Chronically sick? Choose the right water filter.

Chronically sick? Choose the right water filter.

As a kid, I never thought about a water filter. Yet after being diagnosed with autoimmune diseases, I wouldn’t drink any water without one. How do I choose the right water filter? In this post, you’ll learn about drinking water and my journey of not submitting to bottled water. Plus you’ll understand what option is best for you and your family whether you live in the city or a rural area.

water filter which one to get?

Water has a lot to do with your health water is life! If you’re not getting healthy clean water, you might be setting yourself up for autoimmune disease and other chronic health issues. If there is one physical gift that keeps on giving, it would be clean drinking water. It sounds kind of boring; after all, water is thought to be a commodity. However, pure clean water is not necessarily everywhere. Whether you live in the city, the countryside, or overseas, clean nutritious water is hard to come by. In our recent move from city water to well water, drinking water became my #1 priority and it completely stressed me out. This situation is literally and physically taking a challenge and creating goodness from it.

Water and your health, does it matter?

Did you know that drinking water can affect your health? I’m not just talking about water-born bacteria like E. coli or Giardia; many other factors affect water that can weaken our bones, disrupt our digestive systems, and even hurt our heart health. If you think about it there aren’t many choices for healthy, balanced water; treated water is full of chemicals, bottled water can leach estrogens or containments, distilled water can rob you of essential minerals, and well water can have harmful levels of iron, arsenic, and lead to name a few. Talk about stress! This was where I was when we moved.

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Water and My Story

Water and I go way back. I now take it seriously and there are many reasons why I do. In college, drinking a lot of water helped me (tremendously) lose weight. Secondly, during my pregnancies, I got severely dehydrated due to HG which led me to get an IV multiple times. Thirdly, water is all I drink.

I grew up on city water, unfiltered. I drank it straight from the tap. In college, I drank it from the tap or drinking fountain. It wasn’t until 2007 that we decided to get a water filter. Before that time, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder in my liver, which then cascaded into other issues. Could it be that most diseases come from our water?

Nowadays, my digestive system is a sensitive one, so I need to be careful what I put into my body or my body will flare up. Not to mention, dehydration comes on pretty quickly, and water is the only element that keeps me stable. I highly recommend you get your water tested. You can call your township or city and ask them how to do it. There are kits online, but I’d go the local route.

So what are we to drink?

As you know, our bodies can’t survive more than three days without water. Sure you can drink coffee, soda, juice, energy drinks, and such, but those can be toxic to your system and cause all sorts of other health problems. And yes, water detoxifies your body, gives you energy, helps you feel good (better mood), and so much more! But what are we to drink?

Many would answer this question with bottled water. Bottled water first came out in 1767 and has gotten increasingly popular ever since! With recent worldly events, bottled water has been life-saving. I drink bottled water occasionally and am extremely grateful to have it on hand. But not all bottled water is the same. At the store you’ll see many options for bottled water, if you’re a serious water drinker it can be overwhelming. Let’s look at the pros and cons of bottled water.

PROS:

  • It’s convenient
  • Works in a pinch
  • There are many options to suit your needs

CONS:

  • Can be expensive
  • Different pH levels
  • Chemicals and estrogens leaking into water from the plastic
  • Not 100% sure what the water source is
  • Could contain added ingredients
  • Hurts the environment if you don’t recycle

IBD Triggers and what to do
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Water filter options besides bottled water

Some would argue that filtered water by a home water filter is the way to go. Yet, others are strictly from the tap. This is all personal preference, but the one that gives me confidence in what I’m drinking is from a home filtration system. What does this mean?

A home filtration system can mean a few things. It can mean refrigerator water, a water filter pitcher, an RO system, an under-the-sink water filter, or a countertop water filter. Let’s briefly take a deeper look into some of these options.

Refrigerator filter

Some people thoroughly enjoy their refrigerator water filters. The water is instantly cold and easy to access. Just remember to change the filter.  

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Water filter pitcher

Another route is the filtered water pitcher. The water pitchers are popular and do a great job. If you don’t drink a lot of water every day I’d suggest the water pitcher. You can put it in the frig or keep it on the counter. This option is better than buying plastic jugs of water.

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Reverse Osmosis

If you want 100% pure water, you’ll want to check out the RO System. The Reverse Osmosis System completely takes out all chemicals, bacteria, minerals, and good minerals from the water, so you are only left with H2O. This water tastes amazing! However, RO water tends to be more acidic, around 5.5 pH to 6.0 pH. This is because it takes out those minerals that balance pH. There are mineral filters that connect to the RO system to help put minerals back into the water, but I’m not sure about their effectiveness…the reviews are not consistent. Not to be a wet blanket, but I’ve heard the pH filters can be fickle from going from one extreme to the other.

More about water pH

And what’s up with water pH? I had no idea the pH level of water was different, but it is! Some water is alkaline and others are acidic. Ideally, you want to be right in the middle of it all. If water is too acidic it can eventually lead to health problems. The same goes true with water that is too alkaline. In our new home, I bought a ph tester and had chemistry class on our kitchen counter. It was fun testing eight different glasses of water. What I found was that some bottled water was acidic! Yet with the three different types of water filters, I had on hand: RO System, under sink Aquasuana, and countertop Berkey; the RO was acidic, Aquasana and Berkey were alkaline. I also tested our water softener water, well water, and other bottled water.

 

More water filter systems

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Under-the-sink filtration system

Yet, another route is to use an under-the-sink filtration system. We used this water filter system when we lived in the city, and we loved it! New filters were sent to us every 6 months, so we didn’t have to remember to get them. It’s super convenient and easy to use. This just gives you a little more peace of mind that your water is safe. We have been using Aquasana since 2007.

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Countertop filtered water

Countertop filtered water is yet another option for filtered drinking water. This water filter is gravity-fed using carbon filters. It’s easy to use, looks cool, and can even filter pond water ready for you to drink! This water filter is a rock star, it filters all the bad stuff out but keeps the essential minerals our bodies need like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. The pH level is where it should be, in the 7.0 range. If you drink a lot of water every day and don’t like cold water, I would highly recommend the Berkey Water Filter System. You just have to remember to fill it.

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So which one do I use on well water?

I asked this exact question when I moved into our country home and there wasn’t an easy answer. People around us all did different things. Bottled water was one, refrigerator water another (but I don’t like cold water), and water pitcher. It took me hours to figure out what one would be best for me. As I said before, water is the top beverage I consume each day. So if I’m drinking water with a lot of chemicals in it, then my body is getting a lot of chemicals. And with the health issues I have, my liver doesn’t need to work any harder than it needs to.

We have a water softener in our home, and I do not like drinking softened water. It’s a water-weight thing if you know what I mean. Soft water makes me bloated and I’m not a fan of excess sodium adding up in the body. So after many trials of different kinds of water filter systems, with softened water, without softened water, not to mention the different types of bottled water I tried, we finalized on a direct line from the well (non-softened water) to our drinking fixture on our kitchen sink; the drinking spigot goes through an under-the-sink water filter system, and then we filter it again with the Berkey. It’s a little complicated, I agree, but our well water is getting filtered twice yet leaving in those essential minerals our bodies need. I am a very happy camper and am at peace with our drinking water. And I feel great!

Water filter conclusion

Water makes a 100% difference in your health, hormones, mind, and inflammation. Do what is best for you, your body, and your mental well-being. Take your water seriously! My recommendations include:

#1 Get your water tested for containments, metals, and bacteria.
#2 Understand the pH level of your drinking water.
#3 Invest in a drinking water filter for you and your family.

