Eat the Sweets!

Fitness entered my life when I became my grandmother’s full-time caregiver 14 years ago.  My daily exercise routine allowed me to de-stress and clearly focus on my caregiving duties.  I wasn’t concerned with a 6-pack or diamond triceps.  Through the days and months, each daily workout became part of my strict schedule.  I began to notice concentration and endurance improvements.  The days didn’t seem so endless and my mood drastically improved.  I began to ENJOY physical fitness and being fit!  It provided stress relief, encouraged a healthier lifestyle, and gave a boost to my self-confidence.  However, I’m not addicted to fitness or healthy eating.  It doesn’t dictate my life.  I’m 5’6″, 125 pounds and can eat more than my husband.  I love food!  Especially CANDY AND DESSERTSBut, can you stay fit and still eat those delicious sweets?  YES, you can eat sweets and still have a beach body!

1.)  Create an Exercise Routine

Create an exercise routine that fits your schedule.  I allow myself 30 minutes each morning for exercise.  Why 30 minutes?  Initially, only 30 minutes were available during my hectic caregiving schedule.  But after trying various exercise routines, it was evident that I lost interest in the routine if it was longer than 30 minutes.  A half-hour each day works for me!

2.)  Mix It Up

Boredom is one of my biggest complaints when exercising.  The same daily routine becomes monotonous over time.  I recommend integrating different workouts into your schedule.  Take your routine outside….weather permitting.  Ride your bike instead of running your usual mile loop.  Variety is key to persistence and dedication during your fitness journey.  

3.)  Eat Health-IER

I’m not considered a healthy eater.  But, I try to eat healthier.  Many people are under the impression that becoming physically fit involves low carb diets and eating only celery and carrot sticks.  WRONG!  Becoming and staying fit is achieved by creating a balance between exercise and eating.  Your body needs carbs and fats.  Without these your body will become depleted and lack energy for everyday activities.  My advice….eat healthier versions of the foods you enjoy!

4.)  Splurge and Indulge

I’ve tried fad diets and eliminating sweets.  My end result….binge eating on any cookies, cakes, or ice creams available!  Eat the sweets, but in moderation.  My current fitness routine includes eating a delicious cookie before starting any workout.  I eat health-IER throughout the day.  Dinner is followed by my favorite mini candy-bar.  Sundays are reserved for a bowl of ice cream.  Including these sweets in my daily diet eliminates my carb and sugar cravings and keeps me motivated.  No binge eater here!

Striking a balance between the things you love and fitness creates an overall healthier lifestyle.  Who doesn’t want to feel better about themselves or be less stressed on a daily basis?  I want you to realize that you CAN be fit and still EAT the things you love.  Life’s too short not to indulge in sweet delicacies!  Thank you for reading!  Now go eat a cookie and start working out!  Take care and good luck!

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‘Tis the CAREgiving Season: The holiday/caregiving balance.

I love the holidays!  Decorations, glowing fireplaces, winter wonderlands, Bing Crosby, and gift-giving.  Long chats with family of days gone-by and sounds of children laughing while opening gifts.  But, the holidays can also be a stressful period.  From long lines at the checkout counter and limited holiday budgets to delayed flights and burnt cookies….it’s not all holiday cheer.  Now, add caring for an ailing loved-one to the seasonal stressor list!  How can you de-stress, be a nurturing caregiver, AND enjoy holiday cheer? Maybe I can provide useful advice and keep your holidays merry and bright.

1.)  Exercise

Don’t neglect yourself.  Caregiving is demanding and time-consuming.  Take care of yourself so you can take care of others.  Exercise is easily neglected by NON-caregivers during the holidays.  Caregivers are no exception.  However, they tend to neglect themselves because of constant dedication to an ailing loved one….not for numerous holiday house parties.  Allow 30 minutes a day for de-stressing exercises.  I prefer yoga or pilates.  Both are mind and body exercises focusing on breathing and elongating muscles.  If you enjoy a more intense workout, try this 20 minute full-body at-home workout.  De-stressing and high-intensity workouts aid your focus and concentration.  After a long day of balancing caregiving duties, baking cookies, and gift wrapping, a mind and body cleanse is welcomed!

