Posts tagged Recipe
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.

Keep It Cool This Summer
 
 
 
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FOOD

Life’s a Bowl of Chicken and Salads

Summer is all about fun and relaxation, but the rising temperatures don’t have to mean you can’t enjoy homemade food; just follow these tips for easy, breezy summer cooking. Try cooking outside — fire up the grill and make some awesome grilled vegetables, turkey burgers, grilled chicken cutlets, and grilled fresh fruits.

When you do decide to get into the kitchen and cook, make double or even triple portions so you cook once but have food all week. Store whatever you are not eating today in a storage container in the fridge. Then you will always have perfectly cooked chicken, roast beef, or vegetables ready to be reheated or tossed as is into salads. For pastas, make the most out of that big pot of boiling water by using it to quickly cook veggies in the last few minutes as the pasta cooks. Then you can make a delicious pasta dish in half the time with half the pots to clean.

Try to make lots of one-pot meals for easy cooking and easy clean-up.

Here’s one of my quick and versatile chicken recipes that can be used with pasta, rice, veggies and salads (it will be featured in my upcoming cookbook – “Just Eat”).

Parmesan Chicken Cutlets & Mixed Greens with Lemon Vinaigrette
Serves 6

  • 4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 ¼ cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • ½ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • Unsalted butter, for frying
  • Olive oil

Mixed green salad (serving for 6), washed and spun dry

¼ cup sliced almonds (optional)

Wash, drain and pat the chicken dry (see tips on cleaning meat) 

Place the chicken breasts in plastic wrap and pound until they are 1/4-inch thick. You can use either a meat mallet or a rolling pin. In a large plate, combine the flour, salt, and pepper.  In a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and ½ cup grated Parmesan. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing lightly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large sauté pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through.  Continue the process, adding more butter and oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts. 

Prepare the salad and Lemon Vinaigrette.

Lemon Vinaigrette:

  • ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (2 large lemons)
  • ½ cup good olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. 

In a large bowl, toss the salad greens with lemon vinaigrette.  Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

On each serving plate, place a piece of hot chicken breast and a mound of salad on chicken. 

Serve with extra grated Parmesan.

 

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FASHION

Summer Styling with Dresses  

Nothing is as easy, glamorous and cool as a good summer dress. Ideally you will have at least four dresses for several purposes. I grew up wearing mostly dresses, so the love for dresses has led to my extensive collection. I enjoy pretty bold colors, prints and unique styles and look forward to the switch from the dark colors of the winter season. Here are four suggestions for simple elegant styling.

  • A beach dress: This can be shorter than your other dresses and is easy to wash, doesn’t wrinkle too easily and is not too precious.  A good example is a light-colored cotton dress or a simple dress with spaghetti straps — perfect for the beach, but can also be used as a tunic for casual clothes.
  • A day dress: This is the perfect dress for casual get-togethers during the day. It could be a nice wrap dress in cotton jersey or a casual shift dress. My floral-patterned dress has turned out to be a very popular day dress for me.
  • A work dress: Look for a traditional shift dress that looks both professional and conservative and can be easily combined with a jacket or cardigan.
  • An evening dress: This dress is a bit more special than your day and work dress. I like silk, combined with several other fabrics as my preferred materials for a special dress in summer. I believe in wearing my nice clothes as often as possible, so quite often I wear it during the day, too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FAMILY

When it comes to authentic, Father knows best.

In recognition of Father’s Day, I dedicate this month’s ‘family’ topic to my dad, George. I’ve learned a lot from him, but the strongest lessons that remain are honesty, integrity, loyalty. Growing up, my brother and I teased our dad that, after Mahatma Ghandi, he came next on the list of men to be admired — because he doesn’t get angry, doesn’t use swear words, and when it comes to honesty, he is 100 percent and beyond. The examples and storytelling techniques he taught me are what I implement in my life now with my children.  Dad was hardworking and dedicated to his job. He taught me that, whatever your job is, give it all your best. I learned patience watching him making kites for us or helping to fix my bicycle. I learned to use tools observing and helping him.  He still has his wooden handmade toolbox.  

