uncomfortable life choices

How an Uncomfortable Situation Changed my Day

uncomfortable life choicesI had no intention of writing a post this week, yet here I am. Right now I’m working on a website to empower struggling moms to live a better life. I believe with all my heart that when we create a better home life, we create a better world. This post is about something bigger than that. Today it doesn’t matter what my house looks like. My weight is not an issue. Today I witnessed something uncomfortable, and I had to make a choice whether to speak up or be complicit and that decision has changed my day.

An uncomfortable procedure

For women of a certain age, we have specific procedures yearly. Today was what I call the annual smashing of the girls. Once a year I endure a few minutes of physical discomfort to make sure those girls stay healthy. Today, the procedure wasn’t the most uncomfortable part of the appointment.  While I waited to check in, someone walked in and began making a cup of coffee. I didn’t pay much attention because I was looking at my phone. Eye contact is minimal in these uncomfortable places,  The volunteer asked if she could help the person and they said no and asked why she was asking. The volunteer said that it was rare to have men in the women’s center to which the person replied, “I am a woman.” Ouch.

From Bad to Worse

The volunteer said, “Oh” and went back to her desk. The woman muttered something about not letting it go and asked to see the woman’s supervisor who wasn’t in the office yet. When the volunteer handed her the supervisor’s card she wished the woman a good day. The woman replied that she had an appointment and wasn’t going anywhere, and the already uncomfortable situation got even worse. Oh, and to complicate matters the volunteer was white and the woman was African American. Double and triple ouch.

What’s a witness to do?

Do you ever have one of those moments that the Divine smacks you upside your head and tells you to speak up? I have and sometimes it sucks. I knew I had to say something regardless of how uncomfortable I felt. While sitting at the registration desk, I told the registration attendant what I witnessed. I told her I believed the volunteer meant no malice but was disrespectful. I went back to my seat, and when I got called back I told the woman I hoped her day got better, and I meant it.
Just before my procedure, I also told the technician what I witnessed. Apparently the volunteer was so concerned about the comfort of the patients when she thought a man wandered into the Women’s Center, she told the techs about it. I told her I was relaying the tale because as tough as the woman was, I was sure she was hurt at some level and asked the tech to please be extra kind to the woman and to let her fellow techs know that too. She did.

Two human beings connecting

On my way out, I saw the woman again and knew I had to say something else. She was waiting for a procedure we endure but never enjoy. Her morning had been difficult, and as I walked up, I saw she had blood drawn as well so she was just adding pain upon pain to her day. I was scared and had no idea how she would respond, but I decided to say something anyway. I told her how sorry I was that she was treated disrespectfully and that it hurt my heart to see anyone treated the way she was, and I wanted her to know that. We shook hands and I walked away with tears in my eyes.

Who is to blame?  All of us and none of us

So why am I sharing this? I’m sharing because so many times uncomfortable situations beg us to speak up and we stay silent. Today I spoke up quietly and hopefully helped a potentially volatile situation. As I watched what happened, I truly felt the volunteer was doing what she thought was best for the Women’s Center. Could she have handled it better? Absolutely, but something tells me that a woman who is volunteering at a Women’s Center at 8am on a Thursday morning is there to make the world a better place, not make anyone feel worse. But she did, and when that happens we have the choice to let it ride or say something. Today I chose to say something kind to everyone I spoke to about it.

when you are not kindHow do you want to be in this world?

We have so many offended and angry people in the world right now. We blame and point fingers and act self-righteous in uncomfortable situations, and we forget to be kind to the ones who need it most. This isn’t a racial or political issue. It’s a human one. I read a quote the other day that said, “If you are not kind to unkind people, you are one of them.” The power of that statement takes my breath away. How many times have I responded to unkind people unkindly? More than I care to admit. Of course I justify it by saying that they were a jerk or something worse, but by responding unkindly, I am being like them. Ick!

Take the challenge

Today I chose kindness because that’s how I aspire to be. I feel good about that. I may fail tomorrow like I have many times in the past, but I keep trying, and I challenge each person who reads this to do the same. Be the change, even when the situation is uncomfortable. If you want a kinder world, be kind, even to unkind people. If you want a more loving world, be loving even to unlovable people. Want a happier, calmer, more peaceful world? Be happy, calm and more peaceful even among unhappy, agitated and angry people. Is it easy? Heck no, but it’s worth it. Change the world by changing you first. It’s the most important work you do in this world, and I pray your life gets better because of it. I know mine did. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

Overcome Winter Blues SAD

9 Ways to Overcome the Winter Blues

Overcome Winter Blues SAD
These are my ways to deal with the Winter Blues. Hopefully they’ll help you too.
This post contains affiliate links.  If you click on them and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Do you get sad when autumn or winter comes along? If you’re in the sunnier climates, you may barely notice or you may welcome a break from the heat.  I am a child of spring and summer.   The cold rain of fall where I live used to unnerve me in a way I could never explain.   I thought I was the only one who didn’t like fall and detested winter.   So many people I know love the seasons of pumpkin spice everything and snow, and everything about the impending winter made me irritable and cranky.   

While I could enjoy the holidays, as soon as they were over, the familiar funk would return and I would feel like garbage until spring.   Then I found out about SAD (seasonal affective disorder).   According to the Mayo Clinic, “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year.  If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody. ”   Yep, that definitely described my blues.

SAD explained downward spiral, the sadness and depression that I felt powerless to do anything about.  It also gave me hope that I could do more than hang on for dear life until spring came.   Before learning about SAD, I would spend months being someone I didn’t like.   After learning about SAD, I could design a life that minimized the symptoms of the blues and maximized joy.   Before learning about SAD, I spent most of my time in January and February on the couch praying that spring would come early.   After, I found ways to get out of the house and sometimes out of the state to make life not only bearable but exciting and fun.   