2.)  Embrace the Situation

Caregiving is positive not negative.  The amount of joy you bring to the patient’s life is immeasurable.  Embrace your current situation and enjoy time spent in the company of your loved-one.  Realize the gift of giving not receiving.  You give happiness to an individual who may have been hopeless without your unselfish devotion.  Making the best of a difficult situation benefits all involved.  The patient doesn’t feel like a burden and the caregiver feels appreciated!

3.)  Throw a Party

Holidays bring to mind thoughts of parties and family get-togethers.  Relatives reminiscing and laughing about their unique seasonal experiences.  However, because of a demanding schedule and lack of respite care, caregivers are often excluded from these holiday activities.  Bring the holiday cheer to you and throw a memorable party.  My grandmother and I loved having a small number of guests over on Christmas Eve.  It gives you and your loved-one an opportunity to socialize and enjoy the meaning of the holidays….togetherness.  Nothing beats a good party, so turn the music up and put on your dancing shoes!

4.)  Decorate

We’re all aware of our situations and the constant stress engulfing our lives.  Caring for an ailing loved-one can make the holidays depressing.  This may be his last Thanksgiving….She may not see the New Year.  Yes, the holidays can give you a heavy heart.  But, try not to dwell on the what-if’s and focus on the here-and-now.  I’ve found that decorating for the holidays lifts spirits and makes days more enjoyable.  Engage your patient in the festivities.  My grandmother loved handing me the decorations for our Christmas tree.  The joy and happiness seen on her face when the tree was finally lit is a memory I will forever cherish.  We turned a difficult situation into happy memories!

Caregiving brought new meaning to my holidays.  I was able to embrace togetherness and enjoy the small moments with my grandmother.  We often miss the joy and seasonal spirit of the holidays because of our fast-paced lifestyles.  Caring for my grandmother allowed me to slow down and appreciate the gifts around me.  Hopefully my caregiving tips will help you minimize stress so you can enjoy the holidays.  After all, you’re entitled to a little holiday cheer too!  Please share!  Take care and thank you for reading!

Why do I blog?

I consider my life to be quite dull.  I’m neither a professional writer nor a successful entrepreneur.  My crafting and culinary arts skills are average.  I appreciate philosophy, but am far from being a philosopher.  I enjoy a juicy celebrity scandal, but am not an entertainment or gaming junkie.  I’m an average Jane living in rural New Jersey with my husband and two dogs.  So, what can I contribute to the blogging world?  With so many talented people posting informative articles each day, why do I blog?

1.)  Help Others

Why should you find out the hard-way, when I’ve already made the mistakes?  The initial focus of my blog was to simplify my passion….Chemistry.  My educational career was littered with numerous Chemistry courses.  I’ve used my blog as a platform to help students understand this complex subject by stressing its life importance and simplifying study techniques.  This knowledge was discovered through trial and error.  I’ve done the hard part so you can reap the reward!

The same thought process was applied when explaining the difficulties of caregiving.  I’ve already experienced caregiver stress and its health effects.  My posts focus on stress prevention and successful caregiving strategies.  I’ve been given the opportunity to prepare you for upcoming struggles.  Learn from my mistakes!

2.)  Provide Security

Average people still exist in society.  We have modest homes and incomes.  All of us aren’t professionals and struggle with subject comprehension.  Aging loved-ones losing their independence is a common struggle faced by many families.  Stay-at-home caregivers do exist and families can survive on a single income.  I want you to realize we have similar real-life struggles! 

 3.)  Clear the Mind

Blogging every week enables me to clear my mind and focus on the here-and-now, not the what-if’s.  Although my experiences are not monumental, they have served a distinct purpose and helped shape my character.  Writing allows me to physically see the logic in past decision-making.  That logic steers my future direction.  I look back in order to move forward!

