Food & Drink

It’s A Polenta Day!

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When someone in my family says, “it’s a polenta day”, I can precisely describe the weather without leaving the house or peaking out the window! Polenta has been the perfect comfort food in our home since my youth, growing up in San Francisco. At that time, this dish was usually reserved for cold, cloudy and drizzle filled days, which didn’t just occur during the winter months.

The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent Was a Summer in San Francisco Author Unknown

This is a popular quote about San Francisco. Although credit has been given to Mark Twain, he actually didn’t say this about San Francisco but did share his disappointment about the weather he experienced in Paris. Quote Investigator

Serving polenta always triggers fond memories, watching my mom cooking at the stove on drizzle cold days. I still LOVE polenta traditional style with Parmesan cheese, either stirred with butter or topped with marinara sauce. Polenta recipes have definitely become quite sophisticated today, with different serving styles and flavor options. We now enjoy this dish on cold days or warm summer nights, served as a side starch or as a gourmet first course for formal dining. An added benefit…it’s Gluten Free!

Today of course, polenta is one of the most glamorous players in the high, international interest in Italian eating. Perhaps we’re entering another golden age of polenta. Polenta, Past and Present, by Zingerman’s Food Tours

As we transition to long summer days and beautiful warm summer nights, below are some great recipes you can enjoy!

Polenta Recipes

Traditional Polenta – side dish – serving for 4 or entree serving for 2

  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup corn meal

Corn meal works great. It is not necessary to purchase pricey boxes of polenta meal. I use Aunt Jemima Corn Meal.

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Optional – 2 tablespoons Mascarpone cheese, if you want a creamier texture

Add 3 cups water and salt in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. In a bowl add one-cup corn meal and 1 cup cold water. Stir until it forms a paste mixture. Add ¼ cup of the corn meal mixture to the boiling water. Stir until fully dissolved before adding additional ¼ cups. When the corn mixture has been incorporated, cover and let simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally  (option…add mascarpone cheese for a creamier texture), until thickened.

Butter and Parmesan  Add two tablespoons of butter and stir. Top with Parmesan cheese.

Marinara and Parmesan  Top with your favorite marinara sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Chili and Polenta  My husband’s favorite – top with your favorite chili and shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

Butter and Gorgonzola Cheese  Add 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoon mascarpone cheese (if not previously added) and ¼ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese – a distinctive creamy texture and rich flavor.

Baked Polenta Pizza

  • Follow Traditional Polenta Recipe.
  • Pour into a 9″ x 13″ baking pan lightly sprayed with Pam. Spread the mixture evenly throughout the pan. Let it cool for about 30 minutes. Or, place in the fridge until you are ready to add toppings and bake.
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Brush lightly with olive oil, add your toppings such as; favorite pizza sauce, sundried tomatoes, baby Portobello mushrooms, Kalamata olives, sliced fresh Mozzarella cheese (or use the mini fresh Mozzarella balls). Add a light layer of  shredded Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until all cheese has melted, turning slightly golden.
  • Let sit for 10-15 minutes, to become firm, before cutting.
  • Option: Place in the fridge and cut up in smaller squares for a great cold appetizer.

Enjoy! As shown in the photos – before bake and after bake. I lightly brushed the top before baking with olive oil and Barilla Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, adding Kalamata olives, fresh sliced Mozzarella cheese, fresh chopped basil and shredded parmesan. Excellent!!

Grilled Polenta with prawns, roasted peppers and Gorgonzola – Serving for 4

  • Polenta rounds, homemade or store purchased
  • 1 each red, yellow, and orange peppers, to roast
  • 20 prawns 21-25 count size
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoon chopped basil
  • 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves garlic diced
  • Ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon (dash)
  • Dash of salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1- 14 oz can of diced tomatoes

You can make polenta and form your own polenta rounds by pouring the mixture in a baking ban for 1/2 inch thickness and then put in the fridge. When cool and firm, use press the top of a round glass into the firm mixture to form round circles. Or, purchase polenta Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 12.12.22 PMpackaged rolls available at most grocery stores, such as this Sun Dried Tomato Garlic Polenta product by Food Merchants.

Roasting peppers. Purchase a jar of roasted peppers or make your own. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut each pepper in half and remove the seeds and wash. Dry each half and place cut-side down on a Pam sprayed cookie sheet or roasting pan. Roast peppers for one hour or until blackened and charred on the top. Remove from the oven. Place peppers in a gallon size baggie and refrigerate for 1/2 hour+.  Once cooled, remove from baggy, peel skin off and thinly slice.

Making the sauce. You can use your own favorite sauce, homemade or purchased. This is my simple recipe. Coat and heat skillet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 3 cloves diced garlic, 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil and 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped cilantro and sauté a few minutes. Add a dash of ground ginger, salt, pepper. Add 14 oz can of diced roasted tomatoes. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of Marsala wine and 16 – 20 peeled and cleaned uncooked prawns, 21-25-count size. Stir, cooking shrimp until they are done.

To serve.  Add a tablespoon or two of sauce, on each plate. Place one grilled polenta round on top of the sauce. Top each round with 2-3 pawns with sauce. Top with a few roasted sliced peppers and crumbled Gorgonzola cheese. Option: Grill shrimp instead of cooking in the sauce. Add sauté Portobello mushrooms. Serve immediately.

Grilling polenta rounds.

  • Slice to 1/2 inch rounds and brush with olive oil.
  • Pam Spray your grill BEFORE turning it on.
  • Place the rounds on the grill (about 350 degrees) and grill about 5 minutes on each side. You can also do this stove top or broil for a few minutes in your oven.

Summer Grilling

Polenta seasoned rolls are great to simply slice (1/2 inch) and grill. When grilling is almost done, add bruschetta or brush with pesto and sprinkle Parmesan cheese while still on the grill, until cheese melts. This makes for a great summer appetizer paired with a buttery chardonnay.

Additional Polenta Recipes

I’ve bookmarked the following recipes that look amazing!

If you haven’t yet experienced the uniqueness of polenta and its versatility, give it a try!! There are so many ways to prepare this dish; polenta as a meal in itself, an appetizer, or a side dish, served throughout the year – rain or sunshine!! Maybe today… is your polenta day!

Resources

  • Polenta, Past and Present, by Zingerman’s Food Tours, if you are interested in reading the history of polenta.
  • Recipes – all recipes noted in the post are hyperlinked.
inspiration

Be Inspired…Read To Good Health!

