April - Excitement & Gaiety
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Wow! it’s already April - this month there’s lots to be excited about as we celebrate Easter, Spring Break, Picnics and nicer weather. All of which will be full of gaiety and merriment. Although I run a hectic schedule, I’ve started some short walks on nice cool days and have managed to stop and enjoy the cherry blossoms in my neighborhood. I’ll be starting the preparation of my summer garden by planting vegetable seeds and anxiously wait for them to germinate. I’ll share pictures next time, till then…enjoy all the wonders of this month.

Cheers & Happy Easter!

Renate


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FOOD

Hot Cross Buns

My recipe for Hot Cross Buns is soft dough that is easily shaped, and makes tender, aromatic buns that are most delicious with dabs of butter. I call it a “labor of love”. It wouldn’t feel like Easter, if my family didn’t have them. Bake a batch and enjoy!

Hot Cross Buns

Makes: 24-27

INGREDIENTS:

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs, beaten (room temperature)

2 ½ cups milk (room temperature)

7 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour, more for kneading

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed meal

¼ teaspoon each – ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom

2 tablespoons almond extract

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

5 teaspoons instant yeast

6 tablespoons tepid water

1 cup raisins

TOPPING:

4 tablespoons granulated sugar

6 tablespoons water

ICING:

1 ½ - 2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

2 teaspoons almond extract

3-4 teaspoons milk, or enough to make a thick pipeable icing

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a medium saucepan combine the milk, sugar and butter. Warm slightly over low heat, stirring gently to dissolve the sugar and butter. Do not boil. 

In a small bowl add the 6 tablespoons tepid (warm tap) water then add the 5 teaspoons yeast.  Let set for about 5 minutes.

 In a large bowl pour the milk mixture, add the yeast and two beaten eggs.  Whisk well to combine.

 Add ground flaxseed meal, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom and whisk well.

 Add almond, vanilla extracts and raisins.

 Add flour one cup at a time and mix to form a soft dough.

Let dough rest for 5 minutes then turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover with tea towel and allow dough to rise in a warm place until puffy or doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, line several sheet pans with parchment paper.

When the dough is ready punch down and divide in half.  Knead each half then shape into 2-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets.

Cover and let rise until doubled, about 15 minutes.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 325 degrees, F.

Mist or brush tops of the buns with water then bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

Mix together the topping ingredients and glaze each bun while cooling.

Mix together the icing ingredients, and when the buns are completely cool, pipe it in a cross shape atop each bun.

 

 


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FASHION

Closet Spring Clean

It’s almost time to pack away the heavy dark winter garments and bring out the lighter brighter colors into our closets. It can seem like a daunting task but with a few steps we can get ready to pack and purge. I like these tips that I found to be a good guide.

8 Tips To Clean Out Your Closet

1. Define - Think about your lifestyle and typical outfits you wear throughout the week. Write down what you wear the most - and be honest!

2. Purge - Quickly go through your closet and remove clothes that can definitely go. Remove anything that is damaged, doesn’t fit, looks worn out, doesn’t fit your lifestyle, or no longer fits your personal style. If you have trouble deciding what stays and what goes, check out Katie Anderson’s Wardrobe Editing Decision Tree. Before you move on, bag up clothes for donation and toss damaged and stained garments.

3. Try It On - By this point, everything left in your closet should be clothes that you like and that fit you. Quickly try everything on and look in the mirror. If something doesn’t fit well, add it to the donation bag you started in the last step. Note items that you like but may not be right for your body type - you may want to search for replacements that are suited for you. Make sure you keep well-fitted basics for special occasions.

4. Divide - As you try on the clothes, make a pile for clothes that look great and fit your everyday needs, a pile for special occasion clothes, and a pile for clothes that are your absolute favorites. Note whether or not you have enough clothes for your everyday needs, and record what's missing. You’ll love your closet if it’s full of what you actually love to wear, rather than just what you love to look at.

5. Document - Add the clothes you’re keeping into Stylebook using these photo tips. Start by photographing your favorites first - this way, you can take a break and continue later if you have an enormous closet.

6. Mix and Match - Use the outfit editor to start playing with your favorite items. Try to make as many different outfits as you can with each item. Divide your outfits up into categories like work, weekend, cocktail hour, etc.

7. Double Take - Use the Style Stats feature to find out which items were never added to an outfit. Take a second look at these items and determine why you didn’t use them. Do you feel uncomfortable wearing them? Are they inappropriate for most days? Do you need the perfect tank to wear underneath? Are they only for special occasions like a wedding or New Year’s Eve? Decide if you should keep these items and see if adding any complementary pieces could help you use these items more.

8. Wish List - Review your notes on what you wear in a typical day, what gaps you have in your wardrobe, and what items need to be replaced. Prioritize based on what will make your wardrobe the most versatile and then start constructing a wish list using the Stylebook shopping feature. You can search for items that you want by color, budget, store, and more. Watch a demo video on saving shopping items to your closet.

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FAMILY

Planting Seeds

Spring break is a wonderful time to build family camaraderie. There are many great activities you can do with your family as you travel or stay in town. I’ve peeked through the web and found these fun things you can do and make fond memories too.

1. Visit a Beach

The coast is a great place to relax the spirit. Bright sun, crashing waves, and feet in the sand. Your family will have nothing but smiles. Even if the closest beach is in a place that doesn’t get warm until May, being near the water will lift your spirits and give you hope that summer is coming. Whether it is the ocean or a lake, get there.

2. National Parks

Somewhere within driving distance lies a national park that offers fun and exploration. Get out there and show your family the world is more than strip malls and concrete.

3. RV Adventure

RV dealers rent those big rigs for surprisingly reasonable fees. There are special resorts all over the country that cater to big motor homes. Research an itinerary that works for your family and get out on the road!

4. Backyard Fun

Turn your backyard into your very own resort destination. You can play all types of different sports, such as ultimate Frisbee or volleyball. Put down a Slip N’ Slide. Even a sprinkler can keep young kids entertained for hours on end. Think outside the box and come up with your own unique backyard fun.

5. Cook Together

A skill your child should have as an adult is the ability to cook good food. Spend the week with your kids challenging and expanding your abilities. As a family, research and find recipes of food you have never attempted. Try a new one each day. Have your kids involved every step along the way.

6. The Outdoor Project

Spring break is the perfect time to add beauty and function to your home. Take this time to add that long talked about gazebo, fountain, or a garden. Involve everyone with vision and planning. Then get out there and do it.

Now join in and share what would you love to do with your family during spring break?

Renate MooreComment
March - Spring & New Beginnings
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Hello & Happy March!

The weather has been cold, warm, rainy and bleak for the past few months. The temperature kept fluctuating from cold to very warm to very cold. I’ve noticed the birds and spring bulbs are just as confused as I am with the up and down temperatures. It’s been hard to keep up with dressing appropriately and for some, our family has had to dig in and stay inside. Well, it’s time to get out and into the sun again now that Spring has sprung. I can’t wait to plant my vegetable & flower gardens, plan some weekend trips to explore new places and spend time enjoying the beauty of new blooms and the sound of birds chirping around my deck in the mornings. I hope you take time out of your busy schedule and break for some new beginnings.

