Feb 292016
 

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February was the month I felt my legs being swept out from underneath me over and over again. Just as I thought I had regained my footing, something else came along to counteract my best intentions.

When I last left you, we were in the eye of Snowstorm Jonas which dumped about 14 inches of snow at our house. My daughter tried skiing in the front yard. Fortunately, we didn’t lose power but we spent an awful lot of time shoveling our long driveway. A friend who lives at the top of a hill hosted a snow playdate at her house complete with hot chocolate, s’mores and a snow cave! After this, my kids insisted that we buy sleds so we are prepared for any sledding opportunities that may come our way.

Digging out took almost two days!

Digging out took almost two days!

"Skiing" our front yard.

“Skiing” our front yard.

Just as we recovered from this, my husband left on a week-long business trip to the west coast which took away an important source of help as well as a lack of sleep from trying to stay in touch via midnight phone calls due to the time change.

Just as he came home, we received the very sad news that our dear “Grammy” was unwell and then passed away. It was back out to the west coast for my husband, along with our daughter, while we toughed it out here. I set to work finally taking down our Christmas decorations (while I felt bad about being this far behind, I know of at least one other busy person who still had a tree up and I was still receiving Christmas cards in the mail from a few people. For some of us, Christmas is a long season.) My kids and I camped out in our sunroom to ease the hurt feelings of those who wanted to travel with big sister. We celebrated Valentine’s Day and did one of my favorite photo shoots of the year.

One night in January, I was cleaning up our Christmas boxes, cut some hearts out of one, covered a table in packing material and set out paints.

One night in January, I was cleaning up our Christmas boxes, cut some hearts out of one, covered a table in packing material and set out paints.

The next day, I found this!  The kids were hard at work painting.  My son liked to mix all the colors together to make "mud" valentines.

The next day, I found this! The kids were hard at work painting. My son liked to mix all the colors together to make “mud” valentines.

My daughter, displaying supreme organizational skills created this valentine's box with one section for cards, another door for candy and a flap on the back to open to get it all out!  I was impressed.

My daughter, displaying supreme organizational skills created this valentine’s box with one section for cards, another door for candy and a flap on the back to open to get it all out! I was impressed.

I loved the plea on my other daughter's box "Please give candy."  And another "mud" creation from my son.

I loved the plea on my other daughter’s box “Please give candy.” And another “mud” creation from my son.

We hung up all the creations on our mantel and I just loved looking at it.

We hung up all the creations on our mantel and I just loved looking at it.

Since we were in mourning for Grammy, I found black outfits for all of us to wear.  They ended up working out great for our photo shoot and symbolized both great heartache and great love.

Since we were in mourning for Grammy, I found black outfits for all of us to wear. They ended up working out great for our photo shoot and symbolized both great heartache and great love.

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The next day, we received another 5 inches of snow in a surprise storm! My children were so excited to use their sleds. Our driveway does not have that much of a slope to it but I served as the “horse” pulling them down the driveway over and over. By the end, we had a pretty good ice track set up. Fortunately, there was no shoveling to be done as the next day it all melted away.

Add another 5 inches to our snow totals.

Add another 5 inches to our snow totals.

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There is not a single picture of the baby enjoying snow.  He cries every time we put him down.

There is not a single picture of the baby enjoying snow. He cries every time we put him down.

Not even the sled was enticing!

Not even the sled was enticing!

My husband and daughter arrived safely home . . . . but then all the children came down with the flu! It passed irritatingly from one child to the next in the most drawn out fashion. I got tired of cleaning up vomit in the middle of the night. Fortunately, I avoided most of the illness, having already been hit hard with the flu last fall. I ended up with a small chest cough and made sure to rest as much as possible so I didn’t end up with pneumonia again. It seemed to work but it did nothing for my productivity.

And then to top it all off, at the end of the month, we had a tornado alert! We hid out in the basement for an hour or so. The wind and rain were not so bad for us but our neighbors to the south were not so lucky.

From snow to tornadoes!

From snow to tornadoes!