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I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten, even so, they have made me.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

When was the last time you enjoyed a great read? It had been a while since I was absorbed in a fictional novel and not for a lack of incredible books. Last week a friend of mine finished The Immigrants By Howard Fast. She LOVED the book and lent it to me. WOW! Following each time set aside for reading, I felt different, as in that “great” way of getting lost in someone else’s story!! It’s refreshing to step out of one’s own life and to be “imagination” present in another world of characters, drama, history, victory/defeat…fully immersed and desperately wanting the story to continue as the last few pages signify the end. At some point during this past year my daily reading habit (novels) slipped out of my life and so did the relaxing benefits that can be refreshing to the mind, body and soul. After conducting a quick Internet search I came across some interesting and thoughtful Sweeny Reading Quotescomments describing the soothing lingering benefits of a good read… “serenely reposed in mellowing afterthoughts, a deep emotional state of nostalgic, the sensation of having a friend whose memory will remain, awe and inspiration, rewarding to be part of someone’s journey, a literary afterglowhope, assurance, promise, warm pleasure, compassion and empathy. Quora And, it some cases there is a feeling of grief that the story is over; profound melancholicand the feeling of profound loss that deep down in your heart you know you couldn’t have related better with anyone!” Quora

When I finished reading The Immigrants, I felt an overwhelming sense of achievement as if I time-traveled through the years 1888 -1933! Reading can add layers of life experiences, all through an adventure in literature.

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man [person] who never reads lives only one. George R. R. Martin

The following shares health benefits of reading books, affecting adults and children physically, mentally, and emotionally. After reading this post you will want to start searching for your next novel!

General Health Benefits of Reading

What you choose to read is important. Focus on “feel good” inspirational stories, even though the novel may include hardships and tragedies. A good novel releases our attachment to daily stressful triggers. After a time of reading, there is a feeling of being refreshed “resting” in someone else’s story.

“Reading can be a wonderful (and healthy) escape from the stress of everyday life. Simply by opening a book, you allow yourself to be invited into a literary world that distracts you from your daily stressors. Reading can even relax your body by lowering your heart rate and easing the tension in your muscles. A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%. It works better and faster than other relaxation methods, such as listening to music or drinking a hot cup of tea. This is because your mind is invited into a literary world that is free from the stressors that plague your daily lifeTaking Charge of Your Health and Well Being, University of Minnesota  – Reading for Stress Relief

According to a new study, reading books could extend lifespan by up to 2 years, and the more often you read, the better. Reading Books Can Increase Your Lifespan, Huffington Post, August 2017

Rowling dfa878cd9f3bc3220f4956ad8fa4fcf8Reading that inspires imagination is good food for the brain. As we age, mental agility and the ability to recall short-term and long-term memories can be more challenging, the result of our brains getting older. Novels require a deeper concentration, which activates brain cells protecting mental agility as opposed to skimming magazines and newspapers. Reading also works on emotional health, working and stimulating cognitive processes which impacts empathy, emotional intelligence, and social perceptions.

Unlike, say, skimming a page of headlines, reading a book (of any genre) forces your brain to think critically and make connections from one chapter to another, and to the outside world. When you make connections, so does your brain, literally forging new pathways between regions in all four lobes and both hemispheres. Over time, these neural networks can promote quicker thinking and may provide a greater defense against the worst effects of cognitive decay. Reader’s Digest Here’s Why Your Brain Needs You to Read Every Single Day, by Brandon Spector

First, it [reading novels] promotes “deep reading,” which is a slow, immersive process; this cognitive engagement occurs as the reader draws connections to other parts of the material, finds applications to the outside world, and asks questions about the content presented. Cognitive engagement may explain why vocabulary, reasoning, concentration, and critical thinking skills are improved by exposure to books. Second, books can promote empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, which are cognitive processes that can lead to greater survival. Better health behaviors and reduced stress may explain this process NCBI Study – Soc Sci Med. – A Chapter a Day: Association of Book Reading with Longevity. 2016 Sep;164:44-48. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.07.014. Epub 2016 Jul 18.

Audio Books vs Traditional Books?

Whether reading or listening to novels, both require focus and imagination. Audio books are just as effective on our physical, mental and emotional well being as reading traditional books, for adults. Multitasking when the hands are free is the only audio book caveat, making it easier to become distracted when listening rather than reading a book. Listening to poetry through audio books, however, has been found to be more profound for comprehension and understanding…”because an audio book pre-determines an aspect of language called prosody, or the musicality of words. “Someone who knows the meaning can convey a lot through prosody,” Willingham said. “If you’re listening to a poem, the prosody might help you.” Is Listening To Audio Books Really The Same As Reading, Forbes, Olga Khazan

As science writer Olga Khazan noted in 2011, a “1985 study found listening comprehension correlated strongly with reading comprehension — suggesting that those who read books well would listen to them well. In a 1977 study, college students who listened to a short story were able to summarize it with equal accuracy as those who read it.” Listeners and readers retain about equal understanding of the passages they’ve consumed, in other words. Is Listening to Audio Books Really the Same as Reading? Forbes Olga Khazan

Is it best for children to read books instead of audio books? Until children reach middle school, the brain’s decoding process through reading requires development that comes through visual practice. There are exceptions for those students whose learning abilities thrive only through auditory means. Decoding, by contrast, is specific to reading, Willingham said; this is indeed one more step your mind has to take when reading a print book as compared to listening to the audiobook version. But by about late elementary school, decoding becomes so second-nature that it isn’t any additional “work” for your brain. It happens automatically.” To Your Brain Listening to a Books is Pretty Much Like Reading It. The Cut, By Melissa Dahl

Impact Reading has on Children

I began reading aloud to my son while he was in the womb and continued until he was independently reading books on his own. Stimulating the brain through story telling encourages the development of brain cells in infants and toddlers. As children progress through school, daily and consistent reading for pleasure has multiple long lasting benefits in these 5 areas as noted in Benefits of Early Reading by Teach Reading Early“Neurological, Educational, Psychological, Social, Linguistic.”

And, if novels can de-stress adults, they can de-stress children as well. This is especially true in a world where kids have become overcommitted and expectations to achieve perfection have become more prevalent than ever before, affecting students in younger age groups with each passing year.

Born with about 100 billion neurons (the cells that receive, process and transmit information in our brains), babies are actively working to make sense of the world around them. These neurons have the ability to connect with each other and form neural pathways – the foundation for learning. Reading aloud to babies, and using language promotes the development of these pathways, and the more pathways a child develops, the more they will be able to learn as time passes by. Three Ways Early Reading Benefits Infants Development by FirstBook.org, Gavin McGuire January 2018

Five Physical Benefits of Reading covers the following benefits of reading: They Help Kids See, Books Sharpen The Senses, They Get Kids Moving, Books Grow Brain Cells, and They Make The Heart Bigger. 

Books grow brain cells Struggling readers have fewer cells in some regions. But a study found that after six months of daily reading, the weak spots beefed up so much that the kids’ brains looked the same as those of kids with stronger reading skills. Five Physical Benefits of Reading, Parent & Child Magazine by By Jennifer Abasi

Discover Your Genre and Select Your Next Read 

The New York Times best-seller list is a great place for book recommendations, however, many fantastic reads never make this list. I’ve read incredible stories through KINDLE FREE books as well as recommendations from Goodreads.com, book clubs, and through friends. Most all online resources filter by genre for selections and updates on books that interest you, making the journey of finding your next novel far easier to navigate! Below are resources to finding your next novel. In addition, get acquainted with your local library and open an online account to access e-books and audiobooks for the whole family.