For city water, the Aquasana under-the-sink unit or a Berkey do the trick.

If you have well water, a combo of Aquasana under the sink and a Berkey works well.

Out camping? I recommend a Berkey.

Campus water isn’t the best… a Berkey or a water filter pitcher works well.

All in all, the Berkey is the way to go.

Before you go, check out these other great posts:

Quick Healthy Meals On a Budget? 5 Criteria

Food Combining Does What? Manage stomach acid now!

How to Get Motivated: 4 Critical Tips to Start Anything

13 Natural Stress Relief Products for Anyone!

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By CT Copyright © 2021 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.

10 Free Things to do on Thanksgiving Weekend

10 Free Things to do on Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving activities can be more than shopping, tree trimming, football, and food! There are loads of Thanksgiving activities can we do…for FREE! Let’s dive into 10 free activities you can do with your family. I personally love #6. Make this Thanksgiving memorial and fun!

10 free things to do on thanksgiving weekend

1. Tell Jokes

Jokes can be pretty corny…get it…corny on Thanksgiving! See what I mean? Nothing gets the Thanksgiving table rolling or moaning other than a joke or two. Jokes for kids are great because they’ll probably understand it and join in on the laughs. Need some jokes? Download my Lunchbox Note Jokes! You can cut these up and put them in a hat, then pass them around the table.

2. Write out the things you’re thankful for

Take the time to write out all the things you are thankful for over this year. I know this sounds boring, but it will really help improve your mood and the room. For example, this year our family did a lot of camping. In years past, we would not have done that if it wasn’t for the pandemic, so I am very thankful for all the camping we did this Summer and Fall.  At your meal with your family, go around the table and read some things off the list.

3. What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving weekend?

Ask your family members what they like best about the Thanksgiving weekend, is it eating turkey and napping? Christmas shopping? Watching football? Playing football? Decorating for Christmas? So on and so forth. THEN, make those things happen for them in a safe (germ conscience) way; for instance, shop online together instead of going to the store (this one might not be free). Remember everyone enjoys Thanksgiving a little differently, it’s not all about you.

4. Do a little history lesson

Reflect on the first Thanksgiving. Get back to your roots and read about how Thanksgiving came to be. Research together online and have everyone find some fun facts. The History.com site is a good place to start (minus the ads). For kids, check out Kids.NationalGeographic.com. For some Thanksgiving fun facts, Goodhousekeeping.com has a great list of 25 facts. It would be fun to talk about these during dinner or dessert!

5. Movie time!

Pop some popcorn and turn on the movies! Thanksgiving weekend is a great time to kick back and have family movie time. Write down some of your favorite flicks on scraps of paper, put them all in a hat, and have someone pull one out.

6. Bring on the games

Play charades using the Thanksgiving theme. Or bust out the board games. Depending on the age of your kids, embark on The Ultimate Scavenger Hunt Challenge this is perfect for tweens! I have a post where you can download the scavenger hunt challenge. It’s super fun for the entire family!

7. Turkey Trot

Do your own Turkey Trot. Lace up the running shoes and head outside. Make a common goal, like let’s go three miles. Make your gobble call and get running! Or walk. If you have little kids, simply go for a walk and play I Spy.

8. Bonfire!

Build a bonfire! In fact, the Thanksgiving fun facts would be fun to talk about around the fire.

9. Declutter. Thanksgiving Activities?

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, while you’re digging out the Christmas decorations, declutter some closets to make room for gifts! This is a wonderful time to declutter and drop donations off at the local donation center. Here’s a post to help you out on how to simplify your stuff! You can find it here.

Simplifying advice

10. Crafts anyone?

Feeling crafty? Here is a super fun Thanksgiving activity for little ones. There are 40 ideas over at CountryLiving.com that you may want to check out.

I know that some of these free ideas are obvious, however, we all need a little remembering of what we can do. Let’s make the best of this Thanksgiving by doing what we can! What’s even better is that you saved a lot of money and miles on the car.

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By CT Copyright © 2020 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.

Martin Luther King Jr. in Child’s Eyes

Martin Luther King Jr. in Child’s Eyes

Every year we recognize Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday. Banks close. The Post Office closes. Public schools close. If you haven’t heard of Martin Luther King Jr. or haven’t understood his stand, he was the most visible spokesperson in the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. Dr. King believed in non-violence, he was determined, he knew his purpose, and he acted on it. He paved the way for peace. But what did my son say about it?

People do not seem to realize that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

When my son was 7-year-old he HAD school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. His school honors Dr. King by teaching the students about him…what better way to celebrate this day? His teachers explain what Dr. King was fighting for. The students experience his “I Have a Dream” speech. When my son first heard about this man he came home from school excited yet a little confused.

At dinner, our son started the conversation like this, “Guess what?”

“What?” we respond.

“Did you know… that some people had to go to different schools? They couldn’t ride the same bus or use the same bathroom because they were tan? That’s so weird.”

We respond, “Yeah, we know. Thankfully, it’s not like that anymore.”

I pause and ask. “Did you guys talk about Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech today?”

“Yeah.”

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What happened in our neighborhood

For you to understand the next question I asked my son, you need to know that we live in a diverse neighborhood. Our neighbors come from all over the world; we exchange smiles, conversation, baked goods, a cry on a shoulder, and a helping hand. We look after each other and even pray for each other. Our next-door neighbors and our neighbors across the street are African-American.

“Honey?” I ask. “Do you know anyone who is “tan” which is also called “African-American” in our neighborhood?”

Our son says, “No.”

My husband and I look at each other and smile. I wink at him.

“It doesn’t matter what people look like, does it?” I ask.

Our son says, “No, that’s silly.”

“That’s what Dr. King was trying to tell the world,” I explain.

“Yep. He did a good job,” he says, then continues to eat his apple sauce.

Whether our skin be light or our skin be dark; Peace only looks at the character of our heart.

If only we could be more like kids

What I took from this small yet huge conversation was that our son has lived seven years on this earth and hasn’t seen skin color. Children have this awesome power to look beyond the surface and see the heart. They are more concerned about how people make them feel, rather than what they look like.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr.

After this conversation, I was simply in awe of my son’s observations. And I hope and pray his views will continue as they are. Just remember, no matter how we were raised, it’s never too late to start looking at the world with the message Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to. You can make your own opinions and not be molded by what other influences tell you. Do more than exist, love all people the way you would like to be loved.

Before you go, check out these other great posts:

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How to Have a Happy Family: 3 Revolutionary Steps

How to Have a Happy Family: 3 Revolutionary Steps

We all want to have a happy family, but how do we have a happy family? Every family has its traditions, quirks, and drama. First and foremost, you have an amazing family. Family is fun in its own way, simply watch your family and learn what makes it tick. However, some seasons within the home walls can be challenging. How do we navigate through these times? This post will help you bring light to the surface and give you 3 amazing steps to learn how to have a happy family.

Put your seatbelt on for a ride that has game-changer effects on how your home and family feel. Learn how to be a better person, how to help your kid, and how to simplify life. Put joy back into your every day. Let’s jump into how to have a happy family.

How to have a happy family kids laying on grass

This is about who?

This is about who? Your family, of course, but more importantly it’s about someone else. Whether you’re a mom or a dad, or someone who has filled that role, how to have a happier family starts with the foundation, and that’s you. No special toy, no vacation, or no incredible treat is going to give your family long-lasting results. The only outcome with that will be a spoiled kid. I get it…that was harsh for me to say; seriously though, how to have a happier family is all about you (the parent).