Have a wonderful month!

Cheers,

Renate


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FOOD

spring sweetness

Springtime is full of color and wonderful scents, and it isn’t just the flowers. It’s also the time of year where we start to crave lighter and brighter flavors of seasonal fruits. Make sure your sweet tooth is satisfied with everything from cakes to cookies to tarts. One of my all time favorite is Lemon Pound Cake (pictured). Any of these spring desserts are great for entertaining and sharing with family, friends, and neighbors. For a twist on a classic, bake a Key Lime Pound Cake. Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting are a fun treat too. For more sweet ideas, be sure to check out my Spring Desserts collection at: https://www.ladyrens.com/


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FASHION

makeup refresher

The first sign of spring is filled with glorious pastel colors. It’s nature’s renewal and can be yours too! This is a good time to refresh your skincare and liven up your look with corals, magenta, peach and blossom pink hues. One of the things I do to get ready for warmer weather is cleaning out old lip, eye and cheek colors and refresh with trending ones. This can be a fun and productive project. Give it a try!

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FAMILY

fun in the sun

Spring break is a wonderful time to build family camaraderie. There are many great activities you can do with your family as you travel or stay in town. I’ve peeked through the web and found these fun things you can do and make fond memories too.

1. Visit a Beach

The coast is a great place to relax the spirit. Bright sun, crashing waves, and feet in the sand. Your family will have nothing but smiles. Even if the closest beach is in a place that doesn’t get warm until May, being near the water will lift your spirits and give you hope that summer is coming. Whether it is the ocean or a lake, get there.

2. National Parks

Somewhere within driving distance lies a national park that offers fun and exploration. Get out there and show your family the world is more than strip malls and concrete.

3. RV Adventure

RV dealers rent those big rigs for surprisingly reasonable fees. There are special resorts all over the country that cater to big motor homes. Research an itinerary that works for your family and get out on the road!

4. Backyard Fun

Turn your backyard into your very own resort destination. You can play all types of different sports, such as ultimate Frisbee or volleyball. Put down a Slip N’ Slide. Even a sprinkler can keep young kids entertained for hours on end. Think outside the box and come up with your own unique backyard fun.

5. Cook Together

A skill your child should have as an adult is the ability to cook good food. Spend the week with your kids challenging and expanding your abilities. As a family, research and find recipes of food you have never attempted. Try a new one each day. Have your kids involved every step along the way.

6. The Outdoor Project

Spring break is the perfect time to add beauty and function to your home. Take this time to add that long talked about gazebo, fountain, or a garden. Involve everyone with vision and planning. Then get out there and do it.

Now join in and share what would you love to do with your family during spring break?

Renate MooreComment
February - Love Blooms

The shortest month of the year seems to have gone by in a flash. I thought of doing a fun fact research as to why does February have only 28 days? Here’s what I learned….

It’s the Romans’ fault. Our modern calendar is loosely based on their old, confusing one. Though records on the Roman calendar are sparse and sketchy, legend has it that Romulus, the first king of Rome, devised a 10-month lunar calendar that began at the spring equinox in March and ended with December. It is unclear whether there were any official months between December and March, but it’s likely they were left off because the wintertime wasn’t important for the harvest.

The second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius, decided to make the calendar more accurate by syncing it up with the actual lunar year—which is about 354 days long. Numa tacked on two months—January and February—after December to account for the new days.

The new months each had 28 days. But that didn’t sit well with Numa because even numbers were considered bad luck at the time. So, he added a day on to January, giving the year an odd-numbered 355 days. No one knows why February was left with 28 and remained an unlucky month. It may be related to the fact that Romans honored the dead and performed rites of purification in February. (The word februare means “to purify” in the dialect of the ancient Sabine tribe.)

I will not think of February as an unlucky month but rather a month filled with love, aging gracefully and making timeless memories.

Cheers,

Renate


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food

love & chocolate


It’s February and Valentine’s is in the air and so is love and chocolates. I like adding extra affection by making chocolate hearts for my friends and family.

Decadent Chocolate Hearts

1 packet (10 ounce) Ghirardelli Chocolate Dark Melting Wafers

candy wrappers

1 teaspoon orange liqueur (optional)

heart shaped mold

Place the wafers in a top pan of a double boiler over low heat.  Stir constantly until smooth and melted.  Do not allow water to boil. Remove from heat and stir in orange liqueur if using. Carefully fill the molds. Refrigerate for 1 hour, until firm. Turn mold upside down and tap out the hearts. Wrap in individual wrappers. Place in candy boxes or cello bags and tie with Valentine’s ribbon.


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fashion

beauty lies within

I’m always researching fashion and great places to find them. I stumbled upon this link and wanted to share with you some of the best places for women over 40 to shop.   Listed are quite a few of my personal favorites - White House Black Market, Nordstrom, JCrew, JJill, Talbots, Zara .

www.wardrobeoxygen.com/2016/01/best-clothing-retailers-women-over-40.html


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family

time and tide wait for no one

Fun Activities can Strengthen Your Family Bond

 A strong family bond creates happiness and security for each family member. When kids are bored, they may exhibit behavioral problems which cause parents to discipline them. This takes away from the happiness and feelings of security kids should have. If you do fun things with your kids that have elements of education hidden in them, everyone is happy.

Parents feel like they’re doing a good job raising kids who will become good people. Kids feel nurtured and cared for when their parents take time to be with them. Parents are the leaders of the family unit and it’s their responsibility to ensure bonding. It may not be easy with hectic lives but it’s essential to ensure a good foundation for healthy minded children. There are many fun family bonding activities that can bring a family together.

For example, building a family tree will give each member of the family a sense of identity as you learn where you came from. Building a family tree can be a daunting task for just one person so doing it together makes it easier. Start off by finding a template that allows you to easily add family members as you find them. Give each family member a task they’re responsible for. If you have older kids, get them to do some research online.

For a family that is involved with individual activities, sitting down for dinner is important. Taking the time to enjoy food together while you touch base should be a nightly activity if possible.

You have the opportunity to talk about the details of your day. It allows you to find out on a daily basis what’s happening in school and social activities with your kids. Cooking together or cleaning up after dinner is good practice also. Getting your children to contribute to some of the domestic duties of the house will teach them about work ethic and responsibilities. It’s the little things that make a big difference. Enjoy time and build strong bonds with your family.

 



Renate MooreComment
January - Recaps & Resolutions

Happy New Year!

January is known for recaps and resolutions, the new year starts with retrospection (as we bemoan past regrets and celebrate successes), then moves forward with hopes and resolutions for the year ahead!

More than half of all resolutions fail, but this year, they don’t have to be yours. Here’s how to identify the right resolution to improve your life - create a plan on how to reach it, and become part of the small group of people that successfully achieve their goasl. Notice I’ve said “goals”. That is what I do… I don’t make resolutions (as I’ve mentioned in December’s Blog) but I set goals. You’ll give yourself your best shot at success if you set goals that are doable and meaningful. So as we jump start 2019 I encourage you to enjoy good food, stay healthy, live your best and remember to be flexible when life gets in the way.

