Another 40 before 40 Update… 1.5 years left – yikes!

As in the past, I wanted to revisit and see what progress, if any, I’d made on this list more than a full second year later. Turns out I’ve made some progress, but not a lot! There are some changes afoot that make some of these goals pretty much obsolete. (Bold comments are from November 2013. New comments in bold italics.) Hope to update by the end of 2015 and anticipate being able to cross off a number of these items!

  1. Run a 5k (despite not liking to run) – I walked one, but didn’t run it, so that doesn’t count. I am working toward running one in April or June – busy with getting a friend to go with me… but will do June on my own if need be!
  2. Lower my blood pressure – it is lower, but still prehypertensive, so there is still progress left to make. Had some other cardiovascular crazy this past year, but BP is finally down… without meds!
  3. Cook/Bake at least half of the recipes I have pinned on Pinterest (time is actually working against me here – I pin three in the time it takes me to get around to trying one)
  4. Save at least 1/3 of the money for our trip in 2021 (RTW, here we come!)
  5. Go skiing down an actual, snowy hill
  6. Take a landscape/travel photo that I am proud to enlarge and hang in my downstairs Done! More than one!
  7. Finish our bedroom: paint and put up nice curtains Will have to happen… expect to put our house for sale in 2015.
  8. Read more than 10 books in one year (dear lord, this one makes me so sad – I feel like it should say “100″ to be a challenge, but alas, this is where I am right now in my life) - thank you book club! My goal this year is 50 – read 48 in 2014.
  9. Make scrap books of the kids’ art and photos from preschool (1 each?)
  10. Ride my bike up the hill (Country Trail)
  11. Go camping (tent) with the kids – multiple times – our new default vacation! Still doing this – FL and SC in the past year!
  12. Paint the kids’ bathroom and frame the mirror Not going to happen due to likelihood of moving.
  13. Wear a two-piece swimsuit in public and not be mortified
  14. Find a pillow I actually like, then buy a spare one for when it wears out
  15. Organize the linen closet so that it is possible to find and extract exactly what is desired without avalanches and/or cussing Done!
  16. Hang a real window treatment in our bathroom Done!
  17. Deal with the “sad garden” in the backyard and make it pretty again Done!
  18. Make my own vanilla extract instead of buying it
  19. Yardsale/CraigsList/Consign/eBay/Donate the baby items in the garage and the unused “stuff” in the bonus room closet I’ve made considerable progress with this and what little is left will be covered in a moving sale, I believe… I’m calling it done!
  20. Visit Savannah, GA
  21. Plant those evergreens we planned to put in the back yard (all 3 of ‘em) Not going to happen due to likelihood of moving.
  22. Throw a birthday party (for my kid) in my own home
  23. Return to yoga and be able to do a headstand Returned to yoga… still working on the headstand
  24. Roll-over my old 401k into an IRA and add to the balance
  25. Paint the porch pole and put up our house numbers This will have to happen before we can put the house for sale
  26. Take the kids to DC to visit the awesome museums there Done!
  27. Keep a houseplant alive for more than 6 months (better get going!)
  28. Set up chores for the kids and get us all to stick to them
  29. Put up crown moldings or wainscoting in one room where we planned to Not going to happen due to likelihood of moving.
  30. Go on a mom and daughter overnight
  31. Go on a mom and son overnight
  32. Volunteer at the kids’ schools/in their classrooms
  33. Volunteer, give back, spread kindness in some capacity (outside of my kids’ schools/classrooms)
  34. Sell something I made – a creative/artistic something
  35. Practice patience – improve I have. I am much better. MUCH. I will continue to practice, but I am officially crossing this off – I have improved!
  36. Reduce my “plugged in” time to <15 hours a week (not including work)
  37. Go to the Outer Banks again
  38. Resolve the no-sidewalk issue in front of the house Not going to happen due to likelihood of moving.
  39. Try a food I’ve never tried
  40. Plan a fantastic 40th Birthday day to remember!
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Update: My 40 before 40

I wanted to revisit and see what progress, if any, I’d made on this list nearly a year later. Turns out I’ve made some progress! To keep pace, I’d need to mark off 10 items, but I only managed 7. However, I did make progress on a few others. Hopefully I’ll be able to out-pace the 10 this year!