Who said parenting was easy? You might not like this.

Babies are so cute. But babies grow up to be their own person, just like you. The way babies learn how to grow up is by watching, listening, and copying you. They watch your actions, they listen to every word you say, and to the tone you are speaking. They know how you treat other people, they know your opinions, they know your habits good and bad. Parenting is a responsibility, it’s not all fun and games, or a box to be checked off. So, if you want to have a happier family, then be a happier parent.

3 Revolutionary Steps to How to Have a Happy Family

Step 1. How to be a happier parent

A happier parent isn’t just a surfaced smile and a tickle attack. It’s much deeper than that, it starts with taking care of YOU and tending to your heart. Important note: There is a delicate balance between working on yourself and selfishness. A selfish parent is a toxic parent. But a parent who takes of themselves to better themselves is a healthy one. This is where self-care comes into play.

When you are at peace, when you are healthy, when your heart is full, when your relationships are in check, and when you love your job…your kids are going to feel the difference, your kids will copy you, your kids will learn how to have joy simply by watching and listening to you. In other words, if you want something to change in your kid…let’s say their weight, then YOU lose weight. Do that journey together! They need someone to learn from, to walk alongside them, to feel their pain with, and to meet them where they are.

Step 2. Get rid of the junk

Another thing you can do to help your family be happier is to lose the junk. As silly and simple as this sounds, picking up around the house makes a difference! Clean up the house and get it organized. This sounds all fine and dandy, but where do you start? You start with the things you can see. This means taking a look at your surroundings.

How to clean the house easily is a loaded task. What does “clean” mean? Does it mean dusting or organizing? Either way, get your home feeling lighter and brighter. Here are a few tricks up my sleeve to help your home feel happier and more welcoming.

scavenger hunt
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5 Fun Tips to Brighten Your Home

1. Open the shades and curtains. Natural light has a way of making you feel better. Check this Healthline post about natural light. Let the sunshine in!

2. Buy yourself some flowers. Flowers can bring bright colors or softness into your home. A vase of flowers is welcoming and a lovely centerpiece. There are great flower deals at ALDI, Trader Joe’s, and even Costco. Don’t forget about your local roadside flower stands!

3. String lights aren’t just for Christmas. They look kind of like fireflies! String lights are inexpensive for what they do. String them in a faux tree, along the fireplace mantel, around a window, or along the ceiling! There are endless options for string lights. There are the LED moving lights, those are fun, but they are not what I am talking about. When Christmas lights go on sale, buy a couple of boxes and have fun with them.

4. Clean the house. Yep. Get down and dirty and do a deep clean. I’ve got a post that may help you with this: Cleaning the House: 5 Factors to Understand. It talks about hiring a cleaning person to do it yourself.

5. Tidy up the yard. This is something your family can do all together. Pick up the garbage, trim the bushes, cut the lawn, start a garden, maybe power wash the siding or deck; make your house look like a home that cares. Did you know the appearance of a building makes a difference in how you feel about that particular place? Make your home welcoming, whether it starts at the street or the door of your apartment. Get it looking nice.

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Step 3. This step might get hard, but it will change the course of your life

Take care of yourself. I’m not just talking about your looks, yes, that’s important too, but I’m referring to deep self-care. Let me put it this way, your thoughts will eventually become your actions; Matthew 15:17 tells us this. Put POSITIVE things in your mind, through self-talk, good books, positive music, encouraging shows, and clean videos. You need a break from the darkness. Your soul needs it too.

Let me explain when you watch or listen to dark videos, movies, video games, foul language, or music; it’s an invitation for darkness to come into your world. Do you want that? Be aware and look around you. What do you see on your playlist? What do you see in your entertainment cue? Rated R? Horror? Crime? Do you feel that nothing good happens to you? Does something bad happen to you every day? Check out my post on Spiritual Warfare.

Breakfree now!

Allow yourself to break free from the world’s view of you. Tidy up your body by losing weight for good, clean up your diet, and get your body moving. Learn more about yourself and understand who you are, you may want to look back to see if you’re making decisions based on what others want for you instead of yourself. I call this “being stuck in a mold”. Please protect your kids from getting stuck in a mold that’s either coming from you, your parents, or their friends. When you allow your kids to discover who they are, they are going to be a happier camper.

Personal wounds? Listen up!

Address your personal wounds, yeah, I’m talking to you right now, not your kids. How to have a happy family is about the stability of the foundation. Remember that the foundation is you, the parent. Please listen with an open heart. This is so critical to your lifelong happiness and joy. We’re all wounded. But the families and couples that are full of joy and peace, are the ones who heal from their past wounds. So if you know how to heal, then you can help your child learn how to heal.

Deep personal wounds bleed into our actions and words, no matter how hard we try to hide them. How do we heal from past trauma? Yes, a counselor can help you, but be careful in finding one. There is only one person who can heal, Jesus. A great way to start the healing process is to pray and ask Him to come into your life. I have a prayer here to help you. Find a church either online or in your community and learn more about Him. He helped me, and I know he’ll help you too.

Hebrews 7:25
Jesus knows

Get to know Jesus. He knows what you’re battling with. He’s waiting for you to ask for help from him, so get to know him first. Read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible. When you feel it’s the right time, ask a friend who follows Jesus to pray with you. During this time, ask Jesus to go to that specific wound and to show you how to heal, to shine his light on it.

If there is anything in the post I want you to remember, it is this part. Jesus will heal if you grab His hand. I highly recommend you ask your church to pray for you and to talk to a Christian life coach or professional Christian counselor. Healing your wounds is a game-changer. Doing this, will not only help you, but it will help the people around you.

Uh oh. Are your kids getting in trouble? Buckle up Buttercup

Are your kids getting in trouble at school? Your kid who is misbehaving in school, your kid who is bullying others…(hang tight) this is your problem, not theirs. I’m going to circle around and ask that you do a personal check on what’s going on with yourself. What are you talking about when they are around? How are you talking, are you swearing, are you yelling, are you gossiping, are you judging and being critical? Are you even around? Did you move? A divorce? Change jobs?

Walk alongside your kid. They don’t know how to navigate through major issues. Walk through it together. Learn together. Talk with each other. Pray together. If they’re stressed, help them to know how to manage the stress.

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Finally, the fun stuff!

Whew! We had to take care of business before we got to the fun stuff. But like I said, how to have a happy family isn’t all fun and games all the time; most of the time it’s the little things like opening up the curtains, baking cookies together, communicating, or watching the game with everyone. Kick off the home happiness with a really fun and inexpensive time with your family, do this Scavenger Hunt Challenge. Seriously this is so fun and full of laughs, even your teenager will like it!  

Here are a few posts that you can do with your kiddos to brighten their day and yours for that matter! Please don’t forget to laugh and be goofy every once in a while. They may roll their eyes, but deep down it makes them feel loved. And remember, everyone wants a little “me time”. Be sure to give your kids a little bit of that special time with themselves so they can learn more about who God made them to be.

Kid Activities at Home: 10 Things You Can Do Right Now!