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Cheers,

Renate


FOOD

WINTER’S WARMTH

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When the wintry days sets in during January, cozy up with a bowl of this delicious soup. The flavors and texture are bound to warm you up.

Pantry staples solved a soup-of-the-day crisis and became a favorite. Once when my youngest was not feeling well, I decided to make her some chicken barley soup only to discover when I opened the pantry that I was out of barley! But lying there was a bag of dried green split peas. I was pleasantly surprised when I had concocted this soup from almost nothing, and it turned out so delicious that my daughter enjoyed it and began to feel better, achieving her inner “peas” (peace). This is now an often-requested soup for the cold season and is part of my cook book recipes collection.

INNER PEAS SOUP

SERVES ABOUT 10

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 sweet onion, medium diced

½ red bell pepper, medium diced

½ yellow bell pepper, medium diced

2 celery stalks, medium diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bag (16 ounces) green split peas, rinsed well and soaked for least at 30 minutes

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth, more if needed

2 bay leaves

2 chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes

Salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over low heat.

Add the onion, bell peppers, and celery, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes.

Drain the green peas and stir them into the sauteed vegetables.

Add the broth, bay leaves, bouillon, salt and a few turns of fresh-ground black pepper.

Cover and let cook, stirring occasionally, until peas have dissolved, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Remove bay leaves and serve warm.

 QUICK TIP: A delicious add-in to this soup is left-over baked chicken cut into small pieces. Follow the recipe, and halfway through the process, stir in the baked chicken pieces.


FASHION

WOMEN’S GYM BAG ESSENTIALS

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Stay on top of your game! Don’t fall behind on your goal of staying healthy. Most of us are excited to start exercising right after the New Year then by mid January we tend to start slacking off. You don’t necessarily have to go to the gym to get some daily exercise, but when you do, here are some great fitness accessories I’ve researched you shouldn't forget to pack in your gym bag to make the most of your daily workout session. They can be found at sporting goods store.

Gym Bags: The latest gym bags keep you organized from work to workout, complete with plenty of pockets and compartments for all your gear. You never have to scrimp on style — complete your look with a bag designed in luxe fabrics and materials.

Activity Trackers: These super lightweight wristbands deliver speed, heart rate, sleep and activity tracking 24/7. Plus, many wirelessly sync to your smartphone, so you can always stay connected to your latest stats.

Water Bottles: Hydration is essential when you train, but not all water bottles are created equally. Look for one that’s BPA-free with a leak-proof lid. To add some flavor (and healthful nutrients) try an infusion water bottle.

Earbuds: Music motivates our workout. We like compact earbuds that are both sweat-resistant and ergonomic. Built-in mics are great for switching between calls and tunes.

Armbands: Make sure your armband supports touch screen functionality — so you can skip tracks or take calls as you move. Adjustable bands help provide a secure, no-bounce fit.

Running Socks:  We count on our running socks to protect us from chafing and irritation, mile after mile.  Lightweight padding in key areas prevents rubbing, while perforated fabric keeps the air flowing. Mix it up with a variety of cuts and colors.

Headbands:  Need to keep flyaways at bay during your next HIIT session? Headbands wrapped with technical fabric offer excellent hold and shape.

Scarves: A classic, open-knit scarf takes us from the studio to the street. Find one in your signature hue.

Yoga Mats: Maximize your zen with sustainable, zero-waste yoga mats. We like a fabric-like texture for better grip as we pose.


FAMILY

Relationship Checkup

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Relationships are incredibly complex. Not only are they are made up of years of memories, experiences and interactions, they also involve layers of complex emotions and motives.

The good news is that most aspects of our relationships don’t have to be complicated. The brief moments and small gestures are often what matters most in the dynamic between two people. Yes, it’s the little things that matter the most. Often time, we overlook the ‘little’ things that can make a big difference in our relationships.

Try taking two minutes out of each day and put these simple tips in motion.

#1  Start the Day on a Positive Note

It’s far too easy to get off to a bad start in the morning with family members. Comments like “Get down here and eat your breakfast” or “We’re late! Let’s go!” aren’t exactly bursting with love. Try to make your first interaction of the day a positive one. A simple “good morning” can go a long way. If you are in charge of waking others up, do so with a gentle tone or even a kiss.

#2  Send a Text

Do you have moments of down time in your day? Send a text to a love one during the mundane moments while you’re waiting in line at the store or using the microwave. Sending a quick text to let them know you are thinking of them can go a long way.

#3  Write a Note

You don’t have to be Shakespeare to write a note. You also don’t need beautiful stationery. A post-it note on the table that says “Love you!” is perfectly sufficient. You could also leave the note on the bathroom mirror or the fridge for the loved one to find. If you want to put in extra effort, write out a short note expressing gratitude for someone and drop it in the mail.

#4  Give Love Pats

Even brief moments of physical affection can greatly improve your relationships. It lets the other person know you care and helps you connect with them. This can include a quick kiss, a warm hug, a pat on the back or a minute of snuggling.

#5  Think Double

Are you stopping for coffee? Buy a second cup for your special someone. Are you making yourself a snack? Whip up something for them too. Did you discover a great bargain? Let your friend know about it or buy one for them too. These small selfless acts are incredible blocks for relationships.

#6  Surprise Them With Words

A picture is worth a thousand words, but the spoken word can truly be priceless. Don’t wait for the next Hallmark card occasion to express gratitude or love. When you’re watching TV with your spouse, tell your spouse you are glad to be married to them. Tell your child you are proud of them, on a day when nothing significant has happened. Acknowledge a positive change you’ve seen in someone. You could change someone’s day and make a huge impact on your relationship with just one sentence.
















Renate MooreComment
December - Reflections & Wrappings

Reflections

As we rapidly approach the end of 2018, I paused and thought. If I had to choose one word to describe my year, what would it be? That word would be “Victorious.” 2017 was a beast of year where everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong. I spent 2018 picking myself up and regrouping, rebuilding and restructuring many things in my life.

I am not one to make resolutions, but I have a tradition where every New Years' Eve, I make a list of 6-7 goals that I want to achieve for the new year. I use this as my guide and work to accomplish them.

It doesn't necessarily mean that I will accomplish them all, but I strive to every day. My most significant victory for 2018 was finally starting and continuing to take yoga lessons. That was on my list of goals for three years, and many things came into place that prevented me from doing that. I also finally finished my cookbook “Just Eat” which took two years to get done.  According to my goal list, it should've been finished since 2017 and my second book about the journey of my Entrepreneurship should've been published in 2018. I had many setbacks, but I reminded myself that determination leads to success. I grew my company to a level that made me extremely happy, and I learned to say “NO” to what made me uncomfortable or would prevent me from gaining my success. That took a lot of courage, but I learned that sometimes, letting go of what makes us uncomfortable often leads to marvelous new experiences. People come and go in our lives for different reasons, some are meant to stay, and many are intended to go.

