Jan 062014
One of my proud moments of 2013 is that I managed to exercise even while on vacation!  It can be done!

One of my proud moments of 2013 is that I managed to exercise even while on vacation! It can be done!

There are a lot of themes going on this month. I told you about my overarching theme word for 2014 but this month, my focus, like most of America, is on diet and exercise. Last year, I started a diet and exercise plan and for the most part, I have been faithful about executing it for almost a year now! While I am not any sort of expert on diet and exercise and am just stumbling along with everyone else, I do have some insight to share about how I managed to stick with it, what the ongoing challenges are and how my plan is impacting my own health.

No matter what advances we come up with in medical science, it is probably true that we are never going to get away from diet and exercise as a means to obtain optimum health.

If you are struggling with diet and exercise, please know that my posts this month are not intended to make anyone feel guilty or jealous. I am not advocating that everybody should follow the plan that is working for me. I only hope to encourage people to seek out the plan that works for their body and their life.

If you have any specific questions or concerns you would like to see addressed on diet and exercise this month, please post your thoughts in the comments or email me.

P.S. My email inbox is overflowing lately with New Year’s inspiration and encouragement from so many different places. If I have one wish for 2014, it is that all of my gurus continue to stay fired up for the entire year and keep churning out more great ideas and words of wisdom so that I stay fired up (selfish, I know!). I loved Ramit Sethi’s post today with his theme for 2014. It links nicely with my own personal theme. Ramit also gives us the great quote: “As your surrogate Asian father, I demand more for you.” Marcia Francois, my theme word inspiration source, also shared her theme word for 2014 taking on a spiritual focus.

P.P.S. For those of you on my mailing list, I am trying to increase my posting frequency this year but don’t want to wear out my welcome in your email inbox. I am switching my email notifications to provide a weekly summary of posts rather than daily posts. If you would prefer daily notifications, just let me know.

 Posted by on January 6, 2014 Previews Tagged with:
Apr 062012

It's dogwood and azalea season in Virginia. One of the most beautiful times of the year!

My time is entirely controlled by Mother Nature lately. It started a few weeks ago when my daughter brought home a terrible norovirus-like illness she picked up somewhere. It spread quickly through the whole family and forced us to rearrange all of our plans to rest and recover. Lately, we have been doing some work in the yard and our days are basically controlled by the weather. If the weather pattern changes rapidly, we have to reschedule our entire day on the fly. It’s kind of a pain but nature is also an excellent teacher. If you struggle with perfectionism or you like things just so, it might be the best thing in the world for you to spend more time outside.

Over the course of this month, I will be sharing several projects I am working on to make my own yard look more organized. Last year, I focused on gardening projects that didn’t require much planting and were primarily about various hardscaping elements you can put into your garden.

This year’s focus is simply to finish up a lot of garden projects that have been on my to do list forever. Some are very small and simple, others complex. There will be some hardscaping as well as some planting.

First up, a very simple weeding tip.

 Posted by on April 6, 2012 Previews Tagged with:
Dec 062011

Christmas is coming! Scene from our local parade.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . . . everywhere but at our house! While I am seeing so many lights and decorations in my neighborhood as well as cute blogs showcasing elegant homes and decorations, we have yet to put out a single decoration! While the holiday cards are already rolling in, we have just started our shopping and are currently on the Type B path to Christmas.

If you are in a similar boat, take heart in the following:

1) “Christmas” in many cultures and religions starts on Christmas Day and continues for the 12 days following Christmas. On this schedule, Christmas “ends” January 6. So you can still get 30 days enjoyment out of your decorations if you start today!

2) There might be a safety advantage to starting a little later in your decorations if you are using a live tree.

“Do not put your live tree up too early or leave it up for longer than two weeks.”