13 Family Games Worth Playing, Plus a Little History

8 Best Children’s Books for 4-year-olds

How to have a happy family conclusion

This has been a tough post to write and listen to for that matter. I need this post myself! If you want to know how to have a happy family, to have more joy in your home; then work on yourself. You got this. Your kids will be happier, more confident, and will have peace. Be sure to check out The #1 Way to Simplify Your Life for Good! Pay attention to the simple things that bring light. If you want more tips on simplifying, find some fantastic tips on how to simplify my life in 5 Best Pieces of Advice for How to Simplify My Life. Keep shining your light!

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By CT Copyright © 2022 Do More Than Exist. All Rights Reserved.
Benefits of a Garden: One Huge Reason to Take Up Gardening

Benefits of a Garden: One Huge Reason to Take Up Gardening

The benefits of a garden are more than growing pretty flowers and organic vegetables. A garden serves many purposes, but on this particular day, it served a HUGE purpose I didn’t see coming. Walk with me into my garden, this just may be the best-kept secret to peace, gratification, and an anxiety antidote.

benefits of a garden

The garden draw

There is something about flowers and vegetables growing in your very own garden. The benefits of a garden beam from our yards with vivid colors and luscious greens. The garden is so soothing to the eye, it draws me to be a part of that picture. If my garden looks peaceful, maybe if I go to it, then I will become peaceful?

Let me ask you this: where do you go when your heart is a mess? I hope that place is a haven for you and not somewhere toxic. Our hearts need tenderness and embrace. Whether that be a cozy corner in your home, a decorative closet, or the bathtub for a long soak. Depending on the season, my safe place is my garden.

In 2018 I found myself walking to my garden, but I didn’t go there to do my normal tending of it. I went there to sit in the dirt. I had a troubled heart and felt like dirt, so why not sit in it too? That was my attitude. If you don’t have a garden, don’t think this post isn’t for you. Each and every one of us has and needs a ‘garden’ for gardening, maybe for the sole purpose of why I needed it on this particular day.

seeds you plant

Dirt meets dirt

I was completely dumbfounded by how I got myself in this state. Do you remember as a kid when you got in trouble with your parents…the flush of prickly heat bursting from your heart like a firework going off? Yeah. It’s that feeling when you know you really messed up.

Believe me, this wasn’t an easy post to write; in fact, I wasn’t going to write it. But it dawned on me that when my human self learns something hard and valuable, I should probably tell someone…maybe it will help them in some way.

So here it goes. I unintentionally hurt a dear friend of mine. My doing screwed up a valuable friendship. I messed up. Part of me wanted to crawl into a cave, but the other half wanted to go to a place that knew me. So I went to my garden. As I looked over the rows of flowers and herbs I wrestled with scenarios. I tried to foresee the future. I played back my actions. Why did this happen? How did this happen? This came out of nowhere! My identity jolted.

In my garden that day, my gut was a trembling mess. My heart was anxious. I paced the paths and hid my face from my neighbors. As I dug for a tissue I knelt down and stared at the dirt. “Dear God, forgive me. Help me see the root of this action.” I blew my nose, took a deep breath, and got my hands busy. As I plucked little weeds and churned up the soil, layers of thoughts peeled off and exposed the truth. Wow, I didn’t see that coming. How juvenile. We all have our adolescent times, this was one of mine.

set yourself free

What blooms from dirt is beautiful

His presence in the garden that day was strong; there is no doubt Jesus met me where I was. I felt His comfort yet discipline. “What must I do to mend this mishap?” I asked Him. As I walked to the other side of the garden, facing a dripping mess, Jesus’ words “The truth will set you free” squeezed my heart. But I don’t want to tell the truth, I’m embarrassed, I said. 

“If it is freedom you seek, the truth will set you free”. After I wrestled with it for about 20 minutes, I dusted myself off and wound up the courage to do just that…tell the truth. What do I have to lose that I already have lost? As soon as I expressed the truth of the matter to my dear friend; my stomach stopped tossing, my mind stopped spinning, and I felt the imprisoned shackles unlock. I exhaled and knew I made the right choice. Thank you.

gardening quote

The benefits of a garden

Gardening is a task where we get our hands busy. Our garden is a place where we can be alone. It is a moment in time when our soul is unguarded, where we can let it free and know it’s safe. A place where we cradled the unique ability our Creator gave us. So what’s your ‘garden’? What place knows you? A woodshop, craft table, mixing bowl, knitting basket, sketch pad, kitchen, garage, where is it?

The benefits of a ‘garden’ no matter what place that is, will take you to peace and resolution. It’s there where we can be raw, where we can lament, and feel safe. It’s the garden that serves as a therapy session, to think through our struggles, to problem solve, and let go of what’s holding us back.

When we’re feeling troubled where do you want to go?

me in my garden

Our ‘garden’ opens her arms. She knows that when we get on our knees, we need her touch. She knows we need to get busy, so little projects present themselves. It’s quiet. We’re focused. As we work, the surface looks brighter. It feels good. But as we move through the ‘garden’ and dig a little deeper we find a few deep-rooted invasives. These weeds have been there a while. Seeds from their fruit are ready to plant themselves. Is that what we want?

The thistles on the stalk pierce our touch. We may step back for a bit, but find that if we gently grab the very thing that hurt us, we’ll then have the power to wrench and wrestle it free.

Our garden understands the pain that comes with breaking free. So she prays. And because our soul is defenseless to her love, we feel the hope she prayed for. It’s within our gardening where tears nourish her beauty. Where truth is told. And where strength might persist. It’s a place to rejoice when we pull the weeds out and plant new life in its space.

Benefits of a garden conclusion

Gardening does more than entertain and strengthen our talents. Our gardens listen, they heal, they comfort. I’ve got some questions for you: What is keeping you captive? When are you going to do something about it? Who do you need to talk to?

I encourage you to visit your special place this week. When you’re there, whisper loud enough for you to hear, and talk about what imprisons your heart. All you’re doing that day is getting the frustrations out. Then revisit your place later in the week. Get your hands busy. And ask God for help. You may not hear anything right away, but as you live your life over the next couple of weeks be aware of your surroundings, and open your senses. He’ll talk to you and give you the answer.

Before you go, check out these posts:

Claim Your Life Back: 7 Steps to Fight Spiritual Warfare

How to Have a Happy Family: 3 Revolutionary Steps

How to Reduce Stress in Your Life: 10 Breakthrough Tips

Nature Quotes: The Power of the Outdoors

Hobby Ideas +13 Reasons Why You Need a Hobby NOW!

Do More Than Exist Stay Connected

By CT Copyright © 2018 More Than Existence, All Rights Reserved.

Stress-Free Moving: 2 Critical Steps

Stress-Free Moving: 2 Critical Steps

Stress-free moving sounds amazing and IS possible, the trick is to know what stresses you out and beat it at its own game. Moving is one of the biggest stressful events in someone’s life. It’s no small task whether you’re moving down the street or across the country; there is nothing easy about moving. And when things get hard, stress is sure to surface. I recently moved and was caught off guard. For some reason, in my mind, I thought moving was a matter of taking our stuff from one place to another, simple, right? Yet, moving is so much more than that. Learn what creates stress when moving and what I did to relieve it.  

The #1 thing you must do for stress-free moving

This post isn’t about packing boxes or creating piles of “keep”, “donate”, “recycle”, or “pitch”. Let’s imagine that the boxes and furniture are dropped off at the new house. You have packed up your old house and are now in the new home. At this moment in time, your mind is swirling: I need to make the bed, clean the toilets, wash down the kitchen, change the address, set up the internet, grocery shop, get the kid’s rooms figured out, etc. However, if you’re like me, the very first thing my mind gravitates towards is getting the environment functional so I can accomplish all these jobs and get organized. In other words, if my “workspace” isn’t pleasant, I won’t be pleasant.

