How to use time efficiently.

Have you had one of those days where time gets away from you? Before you know it, it’s time to wind down before bed, but the dishes are still in the sink, or there’s still a load of laundry in the dryer, waiting to be taken out and folded. Where did the day go?

Do you feel bad that you didn’t get much done? Wish you had a better way to use your time efficiently?

Now, we all need times to veg, relax, watch the afternoon sun make shadows across the yard, and listen to the birds chirp happily in the trees. Especially after a day at work and then making dinner and cleaning up, right? You need some down time. The trick is to plan it. If your weekends are drifting into the ‘can’t get anything done’ routine, then it’s time for a better plan.

First, know that action leads to action. Inaction leads to inaction. In other words, once you sit down, you may be done for the night. Or is that just me? Especially the older you get, or the more active your job. So if you have something to do after work, it may work best to get it done right away, then plan to relax.

And for those workers who are sitting all day, especially if your work is kind of, well, monotonous, you may find yourself slipping into never never land. Zoning out. So when you get home, or on weekends, your mind is used to zoning out. You need to nudge it into first gear.

In order to use your time efficiently, you need a game plan. You need to know what you need to do and when you need to do it. Make a list.

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

List out all your to-do’s for the weekend, for an example. But to use time efficiently, you need to know how long the task is going to take, how immediate the need is, and if there are related tasks that can be done at the same time.

Then, once you’ve listed everything you need to do this weekend, think about you for a minute. How busy do you want to be? (Hint: it’s no crime to say ‘no’ if you don’t want to run into town for someone, and would rather sit outside on a beautiful summer day. And no, you don’t have to explain.)

Do you have more energy in the morning or afternoon? Schedule high energy tasks like housework and yard work then. Got errands to run? Group them together by location, and schedule them for times of the day when you’ll get a boost by getting out of the house. Meeting someone for lunch? Plan to run your errands before or after that, instead of making another trip out later.

Let’s make a sample list of to-do’s.

  • Mop the kitchen floor
  • run to the grocery store
  • stop by Mom’s and help her get something out of the attic
  • clean up the flowerbed by the front door
  • clean the trash out of the car
  • brush the dog
  • cook dinner
  • reconcile the checkbook
  • get birdseed
  • clean out the birdfeeder and birdbath
  • and on and on

This is just a partial list of what you have to do this weekend. And it’s a lot. So how to get it done and still find some time to relax?

Make note of how long things will take. Jot it down next to each item. When you have time to spare, look at your list and find something to fit. Got 15 minutes? Pick up what’s laying around the living room and put it away. Got 30 minutes? Get the vacuum out.

Schedule your time, as loosely or as closely as you like, but write it down and refer to it often. Mark things off, move things around as needed, but keep your schedule on paper, not in your head.

You may like a loose schedule. Work with morning – afternoon – evening. Like this – Morning: mop, vacuum, dust, dinner in crockpot. Afternoon: meet friend for lunch, run errands. Evening: dinner, finances/filing, walk dog, read.

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Maybe you prefer a tight schedule. Then block off hours or partial hours for your tasks.

Here’s some tips to use your time efficiently.

  • Group trips together – is there a grocery store near your Mom’s house? If so, try to do both at once. She may even enjoy going along. Can you get birdseed there? Great!
  • Do physical tasks when you have the most energy. Mop the floor in the morning if that’s when you feel energetic. Who wants to come home from running errands to mop the floor? Right? Get it done before you head out.
  • Schedule work around the weather. If it’s supposed to rain Sunday, clean out the car on Saturday. If it’s supposed to be a hot day, weed early enough or late enough in the day so it’s more comfortable. Then plan your relaxing during the heat of the day. Sit out on the shaded patio with a cold drink and a good book.
  • Do sit down chores when you need a break between physical chores, or later in the day when you’re winding down. Go thru your checkbook or brush the dog later in the day, when you need a break.
  • Schedule in quick chores between longer ones. Need to run errands? Then you have a family dinner to go to? Don’t pace the floor wondering what to do with yourself in between. You need time to get ready and time to get there, so figure how much time that leaves you to spare. Look at your to-do list for a quick 15 or 30 minute task you can do in between.
  • Schedule your down time. Need an hour to hang by the pool on Sunday? Need 2 hours to read your new book? Put it in your schedule.
  • Try for a good mix of chores and fun for a more pleasurable day.
  • Don’t schedule all your chores for Saturday. You’ll dread it and be exhausted. Spread your chores out during the week.
  • Get the dreaded difficult chores out of the way early in the day. Then it’s all uphill from there.
  • Schedule some excursions in there too. Everyone needs a day, or even a weekend, to get away and relax. If you can’t get away for a long weekend right now, maybe a day trip is enough, just so you don’t have to look at everything that needs done. Who can relax when you’re staring at the weeds in the flowerbed, the grass that needs cut, the dog hair on the sofa, etc. Plan a little fun. And take Rover along. He’ll enjoy the time away too.
Photo via Pixabay

Another way to get more done is to schedule routine housekeeping chores for during the week. Try to fit in one chore a night. One night vacuum. One night dust. One night pull weeds out of the front flowerbed. Or do a load of laundry a night. Whatever works for you. You still have time to relax or work on a hobby, but you’re getting your chores done too. And not leaving it all for the weekend.

So, there’s lots of ways to use your time more effectively. Plan your work, and work your plan, as they say.

So, how do you get the most of your time?

August

The corn is tall, the vegetable garden is winding down but still keeping me hopping, it’s hot and humid, and the flies are obnoxious. It’s August!

Every time I open the door it’s a battle to keep the flies from getting in. I don’t think I ever win that one. I actually broke a flyswatter the other day. It’s an oldie, heavens, I can’t say how long I’ve had it hanging in the kitchen, but the metal handle just busted in half.