1.      Vacation.   

Before I had children, I nearly always vacationed in February where it was sunny and warm.   Those trips did wonders to ward off the seasonal blues and carry me through to spring.   After the kids came and started school, the February vacations stopped.   Now that they kids are older, I’ve had a few winter vacations to sunny spots again, and I love it.   For those who can’t afford a winter getaway because of finances or other commitments, there are many more ways to deal with seasonal blues.  

2.      Vitamin D and Sam e.   

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional.   Please consult a physician before using any product to treat any medical condition.   Apparently, those of us who live in the northern hemisphere tend to be deficient in that particular vitamin, and some call it sunshine in a bottle so I tried it.   It helped.   Then I upped the dose, and it helped more.   Sam-e is a mood boosting supplement.   There are other mood boosting supplements on the market that I cannot speak to because I’ve never used them.   Sam-e worked for my case of the blues so I didn’t look at any other supplements.

 3.      Light Therapy.   

A couple of years ago, I learned about light therapy and how sitting in front of a full spectrum light could help with SAD, and thanks to the greatest husband ever, I got a full spectrum light box as a Christmas gift.   Some women told me they would be insulted by that, but I was delighted.   To me, that meant that my husband not only believed that what I experienced was real, he was willing to do what he could to help me, and he did.   I use that light box nearly every day in the winter, especially when the days of gray and dreariness seem to go on without end.   I have a Carex  brand light and love it.  You can learn more by clicking here.

 4.      Yoga and meditation.  

I feel like yoga and meditation work together.   For me, yoga is meditation.   It brings my awareness to my body and helps me focus on what will make my body, mind and spirit feel better.   I’ve taken classes, but I get the most benefit from practicing in my own home first thing in the morning.   

 5.      Get creative.   

One year in October, I participated in a creativity bootcamp which boosted my spirits more than I could imagine.   I didn’t finish the project I was working on but in addition to writing, I colored, sketched and painted, things I hadn’t done since I was a child.   Truth be told, most of it looked pretty childish but it stretched my creative muscles and brought me great joy.   I actually enjoyed the entire month because of that bootcamp.   The thing about creativity is that you don’t have to be good at anything.   You just have to enjoy it.   I have thrown away most of the painting and drawings I’ve done, but I had fun doing them and that was the point.  

6.      Journal.   

Ok, I’m a writer and this is one I’ve done for a long time (please don’t mention the bins of journals in my basement to my husband), but this can be a great time to journal for just a few minutes per day.   Don’t know what to write? Start with gratitude.   For 30 days write down five things you’re grateful for without repeating any of them.   After you write down that you’re grateful for your family and friends, you get creative, and you find yourself looking for ways to be grateful to have something to journal about.   That’s a total win in my book…or journal.  

7.      Pick a project.   

This year, I am decluttering my office.   It has become such a dumping ground, but I’m playing a game with the cleanup.   I am decluttering while my tea brews in the morning.   My pace is currently one binder per day and I’m ok with that.   The office looks better.   I feel better when I walk in there and the pace is so easy I hardly notice.   What could you do while your coffee or tea brews? While your shower warms up? While you set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes each morning? Try it for 30 days, and I’ll bet you’ll be amazed at your progress

8.      Laugh.  

 I know this sounds simple, and it is, but it’s also important.   Make a dedicated effort to do things that make you smile and laugh.   My children love to show me YouTube Try Not To Laugh videos, especially when I lose.   This year, our family is going to a comedy concert in a couple of weeks because we all got tickets for Christmas.   I can hardly wait.

 9.      Do something for someone else.   

This one might be my favorite.   Doing something for someone else, especially someone in need, can change your mood and your life faster than you think.   Need ideas? Bake for someone.   Send a thinking of you note to a friend.   Babysit for a young mother so she can have a “me” day.   Send flowers to someone.   Buy two bouquets and send one to yourself too.   Have a movie day with your children or by yourself.   The options are endless, and occasionally you change someone else’s life.   

Look, I understand that depression sometimes requires medical intervention, and if you need that, by all means, do what your doctor prescribes.   For those for whom the blues come and go with the seasons, I hope you have your own set of ways to cope and hopefully thrive through your more difficult seasons.   If not, I hope one of these ways is new to you and helps you immensely.   In any case, it is my privilege to share this information with you, and I thank you for taking the time to read it.   Thanks for being you and wish you a great day.  







Cheesy Potato Corn Chowder with Broccoli

Cheesy Ham and Corn Chowder

Potato Corn Chowder ingredients
These yummy ingredients will become yummier soup.

Note:  This post contains affiliate links.  If you make a purchase from one of the links.  I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Some of the best recipes are the ones that aren’t written down.  The problem with that is when someone asks you for your recipe, you’re stumped as to how to explain how to make it.  That was the case with this recipe.  I make it every year the week after Christmas because my family gets sick of leftovers.  So, I make soup, specifically cheesy potato corn chowder.  It usually ends up as a lunch that we have with sandwiches, and it clears out my fridge as it fills my family’s bellies.  The best part is that it’s quick and easy.

 The magic of this chowder is that I already make nearly everything that goes into it for our Christmas dinner.  We have ham, au gratin potatoes, corn and lima beans for dinner, along with homemade bread.  It’s a simple meal with plenty of leftovers. 

A recipe to taste

 Because I never measure anything, the recipe is also easy to change to suit your taste.  Also, if you have mashed potatoes rather than au gratin, you can add cheese to your taste and skip part of the prep.  If you’re unsure about how to turn your leftovers into a yummy soup or chowder, email me at whatsup@movingtowardbetter.com and I’ll do my best to create a custom recipe for your leftovers.