Hopefully my amateur blog gives insight into some of our shared life experiences.  I’m not writing to impress, but to voice average people’s struggles.  From college to caregiving….life is hard!  Let my learned knowledge make your life a little easier.  Thank you for looking in!  Take care.  

A Day in My Life as a Caregiver

10:00 PM….I transfer my grandmother from wheelchair to bed via hoyer lift and begin our nightly routine.  Undress, bathe, dress, dental care, administer medication, get comfy, and hope for the best.  “Good night, grandmom.  Try to get some sleep….morning comes early.”  I turn off the lights, kiss her on the cheek, and grab any available blanket.  I fall into my bed….the sofa next to my grandmother’s home hospital bed.  Thoughts of tomorrow wander through my mind before finally closing my eyes.

12:00 AM….I hear the sheets rustling on my grandmother’s air mattress.  She can’t sleep….the cramps in her legs are excruciating.  “No problem grandmom.  I will put you in your recliner.”  I walk across the living room and retrieve her hoyer lift.  The hoyer lift mat is strategically placed…I begin to lift her from bed.  And, incontinence strikes!  It isn’t her fault that bending motions cause her to urinate.  “No problem grandmom.  I will get you washed-up and changed into clean clothes.”

12:45 AM….Bathed, dressed, and two transfers later, she is in her beloved recliner.  The leg cramps are still painful….the reclined position was no help.  “No problem grandmom.  Let me massage your legs and see if that relieves the pain.”  She nods.

2:00 AM….The pain seems to be subsiding a little.  Grandmom wants to go to bed.  “Sounds good Grandmom.  Let me get your hoyer lift.”  Recliner to wheelchair, wheelchair to bed, the hoyer lift mat is removed….another successful transfer.  And, incontinence strikes! “Ok grandmom.  Let’s get you bathed, changed, and comfy.”

2:30 AM….“Goodnight grandmom.  See you in the morning.”  But it is already morning!  I fall into bed hoping this time it will last.

6:30 AM….My alarm clocks sounds.  I quietly leave the comfortable sofa and tip-toe upstairs.  A quick change into workout clothes and my morning workout routine begins. These 30 minutes of freedom are frequently interrupted by my wandering mind….I better check on grandmom and make sure she’s alright.  Running up and down stairs is excellent cardio!

7:00 AM….Going downstairs, I’m met with grandmom’s bright eyes….MY 30 MINUTES of the day are over.  “Good morning grandmom.  Ready to get dressed?”  And so begins our early morning routine.  Undress, bathe, dress, dental care, administer medications, transfer into wheelchair.  The day has begun.

12:30 PM….By now, my grandmother has been transferred 3 times.  Incontinence never fails to burden each transfer.  Why so many transfers?  She must be repositioned every 1-2 hours in order to prevent skin breakdown.  It’s her favorite time of day….the daytime soap operas are on CBS!  We sit together and watch the drama surrounding TV families and try to forget the drama here at home.

5:00 PM….Three transfers later and it’s dinner time.  I eat standing up in the kitchen because I choose not to eat in front of my grandmother….she is fed through a feeding tube.  Guilt surrounds me during each meal.  The woman who taught me how to cook is unable to eat.  Why is life so unfair?

6:30 PM….Grandmom and I retreat to our favorite room….the four season room at the front of the house.  We watch nature from the surrounding windows and talk of days gone by.  She laughs at my stories of younger siblings.  I laugh at her facial expressions to the town gossip.  I would give anything to have these moments back.

8:30 PM….Grandmom chooses her favorite record from the collection.  We dance/roll around the 1st floor of our home without a care in the world.  Right now nobody is sick or ailing….all is right in the world.

9:30 PM….“Welp, it’s that time again.  Time to get ready for bed.”  She smiles and yawns.  We begin our nightly routine.  “Goodnight, grandmom.  Sleep tight.”  I kiss her on the cheek and fall onto my welcoming sofa.  I stare at the ceiling and pray she wakes up in the morning.  

Caregiving never stops.  It’s a physically demanding job with little rest.  Your eyes may be closed but your mind is constantly working.  Care for yourself so you can care for others.  Thank you and GOOD LUCK!  