Focus on Fire Safety: Holiday Fire Safety, U.S. Fire Administration

3) If you missed out on Black Friday sales, you might not have missed much and some of the best shopping bargains are only coming out now! When I spot-checked prices over Thanksgiving weekend, I didn’t find any sales that I found irresistible and even found that one sneaky retailer actually increased prices by 5-20% over Black Friday weekend and has only recently lowered them back down to where they were before the holiday season.

The “holiday season” is one long marathon from Halloween to Christmas and by this stage in the game we are a little tired. We enjoy the Christmas season, however, and we actually have done some things to prepare:

1) Months ago, we booked season tickets to the ballet, including my holiday tradition with my girls, attending the Nutcracker.

2) Around Thanksgiving, we negotiated with both sides of our family regarding gift giving lists for the holiday season. You may recall that last year, we implemented “No gifts.” This year we are trying “kids only” on one side and “draw a family for a family gift” on the other. This cut our shopping time and general holiday stress by 90%.

3) We booked activities with our children for each weekend in December. Last weekend, was the Christmas parade, this weekend the Santa Train and next weekend, the Nutcracker. We are trying to be out and about enjoying the season.

However, there is still a ton left to do and the time windows for certain activities are closing fast. Keeping track of priority deadlines is required at this point. If you need a quick checklist (like I do), here are the things to concentrate on this week and to finish no later than next week:

This week:

1) To the extent possible, finish Christmas/holiday shopping or at least finish your shopping list of exactly what you plan to buy this year.

2) If you are buying anything used (books, etc.), which is a great way to save money, you probably need to place those orders this week to ensure they will ship in time for Christmas. Most used sellers use the slower “Media Mail” shipping option.

3) Take Christmas/holiday photos and order any photo reprints needed. You can save some money on your photos if you give yourself enough time to take advantage of regular shipping and non-expedited printing. Soon, photo printers will be overwhelmed with Christmas orders and you may not get your photos in time for Christmas.

4) If you are framing anything for a Christmas gift or ordering anything custom-made, get that order in now before the maker is overbooked.

No later than next week:

1) Mail any continental U.S. presents. Regular shipping deadlines are closing around next Thursday, December 15, for most retailers. After that point, you will need to pay for expedited shipping which can be expensive and many shippers won’t guarantee that even if you pay for expedited shipping that your order will arrive in time for Christmas.

2) Decide on your Christmas menu. Put in orders for any special ingredients, etc.

This month at Ruly we are going to take it easy as we proceed through to Christmas and New Years. I hope to keep the posts light and fun and point out simple ideas from others to de-stress your holiday celebrations. We will also continue our organizing efforts with a feature on one of the organizational challenges for all parents…toy storage.

For your holiday enjoyment today, I wanted to point out the following fun holiday posts:

  • Apartment Therapy: No Room for a Tree? 10 DIY Modern Holiday Alternatives – I love these clever ideas for a unique and space-saving tree, from hanging items on the wall in a tree shape to projecting a tree with light. If we didn’t have a beast of an artificial tree in the basement (that our children are begging to put up) I would love to experiment with these ideas.
  • Lego’s Online Holiday Advent Calendar – While a physical advent calendar, counting the days to Christmas, is fun, this year we are experimenting with a virtual advent calendar. Lego has a great animation that unlocks about every two days showing different Lego characters getting ready for Christmas. I set it as the homepage on my daughters’ computer and they love it. Free!

How are you coming along with your holiday preparations?  Please share in the comments.


 Posted by on December 6, 2011 Previews Tagged with: , , , ,
Nov 012011

"Eat Your Veggies: At the farmer's market in Holland, MI" (October 29, 2011) Photo by Kate Ter Haar. From the Flickr Creative Commons.

With holiday preparations added to the general mix of life, the fall months are flying by.  November is here already!  It’s another month and time for another Ruly theme.

With our 10 pounds of Halloween candy piled beside me, I know that we need to focus on eating more healthy food.  I am also a realist though.  We, like every family, are busy and I have already told you that I am not the greatest cook.  So, if we take some of the change principles we learned earlier this year to make the path easier and engage in short-duration test projects, my goal this month is to try to change my diet in the easiest way possible.