Along with our success, most of us have some failures too. Whether it was a goal not reached or just a missed opportunity, we need to take stock of why we did not succeed. Was it for lack of trying, or something else? Sometimes it’s even something out of our control, but usually, we can pinpoint where we went wrong.

While not completing my second book this year, it is an unaccomplished goal, and therefore something I need to think about as I plan my goals for next year. Why did I not accomplish (or even start) something that was important to me? Was it the lack of time (my usual excuse) or something more like fear? Whatever it is, I need to sort it out.

So as we close off 2018, I encourage you to set meaningful goals and work towards making them come true.

Thank you for being a part of my Blog. I hope I have inspired, encouraged and empowered you through my stories and experiences.

See you in 2019!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year,

Renate


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Food

It’s the time of year for festive baking and cooking. Even with my busy schedule I take “time off” to bake traditional holiday cookies for my family. Here is my easy and simple sugar cookie recipe that you can make and enjoy baking with your family.


Fashion

https://www.aloette.com/

With the winter season upon us I thought I’d share my favorite skincare product - Aloette. I choose products that are not tested on animals and are made with natural and plant-based products. My regimen is face wash, mist, serum moisturizers, SPF makeup. Click the image to review their products.

Click here for some tips on protecting your skin during the cold season. :


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Family

Tips to surviving the holidays and making happy memories.

Holidays are my favorite time of the year. This stems from growing up in a culture where we celebrated the holidays with much merriment and festivities. Now-a-days, it feels like a hassle and stressful time which is unfortunate because that is not what the season represents.

We all know that once Thanksgiving arrives, besides a time to be thankful for what we have it means the busiest time of year is staring us straight in the eyes.

If we thought our lives were overcrowded, unmanageable and running at the speed of light a week ago, we can expect that to increase within the next four weeks.

So what can we do as we sit and face the inevitable? We can take it in stride.

Here are a few of my tips to enjoy the season with less stress. While they may sound impossible at first, on second, third and fourth thought, they'll begin to settle in as items you can achieve.

1. Planning is very helpful! Write things down and do not try to achieve everything at once. That will create stress and anxiety.

2. Make gift giving simple. Remember the purpose of giving gifts is to show your thoughtfulness and love. When you keep it simple you will enjoy the shopping experience rather than expressing the feeling of just wanting to ‘get it over with’. Make a list of the gift recipients and ideas of what they like then when you set out to do your shopping you have an organized experience.

3. Create a holiday dinner menu, then write out your shopping list with ingredients and items you will need to make it. This could also be the start of a tradition family holiday dinner menu. For instance, in my family, I have created menus for all the major holidays and they have become traditions that have been passed on to my children. It gives me much joy to see them look forward to the dishes.

4. Make time to Take time - pause and enjoy the holiday decorations in stores, sit for a few minutes and savor a cup of holiday cheer without tuning into your phones or lap tops but rather engage your mind as shoppers go by with their treasures. Your mind and spirit will appreciate a simple 5 minutes break.

5. Discuss holiday plans with your spouse or family to include everyone with the preparations. Not only will this help getting things done, you will be nurturing your relationship with each other.

6. Do not aim for perfection! The holidays are about spending and enjoying time with friends and family. Do the best you can and make happy memories rather than striving for the perfect gift, the perfect outfit, the perfect gathering that ends with exhausting memories filled with tension.

The one thing we know for sure is that this time comes once a year. Yes, it may arrive too quickly and, for sure, it comes with a burden of responsibility. But the reality of where our lives have landed doesn't have to stop the magic. Have a wonderful season filled with joyous memories.

Renate MooreComment
November – Grateful & Thankful
 

Where did the time go?  Phew! What a month October has been. I’ve had so much going on, more than usual. I’ve had many challenges in my personal and business life, dealt with health issues, the continuous care for my parents and being present with my family. At one point I was so overwhelmed, it felt like the world was caving in on me. Then, one day, I had an epiphany. I suddenly felt the urge to step back, slow down, say no to many things and put my responsibilities into perspective. I realized that I did not have to do it all, I am not responsible for everyone’s happiness, and success is a journey that I will continue to pursue. I stopped pushing myself to the limit and started being in the moment.  This action reminded me to appreciate what’s present and to continue to be inspired by my challenges and experiences. It seems quite fitting that Thanksgiving is slowly approaching. I am grateful and thankful for taking the time to change old habits and start new ones that are much more gratifying and fulfilling.   It’s a great reminder to look around and be grateful for all the things you’ve overlooked. As I get ready to enjoy my family and the Thanksgiving holiday, I encourage you to pause and take note of the good things and people in your life.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!

Renate

 
 
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Food

Seasonal Dishes

 
 

I love food! And when the holiday season approaches, I am even more excited to pull out my menu and recipes to get ready for all the delicious dishes my family and I look forward to indulging in as we celebrate. I know many people are concerned about gaining weight during this time of the year and are afraid to enjoy the extra dishes that come with the season.  A question I often get from my friends is, “How do you manage to stay in shape and not gain weight during this time?” Here are my tips:

  • I eat as I normally do on a regular day, consuming my usual portions.

  • When there are many dishes and sides, I take a little of each. This way I get to taste everything without being stuffed.

  • Even though it’s the holiday season, I keep my normal daily exercise regimen.

  • And, most of all, when I prepare my food, I pay attention to the ingredients. If you can spare the time to cook your meals, do that! If time doesn’t allow, then select dishes that aren’t full of sodium, high sugars, and preservatives. 

Here is my delicious, quick and easy to make, fresh cranberry sauce recipe. Give it a try!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 pound fresh cranberries, washed and drained

  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • (5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon) 1/3 cup water

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 3 whole cloves

  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice

  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1 orange, zest and juice

In a medium pot, combine the cranberries, sugar, and water. Stir to blend. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer and add the cinnamon stick, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg. Mix well and let continue to simmer for 5-7 minutes. Some of the cranberries will burst and some will remain whole. Add the orange zest and juice and stir. Remove from heat, remove and discard the cinnamon stick and cloves. Cool before serving. Refrigerate leftovers.

 
 
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Fashion

Holiday Ready

 
 

Thanksgiving is always held at my house where I am the chief-cook-and-bottle washer, so I keep my style casual with a dash of modern, classy and of course elegance.  I like to look polished and pulled together even if our Thanksgiving celebration leans a little more on the casual side.

Here are a few fashion ideas I have discovered and am fond of for the Thanksgiving weekend. Whether I am going out to visit friends or family, they are appropriate and versatile:

  1. Leggings + Sweater + Flats

    Leggings are the ultimate casual comfort pants, but there’s a fine line between looking chic in leggings and looking frumpy.  It is important to have a top that covers your bottom and longer in the back than it is in the front. A beautiful sweater will create a polished look when paired with leggings along with flats or mules.

  2. Sweater Dress + Riding Boots + Scarf

    This is one of my favorite fall and winter styles. I love the easy-going look of a classy sweater dress with a pair of riding boots.  Add a beautiful scarf and you’re good to go!

