{Guest Post} Keep Your Energy Tank Full…

I have a special treat for you today! 🙂 Guest post by my friend, Lisa Woodie.  Lisa and I met a few months back at several networking events.  We really hit it off with our conversations about beer (yes we both like beer), cooking, and how to eat better.  We talked a little business too but the other stuff was more important. 😉

Lisa Woodie, Owner & Chef
Homemade Fresh

Lisa is the owner and chef behind Homemade Fresh Chef Services.  She helps individuals, couples and families eat healthier meals with heat-and-eat convenience. She provides meal packages, catering for personal and business events, and cooking classes that are educational and fun. All meals are personalized based on each client’s tastes, preferences and dietary requirements. Her scratch-made recipes focus on using fresh, high quality ingredients. Whether you need help this holiday season or all year round, Homemade Fresh is the healthy, convenient, affordable solution!

Maybe she could make something for our Thanksgiving Day feast? 😉

Without further ado…

‘Tis the Season to Keep Your Energy Tank Full

 The holidays are approaching quickly, and for many people that means your schedule will get even busier. You’ll have less time to plan and prepare meals and snacks. So you’ll probably rely more on take-out, restaurant and quick convenience meals from the supermarket. You may visit the drive-through and vending machine more frequently. You may skip some meals altogether. It may be harder to find time to exercise. Then suddenly, it’s the end of the year and you are exhausted and a few pounds heavier. How can you prevent this?

As your schedule gets busier, you’ll need more energy. And the scenario I described above will deplete your energy tank. Your body is like a car, and you need a tank full of good fuel to keep your engine running smoothly and your energy level up. Here’s one way to help you get through the holiday season (and the whole year!) with more energy and productivity. As a bonus, it could make you healthier too!

Don’t Skip Meals, Especially Breakfast

The old adage is true:  Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for your brain, your energy level and your metabolism. In the morning your fuel tank is low, so you need to refuel with a healthy breakfast that includes lean protein and good carbohydrates (like eggs and fresh fruit). This will jump-start your metabolism and give you sustained energy. Beware of caffeine and sweets because those can put you on an energy rollercoaster with dramatic highs and lows. When you skip a meal, your body goes into starvation mode which dramatically slows your metabolism, makes you store fat, and depletes your energy. To maximize your energy and productivity, eat three balanced meals (lean meat, vegetables,  whole grains) daily along with a healthy afternoon snack. Examples of good snacks are a handful of nuts, string cheese, Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, or carrots with hummus. Follow this plan every day and you may be surprised at how great you feel.


So the moral of this story?  Lisa rocks — she is an amazing chef — and never skip breakfast!

I have a hard time getting motivated to eat breakfast.  I like to start each day with a cup of yummy java and then I either dive into a book or work.  If Raymond doesn’t make me breakfast, then I either don’t eat (gasp!) or I eat a bowl of grits (blech!).

I’m trying to make breakfast the most balanced meal of the day! 🙂

Feel free to leave some love for Lisa in the comments section. 🙂 Got any questions?  Ask away!

Until next time…

Turkey Talk {Easy Peasy}…

Thanksgiving.  The long lost forgotten holiday.

Every year … every single year … I have the same conversation with Raymond about Thanksgiving.  It goes something like this, “If we had a large enough house to comfortably accomodate everyone, I would love it if Thanksgiving went a little something like this…”

The thing is Thanksgiving is rushed and forgotten.  Both in scope of the holiday and the actual day.  Food is scarfed down then dessert is pulled out while others are still eating turkey.  Next is a nap and football then people start to head home.  It’s the “Eat & Run” mentality.  I dream of something much different that is more about the experience of the day and less about the actual “Gobble till you Wobble”.

I plan to write several posts about Turkey Day and different ways to go about planning it.

Turkey Day Made Easy 

{1} Cater. Cater. Cater.

Raymond and his family have purchased The Cracker Barrel Thanksgiving Meal every year since his grandmother passed away.  That lady sure could cook, and apparently the only elder that could or would.  Since then — no homemade anything.  With that said, they love the Cracker Barrel option.  Easy, affordable, and delicious.  Call your nearest Cracker Barrel to place your order.

