An Uncomplicated Life Blog: April 2020

Monday, April 27, 2020

Achievable Healthy Morning Routine

What's an easy, achievable way to start your day off right and promote your overall health? I've got the simple steps I take to set up my day that has a lasting impact and is easy to implement

Our stay at home order was just extended well into May here in Dallas. While as a mom of four that was a lot to take - this all has been a lot to take, no Netflixing and chilling going on over here! - it made me want to focus on the positives, unless I wallow in darkness of isolation for too long and wind up depressed. I realized how lovely and slow our mornings have become, and how much I'm enjoying that. When Henry started kindergarten last fall, our whole morning routine got bumped up by almost two hours! I'm decidedly NOT a morning person. If left to my own devices, I'd sleep until at least 8am everyday, not get out of bed until 8:30 and not really get anything done besides sipping coffee and reading until 9:30. This stay at home life has reminded me how much I love slow, easy mornings that ease you into the day. If you're looking for a re-boot for your morning routine, now's the time to practice! In light of that, I thought I'd share a few healthy morning rituals I do that get my day off to a great start. Since we all have a little time right now, might as well read up, give them a try and see what works for you, right? Here's my achievable, healthy morning routine:

1) Upon waking up, drink 8oz of water
Whether it's warm with lemon, cold with ice, or what you put by your bed last night, the first thing you should do after opening your eyes is drink some water. Think about it: you just slept for hours, not consuming any hydration. Your body needs a drink! Replenish your cells by giving them some water immediately.

2) Easy skincare routing
The last time I got a facial (that feels like 3 years ago even though it was just December...) the gal who worked on my face gave me some sage advice that I've been able to incorporate easily, since it takes all of about two minutes. Splash your face with COLD water. This will help reduce any puffiness. Pat dry and use your moisturizer. Then use a rose quartz roller (they're less than $20) to press that into your skin. The roller helps your skin absorb it and the cold quartz helps with further decreasing puffiness while also increasing circulation. I took it a step further and use my moisturizer along with this rose roller under my eyes, then I use the rose quartz roller to press it all in. Takes less time than going to the bathroom and makes your face look refreshed and dewy.

If you're looking for an easy makeup routine, I wrote this post on what I use and what I do that helps you look polished and put together in about two minutes. Notice a trend? I'm all about easy and low maintenance!

3) Set up your coffee or tea right
Some people are anti-caffeine, but there have been tons of studies that show drinking one cup of coffee a day (a small to moderate amount of caffeine) boosts your metabolism, provides antioxidants and is also anti inflammatory. I drink one small cup (I'll get through about 3/4 of the cup I have pictured) and I'm set for the day. Speaking of, here's a good way to boost the health effects of that coffee: add a tablespoon or two of coconut oil. You'll get a dose of medium chain fatty acids - the kind that are good for your health and have also been shown to reduce tummy fat! I'm not a fan of cooking with coconut oil, as I don't like how it makes everything taste "coconut-y." But in my coffee? I honestly don't taste it at all! I still add half and half to cut the acidity of the coffee, so you can still prepare your coffee as you like it, even with the coconut oil in it. The same goes with tea, if you're a morning tea drinker.

Yes, my pomegranate juice is in a Jameson glass... It's the right sized glass for the job!
4) Take your immunity boosting vitamins
I'm not a breakfast person, so I actually do this step a little bit later into the day, but if you are a wake and eat type of person, this is perfect to do as you eat your first meal. I add one scoop of a prebiotic (this one was recommended to me as a quality brand) to either acai berry juice or pomegranate juice. Prebiotics are the fuel needed to support a healthy gut (whereas probiotics are the actual bacteria you add to your gut - many of which are killed off by the acid in your stomach before they even get there! Prebiotics have proven to be more beneficial than probiotics, or they can be used together for maximum efficiency) Then I take a B vitamin that has zinc in it, a turmeric capsule, and selenium. All of these support a healthy immune system, are anti-inflammatory and/or are minerals we're deficient in. The two juices I take all these with are loaded with antioxidants too!