We learned the importance of education because, although my father grew up with only a middle school education, he is one of the smartest, most knowledgeable and brilliant men I know.  His brain is our dictionary.  Even at age 84, he is precise with his vocabulary, does not miss a day of playing crosswords or fondly reviewing his dictionary – a gift from my mom. He taught us to learn a new word every day to build our vocabulary. He taught us how to enjoy life and how to be cautious at the same time. These little things are what make me lighthearted in my adult life and assist me with my daily challenges. My father’s love is beyond measure.  When I was about 5 years old, on an Easter picnic at a farm, I wanted a specific lemonade from a certain snack shop, though we had lots to drink. Dad walked a mile to that shop just to get me that lemonade — and when he brought it back, all I did was take one sip and say, “I’m done.” We have laughed about this story many times.  But it's a memory that will always remind me of the love and care I was lucky to have, growing up with this amazing man I call DAD. 

 
Fresh Ideas for Summer
 
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FOOD

What should I eat?

 
 

I feel like we are living in an era of eating confusion. I hear these terms repeatedly: vegan, primal, gluten free, dessert fear. There are so many competing theories on nutrition; it’s confusing! What should I eat? It's why I'm writing my first cookbook with the goal of helping people overcome this food confusion.

I believe that food is a highly personal choice. It's cultural, emotional, social, political and health-related. You are the only one who can make the best possible decision for your body and your life.

That being said, the way I grew up eating is what I continue to practice. In British Guyana, South America, we ate a mix of all-natural whole foods focusing on fresh vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and sweets, but we ate in moderation and we stayed active. A well-balanced mix can provide a full range of vitamins and minerals while being deliciously satisfying. Experiment and discover what you like.

Here are a few tips that can guide you to eating better without feeling deprived.

  • Skip most processed foods, meaning anything in a can, box or bag. When choosing the occasional processed food, read the label and avoid anything with ingredients you don’t recognize. Choose non-GMO or organic items.
  • Skip trans fats, which are hydrogenated oils that can be found in everything from margarine to french fries to crackers. Trans fats can clog arteries, so eat them sparingly. 
  • Minimize sugars and refined carbohydrates, which are inflammatory. Following this tip is huge, even 70-80% of the time. No one is perfect, but the idea is to keep track of how much and how often you are indulging in eating unhealthy products.
  • Look for pesticide-free vegetables and fruit. This can be expensive, so swap out the most contaminated produce first: salad greens, apples, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, grapes, bell peppers and potatoes. Local farm produce usually has fewer pesticides, is fresher and more flavorful and is more environmentally-friendly. Some farms do use pesticides, so ask before you buy.
  • Focus on high-quality protein choices that are high in omega-3's, such as beans, legumes, walnuts and salmon.
  • When eating animal protein, focus on antibiotic-free, humanely-raised meat. Most factory-farmed livestock is raised in poor conditions, and is consequently fed antibiotics to keep it healthy. An antibiotic-free label usually indicates it's humanely-raised. This is very important to me. Organic doesn't necessarily mean antibiotic-free or sustainably-raised, so check labels for that.

Some people feel better when they eat meat, grains or dairy; others can’t tolerate them. Many people have unknown food sensitivities that cause symptoms not typically associated with food, such as exhaustion, brain fog, pain or headaches. To figure out whether you have any food sensitivities, you can try a five-week elimination diet, removing the major allergens: dairy, gluten, soy, eggs and corn. Eliminate them for three weeks, then add each back one-by-one for three days per food, and notice how your body responds. I've learned that I cannot tolerate whole wheat, but I'm fine eating whole grain and white bread. Bananas and almond nuts affect the way my body works to break them down, but I still eat them, just in moderation (twice a month); I just consume them sparingly. Don’t deprive yourself of food; it's needed fuel for our bodies. Just remember to eat in moderation, limiting portion size, and pay attention to how each food affects your body. Don’t be afraid to eat your sweet treats just as long as you know what they are made with. Desserts don't have to be made with only refined sugars and preservatives. There are better, healthier options to eating desserts. You can find better quality and tasting desserts at my company: www.ladyrens.com

Practice a new habit of cooking with fresh ingredients. Visit farmers markets during the summer for fresh vegetables, meat, fish, eggs and more—then have fun creating recipes. They don't have to be gourmet, just tasty and healthy.  

Here’s one of my summer salads that's easy to prepare. It will be among the collection of simple, yet healthy and tasty recipes in my upcoming cookbook. I like the combination of chicken, melon, grapes, nuts and cheese atop mixed salad greens. Feel free to use your favorite summer fruits and nuts in place of the ones I listed. 