My dog is actually pretty good at getting the flies that hang around the patio door screen. Sometimes he even eats them. Gross, right? Not sure I like that…but I guess it seems natural for a dog. Something bothers you, you bite at it. I kind of like that motto.

Incidentally, if you spray your screens and the back of the house around the door with vinegar, it’ll deter the flies for a while.

The corn is nice and tall this year! The ears look good…they’re filling out well. Should be a good crop.

We went to the county fair over the weekend. The crowd was small, and there weren’t as many small animals (poultry, rabbits) but there were lots of horses. It felt good to get out and do something we used to do pre-Covid.

One pleasant activity going on all around me right now is haying. The neighbors have been harvesting their alfafa fields. I just love the smell of fresh hay! When I’d fill the barn each summer, I’d walk inside to feed my horse and just stop and breathe it in. Intoxicating. This year I see a lot of the extra large rectangular bales. I guess it’s easier to bale and pick them up with a fork truck to load on a truck. That way you don’t need extra help. Oh, and someone nearby has a field of sunflowers…wow that’s pretty!

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We’re having another hot spell, it’s supposed to be about 90 degrees all week. That’s nothing compared to what other parts of the U.S. have been dealing with this summer, but for me it’s still hot. Add the humidity, and it’s just downright unpleasant. I hate that sticky feeling…when your arms stick to the table…ugh. And I play that game with the air conditioner…too cold, turn the temp up a degree…too hot…then I just leave it and put a different shirt on or stand in front of a fan til I cool off. Thanks, Menapause, for the hot flashes. Couldn’t you wait til January?? Oh well.

And then about 8 pm, it cools off enough and I get out and water the plants, and walk the dog. Night air is very refreshing. I love to watch the sun set. And listen to the birds chirp, and the locusts sing. I enjoyed the light shows from the lightening bugs (aka fireflies). There were tons of them this year. And I noticed a lack of red winged black birds, but an abundance of goldfinches and monarch butterflies. Every year is different.

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I have a few Northern Mockingbirds that nest around the yard. One of the mothers got a little territorial this year, and would fly at my dog or me if we got too close to the tree where her nest was.

I wanted to go camping again before we run out of nice weather. I know I have time…it’s just about now I get antsy…I gotta do this and I gotta do that before fall. Well, I have a tendency to procrastinate. So I don’t want to let too much time go by and not take advantage of the summer.

Also, my Grandmother on my Mom’s side grew up on the prairies of South Dakota, and my Mother, and then myself, were taught to save the abundance of summer for the rest of the year (freezing and canning). That could contribute to the feeling…or maybe it’s from my school years…enjoy the last weeks of freedom before having to go back to class. Geez, that was a long time ago. You know what I mean? A lifetime ago. I don’t know. Whatever the reason, I feel like I want to do something to enjoy the warm weather before it leaves.

What do you like to do with your summer? Let’s enjoy what remains of August, and our summer.

Declutter Your Life

Have you ever uttered the exasperated phrase, “there’s too much crap in this house!”?

I have. Usually after I’ve been looking for something for hours…and I’ve had to dig thru boxes of stuff I’m keeping because it may come in handy some day…you know what I mean?

As a boomer, possibly your parents (as kids) but definitely your grandparents lived thru the depression. Hence the handed-down ‘keep it til it’s no longer usable’ logic. To this day I feel guilty if I throw away something that’s still usable. And if you grew up like I did, money was short and things were passed around. We did the original ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’. Hand-me-downs, we called it.

As a kid, I remember ripping buttons and zippers out of clothes that were headed to the rag pile. Mom would put them in boxes to be used in other garments she would sew for us. Mom’s button box was a treasure trove I assure you. I loved rummaging thru there, trying to put together 6 matching buttons for a blouse or pajama top.

Image by Shannon Smith from Pixabay

Sometimes, we gather things we fully intend to use someday, but someday doesn’t come. Maybe we lose interest in that hobby, or our home decor has changed styles, or there never seems to be enough time in the day or week or month to get to all the things we’d like to.

And sometimes we just hang on to things for sentimental reasons. I have rugs that were my parents. I always tell myself I’ll use them one of these days. They’re gold, like the color of wheat (remember the 70’s? – harvest gold and avocodo green). Those rugs circled my parent’s bed, an early american canopy bed, with a gold and brown quilt on it, by the way. They were made very well, they’re in great shape still, and I just can’t get rid of them.

I’m not one of those people that thinks you should get rid of everything you haven’t used in 6 months. (Goodby turkey roasting pan I only use at Thanksgiving?) Where would all the antiques and heirlooms be if we all thought that way? But I do aspire to making my stuff fit in the room I have to keep it in. I keep telling myself, I can’t keep it if there’s no room to store it. And I can’t get anything new if there’s no extra room for stuff, so that’s my incentive to keep my pantry and storage room from overflowing.

But if you’re downsizing, you need to make an effort to keep only those things that you’re going to use, or things that you absolutely love. Since the point is to reuse things that still have life in them, find someone in need of what you have. Facebook garage sale is a good way to find someone looking for what you have. I sold some fabric that way. Make a few bucks and share the bounty.

Sometimes I’m hesitant to donate something to Goodwill, if it’s vintage and I think ‘what if no one buys it? It’ll end up in the dump?’. But if I can hand it to someone who adores it, and will use it, then I feel better. Like I decided to pass along 2 sets of drapes I had, but probably will never use, to someone who needed them. She was thrilled to have ‘new to her’ drapes, and I was thrilled someone would be using them.

There’s lots of books out there suggesting you throw out / give away everything except what brings you joy or has a use. I suggest you make a conscious decision about what you’re keeping and why. First, decide how much sentimental objects you have room for. You may have a piece of furniture that was passed down to you, or a set of dishes, or dolls from your childhood, or whatever. You decide how much you can keep.