That's it. I told you this would be achievable, so I'm not going on and on and listing a hundred things for you to do. Just drink a little water, de-puff your face, add some coconut oil to your coffee and take your vitamins. All in all, we're talking less than 15 minutes of a "routine" here, and most of it you're doing anyway (like washing your face and making yourself coffee.) 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Planting A Raised Vegetable Garden For Maximum Yield

When you plant multiple varieties of plants in one container or raised bed, there's a layout to follow so that you get the most veggies for your space

This will be my third summer growing veggies. Let me tell you, it's been a learning curve! Texas is a much different climate than most areas, and we essentially have a 12 month growing period. I've learned about summer plants and fall plants. That barely anything survives August here. That plenty of plants happily thrive in our winter months (that's mind boggling to me, coming from Minnesota!) That I need to rotate out my veggies not for "summer and winter" but more like spring and fall so that they can grow during summer and winter. Lots of lessons as a newbie and also as someone who wasn't familiar with the Texas growing climate! The other big lesson learned was how to space our plants and properly plan my raised garden for maximum veggie yield. There is definitely a right and a wrong way for that. Here's how to plant a raised vegetable garden for maximum yield, or in other words, how to grow the most veggies for the space you have.

The first step is figuring out your light. You want to know what part of your garden gets light first and the direction light travels. My bed was planned to have nearly full sun, all day long (8+ hours). The left side of the bed gets it first, and the right side is the last to get light before the sun sets. If we had placed it in a different spot in our yard or build another one, odds are good (because we have large live oak trees) that parts of it would be "partial shade" meaning that they'd only get 6 or so hours of sun. Shade plants are considered full shade with just 4 hours of direct sunlight a day. Knowing how the light hits your bed will help you pick your species of veggies. How much sun is required to grow each plant is always listed on the seed package or the insert that's stuck in the dirt of your sprouted plant.

Speaking of that insert (or back of the seed package), read it! Because it will tell you the second thing you need to know. How much physical room the plant needs to grow and how tall it will get. If you plant too many plants, they'll block the light from each other and not produce as much fruit (or veggies, in this case). Make sure and follow those directions! I didn't my fist year. I basically just dumped a bunch of seeds in the ground and waited to see what would happen. I had carrots that grew intertwined together and were so hard to pull up out of the ground - and nearly impossible to eat. I ended up making carrot cake with them so that I could grind them up. My kids didn't complain about that...

Just as important, the height. Like I said, my light hits the left side of my raised bed first, then moves right. So I wouldn't want to plant a tall tomato plant on the far left side, followed by some radishes, then perhaps some spinach because the tomatoes would block the light to all the other veggies. Where ever your light source is, plant your shorted veggie first, then progressively plant taller and taller plants so that the last space to get light has the tallest plant. This way, that fall plant won't block everyone else's light and all your veggies will stay sunny and happy.

This Rapunzel tomato plant is supposed to grow to 5 feet tall! It's placed in the back of the garden so that it won't block other plants' light

There's also pairings of plants that go and grow well together and plants that shouldn't be grown next to each other (or even in the same garden bed) because one will attract a pest that eats the fruit of the neighbor plant. I'm still learning about all the ins and outs of this, but I do know that I have vicious squirrels who love to eat my tomatoes. So this year, I planted a hot pepper plant near the tomatoes to discourage the squirrels from eating my fruit! That will be a bummed out squirrel who takes a big bite of a spicy pepper thinking he's diving into a delicious tomato. I've also learned that I can spray the plants with a cayenne pepper and water spray that should discourage any brave squirrels. I'll let you know how that goes.

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Gardening has been so fun to learn about, and to teach my kids about. Everyone - all four boys, the dog and myself - love going outside and digging in the dirt! The kids will even try the veggies we grow, which is a huge win. Even if they only take a bite, at least they tried it and know that growing food takes time and care. Sure we can all run to the grocery store and pick it up there, but all that food comes from somewhere and I'm happy that my kids are learning about it! With six people in my family, it's important to plant my raised vegetable garden for a maximum yield

Monday, April 13, 2020

COVID 19 Quarantine Life Update

We've been on lock down for an entire month here. These are some of the wildest things we've done or thought during this insane COVID-19 outbreak:

It's been a wild ride, that's for sure. Our schools have been out since March 13, so that puts us at a whole month of this quarantine/social distancing life. I want to be positive, but honestly, I've hated just about all of it. Sure, I've had some fun moments with the kids building forts or gardening, but mostly this has all just been hard. I like to get out and talk to people. I like to work from home, filming recipes and staging shoots for this blog. I'm a huge routine person. All of that has gone out the window this past month, and likely won't let up for another two or three weeks. All this cabin fever has led to some pretty crazy thoughts or activities over here, so I thought I'd lighten the mood and tell you some of the things we're scheming up/dreaming of/have actually done during this bizarre time in history. This is our weirdo COVID-19 quarantine life update:

- It was an unusual Easter.
I normally plan out matching outfits for the boys weeks in advance. All I manged to get this year was bunny ears. The shirts are all from last year (don't look too close, the sleeves are def not long enough anymore!) and the twins were wearing hand me downs. I managed to put together a brunch from what we had in the fridge. We watched an Easter movie. That was the extent for us, which is kinda sad, but that's how it goes.

- I've had car dates with my friends.
Since we can't sit in the restaurant and we have to be 6 feet apart, I've taken to getting takeout and sitting in my car with the windows down to eat it. A friend will join me and we have a solid "car date", speaking loudly out our windows so that the other can hear. Hey, we might look insane, but that's because we are going slowly insane. If I can get some food that I don't have to cook and eat in with my steering wheel in the way while I shout at a friend, I'll take it. I'll take any outing I can get these days, actually. 

- I actually broke down to tears at Whole Foods.
Not sure if you know this, but I joke that WF is my office. Since it's based here in Texas, we have some amazing WF stores. The one near me has a restaurant and two bars in it, plus a BBQ smokehouse. I love it there! Where else can you get a smoothie, a few sushi rolls and a glass of wine all at the same time? Free wifi. A cafe to work from. Perfection! When you work from home as an extrovert, you've got to find your locations to hang out at to get social interaction, and WF is one of two places I frequent. Literally, the bulk of the staff know me by my first name, that's how often I'm there. I went there after Dallas went on a full out "shelter at home" order. It was so sad to see the deli totally shut down. To see the cafe turned into a "pick up order" counter. To see consistently empty shelves. I went back to the bathroom and just cried. My little Whole Foods community was all disheveled and rearranged; I didn't see any of the staff I normally talk to. My "second home office" wasn't recognizable and it broke my little heart.

- I contemplated getting in my car and driving to the coast to ride this out by the ocean.
It's a 6 hour drive down to the Gulf. I seriously contemplated pointing my car south and driving until I hit water. I'm a water lover. The ocean or a lake is my happy place. There were more than a few (mentally unstable) days where I thought about climbing in my car and taking off, camping out at a beach by myself until this storm passes. But, you know, I've got kids and a husband and a house to take care of, so right as I started to drive my car to the freeway that would take me there, I snapped out of it. But damn if that doesn't sound like a good plan.

- I've contemplated buying a hobby farm just outside the city.
Remember this post when I laid out all our thoughts on staying in the city/moving to the 'burbs for our next home? Yeah, I took that to the next level and said, screw it, let's buy a hobby farm where the kids can play outside all the time, I can finally get the chickens I've always wanted. And maybe a few goats, too. Because, why not? My husband actually looked and found one in our budget! And it even had an adorable red barn. Looks like I know my new life plan! I mean, if we're gonna go outside the city, let's just go ahead and go ALL out. 

FYI, we're not buying a hobby farm. But I can watch organic farming documentaries on Netflix with a bottle of wine and dream about it. And we did harvest our own carrots to use in the carrot cake cupcakes I made for Easter!

- Homeschooling isn't going great.
I knew I wasn't cut out to be a teacher but I didn't think I was this bad! And I've got a kinder and a pre-k-er, so we're not talking rocket science. I think that might be the problem, actually... It's a lot of mundane tasks. And they have to be submitted online. My problem might stem from me feeling like I'm wasting my time (and my kids' time too - which is also hilarious because ALL WE HAVE IS TIME but who cares about small details like that, right?) Or my problem is I'm trying to keep them from cutting their fingers off with adult sissors because we don't have kid scissors like a school does, while also watching 17 month twins. I don't know. I don't like this home school nonsense though.

That's how things are going over here in isolation. I'm telling you, I was not meant to be kept at home! And I LOVE being at home; but too much of a good thing is just too much. I love kids but I'm sick of mine. I love being outside in our yard, but not when that's the only place we can go. I love getting takeout but not when it's the only other option beyond me cooking. I love cooking, but not when I *have* to. I swear, when we're allowed to leave our homes again, I'm going to hit up every single restaurant that actually reopens and I'm going to go to every class at my gym and if we're ever able to drop our kids off at school again, I'm going to relish the silence and set up elaborate photo shoots just because I can. Oh, little things, how I miss you so. 