  3. Skinny Jeans + Poncho + Booties

    This style is a good example of how to do easy elegance. It is simply jeans, a t-shirt (white) and booties with a poncho thrown over the top. This look is special because of the sophisticated individual elements. Choose a poncho that has nice color and color blocking (brown, purple, grey tones) with unique details and style such as pockets and fringe. Add a nice handbag to complement your outfit. All of these individual pieces are lovely in this outfit and will work well with other items in your closet. Be on the lookout for these kinds of versatile things!

I hope you find one of these outfits helpful and show up in style for Thanksgiving dinner.

 
 
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Family

Gratitude

 
 

Thanksgiving is a special time to be thankful for great families, fortunate events, caring friends, and all the other gifts of life. As my family gathers around our dinner table to enjoy the delectable feast, we share what each of us is thankful for. One thing we all have in common is that we are grateful for being a close-knit family despite the challenges we endure.

I’ve realized that life tends to whiz by without hesitation or any sign of slowing down and, in the madness, it’s very easy to forget to be thankful for all the awesome things we are given in life. Consistently keeping track of what you are thankful for and acting on those feelings of appreciation can not only make you happier, but it can actually boost your immune system and keep you healthier. So as you get ready to gather with your family and friends, take time to recognize the positive things in your life. Expressing gratitude can be a cleansing, wholesome experience!

 
Fall Fun
 
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Food

Chilly Weather

 
 

It's cozy time: the season of warm and hearty soups, stews, and my favorite Chicken Chili, which is another delicious recipe featured in my cookbook Just Eat! This makes a great weekend meal and is perfect for an intimate gathering around a beautiful lit fire pit with family and friends. It will keep bellies full and warm. Slow down and enjoy food, family, and friendship with bowls of Chili that won’t make you chilly!

Chicken Chili

Ingredients:

  • 10 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise

  • 1 jalapeno pepper, halved and seeded (if desired)

  • 1 sweet white onion, peeled and halved

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 4-6 pieces of skinless, boneless chicken thighs, diced into very small cubes

  • ¼ cup chili powder

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning

  • 1 tablespoon Adobo all purpose seasoning

  • ½ teaspoon poultry seasoning & dash of paprika

  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 or 2 (depending on your taste for heat) canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce - seeded and finely chopped

  • 1 ¾ cups chicken or vegetable broth

  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, drained

 

Method:

  1. Wash and drain chicken well; season with the Creole seasoning, Adobo seasoning, poultry seasoning, paprika and Worcestershire sauce. Marinate for 30 minutes.

  2. Preheat oven broiler with rack about 3 inches from heat source. Arrange tomatoes, jalapeno, onion, and garlic, cut side down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil until starting to char, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Pulse tomatoes and jalapeno in a blender or food processor until chunky or smooth (as desired). Separately, chop onions and mince the garlic.

  3. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat; add olive oil; add the chicken and cook until brown for 5-10 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring for one minute; stir in chipotles and add chicken, raise heat to high. Stir in tomato mixture and cook scraping up browned bits, 3-5 mins. Stir in broth; simmer for 20 minutes. Taste for the desired flavor. Add beans and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Tip: Enjoy with sweet cornbread, fragrant cooked jasmine or basmati white rice and mixed green salad. Healthy, nutritious and delicious.

 

 
 
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Fashion

Autumn Hues

 
 

Have you ever found yourself staring blankly at the nail polish wall of your favorite store? You're not alone. I love switching over to the serene colors of fall, but along with the excitement, I become overwhelmed with the number of shade options...and the number keeps growing when my favorite nail polish brands add new shades into the mix!

To help me with my “nail color dilemma,” I apply the same strategy as I do with clothes and shoes: I seek out what’s in for the season by reading magazines, watching runway shows, and browsing boutiques and salons. Then, I save time by narrowing it down to what’s suitable for my complexion, age, and style.

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up during my research:

  • When you're in the mood for a low-key manicure color, choose warm beige.

  • Try jewel-toned polishes! Like switching back to hot coffee or cocoa when the temperature gets cool, a rich emerald nail color feels natural for the season.

  • Adding a metallic element to any jewel-toned shade gives the fall staple a whole new look.

  • A mauve-y shade is ideal for Ultra Violet purple fans looking to transition their favorite shade into the new season. 

  • Nothing screams fall quite like a deep, oxblood manicure.

  • My #1 pick for the season is a luminous sapphire or ice blue polish!

  • Burnt orange nail polish reminds me of pumpkin spice and is another fall-favorite that makes its triumphant return every year. Whether you go with a terracotta, turmeric, or rusty, the earthy shade is a great neutral. However, it’s not a shade that goes with everything

  • The autumn alternative to millennial pink is a warm rosy polish by Essie.

Whether you stick to neutrals or you're a fan of bold colors (as I am), I hope you are less overwhelmed and more enthusiastic as you set out to shop trendy, fun colors...no matter your manicure vibe!

 
 
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Family

Carving Family Fun

 
 
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You may have heard me say this quite a few times, but I absolutely love fall. What I love the most is the wonderful memories I’ve created, or shall I say carved (in honor of Halloween), with my family. We marked the calendar for going to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch to pick apples and pumpkins and even scheduled watching scary movies. Everyone looks forward to drinking hot apple cider, eating apple cider donuts, and roaming the orchard picking a variety of apples. Then comes pumpkin carving day. We get creative – no contest, just plain fun and family time spent together. Though my son and daughter are adults, we still get together for this lovely autumn family tradition.

 

Explore all the happiness and beauty autumn offers by starting your own Fall Family Traditions! Here a few tips:

  • Seek out an apple orchard and check the schedule for the picking season. It’s fun to have one that offers hayrides and pumpkin patches.

  • When picking out pumpkins for carving, choose a funny-shaped pumpkin that will look even more unusual when carved.

  • Pick a day or evening for the family to get together for pumpkin carving time. Play some Halloween music or put on a movie; it’s nice to set the ambiance for this fun time! Carve away and share conversations while you create your spooky or cute jack-o-lantern. 

  • After carving, rub a little petroleum jelly on the carving areas. This helps preserve the jack-o-lantern and prevent it from drying out as fast.

  • For added safety, try using a battery operated tea light candle instead of a regular candle.

  • Most of all, have fun with your family! Dress up in a nice or scary costume while handing out candies to the trick-or-treaters.

September is Here!
 
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Food

Autumn Soups

 
 

September is finally here! I get excited with the cooler weather, trees changing colors, and pulling out my soup recipes to warm up with. My family and I look forward to visiting apple orchards, drinking hot cider and indulging in everything pumpkin spice and maple syrup. One of our favorite autumn soups is my Butternut Squash Soup. As soon as, the first touch of cool temperature sets in, we look forward to this easy-to-make, highly nutritious, and hearty meal. Low in fat, it delivers an ample dose of dietary fiber, making it an exceptionally heart-friendly choice. It provides significant amounts of potassium, important for bone health, and vitamin B6, essential for the proper functioning of both the nervous and immune systems.

Follow my recipe and enjoy bowls of it with your family. It’s such a requested soup among my friends that I’ve been asked to add it to my collection of recipes in my soon-to-be-released cookbook, “Just Eat”.