Busy living, social media, and technological advances compete for our attention today. These modern day temptations can become a wedge to settling-in to an adventurous novel…book or an audio book. You can change this! Make time! There are health advantages that come from reading novels (inspirational biographies, too) when we are able to escape the routine of our own lives and enter into someone else’s story! Romain Rokand, eloquently describes this get-a-way… “No one ever reads a book. He reads himself through books.” You, too, can experience afterglows, awe, adventure, and inspiration when immersed in a good story. If it’s been a while since you read a book, consider finding or reconnecting to a favorite genre. Highlight time in your calendar to de-stress!! Studies support that reading triggers brain cell development in infants, aids in the learning abilities of children and adults, and increases longevity among the elderly protecting against cognitive decay. Who would have known reading books could rank as one of the best “supplements” for good and healthy living, whatever your age! Be inspired! Read to good health!

Resources 

home spaces

Modify Your Style

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Home-décor and remodeling temptations are everywhere! My husband and I have become obsessed with HGTV!! Aired shows that are repeats discourage us far more than they should! New home building also appears to be popping up everywhere in our area. Walking through model homes has become a favorite pastime, checking-out floor plans and design styles. Recently, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, my husband and I decided to visit new home developments. Entering the first model, we both gasped! Although we have enjoyed transitional rather than contemporary style, we were wowed at every turn walking through two of the model homes. PROBLEM…we love this contemporary look. Since our home is only 4 years old, a complete remodel is not going to happen. We can, however, incorporate similar features with simple modifications. Whatever your décor style, if you are planning to update, this blog offers sensible and affordable suggestions that can help you modify for the look that you want.

You might consider hiring a professional interior designer if planning large scale changes and/or trying to incorporate two home décor styles. If you have family antiques, a professional can offer advice on how these treasures can best work with the look you are hoping to achieve.

Current Home Trends 2018

Below is a list of some trends for 2018. Since trends change, I prefer using décor pillows, area rugs, blanket throws, bedding, home accessories, and creating an accent wall in order to keep current… simple and affordable.

  • Jewel Tones
  • Matte Finishes – clean and modern look. Black is a big color.
  • Metals – Matte Brass and Gold with fixtures, stools, home accessories, etc. What if I have brushed nickel and chrome?? Paint it.
  • Large scale prints (floral, tropical, contemporary) pillows and drapery, recovering ottomans and upholstered chair seats.
  • Collections that are special to you. Display!

Inspiration 

Our home style is transitional and we are looking to add additional contemporary touches. The model home photos above were taken when we visited the Infinity Prato Collection . Shopping this weekend, we found wall tile (below) that could workfullsizeoutput_4c40 to border our existing fireplace and install as kitchen counter backsplash. This would represent a fairly simple modification at a reasonable cost for clean simple lines, similar to the inspiration photos. We recently moved some accessories around and changed-out a table lamp for a contemporary one. Simple changes! Before we start the tile project, however, we will meet with an interior designer. A second opinion is always best before $$$ are spent.

Finding Your Home Style

Even when consulting with an interior designer, it is best to know what feels comfortable to you. fullsizeoutput_4c42There is no right or wrong style. There is, however, a perfect style supporting the feel and functionality of the person/family residing in that space and the scale and balance that brings everything together. The image to your left illustrates most common home décor themes. Perhaps you already know your style. What products are available (wall color, art, furniture, decor accessories, etc) to reflect your style? At Houzz.com, when clicking the left menu bar, you’ll see Shop By Style for every room and product category. Another great resource is The SPRUCE, sharing design update tips. The Spruce shares four primary home styles, Casual, Formal, Contemporary, Traditional. The Spruce – Four Main Styles of a Home. Once you determine a style you want to incorporate in your home, you’re ready for next steps to make it happen without, hopefully, the need of a costly remodel.

Small Changes with Big Impact

Below are suggestions to update your home, considering small changes for big impact. If planning to work with a professional, be ready with a list of products/options that you like as a starting point for discussion. When purchasing online, check shipping costs and return policies.

“Pay attention to these four words, and you’ll end up with a space that looks as good as those rooms featured in the glossy home magazines. The four magic words when it comes to decorating are color, pattern, texture, and shine.” Decorating With Color, Pattern, Texture and Shine, The Spruce

How to choose an accent wall? When you first walk into a room, which wall do you notice first?

  • Fabrics make a difference whether through color, pattern or texture. Reupholster furniture and/or replace furniture and drapery in complimentary style fabrics. Purchase décor pillows, bedding, blanket throws, and bathroom and kitchen décor towels, selecting fabrics (color and texture) to give a room character.

“What are the keys to imprinting your personal style to create instant character? We’ve enlisted three clever interiors experts to provide some design inspiration.” Tricks of the Trade, Elle Decor

If you can’t envision color, furniture, or accessories in your space, a new feature in the Houzz app could help. Houzz’s 3D feature for iPhone and iPad enables you to place items in your room and turn them around to any angle. The Houzz app, updated with this new feature for iOS, is available to download on the Apple App Store℠.

  • Lighting can be replaced such as ceiling fixtures, floor and table lamps, and/or add under-cabinet lighting. I have had great experience ordering through LightingDirect.com, quality and price. Anthropology offers unique lighting products.
  • Accent area rugs updated for a new look. My favorite in quality and investment is by Jaunty, ordered through an interior designer. Pottery Barn has a great collection. And, for a great bargain and selection…overstock.com. I have rugs in my home from all three of these sources.
  • Mirrors create a refreshing change in any room. A good selection at great prices can be found through; Home Goods, Hobby Lobby, Overstock, Hayneedle, and West Elm.
  • Art Work represents those updates that can make a big impact, from wall art to canvas prints. Resources and ideas…

Wall Art: Z Gallery, Tuesday Morning, Amazon.com, Overstock.com, Home Goods, or find unique art through local estate sales – EstateSales.Net App and Next Door.

Enlarge your own memories/photos, framing or ordering canvas art through  Canvas on Demand, Costco Photo Center, Snap Fish, Shutterfly, or your own favorite photo sources you have used in the past. Reframe what you already have displayed by using trending frame options.