Home Storage Solutions

Next, list different areas of your life, and think about what you plan to do. For example, this can be your work, cooking, gardening, sketching, sewing, quilting, camping, dancing, etc. Then think about what you need for those activities. Let’s say you have 5 cake pans and you’d rather get a root canal than bake. That’s an easy decision – donate them! If you like to camp and you’ve got camping equipment in the garage, obviously that’s a keeper. But if you’ve got enough equipment for 6 people and it’s just you and hubby, think about paring down to just enough for you two.

If you have time, think about doing your decluttering in stages.

Take a few weeks and go thru your home, room by room, and pull out things that you don’t really love, or that you don’t need / use anymore, and put them in a box for donating. Maybe keep the box in the garage for a few weeks. If you haven’t changed your mind or needed any of the items, pass them on or donate somewhere.

In a few months, do a deeper pass at decluttering your home, and dig thru boxes, drawers, and closets, and pull out anything that, again, doesn’t mean anything to you anymore or doesn’t fit in, or you just don’t want or need anymore.

As we age, we get things passed down to us from our parents, aunts & uncles, etc. We may have loved the person, but don’t have need for all of the items. It’s not mean or uncaring to donate something that doesn’t fit with what your have or fit with your life. If Aunt Karen passed on her doll collection to you, and you live in a small house or apartment, it isn’t terrible of you to keep one or two to remember her by, and pass the others on to someone else. Aunt Karen really doesn’t care about her dolls now. Really.

As you declutter, you’ll find there’s room to compact your storage space, fitting things together to take up less space. And you may just start feeling a little lift. A lot of stuff weighs us down. You’ll feel your home start feeling a little bigger.

And while you’re in the mood to pare down, there are other areas of life that could use decluttering too. When you think about decluttering your life, you think about stuff – books, dishes, furniture, clothes, etc. Sometimes we declutter our minds – by writing down all the things we need to do, so to get it out of our heads and onto paper. But we can also declutter our schedule – of things we don’t really like doing. And we can declutter our hearts – of old hurts and bad memories.

And if you’re in a stage of life that has caused you to rethink what the heck you’re doing with your time and energy, or where you’re going from here – like the kids leaving home, or a divorce or death of a loved one, maybe it’s time to think about what’s really important in your life, and what or who you really want to be in there.

Interior Design for Non-Designers

Creating a pleasing room for the rest of us.

I’ve never been that good with decorating, but I want my home to look nice and reflect who I am now. So I decided to do a little research into Interior Design. I wanted to find out the basics, so I can make the rooms in my house work well, have flow, and look pleasing to the eye. No mean feat, right?

Well, I started digging around for free info. Lots of designers have their own ideas. Of course they do, or who would hire them, right? What I wanted to find out was the elements of interior design. You know, what makes a nice room. I’m not interested in the history of design, or the mechanics of building a space, I just want to decorate. So I dug down deeper to the good stuff.

There are two aspects to designing a good room – the aesthetic and the physical attributes.

The aesthetic attributes are all about the atmosphere of a room, the beauty of the space and furnishings. When you walk into a room, is it pleasing to the eye? Do you feel good in the space? Does it make you feel welcome? Is it comfy?

You need to think about space, color, texture, light and scale. These are what are called the elements of design. There should be a variety in colors (blending or contrasting) and textures (soft/rough, wood/metal/fabric,etc). In an old Better Homes & Gardens decorating book it suggests something like “something dull, something bright, something dark, something light”. Speaking of light, make sure the room has general light as well as task light – for reading or handwork. As for scale, the size of furniture and accessories should be right for the size of the room.

In this picture below, notice the softness of the couch, the brightness of the lamp and picture frame, and how the colors blend. The color scheme may have come from the artwork – the browns of the mountains, the blue from the sky. The lamp provides task lighting for reading or working. The shade is a gray blue color that blends well with the couch. The walls are a muted tan, the floors wood (brown). It looks pleasing to the eye.

Photo by Rachel Claire on Pexels.com

The physical attributes of a room are more about how the room is used, and does it function well. The size of the furnishings in relation to the floor plan. Large, open rooms can handle large, overstuffed furniture, but that furniture would overwhelm a small room. Is there room to walk around the furniture? Can you reach the lamp from the chair? Can you see out the window to enjoy the view?

So, when decorating a room, we need to take into account the physical space we have to work with, the size of the furnishings, and then the colors, textures, and light in the room we’re working on. Also, think about the mood you want in the room. A quiet dining room will be decorated differently than a busy family room with the tv and games.

Here’s some steps to redecorate a room. These are just suggestions, you do what feels right for your space.

  1. Decide how the room will be used – eating or cooking, tv watching or reading, crafting or computer work for example.
  2. Choose a theme – farmhouse, mid-century modern, shabby chic, cabin/lodge, beach house, western/southwestern, or english garden…the theme will give you your color palette and your accessories.
  3. Pick 3 colors – a main color for the walls, carpet, and background fabrics. A second color for fabrics and accessories. A third color for accents. If your room is already painted and you like that color, make that your main color. And remember, ‘wood’ is considered a color.
  4. Find the focal point in the room – usually a fireplace or a view, but it can also be a piece of artwork or a large piece of furniture. This will be what the furniture is arranged around. You can also pick your colors from your focal point, especially a view or artwork.
  5. Make sure the furniture fits the space and function of the room. Only use overstuffed furniture in large rooms. Make sure there’s room to get around things and keep traffic patterns open. Keep seating within about 8 feet for conversation areas. Keep tables and lamps within arm’s reach. Make sure all seats can see the view or the tv. Make sure everyone has light, and a place to put drinks. Don’t be afraid to come into the room with furniture, don’t line it all up against the walls.
  6. Let there be light – general room light, either natural light thru a window or general overhead lighting. Make sure chairs and the sofa have a light for reading or handwork, like knitting.
  7. Decorate the floor – If you have carpeting, keep the color pattern in your main color. If you have wood or vinyl floors, think room size rugs under the couch and chairs, or runners for hallways and traffic paths.
  8. Bring in accessories – books, pillows, pottery, baskets, vases, collectibles, drapes, throws, candlesticks, etc. Use various colors and textures – a soft chunky afghan, a woven basket, and a brass pot with a plant in it is a good example of mixing textures. You can mix patterns (plaid,floral,check,stripe) if the background colors are the same. It helps if you vary the size of the pattern, too, not all tiny or all large.
Image from pinterest.com

Remember, the room should reflect you, so inject your likes and interest in the colors and accessories of the room. The room above looks very pretty and put together, but it looks staged, not lived in. That’s fine for a formal living room, where you greet visitors, but not for a family room, where you want more personal items around you.