Simply Delicious Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving is less than two days away!  Thus begins the last-minute scramble for quick and easy complimentary side dishes.  When researching endless recipes online or in your favorite cookbook, don’t forget the simple dishes that have survived the test of time.  Stuffing, succotash, creamed onions, glazed carrots, and CRANBERRY SAUCE.  Growing up in rural New Jersey, I’m accustomed to homemade everything….even cranberry sauce.  Before you buy a can of pre-made cranberry sauce from your local grocery store, try my cranberry sauce recipe.  It can be prepared in under 20 minutes with only 3 ingredients!  Your taste buds will thank you!

RECIPE

1 bag  Fresh Cranberries (12 ounces)

1 cup  White Granulated Sugar

1 cup  Cold Water  

  1. Combine all ingredients in an uncovered medium saucepan.
  2. Bring mixture to a rapid boil over high heat and boil for 5 minutes.
  3. Reduce temperature to medium heat and continue to boil for an additional 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool.
  5. Transfer to desired storage container.
  6. This recipe yields approximately one and a half pints.

TIPS

  • Don’t fret over the popping noise you hear during preparation; it’s just the cranberries bursting!
  • I prefer to constantly stir the mixture during the entire cooking process.
  • Use only COLD water.
  • Your sauce will thicken as it cools.
  • I transfer my final product into pint mason jars; it allows for easy refrigerator storage.
  • Need more sauce?  Just double the recipe!

THAT’S IT!  Simply delicious cranberry sauce for your Thanksgiving feast….and it took less than 20 minutes.  Your holiday crowd will be impressed with your homemade side dish!  Not cooking for Thanksgiving?  Give a jar to your host as a gift!  Enjoy your holiday and THANK YOU!

 

 

 

Grandmom’s Easy Pie Crust

The aroma of fresh-baked pies encompassed my grandmother’s home during the holidays.  Pumpkin, cherry, apple, raisin, blueberry, and coconut custard were the pies that graced my family’s Thanksgiving table.  So many beautiful pies, how could you choose just one?  My grandmother’s answer, “Have a sliver of each.  Then go back for seconds or thirds on the one you liked best.”  She was beautiful and smart!  Year after year my grandmother received numerous compliments for her tasty Thanksgiving meal and desserts.  The turkey was perfect, your yams were exceptional, the creamed onions were delicious, but your PIE CRUST WAS AMAZINGIt was flaky, light, and delectable.  Nothing compared to grandmom’s crust.  Being my grandmother’s caregiver for 11 years enabled me to ask questions and absorb her baking basics.  She gave me advice and for once I listened.  Leave pre-made pie crusts on the store shelves and enjoy grandmom’s easy pie crust recipe .  Everyone will be impressed with your baking skills this holiday season!

RECIPE

2 cups All-Purpose Flour

1 cup Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening

1 Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon Baking Powder

1 Teaspoon White Granulated Sugar

4 – 8 Tablespoons Cold Water

Here’s the best part….put all of the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles pea-size balls.  DONE.

TIPS

1.)  Use COLD water.

2.)  Add 4 tablespoons of water to the mixture initially; add additional water in 1 tablespoon increments until you obtain the desired consistency….pea-size balls.

3.)  Divide the dough in half; each half is enough for one 9 inch pie plate. 

4.)  Roll out each prepared dough half on a lightly floured surface.  I prefer to use plastic wrap as my surface; it allows for easy transfer from surface to pie plate.

This simple recipe has created delicious pies for generations.  It’s thrilled many taste buds through the decades.  Make it part of your family tradition!  Tell me which pies grace your table during the holidays by leaving a comment!  Enjoy your Thanksgiving!  Take care.

 

Pay your mortgage off early….on ONE income!

MORTGAGE.  One word included in many household conversations.  The mention of this sometimes unavoidable financial responsibility makes people cringe.  Paying off your home loan is a homeowners dream.  There’s no better feeling than walking through the front door of an OWNED home.  It’s mine….finally!  The process of paying off your home can be a long and stressful period….even for the most financially stable household.  How can you possibly live on one income and pay your mortgage off early?  I’m a new homeowner living on one income and this is my strategy for eliminating my monthly mortgage burden.