Butternut Squash Soup: Makes about 12 servings

  • 1 (2 1/2 pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (or 1 container of prepared butternut squash from the supermarket)

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

  • 1 large sweet Vidalia onion, thinly sliced

  • ½ red bell pepper, chopped

  • ½ yellow bell pepper, chopped

  • 2 celery stalks, chopped

  • 4 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock, plus more as needed

  • 1 bay leaf

  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

  • Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

  • 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, for garnish (optional)

In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, red and yellow peppers and chopped celery. Stir and cook for 3 minutes, then add garlic, lower heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until soft and lightly golden, about 8 minutes; lower heat as necessary to prevent burning.

Add squash and carrot to the pot and mix well. Add stock and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until vegetables are very soft, about 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender, or with an immersion blender, until completely smooth. Pour soup back into the pot and return to the stove on medium heat. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste and simmer for 5 minutes. Thin, if necessary, with additional stock until desired consistency is reached.

Serve soup into warmed bowls and garnish with fresh chopped parsley and toasted pumpkin seeds.

 
 
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Fashion

Fall Fabulous & Fresh

 
 

Fall is one of my favorite seasons (along with winter). I recently celebrated my birthday — and, of course, with each birthday, I reflect on many things. I also make sure I pay attention to my sense of fashion because I feel that age is no longer a barrier when it comes to dressing with panache and style.

As you may know, I LOVE fashion. I like to think I got it from my Mom. She was quite the fashionista in her young days and I’m proud to see that she still upkeep her image. I realized that so many stigmas are noted for women as they get older and I wonder why? Why can’t we just enjoy dressing and being happy? Getting older shouldn’t mean we have to stop dressing nicely and enjoying the latest styles and trends, just as long as they are well suited, of course.  For example, I don’t think ripped jeans are my style at 53!

Here are a few things that I’ve done as my fall refresher, and it’s quite fitting because it ties into celebrating my birthday.

I got a hair trim and refreshed my highlights. In the past, I’ve tried wearing short hair but I feel it doesn’t suit me (although I’ve received compliments and comments that I wear it well).  But it still didn’t feel right for ME. So I wear my hair long, because that is what I enjoy.

I’ve visited my favorite boutiques and catalogs and picked out seasonal styles for work and outings. Adding a new scarf is a part of my sprucing up my closet. You don’t have to always buy many new clothing, but adding the latest accessories will brighten your outfit.

I bought new ballerina shoes in shades of brown and taupe as they are beautiful hues for fall. Navy blue and grey are nice colors, too.

 I don’t care for some styles; here are a few of my “no-no’s”

  • Don’t wear match-matchy jewelry. 

  • Don’t wear “boxy” clothing. 

  • Don’t wear workout clothes as an outfit – except to work out!

Though simple, these things are important to me and self-care is the best you can do for yourself. I hope I’ve encouraged you to take some time for self care and enjoy shopping for a new scarf or cardigan as you get ready to enjoy the cooler temperature. I know I am! Just embrace the new, fresher, younger looking you and dress the part. You ARE fabulous after all!

 
 
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Family

A New Chapter

 
 

Labor Day weekend signals the end of summer and most students are back in school or heading off to college. For some parents this can be bittersweet, which can make them feel nostalgic and overwhelmed at the same time. I remember going through that when my son went off to college and my daughter was finishing high school. It all felt surreal and I had a deep drop in my heart as I realized they are no longer little children. A lot of the things we did together had changed and I started to get sad by overthinking a lot of things.  Fortunately, I learned how to take those melancholy thoughts and turn them into happy memories. I comforted myself that they have become the people I hoped they would, which meant I could focus on watching them continue to grow. 

Here’s what I found helpful and beneficial — I started my own business. This lead to meeting new people, and I have been kept successfully busy since then. I have enjoyed watching my children’s growth; all the emptiness that I thought would have existed did not get a chance to happen. It was always great when our family did get together and we continue to do so whenever the opportunity arise and make memories.

Just because your children have grown up and are ready for another level of class or off to colleges, it doesn’t mean your life should become empty.  Get involved in something that serves your purpose and make new friends. This is another chapter of our lives to be lived well and enjoyed!

 
Collect Moments, Not Things
 
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Food

Tips and recipes for grilling in the oven

 
 

Grilling disaster or great idea? It depends how you see it.

 One of the things I’ve learned this summer was how to turn my frown upside down when my plans for a cookout went wrong.

Living in the Carolinas, the weather can be tricky. One minute it’s blazing hot and then the skies darken and thunderstorms appear. That’s what happened with our plans for my birthday celebration — along with our grill not working.

Talk about when it all has a Jenga effect! First, the grill stopped working, then the thunderstorm started. What was I to do? Knowing me, “the party MUST go on!”

So I decided to ‘grill’ in the oven. and it turned out to be the best ever idea after all. Easy clean up, too! I am big on easy clean up. Honestly, I may just start roasting in the oven. It is super easy and I think you are going to like it, too!

 Burgers

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  • Line a cookie pan with aluminum foil.

  • Spray a cookie cooling rack with nonstick cooking spray, then place on the baking pan.

  • Lightly spray the burger patties with cooking spray before placing on the rack.

  • Place in oven and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, flip the patties and cook for 10 minutes, add sliced cheese of your choice, return to the oven and melt slightly. Remove from the oven and serve on warm burger rolls.

  • Add your favorite condiments and vegetables, of course.

Oven Roasted Corn

  • Heat oven to 400 degrees.

  • Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.

  • Place corn in a plate and liberally drizzle with olive oil and kosher salt (add fresh ground black pepper if desired) then rub in mixture.

  • Place corn in pan, then put in the oven and roast for 30 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove from oven when the corn has a nice grilled finish.

  • Rub with butter before eating, if desired.

Roasted (grilled) Vegetables

  • Oven at 400 degrees.

  • Add sliced vegetables of your choice:

    • Bell peppers – Red, Yellow, Orange, Green

    • Mushrooms

    • Zucchini

    • Red onions

    • Yellow Squash

  • In a large bowl, toss all of the vegetables with olive oil, kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper. Mix well.

  • Line a baking sheet with foil. Pour the vegetables onto the baking sheet and place in the oven and roast for about 35 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove from the oven when nicely browned and cooked. Sprinkle with fresh, chopped parsley and serve.

 
 
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Fashion

Summer Clearance – Closet De-clutter

 
 

Closet cleaning used to feel like a big chore for me. But I’ve become very good at purging my closet at the end of one season and before the next one starts. I’ve already worked on my summer purging to make way for fall fashion. I know this can sound daunting and seems tedious, but with a plan in place it is quite easy and can be fun. Here’s how I get ready for my closet cleanse.

Set aside at least three hours of uninterrupted time. Have several bags where you can place sorted clothes. Then start going through your clothing. Do you really need 10 pairs of skinny jeans? Or 8 button down shirts of the same style? My biggest rule is, if I haven’t worn something all year, that means I won’t wear it. So that goes into the “giveaway bag”. 

