic foot of decluttering each day.  However, I wasn't strict with the one cubic foot/day goal because I didn't know how much clutter was in our house. (It became more challenging toward the end!) As I mentioned earlier, there were days when I didn't reach the goal of one cubic foot/day because it took me a while to go through papers to figure out what to shred or scan. I also had to take items to a donation center or the post office which took time.  In the end, we decluttered 58 cubic feet. (I feel embarrassed to admit this, but at least the majority of the items went to other people who could use them and very little went to the trash. Having two children that outgrew various things accounted for a large amount of the space.) 

    Here is a graph of my daily progress in terms of cubic footage.

    Here is a graph of my cumulative progress in terms of cubic footage.

    Another measurement of my productivity was the amount of money from items that I sold.  This was not one of my primary goals because I was much happier to give things away.  I don't enjoy selling items because I find the "people aspect" of scheduling and meeting up to be a hassle. I am also not a big eBay fan because I was once scammed on eBay and they sided with the buyer.  In any case, I did sell some items and surprised myself that the money added up quickly. Sure, I lost money if you think about how much we spent on items compared to the peanuts that we sold them for, but they were sunk costs of things that we really didn't use anymore.  For instance, my baby never liked his baby swing and it was easy to sell for half of what we paid. We paid $100 and sold it for $50.  In the end, we collected a good amount of money by selling items that were taking space without being useful to us.   (Again, I feel guilty that we had that much stuff just sitting around, but am glad that the items went to people who could use them and that we received some of our investment back from the money spent on the items.)

    Here is a graph of my daily progress in terms of dollars.

    Here is a graph of my cumulative progress in terms of dollars.

    Now that you've seen my progress, let me share my decluttering calendar.  In general, I recommend that you do whatever makes sense for your personal situation, but for me, I thought that a calendar like this would be helpful for those days when I felt like, "I don't know what to do today..."  You will be able to skim my calendar and see if there is anything that make sense for your personal situation. You will also notice that every Wednesday was an "*EMAIL DAY." Throughout my decluttering, I took photos of items that I was getting rid of and sent weekly photos to family and friends to offer for them to take anything that I was cleaning out.  This was a fun way to keep my momentum since others enjoyed being part of my decluttering mission.

    After completing a 30 Day Decluttering Challenge, I feel happier and realize that the extra "stuff" was causing me anxiety and weighing me down.  In some ways, I understand how it happened. Our lives have changed in many ways over the years. When we were first married, we had more time for recreation such as riding our bicycles together or individual projects like crafts, sports, and more.  When our children were young, they needed various things that they quickly outgrew. (That baby bathtub was truly useful for the first few months! The special infant carrier was also handy.  I don't think that I could have lived without our Baby Bjorn at the time. The list is long...)   However, where we went wrong was that we did not regularly reflect on the changes in our lives and declutter at the appropriate phases of life. We allowed clutter to build for several years.  These were the downsides of not decluttering sooner:
    • The clutter cost us space. 
    • The clutter cost us time in terms of cleaning or even when we needed to search for items that were hidden behind clutter. We even moved clutter from one house to another.  
    • The clutter cost us money as we could have sold many items for more if we sold them when they weren't as old.  
    • The clutter cost us a bit in terms of anxiety as we were surrounded by "stuff" and an ongoing thought hanging over us that we needed to declutter.   
    Now that the decluttering is done, our home is cleaner and life is more efficient.  The outcome was wonderful for us.  It was a lot of work, but there were some bright spots along the way:
    • We emailed or texted photos of random items to friends and family to ask if they wanted anything.  I'm sure that they thought that I was crazy at times (like, what are you doing with so many Star Wars costumes?), but they appreciated our thoughtfulness and were kind to support us with the Decluttering Challenge.  It was fun when people wanted items.
    • We dropped off donations and appreciated that the items would probably go to good use.
    • We sold items to people who were often excited and appreciated the great deals.
    • We collected several hundred dollars that we put to good use
    • We were able to reorganize our home, including everything from entire rooms to cabinets so that things looked nicer and were easier to find
    Now that the 30 Day Decluttering Challenge is over, I feel proud of my accomplishments.  It was easier to let go of "things" than I imagined. I surprisingly let go over some anxiety too.  I'd like to say that we purchase fewer things after the decluttering challenge, but really, our habits were never that excessive.  We are just better about letting go of things sooner rather than later.  For instance, once my husband finishes playing a video game, he trades it in promptly rather than letting games fill a shelf. Once soccer season is over, we donate the uniform and move on.  I've also held on to the "consistency" aspect of the challenge, but instead of decluttering for a minimum of 15 minutes/day, I spend a minimum of 15 minutes/day speed cleaning. I set a timer and clean as much as possible in 15 minutes. It's a great way to direct some of my energy!