Diced ham for Potato Corn Chowder
Chopped ham for Potato Corn Chowder

A couple of days after Christmas, I put the leftover potatoes in a small soup pot and chop them up with a wooden spoon into manageable chunks before heating them.  Hint:  They chop easier when they’re cold.  After chopping the potatoes, I add milk as needed.  I start with a cup of milk and stir while heating the mixture on low.

Easy recipe directions

While the potatoes and milk are heating, I dice up the leftover ham until I have about a cup of it and add that to the potatoes.  At this point I almost always add more milk to thin out the chowder just a bit.  Then I add the corn, also a cup or so.  The butter in the corn and the juice of the ham will also thin the soup a bit so it’s ok if the soup is thick when you add these items.  Continue to warm on low temperature, to avoid scorching the cheesy sauce, until the chowder gets to a temperature you like.  Do not cook above medium or you will not like the results in the bottom of the pan, trust me.  You can also make this one in your handy dandy slow cooker if you want to make it and let it go.  Cook for an hour to an hour an a half on high and up to three hours on low.  If you’re looking for an new slow cooker, click here for a great deal on a new Crock Pot.

 Pumping up the nutrition

Broccoli for Cheesy potato ham chowder
Never hurts to add a little extra nutrition.

You can also add some herbs if you have a favorite to change the flavor or even add a bit of cayenne pepper to spice the soup up a bit.  Part of the beauty of soup and chowder is being able to personalize it to your own taste.  Another benefit of this particular chowder is that it’s ready quickly but tastes like you’ve cooked for hours.  If you like thinner soup, keep adding milk or even a bit of chicken stock until you get the consistency you like.

 The final product

Cheesy Potato Corn Chowder with Broccoli
Final product – Cheesy Potato Corn Chowder wtih Broccoli

So there you have it, an easy chowder that makes a delicious meal, costs nothing more and gets you out of the kitchen quickly.  Does a recipe get any better than that?  Have a wonderful post-holiday week and if you enjoy what you’ve read, check out www.wherekarengoes.com for more recipes and fun.

Let’s Talk Christmas Cards

Christmas cards
All the goodies for Christmas cards

How do you feel about Christmas cards?  Are they a nuisance?  Are they stupid?  Do they make you smile?  I am one of those people who loves to get and send Christmas cards.  That being said, I often have years where life gets busy, and they never materialize.  I realized recently it’s because I don’t have a system for getting them done.  I know what to do, but I didn’t have it laid out in simple, easy to follow steps. 

The Joy of a Good System

 I love a good system and when I get one in place, it’s amazing how well life works.  I have a system for maintaining my home, my finances and my holiday prep.  We are in the process of refining our financial accounting system to accommodate my blogging business and our system to stay healthy to help my husband and I get healthier.  Why not have a system for sending Christmas cards that breaks the process down into steps I can follow easily and prevent overwhelm in the process?  So here’s what I’ve come up with.  I do one step at a time over several weeks, and there’s little to no stress involved.  What’s really cool is that most of the steps, except for assembling, sealing and mailing the cards are flexible to my schedule.  Isn’t that awesome?  So here are the steps:

Simple Steps for Sending Christmas Cards

1. Edit your address list. 

I keep mine in an excel spreadsheet that I print onto labels.  It may not be as personal as hand writing each address, but it makes my life so much easier and with 80+ cards to send, I’m all about making the process easier.  With texting and messaging, getting updated addresses is so much easier than it used to be.  I also do this first because then you know how many cards you want to send.

2.  Purchase your cards. 

I’ve purchased online and in stores.  This year Costco had great looking cards that were reasonably priced.  Bonus was getting step 2 done at the same time.

3. Buy stamps. 

Costco happened to have holiday stamps, so I purchased my cards and stamps at the same time.

4. Christmas letter paper. 

This year when I opened my Holiday Joy Journal, I found paper I purchased on sale after Christmas last year.  Yay me!  One of my favorite places to purchase cute stationary for Christmas letters is through Current.  There are also deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday if you want or need to buy in the current year.

5. Christmas letter writing. 

I know some people think the purpose of the annual Christmas letter is to brag, but I see it more as a highlight reel and sometimes the most important events aren’t the happiest.  This year my letter includes a part about my mom’s only sibling passing.  It’s not happy, but it’s important.  Other than that, I give a condensed version of what’s happening with my children, my husband and me.

6. Christmas letter printing. 

Because I use special paper, I adjust my printing to match the paper.  This usually takes a few tries to get it right.  I print my letter on a plain sheet of paper, which I place on top of a piece of stationery and hold it in front of a light.  It helps me see how the letter will print on the stationery without wasting any of it.  I recycle each test sheet out as I print the next one until I get it just right.  I also take my letter somewhere to print because it’s more cost effective to pay a few cents to print 80+ letters at a store than to use my own ink.

7. Pick and print a photo. 

Some years I order cards with our pictures on them.  One year I even found a card that I could write my letter and upload our photos.  Sadly, I’ve not found that option in a few years, but I do add a photo because I keep the photos people send me and add them to my wall of fame.  My wall of fame is now on the back of my front door.  I display all of the cards and pictures people send through the holidays and then keep all of the pictures through the year.  Each time I look at the pictures, I pray for the people in them.  I think it’s a good practice, and it makes me very happy to do it.

8. Print address labels. 

I love this step because it saves a ton of time and effort.  Some people prefer to hand address and that’s fine.  I will take the printed labels and be happy with the efficiency.