 
 

REFRESHING SUMMER FRUIT CHICKEN SALAD

 

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1-2 tablespoons apple cider or other fruit-flavored vinegar (to taste)
  • 1½ teaspoons poppy seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 bags of mixed salad greens
  • 2 cups sliced cooked chicken breast (see tip) 
  • 2 cups chopped melon, such as cantaloupe or honeydew
  • 1 cup red seedless grapes
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts 
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta or goat cheese

Method: Whisk Greek yogurt, vinegar, poppy seeds, salt and pepper in a large bowl until smooth. Reserve ¼ cup of the dressing in a small bowl. Add the mixed greens to the large bowl and toss to coat. Divide among plates and top with chicken, melon, grapes, nuts and cheese. Drizzle each portion with 1 tablespoon of the reserved dressing.

Serves: 4

Tip: To poach chicken breast: Place boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a medium skillet or saucepan and add low sodium chicken broth to cover; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer gently until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, 10 to 12 minutes.

 

 
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FASHION

Jazz up your summer wardrobe 

 
 

Just because we're over 40 doesn’t mean we can't be chic and fabulous! I've loved dressing up and playing with fashion since I was a child. My mom was a seamstress, and I was lucky to have a new dress sewed by her every week. I still reflect on how she would take me to the store to pick out fabric, then design and sew me a new dress. I would play around with her makeup and jewelry, and try on her high heels. I certainly learned to be fashionable from her. 

As I've gotten older, my personal style has evolved. However, I don’t tell myself that I am too old to wear certain outfits just because society made up that rule. Rather, I changed my mindset to take on the styles and clothing options for women over 40 that make me feel comfortable and beautiful. Mini skirts are a no-no for me, but I still love to wear a sexy knee-length skirt and high heels. 

Have you ever looked back at photos where you looked older than you actually were? The reason is you were wearing clothes that conflicted with your natural beauty. Younger girls can easily pull off trendy outfits and still look pretty good, but older ladies should wear only those outfits that really make them look beautiful (the wrong style will age you fast). For example, not every woman over 40 can wear bright or totally printed outfits and look good. It's important to know your body type and then take the time to shop for beautiful outfits that make you feel comfortable and beautiful. Oh, and here’s a tip I picked up from a stylist: Don’t buy clothes that oversized or too loose; they will not shape you well. It’s a mistake most of us (myself included) make.  

Before we know it, summer will be here. Once Memorial Day arrives, it’s upon us! Many of us dread stepping into clothes that won’t cover our curves as well as winter outfits do.  Sometimes we get comfortable in that we wear and find it a bit challenging to pick outfits for the warmer months. I'll share a few ideas I find to be helpful when it comes to picking out clothes that will make us look beautiful and feel amazing. 

I like to set up my summer wardrobe so that it's visible; otherwise, if my clothes are stored in totes, I'll forget they even exist. I arrange garments according to purpose: work, casual outings and evening wear. Switching into lighter wear, bright and fun colors are a great change to uplift your spirit.  

I try to mix it up during the summer months. Here are a few favorite styles I’ve picked up during my shopping trips:

Business wear: cream belted blouse with a cream/white wrap cardigan and a pair of black trousers, light pink or cream handbag and peep-toe cream patent cuffed heels

My weekend outfits are as important as my everyday looks. A few pretty styles for lunch or hanging out with friends include:

  • A pale yellow cardigan styled with a floral spaghetti strap slip-top, grey trousers and yellow flat pumps 
  • Black bootcut trousers or dark bootcut jeans look awesome with a dark turquoise tunic-shirt, statement necklace and leopard print pointed toe flat pumps. A brown leather tote bag adds great pop to the colors. 
  • A white t-shirt, pale turquoise jeans, beige-orange tote bag, flat sandals and pale peach bracelet
  • A pair of jeans, a slouchy sleeved black floral top, silver wrap bracelets, light green flat sandals and blue handbag
  • Go for wide-striped long sleeve top, slim jeans, orange flat sandals and white classic handbag
  • Another casual day off look can be simple blue jeans, tunic top, striped white tote bag and flat sandals

Family Fun Days: A blush-colored sleeveless top looks great with dark blue denim trousers and a blush-colored leather handbag. Complete the look by adding a lightweight shawl and thong flat sandals embroidered with flowers.  

For casual celebrations, such as birthdays, try a grey-blue denim jacket, salmon pink top, gold colored clutch, slim white bootcut jeans and pale turquoise flats.

Errands and casual dressy can be comfy and dashing with straight-fit jeans, white tank top, wrap navy cardigan, cotton printed scarf, dark blue flat pumps and a white handbag. Or, try green crop[ed pants, a white t-shirt or blouse, a light blue handbag and tan ballerina flats.