  1. Run a 5k (despite not liking to run) – I walked one, but didn’t run it, so that doesn’t count.
  2. Lower my blood pressure – it is lower, but still prehypertensive, so there is still progress left to make
  3. Cook/Bake at least half of the recipes I have pinned on Pinterest (time is actually working against me here – I pin three in the time it takes me to get around to trying one)
  4. Save at least 1/3 of the money for our trip in 2021 (RTW, here we come!)
  5. Go skiing down an actual, snowy hill
  6. Take a landscape/travel photo that I am proud to enlarge and hang in my downstairs
  7. Finish our bedroom: paint and put up nice curtains
  8. Read more than 10 books in one year (dear lord, this one makes me so sad – I feel like it should say “100″ to be a challenge, but alas, this is where I am right now in my life) - thank you book club!
  9. Make scrap books of the kids’ art and photos from preschool (1 each?)
  10. Ride my bike up the hill (Country Trail)
  11. Go camping (tent) with the kids – multiple times – our new default vacation!
  12. Paint the kids’ bathroom and frame the mirror
  13. Wear a two-piece swimsuit in public and not be mortified
  14. Find a pillow I actually like, then buy a spare one for when it wears out
  15. Organize the linen closet so that it is possible to find and extract exactly what is desired without avalanches and/or cussing
  16. Hang a real window treatment in our bathroom
  17. Deal with the “sad garden” in the backyard and make it pretty again
  18. Make my own vanilla extract instead of buying it
  19. Yardsale/CraigsList/Consign/eBay/Donate the baby items in the garage and the unused “stuff” in the bonus room closet
  20. Visit Savannah, GA
  21. Plant those evergreens we planned to put in the back yard (all 3 of ‘em)
  22. Throw a birthday party (for my kid) in my own home
  23. Return to yoga and be able to do a headstand
  24. Roll-over my old 401k into an IRA and add to the balance
  25. Paint the porch pole and put up our house numbers
  26. Take the kids to DC to visit the awesome museums there
  27. Keep a houseplant alive for more than 6 months (better get going!)
  28. Set up chores for the kids and get us all to stick to them
  29. Put up crown moldings or wainscoting in one room where we planned to
  30. Go on a mom and daughter overnight
  31. Go on a mom and son overnight
  32. Volunteer at the kids’ schools/in their classrooms
  33. Volunteer, give back, spread kindness in some capacity (outside of my kids’ schools/classrooms)
  34. Sell something I made – a creative/artistic something
  35. Practice patience – improve
  36. Reduce my “plugged in” time to <15 hours a week (not including work)
  37. Go to the Outer Banks again
  38. Resolve the no-sidewalk issue in front of the house
  39. Try a food I’ve never tried
  40. Plan a fantastic 40th Birthday day to remember!
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Long time, no post

I haven’t stopped crafting or writing, but I have stepped away from this blog for the time being. For now, I’m focusing on family, health, and home. If you want to keep up with me, you can head over to http://rtw2021.wordpress.com/

Not sure if or when I will return. I hope to free up time and devote some of it to creativity once I reach some of my personal goals. Perhaps then, I’ll write some more here. Thanks for reading!

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Gifting Game

My husband and I have tried all kinds of gift exchanging ideas. Just one gift each. Just stockings. A cap on spending. Spend under $25 and still get fun things. And we’ve had years without “rules” – this was before getting married – in the beginning – when no gift had already been “done too many times” (sweaters, scarves) and we had wish-list stuff (now, there isn’t a whole lot on my wish list that is buy-able -health, happiness, reduced stress- other than the “fantasy” items – fabulous travel, a housekeeper to manage the mess, you know, the typical mom fantasy stuff). And we did years where we didn’t bother with gifts for each other.

In fact, those no-gift years were what led us to the Gifting Game. We were trying to be realistic, since we had nothing much we truly wanted (we are so grateful to have nothing we need or want so much) and we would rather save for a vacation or something else. But as we weathered a rocky patch, we realized that little things, like caring enough to buy something thoughtful at Christmas, did matter to us. So, after really talking about it, we realized that we needed a new plan.:

1. The under $25 game didn’t work – we ended up with piles of little junky bits we are likely to pass-up or stuff  we’d buy anyway if we had wanted it. Maybe we just both stink at this game, but it is the way it went for years.