I do the same with shoes and handbags. It is quite refreshing, once you clear the clutter and realize that someone else can use those items. Another rule of mine: don’t wait for things to be too worn or washed out before giving them away. 

Do the same with your drawers and accessories. Don’t ask yourself why you should get rid of something, but instead ask why should you keep it. This way, you can decide. Sometimes we tend to hold onto things because we feel an occasion might come up and we will use it.

If something is too tight, small, big, slouchy — get rid of it. Sometimes we buy on impulse, then a few seasons later find out we never wore or used the item.  Here’s another reason for purging on a regular basis: you find things you forgot you purchased.

When you have finally sorted through your piles of clothes and you know which pieces need a good dry cleaning or a trip to the tailor, the end is near. Now ask yourself which pieces you have plenty of (or more of than you would ever wear) and purge that pile again.

When you’re finished, separate into piles according to charities or people you may want to give items to. I normally donate my clothes to charities or Goodwill.

Have fun clearing out your closet and make room for some fabulous fall pieces!

 
 
 
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Family

Simplify life

 
 

How in the world is it August already? Summer is winding down and before we know it September will be here and the kids will be gearing up to go back to school — which means the chaotic mornings and busy evenings will be back.  But with some simple planning and a few strategies in place, you can find calmness and organization to help you through the hectic times.

When my children were younger and in school, playing sports, taking music lessons, and all those fabulous “things” of learning, I was a working mother. It meant getting up very early to prepare myself for work, then focusing on fixing breakfast, packing lunch boxes, and getting the children to the bus stop, then driving to the train station for my commute into the city.

Here are a few things that helped make my life easier and more efficient:

Meal prep and planning a menu for the week — this takes away the guesswork and cuts down on unhealthy eating or snacking. On Sundays, I did my cooking and food prep for the coming week. I prepared at least one or two extra dishes so that my weeknight evenings weren’t spent cooking (which would mean eating dinner late and make homework take longer, especially when we were all tired from our day).

I arranged my outfits for the week, ironed and had them ready. Then I did my manicure ( taking self care is important) These were huge time savers for me. Being organized lessens anxiety and gives you time to focus. When you’re rushing, you loose focus and become anxious.

A few more tips to make your busy days and evenings more manageable:

Sleep: Try to get to bed at a reasonable time to allow at least 7 hours of sleep. This helps you to function well, stay in good mood, concentrate at work and at home with your family. Avoid using electronic devices at least 1 hour before your bedtime. The more electronic devices that a person uses in the evening, the harder it is to fall asleep or stay asleep. Besides increasing your alertness at a time when you should be getting sleepy, which in turn delays your bedtime, using these devices before bedtime delays sleep, reduces the total amount of sleep, and compromises alertness the next morning. Over time, these effects can add up to a significant, chronic deficiency in sleep.

Less is more : Don’t over schedule extracurricular activities. What matters is how you teach children to be good people, learn skills and be their best without adding pressure or taking joy away from them and you. Building quality relationships with your children is priceless and rewarding when they become adults. I’m happy to report I am reaping those rewards with my children.

Healthy minds: Do make a hot breakfast; it doesn’t have to be a fancy full-course meal. Scrambled eggs are quick and simple to make. Toast with butter and jam or favorite spread is good. Or a bowl of nice hot oatmeal. Choose something highly nutritious and ‘brain worthy’; we sometimes forget that our brains NEED the vitamins to function. 

I hope you find these tips helpful and useful. Enjoy the rest of these lazy, hazy summer days making happy memories with your families. Go to that beach you’ve been meaning to visit. See a movie that's almost out of theaters. Check things off your summer bucket list.

 
Summertime Savvy
 
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Farmer's Market

Get to Know Your Fruits and Vegetables

 
 

What’s better than being outdoors, enjoying the sunshine, and choosing quality, fresh foods?  You and your family can benefit from purchasing locally grown foods this season while supporting your community.  This is something I look forward to as soon as the local farmers markets in my community open. Not only do I revel in the experience and fun of this Saturday morning trip to the market, but I always leave feeling accomplished because I’ve supported local farmers and look forward the menus I will experiment with using the goods I bought. As most of you know, I am very adamant about eating well and caring for our environment. Here are a few reasons why it is important for me to shop local. Besides, I enjoy talking to the vendors and building relationships with them.  They and I look forward to seeing each other during the season. Being a small business owner myself, I appreciate the support of my community.

  • It’s better for the environment: Farmers who sell their food locally eliminate the need for long-distance travel and excess packaging. Reports show that produce purchased at supermarkets travels 1,300 miles, on average, and could be sitting in storage for up to 14 days. While many fruits and vegetables need to be imported because they cannot be grown locally and are not in season, when you shop at a farmers’ market, you support the small business efforts that do not require large-scale transportation and packaging.

  • The food is fresher: At most farmers’ markets, you’re more likely to receive the freshest produce that’s been picked within the last 48 hours, since it hasn’t traveled far. However, for many urban farmers’ markets, it’s possible that the food has been shipped from a different region if that vendor is distributing wholesale produce. Always check with your vendors to make sure.

  • They use more natural farming methods: Because farmers who operate independently and sell locally aren’t producing food on a national or global scale, their methods tend to be more grassroots without the need for GMOs, antibiotics, hormones, waxing, and gassing. However, just because you are buying from a farmers’ market doesn’t mean it’s 100% organic and free from pesticides. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is a good resource to verify which methods are considered “organic” in production and processing.

  • It’s more personal: Concerned about where your food is coming from? Not sure what they use to grow your favorite apples? At farmers’ markets, you have the opportunity to speak directly to the people who know best – the farmers! You can carry on a conversation and learn insider knowledge to bolster your confidence in your purchases.

  • You help farmers stay in business: With large agribusiness dominating the global market, it can be hard for small farmers to keep up with the competition. Since 1935, there has been a loss of 5 million farms. Fortunately, when you shop locally, vendors have a much high profit margin than if they sold through a third-party vendor. The Economic Research Service, a publication group under the USDA, highlights important trends within the local farming business that explain how you directly impact your local economy by shopping local.

 

 

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FASHION

Tips for Clothes Shopping in July (and what I've learned)

Over the past 4 years, I have noticed how the shopping climate for upcoming seasonal fashions has changed drastically. The old rule was to wait until after Labor Day to look for summer sales and upcoming fall fashions. Nowadays, time flies by so fast (or at least it seems so for me), I can’t keep up with the holidays and fashions speeding into stores way before the season. So I have created a new method for shopping — I no longer wait for Labor Day to get summer sales.  Instead, I seek them out in July.  I’ve learned that most stores have already summer clearances in July, getting ready to stock fall fashion. I don’t like seeing sweaters in August (even though they are pretty). but I use the early display as an idea of what fall fashion will be and sometimes find some great prices. I’ve noticed if I wait for September, all the pretty colors, styles and sizes are no longer available. So there is a catch to all of this but here’s how I handle that scandal (that’s what I call it).

I now realize that the feeling of snagging a huge score while shopping doesn’t have to be completely random. In fact, you can track a store’s sale cycle so you always get the best price for whatever clothing and accessories you want. When I’m shopping, I ask the associates about their upcoming sales and new fashions. Then I’m prepared.

