What Are You Creating?

According to Harvard Health, ”for something to be creative it has to be novel or original and be useful or adaptive to some portion of the population.”


When I create something, I am problem solving along the way. Through solving the problems that come along with creation, I am activating the reward center in my brain and getting a burst of dopamine in the process. Generally, I don’t even realize it at the time because I am so focused on the creative process, but science tells us that it is there. 


The tendency these days is to consume. We consume the social media feeds we scroll through. We consume the television programs or movies we watch. We consume take out food and package deliveries. 


What are you creating these days?


I love to craft things. I often see products online and think, “I could make that!” I am a sucker for a step by step tutorial. Do they all turn out fabulously? No way! I do, however, gain experience and skills along the way. The beauty of crafting is that I can take what I have learned and use it going forward into the next project. I can refine my technique or use smarter tools. Sometimes that experience tells me that, no, I cannot make that cool thing myself. LOL! 


I have been knitting a scarf lately that is almost finished. That is kind of a miracle because knitting is something that I do when I find myself sitting still with nothing to do with my hands. That doesn’t happen too often lately, but I’m making progress little by little. 


A newer form of creativity for me has been drawing/painting with an Apple Pencil on my iPad. I love being able to draw something and have the ability to push undo if it is not the stroke I was hoping for. There are so many layers I can add to my drawings to improve them too. There is just something about learning a new craft that gets me so excited to make more. 


I got a Cricut for Christmas from my amazing family and I am so excited to make all the things. I dabbled a little and made an ornament commemorating the year, a little sign with our names on it, the cover of my journal and turned a whiteboard into a perpetual calendar for my daughter. This is only the beginning! When we move into our new house, there will be a dedicated space for all my crafting and creating, so I can up my creating game. 


Now, I lean towards physical crafts that end up all around my home. You may be thinking, that’s totally not me. No worries there! You may create things and not even realize it. Check out this list:

  • Writing: This can take the form of journaling, letter writing, blogging, crafting emails or lesson plans or social media posts. 

  • Decorating: Rearranging things to improve the aesthetic is also creating.

  • Music: Singing or playing an instrument. 

  • Photography: You don’t even need fancy equipment these days with how technology has improved our phone cameras. 

  • Cooking or Baking: Using a recipe or not, you are creating something. 

  • Gardening: Indoor or outdoor, planting, tending, pruning is also creative.

  • Building: You are creating when you build towers or Legos with your kids.

All of that is creating! You are putting something out into the world that wasn’t there before. This is how we leave our mark on the world!


My goal each day is to create something new. That keeps my brain firing that dopamine and leads to a happier life. 


What is your favorite form of creative outlet? I’m not sure I could narrow it down to just one, so you can share as many as you like in the comments below.




Did you know I just launched a journal? It is a pdf download that you can get today to start my easy journaling system. Check out all the information here!

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Survival Guide for Holiday Peace


This year, we are entering the week of Christmas in a world that looks very different than others we have seen. Many of us will have a holiday celebration that does not resemble what we are accustomed to enjoying. You may have a smaller gathering or no gathering at all. You may have had a job loss in the family so your celebration is on a stricter budget. You may have lost a loved one this year and are facing the holidays with grief. No matter what your holiday looks like this year, you need to remember these things to survive with peace.


1. BREATHE


When it comes to the holidays, moms have a tendency to get worked up trying to make it all perfect. I have caught myself on way too many occasions holding my breath while giving my family everything they need. The advice on the airplane is true, “put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others.” You will be no good to others if you don’t take care of yourself. That means you need to take a few minutes to breathe. If you have to lock yourself in the bathroom to get that breather, do it! They will survive without you for a few minutes. 


2. FAVORITE HOT BEVERAGE


Whether your preference is coffee, tea, cocoa or cider, fill up a cup and enjoy the aroma. (This goes hand in hand with step #1.) Hot beverages are known to be comforting and calming. Sip slowly and feel the warmth as it travels down your body. Being aware of that sensation is part of a mindfulness practice. You deserve to enjoy a cup of your favorite beverage no matter what chaos is about to ensue. 