9. Address the envelopes. 

Peel those labels and place them on the envelopes. I use clear labels so the color of the envelop show through, and I have a stamp for our return address which makes that process easy as well.  This is when I add the stamps too

10. Assemble the cards. 

This is when I’ll take the time to add a personal note to some of the cards, especially if I know someone has struggled or achieved something wonderful that particular year.  Not every card gets a note, but many do.

11. Mail the cards. 

I have mailed cards as early as December 1st and as late as December 26th.  I much prefer December 1st, although it’s looking like it will be closer to the 5th or 6th for me this year.

There you have it, eleven steps to sending Christmas cards and stay sane in the process.  The best part is that you can remove a step or two if it suits you.  Make photo cards.  Skip the letter.  It’s up to you.  Is there a particular step that stops you or you want help with?  I would love to hear about it.  Sign up for my newsletter, send me an email and maybe we can work it out together.  Is there any other part of the holiday season you would like a system for?  For more tips like this, order your copy of Happiest Holidays on Amazon and have your best holiday season ever.

Holiday Pantry Planning and Almost Homemade Soup Recipe

Amost Homemade Soup is a pantry staple
One of my favorite easy recipes. Look for the video link below


Christmas is less than six weeks away.  Thanksgiving is only a couple of weeks away.  You might want to run away and hide from the holidays because of the stress, but if you’ve busted your budget or run out of a needed ingredient at the worst possible time in past years, it’s time to talk pantry supplies.  I know.  Most people are talking about how to take care of yourself through the holidays, including me.  But, having your pantry well stocked is a great way to alleviate holiday stress.  It’s a simple thing to do, and the return on your time investment is huge.

 Take recipes you know

Here’s the deal.  Most people have traditional recipes they make every year.  For me, those recipes include the easiest fudge ever, 100s of Christmas cookies, pumpkin muffins, stuffing, baked apples, ham, turkey and Christmas Bread. I know the ingredients of all of them without looking at a recipe and most of them store for a long time.  I buy them over a period of time and/or when they’re on sale, so I can save money and time later and have everything I need in my pantry and/or fridge and freezer.

How to save $25.00 on butter 

For example, a couple of weeks ago our local grocery store ran a sale on the brand of butter we bake with most often.  This brand normally runs $5.00 per pound but was on sale for $2.50 per pound that week.  I purchased ten pounds.  I froze it, and it is available whenever I need it.  The best part is I saved $25.00 just on butter.  Who doesn’t love a bargain like that? I’ll do the same with sugar, brown sugar, flour, muffin liners and other pantry staples if I get the chance.  I purchase things like cream cheese, chipped beef and items that store for a long time as well over the next several weeks.

 Easy pantry meals

The other thing I do is stock my pantry with ingredients for easy to make meals on those nights when the dinner plan gets thwarted or I need something simple to make.  One of my favorite recipes is something we call dump soup.  You can find this recipe and several more in my Happiest Holidays book.  Click here to order your copy.  (Note:  It’s called Almost Homemade in the book because it sounded better at the time.)  The easy part of this soup is that you dump the items in a slow cooker, Instant Pot or a soup pot on top of the stove and you have an easy, quick meal.  It’s a basic recipe you can change up to suit your taste using two boxes of readymade soup.  My favorite combines corn chowder and a roasted red pepper and tomato soup with veggies and a protein source.  I use frozen mixed veggie, a can of diced potatoes and diced ham.  Heat and serve.

 To see a video of me making this soup click here

Variations for the soup include changing the base.  I’ve used Southwestern Corn Chowder, Potato Leek Soup, or you could use a squash or carrot and ginger soup. The veggies can be premixed, single or mixed any way you choose.  You can use any protein source.  We’ve used diced, canned and rotisserie chicken, as well as ground beef taco meat.  You can use a nonmeat protein source to give yourself a vegetarian meal.  Add some nice bread and/or sprinkle with cheese or some freshly chopped herbs if that’s part of your diet, and you’ve got delicious, easy meal.  The possibilities are endless.  If you have a family like mine that prefers more than just soup for dinner, a grilled cheese or Panini sandwich is the perfect complement and will satisfy the biggest of appetites.

 Last tips for a stocked pantry

So, what does your perpetual grocery list for the holidays include?  Are you a spice person who needs cinnamon, ginger, garlic or dried citrus peel?  Are you a baker who needs fresh baking soda, baking powder, cream of tartar or corn starch for your holiday delicacies?  Do you need to check your basics like salt, pepper, sugar, flour, brown sugar or powdered sugar?  Is there an item you always seem to forget like almond extract?  Now is the time to make that list and make sure you have everything you need for the holidays.  Comment below or send us an email to let us know what items you may have forgotten in the past that this post reminded you to get this year or your best tip for remembering all your supplies.  While the holidays are upon us, we can still be prepared for them.  As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

Join our email list to get the latest updates and freebies like our holiday timeline coming this week and click here to order your own copy of Happiest Holidays.

Thirty Days of Thanks and the Search for Holiday Happiness

30 Days of Thanks
How to begin a life of gratitude

I know talking about the holidays this early makes some people’s skin crawl and maybe you’re one of them. Thanksgiving in the US is three weeks away and maybe you feel anything but thankful. Christmas is a little over seven weeks and perhaps you feel anything but jolly. You wonder how some people are so freaking happy during the holidays while others are miserable. You want to be one of the thankful, but right now, you’re one of the stressed. That’s part of the reason I began 30 Days of Thanks every day of November. It makes me look at life differently and it can do the same for you.

How do you respond to challenges?