In the midst of all this February turmoil, however, Grammy’s death gave me pause to think about life in general and I realized that while it is wonderful to be organized and maximize your time and do great things, in the end all that is really asked of us is that we wake up every morning, breathe in, breathe out and just exist. That is enough. That is valuable. We do service to those around us just by being here. Anything else we do is a bonus. We would do well to remember that about ourselves and about others as well.

So, that was February. I was going to end this essay by saying that things are now on the right track for March as the weather is so balmy and spring-like and the increased sunshine does wonders for my energy level. After taking my minivan in for an expensive servicing, I cleaned it out and detailed it this weekend (a hateful task as only a minivan owner can sympathize). It was wonderful to sit in my “new” car today. . . . until I turned on the AC to hear a terrible noise. So tomorrow, we are back in recovery mode.

March is supposedly “in like a lion and out like a lamb.” So far, the lion part is right.

How was your February?

 Posted by on February 29, 2016 General Tagged with: , , , , ,
Jan 222016
 
To health!

To health!

I completed the juice challenge! 5 days of nothing but juices. Generally, it went well! I was so busy making and drinking juices that I didn’t have much time to think about hunger or food. It was difficult to drink that much juice each day.

Each day was organized similarly: 1) drink lemon water, 2) make two juices for the day, divide each batch in half and drink 4 servings throughout the day, 3) have coconut water mid-morning 4) end each day with vegetable broth and the “pear pie” juice which is so sweet and delicious it tastes like a sinful dessert.

Each day started with warm lemon water.

Each day started with warm lemon water.

Each day ended with a Pear Pie smoothie which really tasted like a cookie.  The cinnamon was wonderful!

Each day ended with a Pear Pie smoothie which really tasted like a cookie. The cinnamon was wonderful!

Pear Pie Smoothie (I blended mine with frozen blueberries rather than juicing.)

Pear Pie Smoothie (I blended mine with frozen blueberries rather than juicing.)

Day One

Joe's "Mean Green" juice.  A classic.  I am probably the only one who is not crazy about this juice.  For a green juice, it isn't bad, just not my favorite.

Joe’s “Mean Green” juice. A classic. I am probably the only one who is not crazy about this juice. For a green juice, it isn’t bad, just not my favorite.

Ingredients for Sunny Citrus Beet Juice

Ingredients for Sunny Citrus Beet Juice

Sunny Citrus Beet juice.  I generally like purple juices.  This one wasn't bad but the grapefruit made it a bit sour for my taste.

Sunny Citrus Beet juice. I generally like purple juices. This one wasn’t bad but the grapefruit made it a bit sour for my taste.

Day Two

Ingredients for Morning Green Glory Juice.

Ingredients for Morning Green Glory Juice.

Morning Green Glory Juice.  This was my least favorite juice of the challenge.

Morning Green Glory Juice. This was my least favorite juice of the challenge.

Ingredients for Radiant AntiOxi Orange

Ingredients for Radiant AntiOxi Orange

The Radiant Anti Oxi Orange Juice to go (as I was on the way out the door to lessons for my kids).

The Radiant Anti Oxi Orange Juice to go (as I was on the way out the door to lessons for my kids).

Day Three

For this day, I got to test what this juice challenge would be like for someone with a full time job outside the home. We were spending the day skiing so I had to make all the juices the night before and store them in portable containers. It was a lot of work at night when I was tired but generally it worked out fine.

Ingredients for Carrot Apple Ginger juice, one of our family's favorites!!

Ingredients for Carrot Apple Ginger juice, one of our family’s favorites!!

Ingredients for Pear Power

Ingredients for Pear Power

Pear Power Juice, a curiously delicious mix of pears and basil....very gourmet!

Pear Power Juice, a curiously delicious mix of pears and basil….very gourmet!

Day Four

Ingredients for Chard Rock Cafe juice.

Ingredients for Chard Rock Cafe juice.

Chard Rock Cafe juice.  Not one of my favorites but the oregano was interesting to taste.

Chard Rock Cafe juice. Not one of my favorites but the oregano was interesting to taste.

Ingredients for Anti Aging Beet Grape

Ingredients for Anti Aging Beet Grape

Anti Aging Beet Grape Juice.  I liked it!  Sweet.

