Potato Pile

In my house, food presentation doesn’t mean squat; as long as it tastes good, it doesn’t matter what it looks like.  With my husband’s gluten-free diet and my own dairy-free needs, it can be tricky sometimes.  But I’ve played around with some foods that are easy to throw together and have dubbed them “food piles.”  Essentially, tasty foods thrown together sort-of like a casserole, but better.

Last night we had Potato Pile and it usually goes something like this:

  • baked potatoes, chopped open and dobbed with oil spread

Then topped with any assortment of the following:

  • ground beef, turkey
  • meat chunks like ham, sausage
  • steamed vegetables like broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, parsnips, green beans etc.
  • other toppings like olives, chives
  • cheese, if dairy’s not an issue

Then a cream sauce poured over.  It’s more specific:

  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup mayo
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup flour (we use GF)
  • 3 – 5 Tablespoons of oil spread
  • pepper to taste

You can play with the quantities a little to get a thicker or thinner sauce.  I hardly ever measure them at all but just eye-ball it and it works fine.  Then whisk over medium heat until it thickens.  Immediately pour it over your potato pile and enjoy!

I never make a “pile” or casserole and then bake it further if everything is already hot or freshly cooked, seems a waste of time.

Sometimes I serve this with chicken or fish and just leave out the meat topping.  So it’s easy to mix and match what you want, but I think the sauce is the key.


12 Fruits and Veggies

Pesticides in agriculture are terrible for the human body.  I found a website that lists the types of chemicals on many types of food and their KNOWN negative affects upon the body.  I only looked at one type of food – apples – and didn’t need to look at anything else.  I’ve always tried to buy certain things organic, but certainly can’t afford everything organic.

I found a list that organizes most common fruits and vegetables into their order of pesticide levels.  And when I grocery shop each week I keep the list with me so that I always know what’s what.  So I always buy organic of the top 12 or so worst foods on the list, especially if I’m making baby food.  I’ve arranged it below.

It can be difficult, knowing that there are so many things out in our environment that negatively affect us and that money controls everything.  But we do the best we can with the blessings the Lord has bestowed upon us.  I hope this knowledge will influence your food decisions for the better so that you and your loves ones can lead a healthier life.  PREVENTION is key.

Lower Numbers = More Pesticides

  1. apples
  2. celery
  3. strawberries
  4. peaches
  5. spinach
  6. nectarines – imported
  7. grapes – imported
  8. sweet bell peppers
  9. potatoes
  10. blueberries – domestic
  11. lettuce
  12. kale/collard greens

Top 7 Most Effective Exercises

This info graphic lists all the things an individual did or experienced during a particular day.  The larger the word, the more time spent there.  What would a graphic of your typical day look like?  Unfortunately, a giant text of “sitting” jumps out for most people.  Too much sitting is terribly debilitating for our health.  The Mayo Clinic states that those who log more than four hours of recreational screen time (so the TV or computer) have

  • 50% increased risk of death from any cause
  • 125% increased risk of events associated with cardiovascular disease

Recently our work site received a new cubicle area with desks that raise up so that you can stand while you work.  I’ve even heard of places that incorporate treadmill desks so that their employees can slowly walk continuously throughout the day.  It’s a fabulous perk, but not everyone can enjoy it.  Some of us are at home all day taking care of kids, or simply cannot be up constantly.  So what can we do to squeeze in some effective exercise to combat the battle against said health risks?

WebMD has some wonderful suggestions:

  1. Walk – park your car a little farther away from your destination, get off the bus or train a stop or too early, take a break and visit the outdoors.
  2. Interval Training – push your pace for a few minutes, then back off; take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  3. Squats – your legs are stronger and meant for it, STOP bending so much and you’ll save your back; do this when you load the dishwasher, empty the dryer, work in the yard.
  4. Lunges – can be mixed in anywhere throughout a walk; carry something as you do.
  5. Push-ups – do while you play with your kids on the floor, have a contest with them.
  6. Crunches – NOT sit-ups, after the push-ups just roll over and continue as you play.
  7. Bent-Over Row – this one is new to me, it’s like a squat while lifting a little weight, see here; simply squat as you lift or set down something, like the laundry basket or your child.

You don’t have to have a gym membership in order to prevent so much disease from simply walking; it’s a waste of money anyway!  I PROMISE you’ll feel so much better if you do even a few little things to incorporate more movement into your day.  You don’t have to be a marathon runner or gym class junkie in order to improve your quality of life.  A little exercise improves every aspect of your health.  Why not make the right investment?

23 and 1/2 hours

Our bodies were made to move, to work, to play.  It’s been proven that exercise and physical activity increases our energy levels and invigorates a whole new level of well being.  People who exercise just 15 minutes a day have a 14% lower mortality risk than those who don’t exercise at all.  See the study here.

Those of you who think “yeah, I know this already.  I need to exercise….blah, blah,” watch this video for a minute and then come back.

23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health? – YouTube.