Step 1 in stress-free moving: Home Odor 101

Satisfy the nose. This is the air you breathe! What does your new home smell like? Are you happy with that? If not, what can you do right now to fix it?

The smell in our new home was not good. I said goodbye to stress-free moving because the smell was driving me nuts! The home is 19 years old, and as you know with age comes odor. The first thing my nose grabbed was the numerous scented candles the previous owner lit. I asked her about all the candles when we walked through the house for the first time, and she told me she was stressed and candles calmed her. Well, she certainly was stressed a lot, and come to find out, I think the house stressed her out!

Most of the time scented candles smell good, but when you get too much of a good thing, nothing is good. Yes, candles can help the house smell better in the short term, but it’s just masking the real problem. Hence, there was a smell in the basement, which gave me a sense that mold was present.

HOW TO FIX THE SMELLS

There were a few things we did to fix the smell issue in our new home. For the candle smell, we ended up painting the walls and getting new carpet. I know painting and new carpet isn’t something we all can do right away, but a good wash of the walls and a carpet cleaning will help! You can rent carpet cleaners if you want to do it yourself.

As for the basement and the musty/mold smell. We hired a mold guy who found the mold right away. Please note; bleach is not going to kill all molds, you can make it worse. Hire a professional. The other thing we did to help with the home odor was get a dehumidifier. This helps prevent mold from growing and aids the musty smell. In addition, I placed bowls of baking soda around the basement. After all that, the smell is gone! You can also try new charcoal briquettes. The fresh charcoal will absorb the odors. Take an empty coffee can or decorative container and fill it up with the new briquettes. Change them out every so often.

Step 2 in stress-free moving: Good Drinking Water

This may sound simple but how to move stress-free is to get your water working for you. Normally, I wouldn’t talk about this because we never had a problem before, but since we did this time, I felt I should address it. We moved from city water to well water. I was not prepared for the challenge of drinking water. Thankfully we were involved with heavy iron content, in which we would need an iron curtain. However, the new home has a water softener; this was something we were not used to. Drinking softened water was not my thing; my body clearly told me to stop. So now what?

To keep a long story short, after I tried many options including bottled water and various water filters, we ended up filtering the well water twice for our drinking water and I love it!  I have a post on this if you want to learn more about how we did it, you can find it here.

seeds you plant

6 Bonus steps I don’t want you to forget

Since recently going through this experience I didn’t want you to forget about a few small things that make a BIG difference in moving stress-free. Here are an additional 6 items you want to pay attention to.

1. Kitchen cabinets – be aware!

Other issues in a home you should keep your eye on are the kitchen cabinets. Are they sticky? Do they have handles? Do they slam? A quick fix for us was a good scrubbing with Dawn Dish Soap and putting soft pads on the doors so they didn’t slam. We still don’t have handles, but we can easily add those later. If you’re handy you can install a soft-close on the cabinet door. The kitchen clearly stressed me out.

2. Lighting

Be aware of the lighting. Where are the dark spaces? LED light bulbs or LED lights do the trick. Again, these are quick fixes until you get your more permanent plan. In a pickle? Grab a box of string lights and have fun with them. String lights also lighten the load and can reduce stress!

3. Cleaning

Clean everything. Everything should get cleaned unless you want to live with the previous owner’s dead skin cells. This includes the windows and the sills. If you can clean before you move in this would be ideal. If you can’t clean, hire it out or clean after you move. I know cleaning the house is not fun, but get a jumpstart on your housecleaning from the get-go!

4. Change the filters

Make sure you change the furnace filter and clean out the dryer. Change the refrigerator filter while you’re at it, then you know how long you have until it needs to be changed again. Please check the batteries on the smoke detectors.

5. Window coverings

A good clean of the blinds or drapes would be recommended if you have them. If you don’t have window coverings, do you want blinds or curtains? We lived in our house without window coverings for a good three months before we decided on curtains. Please note, we moved to the country.

One more thing about window coverings, natural light does wonders for your mental wellbeing. Don’t be afraid to open the shades during the day and allow light to come in. You can learn more about natural light in my post: How to Have a Happy Family: 3 Revolutionary Steps

6. Find your space. This is SUPER important!

One last critical step to how to move stress-free is to find your space. This may sound silly, but everyone needs to find their private space in their home. This is a place where you can go and be yourself without judgment. For instance, I have a little room in the basement where I write my blogs and create my Etsy products. It’s a little messy but organized in my mind. It is my playground, where I can be without having to think about toys, order, and other house details.  Be sure to set boundaries so you can have some time for yourself and relax.

Do More Than Exist Shop

Wrapping it up

Moving stress-free is possible. When I move again the 3 things I would do differently is to have the mold guy come before we moved our stuff in. The second step would be to check the water. If I had the time, I would for sure take the time to clean the new empty house before unloading our stuff. Moving isn’t my first rodeo. I have moved at least 10 times in my life, however, this move was by far the most stressful!

Remember, you don’t have to change everything at once. This was hard for me to do in this stressful house. Be strong and live in the house for a while. Pay attention to your patterns. When it’s time, put your spin on your new home. And don’t forget to introduce yourself to the neighbors. Enjoy your new space!

Before you go, check out these other great posts:

Do More Than Exist Stay Connected
By CT Copyright © 2022 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.
How Cookie Dough Gave Me Super Powers – Plus Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe!

How Cookie Dough Gave Me Super Powers – Plus Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe!

Want super powers? I’ve got 5 ways to feel like Wonder Woman. You’re not going to want to miss this. PLUS! You get an amazing gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe!

The setting, can you relate?

Tears streamed down my cheeks. “Dear God, how am I going to do this? I have too much going on…too many hats to wear: Christmas shopper, decorator, home manager, wife, mom, personal banker, blogger, volunteer, and now a student?”

I enjoy these many hats, I really do! But this December I got carried away. I had a hard time sleeping, completing a thought, and taking care of my own physical ailments. I felt like I just existed. Don’t get me wrong it had its fun times with family and friends; but there were challenging, brain-draining, and humbling realities scattered throughout the month.

how cookie dough gave me super powers
Get the recipe below, plus where I get the special ingredients.

“You let this little thing tell you what to do?”

– Diana (Wonder Woman)

Wonder Woman Activate

During the second full week in December, my expectations for myself were stupidly unrealistic. Not only did I have the usual Christmas preparations and home duties, but I started an online class! WHAT? “Wonder Woman Activate!” I would say to myself. “Wonder Woman Activate!” I pictured this tall, confident, strong woman with fists on hips seamlessly doing everything with a smile and wind blowing through her hair. Talk about superpowers.

“Wonder Woman Activate! I can do this.” Then out of nowhere, a hawk landed on the back deck. Was this a sign? BARK! Bark, bark, bark! My dog saw the hawk… I snapped out of my dream. There I stood looking outside. My eyes stung. My arms crossed. And a golf ball-sized knot grew in the nook of my neck.

cookie dough and super heros

“Wonder Woman Active”, came out of my mouth like a broken record. My mantra did not work.

I found myself on my knees. My dog looked at me and knew what was ahead, annnnnd…yup…there it is.