Anti Aging Beet Grape Juice. I liked it! Sweet.

Day Five

Ingredients for Calcium Rich Cucumber -- one of my favorite juices!

Ingredients for Calcium Rich Cucumber — one of my favorite juices!

I always make this one as a smoothie by blending the frozen pineapple rather than juicing it.

I always make this one as a smoothie by blending the frozen pineapple rather than juicing it.

Ingredients for Micronutrient Madness

Ingredients for Micronutrient Madness

Micronutrient Madness Juice.  You could probably make this more orange by peeling the cucumber before juicing.

Micronutrient Madness Juice. You could probably make this more orange by peeling the cucumber before juicing.

Unlike last time I did a juice cleanse, there was no nausea in the early days. I am not sure if that is a sign that I am getting healthier or if drinking electrolyte juices like coconut water and vegetable broth really makes a huge difference.

I lost a total of 7 pounds at the end of the juice cleanse, including 2 inches off my waist, which was a great reward for my efforts.

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While juice cleansing may not be to everyone’s taste, there are a few things I learned from this experience:
1) Having a lot of water/fluid in your body really does decrease hunger.
2) It still continues to be a challenge to find time to cook healthy foods, whether juices or meals. No matter which healthy eating plan I try, I have to plan on at least 30-45 minutes per meal. Until there is an affordable fast food option for clean eating, I have to figure out how I can work more cooking time into my schedule.
3) Setting a good example for my children really did show results. When they saw me eating all this fresh produce, they were more tempted to try fruits and vegetables themselves. They discovered they liked Bolthouse Farms’ Amazing Mango juice, they juiced their own fresh orange juice and ate more butternut squash soup than I have ever seen them eat before.

Fresh squeezed orange juice!

Fresh squeezed orange juice!

My son began raiding the fridge for any products with sugar in them and decided he quite likes kefir!

My son began raiding the fridge for any products with sugar in them and decided he quite likes kefir!

Babies like Pear Pie smoothie too!

Babies like Pear Pie smoothie too!

We made this gluten free banana pumpkin bread.  The kids said it was not great but did eat it because it was the best "sweet" we had in the house.

We made this gluten free banana pumpkin bread. The kids said it was not great but did eat it because it was the best “sweet” we had in the house.

This child has never eaten so much butternut squash soup!

This child has never eaten so much butternut squash soup!

I wish I could say the juice cleansing was sustainable and I continued to juice and eat healthy after it ended. Unfortunately, once the restrictions were gone, it was back to feasting as usual! It is very hard to “juice” in the cold of winter. I think my best bet at this point is to try to plan out a week of soups. If I am following a prewritten plan, I seem to do much better than just winging it and “trying” to eat healthy.

So now for this weekend’s challenge…..a blizzard! I am finding it hard to take seriously all the snow drama. It is so over the top!

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Sorry folks....all that's left is the skim milk and the fancy organic stuff.

Sorry folks….all that’s left is the skim milk and the fancy organic stuff.

Maybe this storm really will give us two feet of snow. Maybe it will paralyze everything for a week. But maybe it will also be less than predicted. Maybe we will be fine.

Let’s hope! Be warm and stay safe to those affected!

 Posted by on January 22, 2016 General Tagged with: , , , , ,
Mar 062015
 
Is this spring?

Is this spring?

It has been a while since my last post and yes, I’m still here! There has been an overwhelming amount of activity to take care of lately: skiing lessons, more doctor appointments for the baby, keeping up with the homeschooling, preparing my children to participate in a cross-country wedding and getting the house ready for our new arrival. Sadly, my blog has seen the brunt of my neglect.

Yesterday, the Fredericksburg area was treated to a surprise 6 inch snowstorm! While we have spring in mind, the weather has other ideas. This is the first winter I can remember in Virginia where we have had snow on the ground for more than two weeks at a time.

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Of course, some are thrilled by the snow, especially my son who loves to go out and play in it.

Measuring the snow.

Measuring the snow.

Yesterday's snowfall?  6 inches.

Yesterday’s snowfall? 6 inches.

