Automate Exercise

My cutie-patooty son a million years ago (back in the day before digital cameras, so please excuse the red eye)

I’ve mentioned on this blog that I wanted to start exercising in a way that was conducive to my life. Meaning…it had to resemble brushing my teeth, something I would not have to make a decision about, consider, hem and haw over, wonder if today was the day I’d swim or hike or go to yoga or what have you.

I made it as easy on myself as possible. At the beginning of June, I joined the local gym and did the bare minimum. But (I told myself) I had to do the bare minimum five days a week to develop a bonafide, regular, healthy habit.

The point was to

  1. not have to think about it
  2. schedule no more than ½ hour
  3. be easy enough to keep at it regularly and have enough energy to get through the rest of my day

Here is what I’ve been doing every week since the beginning of June:

Monday– 10 minutes elliptical to warm-up, 10 minutes leg weights, 10 minutes abs and stretch

Tuesday– 10 minutes ellipitcal to warm-up, 10 minutes arm weights, 10 minutes abs and stretch

Wednesday– swim 30 minutes at local pool

Thursday– 10 minutes elliptical to warm-up, 10 minutes leg weights, 10 minutes abs and stretch

Friday– 10 minutes ellipitcal to warm-up, 10 minutes arm weights, 10 minutes abs and stretch

Weekend– walk the dog, take a hike or rest

I get up in the morning, have my coffee and a piece of fruit, drop my son off at his high school and go directly to the gym first thing. I like to get it out of the way. If I happen to miss one day, so what, I don’t try to make up anything, I just continue with the MTWThF schedule.

Here is the depressing part…I actually gained weight the first couple of months! And here is the good news… I’m stronger, feel better, sleep more soundly and make healthier food choices. My doctor said that eventually, I’d see the pounds drop off. Regardless, my clothes are fitting better.

The key is to automate it. Even on days I don’t want to go, I don’t think about it too much,  just get dressed in my workout clothes and that’s half the battle right there. I don’t have to wonder what type of exercise, when I will do it, or whether I feel up to it or not. Pretty much it’s like this: Monday? Legs day! Tuesday? Arms day! Wednesday? Swimming! And so on and so forth.

How to you stay motivated to exercise?

Use Sunscreen

Our variety of sunscreen over spring break this year. This post may contain affiliate links.

Okay, I know this sounds obvious but it’s important. It really is.

Use sunscreen. Everyday. Even in the winter.

I keep a pump bottle of it on top my bathroom counter and just apply every morning after a shower. I also keep a GoToob of it in my hand bag. Or you can keep a dedicated bottle in your car.

I prefer the waterproof version as I wash my hands a lot. I will apply it like a hand lotion throughout the day. This particular Banana Boat Sunscreen Sport brand has a little thicker consistency than an emollient hand cream and is actually pretty moisturizing.

I would prefer to purchase just one type of sunscreen but my finicky son can’t stand the white lotion-ey rub on type, especially if his mother is smearing it all over his face like cream cheese on a bagel. He’ll use spray on or face stick and only after much prodding. My daughter wanted her own spray Kiss My Face brand. I bought the Scalp SPF (which was very difficult to find) because I prefer to wear visors instead of hats and was worried about my scalp. It has the consistency of hair spray. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re in the sun A LOT like me, watching baseball games all summer. I probably won’t repurchase it.

Okay, I know it’s back to school and all that and this post would’ve been more apt about three months ago but thank you for reading again as I took a break this summer. And inquiring minds want to know,  what type of sunscreen do you prefer?

The One Touch Rule

You’ve probably heard this one before, but if you haven’t it can be a game changer in making your life so much better.

Once is Enough

The rule is to touch stranded or misplaced items in your house only once. This is basically another way of saying put things away immediately (laundry, dishes, shoes, you-name-it). Now this of course assumes that you have a place to put things in the first place. That’s a given. Everything needs a home and hopefully one in which you don’t have to play a game of tetris in order to put it away.

The biggest culprit in our home? Mail and paperwork. My husband brings it in and lays it on the dining room table. I distribute the mail and walk the rest of it upstairs EVERYDAY to the office where I have an “In” file box that I put pending papers. I’ve gone paperless with what ever bills I can, that helps. Most bills have statements online if you ever need a history or a quick phone call should do the trick.