Don’t be afraid to mix and match, and use things you already have along with new items. You can mix up vintage and modern, too. Redecorating a room doesn’t have to be expensive. Sometimes, just moving things around or changing out accessories makes a huge difference.

Ways to Ignite Joy in Hard Times

When things are bad, whether huge like a global pandemic, or something smaller in scale like, say, winter, with it’s shorter days and bad weather, or just anything that gets us down, it’s hard to keep our attitudes positive. It’s hard to keep going sometimes. We get weighted down, depressed, and then we kind of shut down. Our moods head south. And I don’t mean Orlando and Disney, I mean south towards grumpy and cranky.

There’s something we can do. We don’t have to live with grumpy and cranky. We can kick them to the curb and invite in happy and energized. How? Some kind of magic? Well, kind of. The magic that happens when we change our focus.

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

Change your focus – and change your mood, and attitude. Take some simple steps to get the juices flowing in your life again. And by juices, I mean activity…mental and physical activity. You need to create positive activity. That creates positive energy.

Here are some ideas.

Make a list of things you’ve done. And not just big things, little things, too. List school degrees, things you’ve learned to do, things you’ve made, a family raised, jobs you’ve held, people you’ve helped, etc. Realize how strong you are and how far you’ve come. Some ideas: building a bookcase from a kit, driving across the state, taking a cooking class or learning to play piano, helping your Mom replant her flowerbeds, playing a sport, being a scout leader for your child when they were young. Maybe you take great photos or throw a great backyard barbecue, or you set up a website for your brother-in-law’s restaurant. List everything you can think of.

Read a book – choose a happy ending romance or an autobiography of someone you admire (chances are their life was not as easy as we would think). Or read about a new subject that you’ve always been interested in. Reading uses the mind more than watching tv.

Cook or bake something you’ve never made before – I’ve always wanted to make a bundt cake but I haven’t yet. I even bought the pan. Find a recipe that sounds awesome and give it a try. If it doesn’t work out, no big deal, just try something else. Learning is good for us.

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Get physical – find an easy exercise video (check out youtube) like yoga or tai chi. Ride a bike. Walk the dog. Even if you’re not very mobile right now, there’s exercise videos that you can do from your chair. Get your blood moving.

Look around you – take walks if you can, and look at the trees, the sky, watch the clouds. Pay attention to the weather, and notice how it affects life around you. Watch the rabbits or squirrels run around your yard. Watch the birds. Pay attention to your spouse, pets, children. Really be in the moment. Enjoy what’s around you.

Plan a trip you can’t afford – I know this sounds strange, but pretend you can afford that trip to Rome, or Yosemite National Park, or Denver, or wherever. Find a neat hotel, plan your activities, where you’ll eat, etc. Learn all about the area.

Think of others – hold the door for someone, be courteous, be kind. Maybe your kids are too big for you to sew up a flannel blanket or stuffed bear, but there are other needy people out there who would love something you could make. Consider your elderly family members or neighbors, and offer to get them groceries or see that they’re taken care of. Helping others helps us too.

Dream a dream – reawaken a dream you’ve let slide to the back burner. Think about it, plan it. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to knit, or make a quilt, or learn to play guitar, or compete in horse competitions, or raise goats, or grow the best roses in your county. Maybe you want to grow a hobby into a business so you can quit a job you hate or are tired of after 30 years of working. Now’s the time.

Photo by Karyme Franu00e7a on Pexels.com

Find a dream – if there isn’t any dream on your back burner, so to speak, it’s time to find one. Think about what would bring you joy. Research ideas, read about subjects that interest you, and find a dream or project to work towards. Something that will add a spark of joy to your life and ignite your energy.

Start a new project – maybe you’ve been wanting to redecorate your bedroom, or organize the closets in your house, or finish that vacation scrapbook, or plan next year’s garden. Clear a space on the dining room table or wherever you can spread out, get some supplies, and get working. A project doesn’t have to be huge. It can be as small as cleaning out the entry closet. Or sorting thru your clothes and tossing what doesn’t fit. Sit down and make a list of things that need done around the house, or things you’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t. And don’t forget to add something fun, too, like sewing new Christmas stockings or making your own candles, or whatever.

Get crafty – speaking of making your own…whether or not you consider yourself crafty, there are a zillion craft ideas out there for all kinds of diy craft project skill levels. Search the internet, especially pinterest.com for tons of ideas for things you can make. If your skills are lacking, check out tutorials on youtube.com. It could be making soap or jewelry, coloring, poetry, sewing, knitting, crocheting, paper crafts, wood signs, painting (even paint by number kits), drawing, scrapbooking, etc. Creating something is a great activity anytime, but especially when things aren’t going well. It makes you feel in control and capable. And that’s always a good thing.

Decorate – similar to ‘get crafty’, each season brings new opportunities for new decor items – for the front porch, the living room, the kitchen, the office. Find some inspiration and a diy craft idea that you want to try. If you have seasonal decor that you’ve always used, try to mix and match and change it up a bit for a change.

Reconnect – whether it’s with a sibling, or an old friend, an older relative, a neighbor, or even with your younger self or an unused skill or talent, spend some time reconnecting. Talking helps us feel connected, and helps relieve any loneliness you may be feeling. Reliving old times helps us remember good things (great memories) but also the bad things. This makes us realize how resilient we are, and that things aren’t always great, but we get thru them. Sometimes we make the past seem all rosy, but in reality there is never all good, and never all bad. And we get thru it.