3. CHECK YOUR EXPECTATIONS


As I mentioned above, moms are often the driver’s of this thing called “family holiday happiness.” We try so hard to make things perfect for everyone. The truth is that no matter what we do or don’t do, our family will still love us.  Children’s emotions will still be on edge with the excitement of the holiday, no matter what we do. It happens every year. Your celebration may be Rockwell painting worthy or it may be so much more simple this year. The world does not rest on your shoulders mama! You can rest easy that a different holiday will still be a holiday. 


One of the most important things we can do is decide what is most important to us in the holiday season. What are your top three things that matter most to you? Is it the big family meal? Is it the gift opening process? Is it the games or movies that you share as a family? Is it reading the Bible verses? Is it making cookies together? Is it singing Christmas carols? Is it driving to see holiday lights? Whatever it is, throw yourself into that. Don’t try to do it all! It is okay to skip the things that are not as important to you. 


Can we talk mom presents for a moment? Moms, we need to check our expectations here as well. You know how it goes...the children open their presents and your spouse is just as surprised as they are at what is inside. I know, we do it every year. Mom’s take care of the gift purchasing and wrapping for so many people. Who takes care of Mom’s presents? No matter who it is in your family, you may end up with another bathrobe. (Did you see this on SNL?) I’ve decided that I will expect a bathrobe this year. If I get one, yay me! If I get something else, that will be an awesome surprise. Now it’s a win-win situation!


4. SAVOR THE MOMENTS


The holidays are all about the moments big and small that hold so much heart meaning for us. If your holiday has been downsized this year, that doesn’t mean there are not moments of joy along the way. I plan to savor all of those moments this year, especially. From the smiles and laughs as presents are being opened to the mirth and joy at discovering what is in that mystery package without a tag. We get to enjoy it all! Don’t forget to notice the little things. Count your blessings. They are so important.


5. CONNECT WITH OTHERS


Maybe you have a plan in place already to call or Facetime or Zoom with family and friends that are not joining you this year. If you don’t already have a plan, make one. This benefits you and the people on the other end of the call. Our sanity depends on those connections. Whether it feels natural or awkward, make the effort. We have learned that trying to do it all by ourselves is isolating. We can connect with others over the fact that things are hard and share some of our small moments that bring us joy. Everyone will be happier for it.


I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas! Take care of you and enjoy the moments along the way. 


Did you miss my article on mindfulness? You can read it here.


I have created a yearly planner that is a downloadable pdf file to help you stay organized in the new year. Check it out over here. 

Want to subscribe to my blog so you don't miss a thing? Click here and I'll shoot you an email whenever a new blog post lands. 

Five Easy Steps to Journaling Success

Do you journal?


I've always wanted to be a great journaler. I loved my diary when I was in elementary school. It was baby blue and had a little lock on it. I had brothers, so the lock was imperative to my feeling like I could speak my mind in it. I would go through fits and starts of writing in it about my day or my friends or my infuriating brothers. I’m pretty sure that most of my diary was filled with the name of a boy I thought was cute in the 6th grade with hearts all around it. I mean, gripping stuff, I know, but it was important to me.


Fast forward to me as an adult. When we moved this summer, I recycled not one but FOUR journals that I found in various places in our old house. They all had something in common. I wrote in them no more than 3 times. The rest was empty. I really wanted to write in those beautiful journals, but I think I lacked the discipline. 


Why write in journals?

  • Helps control anxiety and depression

  • Allows you to put words to your feelings

  • Decreases clutter in your brain

  • Helps you let go of negative thoughts

  • Gives clarity for achieving your goals


So, I understand and desire all of those things, but I’m just not finding success in just buying cute journals and pens. 


Lately, I’ve been experimenting with how to make journaling work better for me. Try these steps to achieve journal perfection.


  1. Set aside time to journal. I used to think this had to be daily, but that just didn’t work for me. I have adjusted my expectations and plan for one day a week now. For me, that means I journal on Saturday mornings before the rest of the house wakes up. For you that may be a certain evening after you get the kids to bed. Whatever you do, set aside that time. It’s like a date with yourself. Don’t break that date. You are worth it! Besides, you can control the amount of time you use to journal. It can be anything from 10 to 30 minutes, or more if the mood strikes you.

  2. Find a spot where you will journal. It could be on the couch, in your bed, a favorite chair, the kitchen table. It really doesn’t matter, but it needs to work for you. I find I’m much more successful if my spot is not right in the middle of the rest of the family’s action or I get distracted. You know, the kids ask Dad where something is and he totally doesn’t know, but you try to let him answer anyway and then get distracted because you could have solved this problem much faster. That kind of thing!