Paint Color Tips

  • Warm colors on the color wheel makes a space appear smaller, pulling the eye towards a wall.
  • Cool colors make small rooms appear larger, pulling the eye away from the wall. 1558522-warm_cool_color_wheel
  • Another option…designate the ceiling as an accent wall; cool colors make ceilings appear higher and warm colors make a ceiling feel lower and the room cozy. Wallpapering a ceiling for a dramatic effect was recently shared at a Home Design seminar I attended.
  • Sunny rooms, consider cool colors and rooms that don’t get much do best using warm colors.
  • Search paint colors suggested for specific home décor themes at Houzz.com and The Spruce.
  • Internet search décor pillows in your selected style for popular colors and print trends, inspiring your imagination. Here are a few hyperlinked examples: ContemporaryCountry, Eclectic, Rustic.
  • Try different paint colors, virtually, through Sherwin Color Snap Visualizer or Houzz.com Virtual Paint A Room. You can upload photos of rooms/accent walls you want to paint and see the results with the colors you choose. Lowes Valspar Paint does an awesome job with selected color theme palettes…Trending Paint Colors & Pallettes. Four paint colors are pre-selected for each theme. LOVE THIS! And, click this hyperlink for Valspar Paint Visualizer.
  • Purchase paint samples and color test different areas of the room/wall to consider natural lighting. The color will appear different based on the amount of or lack of natural light. Live with the color for a few days.

Your home should feel comfortable to you and reflect your style. It’s OK to consider input from friends and family, yet, guard from being swayed to preferences that reflect the taste of others and not your own. Changing from one home décor theme to another might be easier then you think. Visit new construction model homes, watch the design shows on TV, visit websites such as Houzz.com and The Spruce, purchase home design magazines, save furniture store catalogs, and get ideas from retail store showrooms, seeking that feel good style. At retail stores snap a few photos of your favorite showroom displays, with permission from store staff. Consult with an interior designer, if needed, to lead your home transformation or for a second opinion. At the end of summer I’ll post my before and after photos. I invite you to share your home updates, too, with Modify readers and me! If you invite someone over who says, “looks nice but not my style”, be assured you did a great job creating a home reflecting “style and comfort” to those who live there!!

Resources

All resources referred are hyperlinked in each category noted throughout the blog article.

inspiration

Keep Walking… positive choices in challenging times

 

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A year ago, an unexpected job loss led to a stressful time. It’s that season in life when you sit back and wonder, “what just happened??” And, proclaim, “Oh my gosh! We simply can’t make this stuff up!” There is a saying…”we can’t control the actions of others but we can control how we respond.” It takes quite a while for this statement to make sense when a sudden string of storms blow through and all you want to do is hide for cover. It was at this time my husband said, “Deb, go write. You have been talking about starting a blog. This is the time. You need a positive distraction and a channel to share experiences.” At that very moment I went to my computer, researched best blogs, signed up with WordPress and began designing Modify…make life simple. I wrote from my heart and included categories representing different experiences, which brought inspiration and balance to my own life and hopefully…to others as well.  It has been one year since I began blogging. I’m grateful to WordPress and to all who have been and continue to be readers of Modify! You helped me heal. Thank you!!

To celebrate Modify’s first anniversary, feel it timely to write about positive choices in difficult times. Life is not meant to be problem free. My Christian faith is based on the belief that we live in a fallen world, which does not exempt some people from life challenges while others suffer inflictions. Everyone, at different seasons of life, will struggle. Trials might look different, but they are still trials; unexpected unemployment, serious health issues, martial uncertainty, relationship(s) strife, financial hardships, and loss of loved ones. This post shares what I found to be most helpful identifying positive choices in difficult times through spiritual faith, acceptance and truth, forgiveness and hope.

Spiritual FAITH

When life suddenly shifts as a result of unforeseen negative events…do not sit idle in stagnant waters. No one will join you there and eventually, feeling isolated in toxic waters will sicken you. When feeling overwhelmed, for me personally, praying and having others pray encouraged a desire to cling to my Christian faith and to move on.

“God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength but with your testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

  • Divine intervention empowers future hope and letting go of the past. God only gives us what He knows we can handle is a common response to the above noted scripture verse. Most twists in life, however, cannot be handled alone. My experience, therefore, reflects a different interpretation. The Lord only takes us where He knows He can meet us. It’s at this “meeting” (God dependence) where peace is found, feeling worthy is renewed, and confidence claimed…trusting His Will, care and direction.
  • Spiritual faith inspires moving forward, even when the weight of anxiety makes it difficult to do so. The Land Between…finding God in difficult transitions by Jeff Manion, notes…“We learn that the Land Between is about a journey of trust and that something flourishes there that could not be produced in any other soil.”

One of the messages from the book is about sharing experiences, which led to many of the blog articles written this past year, especially the series on Cultural Fit, referenced under Additional Resources at the conclusion of this article.

  • Embrace your spiritual faith. If you don’t practice a spiritual discipline, consider it. Divine inspiration from the inside out is steadfast and surefooted, a blessed gift and lift to rise above circumstances that might otherwise be impossible to achieve. Christian faith encourages forgiving the past and moving forward in hope of new life.

Acceptance and Truth

Serenity Prayer – Reinhold Niebuhr, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Being able to move forward leads to the healing steps of acceptance and truth and the courage required to progress here. Accept the truth of what happened and what you cannot change. Then deal with your feelings about it.

  • Articulate your interpretation of what happened. Before you can accurately express your narrative, peel away any emotional layers concealing truth. Work through and let go of self-blame when the situation is beyond your influence. Release the compelling temptation to grip on to guilt. Process those feelings of inadequacy or self-condemnation that can take root in your heart.

“Brown tells Oprah during an interview for “SuperSoul Sunday.” Things that are beyond your control are just that: beyond your control. Don’t let yourself make up a story that suggests otherwise. Pay very close attention to your internal narrative, Brené Brown says.” Huffington Post – The Best Way To Deal With Things That Are Beyond Your Control and Rising Strong by Brené Brown

“Grief, fear, and our deepest feelings of failure can make us blame ourselves for causing what happened or, at least, failing to cope with it.” There Is No Good Card For This: What To Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful, and Unfair To People You Love.

  • Accept the reality of what happened. Confront your feelings about it. Stuffing eventually bursts under built-up emotional pressure, emotionally and physically harmful. Guard against the interpretation and insights of others that could define your narrative, including comparisons that rob you of properly processing because… your circumstances by far don’t compare to their own. Choose carefully with whom you share your struggles and if needed, seek professional counseling to help process in a healthy manner. The input of others should help refine your narrative and feelings, not replace it.

“All our difficult ties involve some degree of shame, fear and loneliness. At times like that, we don’t need anyone to impress us or skillfully talk us out of our pain. We mostly just need the kindness that compels anyone to try.” There Is No Good Card For This: What To Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful, and Unfair To People You Love

“It can feel quite isolating or even invalidating when someone is trying that ‘Cheer up’ approach, or comparisons like, ‘It’s not so bad, look at the people who have it so much worse’,” explains Tal Schlosser, Clinical Psychologist at My Life Psychologists. 7 Ways to Support a Friend Through Sad Times Without Trying to Cheer Them  

  • Face truth and let go by writing out your narrative. This is a productive exercise to summarize what happened, releasing the overwhelming stress that accompanies unexpected trials.