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Exhaustion at the end of his snow play.  He barely made it in the door.

Exhaustion at the end of his snow play. He barely made it in the door.

In the next few posts, I hope to catch you up on some of our recent activities and the organizational lessons that came along with them.

Behind the scenes in March, I will be:

  • preparing our tax returns
  • doing some early spring cleaning
  • working on some home maintenance projects
  • cooking some healthy meals to freeze in advance
  • packing a bag for the hospital

What are your goals for March? Please share in the comments.

P.S. Reminder that this Sunday is Daylight Savings Time! Time to “spring forward” one hour at 2:00 a.m. Sunday and readjust all of our schedules.

 Posted by on March 6, 2015 General Tagged with: , , ,
Mar 082013
 

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A few scenes from the “snowquester” at our house.

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At one point, the power went out for several hours, testing our emergency preparedness capabilities. The supplies we ended up needing were:

Emergency hand-crank powered radio.

Emergency hand-crank powered radio.

Bottled water is essential for power outages when your well-water is powered by electricity.

Bottled water is essential for power outages when your well-water is powered by electricity.

Powdered milk to make hot chocolate (for the non-dieters of course).

Powdered milk to make hot chocolate (for the non-dieters of course).

2013-03-07-matches

Natural gas powered stoves are a lifesaver in a winter emergency!

Natural gas powered stoves are a lifesaver in a winter emergency!

Manual can opener.

Manual can opener.

While the schools closed for 3 days this week, my poor homeschooled children can’t catch a break. When school is at your house, school goes on, snow or not!

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The snow coincided nicely with our lessons on measuring in centimeters and inches.

The snow coincided nicely with our lessons on measuring in centimeters and inches.

No one felt the least bit stressed during this power outage. The day before, I made several loaves of banana bread to use up some browning bananas we had. Even though we couldn’t open the fridge, the banana bread was an appealing snack to everyone. Combined with a nice warm cup of hot chocolate, it was a nice way to relax and enjoy the snow. For me, the dieter, it was a little more complicated. I couldn’t have my lunchtime salad since all the greens were in the fridge. Fortunately, I found some acceptable substitutes in the pantry: a can of green beans, raw almonds and some freeze-dried apple chips.

They enjoyed hot chocolate and banana bread.

They enjoyed hot chocolate and banana bread.

I ate: almonds and dried apple chips.

I ate: almonds and dried apple chips.

The snow was heavy and slushy and put a lot of stress on the branches of the bushes around our house. We will see if some spring pruning is necessary.

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At first, I found the snow a confusing intrusion into our progression toward spring. Snow is always beautiful, though and I find myself missing it already as it starts to melt! The last hurrah of winter. We are supposed to get 50 degree temperatures this weekend!

Feb 082010
 

This weekend the east coast of the United States was wallopped again with snow. In our area, we received 17 inches. We received more snow in the December blizzard (almost 24”) but all of the hype about “Snowmageddon” made this storm feel a little worse. We lost power for about 5 hours and telephone service for about 24 hours.

Today, I thought I would share some survival lessons learned during this recent storm.