  3. Have a place to keep your journal materials. This could be a special pretty journal that you want to use, printed prompts that fit in a folder or binder, or even a digital folder on your computer. Use what works for you! Keep your favorite pens or pencils handy too. I have a mild obsession with pens, so I love to keep my collection of flair pens and gel pens near my journaling spot.

  4. Use journal prompts. I have found that in times of stress, I have tons to write about, but I don’t always feel productive with those thoughts. By using journal prompts, I am able to focus my energy on one area in my journal. Sometimes those prompts lead me to lists and other times those prompts lead me to paragraphs detailing some idea that is holding up real estate in my head. No matter what, those ideas down on paper are a wonderful thing. If I stare at a blank page too long uninspired, I'm way too likely to give up.

  5. Rinse and repeat. Journaling once is good. I’ve done that many times. It is in the repeated process of journaling that we find those amazing benefits listed above. Plus, you are forming a new habit, so repetition is key to making it a part of your life. 


Interested in what journal prompts I use? I created a beautiful set of prompts to help keep you Journaling Through the Year. There are prompts for each week that you can use in any format that works for you. Check out lots more details here. 



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There is Wonder in the Waiting


I love advent calendars! 


When I was little, we used to have a felt tree with little buttons on it. Every day leading up to Christmas we would add an adorable little felt ornament to one of the buttons on the tree. There were angels, and baubles and toy soldiers and bells and more. I am pretty sure it was handsewn down to the sequin by some lovely women in our church when I was little. It was amazing! My brothers and I would each take turns putting up an ornament. I love the feeling of anticipation in the waiting that leads up to Christmas. That feeling of wonder is something that sunk deep into my soul for this time of the year.

 

When my girls were little, I found a tree with magnetic ornaments that worked in a similar fashion. It had a star at the top that would play a little song when you pressed it. Until we wore it out, of course. (Then it sounded like some sick animal. Ooops!) They loved that advent calendar. We kept using it for many years, even when we lost one of the ornaments. 

 

When we moved, that advent calendar didn't make the move with us. It went on to bless another family. So here we are in a new house, and I decided to fashion my own. 

 


 

I Had a Couple of Requirements
  • No food. ( I know that the little milk chocolate candy ones are everywhere, but dietary restrictions make that not so much fun around here.)

  • I want to be able to add something every day. 

  • I wanted to include some scripture cards I found.

  • I also knew that I was getting a set of advent tea envelopes so it would be a bonus to include them.


Here's what I did:

I started collecting little ornaments when I saw something cute in the stores as they were just setting out their holiday wares. I spotted the perfect wooden tree in an IKEA ad that could house all of my craziness. (Grab it here!) I got some little wooden clothespins and hot glued them on the rails. Perhaps the hardest part was deciding which spots to hang each of the ornaments. Some of them fit what I was going for more than others. I hung the whole thing from a cabinet pull in the living room for days with ornaments hanging on it….in October. Every once in a while, I would swap some ornaments around until I found the perfect balance. 

 

Then, the tea envelopes arrived. They have a purple ink print on them which matches the brand, so I wasn’t sure how I would like them facing out when I have no other purple holiday decor. I feel like this year the purple is deeper, more regal looking so I’m going with it. If I decided that it was too much, I was planning on turning them around and writing the numbers on the back. I’m flexible that way!

 

I had to decide which numbers to put where. I could have put them in order or reverse order, but I’m kind of a rebel. I went with a haphazard random assortment. Well, not totally random. I was trying to think ahead to what the tree would look like as it filled out. I wanted to build in some higher ones and lower ones and fairly even left to right as the month goes on. 

 

With the numbers decided, I tucked the ornaments into lunch sacks with matching numbers. All of those are in a basket ready to grab each morning. 



My Morning Ritual is...
  1. Hang the new ornament.

  2. Open the tea envelope to see what I’m having today. (I get my tea here.)

  3. Brew the tea.

  4. Read the scripture card and place back on the tree. (Here’s the one I’m using.) 

  5. Drink the tea while I read my longer advent devotional. (Over here.)

  6. Check out my Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar on the computer to see what new part of the village is added today. (Find yours here!)


 





That ritual brings me joy!

 

What is bringing you joy this season? 


Do you have a favorite advent calendar that you use? 


