Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Beauty of Rest

     Rest is the first thing to be sacrificed when the demands of the day become overwhelming. It isn't just the schedule which can be disruptive but also activities prior to going to bed. Rest is vital to health! Adequate rest produces the following benefits:
  • improved learning and memory, before and after introduction to a new task
  • better emotional stability
  • increased immune response resulting in a lessened incidence of illness
  • healthier, more age-appropriate appearance
  • greater clarity in judgement
  • increased motivation to perform tasks
  • superior task performance
Conversely, sleep deprivation produces negative effects such as:
  • decreased learning and memory retention
  • higher incidence of anxiety and depression
  • frequent illnesses
  • physical aging beyond actual years
  • decrease in the ability to form clear thoughts and perceptions
  • greater safety risks, both accident or injury to self and others
  • slower performance at tasks
  • higher risk for obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even mortality
     I am well aquainted with this matter. I'm an early bird that has developed the habits of a night owl, and the results have been a tremendous difficulty. I am at my worst when I am lacking sleep, and yet I also struggle to fully return myself to the "early to bed, early to rise" routine. It isn't just how sleep deprivation affects me that warrants a change, but more importantly the impact it has on my husband and our home.
     I've learned a handful of ways to promote sufficient rest in life. First, it may seen juvenile, but establish a bedtime routine. The body needs consistency, regardless of age. By establishing a routine we establish the message that now is the time to begin winding down and preparing for sleep. Include activities which encourage calm and tranquility. Turn down the lights (use a lamp) and turn off the screens. I know there are claims that the television aids in falling asleep, but research has shown many times that the high frequency of lights, motions, and sounds keep the brain alert. If simply having noise is desired, then select something instrumental or soft singing. Beats and voices also keep the brain alert. My favorite bedtime activity is reading peaceful book or the Bible. Choose something that will end your day on a positive or encouraging note. Lastly, an herbal tea may be helpful in inducing sleep. These are commonly found in the grocery and typically contain camomile and other herbs*. Dim lights, soft music, reading and tea have become my evening sequence. I'd like to add stretching (yoga, pilates) to the list since it also promotes relaxation and health. My greatest challenge at this moment is to establish a time to begin the routine so that I can be alseep at a reasonable hour. I have never been and never will be a genuine night owl. Doing so is cutting off my ability to serve and love my husband fully, as well as others. This is my heart, and this is what I need to work to focus better on.

*Disclaimer: Always use best judgement when using herbal remedies. They ought to be treated as conventional medication with consideration of interactions with health condititions or other medications. In other words, do some research and be well informed.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Container Gardening for Small Spaces

Our apartment balcony garden!
L to R: lettuce, thyme, parsley, basil, strawberries, tomato (x2), cucumber, oregano, sage, mini rose, onions.
Miniature Rose
       When we began looking for our current home, I had one request in particular- an outdoor escape. The last two places only had a front door which opened into the interior of the buildings. After two years in these apartments, I was desperate for a balcony space. We got lucky in that we were able to choose our unit. It was from selection of two available units, and the choice was simple in that I went for the one with the most sunlight for growing some plants.
      For me, sitting outside and feel the warm sunshine and listen to the birds sing does tremendous for morale in apartment living. I laugh to think of my once dream of being surrounded by concrete when I left my small hometown and headed for a big city for college. I quickly discovered that the small, simple spaces in life was much more of a happy place for me than the big, busy city. I've even taken quite the interest in gardening. Now my dream is to have a yard of flower beds and vegetable gardens!
Oregano & Sage
     I'm not in a space with a yard yet, but I can certainly make the most of my current outdoor space.  Plants do so much to liven a space! I've throughly enjoyed watching the seedlings sprout and take off in their growth. It seems like my husband and I have a daily comment or conversation delightfully remarking on how much one plant or antoher has grown overnight. We've also throughly enjoyed the fresh lettuce for sandwiches or salads. Oh, and the strawberries are unbelievably good! I'm excited to taste the tomatoes and cucumbers right off the vines.
     Gardening is a fantastic way to save money. You have the upfront cost of the pots and soil, but they can be used over and over. Seed packets are inexpensive and therefore aren't too much of a concern to replace each year (plus you can get organics!).  It's also cheaper than a grocery in that you can avoid the costs and contamination of industrial farming, shipping and packaging. In a nutshell, you don't have to spend at the grocery for an inferiorly ripened produce when you can step outside your back door and pick it yourself. (This is the essence of my financial ideas- it isn't a matter of bringing in more income, but being wiser with what you have.)
     Furthermore, fresh picked produce tastes so much better. What isn't used during the growing season can be frozen or canned for later enjoyment. We're hoping to get enough tomatoes from our plants and perhaps local farmers markets as well to can some whole and some as marinara sauce for later use. Even if you can't grow plants in your space, farmers markets are another great way to eat healthy, save money, and support the local community. Learn to can and you can eat the summer harvet throughout the winter.
       I don't know a tremendous amount about gardening, but I do know that not everything can grow in pots. A little research is needed on the individual requirements for a plant. I tried to find some resources on container gardening to add, but I surprisingly didn't find much for growing vegetables.(And although the
y are flower pots, probably shouldn't look up "how to pot garden" hehe ;-) Sorry, too easy ). I did find an excellent website: which includes the types of plants, the containers needed, and the basics of growing them. It also includes some creative ideas such as using an old cake pan to grow onions or herbs.