Monday, April 6, 2020

At Home Date Nights

If you're on a budget or you're on lock down to avoid the pandemic, use these creative ideas for an at home date night

It's not that funny, but it's definitely good timing. I brainstormed this post idea several months ago, long before coronavirus was a household name. Long before schools were closed, travel was disrupted and restaurants shuttered. I was talking to a friend about ways to keep your marriage alive after kids, and came up with this. Now, it's a more timely topic than ever! These are some creative ways to keep dating your spouse, even after kids eat up all your money, even when a nasty pandemic virus shuts your city down. Here are some fun, at home date nights that work after the kids are asleep, or if you're kid-free, anytime!

- Back yard wine tasting
This one is a little bit harder, unless you want to buy a few bottles of wine and have them open for a while... But, you can get a bottle you wouldn't have normally picked out to try with your spouse. Or, you can get mini bottles and try two or three. I know my grocery stores stock half bottles, so if you wanted to do a proper tasting with a couple of different wines, I'd suggest those. Most wines will keep for a week corked on a counter in a cool, dark place so if you *can* buy real bottles and will drink them, go for it! I suggest trying blends or wine that you wouldn't normally get or don't normally like, or perhaps don't even know anything about! For a while, in my 20's, I only drank Spanish wines. I had no idea what I was buying, and no idea what I was drinking, but I knew that most were dry and that's what I liked and I was never disappointed. I never really knew what I was buying, just that it was Spanish and dry and would *probably* be delicious. It's a great way to try new wines!

Don't drink? Try different kinds of chocolate!

- In-home picnic
This is a little extra work, but it's so fun! Turn off the TV. Light a fire if you have a fire place. Lay out a blanket. And get out some picnic food! Cheese and crackers, fruit, veggie crudite and dips - an old fashioned picnic basket, paper plates and napkins, anything that makes it a more unique experience that resembles an actual picnic! If you live in a climate where you could actually sit outside, do it. Back yard, front yard - just bring the baby monitor with you to keep an "eye" on your kiddos! You'd be surprised how fun it is to eat on the floor and have a different scene than your traditional dinner table. A fun add on: get a board game and play! Board games, word games, fun food, a new atmosphere, a romantic fire - you'd be surprised how fun this can be. 

- At home cooking class
If you can't make it somewhere to an *actual* cooking class, look one up online and do it! Watch it first and then get the supplies, then set your laptop up and watch as you cook. I'd recommend making  something that neither of you know how to make. Argentinian steaks and chimichrri? Go for it! Seabass with a seaweed side salad? Or find one that will teach you new ways to utilize pantry staples. Try something new, try a new meat or a new cooking method, and learn together!

Here's a roundup of places to check out for online cooking classes.

- Make breakfast in bed
Yes, have breakfast for dinner. Yes, eat it in bed! Use trays, whip up some Eggs Benedict or pancakes/waffles, add a side of bacon and a mimosa or decaf coffee. You could even get a newspaper and read it together to make it "morning official"! If you don't have newspaper delivery service, you could play a board game or do a word puzzle together.

We were gifted this breakfast in bed tray for our wedding, and it's been used all of two times. Put the things you have to good use!

- Competitive? Stage a competition between you and your spouse!
This could be a bunch of different things. If you're physical/athletic, you could make a backyard obstacle course. Set up cones, or use potted plants, and ride your kids bikes (that are clearly too small for you and hard to ride!) around them in a pattern. Fastest one wins! Or, if you have older kids, have them make a scavenger hunt for you. That gives them an activity to do while they're awake and a fun one for you and your partner to do after they're in bed. Not into athletics? Have a cooking competition. Pick three things from your pantry and make a meal with them. Best meal wins!

Most of us are home right now because we're sheltering out an insanely dangerous virus. But when the dust settles with that, there are a number of reasons you might need to transition your date nights to your home: a new baby, your budget doesn't cover a date night out, or maybe you had reservations to the best place in town and your sitter cancels on you last minute. Whatever the reason, being home bound doesn't have to mean dinner and Netflix every time. Get creative! There are tons of fun at home date night options.