Tell me in the comments.










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My Top “Dinner in a Pinch” Solution

If you have been around here for any length of time, you know that I love to plan out my meals for the week. It helps keep me on track, out of the drive through line and it saves my sanity. I wrote a post all about it here. However, I am a real person and there are times that we get to thinking about dinner and I realize that I need to go to the store, but that is just not happening.  I have a foolproof meal that I gravitate towards in just that situation...fried rice.


I am not known as a chef. I am a mom trying her best to feed her family over here. If I tell you that I have a recipe that I make over and over and I am able to improvise with, you know it is legit. 


I have made this so many times, both planned and on the fly. I love that I can mix it up and use leftover proteins and veggies that I have on hand. I can also go simple with it and use what I’ve got. It works for the meat eaters in my life as well as for my daughter who is vegan. If I’m adding meat, I either toss it with my individual bowl or I pull out her portion first before I mix it all together. I don’t even measure anymore. I just add a little of this and a little of that and taste and adjust as I go. 


How easy is this?


Whenever I decide to make fried rice, I start my rice going in the rice cooker, even if it is hours ahead. I actually prefer to use rice that is cooled off by the time I’m cooking with it. It seems to absorb the flavors better and it doesn’t stick together quite as much. 


When I’m ready to cook, I put about 2 teaspoons of sesame oil into my wok pan and begin heating on medium. If you don’t have a wok pan, just use a larger frying pan. You want room to stir without losing ingredients off the sides. I add about a half of an onion, diced, and saute until it is starting to get translucent. You can adjust the onion amount to suit your family with more or less. There are times, I don’t even use onion. I just sub about a ¼ tsp of onion powder when I add the seasoning later on.


Next, I pour the frozen veggies right in the pan. If you are adding fresh veggies too, add them at this time. Saute those, stirring occasionally, until they are cooked through. While they are cooking, measure out about 4 cups of cooked rice. Add your desired protein to the pan so it can be brought up to temperature before adding the rice.


When the veggies and meat is nice and hot, add the rice to your pan. Also pour in your low sodium soy sauce, garlic powder and pepper. Mix completely and let cook together for about 5 minutes. If you are adding a scrambled egg, you can move your mixture to the side before dropping in an egg at the bottom of your wok pan. The heat of the pan should cook it up quickly. When the egg is cooked, mix it throughout your fried rice. (If you are adding the egg separately, cook it up in another pan while the mixture cooks.)


Taste your mixture and add more soy sauce, garlic powder, onion powder or pepper as needed to meet the tastes of your family. 


Recipe Notes:

  • My favorite way to make fried rice is to plan it for the night after I will be cooking up some protein. For this week, I have grilled chicken planned one night and the next night, we are doing fried rice. That way, I can make sure we have some extra chicken cooked, and ready to dice into my rice. I’ve done the same with turkey and pork. It’s a fantastic way to use up some leftovers. 


  • I generally use some frozen mixed veggies that are just a staple in our freezer. You pick your favorite and that makes the best fried rice. Even still, I will add in any other fresh veggies we need to use up soon. 


  • When it comes to the soy sauce for this recipe, I will use low sodium or coconut aminos to try and control a bit of the sodium in our diets. I’ve used the real deal when I needed to, but it’s better with less sodium. 


  • Some people like a little scrambled egg in their fried rice. Others, not so much. I love it, but my husband does not. You can choose to leave it out, or make it on the side to mix into your individual portions. 




Fried Rice

Ingredients
  • 4 cups cooked rice

  • 2 tsp sesame oil

  • ½ onion diced

  • 1 package of frozen mixed veggies

  • Additional fresh veggies as desired

  • 1 cup diced cooked chicken/pork/etc. (if desired)

  • ⅓ cup low sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos

  • ½ tsp garlic powder

  • ¼ tsp onion powder (if not using diced onion)

  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

  • 2 eggs (if desired)


Instructions
  1. Cook rice and let cool.

  2. Saute diced onion in the sesame oil until beginning to be translucent. 

  3. Add veggies to pan and stir occasionally until heated through.

  4. Add meat if desired and heat through. 

  5. Add the rice to your pan along with the soy sauce and seasonings.

  6. Mix completely and cook for another 5 minutes. 

  7. Scramble egg to add to the mixture if desired. 

  8. Serve up hot!




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