Start a journal – when you start reliving those old times, think about writing down the joys and tribulations of growing up and living your life. Write about things you’ve done, people you’ve known and loved. Write about your school years. Write about your family. Write about what you’ve loved and what you wanted when you were a kid. There could be some hidden dreams rediscovered. And sometimes, we think we haven’t done anything with our life, but when we start writing things down, we realize we’ve done quite a lot.

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

These are just a few ideas, there are so many more things you can do to get your energy and mood back up. Try one, or two. And remember you are capable and resilient. And, as the saying goes, this too shall pass. Bad times don’t stay. The rain storm moves thru and the blue sky and sunshine return.

Dinner for Two (or One)

For most middle-aged country women, we’ve grown used to cooking for a family, maybe 4 or 5 (or more) people. But there comes a time when the kids grow up and move out on their own, and it’s down to you and your hubby, or maybe just down to you and you are now cooking for 1 or 2.

How do you go from cooking for a group to cooking for just one or two?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The appetites of growing children and middle-aged adults are different. You can cook food that is lighter, now, and you can cook less of it. How hearty your meals need to be depends on how hard you work, though. If you both work hard on the farm, you need more than if you are semi-retired and not very active.

As we age, do you find that certain foods cause gas? Or maybe everything does? LOL. You can adjust what you cook to the foods that feel better on your stomach, or that cause the least upset.

Dinner for two can be a calm, peaceful activity, accentuated with a sharing of ‘guess what happened to me today’ or ‘guess who I saw today’. The last thing you want is to feel that there’s no use cooking for ‘just us’ or ‘just me’. You – or you and your spouse – deserve to eat well and to enjoy all that life has to offer at this new stage in life.

You can set a nice table in the dining room any day you want to. But you don’t necessarily need to eat in the dining room, or even at the kitchen table. You can eat in the living room with old-fashioned tv trays or folding tables, or you can eat out on the deck if the weather cooperates. You can relax, now, and make things fun and interesting. Even if you’re cooking for one or two.

Think about packing a lunch and heading to the park or the beach. Maybe not in the winter, but in nice weather, picnics can be very enjoyable. All by yourself? Take a friend, 2-legged or 4-legged. Or enjoy the peace of spending a little time by yourself.

Eat on a tray in your favorite easy chair while you watch one of your favorite movies on tv. Getting older should have perks.

So, we’ve covered how to make cooking for 1 or 2 more fun, but how do you turn your recipes for 6 into a recipe for 2? After all, most recipes are for 4 to 6 servings, right?

It depends on how much you enjoy leftovers.

If you don’t mind leftovers, you can make a pot of stew and eat on it for 3 days. Or, if that’s not appetizing to you, you can cut the ingredients in half, or freeze half. Did you used to make a double batch of lasagna and freeze one for later? Scale down, and bake one, and freeze half of it for another night. Used to baking a sheet cake that the kids would finish off in a couple days? Instead, bake two 8×8 inch size cakes and freeze one. Or bake one 8×8 inch cake and a dozen cupcakes. Freeze one or the other.

You can still enjoy the price savings of buying the family pack of meat, but when you get home, divide it into usable portions and freeze it that way. If there’s 2 of you, and you don’t mind leftovers, put 4 pork chops or chicken breasts in a freezer container. That way, you can cook 2 meals at once when you decide to thaw them later.

Imagine the freedom of not having to make huge meals every day. Cook once and eat 2 or 3 days. I love that! Just pull something out of the freezer the night before. Easy peasy. Cook 3 things with one serving of leftovers each, and eat all week. Well, almost.

Photo by Pexels via Pixabay

Some things freeze better than others. Pasta and potatoes can get soggy after being frozen. Cooked rice freezes well. Cream soups don’t freeze well because the milk separates, but broth soups do freeze well. I find chili freezes well. Remember to wrap things well, in aluminum foil or wax paper, then in a freezer bag. Or use plastic containers made for freezing. Bread can be frozen. If you find you don’t get thru a loaf of bread before it gets moldy or stale, freeze half of it for later.

For lots of tips on freezing food safely, check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website. Here’s a link:

https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/freezing-and-food-safety/CT_Index

Also, now that it’s down to you two (or just you), you can spend a little more on the cuts of meat, or products you buy. You can splurge on going out once in a while. It’s cheaper for 1 or 2 than for 6. Or you can eat leaner. You can try new recipes that the kids might not have liked. You can also spend a little more time on setting a nice table. I mean it’s not like little Joe is going to spill his milk all over Grandma’s lace table cloth now.

You can also splurge a little on desserts once in a while, since you’re only cooking for 1 or 2.

Here’s an old recipe from the cookbook, Betty Crocker’s New Dinner for Two, copyright 1964.

Individual Brownie Alaska

Bake brownies as directed on our fudge brownie mix pkg (or make your own). Cut two 3 x 2-1/4″ pieces. Make meringue by beating 1 egg white until stiff; add 2 tbsp sugar gradually and continue beating until stiff and glossy. Place brownie pieces on baking sheet covered with double thickness of aluminum foil. Top each piece with a slice of hard brick vanilla ice cream (or any flavor). Cover with meringue, being certain it completely covers ice cream and comes down to foil. Back at 450 degrees (hot) for 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned. 2 servings.

The only thing I’m not sure of in this recipe is the aluminum foil. It doesn’t say to take it out, so I guess ‘eat carefully’. 🙂 I remember making Baked Alaska in high school home ec class. But we didn’t use aluminum foil that I recall.