“Writing things down on paper can be an amazing way to gain clarity and keep the facts straight. It’s as if the process of moving thought to hand makes it harder for us to lie to ourselves.” How to Cope When Life Does Things You Can’t Control 

Forgiveness and Hope

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19

  • Forgiveness releases accumulating anger towards people and circumstances involved in that “twist of fate”.  In some cases legal action may be necessary. Even through this avenue of seeking justice, forgiveness is needed to rise above deeply rooted negative feelings that impact emotional and physical well-being. Forgiveness is a gift for you and not for others and it does not imply denying what has happened. Forgiveness is a powerful means for moving on.

“Although you can’t change what has happened, none of us are powerless. We all have the power to choose our next step in life even if we can’t change the one that came before.” How to Cope When Life Does Things You Can’t Control

“Forgiveness comes when we’re able to recognize that the other person’s actions were more about them-their own motivations and context-than about us.”  There Is No Good Card For This: What To Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful, and Unfair To People You Love

  • Forgiveness is freedom to hope again. It brings relief from those we mistakenly granted permission to shape our suffering. I find it difficult for bitterness and hope to share the same space. Process-out toxic feelings with forgiveness as your goal and HOPE as your destination.

“During tough times, our emotions run the gamut: denial, anger, fury, despair, numbness, isolation, desperation,” according to Laura Fenamore’s Tiny Buddha post. “In order to heal, we must feel. But we have a say in what we do with our feelings.” When Circumstances Are Beyond Your Control

  • Choose HOPE. When we “keep walking”, the heaviness of despair is lifted. Small steps are perfect steps. We heal and HOPE is realized. Know the power we all have to choose hope and embrace our convictions. This past year I came to understand…

# Rejection/failure tests our convictions.

# Dwelling on rejection and/or negative judgments from others only releases the trajectory of our future in the hands of the wrong people. Resist this temptation!

  • Be in control. Practice attention management. The quote below says it all!

“Attention management is the practice of controlling distractions, being present in the moment, finding flow, and maximizing focus, so that you can unleash your genius. It’s about being intentional instead of reactive. It is the ability to recognize when your attention is being stolen (or has the potential to be stolen) and to instead keep it focused on the activities you choose. Rather than allowing distractions to derail you, you choose where you direct your attention at any given moment, based on an understanding of your priorities and goals.” To Control Your Life Control What You Pay Attention to...HBR Maura Thomas, March 18, 2018

Reclaim your life by recognizing positive choices in difficult times, which begins by processing feelings of denial, anger, bitterness, and despair. Release the unrealistic expectation that life is flawless and free of problems because this is a myth. Unexpected trials are a part of life for everyone…you are not alone. Grip firmly to spiritual faith as the cornerstone to overcoming hopelessness. Accept what you cannot change. Seek truth in those circumstances beyond your influence. Find freedom through forgiveness and relish in newfound hope. Celebrate small steps moving forward. Life has four seasons. Be inspired to keep walking and you will find that spring does come, again. Modify…keep life simple began a year ago, last spring!

Resources

Additional Resources

Cultural Fit Series

Life Lesson

Triage for the Caregiver

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A Caregiver’s Guide

 

         The capacity to care is the thing that gives life its deepest significance and meaning.                                    Pablo Casals, World-Renowned Cellist

Longer life expectancy means we are becoming a triple-decker sandwich generation, caring for kids or grandkids, helping aging parents as well as managing our own life and medical needs, while often times maintaining a two-income household. Overwhelming! Frequently, we become victims believing the only choice is to make it all work. Stress can be incredible when striving to please everyone and be that perfect caregiver. Elderly parent care can include: medical advocacy, managing financial affairs, shopping and household duties, transportation to personal care appointments and running errands. Sometimes moving a family member home is the best choice but can be daunting managing one’s own personal life and existing responsibilities/relationships. Caregiving can also include attending to ill or disabled children (young or adult) or grandparents assuming responsibility to care for grandkids when adult children are a two-income household. Wherever you may fit in the caregiving category, and whether you are single, married, employed or not, you are juggling care and responsibilities of another and may be placing all or part of your life on hold to make caregiving work. This article offers suggestions on how to survive the role of caregiving without ultimately sacrificing one’s own health and well-being.

“When done in the right way, caring for a loved one can bring pleasure—to both you, the caregiver, and to the person you’re caring for. Being calm and relaxed and taking the time each day to really connect with the person you’re caring for can release hormones that boost your mood, reduce stress, and trigger biological changes that improve your physical health. And it has the same effect on your loved one, too.” Family Caregiving, Helpguide.org

Healthy Boundaries

Every caregiver deserves a cushion to refresh mentally and physically. And, those being cared for need a cushion, too! Sometimes a misconstrued belief convinces both the caregiver and the care receiver it’s best to depend on maintaining status quo, care as always managed in the past. This idea can lead to guilty feelings, straining relationships and blocking the caregiver(s) from reaching out for help and delegating responsibilities.

“If the caregiver is worn down or frustrated or responding to guilt, they are not providing the very best care that they could to their loved one. Those emotions drag us down,” explains Deborah Ford, in practice with Agape Home Care in Williamsburg, Virginia. How to Set Boundaries as a Caregiver, Caring.com

Trying to tackle it all, being available 24/7, is an unrealistic sacrifice that ultimately works to everyone’s disadvantage. Establishing healthy boundaries does not require justification or approval from anyone other than what works best for the caregiver(s), the care receiver, and communicating when help is needed for cover. It’s important to encourage the care receiver to also participate in decision making, when feasible, engaging with suitable choices to build confidence. Although best intentions, family members hoarding choices/decisions can inadvertently lead the patient to survival in a vacuum of despair, isolated by limitations. And, experiencing life on the sidelines can be a fast path to depression. Below is a list of healthy boundaries to consider.

This seems obvious on the surface but you’d be surprised how many of us behave as if we must respond to every demand with an outpouring of our time and energy. I’ve noticed my own tendency to turn requests into objects of resentment because I immediately assume each one is a “should do.”….But then, rather than an email saying, “I can’t do that,” I wondered: what if I sent an email that said, “Here’s what I can do (instead).” The Five Lessons in Setting Boundaries That Every Caregiver Must Learn, Huffington Post