Buy your turkey from Bojangles.  They sell AWESOME deep fried Turkeys.  We ran out of turkey last year at my family’s gathering.  It was hmm-mmm-mmm good!  Place your order at your nearest Bojangles.

Cater dessert.  We all know tons of bakeries that would greatly appreciate the business this time of year.  Call up and ask what their speciality is.  Buy the speciality and something more traditional (like pumpkin pie).

{2} Remember the reason for the holiday

To give thanks.  To be thankful.  To be grateful.  To reflect.

Be sure to incorporate this into the day.

The easy way?  After you eat, go around the table and ask everyone what they are thankful for.

{3} Easy Peasy Decorating

Resist the urge to break out the Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.  Easier said than done as I’m pinning away for my future Christmas decor ideas.

Some candles, pumpkins, dried corn & beans, and an old window.  Voila!  Instant charm! 🙂

Do you feel like Thanksgiving is the long lost forgotten holiday?

Until next time…

Organizing Your Holiday Decorations…

So the season is almost over — one week to go!  I might be a little early in making suggestions on organizing your decor, but keep these suggestions in mind next week when you start to take down your Santas and Snowmen.

1. BEFORE REMOVING ANYTHING:  Take pictures of each decorated room in your room.  It will make decorating much easier next year.  Start with a broad shot of the room and then take more detailed pictures of tables and mantles.  Download the pictures and store in a folder marked “Christmas Decorations” on your computer.

2.  Donate any decoration that you dont really love.  If it didnt get displayed, then donate it.  If you did display it and despised it everytime you walked pass, then donate.  (You will thank me next year).

3. Toss those raggedy, marked up cardboard boxes once and for all.  Buy green and red plastic totes to store your decorations.  Walmart, Target, Lowes, and Home Depot all sell them and are running specials on them from now until the end of the year.  Buy 5 or 6 this week to make sure you get the right size and color. (Trust me, you wont be able to find them next week).  Buy similar sizes. If you are storing these on shelves (which I highly recommend), make sure to measure the shelves BEFORE shopping!

4.  Buy a tote to store your ornaments.  These are very (VERY) handy and a great way to keep ornaments organized and safe.  THIS WEEK: Buy 3 or 4 depending on how many ornaments you have and how many trees you have.  These are the first storage bins to go and they dont come back until next year.

5.  Store like with like.  All mantel decor goes in one box labeled mantel.  All outside stuff goes in another box labeled outdoor.  All bathroom decor…well you get my drift.

6.  Take note of anything that you want to purchase for your holiday collection (tree skirt, wreath, etc).  Schedule some time to go shopping a day or two after Christmas to see if you can nab these items at a steal of a deal.  One year I purchased an artificial wreath complete with pinecones and fake snow for $8.  It was a $40 wreath normally!

7.  Throw away the Christmas cards.  Unless you have a craft project in mind for next year, toss these babies!  No one will care that you threw away their card — trust me — no one will care!

8.  While you are at it — throw away any wrapping paper remnants.  And for goodness sakes — dont keep used bows!

9.  Label the light strands on the artificial tree as you are taking in down.  “A” strand plugs into “A” output strand…etc.  It took me over an hour to plug my tree together — I finally mastered the puzzle and then quickly labeled the strands for easy assembly.  This year it took all of 20 minutes 🙂

There is a lot of sadness that comes with taking down holiday decor.  Many people are sad to see the holiday go — Im usually one of them as Christmas is my favorite time of year.  As you are putting everything away, pull out a journal and jot down some thoughts for the new year.  A good start is looking back on what a great year 2011 was for you and your family — it will put you in a great mood to decide what to do differently for 2012.  New hobby? New interest? Keep the motivation and energy high as you welcome 2012! 🙂

The Season of Giving…

I’m always amazed by the number of commercials (tv, newspaper, direct mail, etc) that come up at Christmas asking us to give.  This is the season of giving, right?  Why does Christmas have to signify giving — don’t these organizations need money and donations all through the year?  I’m a little “Bah-humbug” about the overflow of requests for your donation at Christmas…if you can’t already tell.  I will use a different entrance to a store just to avoid the Salvation Army bell ringer…I sadly admit.