Believe it or not, everyone has challenges. Some rise to them. Some whine through them and some run from them entirely. The problem with whining and running is that nothing changes. The same challenges show up over and over until we figure out how to master them. Have you ever noticed that? I think that is especially true during the holidays. We envision a perfect holiday, and then we look at our finances, our home or our relationships and realize perfection is out of reach, and that sends us spiraling downward emotionally. No one is challenge free, but how we approach the challenge can be the difference between a holiday season of peace, joy and thanks and one of stress and angst.

What is failure?

Difference good day bad dayI understand failure, stress and angst. It took me three tries to write my book Happiest Holidays after years of learning how NOT to do the holidays. Am I a failure? Some might say yes, but the vision for the book got bigger each time I attempted writing it, so I postponed it. Other books got written instead, and I honed my holiday skills. That’s real life. I give thanks for it, and the book is better because of it.

The blessing of challenges

Sometimes, our greatest gifts come from challenges we face and show up as compassion and gratitude later. We face our own challenges and then look at others facing the same challenge with grace and thanks that we can help them. That doesn’t mean you have to dive down into others’ suffering. It means you understand. The holiday blues can be a short stop on the journey instead of somewhere you unpack and roll around in the muck. You can rise above them to have an incredible holiday season filled with hope and thanks. To help those who want to boost their holiday joy, I created a list to improve your mood and avoid the abyss this holiday season.  Sign up below for my email list to get support every week to have a better holiday and for reminders like the ones below.

Ways to Give Thanks this Holiday Season

  1. Take care of yourself. I know you’re sick of hearing it, but listen up. Give thanks for a shower, for having in nice clothes, for makeup or nail polish that makes you feel pretty.  Be grateful for enough water to drink and healthy food to eat and maybe even for the food that isn’t so healthy .
  2. Meditate. Take a few minutes or even a few breaths to pay attention to your body, mind and spirit, and be thankful for that break, no matter how small. Focus on your breath and relaxing your shoulders and releasing tension from your forehead, your jaw, your neck and your back. It’s a simple exercise of breathing and paying attention.
  3. Listen to happy music. If you’re not sure what that music is, think of movies you like, especially those from your childhood and look for the soundtrack. Then you can appreciate where you and where you’ve been.
  4. Perform an act of kindness. Rake your neighbor’s leaves while they’re gone. Bake cupcakes for someone. Put $20 in an envelope and anonymously drop it into a needy family’s mailbox. Make soup for a sick friend. Don’t have a sick friend? Make soup and freeze if for when you do have a sick friend. Send a gift card anonymously to someone who needs a pick me up. Write a thank you note to someone who positively affected your life. When you do a kindness for someone who cannot pay you back, you create ways for others to give thanks as well.
  5. Become a gracious receiver. In our culture, we have this idea that we must give more than we receive, and it wears us out. We have this saying that it is better to give than to receive, but if we aren’t willing to receive, how can anyone give? If you don’t allow others the opportunity to give, you keep them from becoming better. Stop it! Be willing to receive so you can find out that people care. They really, really care. Start with compliments. The next time someone compliments you resist the urge to negate it. If someone compliments your look, thank them and tell them how nice it is of them to say that. Leave it at that or repay the compliment with one for them. If someone compliments your talent, say thanks and tell them you’re glad they enjoyed it. Don’t mention flaws or mistakes. Let that person help you be joyful and inspire you to be grateful. People like to make others feel good. Let them!
  6. Indulge in a guilty pleasure. Love popcorn? Pop some. Love sappy, chick flicks? Watch one. Love being creative? Paint, write, create. Schedule time to do what brings you joy. If you parent young children, watch them sleep for two minutes. Listen to them breathe. When my boys were little, nothing brought me more joy than rocking my children to sleep at night because of the gift of watching them drift off to wherever boys go to dream, of listening to their peaceful breathing and of thankfully having that peaceful moment. If your children are older like mine, you can go sit in their room and remember the best of times with them.
  7. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I think this quote by Gandhi is magical. If you want the world to be a kinder place, be a kinder person and guess what? The world is a kinder place because of you. If you want the world to be filled with love, be a more loving person, and you have made your own wish come true. It goes hand in hand with treating your neighbor as you would like to be treated, and the best part is that you don’t need anyone else to change to make you happy.
  8. Stop being offended and taking things personally. This is one I still work on. Someone wrote something I considered mean on Facebook recently. Imagine that. It appeared to be a response to something I said, and I wondered if it was a veiled insult. You see, I am generally a happy, go lucky person. I believe that there is more good in this world than bad. I believe in the intrinsic goodness of human beings, that we must be taught and conditioned to be fearful and filled with hate. When you believe that and let people know it, they have some interesting responses. The first and most insulting is that I am stupid and uninformed. The other is that I have no problems. Honestly, the Facebook post I referred to suggested both and actually inspired me to write this. So it doesn’t matter whether that post was intended to insult or offend me.  Only I can decide if that happens, and today I choose to be thankful for the inspiration.
  9. Live differently. If you don’t like your life, change it or change you. What if you or a family member had a very real chance of not making it through the day? Would you continue to act and think the way you do? If not, become the person you would be if you knew your time was limited because guess what? It is. Put the petty crap aside and get to living and loving better. You will still have issues but your molehills of cluttered garages, toast crumbs in the butter and piles of laundry stay molehills instead of blowing up into huge, stupid mountains. Have you ever thought your mountains might be someone else’s molehills? Are your mountains really mountains? I remember holiday seasons when I barely had enough money to buy gifts for my children. They were the most creative times I ever had finding gifts that would bring them joy and keep our family afloat financially. Perhaps the greatest thing I ever heard was that Jesus only got three gifts, why do your children need any more than that? A sobering thought indeed.
  10. Take the focus off of what you “have” to do and put it on who and how you want to be. You will approach everything differently. Clean up your home to create a peaceful space. Buy gifts to bless others instead of checking names off a list.