Did you get a different perspective?  I certainly did.

Try something…anything that will help you get that extra activity in each day.  It will save your life. 

Daily Devotionals

Scripture reading is so important for us to daily refocus our mindset on the eternal perspective driving our actions.  But if you’re like me and you wake up at 5 am in order to hash out a day’s work, it can be difficult to get in that scripture study.

May I recommend a solution?  I get daily emails from Latter-Day Light on a daily basis with a short little devotional.  They include a scripture and a matching prophetic quote.

Now, I do not suggest this as a complete substitution of your true scripture study or daily reading with family; those are still far more important.  However, getting started on a spiritual thought each day helps us to keep that eternal focus throughout the day.  Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated:

“The discipline of following a scripture-study plan of learning the gospel [is] a wonderful, rewarding experience. The knowledge of the teachings of the scriptures [will] unfold in a glorious way through individual study. . . . Our minds [are] sharpened as we followed the daily practice of individual and companion study. The practice [brings] us closer together as companions and increase[s] our understanding of the doctrines of the kingdom.”

Have you seen that analogy with the mason jar, the apples, and the popcorn?  I remember seeing it in Sunday school.  The mason jar is the time in your day.  The apples are the things we have been admonished to do daily and that are the most important things for ourselves and our families.  The popcorn represent all the other little things that we want and like to do, but aren’t necessities.  Well, if we fill our mason jar with all the popcorn before the apples, we can’t fit the apples into the jar.  But if we put in the apples first, then all the popcorn can fit in around them.

This applies to more than just scripture study, I know.  But it’s a good start for someone who’s only “eating” popcorn.

* * *


So while I was looking for a nice image for this post, I came across the most fantastic idea:  apple pies in jars!  This is the most creative thing!  I saw that and thought:  I have all these baby food jars at home now, sitting empty, taking up space in my cupboard……and my husband always wants some sorts of sweets available…I’m gonna try this.  Then I thought about trying little mini cobblers in there too because they’re much easier to make.  So I found these little recipe ideas here.

Try it and have fun.

A Clear, Calm Mind

I went to a conference recently and heard a variety of wonderful speakers on various topics relating to overcoming challenges and keeping our priorities in check, whether they be religious, physical, emotional, etc.   One lady I listened to was speaking on the topic of keeping Heaven close, because it certainly isn’t very far away, and how one could do so.  She focused a bit on things we do to drive ourselves away from the little pieces of Heaven that surround us.

In her talk she quoted a study she had read about recently stating that when we engage ourselves in To Do lists and constant menial tasks simply in continuous efforts to “get things done,” our IQ level actually drops.  Now I certainly don’t have the source to verify, but her quotation to thousands of individuals was enough validation for me.

Why does this happen?  For a female who can multitask numerous things at once, especially a mother juggling a trail of children on top of that, or a father with two jobs and multiple home projects needing completion….nearly everyone in some way tries to accomplish the most they can in the little time they have been blessed with.  We make the To Do lists and set goals to try and squeeze in all we can in order be more efficient with our time all the while trying to take care of ourselves.  It’s overwhelming!  And for those who seem to be Superman or Wonder Woman, being able to accomplish so much…you would think that at least those individuals would have a higher spectrum of brain function in order to do so.

Actually, constantly doing the menial things day in and day out without another thought besides getting it done and over with, that pattern of thinking does not challenge or stimulate our mind.  Consider the fact that when we do those things that require little thought, or we simply keeping worrying about our ever increasing pile of things to do, our brain cannot continue or grow or strengthen itself.  Our mind needs to stay strong and well lit so that it can support us through every day.  The brain’s abilities are so numerous and complex, it needs to be exercised just like a muscle.  Now this doesn’t mean we have to hit the books and cram in all the info we think would be useful.  We simply need to clear away the ‘noise’ and gunk that gives us that brain fog or absent mindedness that has no benefit.

Our mind is continually forming new neurons and can stay just as sharp and effective throughout our life by simply doing a few things on a consistent basis to help it.  Here are a few things that I have found offer amazing help in order to help me keep a calm, clear mind so that whatever situation I’m in I can think clearly, recall memories and thoughts better, and more.

  1. Deep Thinking – spend just 5 minutes each day contemplating something that means something to you, or fascinates you.  Don’t dwell on something that would cause any sort of worry or anxiousness, simply deep thought that can enlighten you or help you refocus on your ultimate desires.
  2. Read – whether its your scriptures, an engaging novel, or blogs like this one….reading enhances your thinking and imaginative senses in a completely individual way.
  3. Turn if OFF – I make sure to keep my phone silent and stay away from the computer once I get home for the day so that I can keep my attention on my family.  Don’t keep your headphones on all day either.  Do you actually remember all the songs you’ve listened to today?  I often drive home without the radio blasting so that there is a moment of silence I can guarantee myself on a daily basis.  Think about how much time you waste in front of the television too.
  4. Brain Games – there are free websites where you can play games designed by neuro-scientists for just a few minutes everyday in order to keep your brain stimulated.  My favorite is Lumosity.
  5. Get Outside – nature is the ultimate setting for deep thinking (refer back to #1).  It is SO easy to get away from all the noise of life when you’re outside.  Go on a walk or hike, nap in a hammock, or just lay down on your lawn and look at the sky.
  6. Listen – Now I know this one may contradict with #3, but if you listen to meditation or classical music, it can reinforce the relaxation and calm needed for deep thinking.  In short term instances, this statistically proven method increases your higher brain function.