Tears streamed down my cheeks. I stretched my neck from side to side and bowed my head with fingers intertwined, “Dear God. Help. Help me manage all this.” After a few minutes of “sob-fest”, I sat there on my knees. It felt good to take a breather. Real good. So I gave myself a time-out. I stood up and walked to the kitchen. My praying hands unfolded and tied the strings to my apron. A deep breath filled my lungs as I closed my eyes to envision my ‘go-to’ recipe… Christy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Wonder Twins

As my hands got busy, my tangled world loosened up just enough to welcome in some wandering. A heaping cup of flour, a pinch of salt, and a few hardy shakes of cinnamon were ready to be mixed. The beaters spun. My brain zoned in on the mesmerizing hand mixer. The hum of the beaters, the swirl of the dough, and the smell of sweetness filled my senses. Then it was as if time clicked into slo-mo. Thunk-a, thunk-a, thunk-a. Each beater spun with poise. Each beater focused on the job. Together they mixed the ingredients with accuracy. I watched them work. Thunk-a, thunk-a, thunk-a. Wait for a second…I watched them work. All of a sudden I was back in the Hall of Justice! This time I wasn’t looking to utilize the powers of Wonder Woman, but of the Wonder TWINS!

My “Wonder Woman Activate” affirmation was wrong. I laughed out loud about my realization, my confusion. Let’s try this: “Wonder TWINS Activate!”

I quickly found a picture online of the Wonder Twins. Oh my gosh! Remember Gleek the monkey? Zan and Jayna’s purple bodysuits? Whoa…I have Jayna’s same haircut!

While cleaning the cookie dough bowl…with my finger…I still laughed about the superhero mix-up. As I detached the infamous dough-draped beaters my thoughts went back to my reality. What was I trying to prove with this juggling of hats? That I could do it all? That I could be that strong woman who holds everything together?

A blow to the gut

For one last lick, I swiped my finger in the umbrella of the beater. As I was enjoying the flavors I felt a brick hit my stomach, not because of the raw cookie dough, but because I understood my madness.

I was trying to achieve all these things to prove to myself that I could do it all. And do it…all…by…myself. Why?

It was at that moment realized there was a little something telling me what to do…i. The very letter that is in the center of pride, anxiety, and exist! Pride was getting in my way. Anxiety was stealing my joy. To just ‘exist’ was sabotaging my goals. I was holding me BACK!

It wasn’t the tasks I needed to manage; it was my motive that needed attention.

What did I do next? Five things.

  1. I asked God for clarity and perspective.
  2. I found my Wonder Twin. And called on them when needed; whether to physically help, to listen, or to be my cheerleader. “Wonder Twins Activate!”
  3. Took things one small step at a time, step, by step, by step.
  4. Made time to hang with my family and put aside the “I”.
  5. Gave myself permission to take a time-out every once in a while and baked cookies.

gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe
Print

Christy’s Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Soy-free chocolate chip cookies
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Keyword chocolate, cookies, dairy-free, gluten-free, low-fat, nut-free, soy-free
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 11 minutes
Total Time 23 minutes
Servings 10 cookies
Calories 145kcal
Cost $3.00 for batch

Equipment

  • Glass mixing bowl
  • Handmixer
  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoons
  • Cookie sheet
  • Parchment Paper
  • Wooden spoon

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Coconut Oil do not melt
  • 1/4 cup Brown Sugar do not pack down
  • 1/4 cup Cane Sugar
  • 1 egg Prefer organic egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 cup King Arthur's Gluten-Free Baking Mix Baking mix. Use a heaping cup.
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup Enjoy Life Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips Mini These are allergy-free, read package.

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 370. Tear a sheet of parchment paper and put it over the cookie sheet.
  • Add the coconut oil, brown sugar, and cane sugar to glass mixing bowl and mix with hand mixer until mixed together
  • Add egg, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar. Mix until together
  • In a separate bowl, add a heaping cup of King Arthur's Gluten-Free Baking Mix, salt, and cinnamon. Hand mix with a fork.
  • Gradually combine both bowls while mixing with the hand mixer. Mix until all together.
  • Fold in Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips Mini with a wooden spoon.
  • Scoop dollops of dough about the size of the wooden spoon and place on the cookie sheet. Allow 1-2 inches between dollops.
  • Place the cookie sheet in the oven and set the timer for 11 minutes.
  • While cookies are baking, clean-up the dishes. Please don't eat raw cookie dough due to the egg. We don't need tummy aches.
  • When cookies are done, slowly transfer them to a cooling rack if you have one. Otherwise, remove the cookies from the cookie sheet in a minute.
    gluten-free chocolate chip cookies

Notes

Calorie count is a guesstimate for one cookie when baked. It depends on the size of the cookie. Also the cost of the batch of cookies is also an estimate.

Wrapping up my superpowers

For the remainder of the month, my Wonder Twin and I worked together. We joked as we cooked meals, we encouraged each other to manage the house, we were present with each other, and we played games with our son and dog.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work…” Ecclesiastes 4:9

This past December taught me something unexpected; my real superpower came from putting the “I” aside.

The cookies I baked that day didn’t last long. I made another batch that coming weekend. Who knew cookie dough would be so powerful?

My favorite baking tools and ingredients

Here are some of the ingredients I use for my cookie recipe. Don’t forget to use a glass mixing bowl! Plastic bowls have a tendency to add unwanted flavors to the cookie dough, plus there are chances of chemicals or plastic leaching into your delicious cookies. I use these, you can find them on Amazon.

Click the picture to head to Amazon.

Click on the picture to buy on Amazon.

Best allergen-free chocolate chips on the market! Get yours on Amazon.

Before you go, check out these other great posts!

How to Reduce Stress in Your Life: 10 Breakthrough Tips

How to Get Motivated: 4 Critical Tips to Start Anything

9 Easy Ways to Learn More about Yourself

5 Important Ways to Measure Success Without Numbers

The BEST Gluten-Free Granola Bars EVER!

Food Combining Does What? Manage stomach acid now!

More recipes!

Do More Than Exist Stay Connected

By CT Copyright © 2018 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved.

Christmas: What Serving Others Does for You

Christmas: What Serving Others Does for You

Are you looking to have an awesome Christmas this year? A Christmas that will have meaning? I know I am. This past month I researched Christmas, that’s kind of funny to say, we all know Jesus was born and it’s about His birthday. But I sought out more understanding of Christmas and how I can make it more meaningful. Who knew it had to do with our own personal identity? Buckle up for an ‘Ah ha’ moment and 3 amazing tips!

Serving Others Benefits

What’s up with ‘Merry Christmas’?

In 1843 it was Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” that introduced the word ‘Merry’ for “Merry Christmas”. The dictionary defines Merry as cheerful and lively. Occasionally you’ll hear “Happy Christmas”, but “Merry” fits the bill. The word “Christmas” originated from “Christ’s Mass” which literally means a group of many people gathering to celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th. In fact, this celebration started in 313 AD, three centuries after Jesus’s crucifixion. Interesting isn’t it?

The history of gifts

For most people, Christmas’s meaning equals presents. Gifts are fun! Even for those who are hard to buy, yes, it’s a fun challenge. How did gift-giving come into play on Christmas? Well, it’s not a black-and-white answer:

1– It started in Europe as a pagan custom around the Winter Solstice, a celebration to mark the shortest day of the year. It falls in the range of December 20th-23rd each year. At this time ancient Rome would celebrate this day by gift-giving.

2– Around 336 AD December 25th was established as Jesus’s birthday in which the solstice gift-giving tradition leaked into the Christian holiday. Some believe that gift-giving started with the three Magi (wise men) giving gifts to baby Jesus.