  1. Stay Home. When an emergency is occurring, some people feel a strange need to be out to “experience” it. They get in their cars to drive around, walk to the grocery store, etc. If a handful of people did this, it would not be a big deal but when scores of people do this, it really hampers the recovery efforts. In all of the recent snow storms, there were news stories of people trying to drive the highways in the middle of the storm. They inevitably get stranded, require the assistance of police or emergency crews to get unstuck and sometimes they end up stranding our first responders as well. In this weekend’s storm, there were also numerous stories of plows not being able to get down the roads due to stuck cars and even pedestrians. We all need to remember that we all pull together in an emergency. If you are not in danger and you are not a first responder, your job is to stay put and not create additional problems. If you are bored, go visit your neighbors to see if they are OK.
  2. Chill Out About Food. It is interesting how quickly everyone turns to food in the event of an emergency! As I have written about before, technically most adults can survive for weeks without food. The mere thought of not being able to get to the grocery store for a few days, however, puts many people in a panic. On Thursday evening before the storm, my husband asked me if he should run out and get a few things. Our fridge was looking pretty lean, but having completed the Refrigerator and Pantry Challenge, I now know that even my “lean” fridge has at least a week’s worth of meals in it. I told my husband that he didn’t need to go, that we might not have our first choice of things to eat but we would definitely not starve. And, sure enough, we were fine. This is another time to think about having your emergency food supply ready. If you already had a month’s worth of non-perishable food stockpiled, there is no need to rush last-minute to the grocery store. I have been delinquent in setting up my own emergency food stores so I am pushing that back to the top of my to-do list.
  3. Know Your Water Supplies.
    Each time we lose power at our house, we also lose water since we are on a well system. You need two types of water during an emergency…”gray water” (for washing hands, rinsing dishes, flushing toilets and bathing) and drinking water. A great source of gray water is your hot water heater tank. If you know how to drain the tank, it will come in extremely handy. During our power outage over the weekend, we had to use this trick once. Our hot water heater requires a screwdriver to open the valve but it is a fairly simple operation that anyone can do. It would be a good idea to learn how to drain your hot water heater tank if you don’t know how already.
  4. Stockpile Essential Tools. One lesson that we needed to learn during this storm was that if there are critical tools you need for a particular emergency, make sure you have more than one! My husband did so much shoveling he actually managed to break our snow shovel! There is not a snow shovel to be had at any store for miles. Fortunately, we were able to borrow a snowblower and snow shovel from a neighbor. When we finally are able to buy a snow shovel, we will get two. It is a good idea to have one extra or to have one for each able-bodied adult. Even if you can’t shovel at all, it might be a good idea to store a shovel to loan out to neighbors. They might dig you out in return!
  5. Redundancy is Great. When you have more than one way of achieving an objective, you are better prepared for emergencies. For example, when the power went out, since we have both electric and gas lines in our house, we just switched over to heating food on the gas cooktop instead of in the electric oven. When the phone lines went out, it was great to have a cell phone. IP phones also worked great once the power came back on.
  6. Have an Emergency Radio.

    We received a Grundig emergency radio as a Christmas present one year. At the time I remember thinking, “When will we ever use this?!” but I have to say we have genuinely needed it for at least two emergencies so far. When the power goes out, the phone lines are down and you can’t use your cell phone either because coverage is spotty, the cell networks are overwhelmed with calls, or your cell phone battery has died, radio is the way to stay updated on any emergency information. Get a radio that can be cranked to maintain a charge if your batteries run out.

  7. Basic Technology Can Be the Best.
    Toward the end of the power outage as sunset was approaching, we started lighting some candles around the house. While we have battery-operated flashlights and lanterns, they do eat batteries fairly rapidly. It was nice to have something simple like a candle that only required a match. Candles also give a calming, peaceful effect to any situation. A box of candles and a box of matches will also stay on my emergency supply list.
  8. Switch Off the News if you are Starting to Panic. At the halfway point during the storm with the snow coming down rapidly and the power out, listening to the news on the radio was not helpful. Perhaps for dramatic effect, news stories started coming in that we might get 50 inches of snow! 50 inches!! Then, of course, you start to get stories about buildings collapsing, people rushing to the grocery stores to grab all the available food and even people dying. If you are a bit nervous to begin with, you don’t need to hear all of this. When you turn off the news and just focus on your own surroundings, there is a lot less panic. Keep reminding yourself that you are currently fine, that you are not in danger and that things will be OK.
  9. Create Your Own Projects. One of the biggest dangers during an emergency is boredom. Some people just cannot sit still at home. (See #1 above.) If you are one of those people that cannot relax, give yourself a project. Snow shoveling is exhausting and a good workout for antsy folks deprived of television and the Internet. I amused myself by going through a megaton of papers in my office. If you are focused on achieving your own project, you worry less too.
  10. Have Extra Batteries and Memory Cards Available for your Camera. You will want to document and remember your experience of these events. The world covered in snow is so beautiful and little ones dressed in their snow gear are hilarious.

Have a snow survival tip?  Please share in the comments.

 Posted by on February 8, 2010 Ruly Survival Tagged with: , , ,