These are just a few things I do every day in order to keep my mind calm and clear.  I find it helps me fall asleep easier too because I can focus better and channel my mental efforts in a healthier way.  Try just one thing you know would make a difference for you and share what you find works positively for yourself too.

Spring cleaning: 13 things to replace right now

We’ve all reached that time of year when the weather is iffy and if you’re not in college, there’s nothing much to do.  So I think somebody down the line got just bored enough to clean out their house and called it – the dreaded – Spring Cleaning.  But at the same time when the snow is melting and you can finally see the grass desperately trying to come back to life, you can also see the muck and the grime and the dirt that the snow plow heaved into your yard and that the wind and rain are now spreading everywhere.  Yes…I want to go out and clean it all up too. Or at least pay the nice neighbor boy to do it.  But like any wife, the inside of the home comes first (because the weather’s iffy, remember?)

So here we have a list I found of what to replace:

Spring cleaning: 13 things to replace right now – MSN Living.

 Toothbrush – This one’s easy for me because I have a free stocked up supply of toothbrushes already.  If you visit your dentist twice a year (like you should) they give you that cute little goodie bag on your way out with a new toothbrush, floss, toothpaste, and maybe a sticker if you’re under age 12.  I have never bought a toothbrush simply because my dentist is neat that way.  Either way, if your bristles are frayed, toss it too.

Batteries in Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors – This one I don’t care too much about either because the batteries last a whole lot longer than one year.  But it is quite annoying when they start to beep in the middle of the night and it takes you twenty minutes to figure out which one is beeping so you can angrily rip it off the ceiling and deal with it in the morning.

Eye Makeup – Ladies, I admit I hold onto makeup longer than I probably should; it’s expensive for cryin’ out loud!  But if you’re digging through your makeup bag and you find that cheap little set that Aunt Fannie gave you for Christmas eons ago, there’s probably a reason it’s lasted this long:  it’s cheap and isn’t good for your face.  If it’s cracked, dried out, or more than 6 months old, just toss it.

Foundation – Now this is more for liquid foundation.  If you wear powder (like I do) refer to the eye makeup just above.  But if you can see the layers of separation, don’t just shake it up and reuse it.

Sneakers – Now I quite disagree with replacing tennis shoes every year, especially if you have many pairs of shoes and they don’t get worn every single day in and day out.  I fully support the old adage:  use it up, wear it out, make do, do without…..especially for clothes, shoes too.  But obviously, if the sole has holes or the laces are so worn they can’t hold together, get a new pair.

Kitchen Sponge – When I hear these two words I immediately think, “Eww, gross!”  I don’t advocate sponges at all because they literally spread bacteria across every surface you’re cleaning.  Toss it now!  Use a fabric washcloth that you launder at the very least once a week.  And before you use it, soak it in water, lay it flat in the microwave, and nuke for a minute or so; that will ensure you’re not growing your own personalized culture in your sink.

Baking Soda in Fridge/Freezer – sure, easy.

Pillows – if your wallet can take it.

Water Filter – Now this one….if you haven’t already followed the filter replacement specs for your water purifier (it’s usually every 3 months like mine), please get a new one.  Think about the air filter in your home’s circulation system, or the oil filter in your car–if you don’t change those often enough what happens?  Now what happens to the water you drink if you don’t replace it’s filter?  Hmmm….

Sunscreen – I never thought about replacing my sunscreen, I usually just use it until it’s gone.  But like your makeup, it can separate and not work as effectively over than length of time.  Probably best to replace it.

Cedar in your Closets – What?!  I almost laughed out loud when I heard this one.  I’ve only been in one home, ever, that had cedar lined closets and it was built in the 60’s.  Now I agree, it’s nice to keep things fresh–I have a cedar hope chest.  But home reconstruction?  Not sure if I agree.

Toilet Brush – Makes sense; who wants that disgusting thing sitting there even though we have to have it?  But at the same time, who wants to invest in something that will always be mucky anyway?  You’re choice, I guess.

Canned Goods and Bottled Water in Your Emergency Kit – I completely support this notion.  In fact, if you have more food storage as well, you should be constantly revolving it’s inventory, using up the old and continually replacing it with the new.  You’ll get much more out of your money and effort if you gradually rotate through things.  If you prefer to just purchase things yearly in a lump sum, go ahead.  But if you’re going to have it sit there and not get used, you’ll have to eventually replace it and it will be money down the drain in the long run.