3– On top of that, Santa Claus was introduced by a fourth-century Greek bishop who was a gift giver, Saint Nicholas. His legacy gradually blended into the Christmas celebration.

So “Merry Christmas” is a combination of things, but one thing is for sure, “Christ’s Mass” has stood the test of time. Jesus came to save us from our sins so we would have the opportunity to have life after death. “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost”, says Jesus. And in Mark 10:45 Jesus also says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Do More Than Exist Shop

How serving others comes into play

A few years ago I read Matthew Barnett’s book The Cause Within You. He talks about his experience of listening and obeying God’s cause that He placed in his heart. Based in LA, he tells great stories about how people off the street, the homeless, drug dealers, and prostitutes have completely turned their lives around by focusing on Jesus and the cause God placed in their hearts. How serving others, rather than serving themselves and their addictions has changed their life.

He says, “As soon as you start thinking about the needs and burdens of others, and what you can do to alleviate them, or how you can bless and build up others, you begin to establish a new identity for yourself – your true identity. “ (page 38) This brings on meaning! Meaning for living.

Think about that for a minute. Christmas is the most popular time of year to give; not just presents. Just look at the Christmas movies: It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, or even Die Hard. Yes, I just referenced Elf and Die Hard in the same sentence. But hear me out, they all have something in common.

Lunchbox Note Jokes

Time is of the essence

Let me ask you this, what do you think would be a powerful way to celebrate the birth of Jesus this year? Sure we can give tangible gifts or donate money to a cause, those are fantastic ideas! But what about your time? Your precious time?

What about sacrificing a slice of your time and putting your talents to work to take the burden off someone else? Helping a neighbor with a project? Lifting someone up with a little encouragement? You might say, “But I do that already Christy” But do you do it with Jesus in mind? Do you consciously say, “Hey Jesus, let’s bless someone today! Use me. Work through me. Let’s do this!”?

I love this statement from Rick Warren, “What matters is not the duration of your life, but the donation of it. Not how long you lived, but how you lived.” In the Bible, 1 Peter 4 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” But here’s a bonus in all this. If you think serving is just for the person being served, you’re missing it.

What does serving do for you?

Serving others produces being Merry. It gives you meaning and purpose…do I dare say dream life? Serving mysteriously produces a deep joy in your heart.

1 – To serve others gives significance. Putting our talents to work to help someone else is meaningful for us. It warms the cockles of God’s heart. And generates joy in your own.

2 – It produces gratitude both for the servant and the person being served.

3 – Serving brings us back to earth. Serving helps take the focus off what’s going on inside us, to what’s going on around us. This helps us put our own lives in perspective, need I say, to learn more about ourselves.

victorious people were never meant to settle

3 Tips on Serving Others:

1. The Golden Rule. Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
2. Vision yourself helping.
3. Pray for opportunities in which you can help someone out.

Wrapping up Christmas and serving others

I have an experiment for you to try this month to gain more meaning in this holiday. I bet you know what it is. Serve with the mindset of giving a gift to Jesus; use your time, talents, and strength to give back to Him. Not sure where to serve? Don’t make this complicated. Open your eyes and pay attention to your surroundings. He’ll tell you.

One more thing, I encourage you to experience a “Christ’s Mass” and attend a Christmas Eve service at church this year.

Before you go check out these other great posts:

How to Reduce Stress in Your Life: 10 Breakthrough Tips

3 Essential Tactics for Holiday Eating

9 Gift Ideas to Warm the Body & Soul

Gluten-free Molasses Cookies with Peanut Butter

Do More Than Exist Stay Connected

By CT Copyright © 2018 More Than Existence, All Rights Reserved.

6 Simple Ways to Save Money on Valentine’s Day

6 Simple Ways to Save Money on Valentine’s Day

Let’s save money on Valentine’s Day this year. You’ll get my 6 simple ways to save money on Valentine’s Day along with a little history about February 14th. Explore my simple and inexpensive gift ideas for you, your family, and your friend; but first I gotta tell you what I learned about this ‘loving’ holiday, it certainly surprised me!

ways to save money on valentine's day

Valentine’s Day originated from a Roman festival. It had nice intentions of celebrating the coming Spring. Because as we know, with Spring comes rebirth. The Romans capitalized on this season and promoted fertility at this time. Side note; if you have a November birthday, your parents probably practiced the Roman tradition. LOL! Anyway, what I didn’t expect was a dark side to this ‘lovers’ holiday.

The Dark Side of Valentine’s Day

This Roman festival included, what sounds like, arranged marriages by a lottery. Say what? All I can picture is taking a ticket at the meat counter and waiting for someone to call my name and hoping and praying I was attracted to him. This does not sound very romantic, but they did it!

According to legend, there was a priest whose name was Valentine. The story isn’t clear whether the priest secretly married people behind the emperor’s back to spare men from war, or if the priest signed a letter to a jailer’s daughter “from your Valentine” which created havoc. Either way, the emperor, Caludius II Gothicus, martyred him! Yes murdered the guy named Valentine.

As for Cupid, he represents the Roman god of love. Are you as confused as I am? This holiday is messed up, murder, love, lottery, and a naked baby with a bow and arrow. The Romans back then had some mental issues.

What We’re Spending

I get it that we’re celebrating this guy, Valentine, but “Be My Valentine” or “Will you be my Valentine?” sounds weird to me now that I understand the back story. Frankly put, these days, retailers use the holiday to get more business. In 2019 53% of all Americans spent a total of $30 billion. Heart-shaped candies and decadent chocolates get me all the time, but I spend maybe $25- $50 on Valentine’s Day, that’s including dinner. However, the average person spends about $225 on one person. There is nothing wrong with that. Your significant other’s love language may be ‘gifts’. But if you’re on a tight budget there are other ways to go about showing your love.

Save Money on Valentine’s Day with Simple Ideas

Valentine gift ideas under $25

The Card

The average cost of a Valentine’s card is $4.99. That can add up with kids and even pets. Yes, they have cards for pets. Three kids alone plus a dog could cost $20. Ouch. Here’s a different idea, back in the day, my husband and I were strapped for money, and so instead of buying each other a card, we took a picture of the card in the store and then shared the pictures with each other. I know that sounds lame, but it was quite fun. There are many benefits to this: it’s inexpensive, saves the environment, and you can keep it on your phone forever! In fact, if you found more than one perfect card, you can take a picture of that one too!

As for kids, homemade Valentine’s are the best. Any kind of gift made with our very hands means so much more than something you buy. Download these Valentine’s joke valentines for kids from my Etsy Shop!

The Gifts

Unless it’s your birthday on Valentine’s Day, big gifts are out, at least in our home. Money doesn’t buy love. Time does. Time with your spouse, friends, kids, and pets says a lot more than the latest video game. What are they going to remember more? The gift and who got it for them? Or will they remember the memory of playing Battleship and Clue and the epic popcorn-launch-in-your-mouth game? Actually, the Game of Clue might be appropriate for Valentine’s Day…remember Roman times? Here’s my skinny on gifts and what we do in my family. Candy.

The Candy

Candy is instant, enjoyable for everyone, and easy. Get whatever is their favorite sugar bomb. I know it’s not the healthiest, but skip dessert and have the candy instead…don’t forget portion control. My son loves those Sweetart Hearts, my husband is all about Nerds, and me, well, my hands-down favorite of all favorites is See’s Candies. Seriously, these are the best chocolates I’ve ever had. AND they are gluten-free! If you don’t have a retailer near you, you can order online, believe me, it’s worth it. They are SO good!