I hope you find peace, joy, love and a reason to give thanks every day of this season. Will there still be issues? Of course. Will people still get under your skin? Probably, but hopefully not as much or as badly. This season is about you having your best holiday season so far. That’s what I wish for you not only for the next several weeks, but for the rest of your life. Want a step by step guide to get you through the holidays? Click here to purchase my book Happiest Holidays on Amazon. If you haven’t signed up for our email list, do that and look for the awesome freebies to come during the holidays and beyond. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

Welcome to Mama K’s Kitchen and How to Chop an Onion

kitchen onion
Time to learn how to chop an onion

I enjoy cooking.  When I was a teenager, I bargained my way out of doing yard work by offering to do laundry and cook dinner.  My mom, who would much rather do yard work than housework, always agreed.  I learned some by watching my mom cook during the week, but I also felt comfortable in the kitchen from the time I was small.  To this day I feel like the kitchen is the heart of my home. Nothing makes me happier than having a family meal and seeing those I love around the table.

 Keeping it Simple in the Kitchen

While I love to cook, I prefer to keep things simple in the kitchen, especially when the calendar is full.  I’m not one for complicated recipes.  I’ve made them, and there are a few I repeat.  Mostly, I leave those recipes to others.  I cook delicious, easy to prepare food.  Just recently, a family member reminded me that “easy” is a relative term.  This particular family member struggles with chopping an onion.  She shared a picture of her struggle on social media, and I thought, “Sweetie, there’s a much easier way to do that.” I promised her a video of how to chop an onion.  I know there are many ways to do this, but this is the one that works the best for me.  Click here to watch the video.

 Changes are coming

For those who follow my blogging journey, you’ll start to notice a change in the subjects of my posts.  I want to share practical knowledge as well as talk about life.  The public posts will share the knowledge.  Newsletters to my email list will share thoughts about life.  The kitchen is one of my favorite places so it’s only natural to start there.  I know that learning how to chop an onion doesn’t change the world, but if it saves you time and burning eyes, it makes way for you to live a bit better and who doesn’t want more of that especially with the holiday season nearly upon us?

 Welcome to the heart of my home

A few years ago, a dear, friend I call the daughter of my heart nicknamed me Mama K.   Since we share a love of cooking, it seems only natural to call the heart of my home Mama K’s Kitchen.  I hope by visiting my kitchen in the virtual world, you’ll find more success and happier days in your own kitchen. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be posting about ways to make Thanksgiving and Christmas less stressful, recipes that are easy and delicious, and gift giving ideas that will save your holiday budget.  You can find several of the tips and recipes in my Happiest Holidays book available on Amazon.

 How can we make your kitchen a happier place?

For those who struggle in the kitchen, it would help to know what would help you most.  What do you struggle with?  What would you like to learn how to do?  I have over 40 years of experience in the kitchen and over twenty years cooking for a family.  I learned so much, and if I can save you time, money and frustration so you can enjoy your family more and stress less, I call that a huge success for both of us.  You can do this, and I am excited to help.  Comment below or better yet, sign up for the newsletter to get all the best information, and we can have fun in the kitchen.  Let’s do this!  As always, if you found this useful, please share.  Thanks for being you and have a great day.


Meal planning magic

Magic Menu Planning

Meal planning magic
The daily dreaded mom question

 “Mom! What’s for dinner?”

Nearly every mom I know dreads the question.  I’ve been making family meals for over two decades and occasionally I still dread that question.  When I was a young mom, there were always women who looked like they had everything together.  I felt like there had to be secrets to what they did.  I found out that no mom has everything together, but there are secrets to being more successful, and one of those secrets is menu planning.  Menu planning saves my wallet, my time and most importantly, my sanity on a regular basis and it’s easier than you think.It all adds up

How to Start

What’s important to you when it comes to getting meals on the table?  For me it has always been making simple meals that taste great and don’t break my budget.  Food bills can ruin a budget, especially when eating out is your “go to” meal.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat out, but in most cases, you can make food much cheaper and better than you can buy it already made.  Pinterest is full of amazing recipes, and I’ll be sharing more and more of my own recipes over the next few months to help with holiday madness.  If you’re menu planning on a budget, you can decide how much you want to spend per month, per week and even per meal.

Where you shop is part of menu planning

Decide where to shop 

This is a big decision.  Some people prefer to shop in one place only to save time.  Some prefer patronizing local businesses.  Bargain hunters will shop at more than one store to get the best prices.  Those looking to get the most out of the grocery budget shop at several stores to get the best bargains and save the most money.  Knowledgeable shoppers learn how to find the best bargains by learning about the stores in their area.  For example, in my area, Walmart has the best prices on the middle of the grocery store, like paper towels, peanut butter, canned goods and bagels.  Kroger is the closest and most convenient store for me and they have great produce and bulk items like organic nuts and seeds.  Meijer has great prices on both, but it isn’t worth my time anymore to drive 8 miles when other stores are only a mile or so from my house.  Trader Joe’s has some of my favorite specialty items, and Fresh Market has $2.99 Tuesday when their excellent ground chuck and chicken breast are $2.99 per pound.  All of these factors help me menu plan within budget, and I work trips to each store into my weekly plan to streamline my week and use my time well.