For afternoon outings and casual shopping or meeting friends, try blush skinny jeans, a grey long-sleeved top, a blush scarf, fun tote bag, grey pumps and pale pink earrings and bracelet.

On Fridays dress down at work: deep blue slim jeans, a navy tank top, a white blazer, light brown flat ballerinas and a cream/white clutch bag.

A white dotted semi-sheer yellow tank blouse can be styled with straight fit jeans, a white wrap cardigan and flat white sandals.

Shorts and pretty colored tops works well for at-home outfits. White jeans, a pale yellow semi-sheer sleeveless blouse, a pale blue V-neck buttoned cardigan, white low-heeled flat ballet pumps and pastel yellow handbag is an ideal outfit for summer, and the colors are mood brighteners. A beautiful white dress with turquoise necklace, earrings and bracelet with a brown tote bag and brown or turquoise heels is also a nice statement.

Play around with accessories: belts, hats and jewelry. They’re a lot of fun. All these tips are subject to personal taste; you know what works best for you. Let your beauty shine, try a few of these fashions and be stylish this summer. 


 
 
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FAMILY

Caring for aging parents

 
 

When you've inherited your elder parents and they're moving in, it can feel like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place. One of the most emotionally complex and difficult things a person can experience is taking care of their elderly parents, more so if they are living with you. It’s been almost eight months since I began tending to my aging parents, who now live with me and my family. It has not been easy, because they each have their own personalities (that, honestly, can drive me crazy). Some days I’m faced with stress, frustration and anger. One bright point: My husband has been extremely supportive and instrumental in helping me during this season of my life where I am running a business, running the household and now trying to run from my parents (not really). It took me a while to get used to having them live here, and I thought I’d pass along some things I'm learning, each of which I found to be significantly helpful. 

  • It’s a new seasonaccept that things have changed. When parents have to start depending on their child, the world has turned upside down; it's a reversal of life as everyone has known it. Be prepared for that new pattern to feel drastic. Keep in mind that it's not any easier for them than it is for you.
  • Take it slowly. Caring for them is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t rush it. You and they are in uncharted territory. Let the process reveal itself to you to the degree that you can, and let whatever happens unfold naturally. Be prepared for one doctor’s appointment to turn into five appointments with other doctors. Your schedule will change. Rather than becoming angry or frustrated, think about a solution and how you will manage those appointments. Call on family members or friends who can assist you. Do not try to do it all.
  • Expect their anger. When you become the caretaker of your parents, they lose the one thing they’ve always had in their relationship to you: authority. That’s not easy for them to give up. Expect them, in one way or another, to lash out about that loss.
  • Help them to have independence. As much as you can, offer your parents options instead of orders. It's very important for them to continue to feel as if they, and not you, are running their lives. Let them decide everything they can about their own care and situation. Let them know what you can and cannot do for them so they can decide how they want to depend on you.
  • Ask their advice. A great way to show your parent love and respect — and, especially, to affirm for them that they are still of true value to you — is to sincerely ask them for advice about something going on in your life.
  • Set boundaries. Parents need boundaries too. Have a discussion with them and let them know that you aren't available 24 hours a day/7 days a week. That doesn’t mean they can't let you know if something doesn’t feel right with their health; it just means that they can't pounce on you each time you show up. Set a time of day to connect and go over doctor appointments or other needs. No one in this world knows your emotional buttons like your mom or dad does. They are bound to push them on occasion, if only to establish dominance over you. Don’t let them do it. You might owe them your care, but you don’t owe them your emotional well-being. All of this boundary setting can be done in a loving and respectful way.   
  • Depend upon your spouse. You may find that your parent is more comfortable relating to your spouse than to you. (My mom feels this way with my husband.) Though that can certainly hurt your feelings, don’t let it. It’s simply because your parent doesn’t share with your spouse all the baggage they do with you; mainly, they’ve never been the dominant force in your spouse’s life. Your spouse and your parent are peers to a degree that you and your parent can never be. Let that work for you. Take advantage of it. Depend upon your spouse to be as instrumental in the care of your parent as he or she wants to be.
  • Practice self-care. It’s easy to create a routine where you get caught up in the care of your aging parents and neglect caring for yourself. But caring for yourself makes your more able to serve them. You need to take time out for walks, to stretch out, to eat right and to spend quality time away from them. Taking time to rejuvenate yourself is as critical a part of your care routine for your parent cooking their meals, taking them to appointments or making sure they take their medications. Your life still needs to be about you.
  • Talk to a friend. If you have a friend with whom you can regularly meet and talk, or even chat with on the phone or text with, then do it. The input and love of a friend is invaluable to you. Sharing what you’re going through with someone who's not immediately involved can be like a life preserver when you’re bobbing in the ocean. As soon as you get involved with tending to your parent, call your best friend, and tell them that you’re going to be depending upon them to do what friends do best: care and listen while you vent. No doubt they'll need to do the same someday.
  • Have fun! One of the things we most need in life is the one thing we most often forget once we begin caring for our elderly parents: Fun! Have lots and lots of fun. Share memories of laughter, play pranks that you know they'll enjoy. Watch a movie that makes you all laugh. Do whatever it takes. And remember: A day without fun is a day you cannot get back. A thought habit I live by is: “In 10 years will it really matter?” And that’s how I manage the stress of living with my wonderful, loving parents.  