Then I started to do some research and reading.  Yes organizations need money and donations throughout the entire year, but perhaps they increase their requests at Christmas because everyone is usually in such a good mood.  Good mood = more likely to donate.  I’m not made of money, as most of us are not, but tonight I will be donating to a local Charlotte charity, Pat’s Place.  Pat’s Place is a Child Advocacy Center for children who have been sexually abused.  I will be donating some juice boxes and animal crackers…and my heart strings.


“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

What charities will you be donating your time, money, and heart strings to this holiday giving season?

“Holiday Stress” & Excess Consumerism…

Christmas is here — or so it seems with the commercials, ads for gifts, and music playing on “preview weekend”.  I love Christmas as much as the next person, but sometimes I feel we rush it.  Its rushed because of retail — they need to make a buck and know that you are ready to spend.

I get bent out of shape on the topic of “holiday stress” & our need to buy, buy, buy!  Lets put the brakes on that cycle right now — I suggest yanking up the emergency brake!  Before the holiday spending season really smacks us in the face, I challenge you to stop a minute and reassess the reason for the season. 🙂

What stresses you the most during the holidays?  I’ll go out on a limb and guess it is buying presents, not forgetting anyone on your gift list, traffic & long lines (they go together in my mind), and racking up credit card balances during the process.  Excess consumerism — do you think buying a bunch of gifts is the best way to show love and appreciation? How about a nice phone call to catch up, and I mean really catch up.  Do you think that person who you are frantically searching for the right gift (and reasonably priced) really needs another candle, bottle of body wash, coffee maker, etc? My guess is their house is overflowing with plenty of stuff and they NEED nothing to make life complete.

Why do we feel the need to pack our tree skirts full of presents?  Is it because we have been programmed to see Christmas as a time of giving…presents?

What is your reason for the season?

Mine is family, friends, and those that matter the most to me!  It is a time of celebration and appreciation for everything that you have in your life and everyone close to you.  And as an extra bonus I love the Christmas music, Christmas movies (Home Alone, anyone?), and all the gorgeous decorations that surround us!

My challenge to you … put the brakes on the gift giving, stress cycle and stop to re-evaluate the meaning of Christmas to you.  Then shine from that place the rest of the season.

Organizing for Thanksgiving…

It might be a little early, but I get the feeling that we are all ready for Halloween to be over and ready to embrace the holiday season with open arms.  I even heard Christmas carols being played on the radio!

So organizing for Thanksgiving — Im specifically talking about a Thanksgiving Day feast.  I’m going to take a page out of The Holiday Binder and talk about how to organize a chaos-free Thanksgiving Day lunch or dinner.

I don’t know about you, but hosting a Thanksgiving Day lunch for more than a few guests stresses me out.  Here’s why: getting RSVPs, coordinating who is bringing what, did we forget anything like plates, napkins, or tea, grocery shopping and hoping they are not out of pumpkin pie spice, and of course the inevitable cleaning and decorating!

Here is “Jennifer’s Guide to a Chaos-Free Thanksgiving Day Feast”