First, my general guidelines:

  1. I am not cutting out “bad stuff” like sugar and candy or fatty things like fried foods but instead am making sure that I get a full serving of fruits and vegetables each day.  If I am still hungry for candy or some other indulgence afterward, I will allow myself to eat whatever I want.
  2. It will be definite recipe for failure if I attempt to buy a variety of wonderful fresh produce at the store and try all kinds of recipes.  I can already tell you the result of such an experiment.  Half the produce will be a rotted mess in my fridge and we will eat out rather than cook something complicated.
  3. Suze Orman issued a challenge recently on her show to not eat out for 30 days, both as an exercise in health as well as financial savings.  With the exception of special occasions and business meals for my husband, we will aim to eat at home.
  4. We are really going to try to exercise every day as well.  We ordered up Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred video from amazon.com which gives you 3, 20-minute workouts and promises results with just 20 minutes per day.  I have watched (but not done) one of the videos and it seems like it is a good workout for both men and women.  Amazon (or Jillian Michaels) was really thinking ahead on the sale of this video.  They give you an e-version of the video through Amazon for free after you buy it so you can get started right away while your motivation is fresh instead of hoping you are still motivated by the time the DVD arrives in the mail.

The Fruits and Vegetables requirement

I have no idea how much fruit and vegetables a person is supposed to eat each day.  I went online to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Choose My Plate site (which replaced the old food pyramid site) and found that the guideline for how much to eat each day is really simple.

Half Your Plate Should be Fruit and Vegetables

That’s it!  No ounces or cups or “servings.”  Just half of what you eat at each meal should be fruits and vegetables.  So if you eat a huge steak or several slices of pizza, you also have to eat a huge salad or a huge quantity of green beans or carrots to balance things out.  If you snack on a candy bar, you also have to eat a banana or apple.  Now that is a rule all of us can remember!

In practice, how could our family implement this?  We have a challenge because half of our eaters are under 6 and don’t really care for fruits and vegetables.  The adults like them but don’t have time to do a lot of peeling, chopping and cooking.  We also want to make sure that our veggies are relatively fresh and not laden with salt or sugar.  So, the quick options are:


  • Banana
  • Apple
  • Raisins
  • Orange juice or other no-sugar juices
  • Canned pineapple chunks in pineapple juice
  • Berry smoothie using frozen fruit and yogurt


  • Salad of mixed greens or Greek-style (cucumber and tomato)
  • Carrot and celery sticks with hummus
  • Low-sodium tomato or V8 juice or fresh vegetable juice from our juicer
  • Raisins or grapes
  • Ravioli with vegetables inside (from the frozen food section)


  • Broccoli (our big bag of frozen broccoli is likely to make frequent appearances)
  • Squash
  • Salad (again)
  • Whole grain Pasta with tomato sauce
  • *possibly more interesting dishes depending on my energy level

I am hoping that if we set the right example our children might start eating more fruits and vegetables too.

Coincidentally, this month the USDA is hosting an eat more fruits and vegetables video challenge with a $1500 prize for the best video.  You can check out some of the submissions here.

The USDA also is trying to teach people how to eat more fruit and vegetables without spending a lot of money.  They have catchy article titles like “Eat Right When Money’s Tight.”

So, this month will be about food and meal planning as well as organizing your life when you need to make a change.

How are your eating habits?  What are your strategies for eating more fruits and vegetables?  Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on November 1, 2011 General, Previews Tagged with: , , ,
Jun 022011

One of my gardening success stories...a bloodroot flower this spring!

It’s a new month at Ruly. We are halfway through 2011 and this month I am applying my organizing talents outdoors to update my garden! I started this process last year but still have a long way to go.

Last year, I left you with a Ruly Challenge to investigate a list of native plants for your area and consider adding more of these plants to your landscaping. I took my own medicine and ordered some native plants to put in the ground last fall.