Here’s a newer version from the Betty Crocker website. See the link below the picture for the instructions. That looks like a zillion calories doesn’t it? But super good too!

https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/holiday-baked-alaska/c936a634-e9d5-4acc-ae6d-0127fc8d1371

So, enjoy the lightened load of not having to cook huge meals every day. Try new recipes. Go out to eat once in a while. Pare down the recipes you’ve always loved. If you don’t want the leftovers, share them with someone who could use the home cooked meal. Enjoy the life you have now.

As with all things in our lives, the only constant is change. You can’t go backwards, you have to go forwards, so make it enjoyable.

Happy eating!

Heading into a New Year

The magic of Christmas has come and gone. The presents have been exchanged, the turkey eaten, and the family has gone home. The presents lay under the tree waiting to be put away. In the next few days, depending on how long you like to leave the tree up, you’ll be taking down the tree, and putting away all the decorations. Doesn’t it seem to go fast?

Another year has come and gone. Pretty soon it’ll be a new year.

After Christmas, there’s a kind of lull. A quiet time before the hoopla of New Year’s Eve. A time to think about how crazy your family is…err, no, I mean it’s time to think about what kind of year it was, and what went right or wrong or sideways or just right. And it’s time to think about what you would like next year to be like.

Of course, if you think about it, a new year is kind of like a do-over. Right? Didn’t get around to something this year? You get a do-over in the new year. Try again. Wanted to try something new but didn’t? Do-over! Try again in the new year. You get another chance.

You know, as the year comes to a close, and the Holiday season winds down, there’s gonna be a lot of cold, dark winter evenings to fill. It’s a great time to start a new project. Or do some sorting/purging.

As I put away the Christmas decorations, I sort them, and choose which ones to keep. I set a few aside that I’m not in love with to take to Goodwill, or maybe pass along to someone I know. I’ve got tons of Christmas decorations, and I want to make sure that what I keep is what I like, or what has value for me, like things that reflect my interests, or were my parents or grandparents.

Every year I like to get a few new ornaments or things to put on the wall or shelf, and if I keep everything I won’t have room for anything new.

It occurs to me that life is the same way. As we pass thru this adventure called life, we should sometimes take a breather, look around at where we are, and what things or people surround us, and make sure that we’re keeping the good stuff. The stuff that has meaning. People we love. Things that we enjoy, or that remind us of loved ones that have passed on, our childhood, good times.

We need to be open to new, wonderful things in our lives. In order to do that, we need to have enough room in our hearts for the new stuff. We do that by letting go of things that no longer reflect us, or have meaning.

Take some time to reflect on the year. Photo by picjumbo.com on Pixabay

Think about all the good stuff in your life. For sure, 2020 has been a year for the history books, far from normal, but maybe Covid has shown us more of what is truly important…jobs, family and friends. We can still take stock of the good stuff in our lives. And we can purge the stuff we don’t want or need anymore.

Whether that’s a mean looking Santa figurine, an ugly sweater that we never wore, (but thanks for the thought sis!), or an old grudge that we’ve carried around so long we don’t remember the reason behind it, it’s good to let stuff go. It clears our homes and our hearts for better things.

So as the new year approaches, take a little time to reflect on all the good stuff in your life, and maybe let go of a few things that don’t serve you anymore. Like hard feelings, or ugly sweaters. Make room for some more good stuff coming your way next year.

Enjoying Christmas on Your Own

Many of us are facing the Holidays alone this year, with COVID restrictions and trying to keep gatherings to a minimum. But that doesn’t mean we have to give up and spend the day hiding under the covers in our jammies.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy Christmas. Gatherings may be smaller, people may opt not to travel, or it may just not be possible this year. Christmas may not be what you picture as a perfect Holiday, but try to think outside the box and reimagine things. Or rather, imagine a Happy day…what would that look like for you?

Enjoy the Christmas you have. Picture by Jill Wellington via Pixabay.

Find ways to spark some joy in your Holiday, even if you’re alone this year. Maybe the kids aren’t coming home, or you don’t have kids or grandkids, maybe you got divorced, maybe you’re not able to have the large family gathering you usually do, whatever the reason, know you are not alone in feeling blue at Christmas.

But there are ways to enjoy the most happy time of year even though it’s not ideal.

Here’s some ideas.

Photo Albums, picture by jarmoluk via Pixabay.

Take a stroll down memory lane.

Go back in time to when Christmases were fun and magical, and relive those times in your mind and heart. Whether that’s your childhood, or when you were first married or the kids were little, whenever you remember being happy this time of year. Cherish those memories, let your mind wander back, remember the magic, and the good times. What traditions do you remember? What decorations meant the most to you? What presents do you remember loving the most? Who do you remember loving you and you loving in return? Remember. Cherish.

Take a stroll outside.

Get bundled up and take a walk in the snow. Notice what’s around you…the beauty of a snow covered bush, sparrows chirping in the trees, a bright blue sky, or maybe a gray, overcast one. Listen…to the birds, to the earth crunch under foot, or to silence. Feel…the sensation of cold air in your lungs, the emotions at the memories that spring to mind, the knowledge that you are part of a world much bigger than you…feel the progress as your feet and legs move you along, and know that represents something bigger…the strength that comes from tackling your problems and moving ahead.

Photo by Tsuneya at Pixabay

Play with your dog.

Dogs can be wonderful companions…loyal, loving, and true. Snuggle companions and playful friends. Take your baby outside and play snowball catch, or just watch them play in the snow. Inside, sit on the floor and love them up. Whatever you do with your fur baby, just enjoy them and shower them with love. You can talk to them, too, you know. They listen without censor, and they don’t tell anyone what you said. A very good quality.

Photo by Jenny Nguyen via Pixabay

Be grateful.

Yes, there are things…or people…missing from your life, no one’s life is perfect. But we are happier when we’re grateful for what we do have. Make a list of everything you are grateful for. Every night thank the Lord for what he’s given you. Don’t ever get complacent or think that nothing has gone right in your life. That’s never true. Make a point to be grateful.