The one touch rule is one of those things that you do for your future self. Is it a pain to always put things away immediately? Yep. But it’s essential if you want a tidy space in which to live and the sanity that comes along with it.

80% is Good Enough

A couple of weeks ago, I went to one of those art and craft supply stores to replace some inserts for my Happy Planner organizer that I use. I was perfectly satisfied with my system until on the way to check out, I passed a kiosk that held a smaller version of what I already had. This stopped me in my tracks. Would I prefer the smaller size? Yes. Could I fit everything I needed into it? Probably. It might be difficult, but I could at least try. A smaller size would allow me to carry the planner around with me all the time. My current one is big and the cover keeps falling off constantly but I love the system and it works for me. But this smaller version just might work better…

But is it better?

After wasting fifteen minutes looking over, analyzing, walking up to the cash register then back to the kiosk again, I finally decided to listen to my own advice that I’d recently shared with a friend: if you have a system in place (for your grocery shopping, wardrobe, house cleaning, laundry, carpool, or whatever) that works for about 80% of the time, then call it good and stop trying to make it perfect. I could’ve spent my fifteen minutes elsewhere, on something that is not working at 80% in my life yet, like exercising. I could’ve taken my dog for a short walk in the amount of time I wasted hemming and hawing.

Stop trying so hard

How much time/money/energy are you wasting try to cover the gap from 80% to 100%? My guess is too much. Stop. Now choose an area that isn’t working, then re-dedicate that effort. For me it’s regular, consistent exercise. I may do one or two days a week but I want exercise to be more like brushing my teeth; something I just do without thinking about it too much.

It’s so easy to get wrap up in what isn’t working in your life. How about reversing the question and ask what IS working in your life? Congratulations! Give yourself a pat on the back. Those are the areas you do not need to spend more time on, savvy? Choose something that needs some TLC and start taking baby steps.

Worth It/Not Worth It: Mainstays Handheld Portable Steamer

Lately, a lot of decluttering/minimalist types have been touting the benefits of a portable steamer to use in place of an iron. As I’ve been downsizing to a capsule wardrobe (more on that later), I have been particular about material. I am buying less synthetics and focusing on cotton, wool and silk. Breathable, long lasting, and remarkably easy to care for.

I don’t purchase or have a ton of garments that need ironing, but I did manage to pick up second hand silk blouse that’s been on my To Buy list for awhile. I used to be afraid of silk but it is much sturdier than you think; warm and insulating for the winter, then breezy and cooling for the summer. I always wash silk by hand in the sink and then hang to air dry in my closet. I’m not a big fan of ironing, but I’ll do it if I have to. If a steamer can replace an ironing board and iron, I’m all about that. So I bought Mainstays Handheld Portable Steamer at Walmart to try.

I do not have a before pic, but after about 7 minutes of dorking with the steamer on the silk blouse, here is the result:

After about 7 minutes of steaming
Nope.
Not even.

I’m not impressed. Seven minutes was enough. I could’ve ironed it in a shorter amount of time, so my verdict is NOT WORTH IT. However, I know Jennifer Scott from The Daily Connoisseur recommends hers, so maybe it’s brand specific? Please let me know in the comments below, if you’re a fan and what type you use. I’m open to giving this another go.

Menu Planning for the Win

On my death bed, as I list out the regrets in my life, I will write “Should’ve Started Menu Planning Earlier.” I kid you not. One of the best budgeting and time saving tools is menu planning and please don’t complicate it. It takes five minutes, tops. A paper and pencil will do. Level one menu planning looks something like this:

Mon– tacos

Tues – lentil soup & bread

Wed – steak, potato, side salad

Thurs – leftovers

Fri – pizza (something easy at the end of a long week)

Sat– salmon, rice, broccoli

Sun– crockpot chili, cornbread, steamed spinach

Stick this on the refrigerator so everyone can see it and admire it for the intricate artistry.

The basic rule of thumb is to include a protein, starch and vegetable in each meal. Nowadays, the veggie is supposed to take up half the plate, the protein and starch should be palm-sized for portion control.

When you get comfortable with level one, you move to level two.

Check the weather for the week

and write it down by each day, so you’re not making creamy broccoli and cheese potato soup when it’s 95 degrees out.