 Meal planning tools

Coupons and circulars

Some people love coupons.  Others hate them.  Some people love looking at the circulars to find bargains.  Some throw them away or recycle them immediately (I’m hoping they recycle).  Although some dinosaurs like me still like to have paper coupons, I am enjoying using electronic coupons more and more.  There are several apps for coupons, but I leave that expertise to others.  I clip coupons from my weekly circulars and the Sunday paper.  I add coupons to my Kroger shopper card on a regular basis, and I read the paper circulars every week to help me make my grocery list because I walk into the store knowing what the special and sales are, and I have a plan to take advantage of them the best I can.  This is where the meat of menu planning takes place for me (pardon the pun).  Because of circulars, which you are online if you don’t get them at your home, you know which items are on sale and how to get the best value for your menu planning dollar.  The circulars help me decide which proteins to buy, which vegetables and which additional items I might need to make our favorite recipes.

Post your menu planThe weekly plan

I ask my family every week if there is a meal that they want.  If they don’t have any suggestions, I scour the circulars.  For example, let’s say roast is on sale.  The temperatures are on the cooler side this time of year and a roast is an easy meal to prepare.  To make a roast, I use carrots, onions, celery, potatoes, beef broth, garlic and a sprinkle of dried thyme.  I check my supplies then add the ones I’m missing to the grocery list.  The best part about a roast is leftovers.  My husband shreds the leftover meat and makes shredded beef barbecue sandwiches for lunches.  I use the leftover vegetables and stock to make soup. 

The big success secret

Do you have a family calendar?  If you do, it is your best resource for menu planning.  If not, get one.  Menu planning around a busy life makes so much sense because it’s when we are the busiest that it helps to feed our family and ourselves the healthiest meals.  Slow cooker meals are a menu planning blessing on days when you know you’ll be home late or your family members will be eating at different times.  Sure, it’s ok to drive through now and then, but you’ll look like a hero when you have a nice hot meal at home too.  You can prep a slow cooker or pressure cooker meal (affiliate) the night before and either dump all the ingredients in the cooker before you leave in the morning or wait until you get home and cook them in the pressure cooker.  Either way, you’re prepared for a quick meal.

Running grocery list
Paper lists work well too


Make a list

Having a list at the grocery is a game changer for those on a budget.  When you have a list, you know exactly what to buy.  Without a list, you wonder as you wander the aisles and pick up whatever catches your attention.  That’s how budgets get busted and you end up with five bottles of soy sauce.  Thank goodness they don’t expire.  Having a list made a huge difference in keeping my grocery bills in check.  To make things even easier, I have paper on our refrigerator for my family to write items we want or run out of on the list.  Although I have a paper list on the fridge for others to write on, when I go to the grocery I usually use a digital list that I can delete as I go.  That also makes it easier to have several lists for various stores. 

Keep a running total

Have you ever stood at the checkout and nearly cried when the cashier announced your total, even after coupons and deals?  I certainly have, and it’s not a fun moment.  To keep that to a minimum, I now keep a running total of what I spend as I delete items off my digital list, and I rarely experience grocery sticker shock anymore.

 Shopping is done                                                                                        

You have the food.  You have a plan.  Now what?  First, post your plan where everyone can see it.  For years I bought groceries with a plan in my head that never worked out.  I would forget to take meat out of the freezer or forget what I planned for the day and before I knew it, I had unidentifiable perishables in my fridge.  Post the menu so it holds you accountable as well as reminding you what you purchased and what you plan to do with it.  Prepare as much as you can ahead of time.  Cooked pasta will keep for at least a week.  Root vegetables other than potatoes keep for a few days after being cut up for a recipe.  Salad keeps longer if you open the bag and put a paper towel in it.  Celery stays crunchy for several days wrapped in foil.  Canned and frozen vegetables work in recipes that call for fresh, although I suggest using fresh whenever possible.  It may sound like a lot of work, but I assure you that the time you invest pays huge dividends, and an hour of prep on Sunday will save you hours of aggravation later.  Before you know it, you’ll have more money to spend, more time to enjoy your family and most important, you’ll have an answer to the age old question, “Mom!  What’s for dinner?”


If you enjoy what you’ve read, please share and subscribe for our newsletter starting soon.  As always, thanks for being you and have a great day!

Follow Your Calling No Matter What

This has one heck of a week in my world.  A gunman opened fire on a group of concert goers in my country.  A nineteen year old son of someone I know took his own life.  An online friend had a baby born too soon in her family, and he is fighting for his life.  My uncle is in the process of dying in hospice care and the preschool age nephew of a friend may need lifesaving surgery.  There’s actually more, but I think you get the picture.  It’s one of those weeks where you find out what you’re made of and how true you are to your life’s calling. 

 Shut down, step up or both

Look for the helpers
In times of crisis, look for the helpers

When I heard about the gunman in Las Vegas earlier this week, my writing seemed so trivial and unimportant, and in the grand scheme of most people’s lives, it is.  What I realized the next day, though, kept me going.  it inspired me to write more because that’s what I’m called to do.  You see, every time something like this happens, we have choices.  We can shut down or step up.  Sometimes we have to shut down for a moment or a day or longer to regroup.  That is certainly understandable, but there is always an ultimate choice to shrink or grow through tragedy, especially when we are not directly affected.  I choose to grow

Regrouping and rededicating to your calling

Follow your highest calling
Follow your highest calling

After regrouping, I know I am called to help people.  While it may seem trivial to help people with meal planning, keeping their home livable and thinking about life differently, we all have to navigate life even when tragedy strikes.  Moms still have to follow their calling by feeding their babies, keeping clothes clean and keeping their homes as safe as they can for their family.  Those moms may also need someone to say to them that as tired and scared as they might be, what they do matters.  So if you’re one of those moms, let me be clear.  What you do matters.  Every meal you put on the table whether fast food or homemade matters.  Every load of laundry you wash, and every toy you pick up and put away matters.  If you take a whole day to do nothing but watch movies with your kids from a blanket fort, that also matters because you’re making happy memories for your babies, and they need that too.