It takes patience and a mature mindset to understand what our aging parents are facing at this phase of their lives. It's important to take a step back and look through the lens of their eyes and imagine being in their shoes. Enjoy the season, and make the best of it, because they come and they go. Remember: It’s just a season.

 
A Glimpse Inside My Day
 

I am a wife and mother, and the owner and CEO of my business. I work full time from a home-based office surrounded by the chaos of a busy family of five. As the main caregiver in our family,  I do the scheduling, activities, errands and meetings. Many of my clients, colleagues and business associates are also busy working parents running their own companies, and we all share hints that help us hold our busy lives together. 

Here’s a glimpse inside my day, along with some tips to help you balance your own work and family life — I hope you enjoy the read and find these tips useful. If you have a great tip for keeping balance in your life, please share it in the comments below. I’d love to hear it!

Have a beautiful April -- see you in May!

Renate

 

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FAMILY

Balancing work and a busy family life

I get up early so I can get a healthy mental start to my day before the chaos begins. Having coffee by myself each morning is key, because that's when I clear my mind of clutter and plan the day ahead. Once I've settled my mind, I am ready to tackle my day. 

I start by working on my company’s social media—writing and scheduling posts and using Hootsuite, Facebook and Linked In to engage with followers. I also write and respond to email, but only twice daily—in the morning and  later in the afternoon—so that email doesn't interrupt other higher priorities throughout the day.

Nextit’s time to check in with my parents (they live with us). I spend 10 minutes with them at the breakfast table to hear how they're doing and let them know my availability for that day. I also use this time to lay the groundwork for dinner, getting meat from the freezer and prepping any vegetables. I do not tidy the kitchen in the morning, because that takes time from my work schedule. I’ve learned to ignore household chores like unloading the dishwasher or folding laundry until I’ve accomplished important office work.  

In my February blog post I wrote about planning meals per day/per week. This help me know what I'm making and whether I have the right ingredients. This habit is a huge time (and stress) saver for me.  

I’m normally back at my desk ready for the day by 9:15am unless I have out-of-office meetings, marketing or doctor's appointments with my parents. Work for me usually involves writing, creating ideas for business growth, researching solutions, drafting emails, making client calls, etc. As I work, I keep track of all this activity so that I'm up to date on projects, leads and meetings. It's a lot of work!
 
Here are a few tips I've picked up along the way that help me maximize my work time:

  • Keep your to-do list or work schedule open and in front of you, to keep you on track. If you’re out and about, have it on your phone; set up alerts as reminders.
  • Combine like tasks to increase productivity and minimize waste.
  • Turn Facebook off (scheduling business page posts means you don’t need to check FB during the day). Check FB once per day or less.
  • Ensure your office setup is conducive to high productivity: include a big table, notice board, proper equipment, etc.
  • Don’t get distracted by your kitchen! This took a while for me to overcome. I attend to my household after I’ve completed my morning office tasks. 
  • Take a break from your desk to get a glass of water and to mentally re-charge. Step outside for a few minutes and breathe in the fresh air. I do this when I break for lunch. 

I always have quite a few meetings and events each week: new client meetings, marketing, deliveries or networking events. I love meeting new people, advising businesses and networking, so this is an enjoyable part of my job. It does, however, add to my already-busy schedule, so I need to plan carefully and well in advance. I schedule meetings back-to-back whenever possible, especially if traveling or using a co-working space. Meetings and networking are time consuming, so use that time well—have clear objectives for your time so you come away with action points. 