I am pleased to report that most of what I planted has come up well. (So far, hooray for bloodroot, spiderwort, bleeding hearts, black cohosh and the Turk’s cap lily.) The only disappointing aspect, however, is that it is going to take years for these plants to get established, start spreading and give a “full” look to the landscaping. All I have right now is a stem here and there of various plants. Our local garden centers do not carry these plants so putting them in the ground one bare root at a time is my only current option. However, given the very challenging conditions of my garden (lots of trees and shade, limited sun, water source only from the rain and heavy, clay soil) it is nice to find ANYTHING that wants to grow without requiring special attention.

Landscaping can be a bit frustrating. Really nice landscaping is also really expensive. If you can’t afford nice landscaping, you can spend hours and hours of time amending your soil, pulling weeds and planting and still end up with something that either looks sparse and unhealthy or messy and overgrown. Our family needs a boost of encouragement to help us get our yard together. . . a few quick wins to get motivated. Particularly, I am looking for projects that won’t require much time or effort but will add a lot of style and will be almost guaranteed to work.

What projects might these be? I went looking on the web for hints. Interestingly, most of the tips are about working with non-plant materials to enhance your space.

1.  Mulch. It seems to be many landscapers’ philosophy that when all else fails, just go for a thick layer of decorative mulch or rocks. It gives a clean look and hides a multitude of landscaping failures. Mulch is also a relatively cheap material to purchase. There are a million types of mulching materials, including natural sources like fallen leaves, and you can get creative.

2. Paint. Painting the hardscaping structures in your yard (furniture, pots, concrete, etc.) a bright color adds a fresh, energetic look to a tired space. See this tip from Better Homes and Gardens for inspiration.

3. Art and Collectibles.
Peruse flea markets and garage sales for garden-appropriate items that can weather outside, like birdcages, watering cans, statuary, etc. Note: this takes a good artistic eye to carry off well and a little goes a long way. BHG again has a nice example.

For a personal touch and for not much money, DIY network has some great ideas for making your own garden art. I am particularly intrigued by the ideas of Michele Beschen of B! Original.

  • Concrete sculptures – mold and sculpt your own statues using concrete and molds.
  • Yard Bird – love this bird creation from garden tools. Wish I was a welder!
  • Garden Gal Pals – use roofing flashing and copper tubing to create unique characters for your garden.
  • Yard and Garden monuments – made from 2” insulation, adhesive, chicken wire and thinset concrete.

4.   Pots. While Better Homes and Gardens acknowledges a large collection of pots can be expensive, it encourages people to buy one or two a year over time to create an impressive display.

5. Outdoor lighting. Most people assume outdoor lighting means solar lights along the driveway but there are many ways to incorporate lighting outside, including candles, lanterns hung from trees, Christmas lights and others. BHG has some cool tips. For a unique look, Michele Beschen at DIY Network has another simple and creative idea here to dress up a plain strand of lights with aluminum screening “flowers” (last segment of the video).

6.   Groundcovers.
Find a quick-spreading plant to crowd out weeds. BHG has a list of easy-to-grow groundcovers here.

7.   Edging. Define the edges of your garden beds with edging materials ranging from plastic to wrought iron, brick, stone or even recycled glass bottles. A good list of options here.

8.   Stepping Stones. Stepping stones have a variety of uses from marking pathways to decorative accents in the garden. There are many varieties to purchase or mold your own!

Hopefully this list has given you some ideas to add some personality to your own yard and garden. While many people have been hard at work in their gardens for months now, those of us starting a bit late can take comfort from this recent advice from the Old Farmer’s Almanac:

“June offers the most hours of daylight of any month of the year. For farmers and gardeners, this is a great boon, allowing them to concentrate on their fields and flowers. One old proverb says, ‘Calm weather in June sets corn in tune.’

Folk wisdom tells us that all of the plants will catch up by the end of the month regardless of how early we got them in the ground!”

What yard and gardening projects are you planning this year? Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on June 2, 2011 Previews Tagged with: , ,