The Flowers

If candy isn’t your thing, flowers do make a great gift. Here’s the kicker. Keep the flowers simple. They don’t have to be red roses. The jester is what counts. Recently, my husband stumbled upon white roses at Trader Joe’s. He got a dozen for like $7.00. Can’t beat that, and they lasted a long time. They were beautiful. Thank you Trader Joe’s! The other option with flowers is to go for the carnations. They are a simple flower that comes in a variety of colors. A large bouquet is about half the price of a dozen roses (roses not from Trader Joe’s). I like to mix carnations and roses like in this picture.

The Touch

Besides the gift of time, sweet treats, and flowers, touch is just as important if not more. Touch is another language of love. It’s definitely my husband’s. Intimate time with your spouse or boyfriend is probably all they want for Valentine’s Day. Stop spending your money on other things, just give him some lovin’. As for kids, snuggles or tickle attacks while watching “Be My Valentine Charlie Brown” serve the best of both worlds for the child and mom/dad. Feel goods with hugs and laughs with tickles are a joy to the heart.

Get from Amazon

Save money on Valentine’s Day dinner

Let’s talk about dinner. If it’s just your spouse/friend with you, you’ll spend an average of $50 at a restaurant. And don’t forget to tip! Oh, did I mention the babysitter? As for time, Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest nights at restaurants. You may have to wait for a table. I didn’t even mention traffic or the weather.

A different option is to have a candlelight dinner at home. This saves time and is a great way to save money on Valentine’s Day. I know it may sound boring, but that’s up to you. Dress up, get some music playing, and have your kids wait on you and play restaurant at the same time. It’s something different to try this year.

At the grocery, you’ll spend at least half of the amount on a meal than at the restaurant. Get some steak, salad, and garlic bread. Start up the grill and “By the Power of Grayskull, I HAVE THE POWER!” Yes, I have dated myself with He-Man. Dinner at home can be fun for everyone! Save money grocery shopping too, check out my tips here

Final Tips for a Great Valentine’s Day

Lastly, decorating with construction paper hearts tapped on the sliding glass door gets everyone in a loving mood. This is an easy way to save money on Valentine’s Day. You don’t need to go all out with decorations. Keep it simple. It’s a gentle reminder that Valentine’s Day should be fun and not filled with a martyr. Now, don’t forget the chocolate! For more ways to manage money, be sure to check out my post on No More Money Problems.

Before you go, check out these other great posts:

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By Christy Copyright © 2020 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved. 

Hobby Ideas +13 Reasons Why You Need a Hobby NOW!

Hobby Ideas +13 Reasons Why You Need a Hobby NOW!

Have you ever gotten overwhelmed, in a funk, or frustrated about the pace of life? Having a hobby can help quiet the roar of chaos and make you feel human again. I’ve got some great hobby ideas for you. But wait! I know what you might say, “I don’t have time for a hobby”. I used to think that way too, but after a little experimenting, I found my hobby to be a superhero to my mental health. Let’s get a better understanding of why a hobby helps us then get hobby ideas to try out.

Hobby ideas

What exactly is a hobby?

A hobby is an activity that someone does for pleasure when they are not working. The keyword in that definition is “not working”. The hard part is knowing when to stop working. What I love about a hobby is that time isn’t ticking in your ear. You’re not looking at the clock to see when your shift is over. A hobby is your gift to yourself, so you can be yourself! When we’re under heavy stress our bodies produce more cortisol which can be harmful to our health. But when we’re engaged in, let’s say, a hobby, we’re producing the ‘feel-good’ hormones.

I like to look at a hobby as a type of recreation that rejuvenates your spirit. It’s an activity that challenges you in a way in which you want to be challenged. You see, your hobby is YOUR hobby. No one can tell you how to do it unless you welcome the suggestions.

IF I can create the minimum of my plans and desires, there shall be no regrets. Bessie Coleman

Top 13 reasons to get a hobby:

1. Helps enhance meaning in your life.

2. Gets the creative juices flowing.

3. Increases personal satisfaction.

4. Builds self-confidence and self-esteem.

5. Relieves stress.

6. Gives you something to talk about other than work.

7. Helps you meet new people.

8. Contribute to society or the community.

9. Boosts brain power and cognitive function.

10. It has the potential to create extra income.

11. Gateway to happiness.

12. Helps prevent boredom when boredom can be harmful to you. Let me expand: overeating, depression, drug use, looking at things you know you shouldn’t, or alcohol use usually come into play when we’re bored. Boredom and its adverse effects are going to get the best of us at times, but when we have a hobby we have an easy way out and can focus on that.

13. The icing on the cake about a hobby is that it actually helps you do a better job at work. CNBC posted an article about how a hobby can improve your work performance. For one, it helps prevent burnout. As said earlier, it helps inspire creativity and enhance your problem-solving skills. A hobby helps reduce stress. 

More on hormones.

silhouette standing in start

Hormones are a love/hate relationship. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. As said earlier, the most damaging hormone is cortisol which is produced in our bodies when we’re under stress. The good news is that happy hormones do exist, but to get them we must do a few things. There are four major blissful boostersendorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. Each hormone serves a different purpose, in a nutshell, this is what they do:

  • Endorphins are essentially the body’s painkillers. Vigorous exercise or even eating spicy food releases endorphins.
  • Serotonin is the mood mediator. Get outside. Being in the sun helps our bodies produce vitamin D, which helps produce serotonin. Even low-intensity exercise helps.
  • Dopamine is a gratifying hormone, in terms of goal achievement. It’s all about goals and achieving them to bring on the dopamine. We set an achievable goal and go after it, when we reach it, dopamine is experienced.
  • Oxytocin. This is the love hormone. I think my husband has an abundance of this one! LOL. Physical contact, hugs, massage, and sex release this hormone.

When it comes to your hobby, aim to achieve one of these hormones. Now if you want to experience all the bliss boosters at once, you might want to look into “R5HHPJ” as your hobby: Run 5 miles while holding hands with your honey, drinking hot pepper juice from your water bottle…now that’s a hobby!

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What are some great hobby ideas?

This is a loaded question because you can make a hobby of your own; the trick to finding one you love is to try some on. Here are some hobby ideas for you to check out:

Knitting, exercising, reading, sales shopping and discount hunting, start a blog, music, woodworking, organizing, auto work, boating, horseback riding, hobby farming, candle making, photography, dance, winemaking, beer brewing, cooking, traveling, wilderness survival, Bible memory, drawing, painting, decorating, gardening, hunting, fishing, camping, running, write a book, kayaking, cycling, walking, surfing, sewing, essentially any sport, collections, puzzles, and pretty much anything other than work.

Remember a hobby is something that gives YOU personal enjoyment yet still a little challenge to enhance your well-being. Think of it as keeping your hands and mind busy getting lost in creativity. This could very well be the peacekeeper you’ve been looking for to help balance life.

In conclusion

There are some great hobby ideas out there to suit you, you just need to experiment with which one or ones find your fancy. Hobbies do change too. Pay attention to when you might be phasing out of one hobby, so you can start searching for new hobby ideas. Just remember, hobbies are not a waste of time, they are our therapy to keep us happy.

Before you go, check out these other great posts:

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By CT Copyright © 2019 More Than Existence All Rights Reserved

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