Sing Christmas music

I know…you’re feeling blue and “All I want for Christmas is You” is all you feel like singing. Maybe this isn’t for you, but for me singing Christmas songs lifts my mood. Give it a try. Crank up the stereo and belt out “Deck the Halls” and see if it makes you smile. The dog may look at you like you’ve lost it, but that’s no biggie.

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

Decorate anyway

I know a lot of older women don’t put up a Christmas tree if the kids aren’t coming home, and I never quite understood that. Not everyone has children. Decorate anyway. The decorations are for you as well as for the kids. Get out from under the notion that everything you do is for someone else. Do it for you. Don’t you like the lights? Don’t you enjoy the tree and garlands and the happy Santas and elves sitting around? Decorate anyway.

Photo by Bruno/Germany via Pixabay

Buy gifts for those you love.

IF you can’t get to them this year, mail the packages. There’s something to be said for getting outside of yourself, for thinking of others, to make you feel better. If you don’t have someone to buy for, buy for Toys for Tots, and donate so little kids in your area will have a gift for Christmas. There is probably a nursing home in your area as well, you could see about buying a gift for an elderly person who doesn’t have family nearby to visit them. There’s always someone in need. Reach out.

Photo by Free-Photos via Pixabay

Plan your Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Don’t just wing it, because if you’re feeling blue you may just sit on the couch staring at the wall. Or worse. Make a plan. Lots of churches are holding services on Facebook or online if you’d like that. Plan to bake something. Read a good novel. Try a gourmet meal. Watch a movie marathon. Call a friend. Call family. Take a drive and look at the Christmas lights. Visit a friend. Have a few people over. Ride your exercise bike. Try dancing to some great disco song on youtube. Whatever. Write it down, plan your day.

Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

Learn to do a video call on your Smartphone. Then you can see and talk to family and friends without being there. Try connecting via Zoom so you can all get together for a quick visit. Technology is making a lot of things possible.

I hope one of these ideas has sparked your imagination. There are many things we can do to make the Holidays sparkle. And sometimes they end up better than we ever thought they would. I hope your Holiday sparkles with joy this year.

DIY Christmas Pillows

I love changing out my couch pillows for the season. Don’t you? There’s so many fun and pretty Christmas throw pillows out there, we could easily have too many pillows…in fact, last year my sister looked at my couch, and said, “that’s a lot of pillows”.

Sisters…right?

Koh’s Chistmas pillow

I love this pillow. It’s on Kohl’s website. It would fit great with my decor, I love the red barn (I have a red barn) and I love vintage pickups. But…it’s pricey. I might wait for it to go on sale later in the season.

It got me thinking, though, about Christmas pillows I could make myself, and for a lot less than the stores are charging.

So, I’ve rounded up a few store versions of Christmas pillows that you can easily make at home. Now, you can’t store 4 seasons worth of pillows easily, so consider making pillow covers – and use the same pillows for all seasons, just change out the covers.

To make a pillow cover, you need about a half yard of fabric. It can be flannel, fleece, or cotton. Or, an old sweater or sweatshirt works just as well. You can make any size pillow, but most couch pillows are 16″ or 18″ square. Feel free to make a 12″ square pillow, or a rectangle or circle, too. No rules, do whatever feels right.

I suggest making an envelope pillow cover, so there’s no zipper or buttons to deal with. When I made my first one, I googled it, and followed a youtube video. It’s easy, I promise.

For example, this youtube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wc3ZaokODrs is one of many out there. (Just included for your info, no affiliate relationship)

I’m gonna show you some store pillows that you can make yourself at home for a fraction of the cost. Sometimes, if you get creative, you can make designer looking pillows for a lot less.

For example, here’s a table runner I bought at Hobby Lobby.

table runner available at Hobby Lobby (not an affiliate)

Isn’t it cute? Little red pickups are everywhere right not. I love the little red truck design, but I didn’t need a table runner. I wanted a throw pillow. So I used the table runner as my fabric, and folded the red truck portion over the plaid, cut the plaid to match the size of the red truck section, then sewed around the edges (right sides together) leaving one end open. I stuffed it with polyester fiberfill, and then hand sewed the last side closed. The table runner had a red truck square at both ends, so I got two pillows about 15″ square for like $15. I would’ve paid at least $20 each at a store.

Here’s some more ideas you can DIY.

Hobby Lobby buffalo check pillow

This buffalo check pillow was on the Hobby Lobby site. This is an easy DIY, all you need is a half yard of flannel. This time of year flannel is on sale at JoAnn’s for $2-$3 a yard, making this a very affordable DIY Christmas pillow. You can use any plaid you like, or even a Christmas flannel design. Follow the youtube directions for making an envelope style pillow cover.

Target pillow

This is a cool variation with buffalo plaid. For this pillow, make a plain envelope pillow cover using flannel, cotton, or even sweatshirt or fleece fabric, then sew or iron on an applique of a bear, like this example, or a deer head, or moose. It may be easiest to sew the animal applique to the fabric before putting the pillow cover together.

For the animal outline, Google ‘bear outline’, and find a free clipart image that you can use as a pattern. Cut this out of a flannel or even a plain colored felt, and then sew the animal form onto the pillow cover. If you don’t sew, you could buy an iron on transfer to use.

Zulily pillow

Here’s another pillow that you can create. You would make this pillow the same as for the bear pillow above, except you would cut out a few tree shapes and sew those to the pillow. You could use flannel plaids, or felt, or wool pieces, whatever you have.

Here’s another version, using simple tree shapes cut from flannel and sweater knit. You could use fabric scraps for this, making it an inexpensive project.

Here’s a cool pillow with a cabin-y vibe. It looks like cross-stitch, but with some simple sewing, this could be something a little different. My version would be squares cut from Christmas flannel, sewed together to make the front panel. I would use plain flannel for the back. For an 18″ pillow, the squares should be 6 1/2″ square, which allows for a 1/4″ seam allowance. Sew three strips of 3 squares together, then sew those 3 strips to each other create the front of the pillow. Cut an 18 1/2″ square of plain flannel for the back, sew together (right sides together), leaving one side open. Insert a pillow form inside, and handstitch up the open side.