Anyone have some resources or tips to recommend on small space gardening tips?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cloth Napkins

     I love using cloth napkins! They just add a bit of charm and fun to the meals. Unlike paper napkins, these are reusable which saves me money and decreases waste. Even if multiple napkins are needed throughout the day they add so little to a load of laundry that they are still more economical and ecological than paper products. Plus, they're so cute!
     I wanted enough napkins to have a clean one for everyone each morning to use for the day. For us, that means we needed at least fourteen napkins. Instead of going out and buying premade napkins I decided to make my own. I used Fat Quarters bundles of fabric, which I love for the many exciting patterns and colors. I could also have selected from the remnant section of the fabric department. Napkins require a 16 1/2 inch square piece of fabric, and so I found the Fat Quarters used for quilting to be the easiest. I just cut out the squares and then folded the endes 1/4 inch twice and ironed them down. Then, a quick zig zag stitch on the sewing machine around the border. Ta da! Cloth napkins to match my table setting!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Date Night

My husband and I enjoying the day in the nearby state park.

     It is easy to get so caught up in the routine of life that we can lose the excitement we experienced in the dating days. You know, the thrilling time spent planning or waiting for that lovely surprise you or your mate planned. The afternoons spent getting ready so that everything would be just right. Finally, the moment when nothing else mattered but that space of time together. Those dates were special, and they don't have to end simply because we have each other present more often now in marriage. I had been encouraged since the start of our marriage to maintain a date night once or twice a month. It's the difference between merely existing together and fully living in love with one another.
     The challenge, of course, is to find different and fun activities to do so. Maintaining date nights shouldn't break the bank, and thus become a stressor in themselves. The experience is so much more personal when we can be attentive to each other's personality and interests and create a date time around those qualities. Is there a favorite type of food or resturant? Perhaps recreate the mood and cuisine of that sort in the home. Is there a love for nature? Perhaps create a picnic, hike, or other outside escape. A date night could also be as simple as a bowl of popcorn and a movie. I do enjoy watching a movie together, but try to make sure this isn't all we're doing because watching a screen leaves little opportunity for us to interract. That is the point after all in order to build our marriage.There are numerous ways to capture the delight of love in a marriage. We simply must be attentive and work towards showing it.

    We spent the day last Saturday at the nearby state park. He loves getting to be outside and enjoy the activities nature has to offer. So, I surprised him with the day spent doing just that. I even surprised him by packing his favorite sandwich, a reuben. We ate our picnic lunch by the water watching the geese and enjoying the sunshine. Later, we explored the hiking trails. It was a rather simple plan for a date night/day, but I think this photo captures the joy of it all- a happy husband. God is so good in providing me this man, and I delight in doing all I can for him. :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011