*the key ingredient is planning…planning…planning*

  • Three weeks before (1st week of Nov): *Thats this week BTW!*
    • Set the date and time
      • Call or email everyone you plan to invite
    • Plan your menu
      • When you email and call your guests, ask what they want to bring for the dinner.  Have suggestions available in case they are not as planned as you.  Paper products, sodas/teas, dessert ideas, etc
    • Test drive any new recipes that you plan to make
      • No one wants to try a great new recipe only to realize that pumpkin mango pie is not as tasty as it looked in the magazine.
  • Two weeks before (2nd week of Nov):
    • Stock up on non-perishable items that you will need for your recipes
      • Canned goods
      • Spices
      • Baking essentials (cake flour, cookie mix)
    • If you are making the turkey and have room in your freezer, then buy your turkey now!
  • One week before:
    • Get a final head count
      • Email everyone just to make sure they are still coming and to find out about any surprise guests that are tagging along. (My cousins are always bringing school friends)
    • Start cleaning and decorating
      • I suggest doing several cleaning activities a night so you don’t have to tackle it all in one day.  Monday: dust and vacuum, Tuesday: clean the bathrooms, sweep & mop, Wednesday: decorate
  • Two days before:
    • Hit the grocery store for perishable items like bread, milk, eggs, and vegetables
    • Make anything like dips or pies so you don’t have to make everything the day of the party
      • Make sure it will keep two days in the refrigerator before making
  • One day before:
    • Get the table ready
      • Arrange dishes on the table and label each so you know what dish will be used for what recipe
      • I would also note the cooking time and temperature on the label – makes it easier to map out what will be cooked first
    • Tidy up
      • Pick up anything that has gotten tossed around the house since you cleaned
      • Enlist any family members to help tidy up and make the house look and smell nice
  • Day of:
    • Enjoy everyone’s company without being stressed!
    • Make a “Thankful” jar where guests can write what they are thankful for on a piece of paper, and drop in the jar before lunch.  Read each response aloud while you are enjoying the delicious food.
    • Ask the kids to help clean the table and let the dishwasher do all the work.

Organizing for the holidays with “The Holiday Binder”…

Fall is my favorite season…what is not to love about cool, crisp nights, apple picking, county fairs, hay rides, the list could go on and on.  Back-to-school marks the  change of seasons for me and I’m sure everyone else.  It should have its own New Year celebration.  Once school starts and all of the notebooks, glue sticks, and pencils are cleared off retailers shelves…in comes the Halloween decorations!  Does anything about that stress you out?  Well it used to stress me out to no end…Halloween is just around the corner, then Thanksgiving, then “Hello” Christmas!  I always had so many ideas and plans for such a short amount of time…how can I do it all, and decorate for each holiday, and see my whole family, and party with my friends…it was overwhelming!  Then I came up with “The Holiday Binder”.  The binder was nicknamed “The dork book” by my friends.  I understand my need to have everything planned and organized to a “T” is unnatural for others, but it makes me sleep better at night! 

So on to “The Holiday Binder”…The thought behind it was to keep track of everything holiday related.  There are five sections for Fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Eve.  Within each section are subsections for:

  • Recipes for Holiday Goodies
  • Indoor Holiday Decoration Ideas
  • Outdoor Holiday Decoration Ideas
  • Costume Ideas (Halloween)
  • Present Ideas & Budget Forms (Christmas)
  • Activities to celebrate the season
  • How to Host Great Holiday Parties (general for any holiday party)

The holiday section is separated from the other by a heading sheet I created in Microsoft Word (clip art & word art was my friend).  The subsections are separated and labeled with index dividers.  Where did I get the stuff to put in the binder? Mainly from my favorite magazines, but also from articles I read online or ideas from websites like Martha Stewart Living, Family Circle, and Better Homes & Garden. 

Here’s what you do:  tear out pages of the magazine, cut out the portion that you want to keep (might be the whole page), tape to a white piece of paper (or colored for the holiday if you want to go crazy), and categorize accordingly.  I also put everything in sheet protectors – it makes everything visually appealing, nice to touch (I love the slick surface), and easy to clean (I tend to drop food on my recipes when cooking).

I have added to the binder every year and I look forward to getting it out every September.  I’ve been known to fantasize about the holiday binder well into July!  It’s amazing how much I look forward to the holiday season rather than stress over it and all thanks to a simple binder that took a little love and effort to create! 

Id love to hear from you – have you put one together – how does it help you and your family get through the holiday madness?  Send me an email with your holiday organizing questions!  Jennifer@pureandsimpleorganizing.com

*This is a recap of my organizing article printed in Sophies Womens Magazine-Oct Issue*