Here’s another option. Cut an 18″ wide piece out of cotton fabric. Make it the length of the fabric, which is usually about 44″. Make an envelope pillow cover using the instructions linked to above. I used this fabric for myself. I love the horses and the red barns. It’s very Christmasy and being a horse lover, it’s just perfect.

Find a piece of fabric that shows what you love, whether that’s puppies or chickens or cows or pickup trucks or chickadees or Santas or snowmen, whatever you love, and make a Christmas pillow for your couch or bed. Make your home decor say, “you”. And what better way for your home to say “you”, than to have things around that you have made.

Happy Crafting!

Outdoor Christmas Decor you can put up yourself

Are you tired of waiting on a man to put out Christmas lights? Whether it’s your husband, boyfriend, brother, or friend, do they promise to make time for you, then never make time?

Oh, most times their heart’s in the right place, they just have too many projects for the amount of time they have available. That’s their story, anyway. And hey, it’s the Holiday Season, so we’ll take it.

That said, there’s no reason you can’t have an outdoor holiday display, you just have to do it yourself. Like someone once said, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Right?

The house from the movie, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. For some fun facts from the movie, visit https://lancasteronline.com/features/to-celebrate-its-25th-anniversary-here-are-25-facts-about-the-movie-christmas-vacation/article_45972912-89eb-11e4-843a-f725382df410.html (not an affiliate link, just a nice little aside)

I’m not suggesting you go all out, like Clark Griswald, especially if you’re doing this by yourself. What I am suggesting, however, is that you can have some Christmas decor out front, and you can do it yourself.

So, if you’re like me, you’re not going to haul out a 12 foot ladder and climb up to the roof to hang lights. But, you can haul out a 6 foot ladder and hang lights around the garage door, lower windows, bushes, porch railings, and around the front door. All it takes is a few gutter hooks, Command brand hangers, or a hammer and nails, and some strings of lights.

That said, the most important thing to keep in mind here is safety. Don’t climb on a high ladder without someone to spot you. Don’t plug too much into one socket. Okay?

Okay. The first step is to make a plan.

  • How much do you want to do? Figure out how much time you want to put into it, how many light sets you want to hang, how much of the house you want to decorate, etc.
  • Think about where you’ll plug all this in. Do you have outdoor receptacles? (outlets) Also, you may need an outdoor contractor grade extension cord (large green or orange cords) to plug everything in. You can buy these at any WalMart etc. They also make outdoor plug-in stations with timers so your lights will come on and off at scheduled times. You can find these wherever you buy Christmas light sets.
  • You’ll need to attach the lights to your windows or siding – get some Command brand hangers (make sure they are for outdoor use) to stick to windows or vinyl siding, or some gutter hooks – these will attach to gutters or vinyl siding.
  • Get your light sets, garland, and whatever else you have to add to your festive display.
  • Get started! Place your hangers (nails, gutter hooks, or sticky hangers) where you want to string lights – the corners of windows, along the top of doors, etc. String the light sets. Plug them in. You may want to start at the electric outlet to get an accurate starting point for stringing lights.

I found a video on hanging lights around windows, that I’ll link to here. It describes using the Command sticky hangers for hanging the lights outside or inside. It’s https://www.festive-lights.com/blog/christmas/how-to-run-christmas-lights-around-a-window/.

Here’s some ideas to get you thinking.

Beautiful display, see Lowes.com for details

Here’s a beautiful display of lights in a bay window. This was on the Lowe’s website. This would require stringing lights around the top of the window using gutter hooks or nails, depending on whether there is wood or vinyl around your windows. Then you could hang lights around each window using the Command hangers that would stick to the glass.

Festive front door, countryliving.com

If a window full of lights is a little more than you want to tackle, here’s a simpler solution. An evergreen wreath on the door, which is flanked by two potted evergreens. Battery light sets could be used if you don’t have an electric outlet handy. If you do have an outdoor electric receptacle, you could hang a set of lights around the door as well, using nails or gutter hooks to attach the string of lights to the door jam. Add a Christmas welcome mat, and call it Christmas!

festive front porch with evergreen swags. Source unknown.

Here’s another simple idea for a festive front porch. Simple evergreen swags with red bows and light sets strung inside the garland make a striking picture. A matching wreath for the front door would make it perfect. You can choose real or faux garland, the choice is yours. The only thing is, if you have a large porch, this could get expensive.

Red and White front porch, source unknown.

Here’s a beautiful front door that you can achieve yourself. A simple red wreath hangs on the door, flanked by two pots full of poinsettias. You can complete the look with outdoor ornaments hanging by ribbon from your porch roof. However, if, like me, you live out in the country, the wind would reek havoc on those ornaments. They wouldn’t last long. If you have porch columns, you could wrap them in white lights or red ribbon. That would last longer and look just as awesome.

The home improvement store Lowe’s has a great article on hanging lights that I want to share. It has practical tips and a video. You can find it here:

https://www.lowes.com/n/how-to/tips-for-hanging-outdoor-christmas-lights

There’s lots of options for DIY outdoor Christmas decor that you can do yourself. It depends on your style, and how much you want to do. You can decorate your door and porch with a wreath and garlands. You can hang lights around the windows and garage door. You can put light sets on your front bushes, if you have them. You can use the fun pathway markers that you can buy at any home improvement store – either candy canes or Santas or snowmen. They are plastic covers that slide onto stakes with a light set strung between them. Very easy to set up and very cute!

These are from Home Depot, but you can get them lots of places. (no affiliate link, just a picture)

I hope I’ve sparked your imagination and got you thinking of ways to put a festive touch to your home. Just remember, be safe, plan before you do, and keep your plan within your abilities. Oh, and have fun!