General Boundaries

  • Schedule your day(s) off. This could be one full day per week or more, if you are able. Being available 24/7 is not healthy for anyone.
  • Triage requests received from the person needing care, medical staff and family members. Immediate responses are usually not necessary.
  • Block time each day for caregiving, time for yourself, as well as time for others. Let friends and family know your schedule, such as…I’m available after 4PM. Maintaining your own social network is needed and healthy.
  • Take urgent calls. Incoming doctor calls (set a unique ringtone) take priority and having to return them is not easy; navigating voicemail, long hold times and often playing phone tag. If others know in advance why you are taking a call, (in the middle of a meeting, family time/dinner, or social event) you won’t feel rude doing so and they will (hopefully) understand, without the need for justification.
  • Phone calls, not anticipated, can go to voice-mail. It’s not necessary to pick up every incoming call. Messages will be on voicemail to respond, when you are able, by return call or perhaps sending a text or email.
  • Say “no”. Your full availability before caregiving may not be feasible now. Accept this and others will, too. Overcommitting will eventually affect you, emotionally and physically.
  • Sleep…be consistent with a schedule. Well rested will serve you well and provide needed patience, a caregiving requirement.
  • Exercise… provides needed endorphins that clear the mind and reduce stress. A rigorous daily scheduled walk is just as good as a gym workout. Keep it up!
  • Embrace that you are WORTHY to have boundaries. Don’t be tempted to justify downtime and don’t be swayed to do so based on a comparison of responsibilities. The Five Lessons in Setting Boundaries That Every Caregiver Must Learn, Huffington Post says that being is more important than doing. Resist the temptation to feel...“I’ve often felt that I need to do more in order to make up for something I feel is lacking in who I am. That if I do more that’ll help everyone get past the general concern they all must have about my worthiness.”
  • Manage stress in ways that work best for you. Kaiser Permanente offers solid recommendations in this posted article…Stress Management.

Boundaries That Divide and Conquer

  • Identify all caregiving needs and responsibilities.
  • Identify what you are able to cover and what you can delegate.
  • Identify suitable choices and tasks the care receiver can have ownership. Relieves the caregiver of some tasks and inspires the care receiver with an “I can” attitude.
  • Match responsibilities to family members’ time and abilities and friends offering to help...medical advocate/coordinator, banking and bill paying, financial investments, home/real estate, grocery shopping and meal planning, transportation and general errands.
  • Connect with local community resources.

Seek personal referrals to local community services. Often times medical groups work with social services who can offer resources for home care, transportation services (providing transport to and from errands and medical appointments) as well as to community centers for social interaction. Always check current reviews. Well rated a few years ago may not be well rated today. I’ve identified a few outdated resources while being a caregiver. Share findings, especially to the social worker to update printed resources. Offering such feedback is graciously welcomed! My favorite transportation resource is Get Up and Go through the Peninsula Jewish Community Center.

Time Saving Boundaries

  • Mail order prescriptions is easy! Avoid driving to a pharmacy and long lines.
  • Email medical staff for non-emergency medical communications through protected online healthcare portals. Email directly connects to medical staff and avoids long phone hold times and the need to leave lengthy voicemail messages. I have found emails are forwarded to covering medical personnel if the email recipient is out of office. Email is also ideal to include photos of suspicious skin issues, healing wounds or other pertinent health concerns.
  • Request phone medical appointments instead of office visits, which can often suffice for follow-up exams. If needed, during the call, physician can suggest and schedule an office visit.
  • Text message medical staff if permissible (HIPAA concerns), especially great when communicating with medical coordinators, physical therapists and occupational therapists managing appointments. Huge time saver!!
  • Seek in-home nursing if offered by your medical group to avoid medical office visits for in-person routine follow-up checks.
  • Refuse automatic appointment scheduling, if this does not work for you. It is frustrating to receive a notice about a follow-up office appointment that isn’t feasible and calling the medical office (HOLD time) is the only way to reschedule. An 8AM appointment for someone in their 80’s and your commute is an hour away? You can request another time!! I share from experience.
  • Forward mail to avoid accumulation before you or a family member can get to the mailbox. This is also a time saver for the family member paying bills.
  • Paperless, if feasible, for all bills and monthly statements. Considering online auto bill payment, too.
  • Set up online ordering and delivery such as Amazon Prime Account for shopping, including groceries. Most grocery stores also provide online accounts and grocery delivery. HUGE time saver!!

Communication Boundaries

  • Use an online shared organizer, such as HUB, sharing calendars, lists, tasks, etc, with all those involved in caregiving duties, which prevents additional coordination/communications, overscheduling and efforts being duplicated.
  • Use an online meal organizer for extended families, friends, church groups and neighbors who want to help and prepared meals are needed. Meal Train is a great online resource.
  • Group text or email is ideal to communicate needs and updates to family sharing in caregiving. Text is best for urgent and brief notes. Email is ideal for lengthly updates and to file pertinent information in email folders for easy access, when needed.
  • Use an online connection portal, such as Caring Bridge, to keep all family and friends up-to-date at the same time, when dealing with a chronic health journey.
  • Be transparent with family members involved with caregiving. What one family may know the other may be seeking an answer. Avoid unnecessary duplication and communicate what you are working to solve/know… so everyone is aware.

It is far too easy for a caregiver(s) to neglect personal needs and existing relationships. Guard against feeling stressed and succumbing to a feeling of obligation and guilt, which can lead to unrealistic expectations. Be aware of extreme fatigue, which can skew reality when overshadowed by false perceptions, leading to bitterness and resentment damaging to relationships. Managing your emotional and physical needs, is, your responsibility. Establish boundaries to shape a healthy team instead of being or feeling like a solo act, wherever you may fit in the caregiving category. Find time to honestly assess what you can and cannot do. Reach out for help. Delegate where possible. Include the care receiver to cover suitable responsibilities, which will inspire and build confidence. Respect everyone’s time and contribution, including your own. We can all be effective caregivers and still live life joyfully. Communicating needs and seeking outside resources offers the opportunity to spend quality time with those in care. TRIAGE yourself! Be an effective caregiver and give yourself permission to take care of your needs, too.

Resources

Bargain Boutique

Thrifty Treasures

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Often times we find ourselves either doing a closet purge, replacing furniture, or looking to change color scheme or décor style. What happens to the items being replaced? The golden rule in our home has always been, if it is in good shape, DONATE. What we are not using, someone else can! Could we sell items on Craig’s list, Next Door, or local town social media swaps? Yes! However, we have always felt inspired donating to a charity that aligns with a cause we are passionate about. This is a true win/win approach that benefits a worthy cause and offers a great opportunity to those looking for bargains.

5 Reasons To Donate To Thrift Stores  “Most thrift stores are created and run to benefit a specific cause. Many of them donate a portion or even all of their proceeds to a specific cause. From churches to, families to the homeless and many others, there are so many causes that you can be helping by donating to a thrift store. With the ability to donate to a good cause, give your clothing a second home and even finding some new pieces for yourself, it’s clear to see that thrift store shopping is a true win-win!”

Donating can be complicated because not all are organizations are non-profit. Some charities are for-profit and may not be clear about which charities they support, if any. This blog post shares information about how to choose items to donate, when to recycle, popular thrift stores and their profit or non-profit status along with charitable organizations supported.

Donating What You Are Not Using

Quality counts when donating to thrift store centers. Clothes, furniture and other household items (small appliances, vases, and home décor items) that are torn, stained or cracked most likely won’t lead to a successful sale. If a thrift store item(s) reflect a condition you wouldn’t purchase, then someone else probably won’t purchase it, either. Many years ago my husband and I donated a sofa to one of our favorite charities, Shepard’s Gate, a non-profit organization “Helping Women and Children Escaping Cycles of Addiction, Homelessness and Abuse”. When the truck came to pick up the sofa, which we had thoroughly cleaned, we were complimented on the new furniture we purchased and asked where to go for the sofa being donated. The men were shocked when we pointed to the sofa and said, “this one is for you.” We were surprised to hear that often donated sofas are stained, torn/holes, which are difficult to sell.