I have limited time to work between 3:30 and 5pm; some days I’m out picking up bakery supplies, making orders, attending meetings or running family-related errands. This gets tricky, because afternoons are when my inbox fills with emails and phone messages. It's easy to get behind. I've learned to quickly sift through emails and voice messages, and only deal with urgent correspondence; I handle these immediately so they don’t take over my evening. Another trick: If you’re waiting for kids at activities, diarize (perhaps with an app such evernote.com), make notes or update your CRM (customer relationship management software) on your phone. When my children were small, I’d use carpool time to write my manuscripts or go over my do-lists. 

I limit work in the evenings to one hour at the most. I almost never work late because of my morning routine, and I'm disciplined about getting to bed at a time that affords me at least seven hours of sleep. Plus, evening is when I’m finishing laundry, dealing with teenager and elder parent drama, doing random household chores, keeping everyone in check and hopefully having a little family time. My teenagers (and sometimes my parents) stay up later than I do these days.

My biggest tip for managing it all: Act fast and don’t procrastinate. Get the work done; don’t just keep adding things to your to do list. If you do, your list will become overwhelming, and you’ll feel less and less motivated. This take-action mindset is a tip I’ve learned from my own business coach. 

 
 
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FOOD

A long-time family favorite 

When I discuss the practicalities of meal-planning, cooking can sound like a chore. But for me, it's a real passion. It’s no wonder I love food: My relationship with cooking started at the very young age of seven! Looking back now, I joyfully remember going through the process of making ‘roti’ (a version of pita bread) in South America. Every day after school my chore was to roll the dough for my mom to cook when she came home from work. Then, when she would cook, I was right beside her helping and learning the steps. I continued the tradition and passed down the joy of cooking to my own children, including them in the kitchen as my helpers when they were little. Now they love to cook and make tasty meals for me to try; I'm their taste tester.

I used to be afraid that when I made certain foods my children would turn up their noses because of certain ingredients (like fruits)! But I found ways to overcome their finicky tastes and make cooking fun and healthy. My son doesn’t like fruits, so for a while I tried different recipes that incorporated fruits (to get his taste buds accustomed to the flavors). For quite some time he would take one bite and spit the muffin or bread out; he'd call them "‘nasty." After multiple attempts I finally mastered a healthy and delicious apple-banana muffin. Rather than telling him it was a banana muffin, I added chopped fresh apples and called them apple muffins. (I knew he liked apple pie.) The trick was to use something that the my son liked and then find a way to turn it into a healthy treat. Today the same apple-banana muffins are a winner at coffee shops and with many of my other customers.

I hope you have fun making them!

Apple-Banana Muffins

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ cup + 2 tsp coconut palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 banana, mashed with a fork
  • ½ of an apple, finely chopped
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp flaxseed meal

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  
  • Line muffin pan with paper cups or spray with vegetable oil.
  • Melt butter and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, mix coconut palm sugar, egg, vanilla, chopped apples and banana.
  • Add melted butter and stir.
  • Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined. Do not over-mix.
  • Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.
  • Bake until center comes clean, approximately 20-25 minutes.

Yields 10 muffins.
 Note: blueberries, strawberries, pineapple can also be used.

 
 
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FASHION

Spring Fashion Refresh

Add a pop of spring to your wardrobe with spectacular spring trends! Giving your wardrobe a fresh upgrade for spring can seem like a daunting (and pricey) task, but it doesn’t have to be. You can update your look with a few transitional pieces that won’t break the bank. Dress yourself for the season by adding color to your style. A few of my favorite pieces include a pretty bold floral dress, white pants, yellow (daisy or polka dot) pants, white sandals and a pink handbag. A pastel-colored cardigan and a bold lightweight jacket add pep to your step. A simple dress with a blazer is a beautiful style for the office. 

Start pulling out breezier materials that can keep you cool as the weather warms up. Just be sure you’re wearing dresses for spring—not summer—this time of year. It's dress weather, but it's not yet sundress weather. Stick to dresses with a spring-like or neutral color palette, spring fabrics and even a bit of a sleeve.

Take a moment to window shop and visit your favorite boutique for what colors and styles are trending. Purchase a piece or two, and then mix and match them with what already exists in your wardrobe. I visited my favorite boutique last weekend to check out the styles, and I bought myself a pair of light-colored embroidered jeans. I plan to matching them up with a white or green long sleeve, button-down shirt and a pair of brown block-heel sandals. I can also use this outfit for summer—that's versatile fashion!

Happy hunting, and have a happy and fashionable spring!