There are more good people than bad

Something else that struck me this week is this:  we can do what we’re called to do in spite of what’s happening in the world or because of it.  I believe in my heart of hearts that there are more good people in this world than bad.  I believe the media tries to get us to believe otherwise because it’s good for ratings.  By stripping away the labels and the name calling and the divisiveness in our hearts, we’ll find we’re more alike than different, and we can live in peace.  If something disturbs your peace, perhaps that’s your calling nudging you to do something different with your life.  It’s your choice how to answer that call, but I hope you’ll do it in the spirit of peace and of making the world a more loving place.  If I can help with that, let me know and we can work together.  Things that scare us will still happen, but maybe we can prevent one or two and we can certainly help others get through it.

 Changes are coming

Commitments to constant improvement
Website and blog improvements coming soon

For those who follow the blog regularly, big changes are coming.  This is the last single post that will be sent directly to your inbox.  Starting next week, a weekly newsletter with these more personal stories will replace the weekly blog post and will include links to other valuable information from the website.  The blog name and format are changing and will be revealed soon, so stay tuned for that,.  Also, with the holidays approaching, there will be several resources available for free and for purchase to help you have your most peaceful holiday season possible.  This is all part of my calling, to help you live your best life possible because we’re all in this together, so why not help each other out?  As always, if you like what you’ve read, please share and make sure you subscribe to get the latest and best tips and inspiration.  Thanks for being you and have a great day.



Your best life

Change Some Things in Your Life

Change some things
The best change comes when we change

One of my favorite quotes is by Zig Ziglar, who said, “If you want to change some things in your life, you have to change some things in your life.”  When I first heard it, it seemed ridiculous because everyone knows that, but when you think about it, there’s genius in it because so many times we wish for things to be different, but we refuse to change.  We want a better finances, but instead of following a budget, getting a second job, using coupons or selling some of our things, we wish to win the lottery.  We want a better body, but rather than creating a fitness plan, we wish we didn’t love doughnuts, chips or ice cream. Our house is a wreck, and we want it to be a place of peace and comfort, but instead of creating a plan that will get us there, we blame our messy family and wish we could afford better furniture or a maid. It took me a long time to figure it out, but life doesn’t work that way.

 Simple but not always easy

If we want change in our lives, we have to change what we do or how we do it.  It’s that simple, but it isn’t always easy, or at least it seems that way in the beginning.  Take finances for example.  My husband and I have been fans of Dave Ramsey for some time.  We bought Financial Peace University a few years before our oldest son entered college.  By following his simple but not always easy steps, we changed our financial life.  At the time we made about $70,000 yearly but had $36,000 in credit card debt.  Within thirty days, we made back what we paid for the course.  Within 90 days, we had a $1,000 emergency fund, and within two years, we paid off all of our credit cards and began saving for college.  Our oldest son graduated with zero loan debt from college and our middle son is over halfway through college without debt .  Was it easy?  Some days, no, but it was definitely worth it and easier than watching our children struggle financially.  Besides, we learned sound financial principles and taught them to our children at the same time.  That’s a win-win for sure

Your best life
Live your best life

Changing perspective changes everything

One of the most difficult changes I made was learning how to take care of a home.  I don’t use the word hate often, but I hated to clean.  I didn’t see the point of cleaning.  It never ended and wasn’t fun, and when I did clean, I was not pleasant.  In fact, the more I cleaned, the angrier I got, and Heaven help anyone who dared to upset me even more while I was cleaning.  With that attitude, is it any wonder no one in my family ever offered to help?  They would do what I shamed or screamed at them to do, but it was not pleasant, ever.   Then I found FlyLady and Pam Young.  These ladies taught me about changing my attitude and perspective about cleaning, and I can never repay them.  The amazing part is that I’ve never met either one, but, they gave me simple way to change my home, my life and my relationship with my family.

More changes to make

While I’ve made great strides in both of those areas of my life, one area I’m still learning to master is taking care of my body.  I know what to do, but I am still learning.  You see, I love some of the foods that now make my body feel bad when I eat them.   It’s time to change my diet, for good.  If you’ve been following my blog over the past few weeks, you know I’ve been reading The Twelve Week Year, and it’s helping me make those changes in my life.  I’ll be sharing some of them in the newsletter that will go to subscribers of the blog.  It will include invitations to special promotions and freebies in the upcoming months to improve all aspects of our lives.  Part of the goal of the newsletter will be to help everyone have the best possible last quarter/holiday season possible.  I am so excited to do this with a group of like-minded people who want to have fun, stay sane and enjoy the holidays more than they ever have. 

The 12 Week Year
The 12 Week Year

 Making change easier

One of the most important things I’ve learned through the process of improving my life is that change isn’t as scary as we make it in our heads.  By making it big and scary and overwhelming, we give ourselves permission to be angry and self-sabotaging.  We fight out best life at every turn and blame other people or circumstances for our failure.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Over the next few months I will share the best tips I have for living happier and with more joy through the holidays and beyond.  While this time of year used to be my most challenging, it’s now become my favorite time to enjoy every day as much as possible.  My goal for everyone is to live happily through the holidays and get to the New Year feeling better about their finances, home and body than they ever have.  The steps will be simple and as easy as I can make them. I’ll include affordable and fun gift ideas, healthy and delicious recipes and tips to get your home holiday ready spending less than 15 minutes per day.


If that sounds like something that would help you, subscribe below, and we’ll get started in early October.  As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.