2. If we want slippers or scarves or gloves or underwear or a sweater or… we really are not interested in what the other picks out – we like what we like and we’re not very good at finding what the other one would like. Also, these are boring gifts for us… when you’ve received your 12th pair of Dearfoam slippers in 15 years, it really just doesn’t feel like a lot of thought went into it (this was a go-to gift for both of us to the other – yes we’re really that dull and unimaginative).

3. Spending caps are good. We always knew this and we’ve never broken the caps set by any serious amount, but we really both like them so that we can be sure we’re not over (or under) and we can be sure we can do our usual pay-off-the-whole-credit-card-bill in January, just like every other month.

4. Fear of moving beyond the (dearfoam) box: We both felt it was hard to find something creative and different we thought the other would want. We both had felt some disappointment in the past when we thought we’d gotten the other a great gift, only to realize they didn’t really enjoy it (as in, never used it). We felt like we didn’t want to waste money on something we weren’t 100% sure the other would want, so we stuck to the dull (slippers) and neither one of us felt particularly great about the giving or receiving.

So, last year we started our Gifting Game. We set a limit of $100 to spend on the other (you can pick a cap that works for you). We then choose 3 to 4 categories. Last year they were “red,” “wood,” “travel,” and “1998.” We purposely left it very open for interpretation. It was way more fun to shop and see how we could connect our themes to our items. It was also fun on Christmas to open the gifts we got and find out the connections. We both bought things that were more interesting than in years past. I gave my husband a red picture frame with our kids’ photos in it for his work space, a very nice bottle of “double wood” whiskey, and a basket of food items to make Thai and Chinese meals topped with a print-out of all sorts of things we did in 1998 (which included an amazing trip to Hong Kong and Thailand, hence the food choice) and a travel book (off-the-beaten-path destinations) and a monogrammed leather luggage tag. I received a travel pouch for my camera strap, a red journal with pencils (paper is made from wood, as are pencils), and a handbag from a company that was founded in 1998.

We’re looking forward to doing this again this year, as we were surprised at the fun we had and also that we’re excited about Christmas shopping again. Some friends thought the Gifting Game sounded like fun, too, and are doing similar with their spouses this year, so I thought I’d share the idea with you.

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Our Advent Calendar

We have done an advent calendar for the past three years with the kids. We have one of those little wooden houses with 25 doors and windows that open, which we picked up one year after Christmas in the huge discount sales. Nothing, other than a note, fits in those little spaces… not even Hershey’s Kisses. Which is kind of OK with me because we don’t like to do candy every night.

I’ve seen a lot of suggestions for non-candy advent calendar items. Since this is going to be our fourth year with our calendar, I’ve got some that have worked well for us and that we plan on doing this year. We put notes in there and let the kids open and find out what it says. We draw pictures so non-readers can get in on the excitement. Here goes:

  1. Hot cocoa (and/or popcorn) and a movie (we’ve done the animated Grinch with good success)
  2. Ornaments (I usually buy a few in the sale the year before and then I have them set aside, that way they can hang them on the tree that night)
  3. Christmas crafts (think clothespin reindeer, salt dough (or these “better than salt dough”), or even something the kids can make to give away, like handprint ornaments)
  4. Coloring page or printable (if there is a theme I want with coloring pages, I usually just google “free Christmas coloring page”)
  5. Stickers (usually I buy just one sheet/book of stickers and cut them up so I get several days worth out of it)
  6. Outing to look at Christmas lights (pile in the car, play seasonal music, spot lights =  awesome fun!)
  7. Books – you just can’t go wrong with books!
  8. Face paints – admittedly this may be aimed at the younger ones. Invest in a palate of face paints (I got mine for less than $20 on Amazon and they’ve lasted for more than a year, with tons of faces painted) and treat the kids to a snowman on their cheek. Poinsettia, snowflakes, Christmas trees, wreaths, gifts, and so on are all fairly easy to draw.
  9. Special events (we do a local “Santa Train” each year and it becomes our advent event for the day)
  10. Donate to Toys for Tots (or another charity) – depending on the rules for charities, have  your kid pick out something from their own toy box to donate or take them shopping to choose something for donating
  11. Baking cookies (most kids love baking, plus it’s a sneaky teaching moment with all that math and following instructions and so on).
  12. Christmas photos (dress up or don’t, but snap some pics of the kids by the tree or in the snow or take them to see Santa or popping out of a wrapped box – whatever strikes your fancy – use them for ornament crafts, Christmas or New Year cards, frame them in fun frames to decorate your kids’ rooms).
  13. Decorate your kids’ rooms – we don’t generally decorate in their bedrooms because they’d just pull it all down, but letting them have a few decorations they can play with (or hung up high enough that they can’t reach them) can make their space feel so special.
  14. Go caroling – if you don’t want to carol around your neighborhood, how about friends and family? Or you could go to a hospital or home for the aging (call ahead to make arrangements). Another option is to Skype carol if your family isn’t nearby. Dress up, where fun hats and spread Christmas cheer by “singing loud for all to hear!”
  15. Nature walk crafts: winter walk findings can make excellent decorations. Pine cones, leaves, branches (bare or pine), and lots of other wintery items are great for centerpieces, wreaths, or on their own. You can leave them natural or spray them silver or gold, or add sparkle with glue and glitter.
  16. Make this a “Spread Cheer” day – challenge yourselves to spread cheer. Pay a toll for the car behind you. Take donations to local shelters (blankets and food or even towels and milk bones to an animal shelter – check in advance). Simply hand out candy canes or other small tokens to people you pass with a smile and a message of “Peace on Earth” or “Joy to the World” attached.
  17. Decorate outdoors – even though we’re going to do this anyway, our kids find this so exciting, and this is a way to make it even more festive. Don’t forget music while you’re working and hot cocoa for when you come inside.
  18. Put up the tree – again, we’ll do this anyway, but why not make it the fun countdown to Christmas event for the day? Music and maybe a few cookies or treats can make the whole process even more fun.
  19. Wrap or make the teacher gifts. We love making our own gifts for teachers. Last year we made scent jars. These are so easy for kids to help you make. The grown up can cut up the fruit and lay out the fruit slices, herbs, and spices and let the kids help you drop them into jars. They can draw cards, too. My kids are thrilled that they were a part of making the gifts.
  20. Christmas around the world – learn how to say “Merry Christmas” and maybe even learn a song in another language. Learn about (and try!) traditions in your chosen country. Get a special treat from that country or make a dinner that incorporates the cuisine of the country. The more you can dive in, the more fun it is! The internet makes the world so much closer!
  21. Make bird feed decorations to decorate the trees in your yard. Make friends with your local outdoor creatures. I love this project!
  22. Write a letter to Santa. Little ones can tell you what to write. If you want, you can have Santa write back, too. There are templates (“from the desk of Santa” letterhead, like this one) online to make sending the letter even more exciting.
  23. Throw a party! Sure, you can definitely invite friends over… or you can just have a family party (especially if your kids are still young). Dress up or dress silly (think ugly sweater party). Set the mood with festive music. Play games. Sip punch (pineapple juice + lemon/lime soda + maraschino cherry juice, for example). Or make this a cookie-exchange party and include your kids!
  24. On Christmas Eve, we like to give a new pair of pajamas. Our kids are young still, and PJs generally don’t fit from one year to the next. Since many of our Christmas morning photos end up taken while still sporting our sleepwear, we like to get some nice ones, especially ones that coordinate. The kids will wear them all winter, so it’s not as silly as it might first seem.

Idea: You can have your entire set of 25 “events” printed out but not stuff the entire calendar ahead of time – this way it prevents peeking ahead, plus you can play it by ear and pick good days to do each of the items (a day when it’s raining might be a good one for doing a craft or watching a movie, but not such a great night for going to look at lights, for example).

Idea: Wrap some of the items (e.g., books and ornaments) and put them in container and let them pick one to unwrap.

Idea: If you know your family will love just a few of these, repeat them (watch several different movies in the run-up to Christmas, make a bunch of craft days, do Christmas around the world for several countries, get a handful of books to read, print out tons of coloring pages) – whatever works!

And now, since it’s already the ninth, and several weeks since I drafted this and I still haven’t posted it, I’ll let you know what we have already done this year:

  1. Put up and decorate the tree
  2. Go to Meadow Lights (which is a lights display place with some other fun stuff to do near where we live)
  3. Coloring: I got a pack of 4 color-in place mats from the Target dollar spot
  4. Baking: magic cookie bars
  5. Disney on Ice: we scored half-price tix on opening night and took our own glow sticks for the kids
  6. Movie night! “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (animated)
  7. Painting: We painted some Target dollar spot ‘paint with water’ pictures (penguins and reindeer)
  8. Baking: Tollhouse cookies (we froze most of the dough to bake when our guests come closer to Christmas, but we had to try a few to make sure they were good, of course!)
  9. Movie night! “Mickey Mouse’s Christmas Carol”

We’re having a blast and making memories!