Quickly scan your cupboards and refrigerator

to see what items you already have. Use them in your menu plan. Allrecipes.com lets you search a recipe by ingredient. Use the rest of the missing ingredients for your grocery list (Please tell me you’re using a grocery list to shop because otherwise I guarantee you are wasting money if you do not use a list. Also, eat first. Before you go grocery shopping, I mean. And keep your grocery list on your phone so that you always have it. Are you at information overload? Then go back to level one at the top of this blog post and stay there.).

Glance at your schedule

for the week. Your teenager has a basketball game on Wednesday? Leftovers, a made-before-the-game crockpot recipe, microwaveable frozen dinner, or fast food run it is, then!

Quickly look through those annoying grocery sale flyers

you get in the mail each week. Pork chops on sale? Mild weather forecast for Sunday? Fire up the grill!

Buy enough food for the whole week

so that you’re not having to run back to the grocery store multiple times.

Let your cupboards and pantry get bare

before grocery shopping. It’s odd looking and uncomfortable, but it’s the only way I’ve found that my family will eat whatever is left. In other words, they will not eat the carrots and celery if chips and dip are available. Savvy?

Okay, that’s probably enough. You know me, I have more info and tidbits but I’ll save those for another day. I hope this makes your life better. It has mine. Please let me know how it goes!

How to Buy Jeans for Almost Anyone

I’ve had two people recently ask me how to buy hard-to-fit jeans. So here you go folks…how to buy jeans for almost anyone (Note: this post contains affiliate links, please see disclosure for details):

If you’ve got a lanky teenager or mature curvy frame, hands down the easiest way to fit and purchase jeans is to order on Amazon (because they carry all sizes). Take a tape measure and measure the waist (W), then the inseam of the leg (length or L) . Write that down. Now, think about the type of body frame. Petite? Then you might get away with buying youth sized jeans for a better fit and save some money. Pay attention to fit. Is the body hefty? Tall and thin? For example, my lanky teenage son looks best in skinny jeans. They provide a nice lean look without extra material bagging in the derriere and thighs, which can look awkward at best.  My teenage daughter? Skinny jeans or jeggings for a jean-leggings look. My middle-aged husband? Relaxed fit jeans for comfort. Next, jump on Amazon to order (click the image below, find your measurement in the drop down box).

You pretty much can’t go wrong with a pair of Levi’s.

Men’s Skinny Levi’s

Men’s Relaxed fit Levi’s

 

Men’s Big&Tall Levi’s

 

No more dragging my reluctant teenage son shopping! These jeans are shipped to my front door and done. If it doesn’t fit, send them back and try the next size. It only took two tries to get it right. Easy-peasy, especially if you have Amazon prime. Be sure to check the fine print before you purchase to see about costs on returns where applicable.

 

Women’s skinny

Woemn’s regular

Women’s bootcut


You get the idea…

How do you buy hard to fit jeans? Online? In brick and mortar? Share below!

What’s in My Trash Bin

I think a lot about trash. Does that surprise you? I like to consider the long-term impact of my actions and purchases and that includes going more zero waste. What happens after I’m done with something? This line of questioning has changed the way I consume products, both groceries and apparel.

For instance, I didn’t realize that any synthetic material (i.e. nylon, polyester, spandex, etc.) in our clothes are made from plastics and plastics are made from petroleum. The textile industry represents one of the largest polluters on our planet, second only to oil and gas. The plastic waste in our oceans comprises 269,000 metric tons and 5.25 trillion particles—enough to stretch to the moon and back, twice* (think single use plastic water bottles, the plastic micro-beads in your face wash, or plastic toothbrushes for that matter).

What you can do

Wear out the clothes you have then donate donate it to a program that sells textiles for fabric recycling. Goodwill has been a leader in recycling textiles and uses any profits for their job training program.

Need help recycling a certain thing-a-ma-jiggy? You can find a place near you by searching  Earth911.

Downsize to a capsule wardrobe. Haven’t worn an item in over a year? It’s a safe bet you can let go of it.

When shopping to replace any items in your wardrobe, choose second hand. Read the material tag. Pick clothes made from an all natural fiber (cotton, linen, hemp, wool, silk, etc.) that can compost naturally without harmful by-products seeping into our ground water (but consider the thread, I just read where thread is not usually 100% compostable).