1.)  Buy What You Can Afford

Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions individuals will make during their lifetime.  It takes careful planning and negotiating.  Your future goal is to pay off your mortgage; therefore, buy a home within or under your price-range.  Buy what you can afford!  It’s easy to lose focus when buying your dream home.  With so many homes on the market, it’s tempting to buy a home out of your budget.  After all, the mortgage would only be an extra $200 a month!  Don’t do it!  Buying more house than you can afford is decreasing your chances of PAYING your mortgage….forget paying it off early. My husband and I qualified for homes double our price range, but we knew our budget and what we could comfortably afford.  The amount of home you qualify for and can afford are drastically different.  Have a grasp on your monthly expenses before attempting the housing market.

2.)  Down Payment

You’ve now entered the housing market and hunt.  Homes have different financing options….which one do you choose?  Many will argue that the best way to create instant equity in a home is invest a minimum 20% down payment.  I agree.  It will decrease your monthly mortgage payment, eliminate the need for PMI insurance, and create equity.  It’s an excellent way to jumpstart your early mortgage payoff.  However, if a down payment is impossible, search for a zero down payment mortgage option.  Invest in sweat equity instead of instant equity.  With no down payment try to come in under budget when house hunting.  The saved funds can be used for future mortgage payments.

3.)  Eliminate Revolving Debt

Try to eliminate most of your revolving debt before tackling early mortgage payoff.  Credit cards, personal loans, car payments all contribute to revolving debt.  Decreasing or eliminating these amounts will make extra cash readily available for future mortgage payments.  I understand that some revolving debt is unavoidable, ie. car payments.  However, constant debt will hinder your mortgage progress.

4.)  Open A Mortgage-Only Bank Account

I chose to open a bank account that is dedicated solely to our mortgage.  Money is transferred into this account on a weekly basis according to our budget.  Our mortgage payment is readily available and temptation spending is eliminated.  Any extra money saved from our weekly budget is transferred directly into the mortgage fund.

5.)  Pay Extra Principle

You have a house you can comfortably afford, debt is at the bare minimum, and a mortgage fund has been established….let’s strategize and pay the mortgage off early.  Where is the extra cash coming from?  Your household budget!  You budgeted $1600/month for your mortgage, but actually pay $1500/month….$100 into the mortgage fund.  You allowed $200/month for utilities, but only paid $150 this month….$50 dollars into the mortgage fund.  The weekly grocery bill was under budget and you saved $15….mortgage fund!  At the end of one month, total your savings and contributions to the mortgage fund.  Apply that amount as extra PRINCIPLE on your mortgage payment.  It all adds up!

6.)  Amortization Schedule Calculator 

Still not convinced you can pay your mortgage off early on one income?  Find an online amortization schedule calculator and calculate your mortgage schedule for your existing loan.  Then, do the same calculation with an extra monthly principle payment of $100.  The interest saved will be incentive to start building that mortgage fund!  Right now, my husband and I are paying an extra $250/month toward the principle of our mortgage payment.  It doesn’t sound groundbreaking, but that small amount will enable us to pay our mortgage off  10 years earlier and save over $57,000 in interest!  Our goal is to OWN our home in about 7 years.  It’s going to require some creative money management, but the reward is worth the challenge!

Hopefully I’ve offered some encouragement to single income homeowners.  A 30 year mortgage doesn’t have to last 30 YEARS!  After relieving yourself of unnecessary debt, tackle your monthly mortgage payment.  Save and contribute as much as possible to the principle amount.  If not monthly, then every other month.  Use an online amortization schedule calculator and understand the long-term effects of additional payments.  Paying off a mortgage early with only one income can be accomplished….convince yourself of the benefits.  Do you have any mortgage payment tips for single income households?  Leave them in a comment.  Was this post helpful?  Let me know!  Take care and good luck!