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My 40 before 40

Not much fluff for this post:

  1. Run a 5k (despite not liking to run)
  2. Lower my blood pressure
  3. Cook/Bake at least half of the recipes I have pinned on Pinterest (time is actually working against me here – I pin three in the time it takes me to get around to trying one)
  4. Save at least 1/3 of the money for our trip in 2021 (RTW, here we come!)
  5. Go skiing down an actual, snowy hill
  6. Take a landscape/travel photo that I am proud to enlarge and hang in my downstairs
  7. Finish our bedroom: paint and put up nice curtains
  8. Read more than 10 books in one year (dear lord, this one makes me so sad – I feel like it should say “100” to be a challenge, but alas, this is where I am right now in my life)
  9. Make scrap books of the kids’ art and photos from preschool (1 each?)
  10. Ride my bike up the hill (Country Trail)
  11. Go camping (tent) with the kids
  12. Paint the kids’ bathroom and frame the mirror
  13. Wear a two-piece swimsuit in public and not be mortified
  14. Find a pillow I actually like, then buy a spare one for when it wears out
  15. Organize the linen closet so that it is possible to find and extract exactly what is desired without avalanches and/or cussing
  16. Hang a real window treatment in our bathroom
  17. Deal with the “sad garden” in the backyard and make it pretty again
  18. Make my own vanilla extract instead of buying it
  19. Yardsale/CraigsList/Consign/eBay/Donate the baby items in the garage and the unused “stuff” in the bonus room closet
  20. Visit Savannah, GA
  21. Plant those evergreens we planned to put in the back yard (all 3 of ‘em)
  22. Throw a birthday party (for my kid) in my own home
  23. Return to yoga and be able to do a headstand
  24. Roll-over my old 401k into an IRA and add to the balance
  25. Paint the porch pole and put up our house numbers
  26. Take the kids to DC to visit the awesome museums there
  27. Keep a houseplant alive for more than 6 months (better get going!)
  28. Set up chores for the kids and get us all to stick to them
  29. Put up crown moldings or wainscoting in one room where we planned to
  30. Go on a mom and daughter overnight
  31. Go on a mom and son overnight
  32. Volunteer at the kids’ schools/in their classrooms
  33. Volunteer, give back, spread kindness in some capacity (outside of my kids’ schools/classrooms)
  34. Sell something I made – a creative/artistic something
  35. Practice patience – improve
  36. Reduce my “plugged in” time to <15 hours a week (not including work)
  37. Go to the Outer Banks again
  38. Resolve the no-sidewalk issue in front of the house
  39. Try a food I’ve never tried
  40. Plan a fantastic 40th Birthday day to remember!
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Meal Planning that Works (for me)! Part three: A week of meals!

This is the third and final post in my Meal Planning that Works series.

If you missed either of the first two you can see them by going here for the first one (the intro) and here for the second one (the how-to).

So, here it is – the example meal plan. This is a week I’ve recently done (as in shopped for, cooked for my family, and ate). With the exception of one recipe, which is my adaptation of a favorite from a cookbook, these are all recipes that I “just cook” – an amalgamation of random recipes I’ve read or seen on TV and my own tweaks. I don’t generally refer to a recipe when making these dishes, but rather, I just cook, and I make adjustments on the fly. They are almost never the same twice. Writing down the “recipe” is an interesting process for me, as I don’t really think in terms of measurements when making these dishes. I hope you feel free to riff on these recipes and make them your own, too!

MamaNut Meal Planning that Works - Menu

MamaNut Meal Planning that Works – Menu

As mentioned in the “how-to” post, I recommend getting a three-ring binder and some clear protector sheets, printing out the menu, recipes, and shopping list, and sliding them into the protector sheets. If you want, make several copies of the shopping list to keep in the binder for future weeks when you would like to use this week again (or just print them as needed).

Click below to download the Menu, Shopping list, and Recipes:
MamaNut Meal Planning that Works

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