Stores want to keep their shelves and racks filled with clothes and accessories but they get new merchandise so frequently that eventually, items that aren’t selling must be put on clearance in order to move them out the door. This is when it’s your turn to score.

If you know exactly when an item will be on sale, you can decide whether you want to wait to buy it on the cheap, or if it’s worth the extra money to buy it beforehand. For me, if I find the size I need, I usually get it then instead of regretting it later. 

Understand Sales Cycles: Stores want you to pay top dollar for the goods on the shelves. That’s why they put higher-priced items right at the front of the store, with sale and clearance items way in the back. But just because a jacket is 30% off doesn’t make it any less fashionable, does it? Between seasonal sales and the regular sale cycle, there’s really no reason you should have to pay full price for any article of clothing or accessory – unless, of course, it sells out and you don’t get a chance to make your move. Armed with the information below, you can save money, look fashionable, and dress the way you want at an affordable price. 

Thursdays Are Best: If you want first dibs on a pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing, your best bet is to try shopping on a Thursday. Stores know that most people come to the mall or the shop on the weekend, so they begin preparations on Thursday to mark down old merchandise and rotate new merchandise into the store.

By shopping on Friday and Saturday, you might score a great deal, but you might also have a limited selection – that’s not good if you want something specific. By shopping on a Thursday, you can have the best selection and the best prices to snag the item that you desire.

Shop End of Season: One of the best times to get the most bang for your buck is to shop around the end of a season. Keep in mind that retail stores are a couple of months “ahead of the weather,” so you could still pick up a cheap sweater and get a month’s worth of wear before it’s time to bring out your spring wardrobe.

Know When Not to Buy: You’re going to pay a premium price if you shop too early or during the wrong month. For instance, it’s unwise to buy jewelry around Christmas, when you’ll probably pay top dollar for your baubles. And some items never go on sale – high-end designer shoes and accessories are usually pretty constant in price, especially if the item doesn’t technically have a “season.”

Final Word: As I always say, you don’t have to spend a ton to look great. Wishing you happy sales and fabulous finds during July!

Get in the conversation — When is your favorite time to shop? Do you have any other tips to get the best deals? Share your ideas in the comments!

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FAMILY

Summer is Here (and so is possible "boredom" for kids)

Experts say boredom is essential for learning creativity — and I couldn’t agree more! Growing up in British Guyana, South America, I didn’t have all the technology and resources that are vastly available to kids now. There was a big plus to this though, because it made us become very creative, artistic and skillful. Looking back, I owe the 'boredom' of those long summer days for the engineered mindset I now possess and use in growing my business and managing challenges.  I’ve researched and found what I feel to be true about why boredom can be a key to success.

Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or a working parent, it’s likely that summertime gets tough. When kids are home all day, or at least out of the routine of school, they get bored easily. Boredom often leads to whining or other forms of mischief.

So what if you’re looking to keep your kids busy, but don’t want to spend loads of money on a trip to the local zoo twice a week? Here are some cheap options to maintain your sanity. (I mean, to keep your kids occupied for the summer.)

Let them be bored: As kids these days experience more scheduled lives, they’re left to their own devices less and less. So, of course, as soon as you let them be, they’re bored because they need to learn to play on their own and be creative. So number one on your list is also the easiest option: give your kids down time. Provide them with space and time to come up with things to do and don’t immediately fill up their schedules when boredom inevitably strikes. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that!

Create a chore chart: You might as well keep your kids busy and get something out of it. If you don’t already, now is the time to teach them responsibility with a chore chart. This could include unpaid daily chores like making their beds, feeding the family pet, etc. Or you could step up your game a notch with commission-based paid chores. Just make a list or chart of chores kids can get paid for, including each chore's monetary value. When kids check a chore off the list to your satisfaction, they get paid.

Sure, you’ve got to invest some money in this one, but it doesn’t have to be a lot, and it’s a great way to teach kids responsibility and help them start managing their own money. When I was young, I learned a lot when I went to the market to help my aunt with her shopping; she’d let me keep the change after she paid. I saved those coins and when school re-opened in the fall, I deposited it into my school bank account.  Yes, we learned the skill of managing money at the early stages of elementary school. By the time I was finished with primary and middle school, I had saved enough money to open a bank account with a commercial bank. 

 Visit the local library: You know how I love books! These days, most local libraries run summer reading programs. These can being incentive even for nonreaders to pick up a book this summer. Just make a habit of stopping by the library once a week or more often, and be sure to let kids pick appropriate books they find interesting (even if you don’t see the attraction). This is a two-birds-one-stone approach, since visiting the library makes for a fun outing, and reading all those books whiles away hours of the summer and keeps kids occupied in a worthwhile endeavor.

Check out your local parks & recreation department: Just need the kids out of the house for a day or several this summer? Summer camps can be prohibitively expensive if you’re on a tight budget. But, local parks and recreation departments often run day camps that are much cheaper and allow kids to get outdoors and burn off some energy. I’ve used those when my kids were little; that’s how they became great swimmers. Even if your local department doesn’t run camps where they’ll actually take your kids for the day, chances are they’re hosting some cheap or free summer events you can attend as a family.

 Plant a garden: Get kids out of the house and into a healthy pastime with gardening. Even small kids can help plant. Talk to your local gardening center about fruits, vegetables, or flowers that are particularly easy to grow in your area. Be sure to give the kids some autonomy over this project to really let them get involved. They should be able to help choose the plants and the layout. But they should also be responsible for weeding, watering, and other garden maintenance. This is a great skill-building activity that can also keep kids busy all summer long and build creativity.

 Get to know free activities in your area:The internet is filled with great blogs highlighting local activities, especially for families with kids. Run a quick Google search for your area and get familiar with what’s out there. Many blogs keep calendars of family-friendly activities, often free or cheap ones, throughout the summer.

Create an activity bucket: Frequently, there’s plenty to do around your house but the kids aren’t great at figuring out the next best idea. Write down potential activities on popsicle sticks and stick them in a jar or bucket. Let the kids choose one activity each day, and make it happen. This could include things like making homemade ice cream, building a bicycle ramp in the back yard, creating a sprinkler out of an old two liter bottle, or building a fort in the living room. Try to come up with ideas using only materials you’ve got on hand, especially if they’re things the kids can do largely unsupervised.

Create a summer memory board: Kids love to collect things, whether it’s movie ticket stubs or rocks from each park you visit. And if you’re like many parents, you like to take photos of your kids having fun. Combine all these memory-sparking items and photos onto a summer memory board. All you need is a large cork board, which you can get for a few bucks at a local craft store. Each time you try something new or create new memories, add to your board. Looking at the board may help spark new activity ideas for your kids, and it’ll be a great memento to have at the end of the summer.

Pick up some board games: Board games for kids have come a long way since CandyLand. While the old games are still great, many new games teach skills like resource management, teamwork, and basic strategy skills. 

I hope you try some of these activities with your kids this summer and help them learn some new skills.