    Technology and gadgets have made a tremendous impact on our daily lives. This impact has been an improvement in some ways, but in an ever growing trend they are becoming completely consuming. I fit too easily into the later category of technology's impact. You should see what becomes of me when the television or computer are on and running. I'm instantly wide-eyed and stopped in my tracks. I absolutely cannot focus on anything other than the flash and sound of the screens. This isn't an uncommon response as I see it when I'm in the company of others with these and other media turned on. I've reached the point where for the most part technology and it's gadgets are more time-wasters or distractors than they are aids.
     In our last residence we quickly grew into a habit of ending the work day plopped on the couch in front of the television. We would eat dinner and chat about whatever the programming or commericals fed us as converstation topics. The nights often ended that way. The morning brought another draining work day for each of us, and another mere existence in the evening routine. It was all we had energy to do after our demanding jobs. Somewhere in the push for survival, we shut down in fully living. The occasional dinner table meal was largely silent. We were in love and newly married. We were best friends. How did we lose the ability to communicate beyond the topics of work, the To Do list, and future plans?
     I believe this is all too common of a scene for many families and friendships. We're so in tune with the world that we're out of tune with our relationships. I must confess I have a bit of a pet-peeve list, and watching television or using cell phone (or other mobile devices) while in the company of others is on it! We've had guests stay with us on a few occasions at our current house. Our television receive more use during their visits than any other time at our home. I was infuriated that they would travel to visit with us and then stare at the television. Why is this done? Is it because time spent with nothing in between would be awkward? Perhaps behind the shout of silence is the message that we need to be investing in deepening our relationships. Do we know how to converse outside of work, future plans, children, or other people? How do we minister to others when we know so little of them personally? Genuine relationship require personal investment. I suggest turning off the television or other media, and getting to work! It's time to tighten our relationships to our family and our friends.
     Being constantly plugged in not only distracts us from our relationships but it can limit the work God has called us to do. I feel completely called to the home and as such I should consider my role with great importance. There are things to be done here, and I know that if I stop for even a moment at a screen the day will be gone. Even still, I'm prone to getting sucked in to distractors during my day. My husband lovingly reminds me that these things take practice. Practice makes progress afterall. It's a comfort to know that I'm in practice for these good habits, and if things don't go as planned I don't fail but get to try again tomorrow.
     Being fully aware of my tendency to be stopped and be drawn to the screens, the best methods for me to get a handle on wasting precious time is to develop a routine and set a timer. I need to set aside purposeful times for these activites. We no longer have cable television, but we maintained internet. Therefore, it is important for me to set aside a certain amount of time to check our budget program, email, facebook, blog etc. Beyond that specified time, I know I need to just turn it off to not be tempted by it. Same thing goes with the cell phone and other mobile devices. Use these devices when the work is done and when not in the presence of others. Time together should be spent with our full attentiveness.
    It's remarkable how much is gained by simply unplugging. When we first moved in our current home we didn't have any services while waiting for them to be set up. It was such a peaceful time! I was able to get so much done in our home and in reading books on my list. I've back tracked a bit since then, but I'm working towards getting back to being more productive and purposeful with my time. What do we do when there isn't something to entertain us constantly? Below is a few that I've enjoyed:
          *First, TALK to one another! It's alarming how little we interact with one another in person. I've been so inspired by the ideas of hospitality and deepening relationships thorugh opening doors of the home. Yet, it's surprisingly difficult to get people to accept an invite. Is it not sad that our friendships are stuck in the realm of text messages, facebook, or instant messages? I think so!
          *Second, begin to exercise. I once was an avid tennis player, but since the days on the court in college my level of exercise has diminished drastically. I know that if I'm not wasting time, then I do have the time to get out and get active again.
          *Third, grab a book! I've found such wonderful inspiration and encouragement in the words of others written in books. As Christians we are to seek wise counsel, and some of that is found in reading. We must admit to ourself that we don't innate know or can handle everything, and therefore we ought to be wise enough to seek the advice of other Christians.
          *Fourth, clean that house. Hospitality is something that makes me so nervous because my house seems to remain such a mess. I'd be so embarrassed if someone came over. Again, when I don't waste my time then I can get those floors clean and laundry folded.
          *Fifth, develop a craft or hobby. Do something that makes you personally come alive.
     I could continue the count and ideas because there are so many possibilites. In all of them is the choice to give up something in order to gain something more that has true worth. It may sound crazy for me to choose to be out of the loop with television, cell phones, and other gadgets, but what I gain in family is an asset I cherish. :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

       I try to stick to foods being as natural and from the source as possible. When it comes to desserts I'm trying to explore more fruit based or natural sweetner based recipes. However, this one begged to be made (I blame that sweet tooth I inherited!). They are absolutely delicious! Enjoy :)
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/4 c + 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 c. + 2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. soymilk
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
3 tbsp. pecans, finely chopped
7 oz. chocolate candy coating

1. Beat butter and sugars in a large bowl on medium speed. Add milk and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt and mix on low speed until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
2. Cover and chill for 1 hour.
3. Form dough into small (1" or smaller) balls and place on a baking sheet.  Place sheet into freezer for 30 minutes to allow dough to become firm.
4. Melt chocolate in microwave according to package directions. Roll each ball in chocolate to coat.
5. Chill until set. Store in airtight container for up to one week.

Adapted from:
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...