    Good luck in your decluttering endeavors. I hope that you find bright spots along the way and feel a sense of accomplishment!

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    Why do people eat endives?

    We will answer the question - Why do people eat endives?

    Thanks to California Endive Farms for sending us the beautiful endives shown above.  We love the nutrition that is packed into endives.  These facts are from [1] California Endive Farms: More Than a Dozen Healthy Reasons To Enjoy Endive.
    • Endives are low in fat
    • Endives are low in sodium
    • Endives are cholesterol free
    • Endives are very low in calories
    • Endives are loaded with valuable vitamins and minerals — vitamins B, C, and K, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, folate and selenium
    • Endives are good source of beta-carotene, which the body coverts into vitamin A
    • Endives are a good source of heart-healthy potassium — one head of endive delivers almost 60% of the potassium found in a banana
    • Endives are a good source of folate - a half a cup of endive can supply you with almost 10% of the folate recommended per day
    • Endives are high in complex fibers
    • Endives aid digestion
    • Endives are promote regularity
    • Endives are helps prevent the absorption of cholesterol into the blood stream
    • Endives are slow food metabolism
    • Endives help with the removal of toxins from the digestive tract
    • Endives are very low position on the glycemic index

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    Recipe for Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins - A Way to Use Up Ripe Bananas

    Recipe for Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins - A Way to Use Up Ripe Bananas
    Yield: 12 muffins

    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    2/3 cup sugar
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    2/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 egg
    1/3 cup butter, melted
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    3 mashed ripe bananas 
    1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

    1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees.

    2. Mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon. Set aside.

    3. Beat the egg, melted butter, and vanilla extract.

    4. Mix the mashed bananas into the wet mixture.

    5. Add the mixture of dry ingredients to the wet mixture and mix until well blended.

    6. Stir in the chocolate chips.

    7. Spoon the batter into greased cupcake pans.  You should fill them approximately 2/3 of the way full.

    8. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

    9. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then move to a wire rack.  

    10. Serve approximately 20 minutes after cooling or store them in an airtight container. I have also frozen these muffins and pulled them out the night before that I wanted to serve them for breakfast.

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    Recipe: Skillet Chicken Parmesan

    Recipe: Skillet Chicken Parmesan

    • 1 pound of chicken breast, sliced into thin pieces to fit the size of your skillet
    • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
    • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
    • 2 cloves of garlic
    • 2 cans of tomato paste
    • 2 fresh tomatoes
    • 1 ball of buffalo mozzarella
    • Optional: fresh basil
    1. Season the chicken with the salt and pepper.

    2. Heat the olive oil in the skillet and then cook the chicken.

    3. Remove the chicken and add the garlic, tomato paste, and chopped fresh tomato to the skillet over low heat, stirring frequently for approximately 7 to 10 minutes.

    4. Add the chicken back to the skillet, covering it with the tomato sauce.

    5. Add slices of the buffalo mozzarella on top of each piece of chicken.

    6. Carefully remove the skillet from the stovetop and place in the (oven) broiler for approximately 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese begins to brown and bubble.  (Remember - the skillet and contents are extremely hot, so be extra careful when moving it!)

    7. Allow to cool and then serve over pasta.

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