What happens to items received that are in poor condition? They get BULK sold and can end up in 3rd world countries, undermining domestic commerce thereby making it difficult for townspeople to become economically self-sufficient. Landfill is another destination for such donated items, which cannot be sold. Neither of these destinations are good options.

I rely on thrift stores to keep my family clothed and fed. What you donate matters By Melinda Selmys  “Getting rid of trash donations can cost thrift stores money in garbage fees and makes extra work for volunteers. Dumping your drawers out into a box and expecting someone else to deal with it is not generous or environmentally conscious; it’s just inconsiderate.”

Rags or riches? Why thrift stores sell some donations and toss others“Goodwill Industries of Denver, which operates the Fort Collins Goodwill and 28 others in the Denver area and Northern Colorado, discarded 1 in 3 donations in 2014. Call the store to double check that it can accept your donations.”

Often times the large bags we keep in the garage to collect clothing can collect unwanted visitors that squeeze through small spaces. Keep charitable giving bags inside the home, perhaps in a closet, to keep pests out.

9 Secrets of Thrift Store Employees “A former Goodwill employee who did a Reddit AMA once found a rat at the bottom of a bag of clothing. It made the entire back room smell, and we had to get rid of all the clothes.”

To fully support the charitable organization you are passionate about, donate items that are in fair shape, suitable for resale, so your contribution is a benefit and not a burden. Items that are not “donate suitable” can be recycled and eventually used for reproduction of fabrics, goods, and furniture. Check local recycle resources in your community. How to Recycle Clothing and Accessories Recycling Guide will lead you to recycle locations.

Thrift Stores and Charitable Organizations

The following is a list of popular thrift store organizations. Thrift stores can be unique to certain states and towns. The listing below contains national, state and local community organizations that might be available in your area. Check your own local thrift stores, determine if they are non-profit or for-profit and the supported charity/charities. This article offers an insightful summary… This is where your thrift store dollars are really going. The listing below includes some of the stores noted in the article.

Salvation Army Non-Profit  7,546 centers nationwide stocked with clothes, furniture, decorations and, of course, unlimited odds and ends. In addition to addiction rehabilitation and housing, Salvation Army offers Christmas assistance (dinners, gifts and community events for families in need), prison ministries, hunger and homeless relief and work against human trafficking.

Goodwill  Non-Profit  There are currently 3,000 stores nationwide stocked with everything from household goods to clothing. In addition, Goodwill offers community-building and job assistance for those who are underemployed, formerly incarcerated or disabled — though there has been controversy over how disabled employees are paid.

Housing Works  Non-Profit  There are currently 12 stores, all in New York City, offering antique furniture, high-end designer clothing, books and yes, even coffee. Additionally, Housing Works offers housing services, legal advocacy, medical and dental care, job training and rehabilitation.

ARC  Non- Profit ARC Thrift Stores distributes the proceeds to the ARC and ACL Chapters in your community. ARC Thrift Stores’ mission is to ensure that all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families have the opportunity to decide how they live, learn, work, and play. We work, with your support, to create opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to be included in their communities.

Catholic Charities  Non-Profit  National Organization Catholic Charities extends the healing ministry of Jesus Christ to the poor and those in need. . Marisol Services, affordable housing, shelter services, early childhood education, family, kinship and senior services/home based counseling, emergency assistance, parish outreach, counseling

Habitat for Humanity  Non-Profit  Habitat for Humanity Stores (New Items), Habitat for Humanity ReStores (Donated Items) Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit housing organization working in nearly 1,400 communities across the United States and in approximately 70 countries around the world. Habitat’s vision is of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

Treasures DE Task Force Non-Profit Non-profit human service organization dedicated to providing assistance to people in Colorado’s Douglas and Elbert counties who are in serious economic need, at risk of homelessness, or in a similar crisis. In 2016, Treasures on Park Street generated $386,993 in revenues which are used to help our neighbors here in Douglas and Elbert counties who are in financial crisis. Through thrift store sales we are able to provide funds to buy food for the Food Bank as well as monies to get heat, electricity and water turned back on, the rent paid, or emergency lodging funded for clients in need.

Beacon’s Closet  For-Profit  Beacon’s Closet donates clothing deemed unsellable to Garage Sales Against Violence as well as other charities.

Savers and Value Village  For-Profit – Small percentage goes to non-profit charities. Savers discloses how much it gives to various charities resulting from sales of donated items.

Buffalo Exchange  For-Profit  Also supports various charities.

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Silver candle holders, my thrift treasure find, $10/pair!

Internet search thrift stores in your local community. Call the organization if the website doesn’t clearly indicate whether it is for-profit or non-profit, or to know the charity/charities being supported. Take the time to prepare donated items to be a benefit to charitable organizations/people who depend on your generosity. Your effort today will make the lives of those experiencing difficult challenges, a bit easier tomorrow. If you know someone who wants what you don’t, and is willing to pay for it, consider donating the money received. When you can, visit the thrift stores you support to see what sells and what doesn’t, to help plan your future donations. You might also come upon an awesome find yourself, and someone else’s generosity is now your thrifty treasure!!

Resources

 

home spaces

Spring Into Action!

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Spring is a celebration of new life. Your home, inside and out, deserves a fresh start, too! Below is a comprehensive listing of how you and your family can organize and refresh your living space this spring.

Getting Started

  • 1-2 large Plastic Bin for items to give-away.
  • 1-2 large Plastic Bin for items to keep.
  • 1 roll Large Plastic Garbage Bags for items to throw away, if beyond usable.
  • 1 notebook to list household repairs and “To Do’s” or use mobile phone NOTES.
  • Schedule purge and cleaning projects on your calendar. Remember, this is a process and not a one-day job.
  • If you employ a housekeeper, make a copy of this list and highlight the housekeeper’s responsibilities. Remember to do the same to identify your tasks.

Make a list of spring-cleaning you would like your housekeeper to cover. Meet with him/her to review. Discuss housekeeping chore changes, if any, you would like implemented. This may include areas of the kids’ rooms and bathrooms in order for your children to carryout specific tasks.