Let’s educate ourselves and make better choices for our own lives and health and others.

Here are some of my favorite sustainable clothing companies:

Eileen Fisher

Patagonia

Here are some of my favorite bloggers on the subject of Zero Waste:

Paris-To-Go

Trash is for Tossers

Zero Waste Home

To the Universe with Love

The Beauty in Simple

This post doesn’t really do justice but I will continue to write more about this. Have you ever thought about trash? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below (also, it would make me feel less nerdy, but whatever, I’m trying to be an adult about that).

p.s. What’s in my trash bin this week? We had one regular sized kitchen trash bag and a small one gallon sized trash bag from our bathroom in our weekly trash bin for a family of four. I’m pretty proud of that. Also, someone’s ratty chaise lounge chair pad that blew into our yard after a wind storm. Weird, huh?

*data provided by a 2012 study (read more @ 5Gyres)

Best Way to Book a Hotel

My amazingly talented and good-looking kids (I’m not biased or anything!) at the Grand Canyon over Spring break last year. Note: this blog post may contain affiliate links. Please see disclosure.

 

Dreaming of spring break? Me, too. Over the years I’ve gotten better and more efficient at planning our vacays. One indispensable tool I use is booking.com to reserve our hotels rooms. I started using this website well before the airbnb and vrbo trend appeared, and I can’t recommend it highly enough– been using it for years.

Customize

 

A plethora of sidebar search criteria allows you to customize your hotel reservation by budget, rating, breakfast included, free cancellation, activities, daily value deals, you name it. They have daily value sales where you can book a five-star for practically 50% off, but most of the pricing reflects something akin to a AAA type discount (I’ve checked, since we’re AAA members, too).

Free Cancellation and Paper-free

 

My favorite feature? Many of the reservations have free cancellation before a certain date (not all, so be sure to check!). This has saved us a time or two when a family emergency or kiddo getting sick at the last minute arose and we needed to change plans quickly. Plus, you can have the reservation sent directly to your phone for a paper-free, no hassle check-in.

Discount

 

If you are interested in trying out booking.com for your next trip (and I highly recommend that you do), please use the following coupon code

https://www.booking.com/s/cari8167

to get a $20 credit for yourself after your first stay. Also, don’t forget to comment below on how your trip went. I’d love to hear all about it!

If you’re feeling agitated or angry– hit the pause button.

My mom reminded me of a piece of advice I’d given her awhile back. Do not make any big decisions when you’re angry or agitated. That is not the time. Wait it out, then see what you think.

If you’re yelling at the driver who cut you off in traffic or rude to the grocery store clerk who didn’t get things right, that is misplaced anger. If you’re slamming the kitchen cupboards (what did those poor cupboards ever do to you?), then it’s time to stop and take a good look in the mirror to examine what it is that’s really upsetting you.

No Thank You

 

Feeling angry is usually when you want to give someone or something a big, “No Thank You!” A line has been crossed and you probably expect the other person to understand that. My guess is that they don’t. The reality is, you’re in the driver’s seat. You have to teach people how to treat you, even when you think it should be obvious (it’s not).

The Johnny Paycheck

 

Before you give your boss, roomate, spouse, or whomever a Johnny Paycheck (he recorded the tune, “Take This Job and Shove it!”), give yourself a timeout. Anger is a sign that you need to give yourself a bit more care; take a walk in nature, go get a massage, listen to your favorite music or watch a favorite movie. Give a minimum of 24 to 48 hours to sleep on the problem at hand, as hard as that may be. This pause will allow you to figure out a strategy that works best for you. Ask yourself what do you need to feel better? Maybe you need to ask that person for an apology. Maybe you need to tell your boss that you’re not going to be able to give overtime next week. Whatever it is, you deserve to take care of yourself. If everyone took responsibility for their emotions, we wouldn’t really have as many problems as we do.

Feeling anger is natural

 

If you drive a car, at some point you will get cut off in traffic. Grocery store clerks and waiters at restaurants won’t always get things right. Get to the real bottom of your anger, so that these little things won’t upset you anymore. Let’s choose to be adults and take responsibility for our emotions and well being. It may be a little painful and scary at first, but eventually, it will make your life much better.