Home Interior and Exterior

  • Closets – Take stock of clothes, coats, shoes, and handbags. Include your family in this process. What you’re not wearing, someone else most definitely can. As a family, choose your charitable organization and teach your children how to share with joy. Great lifetime habit!
  • Pantry – Reorganize and toss all outdated food products such as canned and jar food items, yeasts, etc. I used extra office supply containers in my pantry, which work great! Love the “extra shelf”, an under-shelf rack, from the Container Store!  All pantry storage items from the Container Store, click HERE.Processed with MOLDIV
  • Take stock of your kitchen cabinets. Too many mugs and stemware? Place extras in your charitable contribution bag. Need to replace your dishes, pots, and pans?
  • Dust all ceiling lighting fixtures, fans, corner cobwebs, door-frames, air vents, and baseboards. Note any replacements and repairs.
  • Remove pillows and cushions from sofas and chairs to vacuum, fluff, and turn over.
  • Dust and clean window treatments and blinds.
  • Dust artwork and photos hanging on the walls or displayed around the home.
  • Clean and/or replace and silk flower arrangements.
  • Clean or replace planter boxes for plants.
  • Vacuum around the fireplace. If you still have a wood-burning fireplace, schedule a chimney sweep.
  • Clean all glass doors, mirrors, doorknobs, and cabinet knobs.
  • Remove all books from shelving, dust shelves and wipe down books.
  • Check electrical cords for frayed wires. Replace, if needed.
  • Schedule carpet and window cleaners on your to-do list or schedule with a service.
  • Check walls for marks and paint chips. Schedule a fresh coat of paint, if needed.
  • Check window and door frames for seal repair.
  • Wood-siding home? Check annually for dry wrought and repair before damage becomes unsafe and costly.
  • Check for termites.
  • Roof holding up? Check for needed repairs or replacement.
  • Using your heater too much this winter? Check home insulation. Sealed and insulated homes keep heating and air conditioning bills down.
  • Send winter comforters and blankets to the dry cleaner. Turn bed mattresses. Replace beddings and linens. Throw sleeping pillows in the dryer to fluff. OR, replace well used and past “comfy” sleeping pillows.
  • Purge outdated pharmaceuticals, including cold and flu bottles, past the expiration date. This includes pet medications that are not longer needed. Old vitamin bottles tend to accumulate in the kitchen cabinets so clear these out as well.
  • Check grout on kitchens and bathrooms. If the grout needs cleaning or touch up, schedule someone to come in and do the job or put it on your DIY list.
  • If using a bathroom shower curtain, replace it annually.
  • Seal marble and granite.
  • Dust china and/or buffet cabinet shelving, china, and crystal. Polish silver.
  • Review CD’s, DVD’s, and movie videos, if you still own these. Purge or give-away what no longer meets your needs. See what you can give to charity.
  • Outside the home, check gutters and outdoor paint. Schedule cleaning and repairs.
  • Landscape and gardening, plan for DIY or discuss seasonal changes with your gardener as well as any improvements for the coming year. Remember to take proper care by fertilizing and pruning trees, too.
  • Replace front door wreaths with a spring and summer theme.

Home Safety, Functionality, Design

Spring cleaning also includes safety of your home and reviewing its functionality to align with the way that you live best. You may want to work with an interior designer. Knowing that it can takes 6-12 weeks to schedule service workers, plan and schedule a remodel and for delivery of ordered or custom furniture, you may want to consider this list ASAP.

  • Check batteries on smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
  • Rearrange furniture for better floor plan use in how you live. Photo illustrates changing the feel of a family room layout from confined to an open, inviting and inclusive social area, ideal for entertaining. Replaced large oversized sofa with a smaller 86″ sofa, (Ethan Allen – Chadwick), better scaled for the room.Processed with MOLDIV
  • Furniture need replacing or repair? It’s time to set a budget and start your search.
  • Appliances need to be updated?
  • Display Bath towels need to be replaced?
  • Fresh coat of paint to update and give your home a current fresh look?
  • Do you need to add lighting in your home? This is especially important in reading areas, home office and where children are doing their homework.
  • Review all closets and note which could use built-in organizers. Replace wire hangers with felt or wooden hangers. Rearrange clothing, shoes, handbags, color coordinated for easy access. Winter furs, if any, placed back in storage.
  • Take care of maintenance on your piano or other musical instruments.
  • Eliminate paint that you haven’t opened in 2 years. Companies like Lowe’s, Habitat for Humanity, and PaintCare accept leftover paint in order to recycle it. You can also search for a hazardous waste drop-off facility in your area at Earth911.com.
  • Family treasures to be packed and marked in plastic bins if they are not already. Pack notes to share about the items with future generations. Consider garage shelving or HYLOFT systems for storing above your garage doors to eliminate boxes and clutter along your garage walls.
  • Have you inherited historical family treasures you no longer want? Call local museums and share your history with the community.

Home Office Refresh

  • Purge files you no longer need.
  • Bank, credit card, utility bill statements only need to be kept for one year unless they support tax return documents.
  • Tax returns and supporting documents need to be kept for seven years as required by the government.
  • Investment records such as security buy and sell orders, cancelled checks, and statements can be kept for three years.
  • Family documents such as health records, birth, marriage, death, divorce papers, school transcripts and diplomas in a fire proof safe or safe deposit box. See Modify post, “Must Have Unexpected Plan”.
  • Organizing home files by maintaining a system that works best and makes sense to you. A simple multi category approach, numbering system or color-coded are methods of maintaining a file system for hardcopy files.
  • Consider re-organizing your computer files and emails for simple access when needed.
  • How is that office chair on your back? Think ergonomic!

Tips And Tricks That Work.

  • Assign weekly tasks to the family, age appropriate, to maintain order in the home.
  • Baskets and décor bins are ideal for placing mail and other items kept in the family room, playroom, or bedrooms. Use clear plastic food containers in the pantry so you know when you need to replenish your favorites before you run out.
  • If you haven’t already, use a grocery list mobile phone app to keep track of your shopping list. I use LIST EASE.
  • If lacking space purchase under the bed storage containers for seasonal clothing, school supplies for kids, etc.
  • Purchase a file cabinet for each of your children. Let them create files for each school subject along with their hobbies and sport activities. Guide them in organizational habits and you’ll also eliminate accumulating paper and school projections. Let your children choose which papers and projects they wish to save.
  • Replace misc designated drawers with drawers that have a purpose.
  • Keep manuals and warranties in a binder using plastic protective sheets.
  • Keep magazine subscriptions to a minimum. Tear out articles you like and file or  take a quick cell phone picture of favorite articles and store as a computer file under “Recipes”, “Home Projects” or “Craft Ideas”.
  • When preparing a meal, use the backside of your cabinet door to hang a cooking recipe. This helps keep the copy away from food and in one location while cooking and prevents the risk of favorite recipes accidentally getting thrown out.

Spring is a beautiful time of year when the outdoors offer the sweet sounds of nature waking up against an amazing colorful backdrop of new life bursting through budding blossoms on plants, shrubs and trees!! The air is crisp and fresh. Spring rains (or wet snowfalls!) are washing our landscape, hills, and mountains. Walking back indoors, however, can be an unpleasant experience if the air is stale and the home is looking tired, dusty and cluttered. It’s time to bring the beauty and freshness of the outdoors in. But, where do you start?? Work through this comprehensive list and you’ll spring into action refreshing your home!

Resources